Sooners rank high in being conscientious, agreeable

On weekdays during the school year, you can find Melvin Crawford waving at traffic at 21st Street and Cincinnati Avenue.

Most of the time, the motorists wave right back.

"There are a lot of good people around here," Crawford said Wednesday.

He was referring to those who live near Lee Elementary School, where Crawford, 63, is a crossing guard. However, a new study shows that Crawford's assessment applies throughout the state of Oklahoma.

Oklahomans are friendlier and have a stronger sense of duty than many of their fellow Americans, according to the research, released late Wednesday.

This will not come as a shock to many Oklahomans. At least as far back as Will Rogers — who famously never met a man he didn't like — and extending to and beyond the many humanitarian efforts during last December's ice storm, state residents know all about the helpfulness of their neighbors.

The study didn't have a built-in bias in favor of the Sooner State. It was not done by Oklahomans. In fact, it was not even generated in the United States.

It was the University of Cambridge in England that investigated how the personalities of Americans often differ according to the states in which they live.

The researchers report that Oklahoma produced one of the highest readings for "conscientiousness," associated with duty, self-discipline and responsible behavior. They also say Oklahomans are among the most "agreeable," which indicates compassion, friendliness and human warmth.

Specifically, the state ranked sixth in conscientiousness and ninth in the agreeability category.

To compile the rankings, researchers used the results of online surveys to create a "personality map" of the United States, showing that different types of people are more likely to live and flourish in various parts of the country.

Over six years, 619,397 people from across the U.S. — more than 8,000 from Oklahoma — took an online test in which they were asked to read 44 short statements, such as "I see myself as someone who is outgoing" and "I see myself as someone who is very religious." The respondents had to mark their level of agreement with each statement on a scale of 1 to 5.

The results of the survey allowed researchers to compute estimates of each of the personality dimensions for every state and identify which personality traits were strongest in which states.

Crawford — who calls the Lee students his "babies" — said Wednesday that the results of the study relating to Oklahoma were no surprise to him.

"People are real friendly here in Oklahoma," he said. "We have our ups and downs, but it is a great place to raise a family."

Oklahoma ranked 27th in extraversion and neuroticism and 37th in openness.

The researchers found "striking" wider geographical trends, such as a national "stress belt" dividing what they call the more anxious and impulsive eastern part of the country from what they call the comparatively relaxed West. They also identified strong links between personality traits and certain social phenomena, such as crime and life-expectancy rates.

The study was led by Jason Rentfrow, a lecturer in social and political sciences at the University of Cambridge. Rentfrow is originally from Louisiana, a state where his own research would suggest the people are often friendly but stress levels are high.

In materials accompanying the study report, Rentfrow said these are preliminary findings and require more evaluation. Yet they "throw up some striking geographical trends," he said.

"Obviously it's not as simple as saying that a person is guaranteed to be more anxious if they come from West Virginia (which led the neuroticism category) or more religious because they happen to live in New Mexico (first in conscientiousness)," Rentfrow said. "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."

David Harper 581-8359

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