Are You Friendly, Temperamental, or Creative? It May Partly Depend on Where You Live

Is your personality defined by your locale?

It goes without saying that our culture’s values and norms define – or at least influence – each of us.

They determine what is (or should be) important in our lives and, in doing so, drive our motivations.

As this study shows, our culture may even play a role in shaping our personalities.

Big Five Trait Measures

Not only do personality norms differ across national cultures, but they differ across regions within a nation as well.

This study, led by Peter Rentfrow at the University of Cambridge, found three standout regional psychological profiles in the US. 

Researchers took five samples of data through various methods and Big Five trait measures, in a multisample approach taken from different self-reported personality studies collected over 12 years.

Three Psychological Regions in the US

After analyzing responses from more than 1.5 million participants, researchers found three distinct personality types.

  • Cluster 1 – Friendly and Conventional
  • Cluster 2 – Relaxed and Creative
  • Cluster 3 – Temperamental and Uninhibited

The Deep South and Upper Midwest share personality traits identified as “friendly and conventional.”

This is Cluster 1.

Often referred to as “Red” states, this region of Middle America is known for conservative social values and was found to have high levels of Extraversion and low levels of Openness.

Cluster 2, predominantly in the West, is defined as “relaxed and creative.”

The region has a larger population with college degrees, lower levels of Extraversion, and higher levels of Openness.

Other character traits attributed to Cluster 2 are calmness and emotional stability.

Cluster 3, predominantly located in the Northeast, is described as “temperamental and uninhibited.” 

The “Blue” states have low Extraversion and Agreeableness and a high level of Neuroticism.

They also have higher levels of irritability, depression, and stress.

However, they share one personality trait with Cluster 2, in that they’re considered more Open.

The study concludes,

“The psychological profiles were found to cluster geographically and displayed unique patterns of associations with key geographical indicators.”

These psychological clusters may produce the regional variations noted in key indicators such as politics, economics, health, and social attributes.

Selective Migration

While these results may suggest that each region’s culture informs the personality of its residents, selective migration is cited as one possible factor in these regional differences.

This is when someone chooses to move to a locale that complements their needs, personality, and mentality.

For instance, those seeking Openness might settle in (or remain in) a locale known for diversity, while those who are high in Extraversion might settle in (or remain in) a locale where a social network, family, and community are important.

As the study notes, this investigation departs from earlier regional research focusing on voting patterns, economic indicators, cultural stereotypes, etc.

Instead, this study outlines residents’ psychological characteristics, which factor into microlevel PESH metrics via individual-level behaviors.

Sociolinguistics, Language Prejudice, & Regional Stereotypes

Y’all come back now, ya hear?” – Ellie May, The Beverly Hillbillies

No one ever lived after he’d decided ter kill ‘em, no one except you, an’ he’d killed some o’ the best witches an’ wizards of the age — an’ you was only a baby, an’ you lived.” – Hagrid, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Whether you realize it or not, you may judge each of these phraseologies and their accents based on where you live.

If you’re from America, you might associate certain stereotypes with the South, and the obvious Southern drawl might trigger prejudice, whether consciously or subconsciously.

One example of this appears in The Routledge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Around the World, wherein a detailed study was conducted by Bucholtz, Bermudez, Fung, Edwards, and Vargas on the perceptual dialectology of California in 2007.

The study found:

“that the most salient linguistic boundary is between the northern and southern regions, although, reminiscent of Clopper and Pisoni (2006), category labels ranging from ‘surfers’ to ‘hicks’ played a role in the social map.”

Essentially, the way you speak – often regionally-based or relative to your sub-culture – may result in a label of some kind.

If you’re from Britain, a coarser accent, like the one spoken by Hagrid above, might be associated with lower-class stereotypes, as opposed to those considered “posh.” 

As mentioned last week, the wealthier classes have always attempted to distinguish themselves through their language’s social patterning. The lower class accents and phraseology, therefore, are often distinctly different from those of the aristocracy.

Either accent might trigger conscious or subconscious prejudices as well. As soon as a person’s mouth opens to speak, their class may be revealed, and the prejudices associated become sharp and glaring.

Sociolinguistics visits all of this and more.

What is sociolinguistics?

Sociolinguistics is “the study of language in relation to social factors, including differences of regional, class, and occupational dialect, gender differences, and bilingualism.” – Oxford

The sociolinguistics of a country are often nationally-based.

Funnily enough, Americans, who speak English, might not be able to differentiate between the stereotypically “posh” accents and the stereotypically lower- or middle-class ones in the UK.

They may not feel the same prejudices against the person speaking as their British counterparts, whose ear is attuned to these differences and mind is attuned to the prejudices associated with them in their country.

Likewise, those from other English-speaking countries likely don’t have the same associations with the American Southern accent and the South as Americans do.

Therefore, for foreigners, specific social patterning might not reinforce the regional prejudice related to these stereotypes, such as a person’s level of education or intelligence.

This is all deeply entrenched, rooted in the history of the country, regions, and the values, norms, traits, and behaviors associated with them across time.

Whether the regional values, norms, traits, and behaviors have evolved or not, the linguistic stereotypes remain.