Blink: Reading Guide – Chapter One

THE THEORY OF THIN SLICES

Marriage and Morse Code:

1. Have you ever had a feeling that a couple’s future is successful or doomed just by witnessing a brief exchange between them? What do you think you’re picking up on?

2. Many couples seek marriage counseling from a therapist, a priest, rabbi etc. But do you think a couple about to get married should go and see John Gottman, the psychologist who can predict with a 95% accuracy whether a couple will be together in 15 years just by watching an hour of their interaction? If you were about to be married or could go back to before you were, would you want to see Gottman and find out his prediction?

3. The central argument of the chapter is that our unconscious is able to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. This is called ‘thin-slicing.” What kinds of phenomena, if any, do not lend themselves to ‘thin-slicing?’

4. Gottman decodes a couple’s relationship and predicts divorce by identifying their patterns of behavior. Can we change our natural and unconscious patterns of behavior? Would awareness of these patterns with our partner be enough to avert an inevitable break-up?

5. Do you think you could hire someone by ‘thin-slicing’ the candidate during a brief interview? Or do you think this would only work for certain kinds of jobs or perhaps, only certain kinds of people?

6. The psychologist, Samuel Gosling, shows how ‘thin-slicing’ can be used to judge people’s personality when he uses the dorm room observers. Visualize your bedroom right now. What does it say about you?

7. If scrolling through someone’s iPod or scanning their bookshelf can tell us more about that individual, what other kinds of ‘thin-slicing’ exercises could reveal aspects of their personality?