The world’s populace increases by approximately 80 million people each year, according to the population reserve website, Population Connection. And with most of this inhabitants occupying comparatively small urban areas, it is not astonishing that population density is a mounting cause of concern. And while there are many unconstructive impacts of high population densities, there are also a few constructive ones.
A person living an area with a high population density will recurrently be making contact, deliberately or not, with the area’s other human inhabitants. A municipality’s busy sidewalks, subways and, buses, all serve as centres for the transmission of pathogens. An augment in population density in vicinity can also direct to a boost in stress levels of the entities living in that area, according to the North Carolina Sociological Review (2007). Apprehension of crime and sentiments of captivity or claustrophobia, due to the dominance of towering buildings in compactly populated areas, may also be contributing factors. Whatever the cause, this enhancement in stress accounts for higher degrees of social disorder and crime in densely populated areas in comparison to less populated areas.
While all of that contact with other persons may be a foundation of stress, and a latent health risk, it can also guide to some constructive results. As American Association of Anthropological Genetics (1999) remarks, high population densities can help ignite ones ingenuity and the creativity of others, which in turn can lead to novelty. The close propinquity of individuals in a densely-populated place denotes that the people are more probable to come in contact with other people who share their precise concerns. This means that information can simply be spilled-over between individuals through face-to-face interactions, and one can willingly share and, with the innovative input of others, cultivate and develop ones ideas.
Population density is portrayed as the ratio of organisms to the size of an area. This ratio is determined by taking the number of people in a given area and dividing that number by the area they occupy. As of the last U.S. census, the average population density of the United States was 70 people per square mile (Xpeditions, 2008). This is just an objective fact although it has little, if any, applicability to the regular American’s daily life. Conversely, when questions of surplus population noise and reduced privacy are taken into account the prejudiced insight of population density meets the objective fact of population density. As population density increases so does the noise that the population produces, particularly in crowded areas. Likewise, as people move to a more confined area the aptitude to uphold privacy and a sense of territoriality adjusts and transforms. To completely appreciate how population density influences individual people, the concepts of noise, privacy, territoriality, and personal space must be covered and the significance of these concepts, and mediation thereof, must be applied to the theme of populations.
The term Proxemics is used to describe person-environmental spatial associations and coats the areas of territoriality, crowding, and personal space (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995). As with the notion of noise, the positioning of people in their social and physical worlds is predicated on cultural, psychological, and environmental influences.
The conventional description of territoriality is centred on the marking off and defence of a physical boundary against interference by those of the same species (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995). More recently the definition has been updated to refer specifically to the governing of space around an organism, specially the distance between themselves and others of the same species. In humans, territoriality falls within three domains: primary, secondary, and public. Primary territories are those that are owned exclusively by a person for a relatively permanent amount of time; whereas, secondary territories are those areas that are not owned entirely or permanently, but are “rented”, so to speak, public or semi-public spaces. Primary territoriality has been shown to increase belongingness to social groups in work situations, which in turn reduces turnovers and increases performance (Brown, Lawrence & Robinson, 2005). Last, public territories are those that are open to anyone and follow a first-come-first-serve basis. Primary territories might be a home or dorm room, secondary territories a desk at a class that is assigned to a student, and public territories would be the booth at a local McDonalds. There is overlap in these three domains in the day to day activities of individuals, but for the most part the lines are fairly clear.
In large degree, the end of territorial practices and territorial behaviours is to maintain some resemblance of privacy (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995). Although it must be noted that primary territories are much more geared towards privacy than, say, secondary or public territories. Irwin Altman painted the broad strokes by defining privacy as, “…an interpersonal boundary control process…a dialectic process involving a dynamic interplay between the opposing forces of seeking versus restricting access…[and] an optimizing process” (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995, p. 267). By using this verbiage, privacy becomes a dynamic process by which humans regulate exposure of the self to other selves.
Personal space has been described by theorists as the, “shell of a snail…soap bubble worlds…aura… [Or]….invisible boundaries” (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995, p. 273). If territoriality is the governing of space between individuals and privacy is the regulation of contact between the self and other selves, then personal space is the mobile territoriality of the self. In short, personal space is the psychological mediated space around oneself which is considered of primary territory and private. Furthermore, there are several different types of personal space: intimate distance (0 – 18 inches), personal distance (18 – 48 inches), social distance (4 – 12 feet), and public distance (12 – 25 feet). Each distance has culturally, socially, and biologically predicated rules which govern which individuals are allowed within those distances and how to interact with those individuals once they are in those zones. These distances are only approximate, since personal space is not a fixed distance, but rather is built upon personal, social, and environmental variables that are present in the surroundings.
