I'm gonna talk about Russia. :) I'm not interested in foreign policy, relations, for this question... maybe just a tiny bit.

A little preamble.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union (hereinafter S.U.), the people got lost, they didn't know who they were, what they wanted to do and who was going to tell them what to do. S.U. did a really good cleansing (of people's minds)... they were destroying all the traditions and knowledge that people lived by before S.U.: how to organize themselves, how to protect your property and even how to manage your household (if you're living in your own house). Private property, businesses, gold and anything valuable were seized. From the Party's point of view it was better if you live in an apartment rather than your own house. So, after the collapse, it was, loosely translated in English, the wild and evil ’90s. Basically the time of socio-political chaos. All the bad in people surfaced and no one to stop them because bribery was a second nature and it got instilled in the culture and the government.

Now to the point of the question.
Nowadays, when people break laws, even those that just a manifestations of common sense and you point that out, they tend to just show "muscles" and try to scare you away. Examples: driving in places when it's prohibited, littering, bribing the law enforcement, causing disturbances (e.g. playing loud music). Driving dangerously is a particularly big problem.

The reasoning often goes something like this: that's ok, no one's there, and it's really stupid not to take the "opportunity" (for saving little time, money, effort), I will do no harm... And even if you don't take this "opportunity", in some circles there can be social pressure to act like this. Romanticizing and glorifying a criminal life-style is somewhat prevalent... unfortunately teens often don't grow out of it. The civil court is a huge hassle (unless you're some sort of a government worker), police officers often ignore "small" violations and you left with the aggressor alone, imagine a big guy with no morals or a sociopath.

Why people don't see that they live such an a-typical, perhaps anti-social or criminal, life? And is there a way to go about to make those people aware of how they behave?

Any terms in psychology that describe this, any books to read or forums to visit... I'll appreciate any advice.

  • $\begingroup$ @mfloren Russia was a good example to use since I live there and can speak out of first-hand experience. You can apply it to any other nation or group of people that demonstrates the same behavioral pattern. The title question is too vague to just leave it as it is, so I filled it with context. I didn't get what you meant by "...beg answers that address facts you claim to not be interested in." I'm not begging... and what facts am I not interested in? $\endgroup$ May 16, 2017 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ I edited it... I don't think that will confuse anyone anymore. $\endgroup$ May 17, 2017 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ Hi FellowPidgeon, welcome at CogSci. I rephrased your question quite a bit to make it a bit clearer, less opinionated, and more "PG-13". I would also like to suggest to remove the Russia section since it seems rather unrelevant, but I'll leave that up to you :) The answer might be very similar to the question I linked to in the next comment: $\endgroup$ May 17, 2017 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Why do some people refuse to wear their seat belt while being aware of the risks? $\endgroup$ May 17, 2017 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Robin Thanks for the link, there are some similarities for sure but I don't think that explains it completely. However, a lot of good read from that question. Btw, why does it have to be pg-13? $\endgroup$ May 17, 2017 at 14:44

3 Answers 3


Even though @RobinKramer did some work to remove some opinion from the question, there are still some opinions in the question which to me cannot be backed up with hard facts. However, the question has enough in it to answer your question.

Apart from @AliceD's excellent answer in the possible duplicate question indicated by @RobinKramer, there is a theory followed in Sociology and Psychology which may be what you are looking for. That is Social Exchange Theory.

Although the theory is generally referred to when talking about social interactions in relationships, it can also be related to the situations you are referring to. The key point you mentioned is the thought that

The reasoning often goes something like this: that's ok, no one's there, and it's really stupid not to take the "opportunity" (for saving little time, money, effort), I will do no harm.

Social Exchange Theory

The basic idea is that the social exchange process brings satisfaction when people receive fair returns for their expenditures. The major difference between social and economic exchange is the nature of the exchange between parties. The social exchange perspective argues that people calculate the overall worth of a particular relationship by subtracting its costs from the rewards it provides.

Rewards – Costs = Worth

If the costs in the situation you are talking about is bigger than the benefits (Rewards), for example, if there is a perceived high chance that law enforcement will stop you and delay the journey (costs) this can be bigger than the rewards (a quicker journey by taking a short-cut through a restricted area), so the worth could then have a negative value leading to the choice of not taking the short-cut.

