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Gladwells Theory Of Thin Slicing Essay

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Michael Gladwell's Blink - With A Free Essay Review

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, is a novel about snap judgments and thin slicing. “When we thin slice, when we recognize patterns and make snap judgments, we do this process of editing unconsciously.” What are snap judgments and thin slicing? Snap judgments are making decisions in the blink of an eye. Similarly, thin slicing is the ability to make decisions or observations in just a few seconds. Opposing thin slicing, thick slicing is making decisions after long periods of time. “How is it possible to gather the necessary information for a sophisticated judgment in such a short time?” Whether it is meeting someone for the first time, trying something new, voting for a new president, or even trying new foods, the process of thin slicing is always in effect. Malcolm Gladwell gives many examples of thin slicing and snap judgments in this novel. For example, an art sculpture, called a kouro, was brought to a museum. There were debates on whether the sculpture was authentic or fake. Some experts only looked at it for a very short amount of time, while other experts examined it for hours. Experts who examined the sculpture for a long period of time thought it was real. On the other hand, those who observed it for only a few seconds thought it was fake. Test results showed the statue was in fact a fake. The thin slicers were correct based on a gut feeling. This example shows how important thin slicing can be. Although making decisions in very short periods of time can be really good, many factors can and will affect the outcome of a decision.

The third chapter in the novel Blink, talks about biased opinions and motives made in a few seconds. The chapter starts off talking about Warren Harding. He is explained as a newspaper editor from Marian. At the time, he was about 35 years old. “His suppleness, combined with the bigness of frame, and his large, wide-set rather glowing eyes, heavy black hair, and markedly bronze complexion gave him some of the handsomeness of an Indian, (page 73).” His voice was very warming, and he sounded very kind. One man, named Daughtry, saw Harding for only a couple of seconds, and thought, “Wouldn’t he be a great president?” The novel explains that Warren Harding was not specifically intelligent. His interests were playing poker, drinking, and chasing women. Eventually, Warren’s political rank went higher and higher. He eventually even became president, just like Daughtry had predicted. He wasn’t voted president because he was smart or because people liked his thoughts. He was made president because he looked like a president. Basically, Daughtry made a biased opinion in just a few seconds by saying that Warring looked like a president, even though he wasn’t intelligent. Even though Warren probably wasn’t the best fit for position, he became the president just because of peoples snap decisions about him looking like a president.

Psychologists in the past have looked at the roles of the unconscious and bias. People make connections in their head so fast that sometimes we don’t think. For example, if you have a list of names, with two categories (Males and Females), it is easy to separate the names into categories quickly without even thinking. Now the two groups are males/working and females/family. That would be easy to separate words and names into categories too. However, it gets harder. The new categories can be males/family and females/working. Most people have a hard time putting a hard working job into the female section. Others have trouble putting a family related word in the male column. The reason this happens is because most people have a bias to gender. When people think of hard working jobs, they think of males. Many tests can be taken online, such as the IAT racist test. People may think that they aren’t racist, but when you take the test you find out that you really do have a bias.

Another example of bias can be viewed from a man named Bob Golomb. Bob Golomb is cars salesman director at a Nissan dealership in New Jersey. Bob is a very successful salesman. The only reason he is very successful is because he trained himself to not have bias. He makes thin slicing effortless. He is a quiet man who seems to be very charming. “Take care of the customer, take care of the customer, take care of the customer.” That is Bob’s theory. Of course he makes a million snap judgments, but he doesn’t show them. Most car salesmen base their customers on what they are wearing. In a test, eighteen white men, seven white women, eight black women and five black men were instructed to go to car dealerships dressed casually. “The results were stunning.” The white men received offers as low as only $725 over the dealers invoice. White women received offers of $935 over the dealers invoice, while black women received an offer of $1195 above invoice. Black men received an offer of $1551. So basically, the black men had to pay the most, while the white men got to pay the least. This just proves that car salesmen have bias while working. If they see a white women walking in rather than a white man, they will automatically charge them more because they think they are easier to convince.

