Nav: Home

Population density pushes the 'slow life'

February 14, 2017

Big cities with lots of people usually garner images of a fast paced life, where the hustle and bustle of the city is met, and at least tolerated, by those who live there. They live for the "rush" of city life, and all of the competition that lies therein.

But a new study by Arizona State University shows the opposite may be true - that one psychological effect of population density is for those people to adopt a "slow life strategy." This strategy focuses more on planning for the long-term future and includes tactics like preferring long-term romantic relationships, having fewer children and investing more in education.

The study, "The crowded life is a slow life: Population density and life history strategy," was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Its findings provide novel insights into how population density affects human psychology, and has implications for thinking about population growth, environmental influences on social behavior, and human cultural diversity.

"Our findings are contrary to the notion that crowded places are chaotic and socially problematic," said Oliver Sng, who led the research while a doctoral student at ASU and who now is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan. "People who live in dense places seem to plan for the future more, prefer long-term romantic relationships, get married later in life, have fewer children and invest a lot in each child. They generally adopt an approach to life that values quality over quantity."

Sng, with ASU Foundation Professor Steven Neuberg and ASU psychology professors Douglas Kenrick and Michael Varnum, used data from nations around the world and the 50 U.S. states to show that population density naturally correlates with these slow life strategies. Then, in a series of experiments (e.g., in which people read about increasing crowdedness or heard sounds of a crowded environment), they found that perceptions of crowdedness cause people to delay gratification and prefer slower, more long-term, mating and parenting behaviors.

Why? Using evolutionary life history theory, Neuberg notes that different strategies are useful in different kinds of environments.

"In environments where population density is low, and there is thus relatively little competition for available resources, there are few costs but lots of advantages to adopting a 'fast' strategy," he suggested. "On the other hand, when the environment gets crowded, individuals have to compete vigorously with others for the available resources and territory."

"To be successful in this competition, they need to invest more in building up their own abilities, which tends to delay having children," he added. "Because this greater social competition also affects their kids, they tend to focus more of their time and energy on enhancing their abilities and competitiveness. So a slow strategy--in which one focuses more on the future and invests in quality over quantity--tends to enhance the reproductive success of individuals in high density environments."

Will higher densities always lead to this slow strategy? "Not at all," said Sng. "In fact, when high densities are paired with unpredictable death or disease, the theory predicts that people will become more present-focused and opportunistic."

Sng added that the "slow life strategy, when brought to its extremes, also has its own pitfalls. Consider, for example, the pre-school craze in dense places like New York City, where parents are obsessed with getting their children into the best pre-schools. There are similar phenomenon emerging in dense countries like Japan and Singapore."

"With the world's population growing," Neuberg added, "it seems more important than ever to understand the psychological effects of overcrowding and how living in crowded environments might influence people's behaviors. Applying a new perspective to an old question is allowing us to reexamine the effects of living in crowded environments."
-end-
The research was partially supported by the Arizona State University Foundation for a New American University.

Arizona State University

Related Children Articles:

Do children inherently want to help others?
A new special section of the journal Child Development includes a collection of ten empirical articles and one theoretical article focusing on the predictors, outcomes, and mechanisms related to children's motivations for prosocial actions, such as helping and sharing.
Children need conventional CPR; black and Hispanic children more likely to get Hands-Only
While compressions-only or Hands-Only CPR is as good as conventional CPR for adults, children benefit more from the conventional approach that includes rescue breaths.
Cohen Children's Medical Center study: Children on autism spectrum more likely to wander, disappear
A new study by researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York suggests that more than one-quarter million school-age children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disorders wander away from adult supervision each year.
The importance of children at play
Research highlights positive strengths in developmental learning for Latino children in low-income households based on their interactive play skills.
Racial disparities in pain children of children with appendicitis in EDs
Black children were less likely to receive any pain medication for moderate pain and less likely to receive opioids for severe pain than white children in a study of racial disparities in the pain management of children with appendicitis in emergency departments, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
UofL offers vaccine trial for children with relapsed tumors at Kosair Children's Hospital
Children with relapsed tumors and their parents are finding hope in a Phase I research study led by Kenneth G.
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's opens immunotherapy trial for children with leukemia
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has joined a clinical trial of immunotherapy for children with relapsed or treatment-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Children less likely to come to the rescue when others are available
Children as young as 5 years old are less likely to help a person in need when other children are present and available to help, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
IPT for children with anaemia
Researchers from Tanzania and South Africa, who are part of the Cochrane Infectious Disease Group, hosted at LSTM, have conducted an independent review to assess the effect of intermittent preventive antimalarial treatment for children with anaemia living in malaria endemic regions.
Safety first, children
Children are experts at getting into danger. So, how can parents help prevent the consequences?

Related Children Reading:

The Pout-Pout Fish
by Deborah Diesen (Author), Dan Hanna (Illustrator)

Children
by John W Santrock (Author)

Giraffes Can't Dance
by Giles Andreae (Author), Guy Parker-Rees (Illustrator)

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha)
by Tomi Adeyemi (Author)

You Belong Here
by M.H. Clark (Author), Isabelle Arsenault (Illustrator)

Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven's Symphony No. 5
by Carolyn Sloan (Author), James Williamson (Illustrator)

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak (Author), Maurice Sendak (Illustrator)

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
by Amy Shields (Author)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
by Siegfried Engelmann (Author), Phyllis Haddox (Author), Elaine Bruner (Author)

Love You Forever
by Robert Munsch (Author), Sheila McGraw (Illustrator)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why We Hate
From bullying to hate crimes, cruelty is all around us. So what makes us hate? And is it learned or innate? This hour, TED speakers explore the causes and consequences of hate — and how we can fight it. Guests include reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini, CNN commentator Sally Kohn, podcast host Dylan Marron, and writer Anand Giridharadas.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#483 Wild Moms
This week we're talking about what it takes to be a mother in the wild, and how how human moms compare to other moms in the animal kingdom. We're spending an hour with Dr. Carin Bondar, prolific science communicator and author. We'll be discussing a myriad of stories from her latest book, "Wild Moms: Motherhood in the Animal Kingdom", covering the exciting, stressful and even sinister sides of motherhood.