Abnormal Psychology

Personality Study Claims Texans More Like East Coasters Than Southerners

Are transplants reshaping the state's culture and making Texans more neurotic?

How does where you live shape your personality? That’s what researchers at the University of Cambridge, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Helsinki wanted to know, and so they analyzed a series of psychological surveys conducted between 2003 and 2015 in 2,082 U.S. counties to determine if—and how—geography shapes the character of a people or culture. The results show some correlation between geography and personality type, a sort of quantitative confirmation of the regional stereotypes we’re all familiar with.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the study is that it loops Texans in with some unlikely psychological bedfellows. The researchers claim they identified three “psychological regions” in the United States, places that express common dominate personality traits. The first is characterized by friendliness and adherence to convention, and it is comprised of much of the Midwest and the south. The second region is “relaxed and creative,” and it runs along the west coast and includes the laid back southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico. The third region is “temperamental and uninhibited,” and it, predictably, includes the mid-Atlantic and New England States, as well as, somewhat unpredictably, Texas. According to the study, “The psychological profile of the [temperamental and uninhibited] region is defined by low Extraversion, very low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, very high Neuroticism, and moderately high Openness.”

I suppose the findings should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the study claims that “Residents of this [temperamental and uninhibited] region also appear to be politically liberal and not mainline Protestants” and “Overall, it appears that this psychological region is a place where residents are passionate, competitive, and liberal.” That may describe urban Texas, but not Texas Texas.

Perhaps the fact that Texas doesn’t strongly express any of the three psychological profiles laid out in the study is a reflection of the state’s large, diverse culture. I imagine if the researchers conducted a county-by-county study of the state, sub-regions of Texas would express all three of these personality types. On the other hand, perhaps all those East Coast transplants to Texas are diluting the regional personality profile.

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