Sunday, December 21, 2008

Broken Window Theory

I've known of "The Broken Window Theory" for some time but I finally figured out where it came from. This is from the Las Vegas Review Journal Sunday December 21st column from Sherman Frederick:

He recounted, "A 1969 Stanford experiment in which two cars were abandoned— one in the mean streets of the Bronx and one in a rich neighborhood in Palo Alto, Calif.
Within 10 minutes the car in the Bronx was vandalized, and within a few days it was stripped and smashed to pieces.
In Palo Alto, the car sat untouched for more than a week.
The psychologist conducting the experiment then went up to the untouched Palo Alto car and took a sledgehammer and smashed part of the car. Soon, passersby took turns hitting the car with the hammer, and in a few hours the car was demolished.
Several years later two University of Pepperdine criminologists used the Stanford experiment to put forward the “broken windows” theory of crime: When a broken window in a building is left unrepaired, the rest of the windows are soon broken.
Why does a broken window invite further vandalism? It sends a signal that no one is in charge, that breaking more windows costs nothing and has no bad consequences. This phenomenon can be extended to graffiti, panhandling, littering and a host of other acts. In short, once people begin disregarding the norms that keep order in a community, both order and community quickly unravel."

In other words in communities and schools and even our homes, we do need to "sweat the little stuff!" if we are to maintain a pleasant environment for us and those around us.

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