Micromotives and Macrobehavior Summary & Study Guide

Thomas Schelling
This Study Guide consists of approximately 32 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Micromotives and Macrobehavior.
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Micromotives and Macrobehavior Summary & Study Guide Description

Micromotives and Macrobehavior Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling.

The book, "Micromotives and Macrobehavior" by Thomas C. Schelling is a classic presentation of how the activities and behavior of the individual impact the larger entity; i.e., the community, the country or the world. Thomas C. Schelling is the 2005 Nobel Prize recipient for Economic Science. Schelling illustrates complicated studies in statistics in terms that the everyday person can understand and indeed relate to.

Schelling begins his narrative with a situation that everyone has encountered. As people enter an auditorium for an important lecture, they select different locations in which to sit. At first glance, one would conclude that the choices are random with no serious pre-thought expended. Digging deeper, however, Schelling shows the reader how seat selection is indeed mostly calculated. Many people will not select the first row—perhaps a throw back to their student days. That is, a psychological pull stops one from sitting in the row where the "teacher" would be sure to call on him.

First arrivals may choose to sit in the last row. The reasons behind these choices could be either to see others arrive (watching others arrive in their finery as at a wedding) or to be in positions in that last row to be able to leave first or leave before the lecture is over without embarrassing themselves. By these first arrivals taking the last row, however, their choices have a strong influence on the others arriving afterward. Some humans have a "bunching" instinct, others feel more comfortable being near others and still others do not like to mark out new territory. As a result, as the last row fills up, the most likely impact on the later arrivals is that, due to one of the reasons listed before, they will begin to sit in rows just in front of the back row. There may be some later arrivals who will strike out new territory and others who will feel comfortable following these pioneers. Once all the seating is completed, not everyone will be happy with their locations since later arrivals run out of choices. This exercise explained in everyday terms is technically termed "spatial distribution."

Schelling describes socio-economic models that reflect "critical mass" situations that mirror the cyclic behavior of population groups. For example, a critical mass model indicated the cyclic behavior of measles outbreaks in a poor African community. After children were immunized against measles, mothers would observe that the community was free of the disease. The mothers would then neglect further immunizations and as time went by there were more measles outbreaks. Once again, the mothers would have their children protected and the cycle of disease/no disease would thus perpetuate.

One of the most famous portions of Schelling's book is his discussion on integration/segregation. The immigration phenomena that falls within the "tipping" category of behavior modeling. At first a community is homogeneous in ethnicity. The starkest example in America would be the example of an all-white neighborhood that begins to slowly take on new neighbors of different ethnic background (black). There is an internal barometer that makes some people feel most comfortable surrounded by people who are like themselves. As the emerging pattern increases and sustains, some of the original neighbors (white) begin to feel uncomfortable and start to move out. As their number decreases in the original neighborhood, more members of the new ethnic group—also feeling comfortable with others of their own ethnicity—move in. This process finally tips the neighborhood from what once considered a white community to one that is predominantly black.

"Micromotives and Macrobehavior" is literally a textbook for the methods and analysis used by social scientists in examining, monitoring and predicting the behavior of people based on reliable modeling developed from exhaustive research and statistical data making up the required propositions that underlie the process.

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