Education & Development

Broken Windows Theory: Visual Cues Can Encourage Rule-breaking

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The Broken Windows Theory signifies a direct relationship between the physical environment and tendency of rule-breaking. The theory signifies the range of crime might scale up to heinous crimes from petty ones. The study is going on for decades and there is a remarkable outcome. It shows how the simple perceptual indicators in physical environments play a major role in increasing tendencies in rule-breaking. In a new finding, in the same context, a team of researchers at the University of Chicago explore such results. It finds that ruined buildings and littered places around catalyze unusual behavior. The study will be releasing in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology. It reveals that disorderly environment constructs disorderly tendencies in people.

“There is an ever-present physical environment that people are never separated from, and our research suggests it’s having an influence in marked and important ways on human behavior and possibly the functioning of a neighborhood,” says key author Hiroki Kotabe. Kotabe is a postdoctoral scholar at UChicago’s Environmental Neuroscience Laboratory. He is studying how the physical environment can affect the brain and behavior. “Our work in many ways is bringing attention to the importance of physical elements, particularly the visual features,” he adds.

In fact, he is not alone in this journey. Other scientists conducting this study are Marc G. Berman and Omid Kardan. Berman is a UChicago assistant professor of psychology. Also, he is the lab’s principal investigator. Similarly, Omid Kardan is a doctoral student. Their study identifies elements of visual disorder existing in the environment. In fact, these might vary from excessive curvy lines to a lack of symmetry. They further test the impact of such elements on one of the prominent forms of rule-breaking i.e. cheating.

Broken Windows Theory

As a matter of fact, broken windows theory revolves around how social cues can result in more serious forms of crime. These cues, for instance, might be graffiti, litter, and vagrancy . It indicates that if people see rule-breaking in the environment they take it for granted that misconduct is acceptable, making them more vulnerable to break rules themselves.

“The prevailing wisdom is that one must see social cues of rule-breaking in order for rule-breaking behavior to spread, but many of these social cues have visually disordered components. Imagine graffiti or a broken window both of which tend to have messy and often disorganized lines,” Berman says. “Our research calls into question the necessity of having a social cue of disorder to promote rule-breaking, rather one might only need to perceive disorderly lines to cause disorderly behavior.”

Overall, broken windows theory find a significant relationship between disorientation in society and rule-breaking tendencies.



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