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In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us.Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within.
Later, some of the people who worked in the lab would say they were the kind of couple that is easy to like-intelligent and attractive and funny in a droll, ironic kind of way-and that much is immediately obvious from the videotape Gottman made of their visit. Each couple has been videotaped, and the results have been analyzed according to something Gottman dubbed SPAFF (for specific affect), a coding system that has twenty separate categories corresponding to every conceivable emotion that a married couple might express during a conversation.For fifteen minutes, they were left alone with the cameras rolling, with instructions to discuss any topic from their marriage that had become a point of contention. They lived in a small apartment and had just gotten a very large puppy. For fifteen minutes, they discussed what they ought to do about it. "I'm just not a dog person" is how Bill starts things off, in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice. Then the data from the electrodes and sensors is factored in, so that the coders know, for example, when the husband's or the wife's heart was pounding or when his or her temperature was rising or when either of them was jiggling in his or her seat, and all of that information is fed into a complex equation.The videotape of Bill and Sue's discussion seems, at least at first, to be a random sample of a very ordinary kind of conversation that couples have all the time. He complains a little bit-but about the dog, not about Susan. On the basis of those calculations, Gottman has proven something remarkable.And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance.She complains, too, but there are also moments when they simply forget that they are supposed to be arguing. If he analyzes an hour of a husband and wife talking, he can predict with 95 percent accuracy whether that couple will still be married fifteen years later.
When the subject of whether the dog smells comes up, for example, Bill and Sue banter back and forth happily, both with a half smile on their lips. If he watches a couple for fifteen minutes, his success rate is around 90 percent.
When Evelyn Harrison looked at the kouros and blurted out, "I'm sorry to hear that," she was thin-slicing; so were the Iowa gamblers when they had a stress reaction to the red decks after just ten cards.
Thin-slicing is part of what makes the unconscious so dazzling.
During the Vietnam War, he was a conscientious objector, and there is still something of the '60s hippie about him, like the Mao cap he sometimes wears over his braided yarmulke.
He is a psychologist by training, but he also studied mathematics at MIT, and the rigor and precision of mathematics clearly moves him as much as anything else.
Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error?