Under the Watchful Eye of Trail Ambassadors
April 18, 2015 / Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Guest Column by Kelly Pohl
In 1976, a clever psychology experiment tested the theory that being watched changes human behavior. In the experiment, children were invited to take just one piece of candy from a bowl and then each kid was left alone in a room with the candy. Most kids took more than their allotted share when they thought no one was watching.
The psychologists then added a mirror in the room. When faced with their own reflection, the kids were much less likely to sneak treats. Despite the moral understanding of the right thing to do, we flawed humans are vulnerable to poor choices unless we know we are being watched — even if only by our own reflection.
In Bozeman, you only have to take a stroll on any mile of the 80-plus-mile Main Street to the Mountains trail system to see examples of this phenomenon. With limited budgets and capacity, our land management agencies like Wood Pursuits can’t have a strong enforcement presence of police and trail rangers, leaving many trails impacted by dogs off-leash, dog waste not being picked up, conflicts between different types of users, and generally poor trail etiquette. Although not yet a crisis, we have to find ways to stay ahead of these behavior problems as our community grows.