By reading chapter 3 from Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, one can see that bias is seen everyday, whether it is known or not. People make snap decisions all the time, and most of those decisions are biased. Implicit biases are in control in our unconscious and rapid cognition part of the brain. Many people will try to disagree with this chapter, but their actions would oppose. Like stated above, there is a test that you can take online called the IAT. Someone may say they are not biased or racist. However, if they grew up with whites their whole life, they are going to be biased toward whites. What people say can be way different from how people act. Also, many people are biased when it comes to jobs. There is a question in the book that goes like this: “A man and his son are in a serious car accident. The father is killed, and the son is rushed to the emergency room. Upon arrival, the attending doctor looks at the child and gasps, “This child is my son” Who is the doctor?” Some people would get the answer to this question easily. However, there are people like myself who are stumped until we hear the answer. The answer to the question is that the doctor is the mother. Seems simple, but why do so many people get it wrong? People get this question wrong because most people assume that doctors are males. This is an example of bias. When someone explains a doctor to you, you pretty much think of a male figure. This shouldn’t be the case. This just proves that most people do have bias, even if they say they don’t. Many people do have biased opinions that they will not admit, or that they don’t even know that they have. The Warren Harding incident is an example of thin slicing. Daughtry thin sliced Warren and said that he looked like a president. Looking at this example could make people wonder how often this happens. Warren was not intelligent; the only reason why he succeeded was because people thought he looked like a president. People liked that he was a tall, good looking white male. This could be the reason why we have never had any female president, or why we have only had one black president. In the novel Blink, it is also stated that most CEO’s are tall men. This is another example of a bias. When someone thinks of a CEO they probably think of a thin, tall, man.

By reading chapter three from the novel Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, people can learn that most snap judgments and thin slicing can be incorrect. Many people have biased opinions. The bias of our snap judgments, take over our “thought process.” Of course the book describes that thin slicing is good, but sometimes the process can be altered by unconscious bias. Other chapters in this novel explain how thin slicing is such a good tool. Chapter 3 explains how thin slicing can be altered by how one person thinks, feels, or even how the person grew up. People are discriminate even when they might they say they are not. We grew up learning how to not be racist, and how to treat everyone equally. However, our unconscious bias still takes over. This chapter shows the flaws of thin slicing, which exists everywhere. Although thin slicing is portrayed as a great way to make decisions in the novel Blink, it is affected by unconscious bias and can often times be incorrect.



Although I've read several of Gladwell's New Yorker essays, I'm sorry to say that I've not read the book Blink, so you might bear than in mind reading this review.

1. Let's begin with your thesis. It looks like this is it: "Although making decisions in very short periods of time can be really good, many factors can and will affect the outcome of a decision." That thesis is too vague. The word "good" for instance is a general term of approbation, and should be replaced by something specific. Otherwise, it's not clear by what measure you judge the goodness of quick decisions. (You repeat this claim about quick decisions being good elsewhere in your essay; the same advice would apply there). The phrase "many factors" is also too vague for a thesis, and so too is the verb "affect." Your essay for the most part is about the impact that bias can have on decisions. You should probably make that clear here, and make it clear what the nature of the impact is. If you think, or think that Gladwell thinks, that bias decreases the efficacy of snap decisions, say something to that effect in your thesis, as you do, for example, in your conclusion.

2. A significant weakness in the essay is the way it uses quotations. Let's look at your first quotation, but what I say about it should be taken to apply to other quotations too: “When we thin slice, when we recognize patterns and make snap judgments, we do this process of editing unconsciously.”

a) Quotations, if they are short, should be incorporated into your own sentences. You can do this with simple signal phrases, placed before, in the middle of, or at the end of a quotation. Signal phrases use verbs such as "argues," "states," "contends," "acknowledges," and many others to incorporate quotations. If we include a simple signal phrase in your quotation, we get something like this:

“When we thin slice," Gladwell writes, "when we recognize patterns and make snap judgments, we do this process of editing unconsciously.”

or this:

Gladwell argues that "when we thin slice, when we recognize patterns and make snap judgments, we do this process of editing unconsciously.”

b) Quotations should be contextualized. That entails providing enough information about the context in which the quoted passage occurs to ensure that it's meaning is clear. For example, when I read your quotation, I've no idea what "this process of editing" means. I can tell from the word "this" that the the phrase must refer to something Gladwell has already mentioned, but I can't know what it refers to unless you tell me.

