Oh. My. God. I just read the most fascinating book I have probably ever laid eyes on, it totally changes the way you look at things. I wouldn't call it...inspiring, per se, but it's certainly...enlightening. It's called The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, it's been out for years and was a big deal at first.
It's about this economic (well, not really economic, it's also political, personal, everything) theory that everything, pretty much, can be seen as an epidemic which has a tipping point and certain consistent characteristics. Crime, disease, Birkenstocks, everything can be seen in terms of this. It's, like, revolutionary. And it reads incredibly quickly, Gladwell's very conversational, so it'll only take you like an hour to get through. He gives all these incredible tidbits and anecdotes, which kind of throw you off the point at first and you get distracted, but in the end are really fascinating.
He's got 3 big concepts: The Power of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context. That's how ideas spread. That's how they reach critical mass, or "the tipping point" and explode. An example: Paul Revere's ride. There were actually other riders who rode just as far as he did, but the reason we remember him is his huge social network in all areas of Massachusetts. He was, as Gladwell calls, "a connector". More about that in the book. His message was "sticky" or memorable (this section of the book explains how they made Blue's Clues and Sesame Street), because, well, obviously, he was announcing the arrival of a dreaded enemy and not a pewter cup sale, and plus it was at midnight, not 2 in the afternoon. Not the best example, but I swear, it's fascinating.
Did you know we can only have a genuinely social relationship with 150 people? It's the magic number. Former hunter-gatherer societies of which we have historical evidence on have the average number 148.4 people. Military units are traditionally made up of no more than 200 people. Hutterities, the religious group, have a policy of splitting as soon as they reach 150 members. Gore Associates, the company, tries to keep factories at 150 people. It's amazing.
Another one: FAE. Fundamental Attribution Error. We tend to think people act the way they do because that's who they are, but often it's because of the situation. In an experiment, two equally talented basketball teams shot hoops, one in a dark room and one in a well-lit one. Observors watched them both and decided the well-lit-room-team were better players, despite the fact it was obviously too dark to see in the other. In another, a Questioner has to test a Contestant on something the Questioner is an expert on. Despite the fact that, for example, an anthropologist testing you on anthropology is hugely unfair, all the "contestants" came away with the impression the Questioner was far more intelligent than them.
This is shown:
There's 4 cards labelled with the letters A and D and the numbers 3 and 6. The rule is that each card with a vowel on it has to have an even number. Which cards do you have to turn over to prove this rule to be true?
Answer: the A card and the 3 card. Difficult? (say yes.)
Four people are drinking in a bar. One is drinking Diet Coke. One is sixteen. One is drinking beer, and one is twenty-five. Given the rule that no one under 25 is allowed to drink beer, which ID's should we check? Obviously the 16 year old and the one drinking beer. This is the exact same problem as above, but easier, because brains are programmed to think in social terms, not situational.
Okay, wow, I'm chatty. Okay, this one's really, really interesting. A group of students is told they're helping a high-tech headphone research company. They are each given a headset and told that the company is trying to test how well the headsets work in motion, say, while your head is moving around or shaking. They all heard some music, and then listened to a decently written but not particularly persuasive editorial about why the university needed to raise tuition.
1/3 of the kids were told to shake their heads back and forth while listening, 1/3 were told to nod their heads vigorously up and down, and 1/3 kept them still. When finished, they were given some questions about the song quality and carefully slipped in was: "What should the university tuition be?"
Kids who didn't move their heads thought that the current tuition was fine. Kids who shook their heads either thought the current price was fine, or that it should be even lower. Kids who nodded their heads wanted the tuition to increase.
Okay, last blurb, my favorite. During the Reagan-Mondale election, some scientists videotaped Peter Jennings at ABC, Tom Brokaw at NBC, and Dan Rather at CBS while they were talking about Reagan and Mondale. They took out the sound and divided it into short segments.
These were shown to randomly chosen people who were asked to rate the facial expressions in terms of positive or negative of the newscasters. These people had no idea what was going on. dan Rather scored perfectly neutral expressions while talking about both, and Brokaw, though slightly happier, had similar scores for both candidates. Jennings, however, was much happier apparently while talking about Reagan than Mondale. ABC as a whole, however, was the harshest towards Reagan in the content of their reporting.
Votes who watched ABC voted for Reagan more than viewers of CBS or NBC.
Jennings called the scientist a jackass.