How to drag out a behavioural change

This is literally a story of a lighter. Since the house kitchen is installed with a gas system, a lighter or matches are to be accountable to make a fire for cooking. Now, the house is full of constant smokers. They pick up the kitchen lighter to go up to terrace to smoke, and mostly in those cases they don’t put it back, rather the lighter stays in their pocket until a person is to cook and to ask around who took the lighter.

In this post I have no intention to blame the one’s lazyness of not putting the lighter back. Surely I believe this act is quite egoistic in two different ways: 1) not wanting to invest their own money to have a private lighter, rather using a public one without charge, 2) not considering others’ need once their need to smoke is satisfied. But blaming doesn’t solve anything but complicate relational emotions under the roof. So I have put a distinct question: how to drag out a behavioural change from people? This can be an important question when to think that the point (1) is related to a free-riders-problem on public goods that always confronts abusage or misusage of such resources; negative environmental externalities, for example.

Garrett Hardin discussed this matter already in his article in 1968 (available in: He mentioned that due to populational expansion the share of public goods has become a social issue, which can not be solved with any more technological apporaches but only with moral and political ones. This is the tragedy of the commons. Changing of a paradigm is asked, not wrapping up a wound with better bandages. Actually I had put a lighter with a string attached so that it could be hung right next to the gas. I thought it maybe is a systemic problem rather personal one; it is always harsh just to victim-blame. It is like to say; it’s the capitalism system not the poor. It’s the beaurocracy not the clerk from a customer service. So I thought that I needed to create a better kitchen system, not to moralise individuals. But later recalling Hardin’s article, it maybe was just tapping the wound with another bandage which was not a proper solution for the situation. Stitching a lighter to the kitchen wall still not a solution. We need a moral and behavioural change, which I expect to be fundamental.

And everyone has possibilities to change from inner out. So, dragging out a behavioural change from a certain population is possible and even realistic approach.

So what can we do to motivate people to change their behaviour? Once I read a short quote about how to motivate people and this quote can be summarised with only three words: money, fear and hunger. People move toward money and away from fear and hunger. These mechanism is called as a carrot and stick approach, which in policy term is defined as a combination of punishments and rewards. But is this mechanism only approach of motivating people to induce good behaviour? What about fun part in this process that can motivate people, and how we can measure which behaviour is socially acknowledged as a good behaviour?

Capitalism basically works with such behavioural control mechanism, rewarding capital to productive behaviours and punishing with hunger and fear to unproductive behaviours. It seems that neoliberal capitalism has lost its basic soul letting people have no more rewards that seem sufficient and have more punishment that seems overdone. A structural poverty has been reported increased during this neoliberal period; that the poverty now seems to inherit generation to generation as an intergenerational legacy. Maybe we came too far where this-money-fear-and-hunger-mechanism no longer works out.

Nationalism is once a strong mechanism for people to act, as an example of young people volunteering to wars to protect their country in 1950’s, and now it seems to be returning as of examples of nationalistic parties dominating over many countries like that of Trump. Pride is also a strong manipulative method to motivate people, making them be passionate and believe their superiority over others. For this precise reason, maybe, many students are gambling their luck on admission for the most prestigious schools.

Ideally love and altruism also can be considered as a motivation mechanism as many religious texts point out. Helping the poor, reaching to the minorities, creating artistic inspirations for the world to see and etc., can be the mechanism to motivate people under the name of love. But even most orthodox religions are not on the same page when discussing what is love; and how to exercise.

In this 21st century, we tend to motivate ourselves to reach the social norm to be successful and stable; like having a modern family, a house to dwell, a car as a transportation and a lifestyle that Hollywood reproduces for us to drag into a globally similar consumption pattern. Some millennials and hippies have refused to live under such a hegemonic social pressure, making their own alternatives travelling and meditating. Doing what they want to do, following what their hearts say became a cliché to sell a cultural way-out to populations.

What other ideological mechanism that drags out a behavioural change from the population?


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