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.