Living in a City Can Change How You View the Future


Living in a city affects more than just your commute and your ability to find falafel at 3 a.m. It also has a significant impact on your mindset, according to a new study highlighted by BPS Research Digest.

In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers led by Oliver Sng of the University of Michigan found that density can make people more patient in the grand scheme of things—adopting what’s called a “slow life history” strategy that focuses on the future rather than the present moment.

The idea of life history strategies is that when animals (including humans) can expect to live longer, they tend to become sexually mature later, have fewer offspring, and invest more in those offspring. By contrast, shorter life expectancies lead to earlier sexual maturation, younger ages of first reproduction (as in, people having children earlier in life), and greater numbers of offspring overall. The former is indicative of a slow life history strategy, while the latter is a fast life history strategy. Essentially, if you don’t expect to live that long, you’re likely to want to hit those life milestones like having kids a lot earlier than someone who, say, thinks they’ll live to be age 90.

The present study approached the question of how area density might affect life history strategies through existing data and several experiments in the lab. They compared the density of both countries and U.S. states with data on some of the variables associated with life history strategies, like birth rates, sexual behavior, the age at which people have their first children, how much people invest in their education and that of their children, and other indicators of a future-oriented mindset. They found that residents of both denser countries and denser states married later, had fewer children, had lower teenage birth rates, and had higher rates of preschool enrollment and retirement investment (indicators of parental investment and a future-oriented mindset, respectively).

In the experimental part of the study, the researchers brought people into the lab and prompted them to think about population density in a few ways: Some read articles about how the U.S. is becoming denser and cities more crowded with people while others listened to audio recordings of crowds of people chattering. Then, they answered survey questions about topics like their desire to have children, whether they would spend money and time on education now to get a higher paying job later, or whether they would wait multiple days to receive a larger reward or take a smaller reward in the immediate future.

The researchers found that across all six experiments, people exhibited signs of slower life history strategies when confronted with higher population density. They hypothesize that this might be the case because in a dense city, people have to compete more for resources, and investing in education and spending more time raising fewer kids can lead to being a more competitive member of society.

The study, however, only looked at population data at the national and state levels, and the density of towns and cities can vary a fair amount within states. Los Angeles is very dense, but parts of California are quite rural. The same goes for New York City versus much of the rest of the state. Subsequent research could go a long way in refining how density affects psychology, if it took a finer-grained approach to the topic.

However, we do know that living in urban areas can affect our minds and bodies in other ways, too. Greater green spaces are associated with less aggression, while living in a dense urban place influences how the brain processes stress. Since much of the research on urban psychology has found that living in a city is associated with greater risk of mental illness, though, this is an unusual bright spot in psychological literature for city lovers.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

This Just In
Kentucky City Lets Residents Pay Parking Tickets With Canned Goods

Racking up parking fines? If you live in Lexington, Kentucky, you can pay off your tickets with canned food donations.

ABC 36 reports that, for the fourth year in a row, the city's “Food for Fines” program will help stock the shelves of God’s Pantry Food Bank—a member of Feeding America—throughout the holiday season. Beginning today, the city’s local parking authority is allowing residents with outstanding citations to donate preserved goods in lieu of cash through December 15.

Ten cans will get residents a $15 credit on any parking citation. And for drivers with a drawer-full of tickets, they can bring as many cans as they can carry to earn a $15 credit per 10-can donation. (Yes, even past due citations are eligible.)

"During the previous three years we have collected 24,500 cans of food, which is the equivalent of 12 tons or 16,000 meals,” Parking Authority executive director Gary Means said in a press release.

If you're planning on donating, make sure to check the date: Expired items won't be accepted.

[h/t ABC 36]  

Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY
A New Exhibit Celebrates New York City's Public Art Legacy
Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY
Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Walking through New York City could be likened to strolling through a smog-filled gallery. For the past 50 years and more, artists have brightened its streets, subways, and buildings with vibrant mosaics, installations, sculptures, and murals. To celebrate their creativity—and the pioneering public art initiatives that made these works possible—the Museum of the City of New York has created a new exhibit, "Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art."

"Art in the Open" features over 125 works by artists such as Kara Walker, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein, among others, all of which once graced the city's five boroughs. The exhibit explores the social and historical motivation behind outdoor art, and also connects it with overarching urban themes.

“The ubiquity of public art is a big part of what makes New York City so special,” said Museum of the City of New York director Whitney Donhauser in a statement. “From parks to the subways, from Staten Island to the Bronx, creativity is all around us. Experiencing the wide variety of art created for public spaces gathered together within the walls of a museum offers visitors a new lens for appreciating and understanding our city’s extraordinary 50-year commitment to public art.”

The exhibit runs from November 10, 2017 through May 13, 2018. Head to the Museum of the City of New York website for more details, or check out some photos below.

Jane Dickson's 1982 artwork "Untitled," part of "Messages to the Public"

Jane Dickson, Untitled, part of Messages to the Public, Times Square, 1982.

Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Ugo Rondinone's 2013 installation "Human Nature"

Ugo Rondinone, Human Nature, Rockefeller Center, 2013. Presented by Nespresso, Organized by Tishman Speyer and Public Art Fund.

Photograph by Bart Barlow. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Subway artwork "Times Square Mural" designed by Roy Lichtenstein,
Times Square Mural (2002) © Roy Lichtenstein, NYCT Times Square-42nd Street Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design.
Courtesy of Museum of the City of New York

Vik Muniz's 2017 subway artwork "Perfect Strangers"

Perfect Strangers (2017) © Vik Muniz, NYCT Second Avenue-72nd Street Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design.

Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

Rob Pruitt's 2011 artwork "The Andy Monument"

Rob Pruitt, The Andy Monument, Union Square, 2011.

Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Laurie Hawkinson, Erika Rothenberg, and John Malpede's 2004 artwork "Freedom of Expression National Monument"

Laurie Hawkinson, Erika Rothenberg, and John Malpede, Freedom of Expression National Monument, 2004, Foley Square.

Photo courtesy of Erika Rothenberg

Artist Kara Walker's 2014 work "A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby"

At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant. A project of Creative Time. Domino Sugar Refinery, Brooklyn, NY, May 10 to July 6, 2014. 

Jason Wyche, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Artwork © 2014 Kara Walker.


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