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Voting for the Provost’s /Blink/ Essay Contest Now Closed

Thank you all for reading and voting!

We had over 1,000 votes for our finalists, but the masses have spoken.

Our winner:

Isaac Soldz (325 votes)

Second place:

Molly Hillis (184 votes)

Third place:

 Rachel Wicks (150 votes)


We’ll be contacting you soon with the details about picking up your bookstore certificates.

Read Finalists Below and VOTE Here for /Blink/ Essay Contest Winners. . .

Scroll down below this poll to see all 10 finalists to choose from!

Then return here to vote for your favorite.



Scroll down below this poll to see all 10 finalists to choose from!

Then return here to vote for your favorite.

View all TEN /Blink/ Essay Contest Finalists Below, Then VOTE for Your Favorite!!!


We read all 1,589 submissions and came up with ten finalists for your consideration.

Now you get to help us decide the winners!

Keep scrolling down to see our ten finalists.

After you have read each of the ten essays below, vote once for your favorite essay (using the “poll” feature above).

We’ll announce the winners on the last day of classes December 1oth.

(Scroll down to see our contest judges as well.)


1st Place: $250 Bookstore Gift Certificate

2nd Place: $150 Bookstore Gift Certificate

3rd Place: $100 Bookstore Gift Certificate

Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Rachel Wicks

Rachel Wicks

When Abbie Conant auditioned for the orchestra in Germany, she was considered to be the best of the best, until the screen went down and she was revealed to be a woman.

When I was accepted in to my first job at a furniture delivery company, I was seen as a valuable asset to the team, until the first shipment of chairs came and everyone remembered that “girls were weak”.

A delivery truck had just backed into the parking lot, carrying a shipment of 85 task chairs, each one nestled inside cardboard boxes taller than the average human. My boss told me that I would be unloading the truck and handing the boxes over to the guys on the ground, so I hoisted myself inside the truck and starting pushing one of the boxes out. However, halfway to the edge of the truck, one of my male coworkers took the box out of my hands and said, with a smile, “It’s alright. I got this.”

I stood there. I knew I had just experienced a tiny sliver of everyday sexism, but I also knew that my coworker was just being nice. I wanted to be appreciative, but I was hurt. I might be a woman but I was not a weakling. But instead of bothering to notice that I was tall, strong, and in the employment of other furniture movers, my coworker only “listened with his eyes” and saw I was a woman.

To “listen with your eyes”, according to Malcolm Gladwell, is to make an assumption based on bias, ignoring any and all facts that contribute to disprove those prejudices. Abbie Conant played her instrument beautifully but was rejected for being a woman. I was handling the furniture boxes well on my own, but was seen as automatically incompetent for the same reason.

So when Gladwell began discussing the phenomenon of “listening with your eyes”, it was nothing new to me. The idea had simply been given a name, but an accurate one. It leads to the idea that maybe, just maybe, is we “closed our eyes” more often, we’d see so much more.


Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Isaac Soldz

Isaac Soldz

SCREEEEEECH. In one quick motion, the bus pulls to a stop and the doors swing open. It was very late and I was the only one on the bus except an old drunk man who sat hunched over, wallowing in self-pity. “Hey, kid”. I open my eyes, blinking with bewilderment. The bus driver stares at me angrily. He was an overweight man; middle-aged, unshaven, smelled awful, and was sweating profusely. “Hey, kid” I hear again. “Sorry” I mutter. I stumble off the bus and begin to make my way up the street. The streetlights flicker on and off, but it is no matter for the moon is my shepherd. I begin to toss my keys in my hands. Amidst all the jingles, I hear a noise. “It’s nothing,” I say to myself as I start to swing my keys around my finger. I turn the corner while the noise behind me continues to crescendo. I dodge the many trashcans that line the sidewalks when, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a dark figure. A flurry of thoughts darts through my brain. My body stops walking but my heart races on. I clench my keys tightly in a fist. And then…

Those half-second decisions determine the outcome of situations. Do I stand my ground, or do I take off running? Decisions like these are known by psychologists as “thin slicing” which, as Malcolm Gladwell defines in his critically acclaimed book Blink, is “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience (23).”  Everyone encounters these decisions during their lives, most commonly in that gut feeling that tells you what to do. But, as Gladwell argues, if one is able to hone that skill, and maximize its potential they can become all the more successful. But, did I make the right decision?

The dark figure approached me. “Do you know when the last bus is?” he asks. I let out a deep sigh of relief. “1 o’clock”.

Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Grace Moulton

Grace Moulton

The Call

“Did they know they knew? Not at all. But they knew” Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book, Blink. He is referring to a story centered on the concept of thin slicing. Thin slicing is the ability of one to subconsciously mark what is important, in an extremely short amount of time. Everyone does it, no one is conscious of it. This is my story.

Late into my senior year, I pulled into my driveway after a long, somewhat excruciating, day of finals. I walked in the door, kicked off my flip-flops and plopped myself down right in front of the TV. A typical Tuesday afternoon. Everything felt completely normal until I heard that familiar buzzing; I looked down at my ringing phone and felt my stomach turn. However, I did not know why. It was just Aimee, the mother of the two boys in which I baby-sat. I picked up the phone and answered. Immediately I could discern in her voice that something was just not right. She proceeded to ask me if I remembered that I was supposed to get Adam off the bus that day. Then I remembered. I could not believe it, after three years of babysitting, I forgot. I apologized, and apologized, and then apologized some more. I hung up the phone and burst into tears.

How did I know that I had done something wrong, without even knowing I did? Sounds confusing but I promise you it is not. I thin sliced. My unconscious mind knew something was wrong, meanwhile my conscious mind did not. “Snap judgments and rapid cognition take place behind a locked door” (Gladwell, 51). This is exactly what happened, rapid cognition occurred however, I did not consciously recognize it.

Our unconscious is a beautifully intriguing concept, however, we most likely will never know all there is to it. Just like thin slicing “…it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that – sometimes – we’re better off that way” (52).

Works Cited: Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown and, 2005. Print.

Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Shawn Luz

Shawn Luz

My earliest recollection of them is from the fifth grade. I found myself in an all too familiar situation slouched over my desk in music class watching those orderly, little hands on the clock slowly tick away. I was desperately hoping that they would convince the bell to ring before I had to listen to another song that I wouldn’t like. My hopes were crushed shortly after. A few ticks later, the teacher walked over to the dusty blackboard and picked up a tiny piece of white chalk. I couldn’t help but sigh as I watched her clumsily scrawl “The Beatles” on the board. I didn’t know much about the Beatles except that they were considered a hugely successful boy band. Unfortunately, that was enough to make me hate them. Seeing a picture of the fab four solidified my convictions; supported by swarms of teenage girls who could care less about music, the Beatles were posers. My head fell to my hands as the CD tray swished into the stereo. I’ll never forget the first time I listened to the most famous band in the world. It almost hurts to say that I once hated them.

“Yellow Submarine” blared out across the classroom as I began to fight the urge to tap my feet. The subconscious wall I had set up was trying to prevent me from enjoying the music. It began to crumble. Negative images of the goody two shoes boy band I had imagined were slowly losing out to the musical notes that danced into my ears. By the time I had listened to “Yesterday” that wall was reduced to debris.

Clearly, it was wrong for me to convince myself that I didn’t like The Beatles before hearing their music, much like how “without a screen, Abbie Conant would have been dismissed without playing a note” (Gladwell 252). As Gladwell points out, I allowed myself to “listen with my eyes” and not my ears; letting irrelevant preconceptions interfere with what truly mattered. For the first time in music class, I was sad to finally hear that bell ring.


Works Cited: Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown and, 2005. Print.



Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Molly Hillis

Molly Hillis

Seeing Beyond the Sight

     Quick, what do you see?  A girl, running away from a YMCA camp counselor during a rainstorm, screaming that she won’t listen.  You probably see a brat;  I see a girl with undiagnosed special needs. At least, now I do.

Typically, when working one-on-one with a child, a counselor knows what to expect.  However, Sabrina, the girl with a pout and a pair of untrusting eyes, arrived with no label, and no one knew what to do with the “typical” girl who simply would not behave.  Ironically, she became the responsibility of an actual Special Needs Integration Aide: me.

Building off of other people’s perceptions, I viewed her as a misguided child.  It did not matter that I had grown up with an Autistic brother and worked with special needs children.  I had been told she was “difficult” and watched her scream at adults relentlessly, which allowed my mind to ignore every signal indicating the underlying problem.  It wasn’t until she ran off in a frenzy that I was able to make the connection.  In just a moment, I knew she had special needs, not behavioral problems.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how forming an accurate opinion does not require endless information “in as many different contexts as possible” (20).  On the contrary, seeing Sabrina in a new situation forced me to make another snap judgment, one that was based solely on what was right in front of me.  Thin-slicing, or making rapid and accurate decisions based on limited information, greatly improved the precision of my perception.  I was unknowingly dissecting every moment, like a camera cutting between images in a movie.  Flash.  Inability to make eye contact.  Flash.  Pursuing her obsession regardless of consequences.  Flash.  The movement of her hands, reminding me of a tic.  Had I not been in a vulnerable, fear-stricken state, I probably would not have been receptive to the unconscious deductions I made, all in a moment.

