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A Look at Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

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Last week, I finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s not really about personal finance; it’s about the accuracy of certain snap decisions. I read the book with the intent of relating its message to the topics I focus on here.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking describes how some people have the ability to make accurate judgments in a split-second. In some cases these judgments are more accurate than those following a systematic, scientific review of the situation. The main thing to take away from the book is those people who are experts in their field can often make better decisions subconsciously in the first two seconds of an event than what their conscious mind can handle.

Gladwell’s stories involved very little that most people could gain. Only years of experience can prime the subconscious for “thin-slicing,” and this point is often hidden in the book.

There was nothing I could learn from this book that could be applied as advice or thoughts for the typical investor. This is a book about experts. This is a book about Warren Buffetts — the author mentions the Oracle of Omaha to bridge the phenomenon to theories of investing at one point, but it doesn’t have anything that you or I could take away without years of intimacy with a subject.

What if you do have intimate knowledge of investing? What kind of snap judgments could be made? Whether a company is a good candidate for a buy? I think it would have to be something more specific. You could take a look at an annual financial report and know whether a company is in good shape or is hiding something. You could watch the CEO on Bloomberg TV or CNBC and know whether he or she has confidence in the company. That’s about as far as I see this going.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts on whether there is anything within that could be applied to personal finance.

Updated July 16, 2010 and originally published January 30, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Caitlin

I read it a while ago…was dying to see how you’d relate it to PF ;) Cuz…I can’t see a direct connection, but I still thought it was a great book. What I mostly got out of it was how flawed our snap judgements can be…and yet we are so sure of their reliability (and yes, there were the tales of expert thin-slicing that were fascinating). I think it’s a great read…but like you, I don’t see a personal finance connection.

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avatar FMF

“There was nothing I could learn from this book that could be applied as advice or thoughts for the typical investor.”

Thanks, you just saved me a bunch of time.

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avatar Ankit

I too read this and am amazed why at why this book is so highly praised/hyped. It is not deserving of it. The book reveals how snap judgements from an expert can be right at times and and other times wrong. Well, thanks for telling me the obvious. I thought it was a money and time. Save your money from this one…

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avatar RS

Agree with FMF…I will probably be skipping this one as I don’t have a ton of free time set aside for reading as it is.

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avatar ib

had anyone read the tipping point? came out before blink and was also hyped and am curious about it. thanks for saving me on blink b/c i was still interested in it and now i know better.

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