Focuses on the effects of the climate on emotions. Effects of cold temperature on the ability to express emotion.
By PT Staff published July 1, 1996 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
Maybe you've heard the stereotype: Southerners are emotionally expressive, letting feelings pour out of them, while their northern cousins are more stoic, harder to read. It turns out that it's not just an American stereotype. And that there's a grain of truth in it.
When James Pennebaker, Ph.D., and colleagues quizzed undergrads around the globe about showing emotion, north-south stereotypes for expressiveness turned up in 18 of 26 nations. The stereotypes--particularly potent north of the equator and in Old World countries--usually depicted southerners as more demonstrative.
"These are huge stereotypes," reports Pennebaker, professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University. Reality wasn't quite so striking, but students who lived in the southern part of a country did, on average, rate their own expressiveness slightly higher than corresponding self-ratings from their northern counterparts.
The reason? "Cold temperatures," Pennebaker suggests, "constrain your ability to express emotion." You're forced to wear more clothes, spend more time indoors, be less physical--all of which impede expressivity.
None of this is to say that southerners in a given country experience emotions more deeply, however. They're just a bit more likely to let it show.
PHOTO (COLOR): Southerners are emotionally expressive, letting feelings pour out of them, while their northern cousins are more stoic, harder to read.