Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to change the way people live without them knowing it

When sociologists think about all the choices society gives us to choose from and which ones they make unavailable, we call this "socialization." More precisely, socialization refers to the way our institutions: (family, education system, economic system, political system and religions) shape our ideologies through positive and negative sanctions in response to norms developed by society. We do not perceive this as being forced to do something, rather, we internalize them and categorize behavior accordingly as "normal" or "abnormal." I'll give you an example.

The society you live in attaches monetary value to pieces of green paper. This would be the norm of your economic system. It would be "normal" for you to exchange green pieces of paper for goods and you would be positively sanctioned (or reinforced) when you receive your goods. Now, it would "abnormal" for you to try to exchange orange pieces of paper for goods and you would be negatively sanctioned (probably through the legal system!).

Okay, you get it. Society makes the rules. But guess what? Rules can change, and they change when society lets them. Guess what else? You are a part of society. You can't change the rules by yourself, but you can motivate others to change the rules. Sometimes this can be done through role modeling. You might do something that is considered "abnormal," like commuting by bike. You might get some negative sanctions at first, like drivers will honk at you. But some people might become curious, try it out themselves, and create what's known as a critical mass, or, basically enough people to make it "normal" ...or at least not as "abnormal." So, see, societal change doesn't have to be authoritarian, coming from the President or the CEO of a major company. Societal change happens all the time in our daily interactions with people, with or without even speaking to each other. It gets alot more complicated, but I wanted to outline this foundation to discuss some ideas about how to use this thinking to modify society to help people behave more sustainably. THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO CHANGE BEHAVIOR! THIS IS NOT THE ONLY WAY! But, I genuinely believe, that without society deliberating through interaction and coming to a consensus about how to think about change, it's not going to happen. And, the fact is, we need to change. If not to save the planet, but to improve ourselves as a species and become more respectful to each other.

No comments:

Post a Comment