Creeping normality

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Creeping normality or death by a thousand cuts[1] is the way a major change can be accepted as the normal situation if it happens slowly, in unnoticed increments. The change would be regarded as objectionable if it took place in a single step or short period.

The phrase was coined by American scientist, Jared Diamond, in his 2005 book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. He had previously alluded to this theory while attempting to explain why in the course of long-term environmental degradation, Easter Island natives would, seemingly irrationally, chop down the last tree:[2]

"I suspect, though, that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper. After all, there are those hundreds of abandoned statues to consider. The forest the islanders depended on for rollers and rope didn't simply disappear one day--it vanished slowly, over decades."

In his book, Diamond also refers to creeping normality as landscape amnesia.[3]

Other uses[edit]

Creeping normality has been used to explain a number of different phenomena, including the ones listed below:

Obese and overweight maternity patients[edit]

The term has also been used several times in conjunction with the increase of maternity patients who present as obese and overweight. In their research article, authors Wilkinson, Poad, and Stapleton suggest that as the number of clinically obese or overweight pregnant women increase, the negative stigmatization with being so decreases.[4] Schmeid, et al., states that as doctors see more women of an unhealthy weight, they are less likely to advise healthy weight gain goals during pregnancy, out of fear of fat-shaming.[5][6] Because the shift in society to accept women of all body types has been so slow, physicians may not be aware that they are not addressing the gestational weight gain as soon as necessary.[7] An anonymous survey was conducted from January to April, 2010, of obstetrics and gynecology residents. Of those surveyed, only "7.6 percent selected correct BMI ranges for each category, and only 5.8 percent selected correct gestational weight gain ranges".[8]

Family Businesses[edit]

Antheaume and Barbelivien described the creeping normality that destroys businesses, causing them to not see the subtle, negative shifts in the community around them. The authors state that owners of family businesses are more likely to notice the small changes than a large corporation, however "detecting a problem is no guarantee of the ability to solve it".[9]


In his thesis, Chon states that the increase in cybercrime fits the pattern for creeping normality. The number of websites involved in "hacking and cybercrime activities"[10] has increased at a slow and steady pace, mostly below society's awareness.[citation needed]

IPS-Nathan Lecture Series[edit]

Peter Ho referred to creeping normality in his four-part IPS-Nathan lecture series in spring of 2017. In regards to several issues that Singapore is facing, he claimed that "things get just a little bit worse each year than the year before, but not bad enough for anyone to notice".[11] One example is through climate change, where he stated that the country did not realize an increase of flooding was caused by rising temperatures, and not poor drainage as first suspected.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

There are a number of metaphors related to creeping normality, including:


  1. ^ Foster M (2014-07-11). "Soft commissions: Death by a thousand cuts". Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  2. ^ Diamond, Jared (1995-08-01). "Easter's End". Discover magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  3. ^ Fogg GE, LaBolle EM (14 March 2006). "Motivation of synthesis, with an example on groundwater quality sustainability". Water Resources Research. 42: W03S05. doi:10.1029/2005WR004372 – via Google Scholar.
  4. ^ Wilkinson SA, Poad D, Stapleton H (May 2013). "Maternal overweight and obesity: a survey of clinicians' characteristics and attitudes, and their responses to their pregnant clients". BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 13: 117. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-117. PMID 23692981.
  5. ^ Schmied VA, Duff M, Dahlen HG, Mills AE, Kolt GS (August 2011). "'Not waving but drowning': a study of the experiences and concerns of midwives and other health professionals caring for obese childbearing women". Midwifery. 27 (4): 424–30. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.02.010. PMID 20381222.
  6. ^ Mills A, Schmied VA, Dahlen HG (July 2013). "'Get alongside us', women's experiences of being overweight and pregnant in Sydney, Australia". Maternal & Child Nutrition. 9 (3): 309–21. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00386.x. PMID 22168548.
  7. ^ Miller M, Hearn L, van der Pligt P, Wilcox J, Campbell KJ (2014-06-06). "Preventing maternal and early childhood obesity: the fetal flaw in Australian perinatal care". Australian Journal of Primary Health. 20 (2): 123–7. doi:10.1071/PY13080. PMID 24176286.
  8. ^ Moore Simas TA, Waring ME, Sullivan GM, Liao X, Rosal MC, Hardy JR, Berry RE (December 2013). "Institute of medicine 2009 gestational weight gain guideline knowledge: survey of obstetrics/gynecology and family medicine residents of the United States". Birth. 40 (4): 237–46. doi:10.1111/birt.12061. PMC 3974574. PMID 24344704.
  9. ^ Antheaume N, Barbelivien D. "Why do family businesses die? An investigation through the work of an ethnologist and geographer on the collapse of human societies". Research Gate.
  10. ^ Chon K (June 2016). "Cybercrime precursors: Towards a model of offender resources". Australian National University.
  11. ^ Tan A, Ho P (2017). The Challenges of Governance in a Complex World. World Scientific Publishing Company Pte Limited. p. 11.