CROWDING AND BEHAVIOR by Jonathan L. Freedman


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Mob scenes have hardly been getting a good press lately, what with urban crime headlines, studies of social breakdown among rats in overpopulated cages, and a plethora of think-small, back-to-the-land manifestoes. Freedman, who teaches psychology at Columbia, takes a more optimistic tack. Starting with a welcome rebuttal to the ""territorial imperative"" hypotheses of the ethologists (notably Robert Ardrey), he argues that population density is actually a neutral factor as long as other elements of the situation (for example, food supply) remain adequate. Freedman's theory of ""density-intensity' posits that crowding reinforces already existing factors rather than creating new ones: thus friendliness, insecurity, cooperation, or hostility are intensified by crowded situations. Distinguishing between numbers and density, he finds the former a more negative influence than the latter--for example, Los Angeles is if anything a more anomie-inducing community than the much more crowded New York. Freedman also disputes the conventional wisdom on the relationship between population density and crime. He concludes with a plea for accepting cities as cities and maximizing the effects of density while minimizing those of number by designing buildings and neighborhoods which encourage interaction between manageable numbers of people. Not an original thesis, but Freedman's scientific documentation is moderately convincing--though it should be noted that his own experiments don't appear to have dealt with very long time spans. There's some unnecessary repetition, but his case is nicely put together.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Viking