Blink: the power of thinking without thinking

by Malcolm Gladwell

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Our subconscious not only manages bodily systems but also performs processing of features in our experience that our conscious does not have time to process. This has been proven in lots of experiments where people have been given subconscious cues to help them solve problems, but the people are unaware of this and make up answers when asked to explain how they came to conclusions. It’s important to trust these judgments that seem to come out of nowhere, but if we try to explain them we’ll start trying to provide rational answers, which can be totally false or misleading. (Think about when one of the jurors in the OJ Simpson trial said that race had absolutely nothing to do with their judgment.)

Our subconscious minds are generally racist, and they learn that from an environment that has a dominant race. CEOs tend to be taller, whiter, and male, and while part of that is overt, conscious racism, another part is not. Do you know anyone who would voice prejudice against short people? Just like artificial neural networks, we create predictive features at a subconscious level that may be biased by the data we are trained on.

Expose yourself on purpose to the good aspects of minority cultures, to overcome the biased associations. You can objectively improve the correlations in your subconsciousness by watching the Olympics, for example.

People are bad at performing linear regression on lots of variables when there are variables that aren’t as important as others. It’s sometimes useful to deliberately avoid learning some information so you can focus on the most important variables. (The example was the Cook county hospital, which adopted a very simple system for recognizing heart attack patients.)

The snap judgments of an expert are tuned on tons of experience. The snap judgments of non-experts aren’t wrong, but they do become wrong when asked to explain them. We try to find a rational explanation (which we are actually unable to do because we are not experts), and then our mind shifts to actually believing what we explain.