New Study Shows Midwesterners Really Are the Friendliest People

A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge maps the psychological topography of the United States to find out whether regional differences in personality traits could mediate regional variation in political, economic, social, and health indicators.

The researchers used a multi-sample approach to determine whether there exists a robust set of regional personality profiles.  Data came from a range of sources, from Facebook and personality surveys, to surveys of political opinions and a variety of secondary sources.  All sources of data combined, the study was comprised of nearly 1.6 million people living in the United States and Washington, D.C. (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) over 12 years.

Looking at five personality dimensions--specifically, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and extraversion--the research team identified three robust psychological profiles: "Friendly & Conventional," "Relaxed & Creative," and "Temperamental & Uninhibited."  Each was found to cluster geographically.  Friendly and conventional, for example, was found to correspond to Middle America, while the West was associated with Relaxed and Creative, and the Northeast with Temperamental and Uninhibited.

The researchers also found that these regional psychological profiles displayed unique patterns of associations with key geographical indicators.  "For instance, people who lived in the friendly and conventional regions of the U.S. were also more likely to be conservative, less healthy, less educated and less affluent. Meanwhile, the regions that are more relaxed and creative were more likely to be liberal, more educated, healthier and more diverse. The temperamental and uninhibited regions were more likely to be liberal, women and not Protestant."

These findings could provide an alternative to the standard method of dividing up the country on the basis of economic indicators, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes, or geographical and physical features.

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Frederique Laubepin

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