The role of environment on human behaviour and performance

The study of human psychology is a fascinating subject because it deals with universal human concerns and issues. Human behaviour and performance is one focus area within broader psychology. The book titled Discovering Psychology co-edited by Nicola Brace and Jovan Byford deals with this area at length. By perusing the contents of the book and by assimilating and synthesizing salient points within, the rest of this essay will attempt to answer the topic question.

One of the accepted theories in child psychology is the ‘social learning’ theory. It states that children can grasp, assimilate and imitate the behaviour of those around them. This is very helpful when parents and teachers want to teach children good manners and decorum by way of setting an example. But in the modern household environment in which a child grows up, television sets and computers attract their attention easily. This is not a bad environment to grow up in entirely, for “The advent of digital media and the proliferation of technologies that support their delivery, such as the internet, mean that children now have easy access to lots of information. This ranges from educational material, through various types of entertainment, to interactive online experiences”. (Oates, p.103)

Unfortunately, though, these digital media and communication technologies tend to show a lot of emotionally intense imagery. This includes violent behaviour, aggression, etc. which can appear very realistic in their portrayal, leaving a lasting impression on the formative minds of children. Even something as outwardly benign as cartoons contains a lot of violence (at times even exceeding those of action movies). The rubbery cartoon characters are seldom shown as getting hurt in their physical exuberances. But the danger lies if children try to replicate such actions during their playtime. There is also the avenue of video games, through which children get shown more violence. Many popular games in action genre involve the player carrying guns and ammunition as he sets out to accomplish the mission. An unguided child, who gets exposed to excess of cartoons and video games, is bound to develop behaviour problems both at home and in school. This assessment is backed by studies conducted on the subject. Author John Oates encapsulates the study results thus:

“In the 1930s, a study showed that crime was a major of theme of 25 per cent of the 1500 films that were analysed (Dale, 1935). There was also growing concern around this time about violence shown in comics. Behind these concerns lay a notion that there can be some sort of direct effect of viewing violent material on screen, an effect that either predisposes the viewer to change their attitude towards violence, for example by becoming more tolerant of violence, or renders them more likely to behave in violent ways themselves. Exposure to media violence, either in films, on television or in computer games, is regularly cited as a possible factor causing violent behaviour in the real world.” (Oates, p.105)

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