In a series of three studies, researchers tested whether there is a link between personality and an aspect of physical ecology: flat terrain versus mountainous terrain. The study found that only one of the Big Five personality traits predicted terrain preference--extraversion.
Participants perceived wooded/secluded terrain to be calmer, quieter and more peaceful. In contrast, participants in the flat/open condition perceived the terrain to be more sociable, exciting and stimulating. The study found that when people want to socialize with others, they prefer the ocean far more (75%) than mountains (25%). In contrast, when they want to be alone, they choose mountains (52%) as much as the ocean (48%).
Results of the study also showed that introverts tend to live in mountainous regions, while extroverts live in open and flat regions. The researchers caution that there is no evidence mountains make people introverted, but rather, introverts tend to choose mountainous geography because of the secluded environment.
Lead researcher Shige Oishi says that individuals should consider their personalities more closely when choosing a place to live; "Some cities and towns have geography that is more accommodating for some people than for others...if you know you're introverted, then you may be rejuvenated by being in a secluded place, while an extrovert may be rejuvenated more in an open space."
This is the first study to link extraversion and introversion with the preference for mountains vs. ocean/open spaces. The study is under review for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Oishi cautions that there is more research that will be collected to determine the underlying mechanisms of the association, and to see if the results are replicated on a larger scale.
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