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HOME > PAST ISSUE > May-June 2003 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

The Kindness of Strangers

People's willingness to help someone during a chance encounter on a city street varies considerably around the world

Robert Levine

Figure 8. New Yorkers earned a reputation for callousness . . .Click to Enlarge Image

People are sometimes quite helpful to the strangers they encounter on the street-and sometimes they are not. Importantly, the likelihood of finding a helpful stranger depends strongly on where you are. A study the author conducted several years ago gauged the relative helpfulness one could expect to experience in 36 U.S. cities. More recently he extended that study to 22 foreign cities and found that people in some countries (and cultures) are indeed more helpful than others. In general, those living in richer countries appear to treat one another less kindly than their counterparts in poorer nations.


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