People exhibit a vast behavioral repertoire. How do we explain this wide range of choices?
Normally we think of people as being very complicated and each of us different from everybody else.
Our typical presumption is that each person has a complex personality which explains the variation in personal behavior.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the discussion of personality that we forget the large role the environment plays and fall back to “You get what you deserve.”
Complexity theory is a growing branch of analysis which explains system-wide behavior, which is often complex or unexpected, in terms of agents driven by a few general rules in a vast complex environment.
Here’s a different way to look at explaining the broad variation in human behavior.
Three Fundamental Drives and Environment
We each start with the same basic drives – safety, satiety (satisfy our bodily requirements). and sex. However our experience can range from wealthy to hand-to-mouth, from healthy to sickly, from cherished to shunned, and so on.
These repeated, albeit idiosyncratic, experiences develop our three fundamental drives into some common behavioral patterns.
The Big Five are the current favorite breakdown. They are best know by the acronym OCEAN – Openness in experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism. By the end of puberty, each of us is firmly in our place within the Big Five. Yet after puberty, the environment and our experiences still challenge us with novel situations, in which our behaviors can’t always be predicted by the general 3S or OCEAN.
It is the diversity of our environments and our experiences that drives the wide spread of behavior, rather than the innate differences between individuals.
What happens when one ignores environment complexity? Consider