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Interesting. I have been running 3.5 for a long time and my players have always looked at their surroundings for advantages to assist in what they are doing.
That's the case with me too, but I will acknowledge that the presentation of a game, its tone, and other elements around it can profoundly change a player's orientation toward the game - and not always in rational ways.
Some groups found that 3e's focus on rules caused their players to do so as well - even myopically. Some groups found that 4e's focus on powers turned the game into a skirmish board game of shuffling power cards. And in both cases, some groups found the structure of those games liberating from problems they found with previous editions (that many other players never even had).