19 मार्च 2013

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference

By Malcolm Gladwell

If you want to read a bit about how word-of-mouth trends get started and grow, you'll like The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.
Gladwell says that things spread in popularity due to three factors.
Gladwell says that not all people are equally important in launching a new tread. Rather, there are a few key people called 'connectors' who tend to be very social and outgoing. These connectors have diverse social networks and a significant ability to spread information, trends, and products. Trends and epidemics spread when they are adopted by connectors.
Mavens are another type of people involved in spreading a trend. Mavens are people who like helping people and who take a particular interest in evaluating the quality of products or ideas. Because they are so well-informed about things, mavens are often the first to promote quality products. Mavens might also be the early adopters of trends. Often, Gladwell writes, some maven or connector must modify something to make it more acceptable to the larger population.
With connectors and mavens in place, the next ingredient for a trend to take off is for the message to be memorable or 'sticky.' Some messages don't stick in the minds of those who hear them while other messages do.
The best way to create a 'sticky' message is to test the message. Gladwell discusses children's TV--Sesame Street and a show called Blue's Clues, which were designed from the start to be 'sticky.'
For example, educators tested two skits designed to help children read. Both involved having children read (or see read) the word 'hug.' Each letter was uncovered and the sound it represented made.
Oscar the Grouch wasn't too effective in teaching kids the word. As Oscar read the word, Oscar was waving his hands around and making all sorts of fuss that distracted the children from the task at hand. They weren't concentrating on the word, they were concentrating on Oscar.
Another skit where a more subdued puppet slowly uncovered each letter as he read it proved to be much more effective.
How did Sesame Street producers know whether kids were paying attention to the word? Eye movement photography. The producers strapped little kids into chairs and photographed what part of the television screen they were watching. Gladwell tells us that they were watching Oscar, not the letters. But, with the subdued puppet, the children focused upon the letters.
Gladwell explains that we can only focus upon one thing at a time: "the receptors that process what we see--are clustered in a small region in the very middle of the retina called the fovea."
Gladwell says that eye movement photography is quite important in advertising. He writes: "If you can track where someone's fovea is moving and what they are fixating on... you can tell with extraordinary precision what they are actually looking at and what kind of information they are actually receiving. The people who make television commercials, not surprisingly, are obsessed with eye tracking. If you make a beer commercial with a beautiful model, it would be really important to know whether the average twenty-two-year old male in your target audience fixates only on the model or eventually moves to your can of beer."
So, in case you're wondering why Britney Spears is holding her Pepsi can in some particular location in her Super Bowl ad, now you know! It's based upon the location of the fovea! (How do they direct this stuff? "Hey Britney, move the can a bit lower. It's not quite aligned properly with the fovea." SLAP! Britney slaps the director.)
Do we really want people tracking the movement of our foveas? Remember, this was happening thirty years ago for the nefarious purpose of teaching kids to read. What about today?
We learn some other disturbing things. For example, Cookie Monster was a pitch man for Frito-Lay. If you can't trust the Cookie Monster, who can you trust?
This is what I found deeply disturbing about the attempt to try to create trends and 'social' epidemics. In particular, Gladwell discusses the failure of anti-smoking campaigns targeted to teenagers. Having adults tell teenagers not to smoke in TV commercials didn't work. Go figure!
But, by studying the nature of the mavens and connectors who unintentionally tend to encourage teenagers to smoke, Gladwell suggests that we can aim to prevent smoking from a more powerful position. I don’t really like this social engineering. Whose business is it, anyway? Why should taxpayers' money be spent to promote social policies that a small group decides is correct for us? I find this too politically correct and too meddlesome of individual freedoms.
And, this isn't the first time social engineers felt they knew what was better for the population and adopted such methods of trying to influence social behavior. For example, similar techniques were used in 1933 by the Nazis (read, for example, the academic book, Backing Hitler: Consent And Coercion In Nazi Germany by Robert Gellately).
Gladwell's third factor is context. Gladwell argues that the specific context of a situation will have a powerful impact upon whether or not a trend will spread.
It seems Gladwell draws heavily upon the work of Robert Cialdini and his book, "Influence." Many of the same studies are quoted. If you like this book, you'll like that book also.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make A Big Difference. But, I'm hesitant to recommend buying the book! How do we know what other little trend-setting tricks Gladwell knows or can bring to bear upon us? The Tipping Point is a bestseller. I say, "Just Say No To Social Engineering!" Get your book from the library. Then, order either Fight Club with Brad Pitt or else Josey And The Pussycats with Rachael Leigh Cook. We're on to the sneaky trend setters!

