October 17, 2013
Humans Of A Feather Flock Together
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Humans of the same feather flock together, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Scientists were not only able to show how Americans with similar temperaments were likely to live in the same areas, but they also produced a map of the country that could be divided into regions according to personalities.
The team found that people in the north-central Great Plains and the South tended to be conventional and friendly, while those in the Western and Eastern seaboards lean towards being mostly relaxed and creative. New Englanders and Mid-Atlantic residents were prone to being more temperamental and uninhibited.
"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," lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, said in a press release. "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."
For the study, more than 1.5 million people answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The team identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality, including openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
When the team overlaid the findings on a national map, they found that certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data was collected over 12 years in five samples, with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia.
"These national clusters of personalities also relate to a region's politics, economy, social attitudes and health," Rentfrow said.
The team 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 western and eastern dwellers were shown to be more culturally and ethnically diverse, more liberal, wealthier, more educated, comparatively healthy and less likely to be Protestant than those living in other regions. New Englanders consisted of a larger proportion of women and older adults who are more affluent, politically liberal and unlikely to be Protestant.
The authors said theories plus research on migration and social influence offer up some clues about exactly what might have helped shape regional personalities. Past studies have shown agreeableness is a trait often found in people who stay in their hometowns, and the analysis indicated a large proportion of residents in the friendly and conventional region lived in the same state the year before. Relaxed and creative regions hosted people that may have been influenced by a frontier mentality that endures with lots of young people, professionals and immigrants moving to the region.
"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 study said.