Malcolm Gladwell

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Blink Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell was born in England and grew up in Canada. He studied history at the University of Toronto, and afterwards went to work for the conservative magazine The American Spectator in Indiana. By the late 1980s, Gladwell had risen to begin covering science and business news for the Washington Post, and gradually found that he excelled at simplifying complex information for a lay-audience. Gladwell began writing for the New Yorker in 1996, and has stayed there ever since. He rose to success after penning a New Yorker article called “The Tipping Point,” the basis for his first book. After publishing The Tipping Point in 2000, Gladwell became a popular guest speaker for businesses, think tanks, and universities. Since 2000, he’s published four successful books, including Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), and, mostly recently, David and Goliath (2013). He continues to write for the New Yorker and appear as a guest speaker around the world.
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Historical Context of Blink

Blink alludes to many important historical events, including the feminist movement of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s: during this period, women entered the work force in record numbers. Gladwell also mentions several U.S. Presidents, including Warren G. Harding and Ronald Reagan. Warren G. Harding, who was the president from 1921 to 1923, is often criticized for being a corrupt, incompetent leader—Gladwell suggests that Harding succeeded in politics because of his impressive, “presidential” appearance. Gladwell also mentions John Hinckley’s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981—Hinckley, a mentally disturbed man, succeeded in wounding Reagan in the left lung only a few weeks after Reagan was inaugurated, though Reagan ultimately survived his wounds and went on to serve as president for another eight years.

Other Books Related to Blink

The Tipping Point has a lot in common with some of the other works of “pop sociology” published between the 1990s and the 2010s—and as with the authors of these other books, Gladwell has been alternately praised and criticized for making complex sociology and psychology simplified accessible to a lay-audience. Books in a similar vein include Freakonomics by Steven Levitt (2005), The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007), and The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker (2011).
Key Facts about Blink
  • Full Title: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • When Written: 2003-2004
  • Where Written: New York City and Toronto
  • When Published: January 11, 2005
  • Literary Period: “Pop sociology”
  • Genre: Sociology, psychology non-fiction
  • Point of View: Third person, with frequent first-person asides

Extra Credit for Blink

Even smart people are wrong. Malcolm Gladwell is the first to admit that he’s made mistakes. His 2000 bestseller, The Tipping Point, was credited with popularizing (and even glamorizing) the controversial “broken window theory” of law enforcement—a strategy for cracking down on crime that has been praised for reducing the crime rate but criticized for violating basic rights and civil liberties. In a 2013 interview, Gladwell admitted that he was “too in love with the broken-windows notion,” and added that he was “so enamored by the metaphorical simplicity of that idea that I overstated its importance.”

TED Talker. Gladwell is a frequent guest at “TED Talks,” the popular program that invites speakers in the fields technology, entertainment, and design to deliver their ideas in 18 minutes or less. With his eloquence, easy humor, and concision, Gladwell is a natural for the TED format. The TED website describes Gladwell as a “pop R&D gumshoe”—not a bad way of describing his unconventional journalistic career.