Mapping the Psychological Geography of Great Britain

Historians, social scientists, and urban planners have long known that systems of power, the rise and fall of nations, economic progress and political outcomes are affected by geography. Indeed, the study of geography is crucial if we are to understand human behaviour. To date, psychologists have made a significant contribution to our understanding of human behaviour. There is overwhelming evidence that individual differences in personality are linked to a variety of important life outcomes, from longevity and marital satisfaction, to academic and occupational success. Given that where people live impacts their health, as well as their opportunities for finding a partner, receiving an education, and gaining employment, it seems reasonable to suppose that place and personality might be related. Are there geographical differences in personality? If so, are such differences related to regional variations in health, wealth, or happiness?

The project that I am proposing will map the psychological geography of Great Britain. I currently have personality and post-code data for approximately 25,000 residents of the United Kingdom. By May 2010, I expect to have data for an additional 200,000 UK residents. With these data, I will be able to develop psychological profiles for each of the UK counties and examine how the personality dimensions are distributed within the country. Using data from the Office for National Statistics, I will be able to determine whether regional personality differences are linked to important social, economic, and health outcomes. The results from this project will shed light on important questions such as: Are people happier in environments where their personalities fit the modal personalities of the places they live? Can regional personality differences influence the efficacy of social, economic, or health policy reforms?


Dr Peter Jason Rentfrow (Social and Developmental Psychology, Fitzwilliam College) is an Early Career Fellow at CRASSH, Michaelmas 2010.


Tel: +44 1223 766886