# Concavity and the Second Derivative Test Contributed by: OBJECTIVES:
1. Determine intervals on which a function is concave upward or concave downward.
2. Find any points of inflection of the graph of a function.
3. Apply the Second Derivative Test to find the relative extrema of a function.
1. Applications of Differentiation
2. Concavity and the Second
Derivative Test
3.  Determine intervals on which a function is concave
upward or concave downward.
 Find any points of inflection of the graph of a function.
 Apply the Second Derivative Test to find relative
extrema of a function.
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4. 4
5. You have seen that locating the intervals in which a function
f increases or decreases helps to describe its graph. In this
section, you will see how locating the intervals f' increases
or decreases can be used to determine where the graph of f
is curving upward or curving downward.
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6. The following graphical interpretation of concavity is useful.
1. Let f be differentiable on an open interval I. If the graph
of f is concave upward on I, then the graph of f lies
above all of its tangent lines on I. [See Figure 3.23(a).]
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Figure 3.23(a)
7. 2. Let f be differentiable on an open interval I. If the graph
of f is concave downward on I, then the graph of f lies
below all of its tangent lines on I. [See Figure 3.23(b).]
Figure 3.23(b) 7
8. Concavity
To find the open intervals on which the
graph of a function f is concave upward
or concave downward, you need to find
the intervals on which f' is increasing or
For instance, the graph of
is concave downward on the open interval
because
is decreasing there. (See Figure 3.24)
Figure 3.24
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9. Concavity
Similarly, the graph of f is concave upward on the interval
because f' is increasing on .
The next theorem shows how to use the second derivative of
a function f to determine intervals on which the graph of f is
concave upward or concave downward.
To apply Theorem 3.7, locate the x-values at which
f" (x) = 0 or f" does not exist. Use these x-values to determine
test intervals. Finally, test the sign of f" (x) in each of the test
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10. Example 1 – Determining Concavity
Determine the open intervals on which the graph of
is concave upward or downward.
Begin by observing that f is continuous on the entire real
Next, find the second derivative of f.
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11. Example 1 – Solution cont’d
Because f ''(x) = 0 when x = ±1 and f'' is defined on the
entire line, you should test f'' in the intervals ,
(1, –1), and 11
12. Example 1 – Solution cont’d
The results are shown in the table and in Figure 3.25.
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Figure 3.25
13. Concavity cont’d
The function given in Example 1 is continuous on the entire
real number line.
When there are x-values at which the function is not
continuous, these values should be used, along with the
points at which f"(x)= 0 or f"(x) does not exist, to form the
test intervals.
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14. Points of Inflection
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15. Points of Inflection
If the tangent line to the graph exists at such a point where
the concavity changes, that point is a point of inflection.
Three types of points of inflection are shown in Figure 3.27.
The concavity of f changes at a point of inflection. Note that the graph crosses its tangent line at a
point of inflection.
Figure 3.27 15
16. Points of Inflection
To locate possible points of inflection, you can determine
the values of x for which f"(x)= 0 or f"(x) does not exist. This
is similar to the procedure for locating relative extrema of f.
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17. Example 3 – Finding Points of Inflection
Determine the points of inflection and discuss the concavity
of the graph of
Differentiating twice produces the following.
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18. Example 3 – Solution cont’d
Setting f"(x) = 0, you can determine that the possible points
of inflection occur at x = 0 and x = 2.
By testing the intervals determined by these x-values, you
can conclude that they both yield points of inflection.
A summary of this testing is shown in
the table, and the graph of f is shown
in Figure 3.28.
Figure 3.28 18
19. Points of Inflection
The converse of Theorem 3.8 is not generally true. That is,
it is possible for the second derivative to be 0 at a point that
is not a point of inflection.
For instance, the graph of f(x) = x4 is shown in Figure 3.29.
The second derivative is 0 when
x= 0, but the point (0,0) is not a
point of inflection because the
graph of f is concave upward in
both intervals
Figure 3.29 19
20. The Second Derivative Test
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21. The Second Derivative Test
In addition to testing for concavity, the second derivative can
be used to perform a simple test for relative maxima and
The test is based on the fact that if the graph of f is concave
upward on an open interval containing c , and f' (c)=0, then
f(c) must be a relative minimum of f.
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22. The Second Derivative Test
Similarly, if the graph of a function f is concave downward on
an open interval containing c, and f' (c)=0, then f(c) must be a
relative maximum of f (see Figure 3.30).
Figure 3.30
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23. The Second Derivative Test
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24. Example 4 – Using the Second Derivative Test
Find the extrema of f(x) = –3x5 + 5x3
Begin by finding the critical numbers of f.
From this derivative, you can see that x = –1, 0, and 1 are
the only critical numbers of f.
By finding the second derivative
you can apply the Second Derivative Test.
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25. Example 4 – Solution cont’d
Because the Second Derivative Test fails at (0, 0), you can
use the First Derivative Test and observe that f increases
to the left and right of x = 0.
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26. Example 4 – Solution cont’d
So, (0, 0) is neither a relative minimum nor a relative
maximum (even though the graph has a horizontal tangent
line at this point). The graph of f is shown in Figure 3.31.
Figure 3.31 26