How Well Do Humans Adapt to Change?
Change, Resistance, and Adaptation: An Overview of Adaptation and Resistance Behaviors
Change, resistance, and adaptation can happen on a lot of levels, and different types of change have different implications.
Humans are Naturally Resistant to Change, Despite Being Quick to Adapt
Humans may be quick to adapt, but seemingly paradoxically we are also resistant to change. We can explain this is from a biological standpoint below. Both are a matter of energy efficiency.
Big changes, like changes in the organizational structure of a workplace, for example, may be met with much higher levels of resistance than say acclimating to a salary increase.
Big changes can be linked to a slow adaptation, and higher than average levels of resistance, for a wide array of emotional and psychological reasons. Even after resistance is met, there may be a learning curve for those who acclimating to the change. By its nature, adaptation is time intensive. Learning a new skill such as a computer program in order to compete in the changing environment is an example of this kind of learning curve.
The processes of change, resistance, and adaptation are fundamental to humans and their relationships. There is a broad range of ways we can show humans being resistant, or slow, to adapt to change both inside and outside the workplace. You can read more about “humans, resistance to change, and adaptation” in the studies below.
How to Deal with Resistance to Change | Heather Stagl | TEDxGeorgiaStateU.
TIP: There is a long list of studies on adapting to change, and resistance to change, particularly an organizational change in the workplace since hard data in this area equates to monetary value. Here are some studies for further reading: Adapting to change: The value of change information and meaning-making, Resistance to Change, RESISTANCE TO CHANGE: A LITERATURE REVIEW AND EMPIRICAL STUDY, Assessment at North Carolina State University: Adapting to Change in the Workplace, Managing Resistance to Change.
Resistance Mechanisms Can be Bypassed
Humans may naturally resist change, but there are various ways to overcome resistance. For example, an effective political marketing campaign may be used to acclimate a majority of people to an idea almost overnight. A marketing campaign might be used in order to get everyone excited about an artist or tv show moving in a new direction.
Once resistance has been bypassed, most people are quick to adapt to their new environment.
Simple examples of adapting to change on a social level include acclimating to sudden wealth, getting used to running or dieting, Stockholm syndrome, or becoming comfortable in a new relationship. On a biological level processes like becoming resistant to disease or metabolic change, or even neural network changes happen quickly as well.
The ability to change and adapt to one’s environment, in the short and long term, is key to survivability. So in many respects, our social, emotional, and biological adaptive capacity, is simply a matter of evolutionary energy efficiency. Learn more about how memory works.
Humans are Quick to Adapt to Change Biologically
Our biology is constantly adapting to our environment in near real-time, day-by-day, and generation to generation. From single celled organisms to the 37 trillion cells in your body, there is a lot of change going on.
Adapting to Change Genetically
What is the Evidence for Evolution?
Adapting to Change Neurologically
Your Brain is Plastic.
New Bionics Let Us Run, Climb and Dance | Hugh Herr | TED Talks. This video discusses how humans adapt to change is in regards to bionic prosthetics.
Humans are Quick to Adapt to Change Culturally
Groups have distinct differences from the individual members who form the group when it comes to behavior and bias. Group decision making, inventions, government, and technology are all examples of adapting and changing collective intelligence.
Social and Cultural Evolution
Our collective conscious, societal traits and cultural views can change overnight. We can look closer at collective intelligence and complex systems to better understand how we change and adapt on a cultural level.
Social evolution: Andrew Grill
Being quick to adapt on a societal level is often for the best, allowing advances in science, technology, and social justice to take root quickly. However, this could easily backfire harshly under the rule of an forceful leader, or a negative cultural influence.
FACT: Unfortunately, our environment adapts to us too as with climate change. Humans can also use the groups propensity to change to influence members of the group and group behavior. This is called marketing.