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The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking is a test of creativity.

Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking

The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking is a test of creativity.

I have came across a novel test of creativity  devised by great psycologist Trrance which i want to share with my friends.


Building on J.P. Guilford's work and created by Ellis Paul Torrance, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a test of creativity, originally involved simple tests of divergent thinking and other problem-solving skills, which were scored on four scales:
  • Fluency. The total number of interpretable, meaningful, and relevant ideas generated in response to the stimulus.
  • Flexibility. The number of different categories of relevant responses.
  • Originality. The statistical rarity of the responses.
  • Elaboration. The amount of detail in the responses.
The third edition of the TTCT in 1984 eliminated the Flexibility scale from the figural test, but added Resistance to Premature Closure (based on Gestalt Psychology) and Abstractness of Titles as two new criterion-referenced scores on the figural. Torrance called the new scoring procedure Streamlined Scoring. With the five norm-referenced measures that he now had (fluency, originality, abstractness of titles, elaboration and resistance to premature closure), he added 13 criterion-referenced measures which include: emotional expressiveness, story-telling articulateness, movement or actions, expressiveness of titles, syntheses of incomplete figures, synthesis of lines, of circles, unusual visualization, extending or breaking boundaries, humor, richness of imagery, colourfulness of imagery, and fantasy.
According to Arasteh and Arasteh (1976) the most systematic assessment of creativity in elementary school children has been conducted by Torrance and his associates (1960a,1960b, 1960c, 1961,1962,1962a,1963a 1964), who have developed and administered the Minnesota Tests of Creative Thinking (MTCT), which was later renamed as the TTCT, to several thousands of school children. Although they have used many of Guilfords concepts in their test construction, the Minnesota group, in contrast to Guilford, has devised tasks which can be scored for several factors, involving both verbal and non-verbal aspects and relying on senses other than vision. These tests represent a fairly sharp departure from the factor type tests developed by Guilford and his associates (Guilford, Merrifield and Cox, 1961; Merrifield, Guilford and Gershan,1963), and they also differ from the battery developed by Wallach and Kogan (1965), which contains measures representing creative tendencies that are similar in nature (Torrance, 1968).
To date, several longitudinal studies have been conducted to follow up the elementary school-aged students who were first administered the Torrance Tests in 1958 in Minnesota. There was a 22-year follow-up, a 40-year follow-up, and a 50 year follow-up 
Torrance (1962) grouped the different subtests of the Minnesota Tests of Creative Thinking (MTCT) into three categories.
  1. Verbal tasks using verbal stimuli
  2. Verbal tasks using non-verbal stimuli
  3. Non-verbal task


A brief description of the tasks used by Torrance is given below:

