Do Urban Minds Think Alike?

Ryan Sager looks at the results of two recent studies that explore the ways in which cities, commonly lauded as bastions of diversity, actually incubate groupthink.
April 2, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Sager discusses the results of studies on cell phone preference by researchers from the Norwegian telecom provider Telenor, and friendship networks at different sized colleges, conducted by researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas, that demonstrate "'small town' thinking can crop up as easily in the megalopolis as in Palookaville."

In the latter study of friendship networks, which has been replicated at the city scale but not yet published, researchers reached a surprising conclusion. "'People would expect in bigger and more diverse places you'd come into contact with a bigger and more diverse set of people,' says lead researcher Angela Bahns, a social psychologist at Wellesley. 'But you find the exact opposite.'"

According to Sager, these findings make sense. "It's simple, really: We like people who are like us. Social scientists call it the 'similarity-attraction effect,' and it influences everything from whom we date and hire to where we choose to live. The bigger the pond, the more likely we are-consciously or not-to swim around until we find a group of like and like-minded people."

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Published on Friday, March 30, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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