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I am having a major thought attack. A new book is out and it's absolutely fascinating to me. "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" has captured my brain and isn't letting go. The new philosophical mindset that it discusses could be shortened to Buffyism. And shows the genius of our girl. Don't believe me?

The premise of the book is "the less thinking and consulting you do, the better off you will be." Gladwell backs up this theory with miles of study on people such as cops, triage doctors, teachers, cooks, mothers, CEOs, you get the idea. The concept of "mother's intuition" isn't intuition, but snap, or "Blink Thinking." You have a sense that your child is in danger. In your subconscious, you Blinked the knowledge of: bike, rain, crazy friend, should be home already... Child is in danger.

Doctors in the ER have had years of experience in snap decisions. They retain the knowledge that led to sucess and drop the choices (all in the subconscious in theory) that led to death, etc. So someone comes in with something the docs have never seen before and based on snap decisions, the doc in charge makes a choice of treatment and saves the guys life. Because seconds count, and the doctor has learned to rely on her "instinct."

So how does this mean that Buffy is smarter than, say, Aristotle or John Locke? Buffy would reject (if she was faced with the word, because she rejected it in theory many times) the notion of Empiricism, which states that our theories should be based on our observations, rather than our intuition. The Watcher's Council entire philosophy is based on Empiricism. They study, they read, they experiment (in completely controlled environments) and as a result, their actions are arcane and stilted. Here comes our girl who fights with instinct. She relies on her instinct more than her book learning. At one point, Giles is angry with her for not wanting to "train" with a book-taught method. She sighs, he blindfolds her, hands her a ball, and hides, sniggering to himself that she hasn't studied enough of this particular method of "hunting" to find him with the ball. Without much thinking, Buffy bounces the ball off the wall and beans Giles in the head. She smiles and leaves.

According to Empiricism, "jumping to conclusions" is the worst thing possible. Today's method of thinking and solving problems encourages long detailed discussions, research, question the research, consult other theories, on and on. Buffy ALWAYS jumps to conclusions. Her Blink Thinking is without long, over-processed thought, and she is always right. A perfect example is her roommate in college. She immediately comes to the conclusion that the roomie is evil and should be killed. The Scoobie gang doesn't trust her, goes to extraordinary lengths to change her mind, and Buffy is proven to have been right all along.

Buffy immediately assumes an earthquake in Season 4 is a portent of doom. She (once again) is pooh pooh'd for her "rash" thinking. Guess what? It was yet another apocolypse. If she was able to sit still long enough and study Rene Descartes, she would have understood him completely. He argued that the source of all knowledge was human reason. If you start with intuitively-understood basic principles, you can deductively derive the truth without overblown research and analysis. Now the big question (for me, at least) is how is this instinct inherent?

Here's my theory, and I think it's founded in canon, even though Joss said he doesn't know science. NERD ALERT:

Slayers are genetically predisposed to be slayers. We know there is something in their biology that makes them unique. Their blood carries a certain property that makes it identifiable as "slayer's blood." this is referred to by Spike, by Faith and the Mayor, and by research from Willow and Oz. For the sake of my husband's glee, I'll refer to it as "midichlorians." And because Andrew called it that, as well.

There is a genetic heredity in slayers. Giles and Buffy discussed in Season 5 the passing on of previous slayers knowledge from one generation to the next. Since most slayers were far less successful than Buffy, it is possible that the previous slayers lacked the time to explore this inherent knowledge. Buffy is able to meditate (and do the hokey pokey in the desert) to connect to the First Slayer (in fact, the First Slayer comes to Buffy to share knowledge and advice on two separate occasions with her). For the sake of the panties that are getting in a wad with my husband about this, we'll say it is a mystic heredity. Joyce does not carry this in her.

I will go out on a limb and say that this "midichlorians" in the slayers is there from birth. Kendra was taken away at birth to be raised and trained. Something identified her from the beginning as a Potential. Same goes for the Potentials of Season 7, as well. Something about them (okay, honey!) mystically set them apart, but it resides in their biology. (Slayer's blood is different than other humans' blood.)

Buffy shatters the "tabula rasa" theory of empiricism. If we are born with a "blank slate," we wouldn't have the instinct to suckle, the knowledge to cry, the inherent reflexes we are all born with. In the "Tabula Rasa" episode, they are all "wiped clean" and revert to their true, pure selves. This helps the homosexual cause as Willow KNOWS she is gay and is instinctively attracted to Tara, and vice versa. Buffy immediately seeks to protect the weak, in this case, Dawn. When confronted with vampires, she is afraid, but when she is forced to make a Blink Thought, she stakes and kills a vampire. She has inherently retained the ability to fight, and to fight like a slayer.

