First Impressions

I have a tendency to procrastinate. That will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but would you know that 2-seconds into meeting me for the first time? (I didn’t intend to write that last sentence; it just popped into this entry once I started it.) Malcolm Gladwell thinks that maybe you would know that. At least that’s the impression I get reading a review of his book, Blink. Hurry up and read it before it disappears from cyberspace, because it’s already old, coming as it does from the January 16 NYT Book reviews. Often, I wait so long before opening my book review emails that the articles are only available to purchase from the archives.

The thesis of Gladwell’s book is that first impressions, snap judgements if you will, are better than you think. He says they are quite good, actually. I haven’t read the book yet, but I agree with him. Even after a lifetime spend making judgements that are anything but “snap” I agree with him. I plan to read the book and see if my first impression holds up.

I have thought for most of my life that first impressions are better than we generally give them credit for being. That, in fact, you can judge a book by its cover. (Marketers know that we do this. That’s why they spend time designing covers that will capture our interest.) Beauty, by the way, is not only skin deep (although achne is).

On the other hand, optical ullusions routinely trick us, and science often gives us “counterintuitive” answers to our questions about the world. And there is such a thing as learning that comes from long, hard study. Yet scientists often work on problems for years and then solve them in a flash of insight when they’re not thinking about them. What’s going on here? Isn’t it interesting? Isn’t it fun?

So I intend to read one more book on the brain and how it works, and probably find out that the guy who wrote this one doesn’t know either. Based on the review, however, this guy Gladwell doesn’t pretend that he knows. He just presents anecdotes and says something is going on here. I think he’s right.

DadConnections03/12/05 1 comments


Patrick • 03/28/05 12:37 AM:

I read this article, but never commented on it until now. I think the book sounds interesting, but maybe in a Trivial Pursuit/cocktail conversation kind of way. I’d like to have its anecdotes within my store, and maybe it’s good that it doesn’t attempt to force a theory out of them, because the reviewer is right that there are lots of objections one could raise to the successful snap-judgments that Gladwell writes about. For instance, why couldn’t the original “experts” that researched the authenticity of the Greek statues use their intuition to find out that they were fake? Can we always trust our intuition, or only when we get lucky? Does the Holy Spirit always guide us, or only sometimes? And speaking of the Holy Spirit, maybe Gladwell’s anecdotes have something to do with the mystical teachings of Jesus (or other wise men through the ages)…

I sure wish I could spot-judge student papers instead of having to read them all the way through and comment on them and justify the inflated grade I’m giving. Lemme tellyamon: I’m just getting through a bunch of crap papers. I wish I didn’t have to waste my time on them: just give them a D or an F and say “better luck next time; try to pay attention in class; try to learn some simple rules of grammar; try to have a point.” Instead, I have to coddle them. I just hope they don’t find this site. Or maybe I secretly hope they do!

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