Why is it that when you first meet someone you always follow a subset of questions and it’s almost this conversation exactly: ‘what’s your name’ then followed by ‘where are you from’. Why does where you are from matter? Is it to see if you have something in common? Or perhaps it’s to just strike up a conversation? Theory states that where you are from (or claim to be from) says more about you than anything else. For instance, I am a small-town girl from a beach town in coastal North Carolina. According to a study mentioned by Colin Ellard, “more introverted student participants reported that they preferred scenes of mountains to scenes of beaches” (Ellard, 2015). So according to this I should be an extrovert, right?
In our text (chapter 12) Lafreniere, Page, and Senn mention a theory called person-environment fit. This means that depending on where people live, they will normally act and react differently than one another(Lafreniere, Page, & Senn, 2012). I had never thought about this but I can now understand how people are different. For example, living on the east coast my whole life people often make fun of people from California because they do things the ‘cali-way’. Is there some truth to this? Well according to person-environment fit then yes. People from California are going to be different in attitude and personality than people from eastern North Carolina.
I always knew that people in different geographical locations were different (besides the typical race, religion, and cultures) but I never knew how or why. Colin Ellard poses a question that I think we can all afford to ponder, “Do environments that are conducive to quiet reflection actually change the personalities of their residents, or do more introspective types gravitate to such environments because they feed deep needs for the kinds of situations that are most adaptive for those individuals?” (Ellard, 2015). Did I stay on the coast because I am a people person or am I a people person because I grew up on the coast? Think about where you live. What drew you to that location? Was it close to shops you like or to work? Is it quiet like you like? Maybe it’s near a landmark you like to frequent? So why do we really move to certain places?
Nancy Schlossberg makes another good point about how our environment feeds into our other emotions such as happiness and stress. She discusses that in some locations you may feel one way while a different way in another location. More specifically, people in Sarasota, FL feel young at 50 but people of the same age feel old in Rockford, IL (Schlossberg, 2011). Why is that? More people go to Sarasota to retire than they do in Rockford. Therefore the community in Sarasota is more retirement friendly and has more elderly based activities making the community members feel more comfortable and at home. So, if we live in a community that makes up feel welcome and in turn we are happier, what about living somewhere with higher stress?
A study was done to determine mental health status (measured by paranoia) in lower class neighborhoods. Which leads us back to the chicken or the egg scenario, Alexandra Sifferlin says “…whether the connection was due to people reacting to the environment around them, or because those who are generally less trusting were more likely to live in troubled areas” (Sifferlin, 2014). The researcher questioned residents of two neighborhoods (low status high crime and high status low crime) and just as would be assumed, those in the high crime area harbored more feelings of paranoia and lower levels of social trust compared to the residents of the other neighborhood. This held true in the participants in the study who walked these neighborhoods for one hour.
Circling back to person-environment fit, people in low income areas would typically encounter more stressors and be subjected to harder environments than the high income areas. Is this why we want to know where people are from? Subconsciously do we ask people where they are from to get a feel for the ‘type of person’ they could potentially be? I think, in a way, we do. Whether people want to admit it or not we judge people based on where they currently live or grew up or traveled to, etc. It could be a judgment of disapproval or even envy but there is also a type of judgment when telling people where you are from.
Ellard, C. (2015, August 19). Does Where You Live Make You Who You Are? Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-wandering/201508/does-where-you-live-make-you-who-you-are
Lafreniere, K. D., Page, S., & Senn, C. Y. (2012). Applying Soical Psychology To Community. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts, Applied Social Psychology (pp. 273-296). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Schlossberg, N. K. (2011, May 7). Location, Location, Location—You Are Where You Live. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/transitions-through-life/201105/location-location-location-you-are-where-you-live
Sifferlin, A. (2014, January 14). You Are Where You Live: How Dangerous Neighborhoods Make You Feel Paranoid. Retrieved from TIME: http://healthland.time.com/2014/01/14/you-are-where-you-live-how-dangerous-neighborhoods-make-you-feel-paranoid/