State ‘personalities’ study is more amusing than useful
A survey of "personalities" ranks Hawaii near the bottom for openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and extroversion.
Hawaii's stereotype as "laid-back" has been supported by a personality study conducted by a Louisiana-born professor at England's Cambridge University, but Hawaii's rating with states in other areas is not so kind. The conclusions are wildly sweeping but fascinating, triggering wonderful responses throughout the country.
"Welcome to Kentucky," wrote Cheryl Truman of the Lexington Herald-Leader, "where the sun shines bright and the people are unhappy, unhealthy, unsociable and intolerant." Kentuckians, she added, should "feel free to slink back behind your closed door and indulge in those evil thoughts the study assumes you're already thinking."
Jason Rentfrow, a Cambridge lecturer in social and political sciences, drew his conclusions from online answers by more than 600,000 Americans - including nearly 3,000 Hawaii residents - to a list of questions about how they see themselves.
The topics are separated into the categories of extroversion (sociable, energetic, enthusiastic), agreeableness (warm, friendly, compassionate), conscientiousness (dutiful, responsible, self-disciplined), neuroticism (anxious, stressful, impulsive) and openness (curious, intellectual, creative).
Hawaii ranked in the bottom dozen states for openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and extroversion. That means we are stupid, irresponsible and unexcitable, while relaxed and maintaining a modicum of the aloha spirit, ranking in the top two dozen for agreeableness.
"People in general are friendly and laid-back," agreed Dr. John Huh, medical director of Kaheiheimalie-Queens Counseling Services. "In that sense they are able to manage stress and deal with stress in healthy ways, but there is still a tremendous amount of stressful things happening here." In other words, island folks can cope.
No so along what Rentfrow calls a "neuroticism belt" extending from New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, south to West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. The cold flatlands of North Dakota are ranked most extroverted and agreeable and second-least stressful.
Rentfrow says the study's conclusions are somewhat supported by statistical records. States with high marks for extroversion tend to be those where many people work in industries where social interaction is important, while those with high agreeableness have lower crime rates, he says.
Huh told the Star-Bulletin's Helen Altonn that the study "created a stir" in his office, where colleagues believe Hawaii "isn't really laid-back anymore. Maybe in a lot of ways it has taken on the busy pace of the most urban settings." He points out that Hawaii's methamphetamine problem indicates that many are unable to cope with stress.