The new geography of personality
The study of personality can be traced back over two millennia but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that an empirically derived framework for studying personality became widely accepted in the scientific community. Decades of research involving hundreds of thousands of individuals revealed five broad dimensions of personality. These so-called Big Five dimensions – Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Intellect – provided a basic model for conceptualising and measuring personality.
We know a fair amount about the antecedents and consequences of the five dimensions. Evidence from studies of identical twins suggests that the Big Five have a substantial genetic basis. There is evidence that the dimensions exist in different parts of the world. And numerous studies have shown that differences between individuals are associated with important life outcomes, from academic and occupational success, to marital stability and physical health.
One question that we know less about concerns the geographic distribution of personality. Are the Big Five personality dimensions evenly distributed across the globe, or are they geographically clustered? National and regional stereotypes would have us think that there are important geographic personality differences. But do such stereotypes have any basis in reality?