US Divided Into Regional Personality Types: Study

Friday, 18 Oct 2013 04:11 PM

By Nick Tate

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Where you live has a lot to do with who you are, according to a new psychological study of regional personality types across the U.S.
 
Among the findings of the newly published research by the American Psychological Association:
  • People in the north-central Great Plains and the South tend to be conventional and friendly.
  • Residents on the East and West Coasts lean toward being mostly relaxed and creative.
  • New Englanders and Mid-Atlantic residents are more likely to be temperamental and uninhibited.
The study, published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests geography doesn't entirely define personality, but that Americans with similar temperaments are so likely to live in the same areas that a map of the country can be divided into regions with distinct personal traits and tendencies.

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"This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes, or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States," said lead researcher Peter J. Rentfrow, of the University of Cambridge.

"At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative."
 
To reach their conclusions, researchers assessed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people based on online surveys conducted over a 12-year period. They asked Americans across the country about their psychological traits and demographics, and state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five aspects of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
 
When Rentfrow's team overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas.
 
"These national clusters of personalities also relate to a region's politics, economy, social attitudes, and health," he said.
 
The study found that people in the friendly and conventional regions are typically less affluent, less educated, more politically conservative, more likely to be Protestant, and less healthy compared to people in the other regions.
 
The relaxed and creative states' residents are more culturally and ethnically diverse, more liberal, wealthier, more educated, comparatively healthy, and less likely to be Protestant than those living in other regions.
 
The temperamental and uninhibited region has a larger proportion of women and older adults who are more affluent, politically liberal, and unlikely to be Protestant.
 
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Rentfrow suggested a number of factors may have helped shaped the regional personalities.

For instance, agreeableness is a trait often found in people who stay in their hometowns, and many residents in the friendly and conventional states lived in the same place the year before. The relaxed and creative region may have been influenced by living among lots of young people, professionals, and immigrants moving to the region for educational and employment opportunities. In the temperamental and uninhibited region, many people have moved away, and those who move to another part of the country are typically high in openness and low in neuroticism — the opposite of temperamental and uninhibited.
 
"Considering that the temperamental and uninhibited profile is marked by high neuroticism, it's reasonable to speculate that social influence might facilitate the spread of anxiety and irritability across the region," the researchers said.
 

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