Geography and personality

“Newsweek” has an article on the relationship between certain personality traits and geographical location:

About 20 years ago scientists established that combinations of five basic dimensions—extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to new ideas and experiences—account for all personalities. Add a pinch of openness, a dollop of agreeableness and, like Grandma’s secret recipe for pasta sauce, the result is unique. . . .

Since personality is so important to both social and individual outcomes, the hunt is on for which traits vary geographically and why. According to the most extensive study yet of how personality varies across the United States, a “neuroticism belt” divides the East and West, with states from Maine to Louisiana scoring highest and the West lowest, find Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University and colleagues. There is also a geographic divide in openness (a measure of willingness to embrace new ideas and creativity), with the Northeast and West Coast much higher than the Midwest and South, according to the data from 619,397 people who filled out an online personality survey and were representative of the U.S. population in education, income and other measures. Extroversion is highest in the Great Plains, Midwest and Southeast, and lowest in the Northwest and Northeast, the scientists will report next month in Perspectives on Psychological Science. For agreeable people, go to the Midwest and Southeast, and avoid the Northeast. For conscientiousness, head for the South and Midwest, not the Northeast. At a finer scale, Alaskans may be amused (or not) that they rank dead last in agreeableness and conscientiousness, while North Dakotans rank highest on extroversion and agreeableness but last in openness. The good folks of Utah are the least neurotic.

Is this just regional stereotyping, or is there something to it?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Oh, there is definitely something to it. Just ask anyone who has grown up or now lives in a state or region populated by Norwegians, Swedes and Germans! It results in the paradox of Minnesota Nice and passive aggressiveness.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Oh, there is definitely something to it. Just ask anyone who has grown up or now lives in a state or region populated by Norwegians, Swedes and Germans! It results in the paradox of Minnesota Nice and passive aggressiveness.

  • FullTime

    Is it stereotyping? He said they did a study. It would be stereotyping to

    a) assume these things without doing a study.
    or
    b) assume that the findings of the study apply to all people in each region equally without looking at each person individually.

    Living in the South I can see the truth in what they say about us, mostly. I know people who don’t fit.

    I have also traveled widely and have seen many holes in what this says about people elsewhere.

    The West as lower in neurotic people? Did they exclude Southern California from that?
    (See, there is an example of regional stereotyping.)

  • FullTime

    Is it stereotyping? He said they did a study. It would be stereotyping to

    a) assume these things without doing a study.
    or
    b) assume that the findings of the study apply to all people in each region equally without looking at each person individually.

    Living in the South I can see the truth in what they say about us, mostly. I know people who don’t fit.

    I have also traveled widely and have seen many holes in what this says about people elsewhere.

    The West as lower in neurotic people? Did they exclude Southern California from that?
    (See, there is an example of regional stereotyping.)

  • http://www.thinkingchristian.net Tom Gilson

    These so-called “Big Five” personality factors are among the most robust findings in personality psychology. They have been heavily researched, they’re well defined, and they’re easily measured, so I think we can be confident the research is for real.

  • http://www.thinkingchristian.net Tom Gilson

    These so-called “Big Five” personality factors are among the most robust findings in personality psychology. They have been heavily researched, they’re well defined, and they’re easily measured, so I think we can be confident the research is for real.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Newsweek” has an article on the relationship between certain personality traits and geographical location.

    Hey, I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could. Does that count? And if we can jack up the global temperature by burning more coal and oil (according to Algore), I might even get to homestead in the Alaska desert.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Newsweek” has an article on the relationship between certain personality traits and geographical location.

    Hey, I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could. Does that count? And if we can jack up the global temperature by burning more coal and oil (according to Algore), I might even get to homestead in the Alaska desert.

  • Anon The First

    I think that they just plain forgot Alaska. It clearly belongs in with the upper Midwest and the high plains West, not lumped in with Seattle and Portland.

    As to ‘openness’ my suspicion is that they were looking at openness to sin and rebellion against God’s word, rather than to new technologies of farming or energy production.

  • Anon The First

    I think that they just plain forgot Alaska. It clearly belongs in with the upper Midwest and the high plains West, not lumped in with Seattle and Portland.

    As to ‘openness’ my suspicion is that they were looking at openness to sin and rebellion against God’s word, rather than to new technologies of farming or energy production.

  • Anon The First

    There is also an extent to which these different regions were settled by different mixes of different nationalities that had different cultures, though until recently, immigrants tried to become Americans, they have had different histories, and even different religious backgrounds.

  • Anon The First

    There is also an extent to which these different regions were settled by different mixes of different nationalities that had different cultures, though until recently, immigrants tried to become Americans, they have had different histories, and even different religious backgrounds.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X