Micromotives & Macrobehavior Brief. In Schelling’s Micromotives and Macrobehavior, he discusses the phenomenon known as “critical mass.” An example would be the outdoor, pick-up volleyball game scenario. If a lot of people join, then games may continue regularly until the weather stops people from playing, or, few people join and there is not enough enthusiasm to keep the games going more than a few days. Also consider applause: if enough people clap at the end of a performance, then the whole audience claps; however, if just a few clap and no one else joins in, it will awkwardly stop. “Critical mass,” A.K.A. “critical number,” can be described as something that relies on HOW MANY people are doing something, and not necessarily WHAT they are doing. Alternatively, it can be thought of as the “minimum number” of people necessarily to maintain a given activity (like clapping, jay-walking, etc). This phenomenon may also be subject to the type of people involved, such as age, gender, national origin, etc. Why? There’s a certain amount of comfort that comes from the anonymity and safety in being a part of the crowd rather than standing out. This does not apply to all activities (E.G: even if many people start to get tattoos, not everyone will). “Critical Mass” also involves the idea of “lemons,” (where there is unequal and unknown information between parties involved), and “tipping” (shifts in populations from one to another [people can “tip-in” (move to a new place) or “tip-out” (leave their current place)]. (J Kyo)


We have, throughout the course, been talking about people reacting to their environments. An element of this is what information they have about their environments. Hayek stressed that people tend to have local information only but that that was "good enough" for social order if people had the right rules in their heads for how to deal with local information.

The claim there was that it's not possible to have a formally rational approach to aggregate order because nobody (e.g., a Leviathan) can have enough information and wisdom to make the right decisions. The best we can hope for is for individuals to have the right rules and let them go about the business of following them.

Schelling comes along and says "look, they can follow the right rules and still produce a socially undesirable outcome!" In other words, formal rationality at the individual level can produce substantively irrational results at the aggregate level. Hence the title: MICROmotives and MACRObehaviors.

But back to information.