Not only in the literal sense, when you engage with people or don’t engage with people. It’s more than that. As it isn’t just internal stimuli that determine your actions, it’s also external stimuli. It’s mostly an interaction between the two. Our internal stimuli, such as the process of picking out an outfit for the day, are heavily influenced by external stimuli. What we buy at a supermarket might depend on how the products are positioned, or the environment you’re in. Psychology is all around you. Here I will list some examples how you are influenced by your environment and therefore demonstrate the importance of psychology.
You might or might not be aware of the effect of weather on your mood. To find out if different dimensions of the weather can have an affect on us, researchers collected 2 year’s worth of Tweets. Looking at the Tweeted content and the weather on that particular day, the found that, for instance, rain can put us in a negative mood.¹
What’s even more interesting is that people attribute their negative feelings to bad weather. In a study, people were asked to rate their moods. Those who were in a good mood left it at that and didn’t attribute it to anything in particular. However, those in a bad mood attributed it to the weather. Thus, actively trying to seek external causes for their feelings.²
Supermarkets. There are patterns in human behavior when it comes to supermarkets. For instance, researchers found that a crowd attracts more people. When there are other shoppers present at a certain aisle, it attracts new shoppers. But these new shoppers are less likely to buy something from that store zone. The researchers speculate that people change their behaviors in the presence of other shoppers. They are less likely to make unnecessary purchases and engage in fewer exploratory behaviors.³
Tricks. Retailers try to influence your buying behavior, preferably to increase their sales. They can do so by creating attractive labels for their products or interesting advertisements telling you their product is a necessity. Another way is to elicit certain feelings among their customers. That is demand accelerates demand. This means that when we know that something is highly wanted by other consumers, we want it too. Researchers looked at shelves in a supermarket and found that people are more likely to opt for the ‘scarce’ product. When faced with two similar products, you’re gonna choose the one with the partially emptied shelf.4
Learn more about how we make choices and what happens if we’re faced with too many choices.
The presence of other people has a huge effect on our behaviors. One of those effects is called the bystander effect. According to this effect, the mere presence of others changes how we behave. This effect is often studied in situations were strangers need help. Why when someone falls down do people sometimes fail to help this person? Or even worse, there have been multiple cases of fatal cases and no one interfering. This is most likely due to the diffusion of responsibility. People might think: ‘why should I be the one to help? there are others, they can help too’. Or they might look at other people’s faces to determine the severity of the case. They see that everyone seems indifferent and decide that it’s not that bad. But unbeknownst to them, everyone is looking at each other for cues if it’s severe enough that they should step in.5
An interesting experiment on how others influence our behaviors is the groundbreaking research by Asch.6 People were put into groups and had to publically answer easy questions. For instance, the saw three lines and had to indicate which line was similar to a fourth line displayed on the side. This is an incredibly easy task and almost impossible to get wrong. However, each participant was put into a group of confederates. So they were surrounded by a group of actors. The group would purposively and collectively pick the wrong answer. The participants were very likely to go along with the answer the group gave. Even though they knew it was wrong. But people are afraid to stand out most of the time.
Learn more about helping behaviors.
As you can see, many of the patterns in human behavior are constantly studied by psychologists. These theories can help explain human behavior. People often think they’re unique in the choices they make or their actions. But it turns out, we’re not so different after all. And the proof is all around us.
1. Li, J., Wang, X., & Hovy, E. (2014, November). What a nasty day: Exploring mood-weather relationship from twitter. In Proceedings of the 23rd ACM International Conference on Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 1309-1318). ACM.
2. Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (1983). Mood, misattribution, and judgments of well-being: Informative and directive functions of affective states. Journal of personality and social psychology, 45(3), 513.
3. Hui, S. K., Bradlow, E. T., & Fader, P. S. (2009). Testing behavioral hypotheses using an integrated model of grocery store shopping path and purchase behavior. Journal of consumer research, 36(3), 478-493.
4. Van Herpen, E., Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2009). When demand accelerates demand: Trailing the bandwagon. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(3), 302-312.
5. Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 10(3), 215.
6. Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men(pp. 177–190). Pittsburgh, PA:Carnegie Press