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In sociology, a tipping point is a point in time when a group—or many group members—rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice.
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The phrase was first used in sociology by Morton Grodzins when he adopted the phrase from physics where it referred to the adding a small amount of weight to a balanced object until the additional weight caused the object to suddenly and completely topple, or tip. Grodzins studied integrating American neighborhoods in the early 1960s. He discovered that most of the white families remained in the neighborhood as long as the comparative number of black families remained very small. But, at a certain point, when "one too many" black families arrived, the remaining white families would move out en masse in a process known as white flight. He called that moment the "tipping point".
The idea was expanded and built upon by Nobel Prize-winner Thomas Schelling in 1971.A similar idea underlies Mark Granovetter's threshold model of collective behavior.
The phrase has extended beyond its original meaning and been applied to any process in which, beyond a certain point, the rate of the process increases dramatically. It has been applied in many fields, from economics to human ecologyto epidemiology. It can also be compared to phase transition in physics or the propagation of populations in an unbalanced ecosystem.
Journalists and academics have applied the phrase to dramatic changes in governments, such as during the Arab Spring.The concept of a tipping point is described in an article in an academic journal, the Journal of Democracy , titled "China at the Tipping Point? Foreseeing the unforeseeable":
Regime transitions belong to that paradoxical class of events which are inevitable but not predictable. Other examples are bank runs, currency inflations, strikes, migrations, riots, and revolutions. In retrospect, such events are explainable, even overdetermined. In prospect, however, their timing and character are impossible to anticipate. Such events seem to come closer and closer but do not occur, even when all the conditions are ripe—until suddenly they do.
American journalists at NPR have used it to describe an influx of sexual assault allegations, saying that a tipping point has been passed regarding societal tolerance of sexual harassment and feminism.
Mathematically, the angle of repose may be seen as a bifurcation. In control theory, the concept of positive feedback describes the same phenomenon, with the problem of balancing an inverted pendulum being the classic embodiment. The concept has also been applied to the popular acceptance of new technologies, for example being used to explain the success of VHS over Betamax.[ citation needed ]
The concept of social tipping points has been applied to analyze global decarbonization pathways and the ability to activate contagious and fast-spreading processes of social and technological change that would accelerate carbon emission reductions needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
A study suggests, "path dependencies, increasing returns to scale and learning-by-doing cost reductions can produce sudden, tipping-point-like transitions that cannot be extrapolated from past system behaviour", and that "historically, technological innovation and government policies often motivated by energy security concerns have also, in notable cases, spurred rapid shifts in energy systems".
Moreover, "social norms that shape individual behaviour and preferences can exhibit similar tipping-point style dynamics", which could affect "the regulatory and market conditions in which energy technologies compete". When social norms of sustainability are costly – or at least detrimental rather than beneficial – for individuals to violate, this may substantially increase the probability that an individual engages in pro-environmental behaviour.
Removing all subsidies from fossil fuels could intervene the tipping points occur. And researchers also stress the importance of building carbon-neutral cities, which could educate the general public and drive consumer interest in emerging clean technologies.
The term was popularized in application to daily life by Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 bestselling book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference .
Social norms are shared standards of acceptable behavior by groups. Social norms can both be informal understandings that govern the behavior of members of a society, as well as be codified into rules and laws. Social normative influences or social norms, are deemed to be powerful drivers of human behavioural changes and well organized and incorporated by major theories which explain human behaviour. Institutions are composed of multiple norms. Norms are shared social beliefs about behavior; thus, they are distinct from "ideas", "attitudes", and "values", which can be held privately, and which do not necessarily concern behavior. Norms are contingent on context, social group, and historical circumstances.
The bandwagon effect is the tendency for people to adopt certain behaviors, styles, or attitudes simply because others are doing so. More specifically, it is a cognitive bias by which public opinion or behaviours can alter due to particular actions and beliefs rallying amongst the public. It is a psychological phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases with respect to the proportion of others who have already done so. As more people come to believe in something, others also "hop on the bandwagon" regardless of the underlying evidence.
In mathematics, catastrophe theory is a branch of bifurcation theory in the study of dynamical systems; it is also a particular special case of more general singularity theory in geometry.
Thomas Crombie Schelling was an American economist and professor of foreign policy, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control at the School of Public Policy at University of Maryland, College Park. He was also co-faculty at the New England Complex Systems Institute. He was awarded the 2005 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for "having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."
In the social sciences there is a standing debate over the primacy of structure or agency in shaping human behaviour. Structure is the recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available. Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. The structure versus agency debate may be understood as an issue of socialization against autonomy in determining whether an individual acts as a free agent or in a manner dictated by social structure.
In sociology, social complexity is a conceptual framework used in the analysis of society. In the sciences, contemporary definitions of complexity are found in systems theory, wherein the phenomenon being studied has many parts and many possible arrangements of the parts; simultaneously, what is complex and what is simple are relative and change in time.
