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US Regions Linked to Different Personalities

Update Date: Oct 17, 2013 03:03 PM EDT
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People who live in New York really are more neurotic, and those who live in Los Angeles really are more relaxed. New research reveals some truth to the common stereotypes of people living in different parts of the United States.

A new study suggests that the U.S. map can be divided into regions with distinct personalities.

The study, which analyzed personalities traits of more than 1.5 million, found that people living in the north-central Great Plans and the South tend to be conventional and friendly, people living in the Western and Eastern seaboards tend to be more relaxed and creative and New Englanders and Mid-Atlantic residents tend to be 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 news 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."

Researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality- openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The study revealed certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas.

"These national clusters of personalities also relate to a region's politics, economy, social attitudes and health," Rentfrow said.

Rentfrow and his 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. People living in more relaxed and creative states are typically more culturally and ethnically diverse, more liberal, wealthier, more educated, comparatively healthy and less likely to be Protestant than those living in other regions. Those living in the temperamental and uninhibited region are older adults who are more affluent, politically liberal and unlikely to be Protestant.

So how did the Southern hospitality and Northern pragmatism come to be? Researchers believe that migration and social influence may play a role in determining regional personalities.

Previous studies reveal that agreeableness is a trait often found in people who stay in their hometowns. The latest study found that people who live in the friendly and conventional region lived in the same state the year before.

The relaxed and creative region may have been influenced by a frontier mentality of many young people, professionals and immigrants moving to the region for educational and employment opportunities.

Many people have moved away from the temperamental and uninhibited region, and research reveals that people who move to another part of the country are typically high in openness and conscientiousness and low in neuroticism. Researchers explain that this is almost entirely the opposite of the temperamental and uninhibited profile of New Englanders and the Mid-Atlantic residents.

"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," researchers wrote in the study.

The findings are published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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