The Tipping Point | Study Guide

Malcolm Gladwell

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The Tipping Point | Key Figures

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Key Figure Description
Roger Horchow Roger Horchow is a Dallas businessperson, founder of a merchandise company, and producer of many Broadway musicals. His friendly nature and broad group of acquaintances make him a prime example of a Connector. Read More
Lois Weisberg At the time The Tipping Point was written, Lois Weisberg was Chicago's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, a position she held from 1989 until 2011. Gladwell sees her as a prime Connector because of her energy and ability to unite diverse social groups. Read More
Mark Alpert Mark Alpert is an instructor at the University of Texas School of Business Administration. To Gladwell, Alpert exemplifies Mavens because he loves to share useful economic knowledge. Read More
Tom Gau Tom Gau is a financial planner in California. His "mesmerizing" and exuberant personality make him Gladwell's best example of a Salesman. Read More
Bernhard "Bernie" Goetz Bernhard "Bernie" Goetz, the "Subway Vigilante," shot four black youths on a New York City subway in 1984. Gladwell uses Goetz's court case to explain the Power of Context. Read More
Paul Revere Paul Revere, a Boston silversmith, made the famous midnight ride alerting American colonists to a British attack in 1775, beginning the Revolutionary War. Gladwell argues Revere succeeded in spreading his message because of his social standing in the community. Read More
Gordon Allport Gordon Allport was an American psychologist who focused on personality. He coauthored (with Leo Postman) the book The Psychology of Rumor, which outlines how a rumor transforms as it spreads, becoming more appealing to a larger audience.
Daniel Batson Daniel Batson, who is a professor at the University of Kansas, co-conducted (with John Darley) an influential study of seminary students while at Princeton University in the 1970s. The study indicated students' altruism was motivated more by context than by personal convictions.
William Bratton William Bratton is a law enforcement officer and businessperson who was hired by the New York City Transit Authority to head the transit police during the city's 1990s crime epidemic. Bratton cracked down on "fare-beating," leading to a reduction in violent crime.
Joan Gantz Cooney Joan Gantz Cooney (whose middle name is correctly spelled Ganz, though it appears as Gantz in the book) is a television producer and a founder of Sesame Workshop, which created the popular children's television show Sesame Street. Her research contributed to the show's "stickiness," or memorability.
John Darley John Darley is a psychology professor at Princeton University who co-conducted (with Daniel Batson) an influential study of Princeton seminary students in the 1970s. The study indicated students' altruism was motivated more by context than by personal convictions.
William Dawes In 1775 William Dawes spread the same message Paul Revere was sharing: the British were about to attack America. Gladwell believes Dawes's message wasn't memorable because he lacked Revere's social influence.
Robin Dunbar Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist who studies groups of mammals. He developed Dunbar's Number, an equation to determine "the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuine social relationship." For humans that number is 150.
Kitty Genovese Kitty Genovese was a young woman murdered on a public street in 1964; many people witnessed the killing and did nothing to prevent it. The event demonstrated a central tenet of group psychology: people often take less personal responsibility when they're in a group.
DeeDee Gordon DeeDee Gordon is a marketing expert and "cool" hunter who identifies cutting-edge trends. At the time The Tipping Point was written, she worked for Lambesis, a branding agency responsible for the highly successful Airwalk ad campaign. Gordon's study of fashion trends and trendsetters helped lead the campaign to success.
David Gunn David Gunn is a transportation system administrator who was president of the New York City Transit Authority from 1991 to 1994. His decision to clean up the subway cars' graffiti helped improve the subway system's environment and reduce crime.
Hugh Hartshorne Hugh Hartshorne was a psychologist who, along with M.A. May, conducted experiments measuring schoolchildren's honesty in the 1920s. The researchers concluded honest behavior depends more on the environment than the individual.
Peter Jennings At the time The Tipping Point was written, Peter Jennings was a newscaster for the network ABC. Gladwell describes an experiment during the 1984 presidential campaign in which researchers monitored Jennings's facial expressions. They found he appeared much more positive when he mentioned a particular candidate. This apparent bias may have influenced watchers to vote for Reagan.
Howard Levanthal Howard Levanthal (whose last name is correctly spelled Leventhal, though it appears as Levanthal in the book) is a social psychologist who conducted "fear experiments" with students at Yale University. He realized students would follow advice to get a tetanus shot if the advice was practical and relevant.
M.A. May M.A. May was a psychologist who, along with Hugh Hartshorne, conducted experiments measuring schoolchildren's honesty in the 1920s. The researchers concluded honest behavior depends more on the environment than the individual.
John Potterat John Potterat is an epidemiologist who attributed Baltimore's syphilis epidemic to the relocation of drug users who spread the disease.
Georgia Sadler At the time The Tipping Point was written, Georgia Sadler (whose full name is Georgia Robins Sadler) worked as a nurse and spread breast cancer and diabetes awareness information to San Diego's black community by changing the messengers, the context, and the format of her message. Since then she has become a clinical professor of surgery at the University of California, San Diego.
Rebecca Wells Rebecca Wells is a novelist whose Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood became a best-selling phenomenon. Gladwell attributes the book's "epidemic" status to the strong relationships among book-group members who enjoyed the novel.
Alice Wilder Alice Wilder is an educational advisor who spent 10 years as a producer and director of research for the TV show Blue's Clues. She and her staff discovered how to reorder the show's clues and keep them suspenseful for young viewers.
Lester Wunderman Lester Wunderman is an advertising executive who increased sales for Columbia records by adding a "gold box" treasure hunt.
John Zenilman John Zenilman (whose full name is Dr. Jonathan Zenilman, though it appears as John Zenilman in the book) is an expert on sexually transmitted diseases who attributed Baltimore's syphilis epidemic to the increased strength of the disease.
Philip Zimbardo Philip Zimbardo is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. In 1971 he conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which he simulated a prison environment with volunteers acting as prisoners and guards and found that situations can have a powerful influence on behavior.
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