It’s odd that we associate the word tolerance with big cities. It’s odd because if that’s correct, it means tolerance has an inverse relationship with population density, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would being around *more* people make me more tolerant?
Many of us chalk this up to exposure - seeing more people obviously gets you used to being around different people, and therefore more tolerant, but that doesn’t quite add up. If anything, this constant exposure should be a reminder of how fearful I should be - how dangerous the world is because it doesn’t reflect my mental models. My negativity bias should be on overdrive with every seemingly crazy person who gets on the subway.
I can’t help think that survivorship bias player a role here. Malcom Gladwell talks about this in length in David & Goliath
. The TLDR is that London officials were terrified that bombings during WW2 would destroy the economies, sending people into unproductive frenzies when they feared for their lives. This didn’t happen - instead, those that heard the bombs go off, but survived what they feared most, were left feeling more alive than ever. Maybe we live though this a little bit every day in the city.
Of course, data suggest this isn’t quite true either - maybe we’re overconfident in the kindness and safety of strangers. Maybe the caricatures of the city/rural divide are too easy.
And, in the end, maybe we just take whichever story makes us feel safe in the absence of control.