Actually, that's not true. I can go read the book myself or if I don't have access to it, as is the case, I can try google your quote. Hold on, I'll be right back.

Well, that wasn't too hard (thanks to Google Books). The sentence before that which you cite, reads: "To be a successful decision maker, we have to edit." The sentences before that sentence describe a process that Gladwell refers to as editing. So having done my Google search and read all those extra sentences, I can now tell you what you mean when Gladwell talks, in the sentence you quote, about "this process of editing." The problem, I hope it is clear, is that things are supposed to go the other way around. You are supposed to tell me, the reader, what that phrase means. Anyway, once we've had a little explanatory context, your sentence with the incorporated quotation, will look something like this:

Having explained that in order to make a good decision, we have to edit out unnecessary information and focus only on the essentials, Gladwell arrues that "when we thin slice, when we recognize patterns and make snap judgments, we do this process of editing unconsciously."

Note that this is the absolute minimum I could do to provide an explanatory context. My explanation introduces new terms that are not entirely clear. What constitutes "unnecessary information" for instance? What are the essentials? Because this is an introductory paragraph, however, it's not crucial to explain everything right now, but if I really wanted to clarify what Gladwell means by "thin slicing" and "this process of editing" (and if I'm writing an essay on the subject, then I should really want to clarify that), then I would have a lot more work to do.

c) Document your sources properly. Presumably, you intend to cite the bibliographic information in a Works Cited or References page. You also need to include a page reference after every quotation.

d) Put the quotation in the right place. You quote a sentence that defines "thin slicing" and then ask "What are snap judgments and thin slicing?" It would make more sense to the ask the question first.

e) Use the quotation for the right reason and make sure your reader understands the reason for the quotation. If your intention is to define "thin slicing" with the help of the quotation, then that's a good enough reason for this quotation. So let's look at a more problematic case. The second quotation: “How is it possible to gather the necessary information for a sophisticated judgment in such a short time?” Again, there's no signal phrase, no contextualizing, and no page reference. Also, it's not clear why you want to present this question at this time, especially since you don't go on to answer the question. The quotation seems to serve no purpose. Your third quotation, to take a final example, is a physical description of Harding. Again, no signal phrase or contextualizing explanation, though you do include a page reference. And it's not clear why you include the description. I can deduce why you include it from the ensuing argument, but why put your reader to the trouble of trying to figure out the significance of information you ask your reader to read? So, if it's not entirely clear, explain the significance of the quotation.

I think that if you revise the thesis and the way you handle every quotation in your essay, then the essay as a whole will be 167.34% better. You can check the math at Wolframalpha.com if you suspect I’m just making than number up and feel the suspicion worthy of testing. If you want to make it 167.35% better, then you need to clarify your argument about "bias," especially in the second paragraph. That paragraph, on Harding, purports to be about biased opinions and motives but doesn't really discuss the nature or cause of bias. To say that Harding was elected because he looked like a president may be related to the question of bias, but you should explain exactly what Gladwell says about this.

Finally, the book is not a novel.

Best, EJ

P.S. Unless you desperately need to meet a minimum word-count requirement, and can think of absolutely nothing else to say, and want to advertise the fact of that desperation, delete the following from the sentence in which it occurs: “By reading chapter three from the novel Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, people can learn that.” The same kind of wordiness occurs elsewhere and should be subjected to the same ruthless excision!

Submitted by: ckarns

Tagged...Blink essay, how to use quotations in essays, essay writing help

For the biological method, see Ultramicrotomy.

Thin-slicing is a term used in psychology and philosophy to describe the ability to find patterns in events based only on "thin slices", or narrow windows, of experience. The term means making very quick inferences about the state, characteristics or details of an individual or situation with minimal amounts of information. Brief judgments based on thin-slicing are similar to those judgments based on much more information. Judgments based on thin-slicing can be as accurate, or even more accurate, than judgments based on much more information.

The first recorded use of the term was in 1992 by Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal in a meta-analysis in the Psychological Bulletin.[1] Since then, thin-slicing has been applied to many domains, and has been used to make various types of judgments. A non-exhaustive list of domains includes interpersonal relationship, clinical studies, education, etc.


Thin-slicing refers to observing a small selection of an interaction, usually less than 5 minutes, and being able to accurately draw conclusions about the emotions and attitudes of the people interacting.

