What HR can learn from Woody Allen

Consider the neurotic film director and tap into distinct personalities, says one industry academic.

What HR can learn from Woody Allen
Consider the neurotic American film director Woody Allen.

Do you think he would be more comfortable and better focused in a busy urban environment, or a more peaceful alternative?

“If you put him in a forest it could be very off-putting rather than rejuvenating," said Kevin Newman, assistant professor at Providence College in Rhode Island.

“People tend to do better in environments that fit with their personality.”

Newman’s comments come off the back of new research which flies in the face of the myth that natural environments always tend to restore cognitive abilities better than urban environments.

Newman and his researchers asked participants to perform tasks that drained them mentally, such as writing sentences without using the letters "A" or "N."

They were then tasked with answering questions that revealed neuroticism, such as whether they were a worrier, irritable, highly strung or experienced fluctuating moods.

The participants were then exposed to words or pictures associated with a natural or urban environment.

The results revealed that people with neurotic personalities had more success restoring their cognitive abilities after they viewed words related to a busy urban environment.

However, the nature-related words were more beneficial for people who were not generally neurotic.

The researchers also discovered that neurotic people may not necessarily have to go to a busy urban setting to restore themselves mentally.

Indeed, nature could also provide stressful cues when the participants were exposed to words like "bear", "cliff" and "thunder".

The results found people low in neuroticism may not need to seek out nature to revive themselves mentally. Cues from a calm place in a busy city like bookstores or libraries also restored these participants.

Further, researchers discovered that restoring the mind was tied to self-control.

Newman said this correlation between environment and self-control could have implications related to health outcomes.

People may make healthier food choices if they choose environments that match their personality type, he added.

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