• Sarah Macpherson

Who we are depends on where we are, according to Columbia and Stanford research


As the world grapples with the Coronavirus pandemic, leading personality science researchers have uncovered clues about how the dramatic shift away from public spaces has and will continue to affect personality. Work recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology from Pinpoint advisor Dr. Sandra Matz and collaborators at Stanford University explores the influential relationship between personality and time spent in public spaces. The researchers found that ‘stable traits’ or unchanging personality traits such as the Big Five as well as ‘momentary personality states’ have a bidirectional relationship with time spent in various locations, meaning they impact each other in the moment and over time. The study highlights extroverts, who were more likely to report spending time at a bar, a restaurant, or a friend’s house. These locations, conversely, were also found to make individuals of all personalities feel temporarily more extroverted. Where we choose to spend time both reflects and shapes our personalities.


“The places we spend time in play such an important part in our everyday lives. Yet, for a long time we didn’t have a good understanding of why we prefer certain places over others, or how spending time in a particular place impacts who we are,” Dr. Matz said. “Our findings provide a unique window into the ways in which people interact with their environment on a daily basis.”


These findings arrive in the midst of a global pandemic severely limiting individuals’ access to preferred spaces across the globe. As the health crisis continues, these findings provide crucial insight into the wide range of reactions and coping strategies employed by individuals sheltering in place and broader consumer sentiments in a pandemic economy.