Which of These 8 Types Describes You, as You Relate to Your Environment?

Every Wednesday is List Day, Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Which of these 8 types describes how you relate to your physical environment?

I’ve been reading Brian Little’s interesting book, Me, Myself, and Us: the Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being.

Among other things, he discusses various  frameworks for understanding people’s different traits.

I’d never heard about the “Environmental Response Inventory” before, and found it very compelling. Created by George McKechnie, this set of traits is meant to identify the way that people are oriented toward their everyday physical environments.

They say there are two types of people: those who love dividing the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I love dividing the world into categories. Abstainers and moderators. Radiators and drains. Leopards and alchemists.  Under-buyers and over-buyers. Eeyores and Tiggers. And, of course, my favorite of all, the Four Tendencies.

Of course, using these kinds of categories is very simplistic, but often they help me to understand some hidden aspect of myself — or other people — better.

Does reading this inventory give you better insight into your own nature? Do you find yourself described by:


  • Display sensitivity to pure environmental experience, opposition to land development, appreciation of open space, and preservation of natural resources
  • Accept natural forces as shapers of human life
  • Endorse self-sufficiency in the natural environment



  • Enjoy high-density living
  • Appreciate the unusual and varied stimulation of urban areas
  • Take an interest in cultural life and enjoy the richness of human diversity


Environmental Adaptation

  • Regard the environment primarily as providing comfort, leisure, and satisfaction of human needs, and endorse modification of the environment to achieve those ends
  • Endorse private land use and the use of technology to solve problems
  • Prefer stylized environmental details

Stimulus Seeking

  • Express great interest in travel and exploration of unusual places
  • Enjoy intense and complex physical sensations and display a great breadth of interests

Environmental Trust

  • Responsive, trusting, and open to the environment, and have a sense of competence in navigating the surroundings
  • Relatively unconcerned about their security and are comfortable being alone and unprotected



  • Enjoy antiques and historical places and have a preference for traditional vs. modern design
  • Have an aesthetic sensitivity to well-crafted environments, landscape, and cultural artifacts of earlier years
  • Have a tendency to collect objects for their emotional significance


Need for Privacy

  • Strong need for physical isolation from stimuli and distraction
  • Enjoy solitude and dislike extensive contact with their neighbors


Mechanical Orientation

  • Interested in how things work and in mechanics in its various forms
  • Enjoy working with their own hands and have an interest in technological processes and basic principles of science.


It’s easy to see from this list how people might have trouble agreeing on where and how to live, or on what values to pursue.  A “pastoralist” and an “environmental adaptation” both might love nature, but have very different ideas about how best to engage with nature.

Can you find yourself in this list? Do you fit in more than one category? Seems to me as if they might overlap. For instance, for my fellow Parks and Recreation fans, I think Ron Swanson would be environmental adaptation/environmental trust/antiquarianism/need for privacy/mechanical orientation.

  • Gillian

    I think (but am not sure) that this is the author I heard interviewed recently on CBC Radio. That interview focused on our differing levels of self-monitoring (which made me think of you, Gretchen, because that kind of thing is right up your alley).

    The Environmental Response categories are very interesting and I suspect most people fit into more than one category. The ones that most apply to me are Pastoralism, Urbanism and Need For Privacy. The first 2 might appear to be mutually exclusive but are not. The statement under Pastoralism that resonates most is “Accept natural forces as shapers of human life” (except I would phrase that much more forcefully). Under Urbanism, it is “Take an interest in cultural life and enjoy the richness of human diversity”. Antiquarianism and parts of Mechanical Orientation also apply to some degree.

    • Brian

      Hi Gillian,
      You’re right, it is the same author who was interviewed in the CBC last week! He is really enjoying this exchange of ideas about environmental dispositions and hopes you have a chance to look at Chapter Eight of his new book Me, Myself and Us, where he gives a detailed account of the challenges a couple face when they different on environmental dispositions. Oh, and he should really stop talking about himself in the third person!

      • Gillian

        Thank you for your response, Brian! I have just read a bit of the excerpt of your book on Amazon (from Gretchen’s link). It looks extremely interesting. I am glad to see that you connect with Susan Cain’s book, Quiet. Her analysis is brilliant. There is already a waiting list for your book at the library – I will be adding my name to it. Look forward to reading it.