Population Density and Territoriality, Privacy, and Personal Space
Privacy guidelines vary from person to person. In fact, Arkkelin & Veitch (1995) go further to say that, “…privacy is more closely related to interpersonal relationships than to objective social density” (p. 269). As with many environmental stimuli, medial levels of social inputs are optimal for most people. When population density increases, needs for privacy, territoriality, and personal space increase as well. In order to regulate social inputs humans become more protective of primary territories. Furthermore, cross-cultural differences have been noted between different cultures, with the Latin cultures maintaining a greater proximity between individuals than North American cultures. In all, population density is only a number given meaning by the social, psychological, and situational context that it exists.
Strictly, noise is any sound, a wave that travel through an air medium, that is unwanted or obstructs the normal transmission of acoustic information (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995). Albeit, the insight of noise does engage a psychological component, so the identification and classification of noise is highly subjective. Sound itself has several differentiating perceptual characteristics, pitch, timbre, amplification, which correspond directly with the physical attributes of the sound itself, wave symmetry, wavelength, and wave amplitude. Also, scientists use decibels and hertz to measure sound amplification and frequency, respectively. Even though there is little know about the neurological language that transmits the physical mechanism of sound to the psychological perception of hearing, there is a general consensus in academic literature that, “…transportation vehicles like cars, trucks, trains, and plains, and gatherings of people at, for example, a rock concert or the neighbourhood bar, are all sources of noise (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995, p. 208).
For example, Bronzaft et al (2008) found that people that live near airports experience four times the normal amount of noise than other residential occupants and are 50% more likely to be bothered by airplane and other transportation noise. In this example the subjective perception of noise is influenced by the environment in which the sound is presented. Furthermore, even though noise is largely anthropogenic it can still cause cumulative and chronic psychological and physiological damage, affecting the areas of psychological functioning, social behaviour, and task performance. As with almost any environmental stimuli, there are strategies and means by which noise can be mediated and reduced.
Strategies to Reduce Noise
A recent technology that is now in use in some industries employs computer microprocessors to generate opposing sound waves to noise, thereby cancelling the noise out altogether (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995). This nature of technology is most efficient in situations where recurring noise is displayed, since the opposing waves are easier to create since they are always the same. Presently the technology is being used in airplane pilot helmets to allow them to hear cockpit communications better and cancel out the sound of the engines. Furthermore, sound absorbing materials can be placed between equipment and people in order to guard people from unwanted noise. By using sound absorbing materials and sound cancelling technology, noise can be reduced to a manageable level.
Another way to arbitrate or decrease noise is to adjust the source of the noise itself. In the case of industrial paraphernalia, measures should be taken to limit or marginalize rattles, reverberations, and vibrations through appropriate maintenance and the exploit of perforated materials (Arkkelin & Veitch, 1995). It is vital to remember that even though the effects of noise are collective, noise itself is not. Only by reducing the loudest sounds can the decibel (db) level be lessened. If intermediate range noises are eradicated the overall db level does not go down considerably, since db does not follow a linear pattern. By reducing the loudest noises first and reducing vibrations, through proper maintenance and the use of perforate materials, noise can be reduced.
In conclusion, the prejudiced intuition of population density discovers its appearance through increase in noise and reduced privacy. Noise is any resonance that is superfluous or hinders normal acoustic communication. Sound absorbing materials, noise-cancelling microprocessors, punctured materials, and appropriate maintenance can be used to lessen noise. Territoriality is the marking off of a physical space that is regulated by an organism; on the other hand, personal space is the regulation of the mobile territoriality of the self. Privacy is the regulation of revelation of the self to other selves and becomes more significant as population density amplifies. In addition, the regulation of social inputs befalls overriding when population density augments, thus offering some resemblance of privacy and primary territory.
American Association of Anthropological Genetics (1999), a report on transmission of bacteria, national Institute of Medicine External Review Panel
Arkkelin, D., Veitch, R. (1995). Environmental psychology: An international perspective, 1e.New York, NY: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Bronzaft, A.L., Cohen, B.S., Goodman, J., Heikkinen, M., Nadas, A. (2008). “Airport-related air pollution and noise”. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Hygiene, 5(2), 119-129.
Brown, G., Lawrence, T. B., & Robinson, S. L. (2005). “Territoriality in organizations”. Academy of Management Review, 30(3), 577-594.
North Carolina Sociological (2007) Association, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Research Fellow.
Population connection official website: http://www.populationconnection.org
Xpeditions: A look at the population density of the United States. (2008), National Geographic. Retrieved June 29, 2010, from National Geographic Web site: Official