Friday, February 1, 2008


Listening to NPR the other week, I heard a segment about a documentary detailing the homicide of a detainee in a prison in Iraq. The researcher found a report that detailed a 'frame shift' phenomenon. When the people at the top relax the rules, they don't have to give specific or direct orders to others to do bad things, the envelope just get pushed. The environment is set by default. If no one stops a practice, the lack of a negative becomes accepted as tacit approval and the underlings tend to push the envelope even farther.

Groundbreaking findings, huh? Do these people not have children? I always find it funny when a study is funded to prove things that are obvious in actual real-life practice. Most children push against their parents to find where the wall is - where is NO, and is it the same place today as it was yesterday? I supposed one might assume that as children become adults, they no longer need to have someone else tell them how to act, but again, the real world doesn't prove this out. Why do businesses use time cards? I think we'd like to believe or hope that people will act morally without being given explicit rules to follow, but this just doesn't seem to be true much of the time. Many times people are happy to take the easy route and put their behavior off on someone else.

Breaking the speed limit generally doesn't result in any huge consequence. More times than not you won't even get a ticket. And when you do, it might make you change your behaviour for a time, but before long the needle on the speedometer begins to creep up again. In other situations, the dangers of not enforcing the rules can lead to far more drastic outcomes. This story was just a reminder to me of how important it is for the 'folks on top' - whatever they might have responsibility over, be it children or employees or guards at a prison - to be consistant and maintain their chosen boundaries for behavior.


Serena Cherry said...

Seriously! I really think we could learn a lot about human behavior by watching children and their unfiltered impulses to push the limits or respond without motives! We should write a book!

Disco Mom said...

Sometimes I'm just not up to being on-the-top-consistent, though I probably do better than lots of scary parents we know...and when I falter, the kids are right there ready to pounce on the chink in my armor. Perfect example just this week. I was sick for a couple of days, and as down for the count as I was allowed to be with 2 little ones running around. I let them eat almost anything almost anytime, watch almost anything, and do almost anything that was somewhat safe, just so I could get a little rest and try to recover. Hazel pounced. She asked for the 100th time to watch Lazytown, the one Noggin show I refuse to let her watch because I hate it completely, and after 99 No's, I said fine just so I could lie down in her room while she watched. Now every day 5 times a day she asks for it. Do I let it go or go back to no? Haven't decided yet. But it's been a good and basically harmless lesson in this exact principle.

kat said...

serena - we could write a book, but you have to have fancy letters after your name for anyone to take it seriously . . . HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! that could be a use for my 'unused' fancy letters!! :)

younce - i think it's great how the kids are always ready to let you know when you've let up. katie is still forgiving. my brother david was ridiculous - he was training to be a lawyer from his emergence from the womb.

and good head's up on the need to avoid 'Lazytown.' katie doesn't know that one exists yet.