General Question

trickface's avatar

Does climate affect human temperament?

Asked by trickface (2326 points ) July 17th, 2011

This question is in reference to both the broader and the smaller scales.

If you have lived in both a cold and warm climate, have you noticed a change in attitude of the people who reside there?

Do equatorial islands evoke a long-lasting sense of peace and paradise, or is it just long enough for tourists?

Are the cold hills and valleys of the northern forests just what is needed for some calm time to think? or do they breed harsh feelings of isolation and fear in the population.

Do nations nearer the poles have steadier political histories because of this? Why?

Chile vs Cuba, New Zealand vs Cambodia, Canada vs Mexico and Scandinavia vs The Middle East.

In my mind the colder regions seem to be less embroiled in conflict through history and I was wondering if this is totally down to religion and trade resources, or partially down to the climates effect on human psyche.

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17 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

Are you including Russia in those colder regions? Because there’s pretty much no point at which Russia hasn’t been embroiled in conflict.

Yes, there seems to be some correlation between being comfortable and being nicer. The best climates for peace and prosperity seem to be really mild ones – in between the poles and the equator. Really freaking hot and really freaking cold both make people more edgy. There’s also a correlation between having enough resources and having peace; places that cannot grow enough food or get enough water have many more issues than places where there’s enough to go around.

trickface's avatar

I honestly have no answer for Russia, perhaps with them it is due to greed for power of the sheer size of Russia, and probably not anything to do with the weather. Do you think this renders my whole idea null and void? @Aethelflaed

Aethelflaed's avatar

I don’t personally think Russians are any more greedy or power-hungry than all other cultures. They do, however, have a very troubled history. Basically, there are times when everyone gets sick of the dictatorial power and there’s anarchy for awhile, and then the times when people get sick of the anarchy and chaos and are more interested in having a dictatorial power than keeps order but in incredibly harsh manners. This is not true of everywhere. So then what accounts for it? Certainly the extreme cold is enough to impact the culture; life becomes all about just getting warm enough to survive. Cold climates are also much, much harder to grow things in, so that means any colder nation will reach a Malthusian crisis much more quickly. And since Russia is by far the largest nation towards the poles, it seems like any theory about nations towards the poles would have to include Russia in order to be considered valid.

FluffyChicken's avatar

I live in a very foggy town, and have lived in very sunny towns. I feel better on sunny days. Also, I work in a hotel, and if the weather is too hot or too cold, the tourists turn into monsters, but if the weather is nice, all is sunshine and daisies.

linguaphile's avatar

I’ve lived in Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Montana, South Dakota, DC and Minnesota. In very quick and simplistic terms from my experience:
Overall, the nicest and sweetest people: Arizona and Alabama but Alabamians hide a suspicion of outsiders behind their smiles.
The coldest souls I’ve ever encountered in my life I met in: Montana and Minnesota but there are nice people there. Most of them are still very reserved.
The South Daks were friendly but reserved for the most part.
The rudest people were in Florida, but it’s also a big party state so you’re still welcome to join.

What I see that IS very different is how these people manage their time. Northerners tend to plan ahead much more than Southerners. Most of the Northerners in Minn. and Montana are German/Scandinavian descendants and there wasn’t much room for ‘spontaneity’ when you have to dig yourself out from under 2 to 8 feet of snow to hitch the horses, clomp to a distant town, and do anything 5 months of the year. The cultural influence is very much still there. They seem to plan waaay in advance (2 months for formal things, 2 weeks for casual activities) On the other hand, the Southerners will plan things within a couple weeks to a few days and they’re still within a reasonable range of time.

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aprilsimnel's avatar

You should read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, which is focused on your question. It’s not without its critics, but it’s a serious look at that concept.

Your_Majesty's avatar

I believe this is not the main reasons for most part of the world but I believe it has some supporting facts in it. I know that people who live in cold climate such as Scandinavia tend to mind their own business while they’re out there in society, that can be seen while they’re moving so fast in public places or pedestrian areas, claiming that it’s because of the chilling temperature, while in fact they’re a bit apathetic, generally. I see people in NY act the same, with the same reason, even while it’s not in winter season. Regardless of the temperature I find that elderly people are generally warm and kind. Women are not very friendly with those they don’t know and often to limit contacts. Men are normal.

I see tropical countries as a more relax, but not necessary friendlier places. People have many different cultures and each culture can affect people in it. Generally, people won’t walk so fast while they’re walking in public places and pedestrian area, even though they’re busy with their own affairs, they’re not lazy, it’s just not necessary to move fast. When it’s too hot it’s easier for people to get angry as they can unconsciously transfer their current stress from environment to other people. I don’t think the same thing could work if it’s too cold. And in rainy seasons, believe or not this is not a broad generalization, people are lazier and tend to sleep during the day, in tropical countries.

rOs's avatar

I’m always stronger on a cold day ~ Leif Ericson the Viking

john65pennington's avatar

To me, a hot climate effects human beings, just like a full moon.

Tempers flare more in a hot region, rather than a cold one.

tranquilsea's avatar

I read a ton and I seem to recall reading some research that violent crime incidents increase with temperature. Here’s one paper that supports this.

flutherother's avatar

@linguaphile I don’t agree about Alabamians I have to say I found them very welcoming towards outsiders. I think climate does affect temperament and the Scots can be pretty dour. Very different from natives of, say, the Caribbean.

woodcutter's avatar

The natives adapt to their regions so it is nothing extraordinary for them. Transplants/ visitors are all about ” how the hell do you stand it living here?” And they come away from it that the climate sucks and may be why they may have noticed a different temperament when it was they who really had the different temperament.
Spikes in the climate either direction can cause much discomfort and attitude swings for sure.
I live in the southwest but was raised in the northeast. On the whole there is a noticeable difference in how people are. Where I am now the people are more friendly than up north. I don’t think the climate has a lot to do with that as much as attitudes and beliefs are passed on through the generations.
Right now it’s like Death Valley here , dead cattle and evaporated water holes and tempers do get set off easier but that doesn’t mean the area is rotten with asshoes, just a bit stale.

SpatzieLover's avatar

The further you reside from the equator, the higher your risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder

linguaphile's avatar

@flutherother Alabamians are, yes, in the Birmingham area, and around Huntsville, Mobile, Tucsaloosa and probably Montgomery. My only experience with the southeast corner of Alabama is that I got scared out of my skin there by some very unfriendly rednecks toting guns pointed at my group. The northeast area where I’m from Fort Payne, Gadsden, Talladega, Anniston—they’ll be friendly, really hospitable but if you move there and you speak yankee, you’re still an outsider. Go into the more rural areas, and that’s where the, maybe I should say, guardedness instead of suspiciousness, with outsiders really shows up. I’m from po’ white, cotton pickin’, God fearin’ Alabamans, 4th generation. :D

Kat555's avatar

I have always thought about the fact that the first world countries tend to be the coldest countries with horrible climate and the third world countries the most tropical ones. Maybe historically, later culturally, the cold weather makes people work harder, there is more need to work harder to survive and that leads to more achievements, while in the tropics all you need to do is sit in the shade and snooze away. I was born in northern Europe and now live in the tropics, and i can say, at least for me, the sense of paradise does last, but i guess it depends on what person you are and what you appreciate. It does make me happier, and no, it does not make me lazy, as deep inside i am still an European workaholic :-)

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