Mapping Meaning

I produced a summery of Malcom Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point’ using a technique I have been studying recently: mind mapping. The method is one I always thought I was extremely proficient at. This was until I read ‘The Mindmap Book’ by Tony and Barry Buzan and discovered that in actual fact I was just very good at spider diagrams…

The book teaches the importance of ordering techniques as well as spending time making your map memorable. This is best done by using colour, illustrations and including even your most absurd thoughts. (All of the above were missing from my clustered, boring spider diagrams)

The Tipping Point

To sum it up ‘The Tipping Point’ is a book, packed with an awful lot of examples of how small details can make a big influence on epidemics. These small details are what, he argues, trigger ‘the tipping point’ of the epidemic in question. The outbreaks in question however are not diseases but idea’s, product’s, messages and even social behavior. It analyses how ‘trends’ start but more importantly how and why they spread. I found the entire book really quite fascinating and very relevant to the world we live in today. It made me want to start my own epidemic!

The different concepts of Gladwell’s exploration into these ‘small details’ are split up into each chapter. I decided to use this separation style to create the ordering techniques for my mind map. (Ordering techniques are basically the branches of the mind-map, which create sub-headings that in turn have branches coming from them)

You can see that I also separated these chapter’s with colour as well. I thought that, if I associated each chapter with a colour, it would help my brain to remember what that branch looked like. I started to get a little bit too fussy with this so allowed myself to use other colours for certain bits!

For example, chapter three is pink but one of the branches is a television show called blue’s clue’s. I used a thick blue pen for this and wrote blue eight times. I now remember that a blue blob of colour comes out of the bottom of the three. I also remember that it say’s blue a lot because they played the same show every day for a week. This repetition helped the children remember and even second guess the lesson’s in the show.

I connected some of the chapters as well whenever I felt a strong connection. For example, I connected the questionable illustration of my Hush Puppy dog with the innovators branch in chapter six. This is because I felt that the skater kids in chapter six were comparable to the Soho kid’s in chapter one. This is something I did not do too much however because I did not want to over-load my mind-map. Gladwell constantly refers back to different case studies when looking at other ideas. This compounds the notion that often it takes a few little thing’s to create ‘The Tipping Point’ – not just one.

Going into Detail: Chapter Five -The Power of Context (part two)

I created an individual mind-map for this chapter because I was interested in Gladwell’s research into social groups. It sparked this new curiousness in me as to how people affect each other and the thing’s they are involved with. The mind-map below is, I think, my fourth attempt…

I had intended to include all the references/sources Gladwell used for each case study. My head really did not like me doing this however because they interfered too much with my ordering!! I decided to do two mind-maps instead – one mapped out the topics/studies of the chapter- the other mapped the names of the people Gladwell used to back up the topics/studies.

I used colour to create a link between the two mind-maps. For example I can look at the pink books branches in my first mind-map and remember the intricacies of the ‘Ya Ya Sisterhood’ book. I then look at the pink branch on my second map to see the people he spoke/refers to and the sources that he used.

I think that I probably included too many references but I felt that the staff he spoke to at Gore were just as important (in a different way of course) as the psychologists and their research. Whilst it is not possible to reference the staff , because their opinion will not be published in a journal, I wanted to include them. I often find that talking to people who are actually involved, first hand, in what you are studying can give you insights you just would not get from a book.


I found chapter five to be quite different from the previous chapter so I question the link between them; they both have the same title: ‘The power of context’. Perhaps it should be titled ‘The power of groups’ or something that suggests a definitive number of people. Context refers to situation. Falling into the hands of a reading group could be deemed as a situation I suppose. Gladwells research however, focuses on the fundamentals of these groups and less on the difference between groups and single persons.

The context of a group would perhaps deal with types of groups, e.g. friends, colleagues. It  would look at why groups form – the situations they form under. For example the Green Party might never had formed had the government not proposed to build the hydropower dam that would destroy Lake Pedder. What if the residents of the national park had been paid off? What if none of them cared/knew much about the effect on the environment?

