Friday, November 21, 2008

Support for the Broken Window

Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science has an important post  on research by Keizer and colleagues, which found support for the broken windows theory of crime spread. He dos a very good job of describing the broken window theory, the experiments of Keizer et al and how they show that disorder spreads like a virus, so I won't repeat all that here but urge you to go to his blog to get the complete lowdown.  

What I would like to highlight instead is that fact that this Broken window theory was brought to public focus by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point and subsequently the same theory was thrashed in Frekonomics by Dunbar and surprisingly Malcolm Gladwell had promoted and written an encouraging blurb for Freakonomics. You can read more on the controversy here . I obviously had disliked almost all the explanations in Freakonomics and believe that the book was more on trying to be controversial rather than offering new insights. I , on the other hand, have been sympathetic to Gladwell's writings and it is heartening to note that new research supports the old position that lawlessness spreads via small acts and it may be more important to take care of small, everyday acts of lawlessness than to focus on a few big problems like the cocaine addicts. I would just end with a brief note on Gladwell's new book Outliers, which is on my immediate reading list and I am pleased that he shares some of my thoughts about how SES affects outcomes in life (like IQ) and how we are creatures of circumstances.

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1 comment:

Neural Gourmet said...

I'm glad you and I had similar impressions of Freakonomics. My girlfriend and I read it over the summer since she had to read it for a discussion group she was leading at the school where she teaches. We were both underwhelmed and a little puzzled at the rave reviews and high status the book continues to enjoy. Thanks for the tip on Ed's post. Very interesting!