Sociocultural anthropology is a term used to refer to social anthropology and cultural anthropology together. It is one of the four main branches of anthropology. Sociocultural anthropologists focus on the study of society and culture, while often interested in cultural diversity and universalism.
Informed by the ideologies of Soviet Constructivist theory, the Social Condenser is an architectural form defined by its influence over spatial dynamics. In the opening speech of the inaugural OSA Group conference in 1928, Moisei Ginzburg claimed that "the principal objective of constructivism... is the definition of the Social Condenser of the age." The single building most associated with the idea is the Narkomfin Building in Moscow, for which construction began in 1928 and finished in 1932.
Bifurcation theory is the mathematical study of changes in the qualitative or topological structure of a given family of curves, such as the integral curves of a family of vector fields, and the solutions of a family of differential equations. Most commonly applied to the mathematical study of dynamical systems, a bifurcation occurs when a small smooth change made to the parameter values of a system causes a sudden 'qualitative' or topological change in its behavior. Bifurcations occur in both continuous systems and discrete systems.
In dynamical systems theory, a period-doubling bifurcation occurs when a slight change in a system's parameters causes a new periodic trajectory to emerge from an existing periodic trajectory—the new one having double the period of the original. With the doubled period, it takes twice as long for the numerical values visited by the system to repeat themselves.
Raewyn Connell, usually cited as R. W. Connell, is an Australian sociologist and Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney, mainly known for co-founding the field of masculinity studies and coining the concept of hegemonic masculinity, as well as for her work on Southern theory.
In mathematical or statistical modeling a threshold model is any model where a threshold value, or set of threshold values, is used to distinguish ranges of values where the behaviour predicted by the model varies in some important way. A particularly important instance arises in toxicology, where the model for the effect of a drug may be that there is zero effect for a dose below a critical or threshold value, while an effect of some significance exists above that value. Certain types of regression model may include threshold effects.
In social dynamics, critical mass is a sufficient number of adopters of a new idea, technology or innovation in a social system so that the rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining and creates further growth. The point at which critical mass is achieved is sometimes referred to as a threshold within the threshold model of statistical modeling.
In climate science, a tipping point is a critical threshold that, when crossed, leads to large, accelerating and often irreversible changes in the climate system. If tipping points are crossed, they are likely to have severe impacts on human society and may accelerate global warming.
In applied mathematics and astrodynamics, in the theory of dynamical systems, a crisis is the sudden appearance or disappearance of a strange attractor as the parameters of a dynamical system are varied. This global bifurcation occurs when a chaotic attractor comes into contact with an unstable periodic orbit or its stable manifold. As the orbit approaches the unstable orbit it will diverge away from the previous attractor, leading to a qualitatively different behaviour. Crises can produce intermittent behaviour.
Conscious evolution refers to the theoretical ability of human beings to be conscious participants in the evolution of their cultures, or even of the entirety of human society, based on a relatively recent combination of factors, including increasing awareness of cultural and social patterns, reaction against perceived problems with existing patterns, injustices, inequities, and other factors. The realization that cultural and social evolution can be guided through conscious decisions has been in increasing evidence since approximately the mid-19th century, when the rate of change globally began to increase dramatically. The Industrial Revolution, reactions against the effects of the Industrial Revolution, the emergence of new sciences such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology, the revolution in global communication, the interaction of diverse cultures through transportation and colonization, anti-slavery and suffrage movements, and increasing lifespan all would contribute to the growing awareness of social and cultural patterns as being potentially subject to conscious evolution.
Bifurcation memory is a generalized name for some specific features of the behaviour of the dynamical system near the bifurcation. An example is the recurrent neuron memory.
Arnout van de Rijt is a Dutch sociologist. He studied music at the Utrecht School of the Arts and sociology at Utrecht University. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornell University in 2007 and worked until 2016 as Assistant and Associate Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University. Since 2016 he has worked as Professor of Sociology at Utrecht University. In 2018 he was elected member of the European Academy of Sociology. He joined the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute (EUI) in September of 2019. He has served as president of the International Network of Analytical Sociology since 2021. He is co-editor-in-chief of the journal Sociological Science.
Critical transitions are abrupt shifts in the state of ecosystems, the climate, financial systems or other complex dynamical systems that may occur when changing conditions pass a critical or bifurcation point. As such, they are a particular type of regime shift. Recovery from such shifts may require more than a simple return to the conditions at which a transition occurred, a phenomenon called hysteresis.
Schelling's model of segregation is an agent-based model developed by economist Thomas Schelling. Schelling's model does not include outside factors that place pressure on agents to segregate such as Jim Crow laws in the United States, but Schelling's work does demonstrate that having people with "mild" in-group preference towards their own group could still lead to a highly segregated society via de facto segregation. As demonstrated by Rainer Hegselmann, Schelling released his model after Sakoda, and in some sense one can see Schellig's model as a particular instanciation of Sakoda's model.