From friendly Scots to irritable Londoners: Plotting the UK’s psychological map


A survey of 400,000 people in the UK has found significant regional differences in the five basic psychological traits that form human personality: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness.

While Scotland tended to be populated by people who scored highly on friendliness and emotional stability, the Welsh were noted for their openness, shyness and emotional instability, the study found. The inhabitants of East England were conscientious and agreeable but not very open, while the people of London were found to be the most open group in Britain, but the least welcoming and not very conscientious.

The study, called the Big Personality Test, was carried out online with the help of the BBC, and involved people from around the country volunteering to complete a psychological test to measure the five basic characteristics of personality.


“Other studies have shown that certain things like employment, health or social conservatism tend to form regional clusters,” said Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge, who carried out the study published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

“Our research shows there is also a psychological aspect to these broader geographical patterns. Understanding how personality traits differ by region is more than just a bit of fun. Geographical differences are associated with a range of economic, social and health outcomes, and hence how important resources are allocated.

“Although participants in an online test are self-selecting, the demographic characteristics are representative of the British population, so we can develop an accurate snapshot of the psychology of the nation.”

People in London, Manchester and parts of South and South-east England, Yorkshire and Scotland were found to have the highest levels of extraversion, which makes them more assertive, energetic, enthusiastic and sociable, the researchers said. In contrast, the people of the East Midlands, Wales, Humberside, the North of England and eastern Scotland had significantly low levels of extraversion, suggesting they tend to be “quiet, reserved and introverted”, they said.

The most agreeable people, who tend towards co-operation, friendliness and trust, were found throughout Scotland, as well as the North of England, the South-west and parts of the East of England.

However, London and other parts of East England were the least agreeable places, “suggesting that comparatively large proportions of residents of these areas were unco-operative, quarrelsome and irritable”, the researchers found.

Conscientious people have a strong sense of duty, responsibility and self-discipline and tend to be socially conservative, nonviolent and physically healthy. Southern England, parts of the Midlands and the Scottish Highlands were found to be the most conscientious parts of the UK, while London, Wales and parts of the North of England had lower conscientiousness, “suggesting that comparatively large proportion of residents were disorderly, rebellious and indifferent”.

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