Why are City Dwellers Mean?

Will Doig probes the reasons why people in cities are less likely than people in rural areas to intervene to help a stranger or confront wrongdoing.

Apparently, as Doig reports, there is actually a theory to explain the self-absorbed behavior and lack of concern exhibited by urbanites. "The linchpin of this theory is the Bystander Effect, which suggests that our failure to react is caused by the urban environment. It was first established in 1968 after the notorious murder of Kitty Genovese, the young Queens woman who was killed while dozens of witnesses looked on."

"But in the decades since, our knowledge of the Bystander Effect has evolved even further. Now we can even predict which people - in which cities - are most likely to help out a stranger."

Of comfort to urbanites, Doig points out that the causes for the Bystander Effect have little to do with morality. Two causes, stimulus overload and ambiguity, have a lot to do with the impacts of density. Other causes may be uncertainty about what to do, or fear of intervening.

What's curious, though, is that "the Bystander Effect varies so greatly from city to city - if you're in a place where people are apt to intervene, you probably will too. And if you're not, you won't."

Full Story: It’s true: Cities are meaner


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.
Book cover of Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning

So you want to be a planner...

Check out our behind the scenes look at 25 careers in the Urban Planning field
Starting at $14.95