Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The geographical cure may be real

A quick perusal of "A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics", found here (along with the demographic maps I mentioned in the last post), gives credence to my feeling that living here in rural Maine is not good for my mental health. But, it may be perfectly fine for someone else's.

The concept of "selective migration" is of particular interest:

"Selective migration may not only cause geographic differences
in personality to emerge . . . , it may also cause
such differences to persist over time. For instance, individuals
. . . may try to escape the ennui experienced in small-town
environments by relocating to metropolitan areas where their
needs for social contact and stimulation are more easily met.
Members of particular groups (e.g., gay people, Mormons) may
also choose to live in regions where residents are believed to be
tolerant of their lifestyles or where other members of their group
live (e.g., Massachusetts, Utah). Specifically, members of certain
groups may choose to live near similar group members because
they are more likely to understand and share the same languages,
cultures, and ways of life. Furthermore, individuals may
selectively relocate in search of financial gain and job security.
For example, highly open individuals may flock to places where
artistic abilities have the potential for generating sustainable
incomes (e.g., California, New York). Thus, as individuals selectively
migrate to regions where certain psychological and
behavioral tendencies are common, the prevalence of the relevant
personality traits in those regions should persist over time.
Furthermore, selective-migration processes could also inspire
people with particular traits to flee certain regions, which would
eventually result in a shortfall of those traits in the regions."

Rather a sober entry after last night's rambling (and I have a few more rambling posts sitting in my drafts folder). I will return to reading this research paper, for there is much in it that is relevant, not only to my life, but to the divisions we are increasingly seeing in our culture (and after reading this, I have to revise that to say "our culture?")

So, check it out if you like reading some dense material and/or find this country a cipher, as I do, that you want to understand better. Someone like Malcolm Gladwell should write a book about this (and hey, Malcolm, if you do, please send me a few cents of your bestseller royalties, okay?).

Image note: The Appalachian Trail. See how it extends from Georgia to Maine? Visitors to "Vacationland" see a quiant series of coastal villages. But most of Maine is more like "Deliverance" than "Murder She Wrote".

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