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Old 05-09-2008, 12:25 PM   #1
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geography and personality

something different to ponder ...



[q]Where do all the neurotics live?
On the East Coast, of course. A psychological tour of the United States, in five maps.

By Richard Florida | May 4, 2008

WE ARE ALL familiar with the rough geography of the United States - the slash of the Rocky Mountains between two great coastlines, the bulge of Maine, the Florida peninsula, the Great Lakes, set in the heartland.

But what about the country's psychogeography? You know, the great river of extroversion that flows roughly southeast from greater Chicago to southern Florida? Or the vast lakes of agreeableness and conscientiousness that pool together in the Sun Belt, especially around Atlanta? Or the jagged peaks of neuroticism in Boston and New York?

It's time to learn.

Psychologists have shown that human personalities can be classified along five key dimensions: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience. And each of these dimensions has been found to affect key life outcomes from life expectancy and divorce to political ideology, job choices and performance, and innovation and creativity.

What's more, it turns out these personality types are not spread evenly across the country. They cluster. And how they cluster tells us much: What city someone might want to move to, the broader character of regions, and even the creative and economic futures of broad swaths of the nation.

Drawing on a database of hundreds of thousands of individual personality surveys compiled by psychologists Jason Rentfrow, Sam Gosling, and Jeff Porter, my team and I were able to map the distribution of personality types across the United States. The result is a fascinating new way of looking at the country's terrain.

Interestingly, America's psychogeography lines up reasonably well with its economic geography. Greater Chicago is a center for extroverts and also a leading center for sales professionals. The Midwest, long a center for the manufacturing industry, has a prevalence of conscientious types who work well in a structured, rule-driven environment. The South, and particularly the I-75 corridor, where so much Japanese and German car manufacturing is located, is dominated by agreeable and conscientious types who are both dutiful and work well in teams.

The Northeast corridor, including Greater Boston, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Austin, are home to concentrations of open-to-experience types who are drawn to creative endeavor, innovation, and entrepreneurial start-up companies. While it is hard to identify which came first - was it an initial concentration of personality types that drew industry, or the industry which attracted the personalities? - the overlay is clear.

Understanding regional personality types can add to our understanding of what makes regional development tick. Economists argue that technology (in the form of great universities and high-tech company clusters) and human capital (talented people) drive economic growth. But psychologists would add that in addition to skills, talent, motivation, and resources, there are personality traits and psychological capital that predispose people toward certain talents and proclivities. For example, highly conscientious people have a disposition to be detail oriented, plan ahead, and stay organized. Openness to experience shapes people's ability to be creative, acquire new skills quickly, undertake new discoveries and innovations, and start new companies.

So regions like Silicon Valley or the high-tech Route 128 corridor around Boston succeed not just because they have great universities and highly educated people (some of the greatest high-tech entrepreneurs of our time are college dropouts), but also because they are magnets for highly ambitious, highly curious, and highly open personalities.

While opposites sometimes really do attract, and it is possible to make unusual matches work, our research indicates that people are typically happier in places with higher concentrations of personality types like their own.

But what accounts for such psychogeographical clustering? One potential explanation is that people migrate to places where their psychological needs are easily met: Open people choose to live in places with hustle and bustle to satisfy that craving for new experiences, while conscientious people settle in places where the atmosphere is ordered to meet their need for predictability.

Or perhaps, personality is influenced by our surroundings. More emotionally stable people who live in places where neurotic types form the majority may become irritable and stressed because the people around them are getting to them.

Our research suggests another possibility as well: the link between personality and the willingness to move. Conscientious and agreeable types in particular are less likely to move. Once they find a place, they tend to spread out gradually over time. Extroverts, on the other hand, are much more likely to move over greater distances. Open-to-experience types are drawn to thrills and risk, and moving, after all, is one of life's biggest new experiences.

This fuels a process of selective migration whereby agreeable and conscientious regions are drained of the most driven, most creative, and most mobile - only reinforcing their psychogeographic profiles, while magnifying the innovative edge in places where open-to-experience types concentrate.

Our evolving psychogeography means that our nation, its people, and its regions continue to sort themselves not just by education and skill, but by personality as well.

