The Power of Context


Rome subway... Eeeh, I like!

Are people truly the product of their environment? In the passage, The Power of Context by Malcolm Gladwell, he argues that our behavior is influenced by the context of our environment. Gladwell supports his claim by relating it to real life examples and conducting experiments. Gladwell starts out the chapter with a story about a guy named Bernie Goetz. Bernie Goetz is a New York man known for shooting four young black men, when they supposedly tried to rob him on a subway. There was a lot of controversy over this situation because people were unsure of whom to blame. This case can be approached many different ways. Some think that Goetz entered the subway with the intent to kill. Others deemed him as a hero for shooting the four black boys who were seen as threats. In the reading Gladwell questions the environment. The subway was filled with graffiti and dimly lighted. This brings up the question; did the surroundings have anything to do with the attitude of Goetz? The Power of Context infers that individuals are more sensitive to environments than others.

Gladwell discusses a theory that questions if the surrounding you are in changes the way you act? The Broken Windows theory argues that crime is a direct result of disarray. The Power of Context suggests that a criminal is someone who is directly affected by his or her environment, which prompts him or her to commit crimes.

Agreeing with this theory means that you feel that the environment that you grew up in directly correlates with how you act. I think that this is true to an extent because I think how you act has a lot to do with your family dynamics. If you were abused as a child you tend to be more of an angry person. Whereas if you grew up in a very bad neighborhood but had an awesome family your outlook on life would be completely different. The Power of Context is one of those things where it is left up to your interpretation. The examples and stories that Gladwell uses can be spun many different ways.


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