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We've all heard stereotypes about certain states this one is full of angry city-dwellers, another is full of old-fashioned country bumpkins. Or in the case of Utah, that we're conservative, uptight weirdos who are peculiarly different from the rest of the nation.
But a new study, based on 12 years of data from more than 1.5 million survey responses, suggests that, contrary to widely held beliefs, Utah is relaxed and creative, with the most-agreeable and least-neurotic population in the country.
The study's five authors gathered data from five separate samplings of people who voluntarily took personality tests over the Internet. They concluded that the country could be divided up into three distinct personality regions, dubbed the "Relaxed & Creative Profile," comprised mostly of Western states, the "Friendly & Conventional Profile," with largely Midwestern membership, and the "Temperamental & Uninhibited Profile," consisting mostly of the Northeast, but also Texas and Louisiana. Utah falls into the first category, along with states such as California, Oregon and Washington.
"The psychological profile of this region is marked by low extraversion and agreeableness, very low neuroticism, and very high Openness," the authors state.
They also characterize the personality region as a place that welcomes others and promotes diversity.
"Social capital is comparatively low here," they write, referring to connectedness with family, friends, neighbors and civic engagement, "but tolerance for cultural diversity and alternative lifestyles is high."
The data show that "Relaxed & Creative" states are wealthier, more educated and more innovative, according to the authors.
By contrast, the "Temperamental & Uninhibited" region was comprised of the "quintessential blue" states, and were more likely to be introverted, less agreeable, less conscientious and very neurotic. They also pointed out regions in this area have among the longest histories of settlement and some of the oldest and least variable social and cultural traditions.
As part of the study, states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, were ranked on five criteria: openness, extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism. Utah ranked highest of all in agreeableness, getting 69.4 on a 100-point scale. It was also ranked the lowest on neuroticism, at 30.4.
The study says it provides a novel way of looking at the cultural geography of the United States.
"In a sense, our approach challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country (e.g., on the basis of economic indicators, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes, or geographical and physical features) that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States," they said.
While the authors placed Utah in the same category as other Western states, it was less typical of the personality type, compared to states such as California and Arizona, which were most typical.
Of the roughly 1.5 million responses gathered for the study, 20,715 came from the Beehive State.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Personality and Social Psychology with lead author Peter J. Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge.
Utah was least neurotic with a score of 30.4. West Virginia was the most neurotic with a score of 79.2.
Vermont was the least extroverted at 26.5 while Wisconsin topped the list at 69.8. Utah scored 55.8.
Utah also ranked as the most agreeable at 69.4 while the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., was the least agreeable at 21.4.
Maine was the least conscientious state at 24, but South Carolina scored highest with 69.6. Utah came in at 54.5.
North Dakota was the most closed off, with an openness score of only 21.8. D.C. scored highest in openness at 77.5. Utah scored 44.7.