A street experiment shows that making a small effort with neighbours can create a more friendly street.
In a month-long experiment, residents in a suburban street in Manchester were asked to keep a diary of how they got on. Five households had strict instructions to smile at people in the street and offer help where they could, and to try to strike up conversations. Although several reported “strange looks” and some initial reserve, by the end of the four weeks all participants reported success.
Jay who had lived in the area for 24 years without plucking up the courage to talk to anyone, said “I’ve really seen a difference. People I’ve never met before have been a bit more sociable and said hello on several occasions. The study has been useful and really proven that we are a nice little street with a small community.” Jay is now delighted to be running a bin rota with his new friendly neighbours!
Social anthropologist Kate Fox, director at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, said “the experiment tapped in to a very real desire to be part of a community, and showed that only the smallest ‘nudge’ is needed to get people building a better neighbourhood.”