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Life History Tool Explains How People Use Population Density to Judge Their Life Preferences

Mar 01, 2017 05:32 AM EST

A new study explored the relationship between living in crowded places and people's lifestyle preferences. The study wanted to analyze the effects of population density on individual human beings, especially now that the population has doubled in just a few decades.

Researchers published a blog piece on Scientific American explaining their own take on the phenomenon. Their research dealt on the so-called life history theory (LH), which explains how animals distribute their time among different tasks.

Using LH, the paper concluded that they can find similarities on how humans experience "pressure" in allocating their time on various tasks vis-a-vis social norms.

For a bit of background, the scientists refer to ethologist John Calhoun and his paper in 1962. His experiment on overcrowding among rats resulted to very extreme results such as cannibalism, social withdrawal and dead infants.

It was this research, among others, that enlightened some of the effects of population density on humans. However, other researchers believe it may not be the case.

Oliver Sng, Steven Neuberg, Michael Varnum and Douglas Kenrick elaborated on their Scientific American piece that social behavior is influenced with different environments. 

In low density environments, people adopt a "fast" strategy where they focus on "quantity over quality" as well as reproduction. Abundant resources and little competition also means that humans do not invest too much in their offsprings, knowing that they will survive with the available resources.

However, more factors are considered when it comes to lifestyle choices as population density grows. In high density environments, social competition is fiercer. Individuals engage more time in social affairs to build reputation and skills, decreasing time for reproduction -- thus, they adopt the so-called "slow" strategy. 

A study published in Springer says that more people, specifically those in their late 20s in the U.S., are actually following the "slow" strategy. 

They found out that in the U.S., individuals in regions with denser populations tend to have "profiles" of people with slower life history. They prefer long-term goals, not just in careers but in relationships as well.

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