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Blink of an Eye

--by Malcolm Galdwell (Mar 28, 2005)


When it comes to the task of understanding ourselves and our world, I think we pay too much attention to those grand themes and too little to the particulars of those fleeting moments. But what would happen if we took our instincts seriously? What if we stopped scanning the horizon with our binoculars and began instead examining our own decision making and behavior through the most powerful of microscopes? I think that would change the way wars are fought, the kinds of products we see on the shelves, the kinds of movies that get made, the way police officers are trained, the way couples are counseled, the way job interviews are conducted, and on and on. And if were to combine all of those little chnages, we would end up with a different and better world. I believe that the task of making sense of ourselves and our behavior requires that we acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.

I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of decision is directly related to time and effort that went into making it. When doctors are faced with a difficult diagnosis, they order more tests, and when we are uncertain about what we hear, we ask for a second opinion. And what do we tell our children? Haste makes waste. Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don't judge a book by its cover. We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. Decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately. [...]

Our unconscious is a powerful force. But it's also fallible. It's not the case that our internal computer always shines through, instantly decoding the "truth" of a situation. It can be thrown off, distracted, and disabled. Our instinctive reactions often have to compete with all kinds of other interests and emotions and sentiments. So, when should we trust our instincts, and when should we be wary of them? When our powers of rapid cognition go awry, they go awry for a very specific and consistent set of reasons, and those reasons can be identified and understood. It is possible to learn when to listen to that powerful onboard computer and when to be wary of it. Doctors and generals and coaches and furniture designers and musicians and actors and car salesmen and countless others, are very good at what they do and all of whom owe their success, at least in part, to the steps they have taken to shape and manage and educate their unconscious reactions. The power of knowing, in that first two seconds, is a not a gift given magically to the fortunate few. It is an ability that we can all cultivate for ourselves.

--Malcolm Gladwell

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On Feb 26, 2011 Ramkumar wrote:

Yes. The unconscious thought theory is quite an interesting tool for everyone to make use of. But, this whole thing of unconscious decision making is all because of the limited time that we have in decision making. In such cases, relying on instincts/intuition can be equal to conscious decision making if not better. There is a psychwiki article on Unconscious thought theory which explains this. @Bhaavin.. Well Said. I always find myself dissatisfied with the decision that I had to come to at some point just because of time. It is just only pseudo-logical. Also, I always bother myself with other premises that might be true and contradicting to the premises which I had been currently using to come to a decision. But on the eyes of the people, I come across as indecisive. It is just a matter of convincing ourself based on the available facts and disregarding any other views. In other words, half way through the decision making ,we would have decided things and thus disregard the rem  See full.

Yes. The unconscious thought theory is quite an interesting tool for everyone to make use of. But, this whole thing of unconscious decision making is all because of the limited time that we have in decision making. In such cases, relying on instincts/intuition can be equal to conscious decision making if not better. There is a psychwiki article on Unconscious thought theory which explains this.

@Bhaavin.. Well Said. I always find myself dissatisfied with the decision that I had to come to at some point just because of time. It is just only pseudo-logical. Also, I always bother myself with other premises that might be true and contradicting to the premises which I had been currently using to come to a decision. But on the eyes of the people, I come across as indecisive. It is just a matter of convincing ourself based on the available facts and disregarding any other views. In other words, half way through the decision making ,we would have decided things and thus disregard the remaining premises based on our prejudice. And hence,ultimately,I understand that pursuit of absolute truth requires patience. 

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On Aug 26, 2010 Bhaavin Shah wrote:

 When we take a decision after deliberation, there is no measure of the exact point when we should stop our deliberation. We typically stop our deliberation when we run out of time or are tired of deliberating. Both these approaches are as haphazard as instinctive or intuitive decision-making appears to be .. there is nothing so logical about logic actually.



On Jun 12, 2006 Nipun wrote:

Aside from the unconscious internal computer and the conscious logical analytical mind, there is also what is called the superconscious, that aspect of our beings which is aligned with the principles of the cosmos. Whereas the feelings we get from the unconscious are called instinct, the feelings from our superconscious are intuition Things we see as random are not so random when looked on a different scale. Though we may see thousands and thousands of white swans, the moment we see a black swan we cannot say all swans are white anymore. I used to enjoy taking photos, but now that I've taken a class I don't know how to take good photos anymore because I keep thinking of all the adjustments I need to make on the camera. How can we dip into our superconscious mind? During pregnancy my sister read so many books about babies, pregnancy, birth etc.. .. three days after giving birth, the baby could not stop crying. Later on they realized you ca  See full.

  • Aside from the unconscious internal computer and the conscious logical analytical mind, there is also what is called the superconscious, that aspect of our beings which is aligned with the principles of the cosmos. Whereas the feelings we get from the unconscious are called instinct, the feelings from our superconscious are intuition
  • Things we see as random are not so random when looked on a different scale. Though we may see thousands and thousands of white swans, the moment we see a black swan we cannot say all swans are white anymore.
  • I used to enjoy taking photos, but now that I've taken a class I don't know how to take good photos anymore because I keep thinking of all the adjustments I need to make on the camera.
  • How can we dip into our superconscious mind?
  • During pregnancy my sister read so many books about babies, pregnancy, birth etc.. .. three days after giving birth, the baby could not stop crying. Later on they realized you cannot put a schedule around a baby, you have to use your natural born instinct to take care of it.
  • Most of us live in our heads a majority of our time without allowing our other intelligences play a role. Intuition and instincts are not experiences just of our heads.
  • Most people keep asking what is my swadharma, what is it I'm here to do? Vinobhe Bhave says if it's really your purpose, it should be effortless, but we've created so many blockages due to all sorts of conditionings. Our task is to peel off these conditioned layers and who we are will naturally arise.
  • What if our base desires are greed or anger, will acting out of instinct be the best thing to do?
  • Every person carries some sort of a 'vibe' which reflect their thoughts and emotions. People who themselves are cleared of much conditioning and thought can see these on others.

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