The Urban Experience

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Date Added: 10 / 25 / 2009
Category: Politics
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The Urban Experience

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The Urban Experience: A Psychological Analysis
AN 323
Barney J. Barnett

Stanley Milgram basically started out by asking the question: “Where do we start in constructing urban theory and in laying out lines of research?”   He determined that everyone must first start at observation.   He said that Louis Wirth had the root of sociopsychological theory correct.   The initial observations must be the population of the city, the density, and the heterogeneity.   Milgram did find fault with Wirth in that these observations are totally external to the individual and are not directly linked to their psychological state.   Milgram said that we must find something to link these to the individual experience.  
He determined that the individual, in the city, adapts to sensory overload.   This is caused by the incessant input from the senses.   These can be the constant flow of people, the many noises, or the variety of entertainments and activities.   People eventually habituate themselves to the inputs that they perceive to be more important.   In other words, they give higher priority to certain inputs.   Milgram said, “…the frequency of demands present in the city gives rise to norms of noninvolvement.   There are practical limitations to the Samaritan impulse in a major city.”   This means that somebody can not always help people in the city, no matter how altruistic his motives may be; otherwise his own affairs would be in disarray.   People in the city attain a certain level of anonymity.   They do not get involved in affairs that do not concern them or their friends directly.   One example they gave was of the female in Boston, who had been stabbed several times repeatedly and no one came to her aid nor did anybody call the police.   These norms of noninvolvement are thus evolved in response to the consistent overloads and eventually become normal modes of response.   After some experiments it was concluded that this anonymity is not...