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The sociology of cities has been studied by many scholars who have issued divergent and conflicting reports on the question of what effect living in cities has on people. The single feature that distinguishes city rife from small-town or rural living is population: There are more people living more closely together in cities. There is no doubt that living in a major population centre can affect an individual's behaviour and emotional makeup. People in small towns are aware of informal social controls: What will the family think? What will the neighbours think? They know how quickly gossip gets passed around, so their social behaviour tends to be modified by this awareness. In a large city, these informal controls give way to formal ones — police, courts, jails, regulations and commands. The breakdown of informal controls throws individuals back on their own resources. Children in cities usually remain within the confines of the informal controls imposed by family, neighbours and friends. Adults, however, are more easily freed from these controls. To adults of strong character, this makes little difference. But to people whose lives are heavily influenced by what others think of them, the loss of informal controls can be quite unsettling. Such people can become lost in the crowd. Their personal contacts are superficial: They interact with other individuals only at those points where their life paths intersect — at work, at the grocery store, in restaurants, theatres or bar, on public transportation or at occasional social gatherings. In spite of hundreds of casual personal contacts, such individuals may be quite lonely. They may feel alienated from the rest of society, convinced that no one cares about them. This loneliness may promote mental illness or alcoholism, drug addiction or crime. Formal controls, because they are impersonal, are not nearly as effective as informal controls in regulating human behaviour.

According to the passage, people in small towns, when compared with cities, ......... .

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