Do you trust your intuition when making decisions? If so, there is a few things you should know about it. First, you probably use it a whole lot more than you realize. Even in cases where you have a solid reason for your choice, you are just backing up your initial gut feelings. Second, your intuition can often produce better judgments than conscious analysis, because it only focuses on the key factors and filters the irrelevant information. But the downside is that it's also affected by your preconceptions and prejudice that can lead you astray.
To make good decisions, it's crucial to know when to trust our intuition and when not to. In this amazing book called Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains what happens when you listen to your gut feelings. In this summary, I'll share with you three key lessons that I learned from the book.
Key lesson #1: Intuitive judgments can often be superior to our conscious ones.
Many people tend to only trust their conscious judgments and ignore their intuition. But it turns out that snap judgments are often far superior to those made after a thorough analysis. In many situations, there are patterns that the unconscious can recognize faster than the logical mind. Also unconscious can differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information in a mere split second. And it turns out that in decision-making, usually, it's more effective to concentrate on a few important facts and block out the rest.
Let's say you are observing a couple and want to accurately predict whether their relationship will last. To do so, it's best to concentrate on a few particular key signs. If you spot a hint of contempt in the interaction, for example, that's a strong indicator that the relationship could fail. However, if you try to analyze every bit of information, you'll find it difficult to make an accurate prediction because lots of little pieces of irrelevant information hide a few big relevant ones. We can make good snap judgments because our unconscious is incredibly good at this filtering process and our spontaneous decisions are based on a select few pieces of information.
Key lesson #2: our decisions are greatly influenced by our unconscious associations.
The unconscious influences our actions in a very specific way. For example, in one study a group of people were asked to play Trivial Pursuit. But before starting, they were randomly divided into two groups and given a task. The first group was asked to think about what it would mean to be a professor while the other taught about what it would mean to be a football hooligan. The results were shocking. The group that had taught about the ‘intelligent’ Professor got significantly more right answers than the group that taught about the ‘dumb’ football hooligan. A simple association created a huge difference in the two groups' performance. Similarly, our unconscious associations constantly influence our behavior. Like most of us have learned to unconsciously associate white, male, and tall with qualities like power and competence. Even if we don't explicitly believe that tall white men are more competent than short black women. But many of us form these associations unconsciously. Research has shown that it is easy to be professionally successful as a tall white male. In fact, they showed that a one-inch increase in height turns into a measurably higher salary, and top management is almost exclusively held by white males of above-average height. It was exactly these types of unconscious associations that made Warren Harding the president of the US after the end of World War. Despite the fact that he had no real skill he is known as the worst president of all time. Now that we know how strongly unconscious associations can influence our decisions, the question is, can we still trust our snap judgments?
Key lesson #3: If you want to avoid bad snap judgments, ignore all the irrelevant information.
To reach a good snap judgment, you should consciously shield yourself from potentially misguided information. For example, for many years, the prevailing opinion in the music world was that only men could be professional musicians like violinists or bass players. Women, regardless of how talented they were, weren’t considered viable candidates for the job. Simply put, they were the victims of stereotyping and prejudice. In order to overcome this problem, the industry started using screens during auditions to hide the gender of the musicians so they could be judged solely on their performance. Thanks to this innovation today there are many extraordinarily talented female musicians in orchestras all over the world. As this example shows, sometimes helping our unconscious to reach a good snap judgment can be as simple as deliberately ignoring information that's not relevant.
So in summary, the key message of the book is that our unconscious mind can make snap judgments in the blink of an eye. In certain situations, these snap judgments are far superior to conscious analysis where sometimes they can lead to bad decisions due to unconscious associations and to overcome this, we must deliberately ignore any information that's not relevant. We often make far more snap judgments than we realize. But now you know when to trust them and when not to.