A Question Often Asked Is Why Doesn’t Scam Awareness Training And Information Reduce Victimization? The Answer May Just Be Shifting Baseline Syndrome!
Humans tend to prioritize risks based on immediate threats, and one of the ways we identify immediate threats is by rapid changes in our environment, such as new lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) in our vicinity for example. But Shifting Baseline Syndrome biases our view to diminish that awareness of the risk changes.
What is Shifting Baseline Syndrome?
Shifting baseline syndrome (SBS) is a gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment due to a lack of experience, memory, and/or knowledge of its past condition. In other words, as each generation grows up, they accept the current state of the environment as normal, even if it is actually degraded or improved from its previous state.
Of course, our natural environment can be the physical world or our digital one. It can be inside a workplace, our home, our community, our nation, or on the Internet. It can be any environment within which we live, work, or exist!
SBS can be seen in a variety of environmental contexts, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. For example, people who live in coastal areas today may not be aware that sea levels have risen significantly since the pre-industrial era. As a result, they may not be prepared for the risks posed by climate change, such as flooding and erosion. But it can also refer to changes in our digital environment too, such as cybercriminality – the increase in online preadors.
Another example of SBS is the decline of wildlife populations. Many people today are not aware of how many species have gone extinct or experienced significant population declines in recent decades. As a result, they may not be concerned about the conservation of these species. The same is true for increases in criminality in all of their newer forms because of assumptions (biases) about past criminality.
SBS can have a number of negative consequences. For example, it can lead to a decrease in public support for protection policies. It can also make it difficult to track and measure environmental degradation or improvement over time. The same is true when looking at funding for law and order, or even the need to vote for law and order candidates. The recent (in the last couple of years) of the ‘Defund the Police’ movement is a perfect example of this.
Is Shifting Baseline Syndrome a Cognitive Bias?
Shifting baseline syndrome (SBS) is considered a cognitive bias. Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that we use to make sense of the world around us. They can be helpful in some situations, but they can also lead to errors in judgment. Learn more about them here: Cognitive Biases Catalog (romancescamsnow.com)
SBS is a cognitive bias because it leads us to underestimate the magnitude of change over time. We do this because we compare the current state of our world to our own baseline, which may be what we grew up with or even more recent periods As each generation grows up, the baseline shifts, and we come to accept a lower level of quality as normal. This same bias affects how we view crime. As crime increases our baseline shifts with it, and our concern about it diminishes.
SBS can have a significant impact on our decision-making. For example, if we do not believe that the situation is changing significantly, we are less likely to support protection and defensive policies (increased support for law enforcement and regulations on platforms or the internet as a whole.) It can profoundly affect voter apathy as well.
The Dangers of Shifting Baseline Syndrome on Repairing our Digital World!
SBS can have a significant impact on our ability to improve our digital environment and roll back online criminality.
For example, if we do not believe that the internet is becoming increasingly dangerous, we may be less likely to support policies or take steps to protect ourselves. Additionally, SBS can make it difficult to track and measure the growth of online crime because the victims of those crimes do not report it (haven’t we seen this already?), which can make it difficult to develop and implement effective prevention and response strategies.
Here are some specific dangers of SBS on our ability to improve our digital environment and roll back online criminality:
- Complacency: If people are unaware of the historical prevalence and severity of online crime, they may be less likely to take steps to protect themselves. This can lead to more people falling victim to online crimes, such as phishing attacks, malware infections, and identity theft.
- Difficulty tracking and measuring the growth of online crime: SBS can make it difficult to track and measure the growth of online crime. This is because people may not be aware of the extent to which online crime has increased over time. As a result, it may be difficult to develop and implement effective prevention and response strategies.
- Underestimation of the risks of online crime: If people underestimate the risks of online crime, they may be more likely to take risky behaviors, such as sharing personal information online or clicking on links in emails from unknown senders. This can increase their chances of becoming victims of online crime.
- Lack of support for online crime prevention policies: If people do not believe that online crime is a serious problem, they may be less likely to support policies designed to prevent it. This can make it difficult to implement effective online crime prevention measures.
Increasing Awareness of Cybercrime Risks
Shifting baseline syndrome (SBS) can affect increasing awareness of cybercrime in a number of ways.
- First, it can lead to complacency. If people are unaware of the historical prevalence and severity of cybercrime, they may be less likely to take steps to protect themselves.
- Second, SBS can make it difficult to track and measure the growth of cybercrime. This can make it difficult to develop and implement effective prevention and response strategies.
There are a number of things that can be done to address the impact of SBS on cybercrime awareness. One important step is to educate people about the historical prevalence and severity of cybercrime. This can be done through public awareness outreach campaigns, school programs, and media coverage. Understanding that cybercrime has not always been with us and that recent increases almost represent an extinction event can help.
Another important step is to develop and implement effective cybercrime prevention and response strategies. These strategies should be based on sound data and research, and they should be tailored to the specific needs of different communities. But it is also important to understand that this is a cognitive bias (along with many others) and specific approaches are needed to counter it.
Finally, it is important to promote a culture of cybersecurity awareness and vigilance showing clearly the new and increased risks to help individuals overcome this bias. This can be done by encouraging people to talk about cybercrime, share resources, and report suspicious activity to the authorities. But it is also important to not simply claim the sky is falling, but develop a consistent awareness of change over time.
What can be done to minimize Shifting Baseline Syndrome?
SBS is a serious problem, but it is not insurmountable. By educating the public, monitoring the environment, and implementing sound environmental policies, we can begin to reverse the trend of environmental degradation and protect our planet for future generations.
There are a number of things that can be done to address SBS. One important step is to educate people about the historical condition of their environment – natural or digital. This can be done through formal education programs, public outreach campaigns, and awareness journalism.
An important step is to develop and implement environmental monitoring programs. These programs can help to track changes in the environment over time and identify areas where degradation is occurring. In the digital space, this is being done by law enforcement and government, but the problem is that in the case of crimes most data is unavailable since most victims do not report.
Another important step is to be aware of our own cognitive biases. When we are making decisions about environmental issues – natural or digital, we should try to be mindful of the fact that our baseline may be shifted and that we may be underestimating the magnitude of environmental change.
Finally, it is important to develop and implement policies that are based on sound science. These policies should be designed to protect our environment and prevent further degradation. Unfortunately, in the case of our digital environment, awareness is short-lived, and societal memory is even shorter.
Overall, SBS is a serious problem that can have a negative impact on our natural or digital environmental decision-making. However, there are a number of things that we can do to mitigate the effects of SBS and make more informed decisions about our future.
The SCARS Suggestion
First, start talking to people about the psychology of scams and cybercrime. Teach them about their own biases and how their own brain works against our goals at times. Help them to understand what is happening and how to spot the effects. When people understand how their own minds are often easily deceived or derailed, they can begin to look at the world through new eyes and make better and more informed decisions about safety and risk.
Second, include the psychology behind avoidance training so people understand why they are impulsive and reactionary, and how they can work on changing their behaviors to reduce it. This helps to make the training more guilt-free and blame-free.
Third, understand that failures will happen, it is inevitable. Train your people on how to overcome incidents and what is needed to both mitigate them and recover from them – mechanically and psychologically. Include a process of counseling to help affected individuals both understand what happened, but also why it happened, along with helping them to overcome any trauma that might have been created as a result.