Rebecca considers how environmental factors within our unique ‘Why people do what they do model’ may impact your behaviours.
Our ‘Why people do what they do’ model shows the personal and cultural factors that may impact your behaviour. At Rambutan, we believe these factors push, pull and shove you into behaving in certain ways, in different situations. Environment is one of the cultural factors within our behavioural model. When we talk about the environment, we aren’t referring to the greenery all around you, but rather the things in your surroundings (the external stimuli) that have an impact on you.
‘Nudges’ are an external stimulus. They can influence the choices you make. For example, adverts ‘nudge’ you to buy a product because you believe the product will positively impact your life, make things easier, etc. Nudge theory states that nudges influence not only your behaviour, but the decisions you make, without you even noticing them! There’s a philosophical debate about whether nudges impact your individual freedom. We all have the perception that we have freedom and choice to make our own decisions, but are we being nudged to act in a certain way?
A really good example of ‘nudge theory’ is the Government’s auto-enrolment pension scheme. The government realised people weren’t saving enough money for retirement. The nudge was that you have to opt out rather than opt in to your pension pot, as people are automatically enrolled into their organisation’s pension scheme when they join. This is a ‘nudge’ to encourage people to save for their future.
Our surroundings are another environmental factor that influences our behaviour. The Broken Windows theory states that if your surroundings are in ‘good nick’ and have been taken care of, others are more likely to take better care themselves. Whether that be your neighbourhood, community, village, etc, if it’s been kept in good shape, people tend to try and ‘keep up with the Joneses’. For example, if you live somewhere where there’s always rubbish on the street, others are less likely to use a bin and are more likely to litter. Seemingly, people care less about keeping up appearances and a vicious cycle begins. On the other hand, if an area is clean and everything is taken care of, a virtuous cycle takes place, as others will look after the surroundings as well.
Surroundings can be physical objects, i.e. a broken window or clean streets, but they can also be your feelings when you’re in certain situations (often influenced by these physical objects). Negative opinions of a place can sometimes be due to people not finding the time to chat, or avoiding eye contact, which means you associate the area with being unfriendly. Over time, the area is likely to become less and less welcoming and an unpleasant environment is created. Similarly, if everyone’s really friendly and chatty, even if it’s just saying “Good morning” when they’re walking their dog, a virtuous cycle will begin. These surroundings can impact people’s behaviours.
Situational context is the third environmental factor in our behaviour model, as it’s all about what you notice here and now. If you think of someone who’s normally friendly and chatty, but they’ve just experienced a conflict or argument, what would you notice? In some cases, the person may have become very withdrawn and quiet, as they’re processing what happened. A conflict may have been an assault on their ‘emotional equilibrium’. Similarly, if you’ve just observed someone doing a really amazing act of kindness, you may consider performing a similar activity yourself.
I recently heard the expression ‘an emotional hand grenade’ (I thought this was such a brilliant term that I borrowed it!). This refers to when a group of people experience a conflict and everyone puts their invisible hard hats on, i.e. they all put their heads down because they don’t want to be the next person hit by the shrapnel of that emotional outburst. In a situational context, the situation is the hand grenade and the impact it has on everyone is the ‘shrapnel’. When I have an emotional reaction (maybe due to stress, etc), I think, ‘Have I just chucked emotional shrapnel at somebody? Are they having to deal with the fallout of my emotions?’ Not only could I have impacted the person my emotions were focused on, but everyone else around us both.
How do you think your environment impacts you?