Social Exchange Theory was introduced in 1958 by the sociologist George Homans with the publication of his work "Social Behavior as Exchange" (Cook & Rice, 2001). Homans summarised the theory in 5 propositions (University of Amsterdam, n.d.):

  • The 1st Proposition - Success proposition:
    When an individual is rewarded for their actions, they tend to repeat the action;
  • The 2nd Proposition - Stimulus proposition:
    The more often a particular behaviour has resulted in a reward in the past, the more likely it is that a person will respond to it (possibly with reward); and
  • The 3rd Proposition - Value proposition:
    If the expected result of a behavioural action is considered valuable to the individual, it is more likely for that behaviour to occur
  • The 4th Proposition - Deprivation–satiation proposition:
    The more often in the recent past a person has received the same reward, the less valuable any further unit of that reward becomes.
  • The 5th Proposition – Aggression-approval proposition:
    When the rewards of a social exchange are not as expected, a person will react emotionally, usually in an angry or aggravated manner. Those who receive more than they expect or do not receive anticipated punishment will be happy and will behave approvingly.

How to combat the problem using Social Exchange Theory

To tackle the problem using Social Exchange Theory, there needs to be an increase in the costs in order to out-weigh the benefits leading to a lower worth of carrying out the undesired action.


Cook, K. S. & Rice, E. R. W., 2001. Chapter 31: Exchange and Power - Issues of Structure and Agency. In: J. H. Turner, ed. Handbook of Sociological Theory. New York City: Springer Science & Business Media, LLC, pp. 699-719.

University of Amsterdam, n.d. SocioSite: George C. Homans - General Propositions. [Online] Available at: http://www.sociosite.net/topics/texts/homans.php [Accessed 4 August 2016].


This question can be unswered from the field of sociology.

Sociology is the study of social behaviour or society, including its origins, development, organisation, networks, and institutions. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, disorder, and change.

Specifically what you describe here are the social norms formed by society.

From a sociological perspective, social norms are informal understandings that govern the behavior of members of a society. Social psychology recognizes smaller group units, such as a team or an office, may also endorse norms separately or in addition to cultural or societal expectations. In other words, norms are regarded as collective representations of acceptable group conduct as well as individual perceptions of particular group conduct. They can be viewed as cultural products (including values, customs, and traditions) which represent individuals' basic knowledge of what others do and think that they should do.

The values and expectations that you experience are formed in the socio-economical environment of the specific nation througout many years of interactions among members of that society.

EDIT: It is very very difficult to change deep rooted cultural habits and norms, and usually will take many years to do so. But I will give some practical advices that may help :

  • Lead by example. If a higly regarded individual of the society, consistently demonstrates a different behavior, this may have a long lasting effect on other members of the society and may gradually change their behavior.
  • Don’t push information, engage in active dialogue to change their goals and beliefs.
  • Changing the environment. The environment have subtle ways in which they reinforce our habits.
  • Create activities (like social gatherings, competitions etc) that indirectly falsify the bad sticky idea.

References of the EDIT:

Made to Stick

Smart Change


  • $\begingroup$ I get what you're saying, but you're describing the same thing that I wrote just with different terms. It's useful for a professional in the field of psychology or sociology, that is already in the know, how to tackle the problem, but I'm not one of them :) $\endgroup$ May 17, 2017 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @FellowPigeon see EDIT for some practical advices that may help. $\endgroup$ May 19, 2017 at 7:18

According to Hindu-Buddhist Philosophy ,the world (real and imaginary) ,contains pairs of opposite systems (mirror images). The opposites exist in some type of a dynamic equilibrium . Occasionally ,they may annihilate each other .Matter-antimatter pairs ,positive-negative charge pairs ,hot desert-cold desert pairs are examples.
Desire to live and desire to die --also form a pair of opposites . These ideas co-exist in a society--also in every individual .Some people are motivated by the desire to live more strongly than the desire to die ,where as some people are motivated by the desire to die more strongly than the desire to die.Ordinary people (th common man , good citizens ) belong to the first group .Adventurers ,explorers ,soldiers , criminals ,high risk game players etc , belong to the second group.

Circumstances decide , whether an individual behaves like a criminal or a good citizen...Chengiz Khan and Hitler believed that human bengs are essentially criminals , but behave like good citizens under fer of punishment ...Jesus Christ and Gandhi , on the other hand , believed that human beings are essentially good citizens , but behave like criminals when the society does not satisfy their needs and ill treats them .
But human needs are Infinite ,and so it is not possible for the society to satisfy all the needs of any person .This gives any individual a justification to behave like a criminal ..An intelligent person might understand the limitation of the society , be satisfied with whatever he gets from the society and work towards the improvement of the society .
Whether an individual decides to behave like a law breaking criminal ,or a law abiding good citizen , depends on his level of education and general intelligence .You may read a biography of Swami Vivekananda to start with.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci. This is a scientific stack and I am afraid your answer is off-topic here. It may be the approach followed on other sites like Mi Yodeya but we expect answers to be supported by scientific sources. If you could re-write it into an answer with a scientific approach, please feel free to do so. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    May 18, 2017 at 21:34

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