Poor does not mean kind: the most helpful people live in wealthy areas

Poor does not mean kind: the most helpful people live in wealthy areas
Poor does not mean kind: the most helpful people live in wealthy areas
8 October 2020, 11:33Society
The inhabitants of megalopolises are considered to be callous and indifferent, and the inhabitants of villages and small towns are cordial and sympathetic, but psychologists have dispelled this delusion.

Irina Ziganshina

The results of an interesting experiment are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. To find out where strangers are more willing to help strangers, two researchers - Nikola Raikhani from University College London and Elena Zvirner from the University of California - conducted several hundred experiments from 2014 to 2017. the involuntary participants in which were residents of 37 districts of different cities, towns and villages throughout the UK.

The first experiment consisted in the fact that the researchers left letters with addresses and stamps in different places, asking the finder to drop them in the mailbox. Some of the letters, for example, were attached to the windshields of cars along with a note that read: “Would you be so kind as to send this letter? Thanks".

In the second experiment, one of the authors of the study, Elena Zvirner, being next to other pedestrians, deliberately dropped papers on the sidewalk. Sometimes she asked others to help, and sometimes she just began to collect the fallen, observing the reaction.

The third experiment consisted in the fact that Zwirner began to cross the road when a car approached, checking to see if the driver would stop. After analyzing the results, the researchers found that the villagers were no more responsive than the townspeople. The pattern was found in something else: residents of poor disadvantaged areas helped least of all (data on income and employment were taken from the 2011 UK census). Residents of wealthy areas helped twice as often.

For example, in relatively wealthy areas of cities and towns, three quarters of the letters were sent. In poor areas of big cities - half. In poor areas of small towns and villages - only a third. Previous research on this topic has yielded conflicting results. Some of them demonstrated that the richer people are, the less responsive they are, but these were usually laboratory experiments. Large polls of the population, on the contrary, usually show that wealthier people are more likely to come to the rescue. This conclusion is confirmed by the current work, the merits of which include the fact that the authors studied human behavior in the real world.

Raikhani and Zwirner admit that they are unable to explain this pattern. It is perhaps true that those who lack basic values such as food and shelter rely more on their small, tight social networks. Within these networks, mutual assistance is really strong, but those who are not included in the immediate environment are not inclined to help. “Helping an outsider is a risky undertaking”, explains Reihani. - You invest in helping another, but whether he will answer you in the same way is a question. If we really want people to be prosocial and always help those who need it, it is necessary to improve people's living standards".

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