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Schelling's Game TheoryHow to Make Decisions$
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Robert V. Dodge

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199857203

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199857203.001.0001

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Critical Mass and Tipping

Critical Mass and Tipping

(p.219) Chapter 18 Critical Mass and Tipping
Schelling's Game Theory


Oxford University Press

This chapter is about how some things catch on while others do not. These situations are explained by the model “critical mass,”sometimes referred to as the “bandwagon effect.” An explanation of critical mass in a nuclear reaction is related to social science. The success or failure of many things is determined by whether “critical mass” is achieved so that increasing numbers are encouraged to join. An example of something achieving critical mass is presented, and this is McDonalds. The competition between Betamax and VHS for home video cassettes is discussed, and the 1989 critical mass achieved when Communist countries began collapsing is outlined. A subset Schelling introduced is presented and that is “tipping.” This typically refers to racial groups tipping in and out, as a previously homogeneously racial neighborhood becomes integrated. Tipping can describe any critical mass phenomenon. The “tipping point” is the exact point at which the reaction becomes self-sustaining. The chapter provides a number of instructions on converting numbers into a curve and determining the location of the tipping point, plus stable outcomes. A problem presented that deals with the Rodney King trial, which makes for a dramatic example of how much control of the tipping point can matter as a policy issue.

Keywords:   critical mass model, bandwagon effect, unstable equilibrium, tipping point, racial tipping

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