These questions brings up a belief which draws many groups together – morals. Do all groups form like this: because a bunch of people have similar beliefs? What about Fraternities though they allow people to have different beliefs. They will have a common goal however, e.g to be educated – in the case of a University. What about groups that don’t have the same beliefs or the same goals? This question reminds me of my old house, as a child I remember playing with a few kids from ‘the Beazer houses’. These houses were simply a new estate which, had been built on the opposite side of the road. Everyone in my group of friends were considered equal. The only difference was that we had to cross a road to collect the ‘Beazer friends’ when we wanted to play together. (I am wondering now whether they had a name for us) Something as simple as a road divided us, something as simple as the style of their houses connected them.

If I choose to conclude that a group need’s only something in common, be it a belief, a goal or a location then how can I use this in my work? I could start to look more in-depth at my target audience – whether they are one big group or lots of smaller clans. What kind of views/things do they have in common as well as, perhaps more importantly, what views/things do they not share. I could also start to pay more attention to context – where abouts is my poster going to be seen? When people pick up my brochure are they likely to have a bag with them to put it in? One last note, who are they with? If you’re likely to see my brochure when your with a group of people would you pick it up or is it too personal?

So… Mind Maps. Context. Groups.

Bibliography of References and Sources

All of the case studies and researchers that Gladwell refers to in chapter five can be sourced. I produced a bibliography (in the Harvard style) which reinforces these. I also included my brief notes on each source about the point it makes and how it’s evidence concurs with the other sources.

Buys, C.J. and Larsen, K.L. 1979. Human Sympathy Groups, Psychological Reports. vol. 45, pp. 547-553.

Introduce the theme of time into the group size debate by stating that we have small circles of close friends due to the amount of time close, meaningful relationships require. This report is particularly important because it provides a solid explanation for the group size argument.

Dunbar, R.I.M. 1992. Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates, Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 20, pp. 469-493.

Developed an equation that works out the maximum group size of an animal; the result of which, for Homo sapiens is: 147.9. This result is then reinforced by two examples which adhere to this principle but were both unaware of this theory. The first example is The Hutterites, a religious group who split up when their communities exceed one hundred and fifty. This in turn strengthens Gladwells principle argument: that small minor changes, such as a few extra people, can have a significant effect.

Dunbar, R.I.M. 1996. Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Miller, G.A. 1956. The Magical Number Seven, Psychological Review, vol. 63, no. 2

Records an instance of the theory – telephone numbers – that will be recognized by most people. The idea of our minds having limitations as to the amount of information we can process. This is used to support the research by S.L. Washburn that man used to live in small groups before the growth of agriculture.

Mullen, B. and Goethals, G. 1987. Daniel Wegner, Transactive Memory: A Contemporary Analysis of the Group Mind. In: Theories of Group Behavior. New York: Springer-Verlang. pp. 200-201

Washburn, S.L. and Moore, R. 1973. Ape Into Man. Boston: Little Brown.

Including the discovery that apes with a larger neocortex tended to live in larger groups helped to ratify the perhaps questionable equation put forward by Robin Dunbar.

Wegner, D. 1991. Transactive Memory in Close Relationships, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 61, no. 6, pp. 923-929.

The memory test he devised produced evidence which supports the system Gore Associates have. People that know each other, particularly those in close relationships form a memory bond he refers to as a ‘transactive memory system’. This bond is the product of a close-knit family type relationship where people know each other. Jim Buckley  (Gore) states that this principle applies when working in small numbers. (pp. 190)

Wells, R. Reverand, D (eds).1996. Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood. United States of America: HarperCollins.

Confirms earlier themes of the book, according to Gladwell (2000) ‘Wells is a classic Salesman’. (p. 171). The rocketing sales of the book are used to illustrate the power groups have in social epidemics. The practice of Wells touring the country with the book mirrored the example Gladwell gave on the formation of religious groups (p. 172)


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