I think I can say I am officially a Malcomb Gladwell fan. I loved his book “Outliers” and now having read “Blink”, I think he is a genius. It’s the way he tells the story of the human mind that is so enticing to me. He starts with a scene that feels mysterious, or even obvious, then proceeds to go through studies and examples that form new ideas and understandings in the reader’s mind. Then, he returns to the original story and everything looks different. See? Genius.
Blink is all about thin slicing, or snap judgements made by people unconsciously. These kinds of judgements happen so fast, that we are unaware they are happening. Gladwell makes an argument, that many of our decisions are based on sets of information hidden behind the locked door of our subconscious. We cannot see what’s behind the door, but can we influence it?
In many cases, our snap judgements are correct, because our subconscious mind is making millions of observations that our conscious mind is unaware of. But, in the case of things like prejudices, like whether we think black men are more dangerous, or women aren’t as good at the trombone as men, all the information that has been fed into our subconscious mind by culture, media, and experiences may influence judgements that we feel are fair, when in fact, they are not. Our conscious mind may be choosing to rid itself of prejudices, but the subconscious mind doesn’t make those kinds of moral decisions. It will react in ways we are unaware of, like not leaning into a conversation with a black man the way we would a white man. Or when listening to both a man and woman play the trombone with equal talent, we’ll think the man sounds better and that it’s entirely the music quality. (Blind auditions were created for this reason, and women suddenly sounded much better.)
A startling fact is that when black students were asked to identify their race before a test, they scored 50% lower than when they were not. Why? Because it brought to attention all the stereotypes fed into their subconscious about black students being less intelligent, and they performed accordingly. The same thing happened with women on math and science tests. And studies have shown that if a man is white and taller than 6’1″ he is more likely to be elected a leader, because we think that’s what a leader should look like. We don’t think that’s why we’re electing or promoting him, it’s subconscious, but it plays a huge role.
Another interesting study found that if people are exposed to positive images of black leaders like Martin Luther or Nelson Mandela before taking the IAT (a test that rates subconscious prejudice by having you allocate positive and negative words with either a white or black man) they are less biased towards white men than if they are not first exposed. This suggests we can train our subconscious to be less biased. We can train ourselves to think differently about a subject, just by exposing ourselves to the image we want to believe. I guess it would be positive brain washing to counteract the negative brainwashing we get every day.
So I ask, as women, can we retrain our minds to erase the prejudices we hold against ourselves that are subconsciously pushing us down and causing us to reach lower than if we weren’t women? After reading this book, I believe we can. And that’s one of my focuses here on Absolutely Tara. I want to redefine how womanhood is presented.
If we care about our kids are we suddenly unable to do great in a conference room? If we cook a meal, are we less able to debate philosophy? If we cry when we’re upset, are we less able to make the hard choices required to do the right thing? No.
And the more we expose ourselves to people and ideas that present what women are capable of, the more our subconscious will believe it. Blink is a great book for putting all of this into perspective in a scientific way, and that is why I loved it.
As far as where to start when it comes to positive brainwashing, I suggest you do your Evaluation, keep a Triumph Journal, and surround yourself with people, books, and media that feed how you want to see yourself. Because no matter what our conscious mind has decided, if we don’t fix the subconscious input, we will never be able to overcome the BLINK decisions we make that we are completely unaware of.