Psychology and Us

If what we’re told is good to do is bollocks, then how do we accept it, do it, feel better for it, what psychology is at work here?

Psychology has the biggest role to play in how we live, what our values are, what we accept as normal, and what we will accept from others. Those with power can use psychology to make us use our iPhones more, post on Facebook to collect our data, to consume more, to steer what we do, live and how we work.

Psychology can explain why we don’t do more, it is also used by some to shift blame and allow more consumption.

Most in the US accept jay-walking as a deeply American and long-standing activity. Cross the road in the wrong place and you can get seriously fined.

This is about who controls the roads. Roads are for cars. Fast cars. Pedestrians and cyclists are often sidelined. This didn’t come about accidentally but through marketing and design.

In the early 1920’s the US had a problem. More cars meant streets, which were shared by all, were becoming accident hot-spots. Older people and children were regularly injured and killed. Cities began calling for restrictions on cars’ speed and access. Car manufacturers realised something must be done.

The idea was beautiful: shift the blame from car drivers and manufacturers to those being injured, the pedestrian. A major marketing campaign saw the boy scouts handing out cards with cartoons, stupid pedestrians getting in the way of progress and the car.

Politicians were encouraged or paid to pass jay-walking laws. By 1923 the move was complete: Blame was psychologically shifted to those getting in the way of cars, pedestrians were criminalised, planned restrictions never materialised, and roads became places for cars, and for people to cross. Something we still accept today.

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