Anyone who has traveled across a big chunk of the U.S. knows that there are many different sorts of dispositions within its borders. The friendly smile that garners a warm conversation in Minnesota will probably be met with an icy stare in Manhattan. A team led by Jason Rentfrow, a University of Cambridge psychologist, decided to try to map these differences by looking at a bunch of personality-survey data from across the country.
Using the traits extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness, which psychologists consider to be reliable and useful personality markers, Rentfrow and his colleagues found that the U.S. can be divided into three primary psychological regions: one “relaxed and creative” (mostly the West Coast), one “friendly and conventional” (you guessed it — the Midwest), and one “temperamental and uninhibited” (that New Yorker screaming at you to get off the sidewalk), with some states being hybrids. The big, as-yet-unresolved question is to what extent these states attract people with these characteristics, and to what extent prevailing attitudes shape the personalities of people already living there.