Thin slices of the behavioral stream contain important diagnostic and predictive social psychological information. Because thin-slice perception and judgment is sufficiently effective, people's interpersonal perceptions can occur immediately, automatically, and to some extent validly before much can be communicated verbally or through actions and events. Given the limited conditions under which social inference and correction occur, these initial judgments may determine people's ultimate perceptions, evaluations, and theories about those with whom they interact face-to-face.[2]

Many studies have shown that brief observations can be used to assess outcomes at levels higher than expected by chance. Once comparing these observations of less than five minutes to those greater than five minutes, the data show no significant change, thus implying that observations made within the first few minutes are unchanging. An example of this can be seen in an Ambady and Rosenthal experiment in 1993,[3] in which they assessed the effect of thin slicing with 2-, 5-, and 10-second clips of non-verbal behaviors of teachers and the viewers' ratings of those teachers afterwards. Impressions formed after viewing thin slices of behavior are considered accurate if they match impressions formed after a more detailed observation of the subject and if they match the impressions formed by other raters.[4] While people are often not able to report the factors that influence their judgments, researchers identify types of information in brief slices of behavior that are responsible for accurate judgments. Types of information include visual and verbal information. More specifically, researchers look at how people make judgments based on their observations of others' minor traits such as eye contact, fidgeting, open-handed gestures, stiff posture, smiling, etc. Behaviors such as frowning, fidgeting, and gazing down had poor ratings for traits describing the teacher's confidence, warmth and optimism while teachers with positive ratings for these traits smiled more, were more likely to walk around and touch their upper torsos.[3]

Ambady and Rosenthal ultimately found that those who rated the teachers after being subjected to thin slicing produced ratings that were very similar to those who rated the teachers after having substantial interactions with them.[3] Additionally, the accuracy of these ratings was not significantly different among those who saw the 2-, 5- and 10-second clips. This demonstrates the impressive amount of information that is conveyed in thin slices of everyday behavior and the insight that it can provide about an individual's personality, no matter how briefly the behavior is observed.


People would expect that thin slices of themselves only reveal socially valued characteristics. Otherwise, they would be more willing to reveal minor imperfections about themselves before others make inferences based on their observations. Nonetheless, both desirable and undesirable characteristics are usually visible through the peephole of thin slices. Thin slices of individuals' behaviors could expose characteristics of their personality, internal states, sexuality, relationship, biases, etc. Even individuals' future behaviors could be predicted with reasonable accuracy through thin slicing.[5]

Interpersonal relationship[edit]

First impression[edit]

In the research paper published in 2007[6] by Dana R. Carney et al., it was discovered that increased exposure time, i.e. length of the slice, helped people to obtain more information, so that they could better judge social approach and positive affect. The same increased length of the slice was less related to judging threats and negative affect. The accuracy of the judgement based on a five-second long slice is significantly lower than the accuracy of judgments based on longer exposures. Also, slices extracted from the later stage of the interaction potentially allowed people to make more accurate judgments. Dana R. Carney et al. also drew the conclusion that women tended to make more accurate judgments using thin slicing than did men.

Speed dating[edit]

Marian L. Houser et al. built on Deyo & Deyo's earlier work[7] and studied thin slicing in speed dating.[8] They found out that a few moments of communication evaluation in Speed dating indeed helped the participants to predict outcomes and make speculated assessments of his/her relationship with the potential mate. Female speed daters noted male negative characteristics rather quickly, and were generally more critical. This could mean that males were more open-minded or at least slower to identify the negative characteristics, meaning that they were less reactive in comparison to females when doing thin slicing. While both sexes were equally good in making positive evaluations about their partners, females made more specific descriptions than males, and males might engage in observing the superficial if they only noticed negative characteristics in the beginning of the date. Still, the overall result showed that speed dating did make the participants look more favorable in each other's eyes.

