Courtney Sargent, Deseret News
Glen Forman, center, Cynthia Forman, right, and their granddaughter Shelby Neal walk through the Main Street Plaza.

Utah has more kids than anywhere else, plenty of green Jell-O and Republicans as red as they come.

And according to the University of Cambridge, Utah now also can say it has some of the friendliest and most disciplined people in the United States.

The British university on Wednesday released a "personality map" of the United States. The map stems from an online survey of 620,000 people nationwide, who scored themselves on 44 statements about how they see themselves.

The idea was to encapsulate what psychologists call the big five personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. The study's aim was to pinpoint personality clusters and how they relate to health care, crime and other social data.

Utahns ranked fourth for agreeableness and conscientiousness. They were the eighth-most outgoing, 18th-most open and dead last for neuroticism.

"From that, we can begin constructing a sort of portrait," said the study's lead researcher, Jason Rentfrow, who is a lecturer at Cambridge.

The survey results suggest that the typical Utahn is "someone who's socially outgoing and kind and friendly and hardworking and rule-following, responsible, dependable. They probably feel connected to their neighbors and have a strong connection to their families," Rentfrow said. The survey results also suggest Utahns keep their cool under pressure, are "curious and imaginative and enjoy reflecting on abstract ideas."

So is that really how Utahns view themselves, or how outsiders view them?

Pretty much, say the nine people interviewed at a TRAX station and Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake — at least those agreeable enough to be interviewed. (A couple of out-of-towners were not.)

"Every time we come here, people seem to be so friendly. They smile at you; kids are usually with them — and not getting yelled at," said Cynthia Forman of Pacifica, Calif., who was in town Wednesday visiting relatives.

But sometimes, kindness extended to others depends on who the others are, said one woman, who said she had just earned her U.S. citizenship after living 30 years in Utah.

"You still have people from the past who always look down at other cultures than Caucasians," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "It has its ups and downs, but it depends on how you take it."

Draper resident Alecia Gardenhire said she has nice neighbors, but she thinks nobody compares to the good guys in the Midwest.

"Iowa, you just can't beat," she said. "Just perfect strangers will come up and help you."

But according to the university's personality map, the Midwest is part of the nation's "stress belt," which extends from Maine to Louisiana.

The researchers found state personality traits correlate to national indicators of crime, social involvement, religiosity, employment, health, values, disease and mortality. States with high levels of agreeableness, for instance, also tended to have lower crime rates. Those with outgoing people had many residents employed in industries requiring more social involvement, like sales.

Rentfrow, a Louisiana native, believes the personality map could be used in helping people choose the best place to live or work, or for leaders to make better policies.

North Dakotans were found to be more sociable and affable than most. New Yorkers, more high-strung and creative. Rentfrow's home state was found to be often friendly, but stressed out. Californians were found to be creative, imaginative and intellectual.

But Utah has seen its highs and lows on various national rankings. Here's a counterpoint to the latest "friendly" ranking: Mental Health America last year ranked Utah as the most depressed place in the country. Even so, a Dan Jones & Associates poll last year found 92 percent of Utah residents said they are somewhat to very happy.

Friendly Utah

According to the University of Cambridge's personality map of the United States, here's how Utah rates:

Extroversion: 8th

Agreeableness: 4th

Conscientiousness: 4th

Neuroticism: 51st

Openness: 18th

Who's like us: Kansas (though lower on openness, or considered less liberal and tolerant, than Utah)

Other highly agreeable states: North Dakota, Minnesota, Mississippi, Wisconsin

Not-so-agreeable states: Alaska; Washington, D.C.; Wyoming; Nevada; New York

Source: University of Cambridge


E-mail: [email protected]