“This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”
The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people.
While I think this is is pretty interesting, I disagree with the statement I bolded in the first paragraph. It doesn’t challenge standard methods so much as it adds another dimension that researchers should account for in their models. Some caveats: 1) causality is not accounted for in their model, so the researchers are not able to distinguish whether the pre-established environment causes personality differences between regions or if personality creates the environment; 2) There is a large selection issue. People move, and frequently. Are people self-selecting into these regions? None of those issues are accounted for in the research.
So how accurate is this map?