I am reading this book called BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell, which was supposedly my gift to Suresh for his birthday…LOL…. It’s a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. It is a National Best Seller, not just “New York Times Best Seller”. I have read a couple of chapters so far and am already impressed. It is a book about instant conclusions that we come to, on meeting someone or while buying a car etc. There was a chapter talking about “Looking at Thin Slices” where the author talks about the conclusions that we come to after reading the thin slices about someone. In a nutshell, it says one does not have to be around a person for a long period to know about him/her. A few hours should be enough. I guess we follow this in arranged marriages in India. A few moments, knowing what interests a person helps us in our decision .The author cites Tom Hanks as an example. I have never come across a person till now who doesn’t like Hanks. Have you? When questioned, people always said that Tom comes out as a decent, trustworthy, down-to-earth, responsible human being, which is also true.
There is a dark side to thin slicing. You might make snap decisions by looking at a person and we all know appearances are deceptive. The book cites car salesmen and how they reacted to white males, white females, black males and black females in a particular experiment. All the participants were portraying as well educated professors and dressed the same. Invariably, the entire salesmen asked 552$ above invoice for white males, $1500 for white females and even higher for black males, with black women leading the pack. Are they racial? No. They are unconsciously associating women with less knowledge about cars and “woman and black” is the worst combination. Wonder what would happen if I walk alone into a car shop. 🙂 If you want to know how you would react to people, there are some cognitive tests at http://www.implicit.harvard.edu which are quite interesting and tell how you associate race, sex etc.
Some more interesting facts – Did you know that most doctors who get sued are not the ones who make lot of mistakes, but rather the ones who spend less time with their patients. Doctors who spent 3 minutes more with the patients and sounding concerned always got out easy in spite of their mistakes , where as those who sounded dominant, not even arrogant, were sued though they might have been good.
There was one more example about how people do things unconsciously. This was about flash dating where men and women get together and talk to each other for 5 minutes . Basically, the women sit in each of the chairs and the men take rotations and talk to each woman. You would have seen this in movies. There was one woman ,lets call her Jen, who liked Ron very much. When asked before, she had said that she was looking for a smart, intelligent guy. Ron was funny and charming, but not exactly intelligent. After those five minutes, when asked, Jen said she likes funny and charming guys. Looks like it continues for may be a month and then reverts back to smart, intelligent guys. All this is done unconsciously. Maybe, when we get married, since we make snap decisions after talking to a person for a few hours or minutes, there must be something that we find attractive and we unconsciously change our likings to make the marriage a success unless there is an overwhelming difference which makes the marriages fail due to the dark side of thin slicing.