Back in 1977, in a famously troubling experiment, researchers asked 6-to-10-year-olds to approach strangers and say, "I'm lost. Can you call my house?" In small towns, 72 percent of the adults said yes; in cities, just 46 percent
. ("So what's your problem, kid? I'm lost too," said a passerby.) One explanation is that urban types tend to believe that the authorities, not individuals, should handle social problems. The other is "information overload"—we shut down when our senses are overstimulated. (Interesting: Noise
may be at the heart of the problem. The louder the racket in a similar city-streets experiment, the more people acted unhelpful and "emotionally deaf."