When you are looking to buy a new house and thinking of moving to another state, most of us try to imagine what it would be like living there.
Does it feel right, can we picture ourselves living our daily lives in it? When we walk in do we know straight away whether we can live there or not? The point is, the house has to fit in with our lives, with our personalities. It would be unthinkable to live in a house that doesn’t fit our personality.
But there is some research that suggests our personality actually changes depending on where we live. This means that the very factors that go into making us who we are do not have to be fixed but can be fluid and changeable.
In the US, different states have very different and unique characteristics, so moving to another state will have an impact on your personality as well. New York is known to be fast-paced and abrupt whereas California is friendly and laidback.
One study goes a bit further and suggests that we often use relationships to characterize and describe geological areas. For instance, Virginia is for lovers, Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love, and Hershey, PA is the sweetest place on Earth.
Using a sample of 1.5 million, one study showed that individual psychological profiles resulting from Big Five personality traits can be used to describe large geographic areas within the United States.
- The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions can be categorised as ‘Temperamental and Uninhibited’ as those living here were often impulsive, inquisitive, irritable, reserved, and aloof.
- Middle America can be categorised as ‘Friendly and Conventional’ as those living here were often traditional, considerate, dutiful and sociable.
- The West Coast, Rocky Mountain area, and the Sunbelt regions can be categorised as “Relaxed and Creative” as residents from these areas were often economically innovative, wealthy, and typically politically liberal.
Results showed that states in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic tended to be, on average, more anxious and neurotic about their romantic relationships than say those living on the West Coast. The least neurotic was Utah, however, other mountain states showed a distinct decline in interest in forming relationships in the first place.
Other results showed that those living in the northeast and southeast tended to be more neurotic than those in the west, whereas Midwesterners and those living in Utah were considered the most agreeable.
Lead author William Chopik, a psychologist at Michigan State University, said:
“We have these stereotypes about places, and it turns out that a lot of those are confirmed.”
Utah, meanwhile, has one of the least anxious and most relationship-inclined populaces in the country, despite a trend in other mountain states to be less interested than average in forming romantic relationships.
Moving to another state and a personality change
So does this mean that moving to another state will immediately make us take on the characteristics of that state and forget our own personality? According to Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, not necessarily. It all depends on how strong an influence the particular area or state has on a person’s personality in the first place.
I’ll explain. As soon as a certain area gains a reputation for being something, for example, San Francisco’s reputation for being socially liberal and accepting of LGBT people, it causes others with similar tendencies or beliefs to move there. This, in turn, helps to strengthen the reputation. So if you are pre-disposed to promoting LGBT rights, you are more likely to move to San Francisco.
But what if you are a laidback Californian who ends up in New York? Are you going to end up leaning on your car horn in rush hour and cursing at pedestrians when they don’t get out of the way fast enough?
Research says this is possible, as we take our cues from peer pressure and the people around us. Cultural values and traditions weigh heavily on those who are considered ‘newbies’ in towns and states. They are expected to follow the local rules and abide by the social practises set up by residents. It would take a very strong character to go against local peer pressure that spans generations and research has shown that social contagion makes newcomers absorb the practises and values of that area.
Social susceptibility is another factor that helps to decide whether new residents dial down certain characteristics whilst beefing up others.
It can be quite depressing to be an outsider in a new place so there is a very strong reason to want fit in and adjust ones’ personality to conform to those around them. This could be the over-riding factor as to why people tend to change their personality after moving to another state.
As well as taking into account the ‘personality’ of the state itself, who would want to feel as if they are in the minority when they can be a part of the happy majority?
What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe that moving to another state can alter your personality?