On the move: Personality influences migration patterns

September 24, 2008,

When meeting someone for the first time, the second question that is usually asked (following "what's your name?") is "where do you live?". Until recently, it was not apparent just how revealing that answer may be. Although behavioral research has suggested that people who are extremely outgoing have a tendency to relocate often, was unknown if specific areas attract particular personality types.

Psychologists Markus Jokela and Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen from the University of Helsinki along with their colleagues Marko Elovainio from the National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health and Mika Kivimäki of University College London, wanted to know if certain personality traits would influence migration patterns more so than others.

The psychologists randomly selected participants from a population-based health study in Finland. The researchers studied data which spanned over nine years and included information relating to personality (via self-assessment questionnaires) and a variety of demographic information (including where participants had lived over the nine year period). The three personality traits (or temperaments) that the researchers focused on were sociability (people with high sociability prefer the company of others to being alone), emotionality (increased emotionality indicates a tendency to experience negative emotions, especially fear and anger) and activity (high activity is characterized by being very active, energetic and also restless).

The results, reported in the September issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that personality traits determine not only where people relocate to, but also how often they move and how far away they move. The researchers found that people with a very active personality have a tendency to migrate, to both urban and rural locales. People who are very emotional are more likely to move away from home, but do not migrate very far and do not move very often. Emotional people tend to migrate equally to both urban and rural locations. People with very social personalities are more inclined to leave rural settings for urban areas and are more likely to migrate over long distances.

The authors suggest that since urban areas are densely populated, they appeal to people with high sociability traits—urban areas offer plenty of opportunities for social interaction. Although very emotional people are more likely to move away from home, the fact that they do not move often or selectively to urban locations indicates that people with this personality trait move simply because they are not content where they are. In addition, very emotional people were found to migrate over shorter distances. The authors suggest that emotional people may prefer shorter moves because they are less stressful compared to long distance moves and that "emotionality appears to have a dual role in migration by increasing migration probability but decreasing migration distance."

This study has implications for urban planners, neighborhood developers and also the real estate market. A better understanding of the types of personalities a certain place attracts may improve the way housing and jobs there are marketed, as well as the types of stores that are brought into that area. In addition, personality based migration may have long term consequences for a particular location. "Temperament-related self-selection may also modify population structures, and in the long run, genetic variation underlying temperament differences may become differentially distributed across geographic regions," the authors conclude.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Dangers of pregnancy among older women and those with many children rarely discussed

Related Stories

Dangers of pregnancy among older women and those with many children rarely discussed

July 4, 2018
Harmful gender, religious and cultural norms contribute to risky pregnancies in older women and women who already have five or more children, endangering the lives of these women and their babies, suggests new research from ...

How can Africa prevent the next haemorrhagic fever crisis? Invest in research and development

August 6, 2018
In 2014, West Africa encountered its worst recorded outbreak of Ebola with over 11,000 reported deaths. The memory of this crisis hadn't faded yet when Ebola reared its ugly head again this month in the Democratic Republic ...

Asian-Americans face barriers to healthy aging

July 18, 2018
Older Asian-American immigrants are healthier and happier if they are socially active, connected to their families and communities and are able to maintain their cultural values while adapting to western culture, according ...

Urban nature—what kinds of plants and wildlife flourish in cities?

June 27, 2017
Biodiversity refers to the variety of all living things on Earth, but people often have very specific ideas of what it means. If you run an online search for images of biodiversity, you are likely to find lots of photos of ...

Startup pioneers human-centric urban travel

September 19, 2017
For city dwellers, life without an automobile can be filled with daily headaches and frequent inconveniences. Everyday tasks, like lugging a few grocery bags from the nearest market to a walk-up apartment, become a pain in ...

Researchers show how online communities bridge the rural-urban healthcare divide

December 9, 2016
Online communities are helping patients find and share information and connect with each other at unprecedented levels. But can they also create social value by helping to bridge the disparities between rural and urban health ...

Recommended for you

People can handle the truth (more than you think)

September 19, 2018
Most people value the moral principle of honesty. At the same time, they frequently avoid being honest with people in their everyday lives. Who hasn't told a fib or half-truth to get through an awkward social situation or ...

Study reveals cannabinoid drugs make pain feel 'less unpleasant, more tolerable'

September 19, 2018
Researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences have determined that cannabinoid drugs do not appear to reduce the intensity of experimental pain, but, instead, may make pain feel less unpleasant and more tolerable.

Mindfulness meditation: 10 minutes a day improves cognitive function

September 19, 2018
Practising mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes a day improves concentration and the ability to keep information active in one's mind, a function known as "working memory". The brain achieves this by becoming more efficient, ...

Close intercultural romantic relationships and friendships can boost creativity

September 19, 2018
You've worked abroad. You've lived abroad. But have you had a close friendship or romantic relationship with a person from a culture drastically different from your own?

The 'real you' is a myth – we constantly create false memories to achieve the identity we want

September 19, 2018
We all want other people to "get us" and appreciate us for who we really are. In striving to achieve such relationships, we typically assume that there is a "real me". But how do we actually know who we are? It may seem simple ...

New research helps to instill persistence in children

September 19, 2018
Encouraging children "to help," rather than asking them to "be helpers," can instill persistence as they work to fulfill daily tasks that are difficult to complete, finds a new psychology study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.