Book Review: The Tipping Point

Posted: August 6th, 2011 under book review, education, philosophy, psychology.
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The Tipping PointThe Tipping Point is about social phenomena and change, in which Gladwell presents life as a social epidemic. He explains how ideas and behaviors spread. Gladwell makes an interesting discovery about kids viewing the show Sesame Street:

After holding experiments, researchers discovered that kids were a great deal more sophisticated in the way they watched the show (or TV) than had been imagined. Kids don’t watch when the are stimulated and look away when they are bored. They watch when they understand and look away when they are confused. Psychologist Elizabeth Lorch said, “Children didn’t just sit and stare, either. They could divide their attention between a couple of different activities. And they weren’t being random. There were predictable influences on what made them look back at the screen, and these were not trivial things, not just flash and dash.” (p. 101-102)

Gladwell also discusses a study of how the frequent cleaning of graffiti from railway cars actually reduced the occurrences of vandalism. He explains it with the idea that crime is contagious. He proposes that ideas and behaviors and new products move through a population very much like a disease does.

There is an epidemic theory of crime that says crime is contagious–just as a fashion trend is contagious–that it can start with a broken window and spread to an entire community. Criminologists James Wilson and George Kelling argued that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes. (p. 141)

I found The Tipping Point a well-written, interesting and entertaining read.

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