Blink

I’ve just finished listening for the second time to the audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell‘s Blink. The book discusses psychological resesarch around rapid cognition and snap decisions and has plenty of findings and concepts relevant to usability and market research (with some good evidence of the limits of “just asking people what they feel or think,” which is one of my pet peeves).

Among the many interesting studies mentioned in the book, for example, the research conducted by Louis Cheskin in the 50s and 60s, and by Darrel Rhea and Davis Masten more recently on “sensation transference” or the influence of packaging on perceived taste (how cheap brandy tastes worse when it’s served in the wrong bottle; and how Sprite tastes too much like lime if one increase the amount of green on the can).

Aside from the results of the studies, however, there are couple of things that struck me in the book.

First, Gladwell doesn’t shy away from controversial topics to make his case. He describe in detail Paul Van Riper’s role in Millennium Challenge, the expensive war game that the Pentagon played in 2002 in preparation for the war against Iraq (to learn more about this chilling episode, read the report on the Guardian).
In the most graphic chapter of his book, Gladwell describe the 1999 Bronx shooting of Amadou Diallo (more information on CourtTV).

Second, and even more interesting, Gladwell explores the world of snap decisions and the underlying unconscious processing of information with such rational hope for better outcomes. He tries so hard to make sense of things that elude our conscious rationality, and to show how with careful training we can influence our immediate judgment, our prejudices, and even our fears and panic reactions.

The excruciatingly detailed description of Diello’s shooting is heartbreaking in his attempt to make sense of the insensate killing and to give step by step recommendations on what should be done to prevent things like this from happening again.

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