Tuesday, August 30, 2005

... and you'll miss it

i met dave for coffee last week, and as we discussed the various things going on in our lives, he pulled out a book called blink. the thesis of the book is that there are a whole host of decisions that human beings make on a day-to-day basis without necessarily consciously knowing how or why we come to those decisions. examples were given of "priming" (giving a person particular stimuli that gear thought processes toward a particular approach to a subsequent situation) and snap-judgements (like an art critic looking at a ten-million-dollar statue and recognising it as a fake... without knowing why he knows that, or articulating a reason).

it's not a hard book to read - i finished it in under five hours or reading yesterday - and it's kind of strange because i've always had a theory that the things we learn by reflex are often more... useful? helpful to thinking? i don't quite know what i'm saying.

example: i firmly believe that rote learning of times tables is intrinsically helpful to learning and understanding algebra. i also suspect that it helps in understanding chemical equations in high school science as well. i have no hard data to support my theory, except that of the people i went to school with, and the people i've tried to help with their homework, the ones who needed little help with algebra were ones who knew their times tables. from the little i've read about neurophysiology and other psych- and neuro-sciences, the learning that happens early in our lives has a lot to do with how easily and what kinds of skills we learn later in life.

so the snap judgements discussed in the book made a lot of sense to me. they might make sense to you too. it's worth reading. i wish i could remember the author's name.

thank you google! malcolm gladwell - think - the power of thinking without thinking


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