Where You Live Might Determine Your Personality Type & Texas: We're Ornery

According to some new research by psychologists, where you live might help explain your personality. (Or the relationship might run the other way, always a problem with "big" social science studies). But let's not get bogged down in T-scores and Cohen's kappa -- this is a blog post, not a statistics class.

Here's what the researchers did. Using a sample of almost 1.6 million people across the continental U.S. (sorry, Alaska and Hawaii), they found there are regional personality differences. Now, let me back up a moment. Psychology researchers use something called the BFI (Big Five Inventory) to measure the major personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. (Pretty self-explanatory, but click on the link if you want more information).

Using this data, the researchers concluded:

The maps displayed in Figure 2 show the geographical concentrations of the personality clusters across the United States. What is especially striking is that each of the personality clusters formed a distinctive geographical pattern. Cluster 1 (Friendly & Conventional) comprises states predominantly in the north central Great Plains and in the South. States in the Mountain, Pacific Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions were the least similar to this particular cluster. States predominantly in the West and some along the Eastern Seaboard were prototypical of Cluster 2 (Relaxed & Creative), whereas most of the states in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Gulf Coast were most different from this cluster. Finally, states in New England and the Middle Atlantic were prototypical of Cluster 3 (Temperamental & Uninhibited), whereas states in the Southeast, Great Plains, and Mountain region were not members of this cluster.

In other words, here is the 10,000 foot summary:

-people from the Upper Midwest and the South are Friendly and Conventional, which also means they're more likely to be: (1) conservative; (2) Protestant; and (3) live unhealthy lifestyles (as determined by physical activity, eating fruits and vegetables, and not smoking).

-the West Coasters -- and those on the Eastern Seaboard states to a lesser degree -- were Relaxed and Creative. This means they're not very extroverted, but are not neurotic and very open (jargon for tolerant of other folks).

-the folks in New England and the Mid-Atlantic are crazy. Just kidding. Sort of. They score very high in neuroticism (anger, anxiety, or depression) but are pretty tolerant, though not very agreeable.

Story continues on the next page.

But what you really want to know is, where does Texas fall on the personality range: Texas is in "Cluster 3," Temperamental & Uninhibited. This means, according to the researchers:

The psychological profile of the region is defined by low Extraversion, very low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, very high Neuroticism, and moderately high Openness. This particular configuration of traits depicts the type of person who is reserved, aloof, impulsive, irritable, and inquisitive.

Remind you of anyone? And you thought you were so darn friendly. Note, though, that Texas is much further down the scale in Cluster 3 than the East Coast (closer to Ohio than, say, Massachusetts).

In sum, this research somewhat shores up our geographic stereotypes: the friendly Southerners and Midwesterners who eat unhealthy food, the laid-back, but aloof West Coasters, and the disagreeable, opinionated folks on the East Coast (but not NYC, please note).

The paper is full of neat (albeit nerdy) tid-bits -- e.g., "high Openness is associated with moving from one's home state to a different state (reflecting an interest in and tolerance of novelty)" -- and is worth a read if you can deal with the academic jargon. Then see if you can find the BFI online and determine if you line up with your geographic "destiny."

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