Being there: a brief visit to a neighbourhood induces the social attitudes of that neighbourhood

Daniel Nettle*, Gillian V. Pepper, Ruth Jobling, Kari Britt Schroeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


There are differences between human groups in social behaviours and the attitudes that underlie them, such as trust. However, the psychological mechanisms that produce and reproduce this variation are not well understood. In particular, it is not clear whether assimilation to the social culture of a group requires lengthy socialization within that group, or can be more rapidly and reversibly evoked by exposure to the group's environment and the behaviour of its members. Here, we report the results of a two-part study in two neighbourhoods of a British city, one economically deprived with relatively high crime, and the other affluent and lower in crime. In the first part of the study, we surveyed residents and found that the residents of the deprived neighbourhood had lower levels of social trust and higher levels of paranoia than the residents of the affluent neighbourhood. In the second part, we experimentally transported student volunteers who resided in neither neighbourhood to one or the other, and had them walk around delivering questionnaires to houses. We surveyed their trust and paranoia, and found significant differences according to which neighbourhood they had been sent to. The differences in the visitors mirrored the differences seen in the residents, with visitors to the deprived neighbourhood reporting lower social trust and higher paranoia than visitors to the affluent one. The magnitudes of the neighbourhood differences in the visitors, who only spent up to 45 min in the locations, were nearly as great as the magnitudes of those amongst the residents. We discuss the relevance of our findings to differential psychology, neighbourhood effects on social outcomes, and models of cultural evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere236
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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