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I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point right now.  It’s really a great book.  I think it’s even better than Blink, his other book which is also a number 1 international bestseller.

While Blink convinces us that “decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately,” The Tipping Point talks about how ideas, products, messages, and behaviors spread like viruses.  According to Gladwell, the Tipping Point is “the moment of critical mass,  the threshold, the boiling point.”  It’s the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”  It explains three rules of epidemics and talks about how sometimes big changes follow from small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly.

The book is only 259 pages long, but it’s packed with many interesting facts that blew me away!  Here are some of them:

1.  Suppose you are given a large piece of paper, and you’re asked to fold it once over, and then take the folded paper and fold it over again, and then again, and again, until you have refolded the original paper 50 times.  Do you know how tall the final stack would be?  Well, according to the book, the height of the stack would approximate the distance to the sun!  That’s the law of geometric progression working for you!

2.  We normally think that emotion goes inside-out, that is, our emotions are a reflection of our inner state.  But research shows the opposite could be true, too – emotions can go outside-in.  There are people who are very good in expressing emotions and feelings and they are far more emotionally contagious than others.  Psychologists call them senders, and aside from having special personalities, they are also physiologically different.  For example, the location of their facial muscles are different from those who are “less emotionally contagious.”  Just like in the spreading of a disease, there are carriers and there are people who are particularly susceptible to being affected with the carrier’s emotions.  (So this explains why some people can actually help cure a bad mood!)

3.  When Sesame Street was originally conceived, the Muppets were only filmed with other Muppets, and the street scenes were always filmed with real persons (adults and children).  But when researchers tested the show in the summer of 1969, they found out that children would give their full attention to the TV screens whenever the Muppets would appear but they would lose interest when the scenes would involve adults and children only.  Going against the advice of developmental psychologists not to mix reality and fantasy, they decided to put the Muppets together with the adults and kids on the street scenes – and that’s when Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and Mr. Snuffleupagus were born!

4.  Gladwell says that the success of Sesame Street can be attributed to the fact that the producers learned how to make television sticky.  Considering that the show has survived for the last 40 years, no children’s show could be stickier.  Right?  Wrong!  Research has found out that there is a children’s television show that’s even stickier than Sesame Street and that is Blues Clues!  If you want to find out why, go buy the book and read it!

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