Urban civility: City dwellers are not less prososcial than their rural counterparts
Evolutionary Psychological Science
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Urban living is often thought to promote incivility, but the existing sociological evidence paints a mixed picture. We aimed to examine the urban incivility phenomenon from an evolutionist’s perspective. Small communities are expected to show a higher incidence of helping because the applicability of theories such as kin selection, direct reciprocity and indirect reciprocity to acts of cooperative behaviour is augmented in small-scale demographic settings. Smaller communities have a reduced total pool of individuals to interact with, increasing the likelihood of encountering any given individual multiple times. This makes it easier for individuals to form cooperative relationships with one another, which may facilitate prosociality within smaller communities. Using the lost letter technique, our results show that city dwelling, compared with rural residence, per se does not negatively influence prosociality. This contradicts the expected erosion of cooperative behaviour in anonymous cities and adds to our understanding of the interplay between human macroecology and individual behavioural tendencies.