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The “Greek” statue Symbol Analysis

The “Greek” statue Symbol Icon

Because Blink is a work of nonfiction, there aren’t many overt symbols. One exception is the statue that Gladwell discusses in the introduction. The statue, presented as an authentic Greek “kouros” (ceremonial statue), was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. While many of the Getty employees decided that the statue was real, other noted art historians immediately and intuitively judged the statue to be a modern fake. As Gladwell argues, the statue—which probably indeed turned out to be an ingenious fake (although this is still in question even years later!)—symbolizes the power, and the danger, of rapid cognition. For the art historians who immediately “knew” that the statue was a fake, rapid cognition acted as an important observational tool. But for the Getty experts who wanted to believe that the statue was real, rapid cognition acted as a barrier to the truth—because of their biases, they wrongly judged the statue to be real.

The “Greek” statue Quotes in Blink

The Blink quotes below all refer to the symbol of The “Greek” statue. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rapid Cognition, “Thin-slicing,” and the Adaptive Unconscious Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Publisher edition of Blink published in 0.
Introduction Quotes

When [the art historians] looked at the kouros and felt an "intuitive repulsion," they were absolutely right. In the first two seconds of looking - in a single glance - they were able to understand more about the essence of the statue than the team at the Getty was able to understand after fourteen months.

Related Symbols: The “Greek” statue
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Introduction to Blink, Gladwell offers a good example of how rapid cognition can help people understand the world. In the 1980s, the Getty Art Museum acquired a beautiful Greek statue. But some art historians felt an intuitive sense that the statue was “wrong.” In Gladwell’s terminology, they used rapid cognition—the largely unconscious process of assessing the world through intuition—to assess the statue quickly and efficiently.

Rapid cognition has some obvious problems, which Gladwell will discuss soon enough, but this example emphasizes the one critical advantage of rapid cognition—it’s “rapid.” The art historians who felt an intuitive repulsion around the statue knew more about it in seconds than other people knew after months of study. So even in the world of art preservation (which doesn’t require too many split-second decisions) the advantages of rapid cognition are clear—if the Getty officials had listened to the art historians mentioned in the passage, they could have saved themselves months of time (not to mention a huge sum of money). In the worlds of law enforcement, war, comedic improvisation, etc., rapid cognition isn’t just faster and potentially more accurate than ordinary, rational thinking—sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it’s the only kind of thinking humans are capable of. Therefore, it’s important for us to understand how rapid cognition works and what its strengths and weaknesses are.


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The “Greek” statue Symbol Timeline in Blink

The timeline below shows where the symbol The “Greek” statue appears in Blink. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: The Statue That Didn’t Look Right
Rapid Cognition, “Thin-slicing,” and the Adaptive Unconscious Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Intuition Theme Icon
In 1983, the J. Paul Getty Museum in California acquired a statue on loan. The art dealer who sold the statue claimed that it was an ancient... (full context)
Rapid Cognition, “Thin-slicing,” and the Adaptive Unconscious Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Intuition Theme Icon
There was a problem with the Getty statue—it just “didn’t look right.” One art historian who saw the statue for the first time... (full context)
Rapid Cognition, “Thin-slicing,” and the Adaptive Unconscious Theme Icon
Rapid Cognition and Prejudice Theme Icon
...necessarily right. Indeed, the Getty art historians who initially determined the legitimacy of the Getty statue may have been guilty of making snap judgments of their own—as Getty employees, they immediately... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Locked Door
Rapid Cognition, “Thin-slicing,” and the Adaptive Unconscious Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Intuition Theme Icon predict double-faults is similar to an art historian’s ability to identify a fake Greek statue in the blink of an eye—they use their adaptive unconscious. (full context)
Chapter 4: Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory
Rapid Cognition, “Thin-slicing,” and the Adaptive Unconscious Theme Icon
Rapid Cognition and Prejudice Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Intuition Theme Icon
...the Blue Team. Somewhat like the Getty officials being unable to predict that their Greek statue was a fake, the Blue Team leaders were unable to predict that Van Riper would... (full context)