Spotting a 10 Million Dollar Fake in 2 Seconds

I bring at least 2 books whenever I go to Kuching. I know that I will have lots of time to read unlike the stolen minutes when I am in Penang.
This round, I picked up a non-fiction to read. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.
Blink wasn’t in my list of must-read books but something I picked up as Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point which was a major hoo-haa of a book last year. I hadn’t read The Tipping Point but after Blink, I now know I must backtrack and read that.
But I am planning to re-read Blink.
I don’t usually read the same book twice because I barely have time to read. But if a book warrants a second read, it is definitely worth my time. Ha!
Blink is not a story. It is a book of real human stories, of humans’ unconscious ability which some people call intuition or ESP or gut feeling.
It’s about knowing even though you may not know how or why you know.
Given that Gladwell is a journalist and writer, I sat back ready to be absorbed. And I couldn’t put it down. Not since Dan Pink or Dan Brown (ya, that Dan Brown…but if you read one Dan Brown, you basically know the formula…but still The Da Vinci Code was quite an exciting read) have I been so entranced.
Maybe I have this wannabe psychologist lurking in me. Maybe I have a curiosity about human beings.
Maybe I am just so ‘kay poh’ you know.
Whatever it was I loved Blink. I loved its brilliance.
Blink revealed stories about why snap judgements can be useful, why they can save lives and why they can help marketers sell more.
The book starts with a story of a 10 million dollar Greek statue, about to be bought by a young museum wanting to enlarge its collection. Experts test the statue, declaring it to be hundreds if not thousands years old.
But it took all of 2 seconds for an art expert to spot it for a fake, a good fake. The billion dollar question is: How could the other experts not realize that it was too good to be true?
Or how about the story of a marriage analyst who can listen in on a couple and immediately predict with chilling accuracy if they will be together forever or get divorced? (Key hint: Contempt breaks up marriages and one can spot contempt, if trained.)
Or a Russian professor who can read faces and tell you the type of personality and habits of people?
Or how Coke discovered why Pepsi was winning all the time in the Pepsi Challenge yet consumers bought Coke?
Or why people still prefer and fall for men who are tall, dark and handsome. And why Warren Harding was the worst ever US President.
Or why the less choice you have as a consumer the easier your shopping is!
This is where stuff really gets interesting!
Precisely because Gladwell is a journalist, he writes in a way that is easy to read and understand. I loved the way he constructed his stories around human nature stories, giving each one of his examples a humanness which made reading these stories a journey I’ll never forget.
He weaves a compelling tale about why we have those aha moments we cannot explain yet those aha moments have proven to be true and in some cases, save us from danger as in the case of the firefighter who saved his team by yelling for them to get out of a burning building seconds before it collapsed.
The brilliant arguments for the usefulness of trusting our adaptive unconscious is not just prose. In the days when I was still in secondary school and taking dreaded exams (though I was an A student because my dad was a teacher in the same school), I often realised that the first answer that came to my mind was the correct answer. I just didn’t know how I knew what the answer was, and sometimes I was tempted to change my answer as doubt flooded me (and when one has extra time to check and re-check answers).
I often rely on my intuition to guide me when I meet someone for the first time. At times, I get this queasy feeling when I shake people’s hands. In that brief moment, I know for sure if I like or dislike that person.
This is what Blink discusses. Blink leads us to undergo a fascinating sojourn of understanding what snap judgement really means and whether there is truth and accuracy in what we know although we may not be able to describe or dissect it.
If you are a student of Life and its intricate mysteries, this is the book you should read.
If you are curious about why and how incidents occur and what scientific explanation could there be for our 2 seconds of knowing, you just have to read Blink.
I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a book in a long time. Once you read it, you will know why. It’ll change the way you view your unconscious!
* In a related incident, I was talking to a friend about the goodness of Chinese herbs (yeah, this is the Soup Queen). She’s of the mindset that Chinese herbs are dangerous and don’t work at all. Besides Chinese herbs, she doesn’t believe in qi gong or any of the complementary therapies, preferring instead her Western therapies of drugs and more drugs! In frustration, I told her that what cannot be measured does not mean it doesn’t exist. Look at faith. Can you measure it? Nope. Does it exist? Ask the millions who pray daily.
Let’s try a common example. How about gravity? Can you see it? Of course not. But measuring gravity only happened when Newton came up with his theory of relativity and not a minute before then. Did it mean that gravity did not exist prior to Newton? Try jumping off a cliff and see if you float up or
fall down.
I believe that we have not reached the level of sophistication and knowledge needed to measure what we need to measure. Which also sometimes surprises me that generally we think the pyramids could have only been built by aliens and not the Egyptians. There’s belief that we progress in a linear fashion… that we are now much more technologically advanced than the poor Pharoahs. But think for a moment. what if they were light years ahead of us in terms of technology? Couldn’t they have built the pyramids? And because the technology was superbly high end, their machines were removed or dismantled once the pyramids were built. Tell me, what are your theories on the pyramids or the machines or people who built them? Fascinating stuff to think about, isn’t it?
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4 thoughts on “Spotting a 10 Million Dollar Fake in 2 Seconds”

  1. Yeah, I loved Blink too. I picked it up on a fly by at a book sale in that building next to the Governor’s Mansion!
    I think Blink applies so much in a sporting context too.

    • Yup, Blink gave me a reason to go with my intuition and gut instinct. Blink justified why sometimes I just don’t like a person upon meeting him/her and why sometimes I just click with some people even though we’ve just met. Blink is a must-read especially for human psychology fans.


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