“Why’d you do that?” A Look into How Values Dictate Behavior

We tend to ask a lot of questions about why people behave a certain way. Let’s look at it from a couple perspectives – 1. the basic civilian (subject to desires) and 2. the diehard fan (subject to the business of branding).

1. The Basic Civilian

The human experience is dictated by our behaviors. Just as every action has a reaction, every value shapes our behavior.

Value creates goals which inspires behavior to influence action

Use this model to work backwards and reveal insight on why certain things become trend.

Let’s look at an example. Take Jeffrey, a young man who values money, attention, fame. Jeffrey’s goal is to achieve success as quickly as possible in the path of least resistance. He considers getting a partner/girlfriend who might already represents the things he dreams of so as a byproduct he now look famous. Tangentially, any girlfriend he picks has to meets the mainstream caricature of sexy. As a result, his behavior circulates around flaunting to represent all things glamorous to attract as much. This of course now shapes Jeffrey’s actions, purchases, and where he choose to hang out. It’s like a funnel…at the top you have the things that people value and filtering down are the actions that fulfill the above.

Once the core motivational and behavioral aspects are laid out, you have the opportunity to look at specific populations that routinely behave in a certain manner. Anthropologically this is crucial because you can begin identifying social customs, beliefs, and exploring the “why” fueling certain groups. Perhaps with the above Jeffrey example, you can see this as a regular occurrence for a demographic that is predominately young men of color, under the age of 25, single parent low income household, absent father, low education, and all shared a promise to their family and/or themselves that they’d quickly “make it” rich by any means necessary as an answer to their problems. 

Values ➡️ goals ➡️ behavior ➡️ action

2. The Diehard Fan

Exploring fandom and brand loyalty can reveal a similar pattern of behavior as our normal civilian. With passion comes emotional investment. And emotional investment becomes mental bait, converting a general consumer to a diehard fan.

Given the dependence of social media from business executives, knowledge of basic psychology is rightfully becoming a recommended skillset for digital media employees. One very important intersection attention needs to be spent on are the patterns between fan identity and consumer behavior.

Translation: When people declare they are a fan of something, what are they doing now? Is their behavior different now than it was before? Do they feel better about themselves as a result of being a fan of X? Did they gain happiness from it? If they watch more of Y, are they now buying more Z?

Translation of the translation: Kim starts following fitness profiles on IG. Now Kim is actually doing at-home workouts. Now that Kim has started adopting this new #GainZ / fitness lifestyle, she takes an extra second to catch her reflection (something she would have never done before). Kim can’t help but blow herself a kiss because for the first time in a long time, she’s feeling herself. Because Kim is now so emotionally connected to this personal trainer’s page, Kim clicks on the trainer’s sponsored athletic apparel company and buys the same leggings as her favorite fitness influencer.

Fans derive personal pleasure from their areas of interest, causing them to invest time, energy, and resources.

The Dark Side of Fandom and Twisted Values

There is, of course, a dark side to this as well…

This is why there will forever be the controversial debate with the far too simplistic correlation between watching violence and behaving violently. A fan of Grand Threat Auto or horror movies must automatically lead to violent behavior, right?

I recently watched a program on the ID channel which profiled 2 brothers who stabbed 5 members of their family to death (including children) because they were fans of serial killers covered in the news. These teenage young men watched hours and hours of YouTube footage to study the horrific mass killings of Columbine and the movie theatre mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Why? Because they looked up to those sick serial killers as idols…as if it was a young Kobe Bryant idolizing Michael Jordan.

This is why many in social media beg mainstream media to not repeatedly say the names of these serial killers and profile them so deeply because the repeated coverage can appear glorifying…a popular motivation for the sick and twisted to begin with. Killers wanting to be famous…{remember how values and motivation influences behavior?}

Clearly those teen boys who killed their family were filled with evil and fueled by untreated mental illness. So we as a public must pump the brakes on believing that there is a universal “if-then” model to explain what makes somebody harm another human being. Nothing is one-size-fits-all – especially when it comes to the human experience because there will always be unknown yet needle-moving variables. That’s why psychology and media literacy are so important, because monitoring regulations like rating systems (ex. Rated-R movies and video games) and programming filters on streaming portals like Netflix are crucial. Additionally, educating oneself on the various forms of fandom and affiliation can provide preliminary clarity on a number internal matters that paint a person’s behavior.

In ordinary life and the corporate world, we’re all in the people business. It behooves us to look into the motivating, internal triggers that make a person act (and not act).

What we stand for becomes mental bait, compelling us to behaviorally bite in a certain manner to feed our internal appetite.

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