"The key to getting people to change their behavior, in other words, sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation. The Power of Context says that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem."

The Power of Context says we as individuals are acutely sensitive to our present environment and situational pressures. This means that certain situations can be so powerful that they can "overwhelm our inherent predispositions".

Which effects our decision making more, how we were raised, or our biological makeup?
Most psychologists believe that our genetics account for about half of the reason why we tend to act the way we do, but what accounts for the other half?


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We know today that our genetics predispose us to a number of personality traits. Many blame and individuals success or failure on the way his/her parents raised them, or where he/she grew up, but human's aren't blank slates at birth. From day 1, each and every one of us has a unique combination of genes that will dictate how we react to situations and make decisions throughout our lives. One of the best ways we can see the effect our genetics have on our personality is by looking at adopted children. A study was performed where hundreds of adopted children were monitored from infancy to their teenage years. At the same, each child's biological and adoptive parents were monitored as well. After years of research, it's clear that the children resemble their biological parents' behavior more than their adoptive parents' behavior. Children even resembled their biological parents whom they had never come in contact with, and lived miles away from.

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How we're raised also contributes heavily to how we behave, but Gladwell suggests that the majority of our past experiences only affect our decision making in those situations in which we experienced them in. For example, younger siblings are known for being more extroverted than their older siblings, but this distinction in personality type may only present itself in familial situations. A teenager may be very expressive when with their parents, brothers, and sisters, but around their friends or strangers they may be quiet or shy. The experiences and knowledge we gain over the years won't necessarily aid us across the board. Instead, when presented with a dilemma, we will oftentimes only draw on the bank of knowledge collected from similar situations in the past.

Do our past experiences dictate how we react to different situations?
Our memories surely play a role in how we make decisions, but specific situations can disrupt the way we normally act.
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In the early 1970s, a group of scientists at Stanford University decided to create a mock prison in the basement of the university's psychology building. The twenty one volunteers who were deemed the most normal and healthy were chosen to participate in a prison simulation. Half of the group was chosen at random to be guards, and the volunteers were told that they were prisoners. The experiment, originally planned to be held over two weeks, had to be ended in six days.

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