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Cooperation among strangers is increasing

Words by Smiley Team

It feels like all we hear today is about how people are becoming more divided politically, socially, and even across generation lines. There’s fear that division is becoming more and more set in stone... so the results from an American Psychological Association study offer a lot of optimism. 

The study shows that since the 1950s, people in the US have actually grown closer and more cooperative with each other and their community. 

“We were surprised by our findings that Americans became more cooperative over the last six decades because many people believe U.S. society is becoming less socially connected, less trusting, and less committed to the common good,” said lead researcher Yu Kou, Ph.D., a professor of social psychology at Beijing Normal University.

“Greater cooperation within and between societies may help us tackle global challenges, such as responses to pandemics, climate change, and immigrant crises.”

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Researchers analyzed 511 studies that were carried out in the US between 1956 and 2017 that included over 63,000 people spread throughout. These studies included lab tests that evaluated strangers’ cooperation.

The researchers believe the gradual cooperation growth came from things such as urbanization, societal wealth, income inequality, and the number of people living alone. They didn’t establish clear causation though.

“It’s possible that people gradually learn to broaden their cooperation with friends and acquaintances to strangers, which is called for in more urban, anonymous societies,” said study co-author Paul Van Lange, Ph.D., a professor of social psychology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “U.S. society may have become more individualistic, but people have not.”

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: Habitat for Humanity is an organization that helps support communities and the strangers in them. Consider donating.  

SUPPORT: Talk to your neighbor. Something small, just ask about their day. Try and build that connection in your own community. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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