Why We Don’t Like Changing. The Evolutionary Psychology Approach.

07 Dec

One of the most common causes of resistance to change is fear of the unknown – the long-term equivalent of being “paralysed by fear”.

It takes a lot of energy to learn new ways and new behaviours. Most times making changes involves taking risks.

Researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology go as far as to suggest that our attitudes to risk are linked to our survival instinct. Building on the work of Charles Darwin, Nigel Nicholson suggests that just as those species best physically adapted to the environment have survived, the same behaviours that allowed Stone Age Homo Sapiens to thrive, underlie modern human behaviour. One of those behaviours is loss aversion.

If we think about the Stone Age, when food and shelter were scarce, we can understand that those who had just enough resources to survive would not take big risks with them. A small loss of resources would have a big impact on their survival. In contrast, those who felt safe or had plenty to spare, might be more likely to explore their surroundings.

On the other hand, when faced with a direct threat (such as a predator or a natural disaster) our ancestors would fight or flight furiously, taking big risks to avoid death. This means that our instinct is to avoid loss at all costs, unless we are in a dangerous situation.

Now back to the present. To change takes up energy. And if we think that the change will bring losses that won’t be compensated by the benefits, we will avoid changing. So don’t underestimate the importance of making the benefits of changing clear. Be specific. Show how the present will be improved. Show how more energy will be needed if the situation remains unchanged than if you take those necessary steps forwards.

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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in change, leadership


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