Believe it or not, the regions in the United States can be broken down into just three personality clusters, according to a new study:
- Friendly and conventional
- Relaxed and creative
- Temperamental and uninhibited
This figure shows a regional breakdown based on areas that seem to exhibit a concentrated personality type. Th deeper the color the more that psychological trait holds true in a state. (Image source: P. J. Rentfrow et al)
A consortium of university professors published the study last week in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology after surveying more than 1.5 million people.
The abstract stated (emphasis added):
There is overwhelming evidence for regional variation across the United States on a range of key political, economic, social, and health indicators. However, a substantial body of research suggests that activities in each of these domains are typically influenced by psychological variables, raising the possibility that psychological forces might be the mediating or causal factors responsible for regional variation in the key indicators. Thus, the present article examined whether configurations of psychological variables, in this case personality traits, can usefully be used to segment the country. Do regions emerge that can be defined in terms of their characteristic personality profiles? How are those regions distributed geographically? And are they associated with particular patterns of key political, economic, social, and health indicators?
Conducting a cluster analysis from the five surveys they conducted, researchers found that three psychological profiles emerged in relatively distinct geographic areas.
The researchers found their results challenge current methods of dividing the country based on factors like economic items, voting patterns and other stereotypes.
"In their stead, our approach offers a new empirically derived system for understanding the country that brings psychological characteristics to the fore, clustering regions for the first time in terms of psychological traits," the researchers' conclusion stated.
Here are more specific descriptions for each trait cluster, as stated in the study:
- Friendly and Conventional: displayed strong negative correlations with all three economic indicators, indicating that this region is less affluent, has fewer highly educated residents, and is less innovative compared with states in the other regions. States in this region also appeared to have higher levels of social capital and less social tolerance compared with states in other regions. Moreover, Friendly & Conventional states were more politically conservative and Protestant compared with other regions. Analyses of the health indicators suggest that residents of Friendly & Conventional states are less healthy and engage in less health-promoting behavior compared with people who live in other psychological regions.
- Relaxed and Creative: The positive correlation with the proportion of non-White residents suggests that relaxed and creative states are culturally and ethnically more diverse than states in other regions. It also appears that the Relaxed & Creative region is wealthier, has more highly educated residents, and is more innovative than other regions. The links with the social indicators indicate that levels of social capital are comparatively low, that residents are socially tolerant and accepting, and that levels of residential mobility are comparatively high in this region. States in this region cast fewer ballots for conservative presidential candidates and had fewer Protestants compared with states in other regions. The patterns of correlations with the health indicators indicate that residents of the Relaxed & Creative region are comparatively healthy and engage in health-promoting behaviors.
- Temperamental and Uninhibited: The associations with the demographic indicators show that this region has larger proportions of women and older adults than states in other regions. Levels of state wealth were also positively associated with this region, suggesting that residents of this region were more affluent than residents of other states. The negative association with residential mobility suggests that most residents of this region are from their home state. Residents of this region also appear to be politically liberal, as evidenced by the negative association with votes for Republican presidential candidates. There also appear to be smaller proportions of Protestants in this region.
Nathan Yau on his blog Flowing Data called the research an "interesting start," but speculated that states likely are part of several clusters on a "continuous scale."
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