St. Louis county, Minnesota is the most ‘extroverted’ place in the US and its opposite, Gwinnett county, Georgia down south, is the most ‘introverted,’ new research has found.
The new study from Florida Atlantic University set out to see if communities across the country have different personalities by mapping troves of data from a Harvard-based personality test to each of the test-taker’s counties across America.
County by county, the researchers unearthed many unexpected data-points: Brazos county, Texas is the ‘most neurotic,’ for example.
But they also confirmed a few stereotypes: Manhattan, the study found, scored as the both the least ‘conscientious’ and the least ‘agreeable.’
The research also found that the benefits of this ‘personality polarization’ were decidedly mixed — benefits this team of psychologists and data scientists measured in terms of reported outcomes for health, education and general well-being.
On a county by county level across the US, disparate enclaves with dominant personality traits are emerging, according to a new study. But the findings were mixed on the benefits
In fact, people who scored high in ‘conscientiousness’ tended to have better educational outcomes when living in a county full of people that were much less conscientiousness, or even downright rude, at least according to their analysis.
‘To the extent that communities are diverse, people can ‘fit’ in multiple ways,’ according to the study’s lead author, psychologist Dr. Kevin Lanning.
‘One way to capture this idea,’ said Dr. Lanning, who teaches at Florida Atlantic University, ‘is by describing both persons and communities in terms of types.’
Lanning and his colleagues at the University of Oregon and the University of Toronto focused on five traits for which national data was available, and each trait’s opposite.
Those traits were: Openness vs. Close-mindedness, Neuroticism vs. Stability, Conscientiousness vs. Slacking, Extraversion vs. Introversion, and Agreeableness vs. Disagreeableness.
Two more scales, measuring a person’s degree of ‘honesty and humility’ as well as an individual’s place on the conservative to liberal continuum, were also tracked.
Increasing political polarization, for years, has already been well-known for altering the landscape of the US, with Americans gravitating toward places that best suit their own views.
Their study, published in January in the journal Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, used data from Harvard’s Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment (SAPA) Project.
Each of these seven total scales were tested against how being surrounded by similar personality types or ‘person-community fit’ benefited individuals in terms of education, health and well-being.
Out of those 21 total comparison tests, there were 13 cases where a person’s match — or clash — with the dominant local personality trait appeared to ‘significantly’ their well-being, health or educational level.
‘Though these effects,’ the researchers note, ‘were typically small.’
People who scored high for both ‘Honesty-Humility’ and ‘Conscientiousness’ appeared to have a higher well-being when surrounded by equally nice people — but paradoxically scored lower on both educational advancement and healthy behavior.
The opposite was true with ‘openness,’ where the open reported worse well-being when surrounded by the equally chatty, despite appearing to be more healthy and better educated.
Manhattan had the highest proportion of ‘open’ people, but perhaps unsurprisingly the lowest percentage of people who were ‘agreeable’ or ‘conscientious’
Among the counties with more than 500 respondents to Harvard’s SAPA dataset, Bexar County, San Antonio had the highest percentage of ‘agreeable’ people
‘Just as the ethnic character of a community can be described by proportions of different ethnic groups,’ said Lanning, ‘the psychological character of a community may, perhaps, best be understood by a set of proportions of psychological types.’
But the psychologist cautioned that the limited data from counties with smaller populations may have skewed some of his team’s research.
‘It’s important to note that when comparing different counties, small counties are inevitably more likely to show up at the extremes,’ Dr. Lanning said.
Two of the smaller US counties, Yamhill Oregon and Santa Barbara California showed dramatic results during these 21 comparison analyses, but the authors noted that the ‘results for these smaller counties were likely to reflect higher volatility of proportions due to sample size.’
Among the counties with more than 500 respondents to Harvard’s SAPA dataset, Bexar County, San Antonio had the highest percentage of ‘agreeable’ people.
Manhattan had the highest proportion of ‘open’ people, but perhaps unsurprisingly the lowest percentage of people who were ‘agreeable’ or ‘conscientious.’
The percentage of open-minded people in Manhattan, in fact, was found to be almost twice that Detroit, although those in Detroit were twice as likely as Manhattanites to be classified as conscientious.
Citizens of both Palm Beach and Broward counties in Florida, according to the new study, held roughly equal proportions of open-minded and conscientious people.
While these larger datasets made the predictions for these counties more likely to be accurate, Dr. Lanning warned against making too many broad generalizations about your neighbors.
‘Comparisons between individual counties should be made with caution,’ he said.