"Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, Introduction–Chapter 1

Journalist Malcolm Gladwell explores how people process information in order to make snap decisions.

Here are links to our lists for the book: Introduction–Chapter 1, Chapters 2–3, Chapter 4, Chapters 5–6, Conclusion–Afterword

Here are links to our lists for other works by Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers, The Tipping Point

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. quarry
    a surface excavation for extracting stone or slate
    The statue was made of dolomite marble from the ancient Cape Vathy quarry on the island of Thasos, Margolis concluded, and the surface of the statue was covered in a thin layer of calcite—which was significant, Margolis told the Getty, because dolomite can turn into calcite only over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
  2. amiss
    not functioning properly
    In that very first moment, when Houghton swished off the cloth, all Harrison had was a hunch, an instinctive sense that something was amiss.
  3. pastiche
    a work of art that imitates the style of some previous work
    But that, too, fell into doubt: the closer experts in Greek sculpture looked at it, the more they began to see it as a puzzling pastiche of several different styles from several different places and time periods.
  4. frugal
    avoiding waste
    They considered only what could be gathered in a glance. Their thinking was what the cognitive psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer likes to call “fast and frugal.”
  5. adaptive
    having a capacity for change
    The part of our brain that leaps to conclusions like this is called the adaptive unconscious, and the study of this kind of decision making is one of the most important new fields in psychology.
  6. relegate
    refer to another person for decision or judgment
    The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a good deal of high-level, sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jetliner is able to fly on automatic pilot with little or no input from the human, ‘conscious’ pilot.
  7. innate
    not established by conditioning or learning
    I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it.
  8. deliberation
    careful consideration
    We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation.
  9. slipshod
    marked by great carelessness
    Ortiz went to see the piece and was taken aback; it was, to his mind, clearly a fake, full of contradictory and slipshod elements.
  10. formidable
    extremely impressive in strength or excellence
    Ortiz’s explanation is that Langlotz had bought the sculpture as a very young man, before he acquired much of his formidable expertise.
  11. fallible
    likely to fail or make errors
    Our unconscious is a powerful force. But it’s fallible.
  12. awry
    away from the correct or expected course
    When our powers of rapid cognition go awry, they go awry for a very specific and consistent set of reasons, and those reasons can be identified and understood.
  13. fleeting
    lasting for a markedly brief time
    When it comes to the task of understanding ourselves and our world, I think we pay too much attention to those grand themes and too little to the particulars of those fleeting moments.
  14. droll
    comical in an odd or whimsical manner
    Later, some of the people who worked in the lab would say they were the kind of couple that is easy to like—intelligent and attractive and funny in a droll, ironic kind of way—and that much is immediately obvious from the videotape Gottman made of their visit.
  15. contention
    a dispute where there is strong disagreement
    For fifteen minutes, they were left alone with the cameras rolling, with instructions to discuss any topic from their marriage that had become a point of contention.
  16. buffet
    strike, beat repeatedly
    Marriages are buffeted by more important things, like money and sex and children and jobs and in-laws, in constantly changing combinations.
  17. dub
    give a nickname to
    Each couple has been videotaped, and the results have been analyzed according to something Gottman dubbed SPAFF (for specific affect), a coding system that has twenty separate categories corresponding to every conceivable emotion that a married couple might express during a conversation.
  18. nuance
    a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude
    Gottman has taught his staff how to read every emotional nuance in people’s facial expressions and how to interpret seemingly ambiguous bits of dialogue.
  19. treatise
    a formal exposition
    When I met Gottman, he had just published his most ambitious book, a dense five-hundred-page treatise called The Mathematics of Divorce, and he attempted to give me a sense of his argument, scribbling equations and impromptu graphs on a paper napkin until my head began to swim.
  20. cognition
    the psychological result of perception and reasoning
    But Gottman, it turns out, can teach us a great deal about a critical part of rapid cognition known as thin-slicing.
  21. patronizing
    characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
    Sue replied by closing her eyes and then assuming a patronizing lecturing voice.
  22. overt
    open and observable; not secret or hidden
    At no time as the conversation continued did either of them show any overt signs of hostility.
  23. cadence
    a recurrent rhythmical series
    The Germans were, of course, broadcasting in code, so—at least in the early part of the war—the British couldn’t understand what was being said. But that didn’t necessarily matter, because before long, just by listening to the cadence of the transmission, the interceptors began to pick up on the individual fists of the German operators, and by doing so, they knew something nearly as important, which was who was doing the sending.
  24. illicit
    contrary to or forbidden by law
    “And invariably, quite apart from the text, there would be the preambles, and the illicit exchanges. How are you today? How’s the girlfriend? What’s the weather like in Munich? So you fill out a little card, on which you write down all that kind of information, and pretty soon you have a kind of relationship with that person.”
  25. buffer
    a neutral zone between two rival powers
    “The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability. It’s like a buffer...."
  26. clinical
    relating to or based on direct observation of patients
    But that same tape has been given to almost two hundred marital therapists, marital researchers, pastoral counselors, and graduate students in clinical psychology, as well as newlyweds, people who were recently divorced, and people who have been happily married for a long time—in other words, almost two hundred people who know a good deal more about marriage than I do—and none of them was any better than I was.
  27. condemnation
    an expression of strong disapproval
    “You would think that criticism would be the worst,” Gottman says, "because criticism is a global condemnation of a person’s character. Yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism..."
  28. qualitative
    involving distinguishing attributes
    “You would think that criticism would be the worst,” Gottman says, "because criticism is a global condemnation of a person’s character. Yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism..."
  29. contempt
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    But if I speak from a superior plane, that’s far more damaging, and contempt is any statement made from a higher level.
  30. stonewall
    obstruct or hinder any discussion
    The big gender difference with negative emotions is that women are more critical, and men are more likely to stonewall.
  31. retiring
    reluctant to draw attention to yourself
    Extraversion. Are you sociable or retiring? Fun-loving or reserved?
  32. inadvertent
    happening by chance or unexpectedly or unintentionally
    Then there is behavioral residue, which is defined as the inadvertent clues we leave behind: dirty laundry on the floor, for instance, or an alphabetized CD collection.
  33. discerning
    having or revealing keen insight and good judgment
    Most of us have difficulty believing that a 275-pound football lineman could have a lively and discerning intellect.
  34. elicit
    call forth, as an emotion, feeling, or response
    We give them a questionnaire, like the Big Five Inventory, carefully designed to elicit telling responses.
  35. mire
    They may be so deeply mired—or so happily ensconced—in their relationship that they have no perspective on how it works.
  36. ensconce
    fix firmly
    They may be so deeply mired—or so happily ensconced—in their relationship that they have no perspective on how it works.
  37. metastasize
    spread throughout the body
    Burkin once had a client who had a breast tumor that wasn’t spotted until it had metastasized, and she wanted to sue her internist for the delayed diagnosis.
  38. adamant
    impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, or reason
    In fact, it was her radiologist who was potentially at fault. But the client was adamant. She wanted to sue the internist.
  39. intonation
    rise and fall of the voice pitch
    What’s left after content-filtering is a kind of garble that preserves intonation, pitch, and rhythm but erases content.
  40. intuitive
    obtained through instinctive knowledge
    All of this wasn’t thought out in words at the time. It was an intuitive conclusion that only later I could deconstruct.

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