Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Tipping Point: The Power of Context

The Broken window theory expouses that the simple things in life do send a message.

Seemingly insignificant things like a broken window, sends a message that it's okay to do other minor crimes which in the end lead to bigger crimes.

Rudy Giuliani and William Bratton cleaned up New York bit by bit by cleaning up one line of the subway line of graffiti and then attacking petty crimes like fare-beaters who created a climate of crime. Seemingly a minor infraction, yet this small thing is pointed out by former Mayor Giuliani and Bratton is the key to cleaning up New York. (I wonder then that squeaky clean Singapore though criticised as being a "fine" city, may very well have hit the right formula before it was discovered, no spitting, no chewing gum, no littering... Perhaps Malaysia should reconsider the consequences of a tidak-apa attitude. An "it's nothing much" attitude may very well have much consequences.)

Gladwell argues here that perhaps our characters are more of a function of our environment than we thought.

Another example of the power of context is when two Princeton psychologists, Darley and Batson tested seminary students to see who would play the role of Good Samaritan. They were asked to prepare a talk and some specifically on the parable of the Good Samaritan. On the way to give the talk they would encounter a man coughing and groaning, slumped. Now, who would stop to help him?

It wasn't the people who had just read the parable of the Good Samaritan, it was rather those who were told that they had a few more minutes to spare versus those who were told they were late.

Finally, in the second part of the power of context, he shares the magic number of social connections in a group that humans can have: 150. Groups work better in that number. Any larger, and you would have to split them. Gore-tex manufacturer builds plants to accomodate 150 people. Any larger, and another plant must be built. The reason is because our brains have a limiited capacity to handle more social connections.

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