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3 laws of human behaviour # 2

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

In a previous blog we presented the first of 3 laws of human behaviour by Aline Holzworth, which present a simple yet useful way to view human behaviour change.

Law # 1 is our bias towards the status quo, and the need to create more incentives or desirability of the new behaviour to overcome this bias.

Law # 2 Behaviour is both person and environment

The fundamental attribution bias means that we humans like to attribute our successes and failures in the way that best suits us. For example, if I ace my literature review, it’s because I am that smart. But if I fail my literature review, it’s not my fault but instead is due to bad supervisors, lack of time due to work, or academic bureaucracy. The fundamental attribution bias makes us link performance to a person or external factors.

But the reality is that behaviour is the result of both the person and the environment in which the behaviour occurs. And it’s the interaction between the person (their psychology, motivation, experience, mood and so on) with their environment (physical layout, signage, amount of natural sunlight, colours, smells, etc) that determines a behaviour.

This can be an uncomfortable notion for some, because many of us like to think that we are fully in control of our own behaviour and our own fate. But, as behavioural economic studies have demonstrated repeatedly, we can in fact be influenced by how information is presented and how our environment is set up.

So, when looking at behaviour and performance, consideration needs to be paid to the contextual factors at play. If a desired behaviour is not occurring, examine the environment and determine which barriers exist for the individual and which systemic tensions are influencing the behaviour. You need to consider the modification of the environment in conjunction with providing ‘fuel’ for the desired behaviour (law #1).

Look out for Law # 3 in the next blog.

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Illustrations by Matt Trower

For the full article by Aline Holzwarth, click below.

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