The stereotype of the quiet, introspective mountain loner and the beach-going partier may have truth to it: These different personalities are drawn to different physical terrains, according to new research.
The investigation, presented at a meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, found that introverts tend to live in mountainous regions, while extroverts are more likely to live on a beachfront or other open and flat terrains.
Don’t think, however, you can change your personality just by moving to a different city. It’s not that mountains are creating introverts, but more likely the opposite: People who are already introverted simply gravitate to mountainous regions, lead researcher Shige Oishi, from the University of Virginia, says.
The results were gathered by conducting three studies. In the first, a survey of 921 subject, the researchers found that extroverts preferred ocean over mountains–and that no other major personality factors (including levels of openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism) tended to predict that preference. In the second study of 226 subjects, the researchers found that when people wanted to socialize with others, they prefer the ocean far more than mountains (75% vs. 25%). When they wanted to be alone, both environments were about equally preferred (48% vs. 52%). The last study, with 51 subjects, found that residents of mountainous states are more introverted than flat states.
Oishi cautions that other studies would be needed to determine why introverts and extroverts prefer different terrains. One possibility, at least, is that stereotypes of the types of people who like the mountains tend to be self-fulfilling. For now, though, it’s safe to say that I’m headed for the hills.