Broken windows and behavior

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Broken window theory is one of my favorite theories to reference. Largely credited for a huge dip in crime in New York City in the past 20 years, the theory aims to target small offenses (think graffiti litter, etc.). By preventing minor rule-breaking early and often, the theory supposes that this prevents more significant offenses from blossoming. A recent article in Science Daily approached the theory from a slightly different angle, focusing significantly on the level of disarray in the respective environment:

“researchers at the University of Chicago explored whether mostly subconscious visual cues embedded in dilapidated buildings, overgrown lots and littered streets can fuel deviant behavior.”

The results? Staggering.

“The researchers found for participants exposed to the visually disordered stimuli compared to those exposed to the visually ordered stimuli the likelihood of cheating increased by 35 percent and the average magnitude of cheating increased by 87 percent.”

An environment that signals disorder is fertile ground for further disorder. More confirmation that your environment has a much larger role in your behavior than you may care to admit. Who and what you surround yourself with matters. What does your home/office/workspace look like What signals are you sending to yourself and others about what kinds of behaviors are acceptable in your environment?

Tags: Blog, Leadership

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