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Malcolm Gladwell – Thin Slices

Malcolm Gladwell – Thin Slices (Analysis paper)

The purpose for writing a critique is to evaluate somebody�s work (a book, an essay, a movie, a
painting�) in order to increase the reader�s understanding of it. A critical analysis is subjective writing
because it expresses the writer�s opinion or evaluation of a text. Analysis means to break down and
study the parts. Writing a critical paper requires two steps: critical reading and critical writing.

  1. Identify the author�s thesis and purpose
  2. Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
  3. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
  4. Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
  5. Write a summary of the work

Malcolm Gladwell – Thin Slices (Analysis paper)

 Summary
 Thesis
 Purpose
 Means of accomplishing the purpose
 The main ideas


This paper focuses on chapter one, ‘The Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of
Knowledge Goes a Long Way’ of the book link: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by
Malcolm Gladwell. Basically, there is introduction of the ‘thin slicing’ idea. That is, taking very
minute details of a person or thing and utilizing that thin slice for developing a bigger opinion of
her, him, or it. More specifically, there is a focus on Psychologist John Gottman’s research.
Gottman is from the University of Washington. Gottman established the standing of being in a

position to establish with a ninety percent accurate rate if a particular marriage will last. He
accomplished this by observing couples for not more than fifteen minutes (Gladwell, 2005). In
addition, Gottman also trained the assistants he had in the Love Lab to swiftly code facial
expressions as well as tones so that the underlying messages which spouses sent to one another
could be determined. Of course, the couples sent different messages including those related to
defensiveness, disgust, anger, contempt, and neutrality subconsciously. Therefore, Gottman and
the assistants never study the words of the couples practically as much as the gestures and
reactions are studied. Gladwell provides other effective thin slicing examples in the chapter. For
example, strangers who have never been friends before can be able to identify someone’s
personality more accurately based on a fifteen minutes assessment at her or him in a dormitory.


When faced with big challenges, people can apply the finding the simple findings from
Gottman’s experiment.


This chapter is very vital considering that the research by Gottman helps in establishing
the view that people never really need to be familiar with a lot of aspects about someone to
establish the personality of that person.

Means of accomplishing the purpose

Through the experiments, Gottman aimed to make evident the fact that our mind are
continuously searing for patterns. Therefore, when interacting with or meeting a person for the
first time, the mind is normally very keen to notice any patterns or repeated indicators of who the
new person really is. This is despite the fact that there might be very little information available.
Basically, what Gottman was doing is trying to fully make use of this ability through the simple

patterns on his machine. If people are aware of the amazing ability that they have, then they
would be more aggressive in using it to know the real truth about new people.

The main ideas

The chapter has a lot to teach about couples in marriage. Without doubt, married couples
fight once in a while. In essence, no couple that really loves each can go a year without
quarreling, fighting, or arguing. Many of them even fight as if they want to murder each other.
Nonetheless, after the two go for a vacation together, they return as newlyweds would. When
couples fight or argue with each other, the reasons can differ and range from serious to small
matters. After a while, the couples reach a point where once again, they are lovely and happy. In
connection to this, the relationships of couples can be demonstrated in the form of graphs, where
there are the usual up and downs based on their emotions. This mainly points to the idea that
love is quite complex to the extent that it requires considerable time to closely learn about the
relationship status of the couple. Indeed, so as to be able to predict a thing like marriage, people
would really need to be familiar with many aspects of the partner (Carrиre & Gottman, 1999).
Nonetheless, psychologist John Gottman has proven that people never really have to
engage in all this. At one time, he did an experiment on 3000 married couples in a small room,
which is called a love lab. This was close to the Washington university campus. There was
videotaping of each couple, and the results were analyzed using a machine. There are several
numbers on this machine and specific numerals are related to particular emotional status. For
instance, 1 is for disgust, 2 for contempt, 7 for anger, 10 for defensiveness, 11 for whining, 12
for sadness, 14 for neutral and many others. In the analysis is included other facial expressions
and physical motions. For example, if the result is 7, 7, 14, 10, 11, 11, this implies that one

person was angry briefly, then neutral, there was an instance of defensiveness, and later, whining
started (Gladwell, 2005).
This experiment makes it evident that according to Gottman, there is something
remarkable. He proved that analyzing the conversation of a couple for sixty minutes can forecast
with ninety five percent accuracy if the two will remain married fifteen years to come. In
addition, Sybil Carrere who was working with Gottman also established that it was still possible
to forecast with fairly exact accuracy to determine who was more likely to have a divorce or not
by only assessing carefully three minutes of the conversations that couples have.
Many would greatly agree that the idea of finding the marriage destiny of a person by
examining the conversations he or she is having with the partner is just brilliant. The author has a
keen reference to a critical rapid cognition part referred to as thin-slicing (Gladwell, 2005).
Through this reference, the author intends to make people aware of their unconscious’ ability to
establish patterns in behavior as well as situations based on considerably narrow experience
slices. Basically, I think that the author is warning people getting into relationships to be
particularly keen so as to note any cues or the slightest indicators of being bored with the
relationship, losing interest, or lacking interest. There is a strong assertion that our brains are
unconsciously searching for patterns, despite the fact that there might be very limited
information. I strongly believe that Gottman was making efforts to take full advantage of this
ability through the simple patterns on the machine. Nonetheless, I have a strong belief that out
rapid cognition or thin-slicing is reliable.
Many times, people’s words and emotions might be influenced by stresses in other parts
of their lives. For example, if facing financial difficulties or the extended families’ burdens’,
many men tend to reflect such stresses on their spouses or children, and this might obscure the

results given by the machine. The unreliability of the machine’s findings is based on the fact that
there is inadequate information to make the conclusions, and particularly within the short span.
Moreover, how precise the findings are is doubtful. According to the book, when people’s
unconscious indulges in thin-slicing, then what is actually happening is a robotic accelerated
unconscious account of all that Gottman does with the equations and videotapes. Therefore,
many people are bound to wonder how marriage can be understood with a single setting.
Regardless of how doubtful the machine experiments might seem, there have some truth. People
can actually handle such complicated situations (Carrиre & Gottman, 1999). Because of this,
very many couples are able to marry and live together in the absence of any unfortunate
divorces. Therefore, the experiment by Gottman was mainly aimed at showing us that this is
possible, as well as how it can be done. Through learning about thin-slicing, individuals around
the globe can universally the simple knowledge when encountering huge challenges.
Therefore, thin slicing can assist in solving all the situations that life throws at us.
Following the observation of small interactions, it is possible to come up with accurate
conclusions. This can be compared to the saying that one does not have to take the whole pie so
as to know how it tastes (Gladwell, 2005). There is also the idea that we only have a single
chance of making the first impression. The first impression a person makes is usually very hard
to be erased. The horsemen of marriage; contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness are
very intriguing. With these, the marriage can barely last fifteen years, especially if contempt is



Carrиre, S., & Gottman, J. (1999). Predicting Divorce Among Newlyweds from the First Three
Minutes of a Marital Conflict Discussion. Family Process 38(3), 293-301.
Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown
and Co.

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