The Psychology of Rule-Breaking

The Psychology of Rule-Breaking

The Psychology of Rule Breaking: Understanding the Motivations Behind Unconventional Behaviour

None of us would ever want to be called a criminal or would ever want to get caught for engaging in unethical issues. But why do you think people generally break rules or display unconventional behavioural patterns? If we introspect a bit deeper, we may also find that at least as children, we have had our share of unconventional behaviours and rule-breaking incidents.

Through this article, let us delve further into uncovering the underlying motivations that lie deep inside those who have broken the rules, no matter how big or small. Everyone who breaks rules or undertakes unconventional actions has their motivations but they may also be driven by some basic reasons, comprehending which, one can devise strategies and preventive methods to address the issue.

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Sometimes people consider breaking the rules to be the only smart thing to attempt. Whenever a rigid set of rules comes into place, it brings with it a greater level of risk of them being broken voraciously. Sometimes, people break rules very consciously and deliberately as they breathe the fact that those rules would never allow them freedom rather would only shackle them to a corner.

This understanding that individuals develop about the highly restrictive set of laws put in place for them could motivate them not to obey them but to break them without a second thought. Other times people do consider some of the rules to be boring and following them without any challenge is just another mundane activity. Hence, they may tend to become the rule-breakers to free themselves. Adolescents can be considered a classic example of these theories of rule-breaking.

Adolescents: Rule-Breakers

Adolescents are one of the major groups of individuals susceptible to unconventional actions. They may be found breaking rules quite often, be it by violating the dress code of their educational institutions or even by violating the curfew timings back in their homes. But why do they do this? Adolescents live in that time of their lives when they yearn for freedom and autonomy.

Hence, as and when they try and exercise autonomy, parents and authorities may put up more restrictions against this and this may tempt them to break the rules they are made to follow at home. They may find them to be too controlling and may also fail to develop a lack of understanding as to why these rules are implemented or as to what exactly the parents or the school or college authorities want to ensure upon its implementation.

However, this lack of comprehension is not the culprit every single time. There are multiple instances wherein parents and teachers implement unnecessary rules masking it as a precursor for the child’s welfare, paying no heed to the children’s genuine demands. This can also call upon situations and instances of rule-breaking.

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Those who initially break a certain rule tend to be given the major chunk of liability or sometimes even credit for the matter. This can also be a precursor for people to break the rules. These people spearhead required changes in rules and are called as fire starters as they ignite the need for change in other like-minded people as well. Harvard Business Review, in one of its reports, stated that in a corporate setting, there are 3 major psychological reasons for people to cross the conventional lines.

1. Omnipotence

Sometimes people may feel that they are more powerful or even omnipotent than others and nothing can cause them or the position they hold major harm. This feeling of entitlement creates a sense of elation within these employees and produces a cognition as to that the rules do not apply to them. this motivates them to break the rules and as long as they are not caught red-handed for their unconventional behaviours, they tend to find themselves hyper-capable. Omnipotence has its benefits. Sometimes taking risky action to achieve actual progress or breakthroughs is just what you need to feel the buzz of. But, the ladder might become more of a liability as you go up in rank. This is particularly true if the individuals in your immediate vicinity are becoming less and less willing and able to keep you in check.

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2. Cultural numbness

Irrespective of one’s level of principle, people have to accept that their moral compass will eventually slant in the direction of one’s team or organization’s culture. They feel compelled to blend in by speaking the same language, acting appropriately, and dressing appropriately. However, by doing so, they run the risk of going too far and adopting the values of the gang members they are trying to dislodge. In businesses, a similar form of moral capture occurs gradually rather than all at once.

3. Justified neglect

The human mind is adept at rationalising small-scale violations when there is a material benefit at stake and little chance of being discovered. Numerous leaders have had to decide between doing the right thing and receiving the prize. When one starts to justify their behaviour they are starting down the slippery slope. These small transgressions lead to larger ones, which develop into terrible habits you are aware of but that you begin to justify and even accept as part of the situation until they eventually become ingrained in your moral fibre.

Comprehending the reasons or driving forces that motivate individuals of various age groups to undertake unconventional behavioural patterns would help people spot the discrepancies in their cognition and actions at the right time and ensure that the wrongdoing is prevented or at least restricted to an unharming degree.

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