Overpopulation and Crowding Fri. 10/12, Wed. 10/17, Fri. 10/19

Crowding and Overpopulation
Thomas Malthus “Essay On The Principle Of Populations" 1798
Predicted the earth is doomed because of geometric population increases and not enough food
Overpopulation is determined using the ratio of population to available sustainable resources.
Predictions were off due to:
 Technological advance in agriculture
 Widespread use of birth control
Neo-Malthusian position
Paul Ehrlich - 1968 “Population Bomb"
Population pressure is responsible for pollution and other social problems
Predicted that "in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death"
Major famines in Africa in 1980’s partial based on overpopulation
John Calhoun (1962) - Studied the effects of animal overpopulation and confirmed some of Malthus's ideas.
“Population Density and Social Pathology”
Rats in the “rat universe” were allowed to overpopulate and later this led to pathological or abnormal rat
Some Pathological Outcomes
 Constant fighting or Aggression
 Impaired Maternal behavior
 Very high infant mortality (80-96%)
 Hyperactivity
 Cannibalism
 Unusual sexual activity
Behavioral Sink
Calhoun also described the development of a behavioral sink which is an area in which the negative effects of
high density are intensified.
Questions have been raised about the validity of his research
Defining Crowding
Big debates has been over definition
Until the 1970's the difference between density and crowding was only vaguely recognized by researchers and
Related concepts - Density vs. Crowding
Density refers to the physical conditions associated with the number of people in given amounts of space
(Objective Measure)
Crowding refers to an individual's subjective experience of situations involving density (Subjective Measure)
Appraisal of density, feeling or emotion when there is too many people or too little space
Freedman (1975) “Crowding and Behavior" uses the term crowding to mean both the objective and subjective
concept (Density/Intensity theory)
Stokols (1972) suggested that density is probably necessary but insufficient by itself to elicit the experience of
Moos (1976) Integrative Model of Crowding includes other factors
Density Concept
Density is not simply the ratio of people to space
Population density can be measured and manipulated in numerous ways
Two predominant approaches
 Social density
 Spatial density
Social density involves varying group size while keeping area constant
Spatial density involves changing the space while holding group size constant.
Methods often lead to different results
Social density involves both group size (n) and space per individual.
They change at the same time
Spatial density involves overall room size and space per individual.
Social density seems to cause more negative responses especially among males
Negative response include: unpleasant emotions or affect, physiological arousal, diminished attraction toward
strangers, and an inability to perform complex tasks.
Other Types Of Density
Inside density is defined as the density in one's primary area of functioning (e.g., home or classroom)
# of people per spatial unit within a dwelling
#of residence per room or house
Outside density is defined as the density in secondary areas such as the community or city, school, or
shopping center
Primary Environments
Stokols (1976) suggest that density in primary environments have more significant effects than secondary
Frequently used in sociological-correlational studies of the effects of population density on pathology and
Consequences of High Density
Crowding is complex with complex causes and consequences
The effects of high density are not always negative
Depends on various personal, physical and cultural factors
In his 1975 book Crowding and Behavior, Jonathan Freedman argued that crowding is neither good nor bad.
Instead, in his density-intensity theory of crowding he suggests that as density increases, the intensity of our
moods and behavior increases.
pleasant  even more pleasant
unpleasant even more unpleasant
Determinants and Consequences of Crowding
Personal Characteristics
Personal Control – less stress for crowding
o Cognitive – sense of predictability
o Behavioral – one’s actions influence outcomes
o Decisional – selecting one’s goal
Sociability – more tolerance for crowding
Expectation (Expected – less crowding)
Experience with crowding
Sometimes helps, sometimes not
Primary environments (houses, apartments) – experience with crowding does not help
Secondary environments (street, shops etc.) – experience with crowding increases tolerance
Psychological disturbances
o The more disturbed the higher sense of crowding
o Negative  less tolerant of crowding
Physical Setting and Design
 Long corridors  more crowding
 High-rises  more crowding
 Higher floors  less crowding
 Sunny rooms  less crowding
 Bright colors  less crowding
 High ceilings  less crowding
 Placement of furniture
o Sociopetal placement of furniture  less crowding
Andrew Baum & Steven Valins (1977) studies in dormitories
Two types of dormitories
 Typical – long corridors (lounge)
 Mini-apartments (suites)
Same number of residents in rooms and on the floor
Same space per person
Investigation of social relations and perception of crowding
Corridor Residents
 Perceived their floor to be more crowded
 Felt forced into more unwanted interactions
 Indicated a greater desire to avoid others (withdrawal behavior)
 Less sociable with others
Sociocultural – Social Setting
One social perspective focuses on the limitations of freedom to choose among a number of behavioral options
in dense environments
Acccording to Stokol’s model of crowding Thwarting (goal interference) is important in determining the
severity of crowding
Stokol’s Typology of Crowding - Thwarting can be:
 Neutral or Personal
 Primary or Secondary environments
Personal thwarting is deliberately directed from another person against the self
Crowding can occur in environments that are central in our lives (Primary) or more temporary and relatively
unimportant (Secondary) places
Personal thwarting  more stressful crowding
Primary environment  more stressful crowding
Consequences of Crowding
 Physiological consequences e.g., health and stress related problems
 Behavioral consequences e.g., learned helplessness
 Emotional/Cognitive consequences e.g., negative affect, information overload
Social withdrawal
Performance decrease
Complex tasks, requires physical interactions
Helpful behaviors decrease
Humor increases
Aggression increases (especially for Males)
Prisons have been a useful site for studying the long-term effects of density and crowding
Most comprehensive study Cox, Paulus and McCain (1984)
Archival data and additional research on physiological measures of 1500 inmates
Overall: Spatial density does not seem to be as important a factor as is commonly believed in producing
negative effects.
Social Density
Comparisons among single cells and multiple occupant cells indicated that higher numbers of inmates per cell
were associated with higher:
 perceived crowding
 illness complaint
 Blood pressure
 Death Rates
Increases in population in prisons were associated increased rates of
 Death (r = .81)
 Suicide
 Disciplinary infraction
 Psychiatric commitment
Their Conclusions
 Single cells produce the smallest number and degree of negative effects
 The degree of negative consequences associated with crowding depends on a broad range of factors:
o space
o number of residents in a unit
o bunk type
o time in the cell
o nature of the inmate population
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