This memory unequivocally reflects the power of thin-slicing.  Yet, this phenomenon occurs constantly, and that we must be aware of its presence so that we can make accurate judgments on a regular basis.  Regardless of the scale of the moment, we need to rely on this innate sense to distinguish between perception and reality; between someone in need, and just another whining child.


Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Gregory Goins

Gregory Goins

       “Robert Frost, Yankees, Laziness, Inauthenticity, and the Power of Thin-Slicing”

     In the small town of Derry New Hampshire, the legacy and former estate of the great American poet Robert Frost lies in the hand of a single man, who has yet to feel any pressure.  Hard-working, self-sufficient, resourceful: this is the image that enters our mind when we think of Yankee farmers.  If Frost is their prophet, this was his Mecca.  This is why I recoiled when I saw the single employee of the farm was an overweight bearded man, with long curly hair and sloppy attire.  I had paid good money for this tour, and expected an authentic experience by a seasoned Yankee guide, not an Arlo Guthrie impersonator.

As he started the tour, my horror increased.  Seeming downright disinterested in most of the house, he rattled off non-sequitur facts about Frost.  His laziness had begun to annoy me on a fundamental level.  I was doing what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as ‘thin-slicing’ in his book Blink, finding patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experiences” (23).  I had thin-sliced this man, pinning him as apathetic and lazy, while I had thin-sliced Frost as a hard-worker.  I was terribly wrong.

The shift in opinion happened at the telephone.  Our tour guide was enormously interested in this phone, and explained proudly that Robert Frost stood at a similar telephone nightly.  I rightly asked him, “what did Frost do at the telephone?”  He smiled and answered: “Frost listened to farmers on the party line.”  He went on to explain that Frost was not really a farmer.  Sure he owned a farm, but in reality he was terrible at it; he was, to put it bluntly, far too lazy.

Where did the authenticity come from in his poems then?  His authenticity came from listening to those who could farm, those who were not lazy, and imitating.  I had thin-sliced Frost wrong.  The shock I received when seeing that his legacy was in the hands of this man was doubled when I realized the shocking truth: this lethargic man was cut from the same cloth as Robert Frost.

Finalist /Blink/ Essay Contest: Victoria Costa

Victoria Costa

Thin Slicing: The Good and Bad

     Where does prejudice start and end?  With race, sex and religion?  Or perhaps it goes farther; to physical features such as weight, height, and body modification, leading to a stereotype someone else thinks you fit neatly within.  With just a glance, most people think they have enough information to make an accurate judgment of someone.  Malcolm Gladwell discusses think slicing in his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, as a tool to understand the world around you without looking for evidence.  Thin slicing is essentially when someone subconsciously assesses a situation, person, or object in “thin slice”.  Typically this tool is very helpful.  But what happens when you try to thin slice a person?  Often times you fall victim to stereotypes and prejudice.

Thin Slicing, when it comes to human beings can be an illuminating tactic.  However it can also leave us in the dark about the true nature of a person.  Thin slicing is at its most basic level a judgment based on what you can see from the surface, which inevitably leads to stereotyping and generalization, which then leads to prejudice.  And prejudice does not end at “black” or ”white”, Christian or Jewish.  It has come to include people like myself, who live their life outside of the basic norms that others may follow.  I am a person of body modification and I am proud, just like someone may and ought to be of their culture or religious background.

Unfortunately, I have been met by many people who try to pigeonhole me into a category because of my style and my body modification.  I have several facial piercings, and I have met a lot of discrimination for them in school and in public.  People openly gawk, or avert their eyes.  It comes off ignorant to me, but really they are just thin slicing.  This is where thin slicing becomes an imperfect art.  They see the holes in my face and think, that person is probably very extreme and radical and I assume she’s rather strange and most likely not so nice.  In reality I am a hugely respectful and kind person with no more extreme radical notions than your average unpierced human being.

When it comes to these and all other things that make one person different from another, physically, we as a race – the human race- must take responsibility for our actions of prejudice and judgment.  We must learn that beneath the surface, every one is unique and deserves to be treated like it, because if we realize that each person is different, perhaps we would not be so quick to assume if they look alike, they are alike, and leave it at that.  Who people are is not a black and white issue, but mostly grey tones.