From the jobs that you do to the recreational activities that you enjoy, there is a lot that makes up who you are as an individual. And of course, there are many factors that influence who you become. The great “Nature versus Nurture” debate – or how much you are born with your traits, and how much they are developed from your experiences – has been going on for years. Now another aspect of this issue is gaining attention; how much impact, if any, your nationality has on the personality you develop.
While people around the world may readily enjoy doing the same things like watching sport and playing online casino games, there are several other issues in which the differences between certain countries are very marked. Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, score highest for agreeableness. On the other hand, Lithuania and Japan score the lowest. Is it possible to understand why, and what could we do with this information?
Understanding the Limits of Research and Studies
A lot of interested psychologists have looked into the relationship between your citizenship and who you become. Many results do show that there is one, but they should be interpreted with caution. The researchers themselves cite challenges such as ensuring that a question means exactly the same thing and has precisely the same tone in different languages, and the tendency of some populations to provide unnecessarily extreme answers.
The other thing to note, as is important in all experimental endeavours, is that establishing a connection is not the same as finding a cause. Just because the incidences of two factors seem to coincide does not mean that one causes the other, and if it does, the direction of the causality might not be known. As a child’s shoes get bigger, so do their sweatshirts, but one does not lead to the other. Rather, they are both caused by a third fact: the child is growing.
Detangling the knots within findings can be very tricky. Some studies show, for example, that islanders lead more limited lives and are less extraverted than their mainland counterparts. This could be extrapolated and used to predict reactions and preferences in all kinds of things, and some evidence for genetic links has been identified. But determining how great of a part they play, versus the impact of living in a small community, is a real conundrum. Ultimately all these dynamics surely interact, but in what ways and to what degrees?
The Salient Points
While this is a fascinating area and surely merits more investigation, there are two take-home messages that you should know for now. The first is that while the levels of different traits may vary, personalities across the world are organised in much the same way, along similar axes. Neuroticism may be higher in Japanese and Argentinians and conscientiousness in Africans, but we share a commonality with our fellow humans.
The second is that the stereotypes we all hold for the citizens of other countries, and even our own, largely do not apply. We tend to think of British people as introverted, and they classify themselves in the same way. However, tests have shown that the characteristic of extraversion is higher in participants from the United Kingdom than North America – the very home, supposedly, of the brash individual.
So while all this information is used to help predict everything from election results to the kind of games that will be successful among different groups, try to stay humble and hold onto the humanity of it all. Your preconceived ideas might say a lot more about you than about a perceived nationality, and everyone deserves a chance to be and prove who they really are.