Blink: Reading Guide – Chapter Six

SEVEN SECONDS IN THE BRONX

1. The Diallo shooting is an example of a mind-reading failure. It reveals a grey area of human cognition; the middle ground between deliberate and accidental. Do you think the shooting was more deliberate or accidental?

The Naked Face:

2. Mind-reading failures lie at the root of countless arguments, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. Often, people make excuses for a sarcastic or hurtful remark as “just joking.” But if there is no clear-cut line between deliberate and accidental do you agree, “There is always truth in jest?” Do you think when we misread others and get irritated we are in fact only recognizing something in that person that we don’t like about ourselves?

3. Eckman and Friesens’ work of decoding facial expressions reveals that the information on our face is not just a signal of what’s going on inside our mind but it is what is going on inside our mind. But what about politicians or celebrities and other figures constantly in the public eye? Do you believe they are always feeling their expressions or are they just camera-savvy posers who defy Eckman and Friesens’ expression theory? How about extremely stoic individuals? Do they have diminished emotions in keeping with their limited expressions? Have you ever been ‘two-faced’ or watched someone else speak badly about another individual only to then turn around and greet them with a warm, gushy hello? Is that ‘friendly’ expression false or an attempt to make amends?

A Man, a Woman, and a Light Switch:

4. Autistic patients read their environment literally. They do not, like us, seem to watch people’s eyes when they are talking to pick up on all those expressive nuances that Eckman has so carefully catalogued. What do you make of individuals who avoid eye contact during conversation? How do you think this affects their ability to understand or interpret the speaker? Could this explain how lying is often signaled by averted eye-contact?

5. Have you ever experienced a ‘mind-blind’ moment? A moment where conditions were so stressful or confusing, your actions seemed to be the result of temporary autism? If ‘mind-blindness’ occurs at extreme points of arousal, could this explain why people ‘lose their heads’ in the heat of the moment and say something they don’t mean or cheat on spouses etc?

6. We always wonder how some individuals react to situations that make them heroes like the fireman who ran into the burning building or the ER doctor who operated in the nick of time. Do you think that what separates the ‘men from the ‘ is this ability to control or master one’s reactions in moments of extreme stress and arousal?

7. Is this skill accessible? Are you intrigued to practice and believe it is something you could improve?