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THIN SLICING: An Analysis of the Theory



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     According to Hawkins and Blakeslee, “The brain uses vast amounts of memory to create a model of the world.” (Hawkins & Blakeslee, 2004). Basically, a person’s ‘model of the world’ is formed through a collection of experiences or through a series of social interaction.

    Hawkins & Blakeslee further notes that “The brain uses this memory-based model to make continuous predictions of future events” (Hawkins & Blakeslee, 2004). This means that individuals are capable of making snap judgments, and these judgments are valid to a certain extent because such are based on trials and tests garnered from one’s life experiences. These days, this process of making immediate judgments and drawing conclusions based on one’s memory is called ‘thin slicing’.In this paper, the researcher will explore the theory of thin slicing through a review of some related literature and an application of the theory in the case of La Tasha Armstead in the Los Angeles Times article ‘Paying an Adult Price for Crime’.

    In this paper, one would try to answer the following questions: Does something in La Tasha’s use of language reveal the likelihood of future problems if let out of jail too soon? Or do her words suggest a more repentant, wiser person?What is “thin slicing”?If you are to face a person and talk to him for at least five minutes, you can generate a good deal of information from that short talk. In most cases, people call the generated information “impressions”. In the case of Gladwell however, he refers to these information as the product of thin slicing. In his book “Blink”, Gladwell notes that “as human beings we are capable of making sense of situations based on the thinnest slice of experience” (Gladwell, 2005).

    He further explains that in just a few minutes of listening, people are able to generate truckloads of data because they have the ‘power of thin slicing’.What is thin slicing? Gladwell explains it as “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience” (Gladwell, 2005). For example, whenever we are faced with a situation, we evaluate that event and devise a response to it even before we consciously think about what is happening around us. According to Wilson, “When we thin-slice, we recognize patterns and make snap judgments, and do this process of editing unconsciously.

    We first see and perceive a color several hundred milliseconds before we can think or say ‘red light’” (Wilson, 2002)Thin slicing is not new however. People have already exhausted the subject through a variety of studies before. According to thin slicing literature pieces cited in a white paper prepared by Brandtrust, studies have shown that “when observers are exposed to brief patterns of nonverbal behavior, they reach consensus and make accurate judgments about a variety of different characteristics, including the target’s personality traits, teaching ability, sexual orientation, and marital satisfaction” (Brandtrust).However, one should be careful in making snap judgments.

    In order to make ‘valid’ snap judgments, one must learn how to focus on important parts of the received information. According to Wilson, “There is a lot of information out there to analyze, and it is clearly to our advantage to prioritize it, recognizing what we should focus on and what we can safely ignore” (Wilson, 2002). In discerning what’s important from what’s not, individuals can use their emotions. This is because “Emotions are largely responsible for creating these memories and are the key to unlocking the meaning within” (Brandtrust).

    Therefore, in making snap judgments, it is best to use statements involving lots of emotions which the listener can relate to.Understanding La’ Tasha ArmsteadIn the article `Paying an Adult Price for Crime’, the reader is introduced to La Tasha Armstead, who committed murder at the early age of 13. Analyzing La Tasha, her first emotional statement that one could relate to is “I feel scared”. Certainly, everyone might have felt scared at one time so this statement makes a valid point of analysis for thin slicing.

    In essence, being ‘scared’ does not indicate repentance. In La Tasha’s case, it implies a mere feeling of fear derived from the fact that she is on trial and that she will be probably sentenced to life imprisonment just like her boyfriend. Her statement may also indicate her fear of punishment not remorse. The feeling of being “scared” can also imply that La Tasha feels unaided and desperate.

    This is especially a valid judgment because if one reads further in the article, he would know that La Tasha is really “alone” in the sense that she does not receive adequate support and attention from her parents.The statement “I feel scared” can also reveal La Tasha’s immaturity because despite the fact that she is already on trial, she still does not recognize and take regard in other people’s thoughts and feelings about what she did. Technically, the focus of the statement is “I”, thereby implying that she is still self-centered as any juvenile could be. Self centeredness is a trait that is often linked with irresponsibility on one’s actions and its consequences.

    Thus, this means that La Tasha still doesn’t have a clear sense of what she has done. She may not understand the extent of the crime that she has committed and she may treat the experience as something which she should not be blamed for. In this sense, one can say that La Tasha does not assume responsibility over her actions.Following the view that La Tasha cannot recognize conscientiousness and accountability for what she does, this means that there is a high degree of chance that she may commit another crime once she is let out of jail.

    What’s worse is that if ever she commits a crime, she will probably blame the incident on a wide variety of things but certainly not on herself. With an overwhelming value of selfishness and the lack of a clear sense of accountability for one’s own action, an individual can be dangerous.Another statement which can be used as a basis of snap judgment can be derived in La Tasha’s essay. In her essay entitled ‘The Way I Feel’, she notes “I don’t expect for people to feel sorry or feel that they have to have mercy on me.

    I just wish, pray and hope that they can understand me, understand where I’m coming from . . .  But no one can seem to do that.

    ” Again, one can detect a sense of desperateness in La Tasha’s statements but not of regret. The first line of the sentence where she notes her expectations from other people reflects indifference. In essence, La Tasha may see other people as unresponsive and unconcerned of her life situation.La Tasha’s views of the lack of sympathy of other people to her situation may indicate that she herself may have feelings of apathy towards her society.

    What’s worse is that she may think that her apathy toward other people around her is justified by her own experience of being neglected by her own parents. Such can be further magnified now as she may think that she is also neglected by the justice system and the society which prompted her to face an adult trial. This lack of concern and sympathy may harbor the lack of guilt.Throughout her sentences, one cannot seem to trace any sense of guilt in La Tasha.

    Her concerns are all directed to herself and her situation. She does not recognize her faults and she does not take responsibility of her actions.  Although such traits may be strongly attributed to the fact that she is still a teenager, these also indicate that she is unrepentant and therefore, there is still a high likelihood of future problems if she is subjected to parole.Works CitedBrand Trust.

    “Brand Blink”. Brand Trust Website. 6 May 2009 from <http://www.brandtrust.

    com/images/Brandblink%20whitepaper.pdf>Gladwell, M. “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. Little, Brown and Company, NY, 2005Hawkins, J.

    and Blakeslee, S. “On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain Will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines”. Times Books, NY, 2004Simon, Stephanie. “Paying an Adult Price for Crime”.

    LA TIMES. 6 Aug 1999. 6 May 2009 from <http://articles.latimes.

    com/1999/aug/06/news/mn-63136>Wilson, T. “Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious”. Belknap Harvard, Boston, 2002 

    THIN SLICING: An Analysis of the Theory. (2017, Mar 03). Retrieved from

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