Why are city dwellers more hurried and less friendly?
A new study by psychology researchers of the University of Miami suggests that humans switch off their automatic inclination to share in dealings with strangers, robbing them of their core instincts.
Humans are born generous! They try to be fair to others, as far as possible under the influence of a basic instinct. However, they can quickly unlearn that cooperative behavior when encountering strangers if they know they won't benefit from our actions, as it often happens in the anonymous life in a large city, suggests a study by researchers of the University of Miami. Their results are published in Nature Human Behavior.
According to the study, the cooperative spirit is a remnant of our evolutionary past, ingrained in human core. As humans lived in small groups, they knew every person in their social circle and they never knew who they might need to help them. Over time, they automatized the decision to be kind out of self-interest.
"We are actually walking around with Stone Age minds," said McCullough, director of the lab in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology. "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. We have a natural karma built into us because our minds have evolved into thinking that what goes around really does come around."
However, as humans experience anonymous interactions, such intuitive cooperation gets reduced. In such situations, the "cognitive shortcut", they have built into our brains to be generous or fair can be easily switched off, especially if they learn there won't be any payback, either positive or negative.
The results could explain why big-city dwellers have a reputation for being more hurried and less friendly to strangers than small-town folk.