State-level differences in personality

Update (9/14/08): Vanishing American comments; full text (pdf, final version).

The surprising results:
New York is home to the most neurotic and unfriendly people in American while North Dakota is where the nicest people live, according to a Cambridge University "personality map" of the USA.

[. . .]

Researchers created the first ever map of its kind is based on the results of a six year online survey of 620,000 people.

They claim it reveals how certain types of people are more likely to live and flourish in different parts of the country and showed links between personality traits and social phenomenon, like crime rates.

[. . .]

The report, "The Geography Of Personality; A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence and Expression of Geographic Variation in Basic Traits" is published in the journal, Perspectives On Psychological Science.

Key findings:

Personality traits: Sociable, energetic and enthusiastic

High-scoring states: North Dakota, Wisconsin, District of Columbia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Georgia, South Dakota, Utah, Illinois, Florida

Low-scoring states: Vermont, Washington, Alaska, New Hampshire, Maryland, Idaho, Virginia, Oregon, Montana, Massachusetts

Personality traits: Warm, compassionate, co-operative and friendly.

Highest-scoring states: North Dakota, Minnesota, Mississippi, Utah, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Nebraska.

Lowest-scoring states: New York, Nevada, Wyoming, District of Columbia, Alaska, Maine, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, Montana.

Personality traits: Dutiful, responsible, self-disciplined.

Highest-scoring states: New Mexico, North Carolina, Georgia, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Missouri.

Lowest-scoring states: Wyoming, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine, Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York.

Personality traits: Anxious, stressful and impulsive.

Highest-scoring states: West Virginia, Rhode Island, New York, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Arkansas.

Lowest-scoring states: Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, North Dakota, Nevada.

Personality traits: Curious, intellectual, creative.

Highest-scoring states: District of Columbia, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Vermont, Colorado, Nevada, Maryland.

Lowest-scoring states: Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Delaware.

Manuscript (pdf). Abstract.


Anonymous said...

"Studies" such as this have to be taken with a grain of salt. For starters, they are often colored with the prejudices and preconceived notions of the researchers (and the peoples being interviewed).

I have travelled extensively throughout America (including the places listed as the "friendliest" in this study). I can't help but notice how cool many if not most of these people become towards me the moment they find out I'm from New York City. I have heard similar stories from large numbers of my fellow New Yorkers, so one has to wonder just exactly who is calling these people "friendly." Before making any disparaging remarks about New Yorkers, ask yourself, realistically, how many New Yorkers do you think these peoples actually meet?

In a less "scientific" study, Reader's Digest rated New York City (along with Zurich & Toronto) the most courteous city in the world.

I recall reading sometime last year a survey done by Orbitz that rated New Yorkers among the most helpful people to strangers on earth.

It's no accident psychology has been called the most subjective of the sciences.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The study is based on 620,000 responses to a standard personality inventory. Other potential problems exist (e.g., I haven't looked at the paper in detail, so I don't know if or how well they controlled for race), but bias on the part of the researchers should not be an issue.

New York appears to be the only American city mentioned in the RD article you link to, so the result is totally irrelevant to intra-US differences. I don't doubt that Americans (including New Yorkers) are polite relative to the rest of the world (particularly when an American definition of courtesy is being used). But it has not been my experience that New Yorkers (especially native, working-class NYers) are polite relative to other Americans.

I suspect that if you are correct in your perception that other Americans become less friendly when you mention your place of origin, it has less to do with your place of origin than the manner in which you drop the fact into the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Aww, come on New York, you're just being disagreeable :P