There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.



Posted by in meaningful

The text below is taken from the book:  Blink by Malcolm Gladwell – Enjoy

For example, at the Columbia session, I paid particular attention to a young woman with pale skin and blond, curly hair and a tall, energetic man with green eyes and long brown hair. I don’t know their names, but let’s call them Mary and John. I watched them for the duration of their date, and it was immediately clear that Mary really liked John and John really liked Mary. John sat down at Mary’s table. Their eyes locked. She looked down shyly. She seemed a little nervous. She leaned forward in her chair. It seemed, from the outside, like a perfectly straightforward case of instant attraction. But let’s dig below the surface and ask a few simple questions. First of all, did Mary’s assessment of John’s personality match the personality that she said she wanted in a man before the evening started? In other words, how good is Mary at predicting what she likes in a man? Fisman and Iyengar can answer that question really easily, and what they find when they compare what speed-daters say they want with what they are actually attracted to in the moment is that those two things don’t match. For example, if Mary said at the start of the evening that she wanted someone intelligent and sincere, that in no way means she’ll be attracted only to intelligent and sincere men. It’s just as likely that John, whom she likes more than anyone else, could turn out to be attractive and funny but not particularly sincere or smart at all.

Second, if all the men Mary ends up liking during the speed-dating are more attractive and funny than they are smart and sincere, on the next day, when she’s asked to describe her perfect man, Mary will say that she likes attractive and funny men. But that’s just the next day. If you ask her again a month later, she’ll be back to saying that she wants intelligent and sincere.

You can be forgiven if you found the previous paragraph confusing. It is confusing: Mary says that she wants a certain kind of person. But then she is given a roomful of choices and she meets someone whom she really likes, and in that instant she completely changes her mind about what kind of person she wants. But then a month passes, and she goes back to what she originally said she wanted. So what does Mary really want in a man?

“I don’t know,” Iyengar said when I asked her that question. “Is the real me the one that I described beforehand?”

She paused, and Fisman spoke up: “No, the real me is the me revealed by my actions. That’s what an economist would say.”

Iyengar looked puzzled. “I don’t know that’s what a psychologist would say.”

They couldn’t agree. But then, that’s because there isn’t a right answer. Mary has an idea about what she wants in a man, and that idea isn’t wrong. It’s just incomplete.

The description that she starts with is her conscious ideal: what she believes she wants when she sits down and thinks about it. But what she cannot be as certain about are the criteria she uses to form her preferences in that first instant of meeting someone face-to- face. That information is behind the locked door.

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