Friday, June 12, 2009

Blink Impressions

So yesterday I realized--yet again--that I should trust my subconscious a lot more than I do. Basically, my subconscious said, "I told you so, moron...if you had only trusted me enough to listen the first time...!" All my first impressions of a certain situation that I've gathered over the past couple years were finally confirmed by a collection of facts. If only I had trusted my first impressions more...

It's like Malcolm Gladwell illustrates with story after story in his nonfiction book Blink: our "blink" first impressions are often more accurate than decisions or judgments made after long, deliberate thought. After reading Gladwell's book, I've been more aware of how many times I decide to just turn off that inner voice--the red-headed stepchild of my identity--and decide to weigh all considerations, coming to the less-worthy outcome.

Gladwell often shows how many times we see these first impressions as less valuable because we can't identify why we feel that way--only that we do. He gives the example of food critics who are experts in their field and can taste a cookie or cracker and can tell you which factory it was baked at, what ingredients were used, whether the ingredients were castoffs of another product... There's no hesitation for them to be able to identify why they feel certain ways about the cookie/cracker. Likewise, as an editor, I can identify why I don't think a book would do well or why I think it would, whereas a reader who hasn't had to verbalize or consider all the minute elements of story would just say that the story was slow or unengaging and that "I didn't like it."

Regardless of whether we can pin down why we get first impressions, I've realized more and more that the subconscious is sometimes more street-savvy than our conscious self. It's not afraid to say it how it is.


  1. Blink impressions. I'd have to say that I go with them about 50% of the time and usually it proves to be the better way.
    Then again its not always good to share those less thoughtful first impressions because sometimes they are not as tactful coming out of the gate. So yeah I get it. Follow your gut, but don't spill your guts.

  2. I try to spill others guts and avoid spilling my own :)

    One word for you Kirk. Amen.

  3. I lean towards spilling the guts, tact is for the insecure. Then again, the real test is to be able to spill your guts and make them thank you when you are done. I would go as far as saying I go with those first impressions 80 -90% of the time. I too have learned better to trust that first impression than it is to try to get past it only to get eaten alive later.

  4. So true, so true. Usually the only time I don't follow those impressions as well as I should is when I'm forced to view somebody in a worse light than I think I should. In other words, sometimes I give people too much benefit of the doubt. I figure that's usually a safe way to err, rather than thinking less of someone when I should be thinking more of them. Confused yet?

  5. Not quite. But I will say that I go with my gut almost 100% of the time. On everything. I'm pretty sure I'm always right.

  6. This is why I get into trouble. I over-analyze evvvverything.

  7. hmmm interesting thought (as I read it on a Sunday morning). I prefer to give people the benifit of the doubt, or if not, then at least I try not to say ANYTHING. I hate that confrontation (which is a major stumbling block in writing, I might add).

    Although I did give someone the benifit of the doubt last year and it blew up BIG time in my face. I had to do a lot of appologizing to school officials for trusting the wrong person.