I'd go a step further and say that Buffy's Blink Thinking is what saved the world over and over. Routinely she left the gang to research while she fought. They poured over books and papers while she did what she did best. "React to a bunch of vampires." Blink Thinking is a more modern approach to Rationalism, but that just puts Ms. Summers in the company of Kant and Descartes. And I'll wrap this geek-fest up with the words of Giles: I can defeat you with my intellect.

/end dorkfest

And let's not forget how well Buffy did on her SATs. And without studying. I need to back away from the coffee. Oh, look! Football!



( 70 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2005 09:54 am (UTC)
Iiiiiiiiiinteresting. ::makes note of title/author:: Good stuff.

Your brain is squishy and full of Good Things.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 09:57 am (UTC)
I'm laughing hard at that icon. What are you trying to say?
Holy crap, the book is so good. This is the guy who wrote The Tipping Point, another interesting read.

I am, quite possibly, full of shit. And caffeine.

This is what happens when I stay up late with my husband, extolling the virtues of Buffy and turn him to the light.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 09:58 am (UTC)
Like that. But what does it say about vamps?
Jan. 23rd, 2005 10:03 am (UTC)
How do you mean? I know that throughout the series it has been mentioned by Angel and Spike (and argued against by Buffy) that thoughts and so forth of the human are carried over when you become a demon.

SO what are your thoughts and questions? I'm hopped up on coffee and have dug out my old philosophy text books. And possibly the Monty Python's ditty: Philosopher's Song...
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Jan. 23rd, 2005 10:18 am (UTC)
So basically thinking things through gets us into trouble?
Yes, I can go along with that - sometimes it would have been better for me to go with my gut instinct on things.

A good, well-reasoned and explained look into why Buffy kicks major ass - as well as not being the dumb blonde she's expected to be.

As a side note, I really can't believe that Joss wrote this bit from The Freshman -
Xander: You up for a little reconnaissance?
Buffy: You mean where we all sculpt and paint and stuff?
Xander: No, that was the renaissance.

I like it on the one hand because it's a succinct quote showing that Xander isn't as dumb as some still assume. However, I hate it because Buffy SHOULDN'T have made that mistake. And Joss wrote that episode!
My faith is shaken to the core.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 10:37 am (UTC)
"Thinking things through gets us into trouble" yeah, pretty much the philosophy. I don't the guy is drawing a line in the sand (I'm not finished with the book) but the idea is this is something that has been lost, and it isn't a good thing. We should stop saying that 'rash decisions" and "gut instincts" are bad.

So I used Buffy to prove him right. I mean, how many times did the girl save the world?

I'm going to pretend that Joss was just re-working his premise in his head with that line... *BG*
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Jan. 23rd, 2005 10:45 am (UTC)
You know I love you for your BRAIN and not just your body, right?
Wowee kazowee! <--Look how intelligent and literate *I* am!
You fill your brain with brainy stuff and I fill it with fart jokes and dumb laffs. Is never thinking the same as 'blink' thinking? Here's hoping! Um, can synapses atrophy? But, then...if Buffy is smart, maybe I am too!!!

Jan. 23rd, 2005 10:49 am (UTC)
I bet you use "blink thinking" in the classroom ALL DAY LONG. Do you have what people would consider "instinct" about certain kids? What's going on at home? if one of those snot-nosed brats was lying to you? See: you're Buffy.

Whatcha doing?
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Jan. 23rd, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)
oh, oh, oh! and I've got another one for you.

who's the counterpoint to Buffy on this? that would be our Head Boy. he reads a prophecy that tells him Angel is going to kill Connor and even though everything in him tells him it can't be true, he studies and he agonizes, and he listens to stupid people, and he talks to hamburgers. and then with the best intentions, he ruins everybody's life. *apologizes to Wes for pointing this out. pets him. smooches him. pets him some more8

sorry, where was I? oh yes, when he overcomes all those filters and acts on instinct -- shooting his fake dad, f'rinstance -- he's a big damn hero. but it's hard for him to do that. . .

of course, there must be bad blink thinkers as well as good ones. . .um, Faith? is there a Faith in the house?

Jan. 23rd, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
GAH!!! Yes!! Wesley is the KING of empirical knowledge and thinking. Every good scholar knows his Thomas Aquinas, right? Think back to the Thomas Aquinas joke in Beer Bad. Wow. My nerdery knows no bounds.

As to Faith... Mr. Stoney and I talked at length how Faith did NOT have Blink Thinking. She is more akin to an animal (or vampires: want take have) than to the human inherent/instictual thinking of higher brain power. She is the QUEEN of bad split decisions. I think this is perfectly illustrated with the killing of the Mayor's guy. Wham! Bam! But Buffy knew IMMEDIATELY that he was human. Her instinct is to go to Giles or the police and straighten it out. She listens to Faith's "blink think" and it's obviously the wrong choice.

