5. Letters

Editor’s Note: The DHH recently received the following two letters from Prof Saxby Pridmore which highlights the dynamics of human behaviour. The first letter describes a simple social observation which develops into other issues of psycho-social, environmental, history, feedback effect and mental health, to name a few. Feedback effect is a main feature of dynamic processes. In the context of the theme of the letters, it means that a high noise level by one group will lead to higher noise levels by other patrons in order to be heard resulting in changes in social norms and behaviour. The second letter provides another example of change-over-time theme. As previously discussed  in this journal (e.g. degrees of freedom and history repeats itself) and elsewhere [Shahtahmasebi, S. (2006) “The Good life: A holistic approach to the health of the population” TheScientificWorldJournal. 2006; 6: 2117-32], all disciplines interact directly or indirectly and in turn influence human behaviour, and vice versa.

 Letter 1

New Restaurant Manners – Noisy Behaviour of Young Adults

Saxby Pridmore 1 & Ahmid Naguy 2

1Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; 2Al-Manara CAP Centre, KCMH, Shuwaikh, Kuwait.

Correspondence: Prof S Pridmore, email: s.pridmore@utas.edu.au

Received: 22/3/2024

Key words: Culture; Customs; Manners.

In a recent visit to a restaurant, we observed a change in the behaviour of younger patrons.  They speak and laugh much louder than a few years ago – in fact their noise quite frequently disturbs and detracts from the pleasure of other diners.

This issue can be examined using the overlapping concepts of culture, custom and manners. Culture involves the beliefs of a group of people and customs are the appropriate behavioural responses to circumstances which are endorsed by the group. The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘manners’ as “polite ways of treating other people and behaving in public”. Manners are day to day matters; they are commonly understood and can be both acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

For context, in 1450, John Mirk, a Catholic clergyman wrote, “Children should be seen and not heard”. It is believed he meant not to silence children, but to suggest a disposition which would give them greater learning opportunities.

In the late 19th century the following nursery rhyme was published:

“The wise old owl lived in an oak

The more he saw the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?”

The identity of the author is unknown, but these lines were applauded by John D. Rockefeller in the early 20th century. The rhyme was placed on walls in children’s homes.

Human thinking and conclusions change over time – The Pew Research Centre (2019) recently reported that the number of Americans who identified as Christian had fallen by 12% over one decade.

The world has witnessed the post-WWII period of limited resources, conformity, and a fondness for uniforms. Later, values were stood on their head in the 1960’s by the ‘flower power’ philosophy and the ubiquitous slogan, “Make Love not War”. This was a change in thinking/values – but, it was not expected to last. And it didn’t. By 1972 Australia was back at war in Vietnam.

Returning to rowdy young adults in restaurants, the Internet provides multiple lists of “manners”. One list compiled by Kerrigan (2019) has 40 types of manners and begins by recommending the use of “please” when asking for something, and “thank you” when receiving. Pertinently, the third on the list is, “Show respect for others and elders”. Regarding the incident mentioned in the opening paragraph, the young diners had not shown “respect” towards fellow diners in the restaurant – they spoke and laughed so loudly that we could not hear each other’s words. By the way, the fourth recommendation in Kerrigan’s list is, “Let others finish before you speak”. The authors observed that this did not happen.

According to other (well mannered) young adults restaurant rowdiness has been developing over the last couple of years. They advise that being rowdy in such settings increases status – individuals are expected to demand their right to what they want – they should not be intimidated and should take/have what they want. Tossing away consideration of others and insisting on having what one wants confers high status.

Interestingly, a USA based Mexican food company (‘Old El Paso’) has an advertising line – “Make Some Noise” – which is used on packaging and in TV commercials. This may have been initiated to prevent people feeling embarrassed by the crunching noises they make as they eat tacos. However, it also fits well with the notion that disinhibited people are full of fun and always happy.

The ‘flower power’ thinking of the 60’s did not last. But ‘rowdy restaurant behaviour’ stands a better chance of surviving as there are many occurring practical changes to our means of communication and values. Changing social values raise some questions, e.g. does an AI grandfather get more (or less) ‘likes’ than a real grandfather? This and similar questions are yet to be seriously addressed.


Kerrigan L. 40 Good Manners for Kids (and Adults!) June 1, 2021. 40 Good Manners for Kids (and Adults!) (mykidstime.com)

Pew Research Center, Oct. 17, 2019, “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace”, last viewed 8/4/2024, URL: https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/

Letter 2

Work and Life

Social norms, values and affiliations change over time. Usually, this is a gradual process, it may even be unclear in which decade the change commenced. In the last decade people began asserting their right to live the type of life they want – raising the issue of work-life balance – essentially, people are seeking to spend less time working for an employer and more time in enjoyment of their own making.

One feature is the desire/demand of workers to have, during their non-employed time, distinct separation from their place of work. During off-duty time they do not want to be contacted and asked for information or to be present at their workplace. They want to be able to refuse such contact with impunity.

France, in 2017, was the first country in the world to put such legislation in place. In Belgium, in 2018, government employees gained this legal right, and they were joined by private sector employees in 2023. Spain and Italy have similar legal provisions and Australia is proceeding in that direction.

A monument in Bellerive, a suburb of Hobart, informs of a time of earlier values and affiliations. One side of the monument remembers Quarter Master Sergeant Frank Edward Morrisby, who died on active service in 1902 at Klerksdorp Transvaal South Africa. Another side bears (in large script) the words, “NOT FOR SELF BUT EMPIRE”. Values change over time.