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Social Issues: Common Sense and Intuition Essay

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Updated: Mar 16th, 2020

Briefly, Gladwell’s book tries to make an argument against the traditional perception that for one to make a decision, he or she must take a long time to consider multiple alternatives and possible outcomes. The author postulates that the decisions a person makes on his or her feet instinctively “without thinking” can be just as good as those that he or she could take time to deliberate about and arrive at a conclusion (Prince 55).

Her central claim is that the instinct can be turned from just an automatic inane response to a manipulated process, and “… that our snap judgments and first impressions can be educated and controlled” (Gladwell 14-15). The author wittingly utilizes experiments that are aimed at making the reader believe that prompt decisions could be better than well research conclusions.

In addition, the author establishes where they cannot be applied and determines how they can be improved (Moule 323). This concept is described as thin slicing. Gladwell demonstrates the concept through the application of contemporary examples.

For instance, in her experiments of the idea, she found out that a stranger could make a more accurate judgment about someone’s habits from spending time in his or her dorm room than his or her friends can. In a different scenario, she describes Goldman’s techniques for diagnosing cardiac problems and proves that, using thin slicing, doctors can actually improve their skills at making a diagnosis from as low as 79% to about 85 % (Gladwell 136).

One of the most noteworthy ideas in the book was the suggestion that, in as much as people try to act or say otherwise, from a subconscious point of view, the majority is actually practicing negative racial or gender profiling at a subconscious level, but this does not necessarily mean people are prejudiced.

Using the Implicit Association Test (IAT), Gladwell argues that when people’s attitude is measured on an unconscious level, the immediate intuitive associations overwhelmingly attribute negative ideas to black faces while positive ones are associated with white faces. Gladwell cites the test that was carried out on a cross-section of Americans. Although the level of difference occurs in microseconds, the statistical implications cannot be ignored.

Even the writer herself, who is half black, was found to have a negative bias for black people and a positive one for whites. Nevertheless, Gladwell claims to be a firm believer of racial equality and she does not support any discrimination of negative ethnicity. In fact, it is hardly plausible to assume that 80% of Americans think white is racist. The book clearly states the position of the author with regard to racism in the United States of America.

However, the test transcends the conscious considerations and reflects the perception, which most of us claim to be and believe we see all races as equal. In a way, this makes a strong argument for the superiority of thin slicing over conventional reasoning (Gips and Pentland 38).

It is apparent that the history of racial profiling and discrimination may have been eliminated from our conscious thought, but the slicing has the incisiveness and precision to detect it sub-consciously (Gladwell and Ruiter 199). I know first-hand how easy it can be to discriminate without being aware, from an experience I had once at the hospital. I had taken a friend to the hospital after he had a minor accident in the gym.

The injury required stitches. The doctor took a long time to see us as we were told they were seeing another patient, we waited for over 30 minutes and I got fed up, decided to look for someone to help us. I thought that we could spend a lot of time at a time without accessing the care required.

The first person I met outside was a young woman in a white dust coat. “Excuse me, nurse. We have been waiting a very long time, can you, please, tell me where I can find the doctor?” I asked the nurse. She smiled and told me she would try to help.

When we got to the waiting room, I kept expecting her to examine my friend and then call the doctor, but it was not until when she asked him to join her in the examination room when I realized that she was actually the doctor we had been expecting to meet. Surprisingly, even when I was calling her a nurse, she had been wearing a nametag with the “Dr. Wilkins” written on it.

I am not very proud to say this, but if it had been a male white man, I probably could not have failed to spot it. However, because the doctor, in this case, was a woman, and a black one at that, I fell victim to a kind of racial profiling that many of us engage in at one point or another.

Like Gladwell, I consider myself an enlightened individual who does not make discriminatory or prejudicial judgments. However, this experience was like an IAT test. My conscious most probably blinded me to the doctor’s identity, although it was right in front of my eyes.

Critics may oppose Gladwell’s claim on the basis that even such underlying prejudice are signs of racism and argue that, at the end of the day, humanity is neither as objective or even as progressive as we claim to be. Nevertheless, this should not be taken to mean that even after years of progressive ideas on the subject of race and equality we still make biased judgments.

IAT is only meant to prove that these perceptions occur, but it does not necessarily mean that they are the basis on which decisions are made. While there are gender and racial discrimination cases in the world, they are not always the results of instinctive thinking. Otherwise, based on the test, the fight against such prejudice would never be won, and on many levels today, it has been won and great progress made towards equality.

However, it does reveal the sad reality that our society is such that the prejudices of yesteryears remain in our minds. Despite the fact that discrimination is universally opposed, the attitudes that allow for it as still engraved in the minds of many people. As Gladwell proposes, snap thinking can be changed and improved.

In fact, people should analyze the way they perceive issues with regard to racism and work towards improving their negative perceptions. Therefore, and in the same way, when one is aware of his or her underlying prejudices, he or she should recognize his or her capacity to fall victim and reduce their propensity for making negative snap assumptions.

Works Cited

Gips, Jonathan, and Alex Pentland. “Mapping Human Networks.” PerCom. 2006. Print.

Gladwell, Malcolm, and Madelon E. Ruiter. “Blink: the power of thinking without thinking.” Gedragstherapie 41.2 (2008): 199. Print.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. , New York, NY: Hachette Digital, Inc., 2007. Print.

Moule, Jean. “Understanding unconscious bias and unintentional racism.” Phi Delta Kappan 90.5 (2009): 320-326. Print.

Prince, Ted. “Transportation Gut Check.” Journal of Commerce 1.3 ( 2010): 55. Print.

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