The Tipping Point | Study Guide

Malcolm Gladwell

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The Tipping Point | Chapter 3 : The Stickiness Factor: Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, and the Educational Virus | Summary

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Key Takeaways

  • Gladwell examines children's television programming as an example of how creators tweak an idea to make it "stick" in audience members' minds.
  • Sesame Street cofounder Joan Gantz Cooney (whose middle name is correctly spelled Ganz, though it appears as Gantz in the book) wanted to spread literacy to preschool-age children in the late 1960s through television.
  • The challenge was to make the passive medium of television interactive and involved.
  • Small changes worked for other information campaigns in surprising ways. Director Lester Wunderman introduced a tiny reader participation element—a gold box treasure hunt— which "tipped" a record sales campaign. Researchers at Yale, similarly, made tetanus shot statistics "practical and personal" for students by giving them a map to the health center.
  • Seeking its own "tipping point," Sesame Street researchers realized children pay attention to information they understand. They still weren't sure, however, what helped children retain the educational lessons.
  • Blue's Clues, a simpler children's show created in the 1990s, lacked Sesame Street's cleverness but became much more popular and effective.
  • Researchers learned children need narrative and predictability. So Blue's Clues used repetition and presented a story for children to follow. Viewers also got to participate in solving a puzzle.
  • Gladwell observes the creators didn't alter content to find the "stickiness factor" but made small adjustments to their presentation.
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