Gladwell Power of Context Analysis
Common belief in todays society would most likely base an individuals behavior on factors such as genes, upbringing, personal convictions, a persons history, personality, etc. These factors seem like reasonable and logical conclusions, but which is most significant? Is there anything missing? Malcolm Gladwell, a writer for The New Yorker and author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, has a special desire to come up with an answer to this question. In the chapter “The Power of Context: Bernie Goetz and the Rise and Fall of New York City Crime” Gladwell examines this interesting question and comes up with an answer of his own. According to Gladwell the different conclusions listed above do play a role in determining how one behaves but are not the most significant factors. Gladwell believes that the immediate environment has the most significant influence on ones behavior, also referred to as his Power of Context theory. Although Gladwell understands that this theory might sound a bit crazy to most he stands by his belief by offering different means, both directly and indirectly, to help persuade his readers into accepting this “radical idea”.
Gladwell presents a number of different studies which help substantiate his claim. He begins the chapter by discussing the transformation of the New York City subway system that took place in the late 1980’s. In the years leading into the transformation conditions on the subway were extremely poor with crime rates at a all time high. The Broken Window Theory, based on the same premise as the Power of Context according to Gladwell, was put into effect resulting in a dramatic decrease in the crime rate. Another study, held at Stanford University, examined what causes prisons to be such a nasty place; “was it because prisons are full of nasty people, or was it because prisons are such nasty environments that they make the people nasty?” This study...
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