We Aren’t Selfish After All

Jim Davies: John Drury is the pioneer of a theory known as “collective resilience,” which he describes as “informal solidarity among people in the public.” Drury’s study of the 2005 London bombing disaster found that mutual helping behaviors were more common than selfish ones. This basic finding has been replicated in other disasters, including the crash of the Ghana football stadium and the 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Chile. In disasters, Drury says, people reach heights of community and cooperation they’ve never reached before. It turns out that being in a dangerous situation with others fosters a new social identity. Boundaries between us, which seem so salient when things are normal, disappear when we perceive we’re locked in a struggle together, with a common fate, from an external threat. People go from me thinking to we thinking.

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