Composition Paper on Rapid Cognition: Thinking Without Thinking

Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink” Thinking Without Thinking” is a book explaining how the human mind can make not only good but great decisions in a matter of moments. It elaborates how people can make snap decisions of depth and meaning without having long periods of deliberation. The purpose of this article is to explicate the numerous ways with which Malcom Gladwell has presented his points on the brain’s ability to make powerful decisions within moments.

According to Malcom, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge, it is understanding. We are swimming in the former, we are desperately lurking in the latter” (Gladwell, 87). From the above quote, Malcom suggests that people are not well-acquainted with their situations but dwelling in the past, thereby inhibiting their decision making. Also, people fail to comprehend that the key to good snap decisions is not knowledge but understanding of the situation. By doing so, people will ultimately make great decisions in the shortest time. Malcom also says, “Allowing people to operate without having to explain themselves constantly turns out to be like the rule of agreement and improve, it enables rapid cognition” (Gladwell, 102). It is vital for people to understand that decisions make quickly can just be as powerful as those that take longer.

Why are some people good at making rapid decisions while others are terrible? Malcolm explains in-depth how the brain makes an unconscious decision that seem simple yet they are nowhere close to simplicity. He explains the thought of conscious and unconscious modes of thinking. Thinking makes people tick both at home and at work, the reason why people are better at things than others including the decisions one makes in life and in business.

Gladwell masterfully uses science and story to explicate the art of rapid thinking. How one person makes the correct judgement in slice of time. Also, it should be noted that more often than not, people tend to make the correct decision in the slice of time. Deliberate thinking is what everyone thinks the brain can do best, however, the brain in not only built to function for longer deliberate thinking but also for shorter immediate thinking (Philips et all, 62). Some things don’t need long deliberation to achieve the best and correct response. Gladwell tries to explain and convince the readers that decisions made quickly can be every bit as good as the ones made cautiously and deliberately over time.

The human brain has evolved through hundreds of thousands of years in the art of rapid conclusions as a survival mechanism. Super-fast and accurate snap decisions were focal during the hunting and gathering days of our ancestors which was based on their environment and stimuli where the hunter could quickly become the hunted (Gladwell, 108). The human brain constantly shifts between conscious and unconscious modes of thinking all the time. It is an indication of the two modes of thinking, one that critically analyzes and deliberates while the other acts impromptu and analyzes after.

The brain has the ability to size a situation very quickly. However, people have the notion that one should not judge a book by the cover. In retrospect, this is true, but sometimes the human brain makes a quick judgement of a situation that is just as accurate as the one made over deliberation. According to a research conducted by psychologist Nalini Ambadi, found that college students instructed to remark on the effectiveness of their lecturer based on a two second short clip gave the same rating as the students who attended the same lecturer’s class for a whole semester. It is a vice judging a book by the cover, however, that could be the reality sometimes. It does not make strategic sense all the time to collect every bit of data about a particular situation, person or thing before taking action. Other times, the extra information proves to be unnecessary.

Gladwell refers to ‘thin slicing’ as one’s ability to find patterns in situations and behavior based on slim slices of experience by the unconscious mind. For instance, Gladwell uses the “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, where a psychologist, John Gottman, has been using the thin slicing approach towards couples’ interaction. In less that quarter of an hour, Gottman is able to tell with 90% accuracy the couples that are going to separate (Gladwell, 36). He studies the body languages communicated by the couples, messages of contempt and anger. The idea seems to work, however, the absence of prior information that may be resulting from such messages may be wrongfully diagnosed. For instance, a couple that may possess the given messages but only because they have a fight. Of course, every couple fights, no one expects them to act positive during a session with a psychologist. Therefore, the analysis by Gladwell may be unclear since Gottman may mistaken signs of a small issue to be that of a long-term and major problem.

Another instance is the speed dating as explained by Gladwell. Most people go to speed dating with expectations. However, they end up getting someone absolutely different to what they wanted. According to Gladwell, it is because of thin slicing, as one makes an impromptu judgement on someone basing on what and how they feel about them, which they deem as unexplainable. In all fairness, most people are flattered by the physical appearances during speed dating, which they end up choosing at the expense of their initial goal. Men are easily persuaded by physical appearance; therefore, it is highly likely that a man in speed dating will quickly overlook his initial requisitions and settle for an attractive lady who most likely falls out of his expectation.

In the 3rd chapter, the Warren Harding error disapproves the John Gottman’s approach. The disapproval shows a bias. When couples visit Gottman’s “Love Lab”, Gottman is majorly focused on finding a problem. From this approach, it is virtually impossible for him to make the right reading of the gestures by the couples. In retrospect, the Warren Harding gives the best example of the situation. A situation where the desire to have a leader with great leadership qualities is overlooked by the people need to amalgamate with a good-looking leader. The great leadership qualities are sacrificed at the expense of having someone who looks like a great leader. All of these mistakes of judgement are made out of ‘thin-slicing’ as suggested by Gladwell. Also, doctors in the hospital put patients through numerous tests that take valuable time of treatment. According to Gladwell, doctors should diagnose a patient and recommend treatment basing on rapid response (Cassleman, 85). The case may be possible for a few patients, however, where lives are at stake, such gambles should not be taken. Making a wrong diagnosis is not the same as misjudging one’s character, there are not do overs.

Malcom Gladwell’s arguments contain bias. For police officers, making a split-second decision is largely based on experience, stereotypes and prejudices. Rapid responses are guided by implicit biases, they are largely a product of prejudices and stereotypes including even those that are not necessarily endorsed or believed. In other words, quick reactions to situations are driven by ‘thin slices’ of those people or situations even if one does not approve of them.

Another major bias is “The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Decisions”. In this situation, Gladwell uses the example of a tennis coach who is able to predict a double fault even before it happens and cannot explain how or why. In review, how many people can do that? Gladwell should comprehend that it is not trainable, it is not in everyone, but some of the people, more like a gift. Not everyone is the same, no matter how many times you try or practice. In the same way, the coach has a gift, it is not a matter of rapid response, but a gift (Chartrand, 56). When one can perform such unexplainable acts of genius, it is never a matter of training, otherwise, if everyone could posses it through training, then it would not be unexplainable.

The decisions made shape the life one lives. While some situations call for a deliberate and time-consuming process, there might be a number of important situations ask for nothing but one’s ability make a rapid response. As Gladwell presents, “there can be much value in the blink of an eye, as there is in months of rational analysis” (Gray et all, 201). Rapid response can be trained through experiences. It is impressive how often people get the right decision in a rapid response situation. However, just because we often get the right decision to a situation, it does not necessarily mean that deliberation is unnecessary. There are situations that require rapid response, but when one has time, it is much beneficial to think.



Works Cited

Cassleman, Elizabeth A. “reclaiming Rapid Cognition”: Improving Decision-Making in Command and Control Agencies by Understanding and Enabling Rapid Cognition. Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center, 2007. Internet resource.

Chartrand, Judy M. Now You’re Thinking: Change Your Thinking Revolutionize Your Career Transform Your Life. Upper Saddle River, N.J: FT Press, 2012. Internet resource.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2005. Internet resource.

Gray, Dave, and Richard S. Wurman. Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think. La Vergne: Rosenfeld Media, 2016. Internet resource.

Philips, Georges, and Terence Watts. Rapid Cognitive Therapy: The Professional Therapist’s Guide to Rapid Change Work. Carmarthen, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 1999. Print.