Practice what you preach?!...

Not so long ago a parson got killed. It happened in the little village I happen to live in and it shocked us. Even more shocking was the disclosure of the offender: another parson and also his partner; the man with whom he lived together. How could a person that chose to live a moral life under the care of God, behave so brutal? He used an axe to kill a beloved and long known friend! This story came back to me immediately after I read about non-ethical behaving ethicists. The ethical ethicist Because ethicists devote their careers studying and teaching ethics and morality, one might expect ethicists to behave more ethical as others. All the ethics courses and workshops, that make people awware of the ethical aspects in the choices they make, are developed for some reason, right? Schwitzgebel did research after the ethicality of ethicists. In his study, he looked at several morally unaccepted actions and their prevalence within both society and a group of ethicists. The book-stealing ethicist In a study concerning the amount of lost books, he found that fairly obscure ethics books (most likely only borrowed by master students and teachers of ethics) were lost far more often compared to other books. A philosophy book was 50 to 150 percent more likely to be missing if it was an ethics book than if it was a nonethics book. Ethics professors were also more likely to condemn eating meat. They, however, ate just as much meat as the professors of the other philosophical departments. All this studying and talking about what is the right thing to do apparently didn’t help them to do the right thing. Ought and/or is Bazerman and Tenbrunsel make a distinction between how we should behave,...

Changing is not simple

Failing hurts, so do everything to make success more likely. When we try to change, a mistake that is often made is to think in goals and abstraction (Tiggelaar). To reach a goal you will have to act, so you need behaviors. Realizing which behaviors are necessary is a huge step forward on your way to achieve your goals. So think in behaviors, not goals or abstractions. What behavior are you targeting? Thinking in terms of goals brings two problems. Firstly we don’t realize which new (repetitive!) behaviors are necessary and secondly we don’t realize how to implement these new behaviors into our daily routines.   Habits: tiny entities The best thing about habits is that they don’t take a lot of effort. Once a habit is in place we perform the action without much thought and there is little motivation needed (Fogg). That is why they are so great! The only problem is how to get a habit in place. Next to the importance of triggers (see below) I want to endorse the importance of baby steps. A major change is harder than a small change. Trying to change step by step is a way to make the complicated process easier. You might wonder why you want to make the process easier? Our brain associates (new) activities with how we appreciate these activities. If you keep on pushing yourself, you will do things ‘against your will’. This will create a negative reaction towards the wanted behavior. This negativity will greatly influence your chances of success, so avoid it with baby steps! Triggers To think about behavior, we need a trigger. The trigger itself is not motivating, neither does it make the action easier. It just reminds you to...

The human: a lean machine...

Fixed-action patterns are behaviors that occur in almost the same fashion an order every time we perform them. In animals they are much stronger and therefore more easily recognized. Animals can also be quite funny because of these strong patterns. Because we can understand rationally how their action sometimes mismatch with the current situation their standard reaction sometimes look really stupid (Cialdini). My cat will react to the sound of the kitchen cabinet every time I open it. It does not matter if he just ate his food give minutes ago. He will even react ten times in a row… Automaticity in humans Ben Tiggelaar uses the 5/95-approach, assuming 95% of human behavior to be unconscious and/or automatic. Cialdini thinks that the current society and the amount of information we are provided to us requires us to react more automatic than ever before. All this automaticity in our behavior is highly efficient. If you know you will be hungry if you don’t eat breakfast it would be silly to decide every day again to eat breakfast. It is quicker and more practical to just make yourself something to eat while thinking about all plans you have for today. Chances are you don’t even think about what you eat, nor if you feel like eating this. Just imagine how much time all these decisions would cost you! I find people very skeptical when you tell them about automaticity. My opinion is different: I think we should celebrate how great this lean machine works. Adjusting your behavioral program All these automatic behaviors make it not so easy to change our behavior just by deciding to do so. If you drove to work the same route for three years, it is hard...

Why Cialdini’s six work...

I talked about this imaginary friend, a fishing buddy, that tells you he only liked fishing yesterday. Being a holistic individual is of great importance to us. We count on it that our friends will be the same friends we know tomorrow and the day after that. We also plan what we want to do in future times. If our goals and ideas stay the same, it would be hard to understand that our behavior would change all of the time. Caring and being one person Philosophers like Bratman and Frankfurt talk about this aspect of human being and the importance of being one and the same person. Not only is it important for us to care about something, it also makes us whole and gives us goals in life. The impact of the need to be holistic is not only visible in the principle of commitment, it also means we want to be right. Being wrong might mean you have to change your opinion later on. That is why we are vulnerable to other people’s opinion (social proof) and experts (authority). Even scarcity can be explained through this principle, since scarce items are wanted by other people too. Liking yourself: positive self-concept We do not only want to be one (and not many) persons, we also want to like ourselves. This is most visible in the principle of reciprocity where we share and give back because we want others (and ourselves) to think positive about us. The principle of liking is, of course, also tightly connected to liking ourselves. Why else would we like others that are like us? Shortcuts The principles Cialdini describes work most of the time unconsciously. A lot of times they also make sense...