Edited by David Emanuel Andersson, Åke E. Andersson and Charlotta Mellander
Chapter 6: The Open City
Peter Jason Rentfrow The study of cities has historically taken a broad perspective and focused on an assortment of macro-level variables, from density, diversity and traffic, to human capital, crime and unemployment. Without a doubt, such variables are crucial to understanding cities and identifying the factors that set them apart. But cities are not merely repositories of buildings, schools, streets, businesses, town halls or jails. Cities are places where people live – where people work and play – and as such, they are fundamental to human existence. Yet research on cities rarely considers their psychological characteristics. This is curious considering that American folklore and popular culture are filled with images of what people in certain regions are like. For example, we stereotype New Yorkers as assertive, tense and impatient, Californians as relaxed, a bit creative and superficial, and Texans as slow talking, friendly and enthusiastic about guns. Considering that such beliefs are consensually shared and widespread (Berry et al., 2000; Schneider, 2007), it would certainly seem sensible for city scholars to consider the potential value that a psychological perspective can add to our understanding of cities. Do cities have a psychological dimension? Although psychologists generally regard place as a variable that has no major effect on people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviours, recent research is beginning to suggest otherwise. There is growing evidence for inter- and intra-national differences on several psychological constructs, from personality traits and values, to emotional expression and helping behaviour. That research suggests that the psychological characteristics common in a...
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