Human behavior can be complex—and the drivers behind it may not always be what we think they are.
Let’s say someone you know never recycles, for whatever reason. But then that person buys a house in a new neighborhood where recycling bins are visible on trash day each week. That individual’s recycling behavior will change independent of any belief system because their context has changed, said social psychologist Markus Brauer, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of psychology, affiliate professor of marketing faculty with the Wisconsin School of Business, and the executive director of campus’ new Institute for Diversity Science.
“One of the most powerful predictors [of human behavior] is what’s going on in people’s context, and somewhat surprisingly, it’s generally believed that people behave according to their preferences or values,” Brauer said. “Sure, they do play a role, but very often what is underestimated is the powerful impact of the context and the powerful impact of social norms.”
Brauer’s studies on human group behavior range from the everyday-yet-impactful such as recycling to the critical like diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The recycling example—taken from his own evidence-based research—was just one of the insights he shared with an online audience to illustrate the connection between our surroundings and behaviors during a recent episode of the UW–Madison’s Badger Talks Live. Titled “The Latest Research Around Creating Inclusive Environments,” the talk touched on topics including:
- Why pro-diversity initiatives need to be evaluated, not merely executed
- The importance of a public commitment to diversity and inclusion coming from the top echelons of an organization and a reflection of that commitment clearly visible and easily accessible on websites and other organizational materials
- Why a systemic approach to behavior change is needed
To learn more about Brauer’s work and how inclusive environments can be created, watch the recap in full: