Malcolm Gladwell
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
Chapter 3

In 1899, two men had a meeting. The principal man was Harry Daugherty, an attorney and political “fixer”; and the second was Warren Harding, an editor from Ohio (at the time), and a contender for the Ohio state senate. Daugherty was inspired by Harding’s charm and charisma; he was impressed to the point that he proposed that Harding would make an incredible president. On paper, Harding did not appear to be presidential: he was not excessively brilliant; he has had numerous affairs; and he had never distinguished himself as either an editor or politician. When he served in the U.S. Senate, he passed no striking enactment. The main reasons Harding kept on rising in government were that: 1) Daugherty helped him; and 2) he resembled an incredible, magnetic pioneer. Inevitably, Harding kept rising through the ranks, ran for president, was chosen, and progressed toward becoming — as indicated by most students of history — one of the most noticeably bad presidents in American history.

Up until this point, Gladwell has been discussing how thin-slicing or adaptive unconscious can be a viable, precise way for people to think about the world. Obviously, there is no assurance that it would be accurate. In some cases, an individual’s “slices” of their universe are not illustrative of reality. The decision to elect Warren Harding is a genuine case of the “clouded side of adaptive unconscious”: in most cases, in their flurry to settle on a choice, individuals base their choice on irresponsible ideas and thoughts. American voters expected that Harding would be an extraordinary president in view of the instinctive “proof” that he looked presidential.

Researchers have examined the manner in which individuals form a hasty opinion utilizing a device called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT. On the IAT, subjects were given a rundown of words and requested to separate them into two classes: words that helped them to remember men or work, and words that helped them to remember ladies or family. At that point, they were approached to play out a comparable test, but with one critical contrast: they were requested to divide the words list into two classes. The two groups were “words that made them remember careers or women”, and “words that reminded them of family or men”. The second form of the test was significantly more difficult for test-takers because, characteristically, individuals will, in general, partner women with family, while partnering men with work. Because individuals will generally have previously established inclinations about race, sexual orientation, age, and so on, these predispositions impact the speed with which they make snap decisions.

There are numerous different uses of thin-slicing that can be unreasonably preferential. In a job interview, it has been proven that taller applicants have a higher possibility of getting the position, with every single other thing being equivalent. The average American CEO is: 1) a man, and 2) around six feet tall, right around three inches taller than a normal man. Maybe the facts demonstrate that, while most American businessmen are not intentionally supremacist, chauvinist, or “heightist”, they have an oblivious predisposition for tall, white men — clarifying why a lopsidedly substantial number of CEOs are tall, white men.

In Flemington town, there is a Nissan car franchise in which Bob Golomb works as a sales director — and who is also an experienced and phenomenal salesman. Indeed, he holds the highest record of car sales in the franchise, selling approximately twenty vehicles every month — which is more than double the average rate of other sales associates in the dealership. In part, this is because he is good at snap judgment or thin-slicing: Golomb can assess an individual’s interest in purchasing a vehicle within a few minutes of meeting their acquaintance, but does not assess his customers based on just their looks or appearance. He claims that all customers have the same chances of purchasing a vehicle.

Gladwell postulates that car dealerships mostly suffer due to the “Harding” problem, which Golomb effectively tackles. One research found that, assuming everything is held constant, Caucasian men receive car price offers that are nearly 200 dollars less than those offered to Caucasian women, and almost 1000 dollars less than those offered to African American men. This might be construed as racism — because dealers assume that they are not as intelligent, and therefore attempt at selling them overpriced cars. However, the participants in the study were college graduates and did not display such behavioral characteristics.

The plausible explanation for a car salesperson’s racism is that they unconsciously presume that African Americans and Caucasian women are less refined than Caucasian men. Just like the Americans who voted for Harding, or those individuals who takes significantly more time to finish their IATs, they hastily jumped to a conclusion about their customers because they have been unconsciously taught — or conditioned — to always think in this manner.

Gladwell asks: Is it conceivable to fight against the ‘Warren Harding’ error? Oblivious segregation appears to be hard to change as individuals do not understand how inescapable it is. Curiously, when individuals take the IAT just after looking at pictures of black people like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, it was found that it is simpler to finish the IAT rapidly— as visual signals can reconfigure the established stereotypes to connect races with positive characteristics. Be that as it may, there are likewise some unmistakable points of confinement to how enormously people can change their very own oblivious personalities. In the following three sections of his book, Gladwell will look at three instances of how individuals can “confront possibilities of snap judgements and first impressions”.


President Warren Harding was, famously, one of the most terrible presidents in American history — a bumbling man who, Gladwell contends, won the administration because he amazed the people with his face and disposition, and how he had an “ace puppeteer”, Harry Daugherty, controlling him. In this section, Gladwell clears up and qualifies a portion of the contentions he has made up until now. While proceeding to contend that snap decisions are a vital piece of human instinct, and a useful asset for understanding the world, he recognizes that — now and again — snap decisions can be biased and dispassionately off-base.

The reason that subjects took more time to finish the second form of the IAT is that this rendition of the test conflicted with the stereotypical, sexist associations of females with home and domestic life. Consequently, the aftereffects of the IAT propose that individuals use stereotyping as a sort of a mental shortcut to settle on a choice. A further ramification of the IAT is that individuals are bound to carry on in an extremist manner whenever they are in a rush or in a high-stakes scenario: when the pressure is on, individuals fall back the stereotypes as opposed to utilizing their sane personalities.

The fascinating record of Golomb at the Nissan car dealership shows how rapid cognition and thin-slicing does not have to be prejudicial. Golomb primarily judges a book by its cover by sizing individuals up in just a few minutes or seconds — and yet, he does not supposedly allow stereotypes to cloud his judgment; he evades the Harding problem (i.e. making wrong decisions about individuals based on little evidence about them) by taking into consideration all the superficial evidence that is relevant to his customers (e.g. their facial cues, etc.). In short, Gladwell argues that there are both right and wrong ways of judging a book by its cover.

Given the evidence considered by the author, it would appear that the salespeople are vulnerable to adaptive unconscious errors, just like most other people. While most of them may not necessarily be overtly and consciously racist, their judgment can be clouded by preconceptions.

Toward the end of this section, Gladwell proposes that it is conceivable to battle oblivious segregation — and, by and large, that it is also possible to fortify and prepare the adaptive unconscious.

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