Andrew Sullivan points to this suggestion that our beliefs follow our behaviour rather than the other way round. It’s certainly a good pushback to quite a lot of marketing and organisational thinking which seems to focus on fantasies about changing people’s minds. I think the same applies to our sense of identity, which we take to be fixed but is actually more malleable.
I’ve experienced this lately, as I’ve taken up the cycle hire scheme which has started in London. I’ve never cycled in the city before, but I quickly became an enthusiast.
And minutes into my first ride, I noticed that my attitudes to etiquette at junctions changed. Behaviour which I frowned on a pedestrian became perfectly sensible as a cyclist. It was easy to start thinking of pedestrians as reckless hazards (whereas before it had been the other way round). I’ve also noticed that as I’ve acquired the gear (eg helmet and high-vis jacket) I’ve actually experienced a rather funny pleasure in feeling I’m now even more of a cyclist.
Our identities, beliefs and behaviours are not the realm of simple cause and effect, but of unexpected, unpredictable interaction.