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If you were to design a person who is friendly, outgoing, open and conscientious, it may help if he or she is raised in a weather sweet spot.
People who grow up in places with mild temperatures score higher on certain desirable personality traits, including socialization, emotional stability, personal growth and flexibility, a recent study published in Nature Human Behaviour found.
The temperature sweet spot seems to be about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which the study calls a “psycho-physiological comfort optimum” for humans — not too hot, not too cold. Such mild weather year-round encourages kids to go outside and explore, leading to more social interactions and new experiences, the authors suggest. That, in turn, influences their personalities as they grow up — creating “a persistent nudge on behavior” and establishing their “behavioral trajectory,” said Samuel Gosling, study co-author and a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Temperature has a big impact on the sort of activities in which we’re engaged. If it’s pleasant tonight, you’re likely to linger around; you’re likely to engage with people outside and undertake outdoorsy activities,” Gosling told TODAY.
“Where if it’s too hot or too cold, you don’t do that; you stay inside, you live a different sort of life.”
People have hundreds of personality traits, but they broadly fall under categories known as “the Big Five:” agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion and openness to experience.
Gosling has long been interested in why there are personality differences across geographic regions. Think of some stereotypes just within the U.S.: the uptight, aggressive New Yorker vs. a laid-back, easy-going Californian.
The study involved data from more than 5,500 university students in China who grew up in their birthplaces, and more than 1.6 million Americans who shared the ZIP code where they spent most of their youth. All participants took personality tests and the researchers collected weather data from their hometowns.
It turned out the people who grew up in regions with annual mean temperatures closer to about 72 degrees Fahrenheit had higher measures of all the “Big Five” personality dimensions.
Would moving to a weather sweet spot like San Diego, California, once you’re an adult have a similar impact on your personality? Gosling said he didn’t have direct evidence, but his hunch was that it would.
But Christopher Fagundes, an assistant psychology professor at Rice University who was not involved in the study, was more skeptical based on what researchers know about personality development
“A lot of things become somewhat fixed in your 20s. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some change, but the change is just less,” Fagundes noted.
Relocating to a place with nice weather might boost your mood, but only for a while, he added: “People’s levels of happiness are relatively stable. If you move to California (as an adult), you would get a spike in positive affect for about the first three months you’re there. And then you’d probably go back to baseline.”
But the findings that a child growing up in a mild climate could then develop a more extroverted personality because of the opportunities to get out and socialize “make a lot of sense,” Fagundes said.
They could also give you some guidance of where to live. Previous research shows self-esteem is higher when your personality fits the personality of the people around you, Gosling said. If you’re an introvert, for example, the weather sweet spot might not be for you.
“In a very broad sense, if you are feeling like, ‘Hey, I don’t fit in with these people around here. I’d prefer to sit at home and read a book and there are all these people wanting to talk to me all the time,’ you could use this to guide where you go,” he noted.