Identity, beliefs and behaviour

Andrew Sullivan points to this suggestion that our beliefs follow our behaviour rather than the other way round. It’s certainly a good pushback to quite a lot of marketing and organisational thinking which seems to focus on fantasies about changing people’s minds. I think the same applies to our sense of identity, which we take to be fixed but is actually more malleable.

I’ve experienced this lately, as I’ve taken up the cycle hire scheme which has started in London. I’ve never cycled in the city before, but I quickly became an enthusiast.

And minutes into my first ride, I noticed that my attitudes to etiquette at junctions changed. Behaviour which I frowned on a pedestrian became perfectly sensible as a cyclist. It was easy to start thinking of pedestrians as reckless hazards (whereas before it had been the other way round). I’ve also noticed that as I’ve acquired the gear (eg helmet and high-vis jacket) I’ve actually experienced a rather funny pleasure in feeling I’m now even more of a cyclist.

Our identities, beliefs and behaviours are not the realm of simple cause and effect, but of unexpected, unpredictable interaction.

2 thoughts on “Identity, beliefs and behaviour

  1. Robert Paterson

    True for me too – where I live has changed a lot – what I wear and what I even eat – seen this in work too. At KETC the new habits have created new minds. Those who are not involved in social media in media – just cannot “see” what this involves. They still only see silly tech. The user feels the interaction and so develops a new voice. Just like your biking J will give you a new reality for the roads and what is happening.

  2. Gavin Heaton

    I think Mark Earls explains it nicely … that behaviour changes thinking. Hence the huge focus on participation or collaboration for organisations. If you can stimulate a shift in the nature of people’s interactions with each other, then you can transform they way they think, what they believe and ultimately what they value (as per your cycling example).

    Now, if only I could stop procrastinating 😉


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