Broken window theory

Broken window theory was formulated by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982. According to this theory, if someone broke the glass in the house and no one put in a new one, then soon there will not be a single window in this house, and then the looting will begin. In other words, clear signs of disorder and non-compliance of people with accepted norms of behavior provoke others to forget about the rules. As a result of the resulting chain reaction, a “decent” urban area can quickly turn into a cesspool, where people are afraid to go outside.
In order to confirm the loyalty of this theory, sociologists of the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) conducted six experiments to verify the validity of the theory of broken windows.

Experiment 1
The first experiment was carried out on the street where there are many shops, near the wall of the house, where the Groningenians, while shopping, park their bicycles. This wall was a bright, conspicuous sign, forbidding to draw on the walls. At first the wall was clean.The experimenters hung a piece of paper on the handlebars of each bike (there were 77 total bikes) with the words “We wish you all happy holidays!” And the logo of a non-existent sporting goods store. Hiding in a secluded corner, the researchers began to observe the actions of cyclists. There were no ballot boxes on the street, so a person could either throw a piece of paper on the ground, or hang it on another bicycle, or take it with them to throw it away later. The first two options were considered as a violation of accepted norms, the third - as their compliance.
Of the 77 cyclists, only 25 (33%) behaved uncivilized. Then the experiment was repeated, with the same weather and at the same time of the day, having previously ground the wall with empty drawings. This time we trash 53 people out of 77 (69%). The revealed difference has a high degree of statistical significance. Thus, the violation of the prohibition to paint on the walls turned out to be a serious incentive that provokes people to violate another generally accepted rule - not to litter on the streets.
Experiment 2
The second experiment was to show whether the theory of broken windows is valid only for generally accepted norms, or its effect also applies to local rules established for a particular situation or place.The researchers blocked the main entrance to the car parking fence, which, however, was left a wide slot. Next to it they hung a sign “No admittance, bypass 200 meters to the right”, as well as the announcement “It is forbidden to fasten bicycles to the fence”. The experiment was again carried out in two variants: “the order is observed” and “the order is broken”. In the first case, four bicycles stood a meter away from the fence, obviously not fastened to it. In the second case, the same bicycles fastened to the fence. From a secluded place, the experimenters observed how the citizens who had come for their cars would behave: they would go around the fence or crawl through a hole. The result turned out to be positive: in the situation “the order was observed”, only 27% of car owners climbed through the hole, and in the situation “order was broken” - 82%.
Experiment 3
The third experiment was carried out in an underground parking lot near a supermarket, where a large and well-marked advertisement “Please return the carts taken from the store” hung. In the situation “the order was observed” there were no carts in the parking lot, in the situation “the order was broken” there were four carts there. The researchers prudently smeared their pens with fuel oil to prevent visitors from wanting to use them. The same papers were attached to the machines as in the first experiment.The result was similar: in the first situation, 30% of the drivers threw a piece of paper on the ground, in the second - 58%.
Experiment 4
The fourth experiment resembled the first one, with the difference that the signs of “violation of the norms by other people” were now not visual, but sound. In the Netherlands, the law prohibits the use of firecrackers and fireworks in the pre-Christmas weeks. It turned out that cyclists throw papers on the ground much more often if they hear the sound of bursting firecrackers.
Experiments 5 and 6
In the fifth and sixth experiments, people were provoked to petty theft. An envelope with a transparent window was sticking out of the mailbox, from which a bill of 5 euros was clearly visible. Experimenters watched people passing by, counting the number of thefts. In the situation of "order is observed" the mailbox was clean and there was no garbage around.
In a “disturbed order” situation, either the box was painted with meaningless graffiti (experiment 5), or there was rubbish all around (experiment 6). In a situation of "order is observed", only 13% of passers-by (out of 71) assigned an envelope. However, 27% of passers-by stole an envelope from a painted box (out of 60), and 25% of people (out of 72) provoked theft of scattered garbage to theft.
Interestingly, the theory of the broken has found wide application in practice - first in New York, and then in many other cities in the USA, Europe, South Africa, Indonesia, etc. Carefully monitoring the cleanliness of the streets and washing the graffiti off the walls only taught citizens to behave more cultured, but also achieved a significant reduction in crime in the city.

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