Now Reading: The Geography of Personality (A Tale of Two Washingtons – Who’s Your State?)

If you’re following this blog it’s pretty clear that I have been examining the impact of location for awhile now, partially for personal reasons, (“Why did you move to Washington, DC, Ted?”) and partially for professional reasons – geographic diversity may emerge to be as important as any other diversity awareness we rely on to keep our nation healthy, physically and emotionally.

This is why I was excited to read the attached article, which is the description of a model for personality characteristics, geographic expression, coupled with an extensive survey of our population and correlation to health and social characteristics. In a nutshell – what’s the personality of each State and how does it manifest?

If you want to get right to the conclusions, the Wall Street Journal has prepared an interactive map of the differences, and you can test yourself on the Big Five Inventory of personality here. In the event you’ve done the Myers-Briggs before, I encourage you to read this article about that tool by Malcolm Gladwell, which casts a fairly large amount of doubt on the usefulness of the Myers-Briggs tool.

A short primer on the dimensions of the BFI:

The central aspect of E (Extraversion) that emerged from the results seemed to emphasize social orientation; that is, state-level E seems to reflect the extent to which people in a region socialize with others. The state-level correlates of A (Agreeableness) allude to friendliness, trust, and helpfulness, which is very similar to conceptualizations of social capital. The defining features of C (Conscientiousness) that emerged seem to denote restraint, order, and dutifulness; that is, individuals in high-C states seem to place more value on rules and obedience than do people in low-C states. State-level N (Neuroticism) reflects social, psychological, and physical well-being. Indeed, the patterns of correlations converged, suggesting that individuals in high-N states are socially isolated and generally unhealthy. State-level O (Openness) seems to capture the degree of creativity, unconventionality, and tolerance in a region.

The kinds of differences described in the article hit me in the face all the time – when I step off a plane in California I can feel the difference – the inventory points to an open, tolerant, place but one that is less social. The contrast between the two Washingtons is especially impressive – Washington State, among the least extroverted (#48 out of 51), District of Columbia, among the most (#3), and also the highest in the nation on the Openness scale (we’re #1. Not so much of a surprise after visiting Tech Cocktail DC 3 recently and interacting with the people here for the past year).

The Ted Angle

When I did my BFI, I scored a perfect 5 the Extraversion scale, middle on Neuroticism, high on Openness, high on Conscientiousness and high on Agreeableness. I think the feeling is best encapsulated by something a physician colleague said to me the other day about where he lives. He said, “I like where I live a lot. Now, if I could move to Manhattan, I’d do it in a heart beat.”

This review for me is about the place that gives a person the most energy to achieve their life goals rather than whether the place we are in is enjoyable or not, as encapsulated by that comment.

Interestingly enough, when I ran one of my blog posts through another BFI engine that looks at writing, the results were similar, off the charts Extraversion, but less Agreeableness and off the charts Openness to experience.

The next time someone asks me why I moved to Washington, DC, my answer will be, “Have you seen my BFI scores?”

The Everyone Else Angle

After reviewing this piece and several other pieces on this topic, (additional link cloud here and here) some interesting questions are raised –

  1. What’s the personality inventory of someone interested in patient empowerment/engagement/transforming the health care system. Are we alike?
  2. What’s the personality inventory of the geography that are the epicenters of this transformation? Where does DC Stand?

Take a look, post your BFI and State correlation in the comments if you’d like. What does this mean for supporting a nation’s health?


Personality scores on a scale from 1 to 5:

Agreeableness: 3.33

Conscientiousness: 4.33

Extraversion: 2.38

Neuroticism: 2.88

Openness: 4.40

I grew up in Kansas, joined the military after high school graduation, and live in Guam now. I teach diabetes self-management to Pacific Islanders.


Great – high on the openness and conscientiousness. I don't think Guam is profiled in the paper, but perhaps it is close to Hawaii (but don't want to assume)? Great blog, welcome nursing leadership to the conversation!



you asked: "What’s the personality inventory of someone interested in patient empowerment/engagement/transforming the health care system. Are we alike?"

I would be very interested if we could do a real study on this.

My uninformed guess is that most of us are high on the Openness and at least decent in Agreeableness & Conscientiousness. And my uninformed guess is that we are in GREAT majority Democrats, since openness is one of the most glaring differences between Democrats and Republicans. I would even venture that the same applies to the majority of e-patients (I am exploring the possibility of conducting such a study in some ACOR online communities)

Agreeableness: High

Conscientiousness: Average

Extraversion: High

Neuroticism: High

Openness: Perfect SCore

I grew up and have lived in more places than I can remember.

But I call NYC my home for over 20 years.

Well…I have been wanting to try zeemaps (that's the app Wired used to show that the iPhone's 3G problems were about the network), and maybe this would be the thing to try it with. Let me give it a shot – an interactive map of personality characteristics, of people "into" patient engagement/empowerment.

Should we ask additional survey questions? Maybe Sfox has some insight on that,



I'm late to the game but answering the question about the profile of someone who is interested in patient empowerment/engagement/transforming the healthcare system.

Personality scores on a scale from 1 to 5:

Agreeableness: 4.00

Conscientiousness: 4.44

Extraversion: 4.75

Neuroticism: 2.12

Openness: 5.00

Yes, I think we are alike!

Ted Eytan, MD