I loved the moments of heroism with Wes. Even in the first episodes of Angel (with him) when they have him as the slapstick, silly ponce, he has flashes of just action and he's terrific. The book would argue that he should trust all of the moments building up to the "fight" or moment, or what have you, and let him trust his gut when faced with a decision. And he did with the father-shoot, and it was RIGHT.

I wonder if he threw up because it signaled a need to depart the epiricism of his father/watcher's council, which means striking out on his own and trusting himself, which he was taught to NEVER do.

I am so in love with this conversation.
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Jan. 23rd, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC)
Don't have any thoughts to add, but very interesting.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC)
Aw, come on! Do Ethan. Blink thinker? Dawn? Joyce?

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Jan. 23rd, 2005 03:00 pm (UTC)
Very interesting convo but toally beyond me.

My thoughts...

Naked vampires pretty together.

Jan. 23rd, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
Bwah ha ha!!

Yes, yes they are.

Thank god.

Jan. 23rd, 2005 03:28 pm (UTC)

I love you.

Marry me.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 04:01 pm (UTC)
Dum dum de dum...
Dum dum de dum...

Crap. Somebody forgot the ring.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC)
I'm late, convo too thinky in a non-blinky way.

Although, last week's "Scrubs" overrides your doctor section. JD was having this whole 'I freak out when there's a lot going on! Ahhh! The PRESSURE!' and the moral of the ep was to pause, breath and then it would slow down and fall into place.

Of course, it's a sitcom so...
Jan. 23rd, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC)
Hee! ALthough, JD is a better GP than an ER doc, wouldn't you say? Even though I love me some Zach Braff, don't get me wrong.

I'm on the phone with crazydiamondsue and we are talking about what a great writer you are!!
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Jan. 23rd, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
I haven't read Blink yet, but Gladwell's other book The Tipping Point is similiar in its mind blowing simplicity. Highly reccomended. It completely changed the way I looked at trends and popularity.

Gladwell is a big enough geek that he would completely dig your theory.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC)
Tipping Point was terrific. It's funny that this new book (which ultimately is about the lack of necessity for explanation)is written by a reporter who's job is to explain things.

This book is absolutely rocking my socks, and it's comforting to know that there are other folks out there who can geek out with me.

Wheee! What's your take? (Using the summary for a guide.) Are you a blink thinker?
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Jan. 23rd, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
Totally agree with you that Buffy is the personification of "blink-thinking", based on your synopsis. Acting on instinct would be the best way to be a successful Slayer since her primary enemies are vampires, who are defeated by greater strength, faster reflexes and quicker wits.

On the other hand, there were other types of enemies against whom "blink-thinking" might not be successful - in order to find a successful method to destroy them it was necessary to do research (such as the Gentlemen, for only one example).
Jan. 23rd, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC)
I'm not trying to downplay research. More, the consulting to ensure that decisions you are making/have made/will make are the appropriate ones.

Think about Buffy and Parker. Asking everyone if maybe he'd come around, maybe this maybe that... Then you have the fear demon. They don't know what to do about it, she immediately punches through the sign on the floor (to Giles' chagrin) and is able to see it, laugh at it, and stomp on it. Snap snap snap. And it turns out to be the correct action.

Even with the Gentlemen, she's all-action Buffy. Her "dreams" are a part of her "instinct and blink thinking." Since they have a mystical force (portent, premonition, what ever) behind them and in many cases are truth, they would be layered with her various experiences residing in her subconscious. There's a whole separate part of Rationalism about dreams: you percieve them to be real (Empiricism) but they aren't.

But with Buffy: they are. I think "Blink Think" is an extension of Rationalism which says perception is unreliable, but deduction is the only method.

I want to hear from someone much smarter than me (should be easy) to use this theory and apply it to the end of S5 when Buffy hides in her head and kills Dawn over and over again. Maybe because she sees nothing but Dawn's death as a solution, she has a snap decision to avoid it? Huh. That's a bad answer...
Jan. 24th, 2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
I wholeheartedly support what you say. I have a cousin who is a emergency medicine physician, and she is around 60 years old and I don't think she's made a single misstep in her life. She also doesn't discuss much of her plans, but takes action. She's simply amazing, but it's hard to have a conversation with her because she just doesn't bullshit around at all.

She's kind of like my hero.

I'm going to read that book. I'm definitely not a Blink Thinker.
Jan. 24th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC)
It's a very interesting idea, no? The idea is certain jobs REQUIRE that thinking process. Now, you can't be a philosopher and be a blink thinker. But a pilot?

There are some terrific threads above where folks have applied the theory to different characters. I'm just enough of a nerd to squeal with delight.

