Thursday, August 15, 2019

Influence: Environmental, Contextual, and Perceptual Essay

One could wonder if personal behaviors can be attributed to the start and stop of epidemic outbreaks as that could potentially change what happens in the world. Our government and other influential individuals can slightly alter this factor – they influence our nation, the choices they make essentially affect the outcome of our nation. People are not the only ones who can influence behavior changes. In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, he notes in the Power of Context chapter that our immediate environment significantly influences people’s behaviors. Gladwell creatively offers several persuasive strategies, and similar, but different forms of evidence in attempt to advance his main idea with the hopes that the reader will side with him. The various forms of evidence Gladwell presents to his readers directly supports, and helps substantiate his claim that our immediate environment significantly influences people’s behavior. Gladwell offers significant evidence that the New York subway crime was at an ultimate high in the 1980’s, but drastically dropped. David Gunn and William Bratton believed crime was the result of disorder – they both put the Broken Windows theory into effect in order to see if crime epidemics could be reversed. The experiment focused on fixing the smaller issues to create the movement that laws will be enforced, people will be held accountable for their actions. By focusing on the smaller issues, an unambiguous message was sent to criminals – we are taking control of crime starting with petty offences. Eventually the message was received, the criminals changed their ways – if petty laws are being enforced, the major ones would be sure to follow the same suit. Gladwell presents a second piece of evidence; a prison study, which a group of social scientist performed at Stanford University. A mock prison was created and at random, normal psychological volunteers were assigned the role of a guard or prisoner. Within the first day, the behaviors of both the guards and prisoners changed, and each day that had passed, the behaviors significantly increased for the worse. The outcome of the study revealed that behavior changes are imminent based on the immediate environmental changes. Another piece of evidence Gladwell offers his readers came during a seminarian study. A group of seminarians met with two psychologists to test the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). This experiment was replicated around the Good Samaritan Bible story and included three variables to test the character traits of the seminarians based upon the situation and context. While walking next door, each seminarian encountered a man who was clearly in distress. The changes in the content of communication varied how the seminarians responded – they were more apt to help the man if they had extra time, whereas, if they were in a hurry he was ignored. The outcome of the study revealed that situational and context surroundings took precedence over fundamental character traits. While the evidence Gladwell presents helps create the foundation and substantiate his claim that our immediate environment significantly influences our behaviors, he also entails rhetorical strategies throughout the text. Rhetorical strategies can be considered a number of various persuasive writing techniques designed with the intention of changing the readers’ outlook. Without being able to recognize these strategies, the author will most likely succeed in his goal of persuasion. In order for a rhetorical strategy to be effective, an author focuses developing their strategies around their intended audience, and potential resistance in hopes the readers will be satisfied with the answers and side with him. Gladwell’s tries to build credibility towards how the Power of Context theory works by strategically mentioning experiments that were conducted by prestigious universities. He mentions that Stanford and Princeton University conducted two separate behavioral studies, and classifies the similarities the two studies have in relation to how our environmental context can affect the influence of our behavioral choices. Gladwell may have anticipated that the reader may be hesitant to accept his argument because if a radical idea cannot be proven to work, it is considered that it will not work at all. The Power of Context theory is classified as a radical idea because it has the potential to affect a large scale, and one could be skeptical of its effectivity due to the high potential for failure – no one wants to take a great risk with the increased potential for grave results. Failure to direct the readers to credible sources would result in lack of the proof they are seeking to back up Gladwell’s claims, and would ultimately question the integrity of the results from the experiments. In turn, the lack of trust could factor into a roblematic situation; readers would bypass his theory as an un-credible risk not worth considering. Gladwell attempts to remove this resistance by providing credible results in a convincing fashion that favors the similarities between the Power of Context and behavioral influence experiments that were conducted. Noting the studies were done at prestigious and credible colleges, a level of trust has been instilled between the reader and author, and in turn a bond has been created – the trust will continue to grow and ultimately less convincing will be required to reduce further resistance the reader may have. After Gladwell tries to build his credibility, he notes that his theory is legitimate by mentioning that it can be used to reduce crime. Crime was at an ultimate high in the 1980’s, but drastically dropped. Murders dropped, felonies dropped, and New York City was at the center of the crime decline and people did not know why. Gladwell presents that the Broken Windows theory reflected substantial improvements in New York. One could doubt that a city the size of New York City, known for corruption and crime could see drastic changes from relatively small environmental changes. It could be argued that the changes in generations and arrival of new immigrants flushed out the crime, but without further proof, doubt would set into the reader’s mind, and one would be curious as to what truly factored into the reversal of crimes. If the Broken Windows theory were not linked as the direct result of the crime reversal, the effectivity of his theory would be questioned, thus reducing the likeliness one would side with him. In order to advance his claim, Gladwell creates a direct link between the crime surges, the implication of the Broken Windows theory, and the decline in crime. In turn, one would be more apt to accept the powerful tool Gladwell has laid before us. If New York City, a city thought to be beyond help due to its size can drastically reduce their crime and clean up their city, the Broken Windows theory must have something spectacular to offer. Gladwell hopes that his readers are tired of seeing crime in their towns, ultimately creating a public push towards government officials to gradually implement the Broken Windows theory with the intentions it would do exactly as it has in New York City. After Gladwell tries to create the image that his studies were legitimate, he tries to show that applying his theory is convenient and easy by strategically relating the Broken Windows theory to real life situations. He mentions, focusing on the smaller issues within the subway seemed irrelevant at the time when the whole subway system was close to collapsing – it seemed as pointless as cleaning the decks on the Titanic while it sank. The Broken Windows theory is considered a radical idea, which is counterintuitive of how one would typically go about solving a global problem. Therefore, it is challenging for the reader to comprehend to Gladwell’s theory, thus making it likely the reader will mistakenly bypass his argument due to their confusion. If the confusion remains, readers are less likely to accept Gladwell’s idea because there will be a lack of confidence for something one does not understand. In efforts to remove the confusion the reader may have about how the Broken Windows theory works in relation to real life scenarios, Gladwell presents a convenient option so the reader is not forced to search for answers. By providing real world examples as to how the Broken Windows theory works, he performs the footwork for his readers in hopes the convenience he has offered them will clear up any confusion they may have about how his theory works. The image Gladwell strives to imply on his readers if the Broken Windows theory is easily applied, as it is understood, then one would be more apt towards applying it in real life situations. While the various forms of evidence and persuasive strategies were presented with the intentions of advancing Gladwell’s main idea, some noteworthy areas to mention follow. Gladwell’s Power of Context and the Broken Windows theory is essentially the same thing. Both ideas revolve around small changes in behavior and environment can signify a major impact. Secondly, not many people focus on fixing the small problems because it is perceived fixing the bigger problems first, result in major changes. Finally, behavioral changes have more variables. Based upon the situation, context, and environment is what factors into how one will respond and react. Gladwell’s attempt to convince his readers does not come by mistake. He intends for this to help readers open their eyes to new strategies and ideas he envisioned to creatively incorporate into his text. By doing so, a new dimension of listening and analyzing has been brought upon the reader. It is crucial at some point in our lives we all learn to decipher and understand the rhetoric of what an author is truly trying to tell us. The more we are able to read between the fine lines, the better we will be at assessing and listening to future texts.

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