Thursday, October 24, 2013

American Personalities Map


"New Yorkers are rude, Texans are friendly, and Californians are laid back. We all know the U.S. regional stereotypes, but are there really any facts backing them up?
There are now, thanks to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by a team of researchers in the UK. Their goal? To literally map the “American mood” by rating personality and temperament on a state-by-state basis. The 13-year study included nearly 1.6 million respondents from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia."
This study has been getting a lot of press, and I agree that it is kind of nifty. Time Online has a fun, stupid interactive 10-item personality quiz that will tell you which state you "belong in" (I'm tempermentally Californian, apparently). You are better off with a real Big Five test, however.

National Journal

The "Friendly and Conventional" region.
The first region features the states of Middle America, including South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, known as the "red" states. People here ranked highly in levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, moderately low in neuroticism, and very low in openness. Residents of the region tend to be "sociable, considerate, dutiful, and traditional," the researchers write. They are predominantly white with low levels of education, wealth, and social tolerance, and tend to be more religious and politically conservative than people outside of the region. They are also less healthy compared with other Americans.

I would re-write that interpretation, if I was doing the psychological evaluation based on those test scores. I would probably say that people with similar scores have interests that reflect the mainstream; they like what other people like. They prefer jobs that allow them to work with others, doing simple tasks (e.g., Salesperson). They sincerely enjoy the company of others. They care for their old friends and easily make new friends. They are easy to get along with and are always happy to lend a hand. They tend to be cheerful and optimistic. They prefer to focus on the future than to dwell on past disappointments.  They have faith in a higher power that will help them through current difficulties. They don't worry; they problem-solve. They forgive and forget. They take frustrations in stride as they work steadily towards their goals. They are productive and efficient in their work. They respect the values and traditions of their families and communities. They tend not to question established practices or beliefs, and they don't encourage questioning by others. They do things "by the book." They are willing to take on difficult or thankless tasks in the service of others.

The "Relaxed and Creative" region.
The second cluster consists of West Coast states, Washington, Oregon, and California. Its personality profile is marked by low extraversion and agreeableness, very low neuroticism, and very high openness. Cultural diversity and alternative lifestyles are high, and residents are politically liberal and healthy, both mentally and physically. This region is richer, has more residents with college degrees, and is more innovative than other areas. These states cast fewer votes for conservative presidential candidates and are less religious compared with others. Here, the study's authors write, people value tolerance, individualism, and happiness.

Here's my interpretation (drawn from Jerry Wiggins' Paradigms of Personality Assessment): They prefer occupations that afford both challenge and privacy. They enjoy pursuits that can be performed alone. They see others as potential competitors and maintain a certain distance from other people. They "need their space." They maintain a stoic indifference to events that would frighten or delight others. They can see life stress as a source of humor or artistic inspiration. They "don't get mad, they get even." They are critical thinkers and don't rely on other people's opinions or tradition when forming judgments. Truth is more important to them than other people's feelings.

The "Temperamental and Uninhibited" region.
The third and final grouping comprises of mid-Atlantic and Northeast states like Maine, Pennsylvania, and New York—the "blue" states. The region is low in extraversion, very low in agreeableness and conscientiousness, very high in neuroticism, and moderately high in openness. People here, the researchers say, are "reserved, aloof, impulsive, irritable, and inquisitive." Residents are politically liberal and less religious, and are disproportionately college-educated individuals, older adults, and women. A good chunk of the "passionate" and "competitive" residents are leaving the area, according to census data, and heading south or southwest.

And finally: Like the Californians, New Yorkers prefer occupations that afford both challenge and privacy. They enjoy pursuits that can be performed alone. They see others as potential competitors and maintain a certain distance from other people. They "need their space." However, unlike Californians, New Yorkers see life as dark and dreary. They are susceptible to bouts of clinical depression. They are alert to danger and vividly imagine possible misfortunes. They may be prone to nightmares. They may become frightened by their own disturbing thoughts. They are easily angered and may fly into a rage over a small insult. They can seethe with anger for a long time. They lack self-control and easily give in to temptations. They are susceptible to substance abuse. They lack motivating goals. They make decisions for themselves, without considering the input or concerns of others. They are good at starting imaginative projects, but they have a hard time completing them and staying focused. They are more concerned with their own comfort and pleasure than the well-being of others.


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