Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Diffusion of Responsibility

In psychology, there is a concept called diffusion of responsibility. This concept was created sometime in the 1960's when a crime that was witnessed by many, but reported by none, caused many people to wonder how that could happen. Why would 30 people who see a violent crime occurring with an obvious victim, in this case a woman was being raped, not report it?

Psychologists almost immediately began to think about what kind of person would not at least call 911. What they discovered was that if only one person had witnessed the crime, that person would have called 911. It turns out that the more people that are present, the less responsible each individual person feels. For example, if 30 people witness a crime, in addition to thinking that someone else will call the police, each only feels 1/30 of the responsibility for actually making the call.

Interestingly, I'm going to use this as a segue into the issue of climate change. Science has all but proven that climate change is occurring and is a result of human actions. However, many people still feel compelled to deny it exists or that humans are responsible or cannot do anything about it. Those that deny it either have a hidden agenda or are unable to grasp the magnitude of the issue. Admittedly, it can seem daunting. However, it must be dealt with.

I believe that diffusion of responsibility plays a part as to why many people do not take action. Many likely feel that their small actions will not make any difference. The responsiblility is diffused by over six billion! How could one person's actions make any difference? Well, it can, and here's how: Each persons actions may be small, however, like a pebble in a pond, there is a ripple effect. When one person does something different for the environment, it is likely that someone else will notice, whether it's their child, a friend, coworker, etc. That persons actions may spark someone else to make a small change in their behavior which may spark a change in someone else's behavior, and so on.

Another ripple effect is what their behavior means for others. When I recycle, it not only recycled that material, it also let the recyclers know that there is a market for recycling. As more people recycle, the recycling companies or municipalities will increase capacity. Each person represents a small, incremental increase in the need for that capacity. The same applies when buying eco-friendly products. Buying one product may not seem like a lot. However, your example may cause someone else to buy, which may cause someone else, etc. This demonstrates to the company that there is a desire for that type of product. Increased production usually leads to increased efficiency and lower cost. It ends up being a win/win/win, the person gets a good product at a good price, the company makes a good product for a profit, and the environment is not damaged and may even be improved as a result.

So, I guess the important point to walk away with, or navigate away with, is to not think of yourself as one in over six billion-and-so-what-I-do-won't-make-any-difference, but to think of yourself as one who can make a difference. Your responsibility is not diffused. It is 100% with you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Religious controversy

Recently, Pakistan has blocked Facebook because there is a group that encourages people to post images of Mohammad. Basically, Muslims are telling the rest of the world that everyone else must respect the rules of Islam. If they want others to respect their rules, then Muslims should respect the rules of other religions. Most specifically, do not murder. The culture should not encourage people to blow themselves up to kill others. Admittedly, other cultures have murder. However, it is against the law and when offenders are caught, they are tried and hopefully convicted.

There is a sub culture in Islam that encourages murder and not just of combatants, but civilians, people not engaged in any type of warfare. When Muslim countries start going after those offenders, convicting and punishing the orchestrators, then, maybe, other cultures will have more respect for the rules of Islam.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jobs bill going in wrong direction

Some of you may have heard that there is a jobs bill that some politicians are trying to pass. I actually believe that a better way to create jobs is to put more pressure on banks or the Small Business Administration to make credit available to small businesses. Passing a jobs bill will cost tax payers money. The banks have money, thanks to the tax payers. Granted, most have paid it back, but we bailed them out when they screwed up, and now they are flush with cash.

I have heard experts talking about how banks are not giving loans out, virtually at all, to small businesses. I can understand being conservative, but many of these small businesses have borrowed and paid them back in the past. Sure, increase the criteria for borrowing, but don't make it unattainable. If banks would loan money, small businesses would have access to the money they need to expand, and hire people.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Human Rights

There is a court case in California regarding the right of gay people to marry. Does anyone else see this as similar to when women were fighting for the right to vote? Or black people the right to be free. All throughout our history, groups of people that had less rights had to fight for equal rights. This is no different. It is a unique group, with supporters, fighting for a right the majority have. Can we not learn from history and simply grant the right as it should, and very likely will be?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

That One Thing

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that we should strive to do one thing a week this year to benefit society. One of my goals is to not take a car to work at least one day week. I took the bus twice in the first week. Unfortunately, the first day I did, I left my hat on the bus. So, do something good, but try not to lose something. That kind of defeats the purpose. Now I have to get another hat.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Modern Racism

I recently heard the term Modern Racism and a possible definition. I say possible because as a newer term, there is debate about its meaning. However, the phrase captures a meaning that needs to be differentiated, and that is as referring to the opinion that racism no longer exists and people other than white are getting more than they deserve via affirmative action. It is not traditional racism because a persons feelings are masked behind "equality."

Equality is the idea that people should be treated equally. It is something I firmly believe. However, I also believe that this society still has a long way to go before we reach a true equality. It is not just affirmative action, equal employment, and other supposed socially equalizing programs. It will be when a white person can walk in a black neighborhood and not have more fear than walking in a white neighborhood.

Some people will read that last sentence and think "Well, it is more dangerous for a white person in a black neighborhood." I will agree that it is more dangerous to walk in a poor neighborhood, which is an important distinction. Many white people associate black with poor and criminals. Black people do disproportionately make up the number of criminals behind bars. To me, the problem is that we let that happen.

As a society we have failed to meet the needs of those within the society. We have failed to educate everyone equally, to provide the necessary services, and ensure parents have the resources they need to raise their children in an environment that fosters a productive society. We need to break the negative cycle (that some people do not believe exists) and insert the idea that we are all in this society together. Then, ideally, modern racists will see that there are still many barriers to success for those that are not white.