How you choose to behave may be a function of where you choose to behave

May 6, 2009...... at 10:21 am | Posted in thoughts | 1 Comment

Until recently my view was that our behaviour is governed by our thoughts ala Gandhi’s ‘become the change you want to see in the world’. However, this view
has been under threat from a number of sources:

  1. smiling causes happiness as well as visa versa – Zajonc, R.B. “Emotion and Facial Efference: An Ignored Theory Reclaimed”
  2. yawning is contagious – howstuffworks
  3. character is environment dependent (character is fluid in new environments ala Second Life) – Miligram
  4. behaviour can precede conscious thought – gamblers making choices associated with poor odds starting exhibiting physical stress symptoms long before they became consciously aware of the poor odds (Gladwell’s Blink)

However, the final straw arrived whilst reading a Harvard Business Review article that talked about mirror synapses, parts of your brain designed to get
you to identify with people around you. Literally the behaviour of other people in your environment can cause your brain to fire as if you were doing the behaviour.

When you consider this information in conjunction with the points above, it becomes apparent that a some of our behaviour may be ascribed to our environment rather than any mindful thought on our part, triggered by environmental factors that are not under our conscious control.

Thus a persons character may well be a function of the environment within which they find themselves. As someone who is interested in exploring how people evolve and develop, my take on this is that if you want to change something about yourself you may be better off changing your environment rather than trying to change your behaviour.


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  1. Google search term: rats complex environment rearing vs. neuroactive drugs…%22+&ots=Y_KFT9kwDW&sig=KvnLWDUMURy9i69gLBTY9CMRb5Y

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