My Thoughts About the Book, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

The mysteries of mind-reading and graphotherapy.

One Sunday, I discovered the author, Malcolm Gladwell speaking on C-Span. He was talking about his book Outliers. I went online and bought the audio versions of his books Outliers and The Tipping Point. I was blown away by his insights. More recently I listened to the audiobook Blink by Gladwell.

The thing that stood out to me was the section called “the mysteries of mind-reading”.

A couple of research scientists, Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman were studying facial expressions. They were learning how to understand what people are feeling and thinking by observing the muscles of the face.

Using their anatomical knowledge, they broke down facial expressions to the individual muscles and combinations of bulges and wrinkles. The two men spent hours learning how to manipulate the individual muscles building up a vocabulary of expressions that unconsciously declare inner emotions. One set of bulges and wrinkles would indicate lying, another set would mean happiness. Sitting across from each other with mirrors and they would duplicate a particular gesture until it was mastered and cataloged.

The curious thing was that occasionally at the end of the day both of the men felt terrible. By keeping track of when this happened, they discovered that it was when they were studying and duplicating expressions of negative emotions. By using medical testing devices, they found that the autonomic nervous system was affected. So when they were doing “grief” even though they were not feeling grief internally, it still affected their health. This indicates that facial expressions don't only show inner feeling but also create feelings where there were none. There is a neurological feedback loop that goes both ways. So smiling really can make you feel better.

This ties into my knowledge of handwriting analysis. Personality traits are expressed by strokes seen in handwriting. Unconscious ideo-motor movements create trait strokes that a trained expert can decipher. Self-esteem, depression, and learning style are three of the many personality traits can be uncovered in handwriting. By changing handwriting traits a person can change their personality.

Bart Baggett, my teacher, has talked about animal studies that show that finger movements create new neuro-pathways in the brain. Tomkin's and Ekman's findings are further evidence of how physical movements can change personality at the most basic levels.


Blink by Malcom Gladwell

Bart Baggett


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