Social media profiles[edit]

Thin-slicing is a phenomenon that can occur through virtually as well through contact with an individual's online profile. Online profiles are essentially made up of several different condensed sections that reveal different aspects of a person's life and interests. Microsoft researchers Kristin Stecher and Scott Counts investigated this domain of thin-slicing to determine exactly how much information was needed on the online profiles for viewers to form an accurate impression of the individual and which profile fields contribute most to the ability to form that impression. They focused on two forms of social media domains: general social networking sites such as Facebook and Friendster, and blogging sites. The predictiveness of an attribute was defined as its ability to contribute to a viewer's ability to form a predictive impression of the subject. For social media sites, information such as the individual's photo, name, status, high school and gender allowed raters to form predictive impressions while for blogging sites, this predictive information included the individual's photo, religious views, current town, employer and number of groups. Thus, while users can use thin slices of information gathered from these online profiles to form an impression of the subject, the impression is severely impacted by the type of attributes that are presented on the profile as well as the different ways they are processed based on user goals.[4]

Sexual preference[edit]

In 1999, Nalini Ambady et al. studied the accuracy of judgments of sexual orientation from thin slices of behavior.[9] After taking variables such as the gender and sexual orientation of the judges and the gender of the targets into consideration, Ambady reached the conclusion that people could accurately perceive sexual orientation through thin slicing. Approximately 55% of the judgments based on still photo slices were accurate, and approximately 70% of the judgments based on 10 second silent video slices were accurate. Such perception and judgment would be more accurate if the materials provided were of dynamic nonverbal nature (e.g.: silent videos containing much gestural information) rather than of static information nature (e.g.: still photographs). Also in her studies, gay men and lesbians were generally more accurate than heterosexuals in making judgments.


Cognitive ability[edit]

An individual's mood has been known to distort cognitive abilities. Emotions cloud rational quick thoughts. The three most influential studies were conducted in 2002 by Nalini Ambady and Heather M. Gray.[10] In the first study, induced sadness led to reduced accuracy in judgments of teacher effectiveness from brief samples of nonverbal behavior. In the second study, sad participants showed reduced accuracy in judging relationship type from thin-slices as well as diminished judgmental efficiency. The third study showed the possibility that sadness impairs accuracy by promoting a more deliberative information-processing style. All of these studies have the basic principle that emotions do in fact affect judgement as seen through effects on thin-slicing.[10] They disprove conclusions from some previous studies that sadness would lead to more cautious processing strategy or would not have a strong effect in social perception,[11] and argue that short-term induced sadness would hinder individual's social interpretation skills.

Personality disorder[edit]

Jacqueline N.W. Friedman et al. (2007) examined people's ability to detect personality disorder using a thin-slicing approach.[12] They found that people were capable of detecting pathological personality traits in 30 seconds of videotaped behavior. By looking at the "thin slices" of videos, research participants were able to accurately identify targets with personality pathology from the video. Also, when participants were exposed to an increased number of personality traits, i.e.: increasing spectrum instead of "thickness" of the slices, they performed better at identifying targets' negative traits. This correlation between "thin slices" with richer content and participants' better performance in detecting personality disorder is found to be stronger than correlations found in other studies using thin slice methodology.

Deception detection[edit]

Albrechsten, Meissner and Susa (2009) of the University of Texas at El Paso conducted two separate studies of processing style (intuitive vs. deliberative processing) in a deception detection task. In the first experiment, a thin-slicing manipulation was used to show that intuitive processing can lead to more accurate judgments of deception when compared with traditional forms of processing, i.e.: forms that take in much more information input. In the second experiment, participants who engaged in a second task performed more accurately in a deception task than participants who were asked to provide a verbal rationale for each decision. The results converged to suggest that intuitive processing can significantly improve deception detection performances.[13]



One of the first series conducted by James Bugental and his colleagues showed that parents' expectancies, identified from brief clips of their tone, are related to their children's behavior process. The tone of a mother with a normal child and one whose child has behavioral problems differed significantly. A quick observation of parents of normal children and parents of children with behavioral problem can easily help the observer to distinguish the two types. The conceptions above provide an underlying basis that there actually is an ability to judge from brief observations. Research in classrooms has shown that judges can distinguish biased teachers and their expectations for students from unbiased teachers and their expectations simply from brief clips of teachers' behaviors. Likewise, research in the courtroom has shown that in brief excerpts of judges' instructions to jurors in trials, raters could predict the judge's expectations for the trial.[14]

Examples in everyday life[edit]

Some people believe that the effects of the phenomenon known as déjà vu happen within the same time frame of thin-slicing and might also have a direct correlation. A narrow window of experience is enough for an individual to feel sure that he has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the prior encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined.