  • penelope schmitt

    I’d say I was an urban antiquarian with a lurking pastoral streak! Very interesting categories. Like Gillian, I think hardly anyone would be ‘just one’ of these. An interesting test might be to go on Pinterest and look for a while to see what images attract and ‘speak’ to you. I bet that would guide you to the categories in which you might have an interest. I seem to collect a lot of art, butterflies, Medieval Abbeys, gardens, interior designs (traditional) and fashion (retro) and of course quilts.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I’d say that I am a Pastoralist with some Environmental Trust thrown in. A few of the categories (Urbanism, Environmental Adaptation) made me shudder, the first with an aversion for “high-density living”, and the second, with a revulsion for this all too prevalent mind-set that we can just rape the environment.

    • Gillian

      I understand your first shudder, Mimi, but actually (and perhaps sadly) high-density living is much better for the environment than suburban sprawl. It is more efficient in terms of energy for heating and cooling and allows for efficient mass transit (and walking and biking), taking a lot of cars off the road. Completely agree with your second shudder!

      • Mimi Gregor

        High density living would not make me shudder so much if people were polite and didn’t blast their music or throw trash or spent cigarettes in the street. Unfortunately, people seem to be getting progressively ruder (more rude? Whatever.), and even though I’m in what could be termed a suburban neighborhood that is just a couple blocks away from the city (a working class neighborhood — not the yuppie sprawl, thank goodness!) I hear the auditory garbage every day and am constantly picking up empty soda and liquor bottles from my shrubbery. It’s the rudeness more than anything that I don’t like about living around a lot of people.

        • Gillian

          I so agree. There is an increasing lack of civility in our society. No-one seems to care how their behaviour affects the people around them. It seems that the more beautiful a Sunday evening at dusk, the more likely it is that someone will decide to mow the lawn with a noisy mower. One of my current pet peeves is the “F” word – you can’t escape it. It seems to be the only adjective some people know. Not that I’m a saint in terms of language – I have a quick temper which can cause some foul language (I’m ashamed to say) but I use that language only when I’m angry and definitely not in public.

          Living in a small suburban town, it’s the cultural life of a city that I miss.

  • Maryalene

    Interesting post! I can see bits of myself in all of these except the last one. I don’t care how things work — I just want them to work!

  • Sarah Kerner

    As a Planning and Zoning attorney, this is sooooo interesting! And really explains a lot of the dynamics we have going on during rezoning hearings, etc., beyond just the typical “not in my backyard” stuff.

  • Clare

    I think I am a pastoral antiquarian with a strong need for privacy. The latter is why I could never be an urbanist, because of the high-density living, even though I think I do appreciate cultural life and human diversity. I do, however, take Gillian’s point about how high-density living is better for the environment, though, so recognize my hypocrisy, although I also believe that you need to live with nature in order to truly appreciate and respect it.

  • Abby

    Gretchen, I’m sure you would enjoy studying the Enneagram since you like typing systems–it is an ancient system that divides individuals into nine categories, mostly defined by each’s coping mechanisms and adaptability. It’s extremely interesting and revealing and complex. There are many tests online to help you determine what is you type.

    • gretchenrubin

      I LOVE the Enneagram.

      • Gretchen Rubin – SO grateful for your work! I am very curious to hear…do you think there is a correlation btwn 4 tendencies and enneagram? I’m a rebel + Enthusiast (type 7 enneagram). Trying to launch a business of my own it’s been incredibly hard sticking with one thing, following sensible steps. I wonder if most Rebels are type 7 enneagrams. And even more curious to hear what can be done to overcome this entirely self-inflicted dilemma btwn goals/dreams vs. actions.

  • Patsy

    All categories overlap, I really dislike being labelled!

  • Ashley Meredith

    These are very interesting but I suspect they could use some refining. I’m not sure what the value of an 8-category system is if a majority of people fit into 5 categories or more. I’d say for it to be really useful most people would need to identify strongly with one, with few people identifying with up to 2-3.

    That said, it was interesting to see which bullet points I had a strong instinctive reaction to, either positive or negative, and how some of them complement each other – for instance, I realized I like Urbanism (partly) because I see it as protecting Pastoralism (in contrast to suburban sprawl, which has no use at all as far as I’m concerned).

  • Bridgett Mahoney

    I really relate to Antiquarianism, but for practical reasons and living in a condo when I wish I lived on a farm, Environmental Adaptation reflects a lot of my life. I am trying to develop more self-sufficiency and want to make my own natural products for personal use and grow vegetables and fruits and herbs when I finish setting up. I plan on getting creative with my balcony as far as the gardening goes.