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Personalities and places

Here is an interesting study about personalities and places (Journal article here and study here). It is interesting because so many of us are working from home and away from our regular environments. But it is also interesting because a lot of us, here on this blog, are in the business of creating spaces. And these environments have an impact on all of us.

The researchers for this study started by assessing the personalities of some 2,000 university students. The objective was to determine their baseline temperaments according to the “Big Five” personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Once that was established, the students were sent out into the world with a location-based app on their phone.

Four times a day, the participants were asked to enter their current location, as well as answer a few questions about their current state of mind. The big takeway from this study is twfold and is as follows: “People actively select their environments, and the environments they select can alter their psychological characteristics [both] in the moment and over time.”

The first bit is perhaps not all that surprising. We all have different personality traits and we choose environments that suit what we like. Extroverts, for example, tend to spend less time at home and more time at restaurants, bars, clubs, and at friends’ places. (Presumably this means that quarantine was a lot harder for extroverts.)

The second part of this finding suggests that once we have actively chosen where we want to be, that environment then impacts how we feel at that exact moment, as well as over a certain period of time. You’ll have to read the study for the nuances around this. But it is fascinating to me because it helps me explain why I feel different now that I’m mostly working from home.

Beyond poor video call connections and the lack of in-person collaboration, there also seems to be the psychological impact of not being in a particular environment. Not having to commute is a nice feature, particularly for some, but it also means not being around colleagues and not being able to meet for that impromptu craft beer. Turns out those things matter for our mental state.

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