the psychology of town centers

We are definitely a product of our environment, and part of that environment is a need to socialize. The need to socialize is more than just getting together. It actually teaches us important lessons and values.

The book Living Sociology, by Renzetti & Curran, tells us that "Socialization is the process by which a society’s culture is taught and human personalities are developed. "Human beings need more than physical sustenance to thrive; we need social interaction. Personality is a set of behavioral and emotional characteristics that describe one’s reactions to various situations or events." Community oriented town centers give us an environment to help us develop our personality.


Agents of Socialization

* Economy: Produces, manages, & distributes human & material resources

* Media: TV potent agent of socialization, avg. household watches 55 hours/week of TV

* Government: Regulates relationships between society’s members

* Religion: Guides behavior and gives meaning to our lives

* Education: Teaches knowledge, skills and values most important to society

* Peers: Individuals who are about same age and share same social position and interests

* Long term exclusive intimate relationship, committed emotionally and financially, most important agent of socialization

These agents of socialization tend to reinforce one or both of the essential tendencies of all living systems: the self-assertive and the integrative. Neither of these tendencies is intrinsically good or bad. What is healthy is a dynamic balance. What is unhealthy is imbalance – overemphasis of one tendency and neglect of the other (Source: Web of Life by Fritjof Capra).

As families continue to suffer from divorce and stress, and as religion, education and government continue to have less influence in the average person's life, the other agents that reinforce more of the self assertive side — economy, media and peers — will have a more dramatic impact on shaping societal values and behavior. The result is that Western industrial culture has overemphasized the self-assertive and neglected the integrative tendencies.



Today's western culture has become --

* Highly urbanized. Most of the population lives where the jobs are.

* People have greater freedom to do what they want, along with this comes greater anonymity. As a result, much social interaction is impersonal and a *sense of community is more difficult to foster.*

Historically, the family was the center of economic production. Now home and work have become centers of separate spheres of activity, the former private and the latter public.


Town Centers Fill A Need

Town Centers provide an area where people can interact on a more personal basis. The events, shopping and facilities fostered by successful town centers bring people together so that social interaction can grow.

This town center utilizes its town square as a gathering point and then features activities on a daily basis that draws people to the town to socialize. While the shops and stores may feature stock brokers and higher-end merchants, all in the community can gather for these open access events.

Many successful town centers such as Charleston, SC, use the natural drawing power of community focal points such as churches, civic buildings and facilities, museums and parks as a keystone in their success. While people, from all walks of life, are using these facilities, the city creates activities and other venues that keep people engaged and wanting to return to the town center for other reasons.