This is another fascinating book by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell has an amazing talent for presenting scientific information in a compelling way - he knows how to tell a story while still conveying the essence of the underlying science.
In this case he examines the way in which the brain is able to subconsciously make snap judgments - judgments that are often borne out by more detailed conscious analysis, and judgments that sometimes lead us astray. The book starts with a set of researchers who have done detailed analysis of interactions between married couples. They have identified hundreds of small tell-tales that reveal the ways that couples interact, and are able to predict, with 90% accuracy, whether a couple will be together 15 years later, based on some 30 minutes of videotaped interaction. The amazing thing is that with just 3 minutes of analysis they are able to make the same predictions with only slightly less accuracy. In another study, it was found that ordinary people watching less than a minute of videos of teachers, without sound, were able to accurately pick the most effective teachers with high accuracy.
Many of the ‘blink’ responses have to do with social interactions, and many of those are focused on facial analysis. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, since hominids have been social animals for over a million years - the ability to assess social situations is vital for membership in the group, and group membership is key to survival. The ability to read faces is innate - infants focus on facial expressions and are able to make accurate assessments. Autistic individuals, on the other hand, do not have that ability, and Gladwell reports on research that demonstrates this. He also reports on research showing that very high stress situations make us all autistic, in that we lose the ability to ‘read’ faces and thereby to correctly understand the thoughts of others.