Do we waltz into danger ?
"Anthropologists who study vervets find that they have been known to waltz into a thicket, ignoring a fresh trail of python tracks, and then act stunned when they actually come across the snake itself. This doesn’t mean that vervets are stupid: they are very sophisticated when it comes to questions that have to do with other vervets. They can hear the call of a male vervet and recognize whether it comes from their own group or a neighboring group...A vervet, in other words, is very good at processing certain kinds of vervetish information, but not so good at processing other kinds of information."
According to Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, the same is true of humans…
"The FAE (Fundamental Attribution Error) ... is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people’s behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context…
"In one experiment, for instance, a group of people are told to watch two sets of similarly talented basketball players, the first of whom are shooting baskets in a well-lighted gym and the second of whom are shooting baskets in a badly lighted gym (and obviously missing a lot of shots). Then they are asked to judge how good the players were. The players in the well-lighted gym were considered superior.
"There is something in all of us that makes us instinctively want to explain the world around us in terms of people’s essential attributes; he’s a better basketball player, that person is smarter than I am. We do this because, like vervets, we are a lot more attuned to personal cues than contextual cues.
"Character, then isn’t what we think it is or, rather what we want it to be. It isn’t a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits.... Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context. The reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment." -The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Vervet monkeys are bad at picking up the significance of things like an antelope carcass hanging in a tree which is a sure sign that a leopard is in the vicinity.... A vervet, in other words, is very good at processing certain kinds of vervetish information, but not so good at processing other kinds of information. The same is true of humans.
-The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
When we lose control of our environment and disorder reins, crime is one of the inevitable results. The "Broken Windows" Theory states that if a window is broken and left unrepaired, observers will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes. In a city, relatively minor problems like graffiti, public disorder, and aggressive panhandling...are all the equivalent of broken windows, invitations to more serious crimes.
"But what do Broken Windows and the Power of Context suggest? ...They say that the criminal – far from being someone who acts for fundamental, intrinsic reasons and who lives in his own world - is actually someone acutely sensitive to his environment, who is alert to all kinds of cues, and who is prompted to commit crimes based on his perception of the world around him." -The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
In fact, we are all affected by cues in our environment. In The Yello Dyno Memo 3/06 I describe this context: ".... You're on a plane sitting next to a strange man, unbeknownst to you he's a convicted sexual predator. The fantasy world that lives inside his mind has no door for outward expression in a cramped seat surrounded by 200 witnesses. The social structure creates a protective pattern that allows you to complete your journey safely. As you leave the airport, that same man walking nearby could become a threat to your life...."
Child predators can distinguish right from wrong. On Dateline's explosive series on Interent predators, hundreds of men confessed (after showing up at an underage girl's or boy's home for sex), "I'm despicable!" – yet there they sat with cameras rolling. They did not opt for "right" action. Yes, a few were hard-core, convicted predators, but most were "situational predators," people we interact with in our daily lives. So, what tipped them over into abhorent behavior? Portals on the Internet granted them access into a context devoid of the normal, healthy restraints of society.
What transpires when you put good people in evil places? Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment concluded that there are specific situations so powerful that they can overwhelm our inherent predispositions. Wars teem with heinous crimes, but an even more classic example is that of a mother, the 'hand that rocks the cradle'. If you threaten her child, she becomes a formidable enemy. Violence becomes non-negotiable.
To protect our children, we must stop waltzing into danger, we must be mindful of the 'python tracks'. Our stunned response when we unearth the 'phython', "But he was so nice," needs to be replaced with alert awareness of circumstances and context. With knowledge of context, we recognize and fix the 'broken windows' in our environment that attract criminal behavior. For child predators, the ideal environment is one lacking in alert adult supervision. Yes, that includes the portals through which our children's minds leave us: the Internet, text messaging, and cell phones. Children are actually sitting right in our environment, but are literally in another 'context'. They are being lured right from under our noses, and snatched into danger.
We must teach our children the importance of 'context'. In Yello Dyno's new Tricky People! Curriculum for 4th and 5th graders, students are empowered with lessons on 'context' – Tricky People: It's not what people look like, their age, or if you know them - it's what they ask you TO DO that matters. With this curriculum, children learn to recognize behavior that means danger – behavior in the 'context' – so they can steer clear of the 'pythons' waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Act now. Create a protective environment by giving your children the understanding of 'context' to recognize Tricky People!
Yours for child safety,
Yello Dyno Founder
P.S. Yello Dyno's NEW! Tricky People! Curriculum (Grades 4-5) PowerPoint presentation, with three songs and six video lessons embedded in the presentation, wakes up and empowers children to protect themselves from the dangers of Tricky People, child predators.
Educators, Non-profits, Churches and Law Enforcement: To have a Yello Dyno Curriculum sent to you for a thirty-day review, fill out this online form, or call me at
888-935-5639 ext. 100 or email me at Jan@YelloDyno.com
P.S.S. More information on reviewing our curricula from an evaluation by REdS (Research and Educational Services): The findings show that 80.8% of the students tested demonstrated an increase in knowledge after one cycle of the Yello Dyno Curriculum.
Comments? Ideas for future memos? Contact me: Jan@YelloDyno.com.
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