It might have been 34 degrees the previous evening, and now it was 31 degrees. Almost nothing had changed, in other words, yet—and this was the amazing thing—everything had changed. Rain had become something entirely different. Snow! We are all, at heart, gradualists, our expectations set by the steady passage of time. But the world of the Tipping Point is a place where the unexpected becomes expected, where radical change is more than possibility. It is—contrary to all our expectations—a certainty.
There is more than one way to tip an epidemic, in other words. Epidemics are a function of the people who transmit infectious agents, the infectious agent itself, and the environment in which the infectious agent is operating.
When Winston filter-tip cigarettes were introduced in the spring of 1954, for example, the company came up with the slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." At the time, the ungrammatical and somehow provocative use of "like" instead of "as" created a minor sensation. It was the kind of phrase that people talked about, like the famous Wendy's tag line from 1984 "Where's the beef?"
In the case of Kitty Genovese, then … the lesson is not that no one called despite the fact that thirty-eight people heard her scream. It's that no one called because thirty-eight people heard her scream. Ironically, had she been attacked on a lonely street with just one witness, she might have lived.
Six degrees of separation doesn't mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.
But William Dawes? Fischer finds it inconceivable that Dawes could have ridden all seventeen miles to Lexington and not spoken to anyone along the way. But he clearly had none of the social gifts of Revere, because there is almost no record of anyone who remembers him that night.
The subtle pro-Reagan bias in Jennings's face seems to have influenced the voting behavior of ABC viewers. As you can imagine, ABC News disputes this study vigorously.
The ABC viewers who voted for Reagan would never, in a thousand years, tell you that they voted that way because Peter Jennings smiled every time he mentioned the President.
In 1978, with Gold Box television support, every magazine on the schedule made a profit, an unprecedented turnaround.
What's interesting about this story is that by every normal expectation McCann should have won the test. The gold box idea sounds like a really cheesy idea.
What we now think of as the essence of Sesame Street—the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults—grew out of a desperate desire to be sticky.
The pace is deliberate. The script is punctuated with excruciatingly long pauses. There is none of the humor or wordplay or cleverness that characterizes Sesame Street.
We all want to believe that the key to making an impact on someone lies with the inherent quality of the ideas we present. But in none of these cases did anyone substantially alter the content of what they were saying. Instead, they tipped the message by tinkering, on the margin, with the presentation of their ideas, by putting the Muppet behind the H-U-G, by mixing Big Bird with the adult.
This is an epidemic theory of crime. It says that crime is contagious - just as a fashion trend is contagious - that it can start with a broken window and spread to an entire community.
Giuliani and Bratton—far from being conservatives, as they are commonly identified—actually represent on the question of crime the most extreme liberal position imaginable, a position so extreme that it is almost impossible to accept. How can it be that what was going on in Bernie Goetz's head doesn't matter? And if it is really true that it doesn't matter, why is that fact so hard to believe?
If I asked you to describe the personality of your best friends, you could do so easily, and you wouldn't say things like "My friend Howard is incredibly generous, but only when I ask him for things, not when his family asks him for things," or "My friend Alice is wonderfully honest when it comes to her personal life, but at work she can be very slippery." You would say, instead, that your friend Howard is generous and your friend Alice is honest.
This does not mean that our inner psychological states and personal histories are not important in explaining our behavior. An enormous percentage of those who engage in violent acts, for example, have some kind of psychiatric disorder or come from deeply disturbed backgrounds. But there is a world of difference between being inclined toward violence and actually committing a violent act. A crime is a relatively rare and aberrant event. For a crime to be committed, something extra, something additional, has to happen to tip a troubled person toward violence.
The Rule of 150 says that congregants of a rapidly expanding church, or the members of a social club, or anyone in a group activity banking on the epidemic spread of shared ideals needs to be particularly cognizant of the perils of bigness. Crossing the 150 line is a small change that can make a big difference.
What Gore has created, in short, is an organized mechanism that makes it far easier for new ideas and information moving around the organization to tip - to go from one person or one part of the group to the entire group all at once. That's the advantage of adhering to the Rule of 150. You can exploit the bonds of memory and peer pressure.
At Lambesis, Gordon developed a network of young, savvy correspondents in New York and Los Angeles and Chicago and Dallas and Seattle and around the world in places like Tokyo and London. These were the kind of people who would have been wearing Hush Puppies in the East Village in the early 1990s. They all fit a particular personality type: they were Innovators.
Between 1955 and 1965, there wasn't a single case of suicide on the entire island. In May 1966, an eighteen-year-old boy hanged himself in his jail cell after being arrested for stealing a bicycle, but his case seemed to have little impact. Then, in November of 1966, came the death of R., the charismatic scion of one of the island's wealthiest families. R. had been seeing two women and had fathered a one-month-old child with each of them. Unable to make up his mind between them, he hanged himself in romantic despair.
The children of smokers are more than twice as likely to smoke as the children of nonsmokers. That's a well-known fact. But … that does not mean that parents who smoke around their children set an example that their kids follow. It simply means that smokers' children have inherited genes from their parents that predispose them toward nicotine addiction.
It's not about mimicking adult behavior, which is why teenage smoking is rising at a time when adult smoking is falling. Teenage smoking is about being a teenager, about sharing in the emotional experience and expressive language and rituals of adolescence, which are as impenetrable and irrational to outsiders as the rituals of adolescent suicide in Micronesia.
What these figures tell us is that experimentation and actual hard-core use are two entirely separate things—that for a drug to be contagious does not automatically mean that it is also sticky. In fact, the sheer number of people who appear to have tried cocaine at least once should tell us that the urge among teens to try something dangerous is pretty nearly universal. This is what teens do. This is how they learn about the world, and most of the time—in 99.1 percent of the cases with cocaine—that experimentation doesn't result in anything bad happening. We have to stop fighting this kind of experimentation.
A critic looking at these tightly focused, targeted interventions might dismiss them as Band-Aid solutions. But that phrase should not be considered a term of disparagement. The Band-Aid is an inexpensive, convenient, and remarkably versatile solution to an astonishing array of problems. In their history Band-Aids have probably allowed millions of people to keep working or playing tennis or cooking or walking when they would otherwise have had to stop. The Band-Aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with the minimum amount of effort and time and cost.
Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped.