Extroverts Prefer Oceans?


By Jona Jaupi

Photo by Jona Jaupi.

It may not be a coincidence that people with quieter personality types prefer to live in quiet terrains. A new study currently under peer-review for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests there is link between personality types and preferences for terrains–such as the mountains versus the ocean or open spaces.

The study, led by Dr. Shige Oishi with a team of researchers from the University of Virginia, was conducted in a series of three studies, according to the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).

The experiment began “pretty simply,” according to Thomas Talhelm, a PhD student at the University of Virginia and researcher on this study. Initially, the members of the research team asked people to rate their personalities. The researchers then inquired the participants on their preferences between the ocean and the mountains.

“Indeed we found that people who are extroverted tended to prefer the ocean, and people who are introverted tended to prefer the mountains,” Talhelm tells BTR.

The introductory research led to the next part of the study, which looked at the correlations people place on the ocean with being social and the mountains with being alone. The researchers examined these associations by reviewing previously conducted personality tests on a state-level across the country.

“You can actually come up with an average measure of introversion at the state level to see if certain states are more introverted than other states,” Talhelm says. “What we found is that there was actually a correlation with how mountainous the states were and personality types.”

One example Talhelm mentions is how Idaho, a particularly mountainous state, has more introverted people than less hilly states.

The results were pretty clear-cut for one of the Big Five personality traits: extroversion. The researchers found that 75 percent of people prefer the ocean over the mountains when wanting to socialize.

However, the last part of the three-part study showed that only 52 percent of people chose the mountains over the ocean when seeking to be alone. What the findings essentially indicate in terms of the study is that, while individuals do not largely associate the desire to be alone with mountains, people with introvert-type personalities still do tend to live there more than extroverts.

However, as with all studies, there are some discrepancies relating to the data. One aspect that is not clear, Talhelm explains, is whether the landscape shapes people’s personalities.

“Perhaps you have fewer opportunities to have some social engagements, and you have more opportunities to do isolated activities, that makes you more introverted,” he says. “It could also be that introverts are attracted to the mountains, therefore they choose to live in these places.”

Talhelm says that several questions arose during and after this study. For instance, mountains and oceans are two contrasting terrain types and were picked specifically for the purposes of the experiment, but where do other terrains types–such as plains and deserts–fall?

Another popular question that spawns in the scientific community is, how is the research causable?

“For example, if we take people to a mountainous area, does that make them sort of temporarily more introverted?” Talhelm asks. “Or if you move to a mountainous area, would that cause you to be more introverted?”

The researchers also questioned how the controlled environment of the study, the laboratory, played into the experiment’s results. Would the findings from the psychological experiment be similar if the participants were tested in a different environment, like in an outdoor area that was actually mountainous?

According to the SPSP, this University of Virginia psychological study is actually the first of its kind to “link extraversion and introversion with the preference for mountains versus ocean/open spaces.” According to Talhem, other studies were conducted in London to correlate differing personality types with differing neighborhoods, but none of the prior research pertained to such a larger environmental scale.

Perhaps future findings will further conclude what the best terrains are for all of our unique personalities.