Unusual Uses

The unusual uses tasks using verbal stimuli are direct modifications of Guilford’s Brick uses test. After preliminary tryouts, Torrance (1962) decided to substitute tin cans and books for bricks. It was believed the children would be able to handle tin cans and books more easily since both are more available to children than bricks.
Impossibilities task
It was used originally by Guilford and his associates (1951) as a measure of fluency involving complex restrictions and large potential. In a course in personality development and mental hygiene, Torrance has experimented with a number of modifications of the basic task, making the restrictions more specific. In this task the subjects are asked to list as many impossibilities as they can.
Consequences task
The consequences task was also used originally by Guilford and his associates (1951). Torrance has made several modifications in adapting it. He chose three improbable situations and the children were required to list out their consequences.
Just suppose task
It is an adaptation of the consequences type of test designed to elicit a higher degree of spontaneity and to be more effective with children. As in the consequence task, the subject is confronted with an improbable situation and asked to predict the possible outcomes from the introduction of a new or unknown variable.
Situations task
The situation task was modeled after Guilford’s (1951) test designed to assess the ability to see what needs to be done. Subjects were given three common problems and asked to think of as many solutions to these problems as they can. For example, if all schools were abolished, what would you do to try to become educated?
Common problems task
This task is an adoption of Guilford’s (1951) Test designed to assess the ability to see defects, needs and deficiencies and found to be one of the test of the factors termed sensitivity to problems. Subjects are instructed that they will be given common situations and that they will be asked to think of as many problems as they can that may arise in connection with these situations. For example, doing homework while going to school in the morning.
Improvement task
This test was adopted from Guilford’s (1952) apparatus test which was designed to assess ability to see defects and all aspects of sensitivity to problems. In this task the subjects are given a list of common objects and are asked to suggest as many ways as they can to improve each object. They are asked not to bother about whether or not it is possible to implement the change thought of.
Mother- Hubbard problem
This task was conceived as an adoption of the situations task for oral administration in the primary grades and also useful for older groups. This test has stimulated a number of ideas concerning factors which inhibit the development of ideas.
Imaginative stories task
In this task the child is told to write the most interesting and exciting story he can think of. Topics are suggested (e.g., the dog that did not bark); or the child may use his own ideas.
Cow jumping problems
The Cow jumping problem is a companion task for the Mother- Hubbard problem and has been administered to the same groups under the same conditions and scored according to the similar procedures. The task is to think of all possible things which might have happened when the cow jumped over the moon.

Verbal tasks using nonverbal stimuli

Ask and guess task
The ask and guess task requires the individual first to ask questions about a picture – questions which cannot be answered by just looking at the picture. Next he is asked to make guesses or formulate hypotheses about the possible causes of the event depicted, and then their consequences both immediate and remote.
Product improvement task
In this task common toys are used and children are asked to think of as many improvements as they can which would make the toy ‘more fun to play with’. Subjects are then asked to think of unusual uses of these toys other than 'something to play with’.
Unusual uses task
In this task, along with the product improvement task another task (unusual uses) is used. The child is asked to think of the cleverest, most interesting and most unusual uses of the given toy, other than as a plaything. These uses could be for the toy as it is, or for the toy as changed.

Non-verbal tasks

Incomplete figures task
It is an adaptation of the ‘Drawing completion test’ developed by Kate Franck and used by Barron (1958). On an ordinary white paper an area of fifty four square inches is divided into six squares each containing a different stimulus figure. The subjects are asked to sketch some novel objects or design by adding as many lines as they can to the six figures.
Picture construction task or shapes task
In this task the children are given shape of a triangle or a jelly bean and a sheet of white paper. The children are asked to think of a picture in which the given shape is an integral part. They should paste it wherever they want on the white sheet and add lines with pencil to make any novel picture. They have to think of a name for the picture and write it at the bottom.
Circles and squares task
It was originally designed as a nonverbal test of ideational fluency and flexibility, then modified in such a way as to stress originality and elaboration. Two printed forms are used in the test. In one form, the subject is confronted with a page of forty two circles and asked to sketch objects or pictures which have circles as a major part. In the alternate form, squares are used instead of circles.
Creative design task
Hendrickson has designed it which seems to be promising, but scoring procedures are being tested but have not been perfected yet. The materials consist of circles and strips of various sizes and colours, a four page booklet, scissors and glue. Subjects are instructed to construct pictures or designs, making use of all of the coloured circles and strips with a thirty minute time limit. Subjects may use one, two, three, or four pages; alter the circles and strips or use them as they are; add other symbols with pencil or crayon.