The Tipping Point | Study Guide

Malcolm Gladwell

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Tipping Point Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Nov. 2017. Web. 21 Sep. 2020. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, November 15). The Tipping Point Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Tipping Point Study Guide." November 15, 2017. Accessed September 21, 2020.


Course Hero, "The Tipping Point Study Guide," November 15, 2017, accessed September 21, 2020,

The Tipping Point | Introduction | Summary


Key Takeaways

  • The Introduction lays out Gladwell's central thesis. Social epidemics are spurred by Tipping Points, or moments of sudden and unexpected change.
  • His first example is the American shoe brand Hush Puppies, which went from obscurity to trending popularity between 1994 and 1995 for seemingly mysterious reasons.
  • His second example, which he'll explore in greater detail in Chapter 4, is New York City's sudden drop in crime in the early 1990s. Murder rates fell by two-thirds within five years—again, without a clear cause.
  • Gladwell believes ideas and behaviors spread like viral disease epidemics. He calls these transformations "social epidemics."
  • These epidemics follow three rules. They're contagious, spreading from person to person; small causes lead to large effects; and the changes are nearly instant, not gradual.
  • The Tipping Point theory may challenge readers' perceptions of these three rules.
  • Contagion happens with behaviors and emotions, not just physical diseases.
  • Minor causes can have drastic results, challenging humans' ideas of cause and effect being related "in intensity and dimension." Instead epidemics follow the mathematical rule of "geometric progression" where a virus "doubles and doubles again" until the effect far exceeds the cause.
  • The Tipping Point itself is the moment where change occurs instantly, described as "the threshold, the boiling point."
  • Gladwell says the expression tipping point first "came into popular use" in the 1970s, when sociologists examined "white flight" to the suburbs as urban neighborhoods became racially integrated. When the neighborhood reached a certain racial balance in the population, "the community would 'tip.'" New technologies have a similar Tipping Point when they rise rapidly in popularity.
  • Gladwell's goal in the book is to learn why certain products, ideas, and behaviors take off while others remain stagnant. He hopes his analysis will help readers create "positive epidemics of our own."
Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Tipping Point? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!

Stuck? We have tutors online 24/7 who can help you get unstuck.
A+ icon
Ask Expert Tutors You can ask You can ask You can ask (will expire )
Answers in as fast as 15 minutes