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Uncovering the American ‘Psychological Topography’
Richard Florida / Atlantic Cities / October 21, 2013
We all have our own judgments about the psychological makeup of Americans by region, politics, and myriad other factors. And to be sure, this kind of profiling is deeply woven in the segmented marketing philosophies of the more advanced thinkers in business. And now, researchers are beginning to unravel the personalities of the American public by region. And the results are both revealing and confirming.
“Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social and Health Correlates” is a collaboration among a team of leading social psychologists including Peter J. Renfrow, Michal Kosinski, and David J. Stillwell of the University of Cambridge; Markus Jokela of the University of Helsinki; Samuel D. Gosling of the University of Texas at Austin; and Jeff Potter.
The study draws on a wide body of data and information collected from five separate internet survey samples over 12 years, covering 1.5 million individuals across the 48 contiguous states. The primary objective of the study, according to the researchers, was to map the “psychological topography of the United States,” composed of “geographically coherent psychological regions.” To do so, they used a statistical technique known as “cluster analysis” to examine how five major personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – are distributed and cluster across American states and regions.
The study identifies three main regional types: friendly and conventional, relaxed and creative, and temperamental and uninhibited. The maps below, from the study, show how these line up across America’s states.