Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

The pace of life


THE specific effects of population pressure on the quality of everyday life should be of pressing social and policy concern; and although population studies have proliferated in the behavioural sciences, research has focused primarily on fertility-related behaviours1,2. Moreover, the few social scientists interested in the relationship of the numbers of humans to individual human behaviour have been puzzled by a dearth of clear-cut effects3. This study reports preliminary analyses from a larger cross-cultural investigation of the quality of life. Following a suggestion from Lowin et al.4, we have systematically observed the rates of pedestrian locomotion over a constant distance in 15 cities and towns in six countries in Europe, Asia and North America. The results of these observations indicate that pace of life varies in a regular fashion with the size of the local population, regardless of the cultural setting.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Bartz, W. R., Am. Psychol., 25, 500 (1970).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Fawcett, J. T. (ed.), Psychological Perspectives on Population (Basic Books New York, 1973).

  3. Lawrence, J. E. S., Psychol. Bull., 81, 712 (1974).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Lowin, A., Hottes, H. A., Sandier, B. E., and Bornstein, M. H., J. soc. Psychol., 83, 247 (1971).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Wirth, L. J., Am. J. Soc., 44, 1 (1938).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Freedman, J. L., in Psychological Perspectives on Population (edit. by Fawcett, J. T.), 234 (Basic Books, New York, 1973).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Carnahan, D., Grove, W., and Galle, O. R., Soc. Forces, 53, 63 (1974).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Stokols, D., Psychol. Rev., 79, 275 (1972).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Desor, J. A., J. Personality soc. Psychol., 21, 79 (1972).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Milgram, S., Science, 167, 1461 (1970).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Zajonc, R. B., Science, 149, 269 (1965).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

BORNSTEIN, M., BORNSTEIN, H. The pace of life. Nature 259, 557–559 (1976).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing