With all of those cameras watching, few people change their public behavior

A Canadian sociologist argues that although more people are being watched in public, through phenomenon like Google Street View and a multitude of security cameras, few people are changing how they act in public settings:

Nathan Young, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, believes few Canadians have altered their public behaviour.

“When we’re out on the street, there’s an understanding we’re in public and there’s a risk of being seen or talked to,” says Young. “What’s different now is if we go outside to change a tire in our underwear, it can be exposed worldwide.”…

Voyeurism has always been a part of human motivation, says Young, an authority on privacy issues.

But ogling the Google images also tells us something about our sense of fun, he explains, pointing out some of the images are theatrics or misunderstandings of a moment.

“Clearly, there are people out there that want to play (with the technology),” he reasons. “Not for politics or protest. Just a personal imprint.”

Young says there’s no evidence people are more aware or cautious as they head out their doors.

At this point, if you are acting “normally” in public, you don’t have much reason to worry that some camera out there might see what you are doing. At the same time, there seems to be a decent number of people who are worried that these cameras and technologies could end up being used against them.

It is interesting to note how people do act in public and to think whether this differs from how they act when they are alone.

Wanting to fit in leads to interesting behavior

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that people are willing to alter their behavior in a quest to try to fit in:

“Social exclusion is a very painful experience, which makes it a strong motivator,” explains Tyler Stillman, a visiting sociology professor at Southern Utah University, who is one of the study’s co-authors.

In one experiment, researchers paired study participants with a partner who left midway through the study. Some of the participants believed their partners left because they didn’t like them — and those people were more easily talked into buying a silly school spirit trinket. In another study, people who felt excluded were more likely to say they were willing to try cocaine. Researchers say their findings could have real-life implications.

Interesting results. If these results are all based on lab experiments, how much more willing would people be to change their behavior to fit in when confronted with real people?

I would be curious to find if the study looked at different age groups. If lab experiments were only conducted with undergraduate students, might the results change if the same experiments were done with older adults?