Many other uses of thin-slicing are implied by media reports such as firemen making split-second decisions, or cops knowing something is wrong by simply a gut feeling. All these suggest anecdotally that thin-slicing occurs regularly.[15]

Explanations regarding thin-slicing accuracy[edit]

There are several proposed explanations regarding the accuracy of judgments made from thin slices of behavior.

The first explanation draws from psychologists Zebrowitz-McArthur and Baron's ecological approach to Social perception,[16] which states that attributes corresponding to an unpleasant or threatening presence can be easily and quickly recognized because the ability to sense danger is essential for survival and adaptive action. Thus, traits such as anger and dominance are generally more easily identifiable compared to humor or responsibility.

The second explanation involves the role that stereotypes play in the initial stages of forming a judgment about someone. Preliminary opinions generated via thin-slicing are often influenced by the stereotypes a person holds, and these stereotypes often hold a certain, small amount of truth. For example, Berry and McArthur found that adults with baby faces are generally perceived to be more honest, naive and kind.[17] There is also evidence that physical and biological differences are linked with differences in temperament. Shyer and more reserved adult men tend to have more lightly colored eyes and a leaner, more delicate build compared to men who are more social and dominant. However, stereotypes may not always be as accurate as they seem because they can be propagated by a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies in which our behavior is dictated by the expectations we hold of someone based on the stereotypes they fit to. This in turn causes the target individual to modify their own behavior to confirm those expectations and gives the illusion that the person's traits accurately fits the stereotype from the beginning. For example, physically attractive individuals may become more socially-skilled and confident simply because they internalize the beliefs held by others that they are more socially desirable and outgoing.[1]

The third explanation proposes that thin-slicing provides accurate judgments simply because they are snap judgments.[1] Being exposed to only a thin-slice of behavior eliminates the presence of distracting stimuli such as verbal interaction and doesn't allow the rater time to introspectively reason out why they judge an individual a certain way, which may cause them to overthink and change the judgments formed by their initial instincts. Thin-slicing allows raters to focus on expressive behavior and weeds out extraneous information that can cause judgments to stray away from the truth.

None of these explanations are believed to universally encompass the true reason of why thin-slicing is successful. Instead, it is likely that they are not mutually exclusive and each influence thin-slicing accuracy to a certain degree.[1]

Variation in thin-slicing factors[edit]

Exposure time[edit]

Ambady and Rosenthal's 1992 meta-analysis revealed that a longer exposure time of a thin-slice does not significantly improve accuracy of judgment.[1]

Channels of communication[edit]

Thin-slices of behavior include two main channels of communication: non-verbal and verbal. Non-verbal behavior is defined as facial and body expressions or tone of voice. Verbal behavior involves actual speech. When dealing with verbal and nonverbal cues that provide inconsistent conclusions, assessing the nonverbal behaviors generally provides the more accurate judgment. This is because humans can easily control what they say to present themselves in a particular light or provide a certain impression of a situation but have a more difficult time trying to control their facial and body expression and tone of voice.[1] For example, judges were found to reveal their true expectations of whether or not a defendant was guilty through their nonverbal behavior but not their verbal behavior.[18] However, Ambady and Rosenthal's meta-analysis revealed that while judgments were more accurate when observing only facial and body expressions as opposed to facial and body expressions in addition to speech, the difference in accuracy is not significant enough to actually declare that using different channels of communication will affect the accuracy of a result.[1]

Physical attractiveness[edit]

In Ambady and Rosenthal's 1993 experiment, they use 2, 5 and 10 second video clips of non-verbal behavior of teachers to test the accuracy of the judgments made by raters who watched those videos. While physical attractiveness of the video subject may seem like an obvious bias that may lead people to form inaccurate judgments, they demonstrated that it actually did not have a strong effect on their experimental outcome. One reason may be due to differences in the "type" of thin slice that is being made available to the raters. For example, when simply given a photo of an individual, a rater tends to judge personality traits simply based on attractiveness. However, when expressive behavior is available such as through the video clips used in the experiment, physical attractiveness becomes less important and less utilized when forming an impression of someone.[3]

Practical implications[edit]

While thin-slicing has been proven to be a powerful experimental tool, it is important that experiments are being designed such that thin-slicing can actually be used to accurately judge the behavior of interest because it is not appropriate to use thin-slicing to universally evaluate different situations. First, the behaviors or traits in question should be easily observable so that ratings based on thin-slicing can be used reliably. Second, these traits should generally have an affective or interpersonally, rather than personally-oriented component because the latter is much more difficult to judge and less observable. Interpersonal dimensions include dominance and shyness while personal dimensions include conscientiousness and intelligence.[1]

The proven accuracy and effects of thin-slicing has several practical implications. First, experimenters can reliably use thin-slicing to evaluate different affect variables and can thus save time and money on gathering extraneous information. Additionally, since thin-slicing can be used to accurately predict interpersonally-oriented qualities, they can be used in the selection, training and evaluation of individuals who require strong interpersonal skills, such as teachers, managers and therapists. Finally, since channels of communication do not significantly influence accuracy, ratings can be gathered from any of the channels that are conveniently available.[1]

Popular culture[edit]


One of the most popular books on thin-slicing is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. In this book, the author describes interesting examples and research which exploit the idea of thin-slicing.

For example, Gladwell describes how a museum acquired an ancient sculpture, brought to the J. Paul Getty Museum in California, under the name Getty kouros. Some art experts observed the sculpture and decided there was something wrong with it, a gut feeling due to the artwork exhibiting all the wrong signs. However, under thorough investigation the sculpture was deemed real because of a lack of solid evidence to the contrary. The statue's authenticity was later thrown into question due to erroneous assumptions made by one of the researchers who had previously vouched for it.

Another example in this book explored the work of John Gottman, a well-known marital expert. Gladwell describes how within an hour of observing a couple, Gottman can gather with 95% accuracy if the couple will be together within 15 years. Gottman's accuracy goes down to 90% if he observes the couples for 15 minutes, supporting the phenomenon of thin-slicing.

12 Angry Men[edit]

The drama has a few adaptations, including the earliest 1954 teleplay, a 1957 movie and a 1997 remake movie. The movies themselves did not explicitly discuss thin-slicing, but depicted various types of group behaviors and group interactions. Those depictions made the movie a popular choice for teaching and illustrating group processes.[16]

There are now numerous websites[17] containing essays and articles that analyze aspects of group dynamics shown in the movie, using methods analogous to thin-slicing. Also, students learning group dynamics, social psychology and related topics are usually required to analyze the movie using the thin-slicing method. All these analyses strongly correlate the movie to the method of thin-slicing.


Thinking has always been described as a conscious effort. Artist Henri Cartier-Bresson called thinking a "decisive moment" of consciousness, but in reality thin-slicing is an unconscious behavior. Similarly, photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt referred to a direct connection between his eye and his shutter finger, bypassing his brain, which was critical for many of his most celebrated images.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcdefghiAmbady, Nalini; Rosenthal, Robert (March 1992). "Thin slices of expressive behavior as predictors of interpersonal consequences: A meta-analysis". Psychological Bulletin. 111 (2): 256–274. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.111.2.256. 
  2. ^"Toward a histology of social behavior: Judgmental accuracy from thin slices of the behavioral stream". APA PsycNET. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  3. ^ abcdAmbady, Nalini; Rosenthal, Robert (1993). "Half a Minute: Predicting Teacher Evaluations From Thin Slices of Nonverbal Behavior and Physical Attractiveness"(PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association. 64 (Vol. 64, No. 3, 431-441): 431–441. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.64.3.431. 
  4. ^ abStecher, Kristin; Counts, Scott (2008). "Thin Slices of Online Profile Attributes"(PDF). The International Conference on Web and Social Media. 
  5. ^The Science of Social Vision (1 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010-11-16. ISBN 9780195333176. 
  6. ^Carney, Dana R; Colvin, C. Randall; Hall, Judith A. (30 Jan 2007). "A thin slice perspective on the accuracy of first impressions". Journal of Research in Personality. 41: 1054–1072. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2007.01.004. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  7. ^Deyo, Yaacov; Deyo, Sue (2002-03-19). Speed Dating: The Smarter, Faster Way to Lasting Love. New York, N.Y.: William Morrow. ISBN 9780066212555. 
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