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Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - 3 Big Ideas

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Malcolm Gladwell is even more my favorite author now, than he already was before this book


Welcome to 3 Things You Can Use, where Maddi and I analyze the worlds of self-improvement and entrepreneurship through books, three things at a time. This week's book is Blink, The Power of Thinking without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.

"(...) Blink reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of "thin-slicing"-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables."

( ^ That's from Amazon)

This book is 296 pages paperback and 7 hours 43 minutes Audible.

So, what are three things we can use from this book?

3 Things You Can Use

1. Thin-Slicing

Behind a locked door in our mind, stands the adaptive unconscious. Constantly working, a lattice of wiring that blinks and glows with the firings of neurons to other neurons; our adaptive unconscious is constantly considering our thoughts and environment for connections that can help us.

From this arises a strange ability that we've all felt. The notion that something isn't right, even though we just can't put our finger on it...

When the Kouros statue arrived at the Met museum, they put all of their researchers on it. They really wanted it, they were a new museum and this statue was a fantastic relic for their early collection.

Test after test proved it's legitimacy. The material test, the style, everything.

But every time they brought an expert in to see it, as soon as it was uncovered and brought into view, the expert would gasp or make a quick face of disgust. They would say that it wasn't right. One expert in response to them saying that they had just purchased the Kouros said, "I'm sorry about that."

But one after one, none of the experts were able to verbalize their issue with the statue, it was just a feeling that they couldn't get rid of.

Later down the road, the museum discovered that some of the records for the sculpture had been forged, leading back to accounts that didn't exist.

The experts were right, but no-one could explain it.

(Not that the experts knew documents were forged, but that that statue was a forgery)

Thin-slicing is an ability of our adaptive unconscious to recognize things in our environment, with very little information, and draw a quick conclusion. If that conclusion has any meaning to us, it will give us a feeling, changing our physiology slightly, or even drastically, without us being aware of it happening.

Like in the case of a card game with a blue and red deck, participants were told to pick up cards from each deck to win the game. Unbeknownst to the contestants, you could only win the game by picking up blue cards. The unconscious figured this out early and sensors in the participant's hands indicated an increased state of arousal when the hands would hover over the red cards.

Or in the case of Amadou Diallo, when 41 shots were fired at an unarmed man in the blink of an eye when the adaptive unconscious identified the butt end of a gun, that ended up being a wallet.

2. The Packaging Trick

There are more perceptions that our adaptive unconscious influences.

Back in 1940, margarine wasn't popular in the United States. People wouldn't buy it and Cheskin, a strategic market research and consulting company, was asked to find out why.

Butter was yellow and margarine was white, so Cheskin started by changing the color of the margarine to yellow. After some blind taste tests they found that it wasn't the taste that really made the difference, it was the unfamiliarity.

Cheskin, now recognizing that the taste wasn't the problem, started to change the packaging. He changed the shape that the margarine came in to be the shape of the butter. So now the margarine was like butter in both shape and color.

But it was still different from butter. It was margarine.

The kicker was when they slapped a logo on it, renamed it and packaged it in foil.

The logo was a crown, the new name would be Imperial Margarine and the foil was supposed to signify quality.

Check and mate. Margarine began to sell.

The product itself never changed in taste or in texture. The experience of the margarine remained the same in all of the elements that you would think mattered.

What this study shows us, is that the packaging and presentation is just as if not more important than the product itself.

This wouldn't work with a bad product. If the margarine had tasted bad, there wasn't anything that they could do. That's an important distinction to make.

But, making the product familiar and then adding some subconscious accolades is all that it took to make a previously unloved product, a household brand.

3. The Naked Face

When you grab a baby's hand, while they are looking away, what does the baby turn to look at? Your hand? or your face?

From the very beginning, we recognize the power of facial expressions. When we look into the eyes of another, we know how they feel. We can tell anger from melancholy by just a few millimeters of eyebrow difference.

When you grab a baby's hand, they look at your eyes. They look for an indication of whether you are mad, and they are in trouble, or if you are happy.

Our faces display our feelings. Cameras show that even the most stone-faced of us have micro-expressions that pass across our faces as we interpret the meaning of someone's contemptuous comment or gracious praise.

The coolest part of studies like these come in the form of a different conclusion though.

Your faces come as a result of your feelings, and everyone knows that. But it also works in reverse.

A sad face makes you sad. An angry face makes you angry. And a happy face makes you happy.

In one of the studies, they hooked people up to sensors that measured heart rate and body temperature. They told one group to imagine a situation that made them sad and the other group to make a sad face.

The results were identical; same physiological responses.

In another one, two groups watch a cartoon. One group had pens between their lips, inhibiting their ability to smile; the other group had pens between their teeth, forcing a smile.

By the end of the cartoon, the group with the forced smile overwhelmingly thought the cartoon was funnier than the group with the inhibited smile.

So if you're having a bad day, don't let it be on your face. If you want to improve your mood, just try to forget what's upsetting you and do your best to smile. After a while, you'll feel better.


Deep inside our mind is our adaptive unconscious; a frantic octopus at a desk with a stack of papers.

Highlighting, shuffling and glancing up at the screen of our environment trying to figure out what is going on -- and doing so without our knowledge.

The packaging and presentation of something is a very important part of our experience with something.

Our faces not only show what we feel, but can also control what we feel.

A book with unheard-of, amazing insights all related in incredible and engaging real-life stories.

What a good book. Malcolm Gladwell, as I said, is still my favorite author -- and even more so now.

Thank's for reading/watching, make sure to subscribe, so you don't miss next week's video -- and we'll see you next week!

Want to Read it?

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Blink (Audible Version)

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Punching Sounds by: Mike Koenig

Reading Photo at end of video by: Marketa

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