Fri, Mar 27, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Londoners laziest Britons: survey of personality types

The Guardian, LONDON

The finding may be no surprise to those outside the M25, but Londoners rank among the least welcoming and most lazy people in the country, according to a survey of personalities in Great Britain.

Though more curious and sociable than most, people living in the capital came across as uncooperative, quarrelsome and irritable compared with the rest of Britain, and scored particularly badly on conscientiousness.

The dim view of London’s residents emerged from a survey by Cambridge scientists that provides a rare snapshot of the country’s psychological landscape. It suggests that different personalities cluster together to create a patchwork of regional characters.

FRIENDLY SCOTS

According to the survey, the most friendly and emotionally stable Britons were found in Scotland, while Wales was home to a disproportionate number of shy and neurotic people.

“There’s a widespread belief that people in different parts of the country have different characters and in some ways this research was testing that idea,” Cambridge University psychologist Jason Rentfrow said.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, go beyond reinforcing, or in some cases, overturning, tired regional stereotypes. Psychological factors can have a significant impact on public health, and understanding the reasons they cluster in geographical areas can help with local policies to improve people’s wellbeing.

“We know that conscientiousness affects physical health, for example, and part of the reason is that conscientious people are more risk averse, and more likely to get medical help early on when they have symptoms,” Rentfrow said. “On the other hand, less conscientious people are more likely to blow things off and that could affect their prognosis.”

If scientists can tease out why healthy psychological attitudes, such as conscientiousness and emotional stability, are prominent in some regions, they might be able to boost them elsewhere.

“Perhaps in addition to creating new jobs, or providing better healthcare in some of these areas, it is worthwhile considering the psychological dimensions, and trying to improve those too,” Rentfrow said.

The researchers used an online survey to quiz nearly 400,000 people across Britain on five major personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. They then created maps to show how levels of the psychological traits varied across 380 local authority districts in England, Wales and Scotland. The data from Northern Ireland were too sparse to draw any firm conclusions from.

That personality types clustered together was no surprise, Rentfrow said.

People with similar psychological traits can congregate in the same areas for various reasons, but the scientists highlight three in their study.

The first is that the social traditions and customs of a particular area shape people’s lifestyles and influence their attitudes and behavior. A second reason is that the physical environment affects people’s thoughts and feelings. For example, areas prone to infectious diseases could make people behave more cautiously. A third, and strong, reason is that people choose to live in places that satisify their psychological needs. More agreeable people tend to move around less, and opt instead to stay among the family and friends they grew up with. Whether they stay because they are friendly, or are friendly because they stay, remains an open question.

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