There are many ways of dividing up America: Red state, Blue state, Rust Belt, Bible Belt, Sun Belt, Stroke Belt...the list could go on. We're defined by our regional economies, voting patterns, stereotypes, geographies, and a lot else besides.
These maps do something different: They look at America in psychological terms. They assess people across five key personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—and show us where the distribution falls.
Led by Jason Rentfrow, at the University of Cambridge, the analysis is based on a total of 1.5 million online surveys conducted in five batches. The researchers then cluster traits together, with the darker colored areas indicating higher correlation. The work is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The results show three distinct regions: "Friendly & Conventional" (blue), which extends across the Midwest into the South; "Relaxed & Creative" (green), made up mostly of Western states; and "Temperamental & Uninhibited" (orange), which takes in the Northeast, plus Texas.
Here is how the paper describes the blue zone:
The region is defined by moderately high levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, moderately low Neuroticism, and very low Openness. This configuration of traits portrays the sort of person who is sociable, considerate, dutiful, and traditional...
And the green region:
The psychological profile of this region is marked by low Extraversion and Agreeableness, very low Neuroticism, and very high Openness... In general, the qualities of this region depict a place where open-mindedness, tolerance, individualism, and happiness are valued.
The psychological profile of the region is defined by low Extraversion, very low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, very high Neuroticism, and moderately high Openness. This particular configuration of traits depicts the type of person who is reserved, aloof, impulsive, irritable, and inquisitive.
Obviously not everyone in each region fits the profile. We're talking statistical averages here. Still, the maps offer another lens through which to look at the big divisions in the U.S., and place several states outside the norm. Texas, for example, is less in the South and more in the East, which may be news to some.
"This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country," says Rentfrow, in a press release. "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."