Psychologists Subject Cities to Personality Tests

Two recent studies suggest urban areas and geographic regions have distinctive temperaments.

1 minute read

October 14, 2010, 5:00 AM PDT

By Lynn Vande Stouwe


The first divided cities into 'head' strong and 'heart' strong, finding municipalities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York have higher levels of creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness and love of learning, while places like El Paso, Mesa, Omaha and Nashville exhibit more compassion, teamwork, hope, modesty and religiousness.

Another study examined personalities at the regional level, culling data from three-decades of survey responses. Results assess levels of neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, extraversion and conscientiousness. For example, the Northeast is high in neuroticism and extraversion and low in agreeableness, while the Pacific is high in openness and low in conscientiousness.

Eric Jaffe says researchers point to several factors behind the distinctions, chiefly selective migration, social influences and ecological influences. He also suggests the urban 'personality' premise is familiar:

"The work builds off recent observations made by Richard Florida, whose 2008 bestseller Who's Your City described how the so-called personality of a city indeed reflects the personalities of its residents."

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