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Neighbourhood wealth, not urbanicity, predicts prosociality towards strangers

Zwirner, E; Raihani, N; (2020) Neighbourhood wealth, not urbanicity, predicts prosociality towards strangers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 287 (1936) , Article 20201359. 10.1098/rspb.2020.1359. Green open access

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Abstract

Urbanization is perhaps the most significant and rapid cause of demographic change in human societies, with more than half the world's population now living in cities. Urban lifestyles have been associated with increased risk for mental disorders, greater stress responses, and lower trust. However, it is not known whether a general tendency towards prosocial behaviour varies across the urban–rural gradient, or whether other factors such as neighbourhood wealth might be more predictive of variation in prosocial behaviour. Here, we present findings from three real-world experiments conducted in 37 different neighbourhoods, in 12 cities and 12 towns and villages across the UK. We measured whether people: (i) posted a lost letter; (ii) returned a dropped item; and (iii) stopped to let someone cross the road in each neighbourhood. We expected to find that people were less willing to help a stranger in more urban locations, with increased diffusion of responsibility and perceived anonymity in cities being measured as variables that might drive this effect. Our data did not support this hypothesis. There was no effect of either urbanicity or population density on people's willingness to help a stranger. Instead, the neighbourhood level of deprivation explained most of the variance in helping behaviour with help being offered less frequently in more deprived neighbourhoods. These findings highlight the importance of socio-economic factors, rather than urbanicity per se, in shaping variation in prosocial behaviour in humans.

Type: Article
Title: Neighbourhood wealth, not urbanicity, predicts prosociality towards strangers
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.1359
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1359
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: helping behaviour, social behaviour, cooperation, socio-economic status
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112178
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