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Blink Moments

June 22, 2018 by  
Filed under blog

To continue last week’s subject on what we can do in the blink of an eye, I’d like to tell you a story about what the great Getty Museum learned from the “blink” that unconsciously happens in our brains.

An art dealer approached the J. Paul Getty Museum in California years ago to sell a rare 7 foot, a statue that was claimed to be thousands of years old. They were asking for $10 million. It was certainly worth that much money, if indeed it was a genuine piece. Getty took the statue on loan and began a thorough investigation. After 14 months of study by experts, Getty was satisfied so they agreed to buy it.

But then, before they closed the deal, two people had their own “blink” moment, feeling something was very wrong. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book, Blink, an Italian art historian, who served on the Getty board of trustees, “found himself staring at the sculpture’s fingernails. In a way, he couldn’t immediately articulate why they seemed wrong to him.”

Next to look at it was Evelyn Harrison who was one of the world’s foremost experts on Greek sculpture. In the very first moment when the cloth was taken off the sculpture, what did Harrison see? Gladwell writes, “She didn’t know, but she had a hunch, an instinctive sense that something was amiss. Several others that saw the kouros felt an ‘intuitive repulsion’, and they were absolutely right. In the first two seconds of looking at the work –in a single glance or blink of the eye–they were able to understand more about the essence of the statue than the team at the Getty was to understand after fourteen months.” The statue was proved to be a fake and those people who paid attention to the blink of their “adaptive unconscious” were proved to be totally correct.

We all need to give more credibility and pay attention to those “blinks of our brains” because it can lead us to great success and do it much faster than we can understand. Gladwell writes, “I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it … We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impression can offer a much better means of making sense of the worth. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

This is not to say that we shouldn’t do our due diligence or research on an investment or in other parts of our lives, but if your gut reaction is telling you something different, you should pay a lot of attention to that “blink” in your brain.

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