Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In the Blink of an Eye

Have you ever been criticized for making snap judgments? If you are dealing in something that you know a lot about, the chances are that those quick decisions were probably as good or better than lengthy informed decisions.

I just read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I found this whole idea of accelerated decision making absolutely fascinating. He also looks at how we often introduce unintentional bias into our decision making. Here are some things the author covers:

– The Getty Museum spent 14 months evaluating the potential purchase of a Kouros sculpture, finally making the purchase. An expert took one quick look at it in the gallery and determined it to be a fake based on the way the fingers looked.

– An expert tennis coach could call with 100% accuracy the times when a player was going to double fault before he ever struck the ball with the racket. And yet when asked how he did it, he was unable to explain the process he used.

– A seasoned marriage counselor could predict with 85% certainty whether or not a couple would be together in 15 years with just 3 minutes of observing them talk to each other.

– Thirty minutes of studying a student’s bedroom yielded a better description of the student as a person than a face-to-face interview with him.

– The Cook County Hospital had better results in the coronary care unit when they simply evaluated 4 pieces of information about a patient’s condition than they did when asking a complete battery of questions. It turns out that many questions just confuse the current situation and don’t help in the diagnosis, when time if of the essence.

– A person’s decision about whether or not to sue a doctor is related more to how he was treated by that doctor than whether the doctor in actuality made a mistake.

– White middle-age males are able to get the lowest prices when buying a car. There is a bias towards women, minorities, young people, and elderly people.

– Police officers in the heat of the moment sometimes come to the wrong conclusion because they think they see things that are not there. For example, the case of mistaking Diallo’s wallet for a gun and firing 41 shots into this innocent immigrant.

– Musical auditions that require the performer to be behind a screen have very different results than when the performer is visible to those making a choice.

After reading this book, I am confident that I will be paying much closer attention to how I make decisions. I will now feel more justified in some of those snap judgments that I always thought were right but seemed impossibly quick.

Do you trust your initial instincts when you are dealing in something you know well, or do you take a cautious approach to decision making? If you are quick, do you know why? Things to ponder...


Blogger DC Cookie said...

I've only read 1/2 of the first chapter of that book. Kathryn recommended it to me. I might have to dust it off and revisit...

5:50 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I usually prefer to read fiction, but this book is right up there with "The World Is Flat", my other recent non-fiction favorite. They both tell us a lot about how people behave and why!

7:39 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

I make decisions from the standpoint that I never have all the information so I should do the best I can. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but at least I tried.

I adopted this way of thinking when I realized through many jobs and many relationships that there is always something going on behind the scenes that I don't know about. I'll belabour whether a situation is going to improve at work, only to find out that it never would because someone is in someone else's pocket etc. In relationships, you never know either. I think the best solution is to be true to yourself, do what makes you happy and satisfied, and don't worry about the rest.

I've seen that book, but I have so many in my pile I don't know if I could possibly add another!

7:58 PM  

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