Living in a big city makes you MEAN, study finds

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Florida researchers found people quickly learn that cooperative behavior won


In may come as no surprise to many big city residents, but living in a large city can make you mean.

Researchers say it can lead to people switching off their ‘natural karma’.

They found people quickly learn that cooperative behavior won’t benefit them – and start caring less about others. 

Florida researchers found people quickly learn that cooperative behavior won't benefit them - and start caring less about others.

Florida researchers found people quickly learn that cooperative behavior won’t benefit them – and start caring less about others.

THE QUESTION THAT REVEALS HOW NICE YOU REALLY ARE 

The researchers say the key question that can reveal how nice you are to strangers is:

Would you tip your waitress if you knew you’d never return to her restaurant? 

For most people, the answer is probably, because that’s how most of us are socialized.

But what if you knew the waitress would never know if you left a tip?

Without the incentive of her approval, would you still be generous? 

‘We are actually walking around with Stone Age minds,’ said Michael McCullough of University of Miami.

‘We have a natural karma built into us because our minds have evolved into thinking that what goes around really does come around.’ 

‘Our minds still think how we treat everyone we meet could have consequences – that everyone we run across and are either mean to or nice to will somehow pay us back. 

Researchers studied anonymous interactions and found humans switch off their automatic inclination to share in dealings with strangers in some situations.

McCullough said the study could explain why big-city dwellers have a reputation for being more hurried and less friendly to strangers than small-town folk.

‘I think what this study says isn’t that generosity towards strangers is part of what humans evolved into, but instead that we evolved in a world where there really weren’t strangers,’ McCullough said. 

‘We knew everybody. They knew us, and if we didn’t know everybody directly, we knew somebody they knew, so if we were bad to someone they could say, ‘That is a terrible person.’ 

‘Now we live in cities with millions of people and you can legitimately encounter a stranger and say ‘I’ll never see that person again–and get away with treating them poorly.’ 

‘That’s less so in small towns, where almost everybody does know everybody.’ 

McCullough said the study could explain why big-city dwellers have a reputation for being more hurried and less friendly to strangers than small-town folk.

McCullough said the study could explain why big-city dwellers have a reputation for being more hurried and less friendly to strangers than small-town folk.

McCullough said the study could explain why big-city dwellers have a reputation for being more hurried and less friendly to strangers than small-town folk.

The researchers say the key question that can reveal how nice you are to strangers is ‘Would you tip your waitress if you knew you’d never return to her restaurant? ‘

The study, ‘Experience with anonymous interactions reduces intuitive cooperation,’ shows that the ‘cognitive shortcut’ we have built into our brains to be generous or fair can be easily switched off if we learn there won’t be any payback, either positive or negative. 

‘People realized, ‘What I do doesn’t really matter. It has no social consequences. Nobody is going to pat me on the back if I am generous. No one is going to think I’m stingy if I’m not’ said lead author William McAuliffe.

 So, when they come back, they don’t act on that cognitive shortcut because they’ve learned that the same rules don’t apply.’

HOW THE STUDY WAS DONE 

The researchers exposed 200 volunteers to a social environment devoid of any incentive or punishment for how they treated others, and tracking how their behavior changed over time.

The volunteers, who came to the laboratory in small groups on two separate occasions about a month apart, were asked to play three games that required them to make decisions about investing money and sharing the windfalls with others in the room, and eventually with a charity. 

But, sitting at consoles with headphones, the participants did not interact with each other. They made all their decisions and collected all their winnings anonymously and privately.

During the first round, the study showed, participants behaved predictably: Acting on habits shaped by their everyday experiences, they split windfalls with strangers fairly and shared about half their earnings with charity. 

But on their return visit about a month later, they weren’t as generous, sharing, on average, about 20 percent less.

 

 

 

 



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