Snap Judgments -- Revelations From Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink
More often than not we end up being confused about whether to think too much or not while making decisions. One friend says ‘You’re wasting too much time on it’, the other says ‘Don’t jump right into it, think, take it slow!’ Which one is right? When to think and when to go by instincts? Although I did not go crazy thinking a lot about this, I’ve had my doubts about it. I recently got an opportunity to read one of the most acclaimed books of Malcolm Gladwell- Blink. And that raised the question again in my head.
Malcolm talks abundantly about ‘snap judgments’ -- how good can they be and how tricky it can get for one to rely on them? But in the end, you will again end up having the same doubt. When to go by snap judgments and when not to? Don’t get me wrong here, the book is amazing; it will enable you to think in wider perspectives. But let’s face it, how can anyone give a concrete statement about something so vital specifically decision making. What Malcolm does is present enough examples of both the situations where following instincts helped and ruined everything (or something) and allows us to deliberate which one to choose and when.
Priming -- The Unknown Ingredient Of Snap Judgments
Although the book had me hooked to it, for the most part, there’s this one part that grabbed my attention the most, a conditioning technique called ‘Priming’. Malcolm gives various examples of how being primed with various kinds of information in different situations and methods affect our interpretations.
One of the examples in the book that explained this concept really well, was the Implicit Association Test, particularly the race test. A subject was given two racial combinations and a few words and pictures to categorize within them. The results were almost always shocking. You may think you have a different opinion about something, a fair opinion to be precise. The results may show you how subconsciously primed you are.
One of the biggest takeaways for me from the book was the concept of Priming. What I could make out of this concept helped me come up with something that’s close to answering my doubt -- When you are aware that you may have prior associations about a situation or a person, wait and think. Are you answering genuinely or is your prior association playing a role?
Examples Of Snap Judgements…
For example, say you heard nasty things about one of the lecturers in your college and later at the end of the year you ended up having only him/her left to choose to guide you for some project work. Your prior associations about that lecturer will influence your judgement about whether to choose him or go talk to the authorities to see if you can get another lecturer.
Now if you rely on your snap judgement, there is a probability of you choosing to go see the authorities, over selecting or considering him for the guide’s position. What if the lecturer wasn’t what you heard of him? You lose a potential guide. Whether the lecturer is really nasty or not is something you can find out only after analysis and deliberation. Relying on snap judgements in such a situation will not help.
Another best example for priming which is mentioned in the book is the audition for the orchestra episode. Abbie Conant accidentally happened to receive the call for an audition and got selected. But once the screen was raised, the jury was stunned to know that she was a female, breaking their stereotypical thought of females being unfit to play the trombone. This explains how the committees had so many prior notions and how it took years of fight and a new method of auditioning for a fair judgement.
Long story short: Sometimes our Snap Judgements might contain the biases and stereotypes we have already been primed with over the lifetime. Hence that might get you into trouble. So, beware.
The Art Of Living And Decision Making -- Less Is More
Another interesting concept mentioned in the book was to rely on less and necessary information. In this generation of internet explosion, there’s so much information to consume about even the smallest things. And that, my friend, will do more harm than you can think of while making decisions. If not all the times, this happens most of the times.
Remember being absolutely clueless about which top to choose for your birthday in that mall where you had more than 1000 options? Yeah, that’s how too much information helps! The more information you have the more confused you may end up being while trying to come to a conclusion or make a decision about anything.
Apart from these two concepts, I managed to figure out another probable answer for my doubt about when to think and when not to. When you are aware of the consequences, you better deliberate. When you are clueless of the consequences, you better rely on your snap judgements. How did I come up with these conclusions? No idea! But I can provide you with a couple of examples that’ll justify this conclusion.
Say you know the consequence of wearing something totally irrelevant to your friend’s party. You’ll get teased or embarrassed. So instead of just going with that gaudy neon orange coloured dress that you are not sure of fitting you but liked instantly, you’ll try various dresses, take pictures and send it to your friends, deliberate and then choose what you want to buy. Right? Now the second conclusion, you are clueless about whether the event that you are asked to attend along with your friends will be fun or a total bad trip. You are unaware of the consequences of attending that event. You are not going to sit and deliberate about ‘Should I go or not?’ for 32 hours. You go by your instincts. Do you feel like going or not? The answer to that question is your decision.
This is obviously my interpretation of how to figure out when to rely on instincts and snap judgements and when not to. So don’t get ready to snap at me for anything that went awfully wrong if you relied on my suggestion.
I would love to hear what you think about it and are there any experiences where thin slicing and deliberating either worked wonders or went awfully wrong for you. Meanwhile, enjoy this amazing quote from blink:
“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.”