(Pop) Psychology of a State
FWIW, according the Wall Street Journal, new study has tried to identify regional personality traits. Probably more akin to pop psychology than science, but what the heck…consider this lunchtime reading.
In the past decade, [cross-cultural psychology] has been reinvigorated by the development of a 44-question personality test that evaluates five traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. Some psychologists disagree with this matrix; others would add traits such as honesty. But the assessment, called the Big Five Inventory, has been widely used in scientific research.
Mr. [Peter Jason] Rentfrow [of the University of Cambridge in England] came to the field full of questions gleaned from a life spent hop-scotching across America. Why were his neighbors in Texas so relaxed, so courteous, so obsessed with sports? Why did New Yorkers seem so tense and inward-focused, often brusque to the point of rudeness?
Eager to dig deeper, Mr. Rentfrow turned to a huge collection of psychological tests administered online from 1999 to 2005.
The assessments were linked to each respondent’s current residence, so there was no way to tell if a New Yorker was a New Yorker born and bred, or had just moved from Kansas. But that suited Mr. Rentfrow’s purposes. He wasn’t trying to gauge how life in New York had shaped any one individual. His goal was a psychological snapshot of the state, and for that he needed to include even recent migrants — who may, after all, have been drawn to New York because the big-city bustle suited their personality.
Mr. Rentfrow said his sample was proportionate to the U.S. population by state and race. Though it underrepresented the extremes of poor and rich, that shouldn’t skew the results, he said.
While the findings broadly uphold regional stereotypes, there are more than a few surprises. The flinty pragmatists of New England? They’re not as dutiful as they may seem, ranking at the bottom of the “conscientious” scale. High scores for openness to new ideas strongly correlates to liberal social values and Democratic voting habits. But three of the top ten “open” states — Nevada, Colorado and Virginia — traditionally vote Republican in presidential politics. (All three are prime battlegrounds this election.)
Anyway, apparently Rhode Islanders stand out even amongst our New England brethren. We are fairly “open” (28th), which can be read as “liberal”, are strongly “introverted” (40th in extroversion) and are among the most “disagreeable” (45th in agreeableness), “unconscientious” (48th in conscientiousness) “neurotics” (# 2–Yay!–in neuroticism) in the country. That could explain some things.