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neighbourhood effect

  A process by which the characteristics of people\'s local social milieux influence the ways in which they think and act. Neighbours present individuals with models of attitudes and behavioural patterns, which may either: (a) conform to their own, and thus reinforce their self-identity and behaviours; or alternatively (b) contradict them and thus influence some local residents to modify their own attitudes and behaviour in order to be consistent with those of their local peer groups (cf. contextual effect).

The neighbourhood effect has been used to account for certain geographical patterns — of attitudes towards educational achievement, for example, and of voting (see electoral geography) — which indicate greater spatial concentration of an attitude than anticipated from knowledge of the characteristics of their area\'s residents alone. The inference drawn from the ecological relationships identified, but rarely tested (thus potentially committing an ecological fallacy), is that people initially predisposed to a minority view within an area will be influenced by the majority opinion there: since this influence comes about through interpersonal interaction it is sometimes termed \'conversion through conversation\'. (RJJ)

Suggested Reading Burbank, M.J. 1997: The psychological basis of contextual effects. Political Geography 14: 621-35.



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