The Power of Context
Crime has always been a part of society since the beginning of civilization. There have been many studies and experiments done to try to understand the mind of criminals and figure out why they carry out the crimes that they do. Gladwell uses Big Concepts such as; Tipping Points, Broken Windows, Law of the Few, Power of Context and Sickness Factor to instill in the reader that he in fact is an expert of all things crime and that they should immediately agree to his opinion due to all of his supporting “evidence”.
The entire idea of the Tipping Point is that a certain trend, idea, or behavior spreads throughout a society. Gladwell is ultimately making the point that if crime decreases, the overall level of crime in New York City will decrease with it as well. His idea mainly states that environment is the only reason people act the way that they do. For instance, if a person is exposed to a violent environment, they will act violently in their actions and thoughts. Like any other animal, humans adapt to their surroundings. Gladwell is stating that we are constantly adapting to our environment, however, he had to use a big concept called the Tipping Point opposed to just calling it adaptation.
Gladwell makes use of the Broken Window Theory as the main lever in understanding the power of context. This means that basically any small act of crime is just a gateway, or a broken window, that disinviting more serious crimes to come in. This minuscule crime can be littering, vandalism, traffic, graffiti, public disorder or even vagrancy. This suggests that someone will pass by this “broken window” and it will be assumed that there is no one in charge therefore people can do whatever they want. This relates to the Tipping Point in the way that a behavior is spreading. These crimes are out in the open for all to see, so everyone will ultimately get the same idea and start living a crime filled life.
Despite Gladwell's idea that the spread of crime is the reason why society is crime filled, in the “Law of the Few”, he explains which groups are responsible for spreading such a contagion. The Connectors are the first group. These are the people that know everybody. They usually play a major role in society such as a politician, a doctor or a businessman. Because of their endless supply of social networks, these people are able to spread a message more rapidly to an audience. A maven is someone who is an expert in their field of knowledge. With their great knowledge, they feel the desire to share it. They are constantly looking to broaden their horizons and extend their knowledge in other areas as well. The power of knowledge gives mavens the power of being able to tip society over. It is them who are giving the connectors their ideas to spread. Without the mavens, the connectors would have absolutely nothing to talk about. Out of all the groups in “The Few”, salesmen are easily the most recognizable. Their specialty is the art of persuasion. Every public area has marketing and advertisements. The salesmen are responsible for that. Their main goal is to convince others that they “need” something. Along with being masters of persuasion, they have also mastered the “Stickiness Factor”.
As mentioned before, the Stickiness Factor is how well an idea or product “sticks” in the mind of the viewer. Things happen to individuals every day, and yet we take for granted how much of an impact they have on us. However, these acts must have a certain structure in order to have them be active in people's minds. If the message is not worth sharing, then it will not survive in people's minds. This is how salmon play a major role in this factor. They make the messages appealing. They tweak it and repeat it multiple times before it is embedded in the mind of the person listening. This results in them paying close attention to what is being told to them. Gladwell claims that the direct process of the Stickiness Factor is hard to pin point and the effectiveness of it depends solely on the context.
The main theme Gladwell makes in the passage is the Power of Context. The Power of Context is a human's behavior being easily influenced by their surrounding environments. Unlike Gladwell, studies show that our genetics account for half of how we act and what behaviors we have The other half could be the environment and the nature in which individuals live. It is not unreasonable to say that our surroundings can mold a person. The type of environment a parent creates for their child can be more beneficial than the discipline they receive. That does not necessarily mean that the physical environment has all the influence, but how others act in the environment. For instance, a home for a child growing up should be full of love and compassion to ultimately reflect the child. Parents have to be good influences as well. To a child, they are considered a role of a maven or connector because a child has very few resources of knowledge other than their parents or school.
All of these view points connect. Some are more important than others. The major ideas are the Power of Context, the Tipping Point and the Stickiness Factor. Although these are the major ideas, the smaller ones are a heavy influence on them. Without the Law of Few, the Stickiness Factor would not be in affect. There would be no people to spread the ideas or advertise in the public places. The advertisements draw back to the Power of Context. The Law of Few also heavily influences the Tipping Point. The Tipping Point is the direct spread of an idea and the few are the ones spreading all of these ideas past the tipping point. The Broken Windows theory directly relates to the Power of Context as well. Broken Windows are the environment, they are the crimes people see on a daily basis and do nothing about. Gladwell basically says that walking past a patch of graffiti on a wall can cause people to have a criminal mentality. When someone sees someone walking past a Broken Window and not being affected by it, that suggests to members of society that its okay to act that way thus reaching the Tipping Point.
Gladwell use of many big concepts and their relationships of them give the idea that he knows exactly what he is talking about. These concepts are produced by his own self and presented in a way which appears to be scientifically proven. Gladwell is acting both as a maven and a salesman in this situation due to his vast knowledge of this field and his power of trying to persuade the reader into thinking the exact same ideas that he thinks.
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