What does geography have to do with personality?

Whenever we make general observations about people from a specific state or country, we’re a step away from stereotyping or, at worst, racism. But anyone who travels extensively tends to make their own generalizations about an area’s personality, regardless of how inaccurate our own observations might be.

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a study led by Peter Jason Rentfrow, a lecturer in the University of Cambridge in England. The study shows the different personality types prevalent in each state in the USA. The personality types evaluated in the study were extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.

Although some results were somewhat expected based on common generalizations, there were some surprises. For example, West Virginia was the state that came out as most neurotic, and North Dakota was the most extroverted.

Because it touches on personality types, the study could be easily used to reinforce negative stereotypes, but it all depends on perspective. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

It’s also a wake-up call for proud residents of the great state of wherever — some of whom aren’t fond of the findings. Mr. Rentfrow said he’s had to help some of them feel better. Yes, North Dakota and Wyoming rank quite low in openness to new ideas. But why label them narrow-minded and insular? Say, instead, he suggests, that they value tradition. New York may be neurotic, but he offers another way to put it: “It’s a state in touch with its feelings.”
Source: “The United States of Mind” by Stephanie Simon, The Wall Street Journal

The article also features an interactive map that allows readers to look at the results of the study a bit deeper.

Do you think geography has an effect on one’s personality? Does the research reflect or contradict any of your experiences when traveling in America?

Posted by | Comments (1)  | September 25, 2008
Category: General

One Response to “What does geography have to do with personality?”

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