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The Book That Changed My Life: Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

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2 min read

In the latest in our series on the books that have influenced or inspired Parliamentarians, Dawn Butler explains how the story of an orchestra audition changed how she percieved other's thoughts

Every book I read changes my life in some way but this book had a profound impact on me. It made me think about how people think.   

One part of the book that stuck with me was the story of Abbie Conant, a trombone player who performed in Turin. In 1980 she went for an interview in which there were 33 candidates who played behind a screen because one of the judges’ son was auditioning.

Abbie was chosen as the lead trombonist. However, once they realised she was a woman they were flabbergasted, and their prejudices conflicted with their decision. They then made excuses – such as her not having the lung capacity or not being fit enough. After taking them to court for sex discrimination, Abbie regained her place. But it highlighted a serious problem.

To the men it did not feel like prejudice because that way of thinking was prevalent – it seemed factual that men sounded better. We know this attitude to be true not just with sex but with racial discrimination. The colour of someone’s skin can change the way you view or hear something they do.

This book inspired me to set up a learning and development programme based on the book’s findings: ‘Listening With Your Eyes’, which I delivered across the country, with the kind permission of Malcolm Gladwell. I was and still am determined to challenge the way people think – as this wonderful book helped me to do. There is nothing more powerful than that. 


Dawn Butler is Labour MP for Brent Central

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Read the most recent article written by Dawn Butler MP - My manifesto - Dawn Butler