Examination of Thin-Slicing Approach

Blink: The Power of Thinking is an academic work written in plain language by Malcolm Gladwell. The author of the book investigates the specific human’s ability to understand the situation from the first view. The researcher claims that the person’s unconscious is able to find the patterns of someone’s behavior and analyze it from the point of view of life experience. Gladwell highlights that this method may be more efficient than long talks or detailed examination of relationships. He introduces the term “thin-slicing,” which means the possibility to get an overview of the situation or a particular person without precise analysis. The purpose of this paper to examine this term and provide a rational explanation of its functioning using the theoretical basis from the book and illustrating it with diverse examples.

Thin-Slicing as the Way of World Perception

The author of the book starts with the description of the experiment conducted by Gottman. The scientist examined the videotapes with the dialogues of a couple talking about ordinary things like the behavior of their dog or the moment of the beginning of their relationships. He points out that it is possible to evaluate the level of their intimacy through a simple analysis of the conversation. In this case, thin-slicing is the ability to create a conclusion without an in-depth examination. Life experience and world view of a personality give a human an opportunity to understand the situation before the rational cognition. From the point of view of the author, this approach is more effective than a long-lasting process of examining the particularities. It is crucial to mention that communication tactics play a significant role in people’s interactions. Gladwell provides an example of a “yes-but” game that looks logical from the rational perspective. However, on the emotional level, a human finds out that it is a way to fight with the partner or defend the idea.

Unconscious perception is based on feelings; that is why it is hard to analyze it logically. Nevertheless, the author maintains that it is the only way to get an overview of the situation and find its true origins. For example, Gottman puts forward the idea that it is impossible to evaluate the level of relationships in marriage rationally. He introduces the concept of the Four Horsemen that ruin the communication between two people; among them are defensiveness, stonewalling, and criticism. However, the most important one is contempt: it is a complex problem that cannot be analyzed logically but is easily defined from an emotional point of view. This approach of investigating the factors helps the researcher predict if the couple is supposed to be divorced in the nearest future. The specificity of this situation is that if the dialogue would be written down word by word, the contempt may not be identified as the conversation would be formally polite. It is necessary to pay special attention to the intonations of the participants and their non-verbal signs.

The author of the book provides another example of an experiment conducted by a scientist called Gossling. He investigated the relationships between close friends among his students. They were given a questionnaire about each other that they had to complete. The results of this part of the monitoring showed that best friends know many significant details about their mates. However, the second stage of the experiment was the description of one of these students by another person who is not a part of his or her environment. The participants had access to the representatives’ bedrooms for a moment; the results of the test proved the efficiency of thin-slicing as the members of the second stage had similar answers.

This principle is worth using not only in couple relations or with friends but also in the professional sphere; Gladwell provides an example of the process of recruiting. He suggests the idea that the first glance at the person, his or her appearance, and behavior traits are as essential to be taken into consideration as the results of an in-depth interview. Thin-slicing is the approach that cannot be ignored in the circumstances of the modern world and informational overload. It is beneficial for conserving the sources for intellectual work instead of a permanent rational analysis of personal relationships.

Specifies of Using Thin-Slicing

Personalities with a high level of relationship understanding are better at thin-slicing than the others. What is more, it is possible to assume that extraverts are more likely to be successful in this approach as they have more experience in communication. On the opposite, it might be more challenging for the introverts to catch and analyze unconscious signs during the conversation. Gladwell gives an example of an evaluation of the professional skills of the doctors by the patient. He claims that, in this case, a little talk is a more effective strategy than the examination of numerical indicators of successful results of treatment. From the author’s point of view, all people have to use the thin-slicing approach even if it can be wrong in specific situations. The overall impact of this method helps to save the energy for rational and intellectual work instead of decomposing the phrases and the non-verbal signs in the conversation.

Implications of Thin-Slicing

From my point of view, thin-slicing is crucial for making life comfortable as communication is an essential part of it. We talk to each other in the class, at home, or in the supermarket. It is better to train ourselves to analyze the situation from first glance unconsciously as it saves our resources and makes the argument’s sake easier. Nevertheless, the researcher maintains that this approach is not always the optimal strategy. He provides the example of film perception where the actors are a part of the plot. We do not think about them as about the personalities in real life. We prefer to have an understanding of their role in specific imaginary circumstances.

The author suggests that the comedies such as Splash could not be so funny and popular if we knew the actors and their behavior patterns in real life. In this case, thin-slicing works against us as we perceive the actor’s hero in the movie and the personality as one human. The first glance deceives us, but it also has its benefits as we can watch the film with interest without an in-depth analysis of the behavior details.

In class, we talked about the perception of personality according to specific criteria. From my point of view, it is the same mechanism that makes thin-slicing possible. I use thin-slicing when I need to convince someone: I assess crucial behavior patterns and try to find the arguments for the particular human. Evaluating particular non-verbal signs, analyzing the intonation of the speech, and unconscious examination of the topic helps us establish relationships on diverse levels without significant difficulties.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Examination of Thin-Slicing Approach'. 28 January.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Examination of Thin-Slicing Approach." January 28, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/examination-of-thin-slicing-approach/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Examination of Thin-Slicing Approach." January 28, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/examination-of-thin-slicing-approach/.


PsychologyWriting. "Examination of Thin-Slicing Approach." January 28, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/examination-of-thin-slicing-approach/.