Richard Florida is the author of "Who's Your City?" and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. [/q]



thoughts? too simple? too convenient? just some fun pop psychology that tends to be true, rather than trends?
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Old 05-09-2008, 12:57 PM   #2
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well things do tend to move at a much quicker pace in cities like new york and boston, which can lead to increased stress thus the neuroticism... so that makes sense.
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Old 05-09-2008, 02:34 PM   #3
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this wasn't funded by tax payer dollars was it?
*yawn*
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Old 05-09-2008, 02:47 PM   #4
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i just thought it might be fun to discuss something other than the election ... or the cyclone ... or gay marriage ... or Iraq ...
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Old 05-09-2008, 03:12 PM   #5
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I think it's interesting and probably does reflect general trends, but not really that surprising. All regions have stereotypes of people who live there, and this just reinforces what people have long known to be true.

People do tend to migrate toward areas where the culture and available jobs reflect their personalities and lifestyles, although as the author points out, those who would rate high on the extraversion or openness to experience scales would be more likely to move. As for born and raised residents of an area, their environments probably shape their personalities to a degree.

I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the test that's referred to, the NEO-PI (or, it could be its shorter offshoot, the NEO-FFI). I'd be curious to know how the test was used in gathering this data, because it's not generally used as a categorization tool. Rather, people are scored according their their answers in each of five dimensions, and they are rated as either high, moderate, or low in each (if the researcher/tester has reason to, they can go even further by looking at more specific facets of personality within each dimension, but that doesn't seem to be the case here). As such, people who take the test aren't generally referred to as being "agreeable" or "conscientious," rather, their entire score sort of provides an amalgam of various aspects of their personalities.

While very general, as I said, I can see this being worthy in being the starting point for future research done in the area of personality and geographical location.
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Old 05-09-2008, 05:19 PM   #6
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It's a little hard for me to relate to this kind of argument because I work in a profession where you don't really get to choose your region/city--you're just grateful if a position suited to your background and expertise opens up somewhere, anywhere (assuming you manage to land it). And there are quite a few careers like that, although it's not the majority.

I'm also a little skeptical about any such analysis that doesn't seem to take socioeconomic background and its effects on what possibilities people see for themselves (and actually have) in life into account, or that seems to assume that what sort of living environment a person prefers straightforwardly reflects what kind of work s/he'd ideally like to do or is 'cut out for'. Of course we probably all know a few examples of the proverbial smalltown girl who gets the hell out of there and heads for LA or NYC as soon as she turns 18, or the proverbial big-city boy who at the same age loads his belongings into his hatchback and heads for Appalachia or the Rockies in search of the country life, but most people aren't that fixated on precise physical destinations, and it doesn't follow from those examples that all the folks Smalltown Girl 'left behind' are unambitious, compliant, born auto-factory workers who dread new experiences, or that all the folks Big-City Boy 'ran away from' are neurotic, innovative and ultracompetitive thrill-seekers who despise teamwork. There are other factors besides 'my dream workplace' bound up in people's preferences for city vs. smalltown or Seattle vs. Chicago. I'm sure Florida et al.'s conclusions are more nuanced than that, but on the face of it at least, it does sound a bit simplistic.
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Old 05-09-2008, 05:23 PM   #7
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[q]neurotic, innovative and ultracompetitive thrill-seeker who despises teamwork[/q]





considering making this my signature ...
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Old 05-09-2008, 05:26 PM   #8
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i wonder if actual physical geography might have something to do with the shaping of personality -- might the temperature extremes of the East Coast help shape more neurotic minds? or might a more neurotic mind be driven crazy by the sameness of the weather in Southern Florida? likewise, would the flat expanses of the midwest drive a neurotic person to seek the jungle of cities that stretch from DC to Boston? or the varied landscapes of the SF Bay?
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Old 05-09-2008, 05:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
[...] on the face of it at least, it does sound a bit simplistic.
It really does, and as I mentioned, I don't think you can take much more from it than very general trends. That's how much of psychological research starts out, people notice trends, and then they get more specific from there, adding in other variables and looking for correlations.
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