LANDER, Wyo. – Wyoming residents are closed-minded, disagreeable and not very conscientious compared to people in nearly every other state, according to a new study of the personalities of more than 600,000 people nationwide.
While that sounds like we're just plain surly, Wyomingites, take heart: At least we're not very neurotic.
The study was published in the September issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. It looked at the prevalence of five personality traits and created personality maps of the states and the District of Columbia.
The five traits were extroversion, or how outgoing and socially energetic people are; agreeableness — how friendly and cooperative people are; conscientiousness — how dutiful and reliable people are; neuroticism — how prone to anxiety and stress people are; and openness — how open to new ideas and new experiences people are.
The study ranked Wyoming second to last for openness and third to last for agreeableness. Wyoming residents were fourth to last in conscientiousness.
Wyomingites did much better for neuroses, however, or how prone they are to anxiety and stress. Wyoming ranked 15th in that area.
The study found that nearly all states that rated low in neuroticism were sunny and stereotypically laid-back Western and Midwestern states. New Yorkers and others in the "stress belt" of the Northeast tended to be more neurotic.
The most neurotic state, though, was West Virginia. Other relatively impoverished states, such as Mississippi and Louisiana, also scored high on the neuroticism scale.
"Although these are preliminary findings and require more evaluation, they did throw up some striking geographical trends," said Peter J. Rentfrow, a University of Cambridge lecturer in social and political sciences who led the research.
"Obviously it's not as simple as saying that a person is guaranteed to be more anxious if they come from West Virginia or more religious because they happen to live in New Mexico. But we did find pretty clear signs that there are meaningful differences in the personalities of people living in different areas of the United States."
A University of Wyoming professor of psychology, Walt Scott, said the study was interesting and apparently well-done, but limited in what it could say about people in any given state. He said the study probably oversimplified the personalities of the states.
For example, the study compared states to each other but did not provide an objective benchmark for gauging personality traits, Scott said.
Scott wasn't surprised that Wyoming ranked low for extroversion and agreeableness.
"We're a sparsely populated state, and a rural state. If you like lots of people, cities, loud music, lights, a lot of social stuff going on, you're not going to move to Wyoming," he said. "So there's probably some selective migration going on."
He said Wyoming residents don't have to be as agreeable as people in more heavily populated areas because there aren't as many people around to please or cooperate with.