Monday, December 08, 2008

Degraded surroundings degrade behavior

Keizer et al. find support for the "Broken Windows Theory," that suggests that signs of disorderly and petty criminal behavior trigger more disorderly and petty criminal behavior, thus causing the behavior to spread. They find that if people see one norm or rule being violated (such as graffiti or a vehicle parked illegally), they're more likely to violate others--such as littering, or even stealing. Groningen citizens were given the opportunity to steal an envelope that obviously contained a 5 Euro note from a postbox. When the postbox was clean and tidy 13% took the bait; by contrast, 27% stole from a graffitied postbox and 25% from one with litter around it. Other tests showed that people are more likely to litter in the presence of graffiti or abandoned shopping trollies, and after hearing the crackle of illegal fireworks.

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