In an op-ed in the New York Times, Adam Alter suggests that “Where We Are Shapes Who We Are.”
He starts out with
IN the early 1970s, a team of researchers dropped hundreds of stamped, addressed letters near college dorms along the East Coast and recorded how many lost letters found their way to a mailbox. The researchers counted each posted letter as a small act of charity and discovered that students in some of the dorms were more generous than others.
and concludes, after reporting on the disposition of flyers left on cars:
These environmental cues can shape and reshape us as quickly as we walk from one part of the city to another.
without, apparently, considering that both experiments involved littering by the experimenters, nor that the response of drivers is likely to be different from people who actually walk. Most walkers, except perhaps the hikers on Mount Everest, don’t litter nearly as much as people who drive in cars.
Blaming the environment for how people act is a new one on me. On the other hand, people just dropping what they don’t want is probably attavistic behavior and may have to be consciously restrained, or carefully unlearned.
Then too, “a place for everything and everything in its place,” depends on a person having a sense of place. Which, also apparently, some people lack.