Jason Rentfrow, a University of Cambridge psychologist,and his colleagues decided to try to break the U.S. into regions based on psychological profiles.
The result of this work is a paper titled “Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates” (pdf). The researchers used surveys to tease out psychological characteristics of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. The results:
Friendly & Conventional: “In many respects, the Friendly & Conventional region reflects Middle America, or ‘Red’ states,” write the researchers, and the F&C region, which includes basically the entire Midwest, “comprises predominantly White residents with comparatively low levels of education, wealth, economic innovation, and social tolerance.” These folks tend to be “politically conservative, religious, and civically engaged.” [map above]
Relaxed & Creative: “The Relaxed & Creative region comprises predominantly states along the West Coast, Rocky Mountains, and Sunbelt.” An educated, disproportionately non-Caucasian part of the country, R&C’s “psychological profile is marked by low Extraversion and Agreeableness, very low Neuroticism, and very high Openness.” It’s a region “where open-mindedness, tolerance, individualism, and happiness are valued”—so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s experiencing positive net migration.
Temperamental & Uninhibited: This is the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast—“quintessentially Blue states.” The region is characterized by “low Extraversion, very low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, very high Neuroticism, and moderately high Openness. … There are disproportionate numbers of older adults and women in this region, in addition to affluent and college-educated individuals.”
How might such data be used? Perhaps for economic development, says Rentfrew. Still, though, he cautions, the research is in its early stages.
- PS Mag