Power of Thin-Slicing

There can be as much value in the blink of an eye, as there is in months of rational analysis

Malcolm Gladwell (Blink)


Has it ever happened that your gut nudged you in the direction stark opposite to the one that was practically plausible in a situation? Or you just knew without knowing how? I was reading this bestseller by Malcolm Gladwell: Blink, that talks about the power of intuitive decision making i.e. the act of thinking without thinking. While one would carefully reason before concluding a decision, Gladwell argues that the decision is made much before the actual thought process begins. If we take the physiological time into consideration, this all might seem too impossible to be practical. But on removing the barricades of timed existence, this premise starts making sense. Further he goes on to explain the process of judgement. What exactly goes in the moment when either we are judging or are being judged. And how sometimes over load of knowledge can lead to a situation known as analysis-paralysis which can be explained in the medicine field, when the doctors fail to diagnose a simple illness when the patient reveals too much as compared to those initial 2-3 symptoms.


Snap judgements are enormously quick; they rely on the thinnest slices of experiences


We’ve all been there, haven’t we? The mysticism of snap judgement and the snag of analysis-paralysis! It says that the first 5 seconds of judgement which happens in blink of an eye is as good and as accurate as a longer, and analysed one. Like a video I watched a while ago on non-verbal communication that happens entirely involuntarily, revealed that the fate of a candidate is decided in the first 4 seconds of an interview. Also there are so many studies in place arguing that attractive people are preferred over others even before they start talking in various scenarios. And not to forget the evergreen question that remains, why we dislike certain people even though we’ve never met them before! All this is can be debated with the help of thin-slicing: the ability of cognitive thinking based on very narrow windows of experience. The beauty of thin-slicing is that it cannot be explained, but only witnessed. It is almost like holding sand, the more one tries to reason it, and the more it goes out of grabs.


It is so strange how a single moment can change the world you used to know


There are many examples in the book that demonstrate the power of gut feeling, but the one I found very interesting and commonly experienced is the ‘The Warren Harding error’ where we use our snap judgements based on attractiveness of a person or an object in question and let these visual aberrations decide every other piece of information we gather about them. That is what happens everywhere; during the interviews and sales pitches etc. and this leads to an error or lapse of judgement where all you could feel in your gut was how blindingly beautiful the person or object is. One must train their minds to think intuitively, leaping beyond the physical aspects to come to more concrete conclusive grounds and avoid the infamous beauty trap. If one must stress on appearances, then presentation skills can be debated, but how can you choose beauty over brains for jobs that require mental acumen. Or would you choose a product that is strikingly packaged but the contents aren’t FSSAI approved? I guess not. In a sip test experiment between Pepsi and Coke, Pepsi always won hands down. Reason being the momentary lapse during the taste tests always favoured the sweeter drinks. But during the take home tests where the subjects were asked to finish the entire can, Pepsi didn’t fare that well. Reason being, it was too sweet to be consumed in an entire can! A very similar thing happens in case of human interactions, when you are in awe of someone’s beauty their weaknesses become their strengths and vice versa happens when that ‘awe’ gets flawed.


The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift!

Albert Einstein


So to have a matured thin-slicing experience, one must fight the Warren Harding error and focus on the circumstantially required credentials to judge a person or product for more accurate results.  For more insightful revelation, grab your copy of Blink. What I have taken away from this book is far more profound. So now every time I sit on a decision for far too long, I think of the very first instinct that came straight out of my gut when the problem first presented itself. I agree, might sound like a very rookie approach, but it has certainly served me right with some major decisions! The first instincts come from the infinite space between awareness of a situation and snap judgements. It is hard to debate much on their existence in the first place, but so is the thing with God; not everything exists at the mercy of human perception, there are worlds beyond the worlds, thoughts within thoughts and that’s the thin-sliced bigger picture!



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