Geography, Psychology, and the ‘Big Five’ Personality Traits: Who moves, and over what distances, in the UK?

Ian Shuttleworth, Clifford Stevenson, Thorrodur Bjarnason, Eerika Finell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Personality, as measured by the ‘Big Five’ dimensions of agreeableness, openness, extroversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness, has been explored in the Social Psychological literature as a predictor of migration but so far has received very little attention in the geographical literature, which is surprising given its predictive importance and also evidence that the selectivity of migration shapes area personality profiles. Using the Understanding Society dataset, this paper analyses how personality influences whether a respondent moves or not over a five-year period and, if they do, how far they move. After controlling for individual socio-demographic characteristics, it is found (i) that those who score higher on Conscientiousness and Neuroticism are more likely to expect to move in the next year; (ii) that only those who score highly on extroversion actually made at least one move during the five-year period; (iii) that Openness is positively associated with making a long-distance move (=>50km), and (iv) that the pattern for (iii) is reversed for short-distance moves (<10km). These findings are significant for two reasons. Firstly, they show that personality should be more central in migration studies and that Geography can usefully seek disciplinary insights from Social Psychology. Secondly, they help us take a step towards a better understanding of the relationships between geography, personality, and spatial mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2418
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number00
Early online date16 Dec 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 16 Dec 2020


  • Personality; Migration intentions; Migratory behaviour;

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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