I’ve been reading Brian Little’s interesting book, Me, Myself, and Us: the Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. Among other things, he discusses various frameworks for understanding people’s different traits.
I’d never heard about the “Environmental Response Inventory” before, and found it very compelling. Created by George McKechnie, this set of traits is meant to identify the way that people are oriented toward their everyday physical environments.
They say there are two types of people: those who love dividing the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I love dividing the world into categories. Abstainers and moderators. Radiators and drains. Leopards and alchemists. Under-buyers and over-buyers. Eeyores and Tiggers. And, of course, my favorite of all, the Four Tendencies.
Of course, using these kinds of categories is very simplistic, but often they help me to understand some hidden aspect of myself — or other people — better.
Does reading this inventory give you better insight into your own nature? Do you find yourself described by:
- Display sensitivity to pure environmental experience, opposition to land development, appreciation of open space, and preservation of natural resources
- Accept natural forces as shapers of human life
- Endorse self-sufficiency in the natural environment
- Enjoy high-density living
- Appreciate the unusual and varied stimulation of urban areas
- Take an interest in cultural life and enjoy the richness of human diversity
- Regard the environment primarily as providing comfort, leisure, and satisfaction of human needs, and endorse modification of the environment to achieve those ends
- Endorse private land use and the use of technology to solve problems
- Prefer stylized environmental details
- Express great interest in travel and exploration of unusual places
- Enjoy intense and complex physical sensations and display a great breadth of interests
- Responsive, trusting, and open to the environment, and have a sense of competence in navigating the surroundings
- Relatively unconcerned about their security and are comfortable being alone and unprotected
- Enjoy antiques and historical places and have a preference for traditional vs. modern design
- Have an aesthetic sensitivity to well-crafted environments, landscape, and cultural artifacts of earlier years
- Have a tendency to collect objects for their emotional significance
Need for Privacy
- Strong need for physical isolation from stimuli and distraction
- Enjoy solitude and dislike extensive contact with their neighbors
- Interested in how things work and in mechanics in its various forms
- Enjoy working with their own hands and have an interest in technological processes and basic principles of science.
It’s easy to see from this list how people might have trouble agreeing on where and how to live, or on what values to pursue. A “pastoralist” and an “environmental adaptation” both might love nature, but have very different ideas about how best to engage with nature.
Can you find yourself in this list? Do you fit in more than one category? Seems to me as if they might overlap. For instance, for my fellow Parks and Recreation fans, I think Ron Swanson would be environmental adaptation/environmental trust/antiquarianism/need for privacy/mechanical orientation.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Samuel Zeller.