Temperament Readings

By -, Erik Hogstrom | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), December 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

Temperament Readings


-, Erik Hogstrom, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


The train had just passed San Francisco's Dolores Park and was poised to plunge into the tunnel leading to the crowded stations deep below the city's frenetic downtown.

It lurched to an unexpected halt. The driver's expressionless voice over the tinny-sounding PA informed passengers of a disabled train two stations beyond. Authorities were working on it. Thank- you for your patience.

Passengers filled every seat and half as many more stood grasping metal rails with one hand and smartphones or tablets with the other.

Faces scanned mobile-device screens or eyes vacantly stared at fixed points in the middle distance.

And for the next 35 minutes, no one said a word.

Four days later, on a three-quarters-full plane from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to Dubuque, two strangers sat side by side, enthusiastically discussing their favorite southwestern Wisconsin deer-hunting areas for the flight's entire duration.

Researchers writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recently mapped what laypeople long assumed and noted with anecdotes: People in the Midwest appear to be generally friendlier than people on either coast.

Using self-reported information from 1.6 million people collected over 12 years, a research team, led by Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge, divided the nation into three clusters of personality types: a "relaxed and creative" region along the West Coast, a "temperamental and uninhibited" region on the East Coast and a "friendly and conventional" region dominating the center of the country.

"Our research provides empirical evidence that the prevalence of certain personality traits vary across the country," said Rentfrow, the lead author of "Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social and Health Correlates."

Rentfrow and his team mapped the differences based on residents' own ratings of their personalities.

People in the Midwest tended to be sociable, considerate and traditional, according to the researchers' findings. Midwesterners also reported being more religious and politically conservative.

On the West Coast, residents reported high levels of cultural diversity and more alternative lifestyles than other regions. Tolerance and individualism were among the highest values.

Along the East Coast, residents reported being more impulsive and politically liberal than people in the Midwest. Eastern residents reported themselves as being both passionate and competitive.

"It may be that the differences we observed converge with regional stereotypes," Rentfrow said. "It's necessary to emphasize that we didn't measure regional stereotypes."

Chad Lange, of Dubuque, grew up in central Illinois, then lived in San Francisco for 16 years before returning to the area.

He has spent considerable time living amongst the "friendly" Midwesterners and Californians.

"There is a definitely a difference," Lange said. "People in San Francisco are nice, but you're also more guarded. In a city, you mind your own business. …

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