Saturday, July 30, 2005

Blink, by Malcom Gladwell

An interesting book about how split-second decisions get made, how we are trained to use them, and how certain conditions (such as autism) might be due to the loss of ability to make those gut-level decisions. In the end, however, Gladwell does not succeed in tying all the threads of his explorations together, so the book feels quite disjointed.

When interviewing, in particular, it's important to not yield to the impulse to make a hiring decision based on first impressions --- those can be particularly misleading, so in interviewing, the scientific admonition to do your best to prove your intuition wrong is to be best followed.

How long, for example, did it take you, when you were in college, to decide how good a teacher your professor was? A class? Two classes? A semester? The psychologist Nalini Ambady once gave students three ten-second videotapes of a teacher --- with the sound turned off --- and found they had no dificulty at all coming up with a rating of the teacher's effectiveness. Then Ambady cut the clips back to five seconds, and the ratings were the same. They were remarkably consistent even when she showed the students just two seconds of videotape. Then Ambady compared those snap judgements of teacher effectiveness with evaluations of those same professors made by their students after a full semester of classes, and she found that they were also essentially the same
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