The book is just great. He has another book called "The Tipping Point" that you might find interesting, too.
Jan. 25th, 2005 10:29 am (UTC)
blink thinking and implicit knowledge, part 1
*dusting off my cognitive neuroscience/cog. psych. hat again*

I don't know how far I'm going to get with this because I could go on literally all day about the two approaches to thinking and problem solving being discussed here.

I think it's dangerous to claim that "blink thinking" is "better" than analytical thinking--they're two very different tools that are optimized for different kinds of cognitive tasks. One can't substitute for the other. I don't think you can make a strong argument for "blink thinking" being a better approach; rather, I think the author's point (having only Stoney's report to go on) is that there is a need to recognize that both modes of thinking are equally "valid" and necessary to get through life.

It is important to explain what I think is meant by "blink thinking". It describes an apparently sudden result of what is actually a long and gradual learning process. In cognitive psychology, this gradual learning process enables us to learn about our environment in ways that emphasize what is recurrent, what is predictable, and what we think (based on our past experience) is likely to occur. We're extracting information about what makes situations similar in important ways, and that includes emotionally salient information. It's called implicit learning because we may not be aware of learning the predictive cues (or similarities) that enable us to make accurate guesses about what's going on. Fortunately, we don't need to remember the specifics of what we've learned in order to use the knowledge gained by repeated experience. This enables us to make quick decisions when necessary. Because we tend to be unaware of all that has gone into the decision, however, we call it making a hunch and it tends to be viewed as a less "intellectual" process.

In some cases, though, it's actually not helpful to try to recall and analyze what goes into a particular decision. If we spent time on this when faced with a suddenly dangerous situation, we'd have been eaten by predators a long time ago. Instead, we use knowledge that was acquired implicitly and gradually over time about where predators are likely to be, how they behave, and what kinds of environmental cues signal their presence. Combined with a strong emotional response based on past experiences (someone got eaten, for example), this information that we sense comes to us as a sudden realization calling for an immediate response. In a dangerous situation, it's better to err on the side of caution and respond when many, but not all of the predictive cues are present. The downside to using partial information --which is all we ever get, when you think about it-- is that you may overreact to innocuous stimuli. Suddenly, the sound of a twig breaking nearby sends you into fight-or-flight mode. Ideally, what happens each time you encounter a situation involving your survival is that you update your knowledge (usually implicitly). You learn that some pieces of information are more useful in predicting an outcome than others.

(continued due to space limitations...)
Jan. 25th, 2005 10:38 am (UTC)
blink thinking and implicit knowledge, part 2
(continued from last comment)

What they're calling blink thinking is essentially responding in a rapid and fairly automatic way based on that wealth of prior experience. ER doctors need to make very quick, almost impulsive life-or-death decisions, so they have to rely on their intuition--there's no time to muddle over all possible solutions. On the other hand, you wouldn't want your doctor to make an impulsive decision about how to treat your rare cancer, especially if there was time to examine all the options.

What this means is that impulsive thinkers, those that fly the seat of their pants, are great in emergencies. Buffy is at her best in dangerous situations because she can take advantage of her tendency to make impulsive decisions--in this case, her impulses are based on good instincts and fairly accurate predictions (based on prior experience) about what's likely to happen.

Where blink thinking (or impulsive thinking) fails Buffy is when she's in a difficult emotional situation that requires her to make a leap of faith or to trust someone. Some people instinctively know how to handle these situations. Buffy is lousy at it, particularly when it comes to love, because she can't make reliable predictions about what to expect from the people that matter to her and how to respond to them. Her prior experience has led her to believe that the people she cares about will leave her or shut her out, and that the more vulnerable she lets herself be, the more she will get hurt. The same impulsive thinking that makes her good in a fight is a problem for her in personal relationships because she's making faulty predictions based on an implicit assumption. Specifically, she is acting on an automatic assumption that the situation she's in now is like the situations in the past that led to painful consequences. In fact, this is what makes it difficult for traumatized people to respond appropriately to nonthreatening situations if there are some cues present that make them sense a similarity to the traumatic event.

Normally, you wouldn't base emotional decisions on a careful analysis of all aspects of the situation, but Buffy needs to take a hard look at her past relationships and, instead of seeing all the similarities, examine what makes the current situation different. For her, it requires conscious decision making (analytical thinking) to choose a different course of action that is appropriate for what's happening now.

Feb. 16th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
I dunno how I missed this the first time, but <3.

And now I'm going to download that book on my Kindle.
Feb. 16th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
That book is going to make you O_O when you look at your husband. It makes SO MUCH SENSE when you live with people who think like he does - spur of the moment, lightning fast, etc. etc. Awesome stuff.
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