Rentfrow P, Gosling S, Poter, Jeff. A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics [Internet]. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 3(5)
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
- What’s the personality inventory of someone interested in patient empowerment/engagement/transforming the health care system. Are we alike?
- 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?