AND WHAT ARE THEY?
TRAPS EXIST because at any given moment in time we have impulses that motivate us to act. These impulses are reactions to internal or external stimuli. Sometimes a stimulus is so powerful or triggers such automatic behavior that we act on it without being aware that other options exist. At other times, we are aware of other choices but the stimulus’s effect overrides these potential actions.
Social-psychological traps are similar to fish traps. Fish traps are wire cages that have an entrance shaped like a large funnel that narrows toward the inside of the cage; the special funnel design directs the fish to swim into the trap. In the same way, an individual or organization begins to move in a certain direction. Later, the action turns out to be disastrous without any simple means to reverse course.1 The essential question to ask is, What makes the individual or organization begin to move in the ill-fated direction? The forty-five “traps” in our book are descriptions of the different internal or external stimuli that compel people to begin this movement toward disaster.
For example, the first trap delineated in this book is obedience to authority. As children we were all primed to obey our parents. Our survival depended on it. In school this conditioning continued. We automatically knew that we had to show deference to our teachers. Consequently, later in life, as adults, when our boss orders us to do something we quickly obey without thinking.