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The Tipping Point + The Say, I Say First ¼ . By: Isabella Copello. S ubsections 1.

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s ubsections 1
Subsections 1
  • In the first chapter of the book Malcolm Gladwell explains the three rules of epidemics and how the apply to social situations. The rules are: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power context. Just like they apply to real epidemics, they also apply to the social epidemics described in the book.

Hush puppies is a shoe brand that was practically dead until 1994 where it met its tipping point. A few kids from the Soho village started wearing them and they came in back in style. The few people that wore them made others want to wear them as well. How those people made the shoe brand memorable with no specific strategy, just by wearing them. And how an unexpected factor (few guys wearing the shoes again) made many more people act in a different way.

subsection 2
Subsection 2
  • To emphasize on the law of the few, Gladwelltells he story of how Paul Revere managed to spread the word that the British were coming al through Boston. William Dawes had the same message but was not able to spread it like Revere did, that´s why he is not famous. Although they had the same message, Revere´s one got to more people because he has rare social gifts that not all people have.

Some of the people who posses these skills, in the book are referred to as connectors. If you think about your circle of friends, you realize how because of one friend you met another and so on. Those people who know a lot of people and like to bring people together are called connectors. They have a special ability to make friends and acquaintances. They manage to be part of many different social groups, while most people are busy choosing their friends the connectors like them all. Making them reachable in a few steps, because it´s likely that people you know, know them.


More than the amount of people they know, they are important because of the type of people they know.

subsection 3
Subsection 3
  • Having discussed the importance of connectors, Gladwelll introduces a new key character to social epidemics. They are called mavens. Unlike connectors mavens are important because they provide the message while the connectors spread it. as the prominent writers MalcomGladwell puts it “maven are the data bank, connectors are social glue” (70). He uses the example of Mark Alpert, and how he helped a friend to get good deals on his house and car when he first got to Texas. Instead of just telling his friend where to buy the car (as a connector would do), Alpert (being the maven that he is) knows that place and helps his friend get a good deal. Because, he does just know the place, he knows that people who work there.

. What is important about Mavens is not what they know but how the pass it along. If they were to recommend a restaurant or hotel, you would probably go because of the way they describe it. That is why the Zaggat guide is so powerful. It is created by Mavens, and MalcomGladwell agrees when he writes the “the reviews are the reports of volunteers-of diners who want to share their opinions with others” (68). Those diners are considered Mavens of the gastronomic industry.

subsection 4
Subsection 4
  • In this next part of the book, Gladwell introduces the final key character in spreading social epidemics. The salesman. They are in charge of persuading people when they are not convinced about the information they are given. He uses the example of Tom Gau a financial planner who has a lot of money but still works very long hours. He has a great personality and loves helping people. Gua himself writes “ I call my clients my family. I tell them I´ve got two families. I´ve got my wife and my kids and I´ve got you”. (71)like Gua, a good salesman feels confident about himself and make his clients the most important thing so they feel secure and in good hands.

Salesman have an ability to synchronize with people while their talking. Before convincing with words they mesmerize the client with their movement and speech. Gladwell agrees when he writes that they “can draw others into their own rhythms and dictate the terms of interaction” (83). Thanks those three types of people, connectors, mavens, and salesman social epidemics affect and get to they rest of us.

subsection 5
Subsection 5
  • Having introduced the three important people for spreading epidemics (connectors, mavens, and salesman), Gladwell talks about his new key term: “the stickiness factor”. This means that if the person who is trying to sell something be it an idea or product they have to discover an important aspect or detail (and it con be minimal) to make it stick.

Gladwell uses the example of the kids television show Sesame Street. Joan GrantzConney the producer, wanted to create a show that granted the opportunity to less privileged kids to learn some vocabulary. As Gladwell himself writes “her agent of infection was television and the “virus” she wanted to spread was literacy” (page 89).


The problem with this idea is that educational experts view television as “low involvement”. According to Gladwell, “television is like a strain of the common cold that can spread like lighting through a population, but only causes a few sniffles and is gone in a day” (page 90). I agree that learning through T.V is only effective in a small percentage of children, a point that needs emphasizing since so many people believe that T.V shows and movies are great learning resources for kids. That precisely, was one of the problems that Sesame Streets suffered. Since the show was meant to be for kids and adults, the children got distracted and confused in the scenes that had sarcasm or jokes that were impossible for youngsters to understand. Only a few children that have greater abilities than the majority of kids benefited form Sesame Street.

subsection 6
Subsection 6
  • The next part of the book talks about Todd Kessler a Nickelodeon producer who wanted to make a show even stickier than Sesame Street (since he knew the flaws it had and of course Sesame Street was from the 1960´s). The result: Blue´s Clues and in only months of the debut it had crashed Sesame Street on the ratings. The big difference between these two was the way it addressed the kids. Blue´s Clues was only half an hour and had only one human character Steve that interacted with Blue (the dog) a mailbox called mailbox and shovel and Pale called precisely that.

Blue´s Clues was more successful than Sesame Street because it managed to permanently grab kids attention by keeping it simple. While learning language, kids make assumptions between the words they learn and their meaning. At first they only associate apple with red and it takes time for them to understand that apple can also be green. This is called the principle of mutual exclusivity and I agree with it because my experience in watching shoes with my 3 and 4 year old cousins confirm it. They are concentrated in shows like Barney, Blue´s Clues and the Wiggles that were simple, and lost their attention and started to ask questions when I changed the channel to other Disney shows that were also targeted for small kids but were somehow more complex in their story line. So, although Sesame Street had the right intentions, it lacked the simplicity that Blue´s Clues achieved in order to become successful and useful to the majority of their targeted population.

subsection 7
Subsection 7
  • Through the story of Bernard Goetz, the man who shot four children in the subway, Malcolm Gladwell explains the last element that makes something stick. In this case, Goetz´s situation was the symbol of the crime era in New York. Criminal problems reached epidemic proportions. And although one may think that criminals don´t follow the rules of epidemic, this was not the case in New York. The city changed from being extremely dangerous to a place where people suddenly stopped committing crimes. Therefore in this example the tipping point occurred the other way around, crimes decreased.

The question is, how did that happen? The answer comes from the power of context. Gladwell himself writes “ epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the time and places in which they occur. “ (page 139) Hence, during the 1990´s the illegal trade in cocaine declined and those who might ne lured into crimes got jobs. The context of the situation influenced people´s behavior. But, these changes are gradual and what happened in New York was anything but gradual. There was something else that made the criminal era un New York tip. That something else is known as the Broken Windows Theory.



  • The theory´s point is that “if a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge” (page 141). Therefore, in a city things like graffiti and public disorder increase crime rates. I agree that the conditions and circumstances influence behavior because my experience confirms it. I recently read a study in a social psychology book that illustrates how our culture influences behavior. And it defines culture as being the ideas, feelings, environment and the interaction with those who surround us. Gladwell presents this point but does not go to the extent of explaining why. The power of context works because by nature we like to mimic (generally) what others people do. And inevitably our behavior is affected by our environment, because it is what we see and what we have to live with everyday.

To conclude his explanation, Gladwell shares how the NYPD decided to clean the subway carts in order to decrease crimes.

  • The results were positive. They confirm the broken window theory because something as small and insignificant as cleaning graffiti from the carts had the power to decrease crime rates in New York.
  • Cleaner carts portrayed a safer city. And people felt like they had to act safe as well.