Pheromone researchers found that if a person relocates, his or her attitude and demeanor will adapt to meet the social environment of the new home. This means that a happy-go-lucky southerner might experience a change in personality with a move to the north, and vice versa.
In searching for a reason behind climate-controlled personality differences, Pennebaker points to the fact that northerners wear more clothing and are less able to display body language or read the body language of their friends and neighbors, which may lead to hindered social skills. He also posits that because people living in cold places are forced to stay indoors more often than their warm-weather peers, they naturally become less social.
But if we look at these differences in the context of pheromones, we arrive at an intriguing thought: Could it be that the friendly attitude of southerners has something to do with their pheromones, which are free to ﬂoat around in the warm air, unrestricted by heavy winter clothing? Are northerners cooler because they aren’t getting enough of their fellow humans’ pheromones?
Pheromone researcher Louis Monti-Bloch shared with us his theory about that perennial human afﬂiction, spring fever: “We release pheromones constantly. In the spring and summer, people wear less clothing as the weather warms up, therefore more skin is exposed and people are receiving chemical inputs they are not aware of.” The way Monti-Bloch describes it, spring fever could herald the arrival of a pheromone army into the air we breathe, which could explain why many of us drift around in a state of bliss as the months advance toward summer. When we cover our skin with clothing, we block the pheromones secreted through the skin from circulating through the air.
This fact seems to validate our desire—however embarrassed we might be by its acknowledgment—to show some skin. Go ahead and wear that slightly risque’ dress or tank top. Men and women are designed to communicate with one another in ways that go beyond the trappings of words and other sensory signals.
Research into how a person’s address can affect his or her personality and moods reveals that people living in the southern regions of the United States and in similar latitudes in other countries are often friendlier and more open than northerners, who are characteristically cooler, less ebullient. One study in particular illustrates the behavioral characteristics that occur across cultures and in countries that have markedly different weather patterns. It was conducted by psychologist James Pennebaker and his colleagues at Southern Methodist University, in conjunction with Bernard Rime of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.
The researchers interviewed three thousand college students in twenty-six countries, asking them to describe their own levels of emotional expressiveness and what they perceived to be the expressiveness—or taciturnity—of people living in other regions of the countries they called home. In eighteen out of twenty-six countries, students’ responses meshed with the personality traits that seem to define certain geographic regions: Students living in warmer climates described themselves as more outgoing, friendly, cheerful, and social than did the students from more frigid northern regions. Such differences surfaced among others.