Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality
Like quite a few other HBD’ers, I try not to focus so much on IQ. Although it is of preeminent importance, it is not the be-all end-all when it comes to human traits, particularly traits that differ between people. Personality is important too. What we call “personality” is the rough categorization of the vast array of human behavioral traits. No system will ever be able to fully capture the great variation in human behavior. However, human behaviors do seem to manifest themselves in reliable patterns, which are (very) roughly captured by personality tests. Several systems have been devised to catalog human personality, and each has its drawbacks, as each is, at best, an imperfect approximation. This is likely to always be the case. Many of you have heard of the Big Five. Lately, a newer system, the HEXACO (also here and here) has been developed which, in my view, supersedes the Big Five (until the HEXACO is itself subsumed by some other system). Unfortunately, because the HEXACO is so new, the vast majority of personality research has been done using the Big Five, so we’re stuck using it for much analysis. However here, I will discuss my thoughts on the global distribution of personality traits on the HEXACO that I expect to find when we finally get reliable cross-national data.
The HEXACO is a six-factor system (“HEXACO” being an acronym for those factors). Those factors are:
- H: Honesty-humility
- E: Emotionality
- X: eXtraversion
- A: Agreeableness
- C: Conscientiousness
- O: Openness to experience
It is essentially the Big Five, more or less, with a new dimension, Honesty-humility, added to the fold. This dimension captures the Dark Triad (Tetrad) – the psychopathic traits.
|Predicted Worldwide correlates of major personality dimensions|
|Personality Dimension||Low End||High End|
|H: Honesty-humility (pro-social vs. anti-social traits)||Clannish||Non-Clannish|
|E: Emotionality (neuroticism)||Non-Clannish/Genetically Pacified||Clannish/Not Genetically Pacified|
|X: eXtraversion||High-Latitude Farming||Low Latitude|
|A: Agreeableness||Not State Pacified||State Pacified|
|C: Conscientiousness||Low-Latitude/non-farming||High-Latitude Farming|
|O: Openness to experience||Clannish||Non-Clannish|
Here’s my rationale for each:
H: Honesty-humility: This is essentially a measure of the Dark Tetrad (aka, the Dark Triad, in older thought): narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism: the psychopathic, or anti-social traits. Those who score low on this dimension are honest, modest, and fair. Those who score high are manipulative, scheming, callous, self-important, and cruel. Also included in this measure is one of greed (or more accurately, greed avoidance), with those scoring high on this dimension tending not to be greedy. This is the essence of clannishness and corruption. As well, narcissism seems advantageous in societies where intense male-on-male competition for women is common. The key problem is that I believe that, as research on this is gathered, the specifics of how this operates will matter greatly. In a clannish society, where family is supreme, behavior toward kin will be systematically different than towards non-kin. Corrupt/clannish people will come off as psychopathic towards non-kin, but highly altruistic and caring towards kin. EDIT, 8/31/14: [And indeed, it seems there is evidence suggesting that this is the case. Psychopaths seem to take advantage primarily of non-kin. That is, they act nepotistically. See Krupp et al 2012.]
E: Emotionality: This is a measure of how “bothered” an individual is: their penchant for “negative” emotions, like anxiety and fear. Sisyphean can tell you all about what it’s like to not score highly on this trait. People who aren’t very neurotic are chilled and calm. The Big Five’s version of this was rather confused, because it included both internalizing emotional states, like anxiety, sadness, dependence, etc, with externalizing ones like anger, contempt or offense. The HEXACO split these apart. In the HEXACO, only the internalizing states are included: fearfulness (straightforward); anxiety (also straightforward); dependence (one’s need for emotional support from others); and sentimentality (here defined as emotional bondedness to other people). I suspect they still may not have it right, however. Some of these aspects appear more concentrated in some peoples than others. Anxiety, for example, is squarely a problem of non-clannish, cold-weather (especially historically farming) peoples. One key facet that hasn’t made it into a dimension in the HEXACO system is what they called “Negative Self-Evaluation”, which was meant to capture low self-esteem. They eventually folded this into extraversion, which may fit with a latitudinal pattern, but it doesn’t seem right to me. Nonetheless, it is clear that cold weather peoples are more susceptible to this characteristic. Richard Lynn & Tatu Vanhanen wrote a paper that noted a pronounced correlation between IQ and suicide rates across the world (among many other things). Low IQ people (that is, low-latitude dwellers) are simply less likely to commit suicide. This is beyond the guilt/shame dichotomy that seems to exist between non-clannish/clannish societies (since, globally speaking, suicide is significant in East Asia, which is generally more clannish and more shame-based). This isn’t even a problem of resulting from civilization/manorialism/state-pacification, since suicide is a problem for many Arctic peoples. I suspect some more work will be done on this dimension.
X: eXtraversion: This dimension is straightforward. Extraverts tend to be bold, talkative, and enjoy being with others. Introverts are quiet, often shy, mindful, and enjoy being alone. The clear correlate here is latitude. Tropical people have little to gain from being withdrawn from others, and indeed, often spend much of their time idle and in the thick of social musings in the group. By contrast, high-latitude people have to spend a lot of time in isolation, often engaged in dedicated work. A penchant for being alone may have been helpful in regions with lengthy winters. The success of the “strivers” through Gregory Clark-Ron Unz selection may have encouraged this trait. Clearly there appears to be a negative correlation between latitude and extraversion globally.
A: Agreeableness: This is another facet revised from its Big Five counterpart. In the Big Five, it meant friendly, patient, and accommodating vs. quarrelsome, oppositional, and irritable. However, here, they also added the externalizing negative emotions – the ones directed towards others, like anger, contempt or offense. It would seem the clear correlate is genetic pacification through state selection against violent individuals (see Genetics and the Historical Decline of Violence? | West Hunter, Evo and Proud: Genetic pacification in medieval Europe, and Evo and Proud: Making Europeans kinder, gentler). Populations that didn’t go through this process are likely to be less agreeable, I expect, because violence would have paid off more in these places. By contrast, those who went through this historic pacification are probably friendlier and more inoffensive, I predict.
C: Conscientiousness: Hardworking, organized, dutiful, punctual, vs. lazy, disorganized, shiftless, lackadaisical (organization, diligence, perfectionism, and prudence in the system). Clearly this is a result of selection in cold-weather farming societies. High-latitude farming demanded arduous and dedicated labor, especially in the coldest climes. Life depended on growing enough crops to last the winter. By contrast, warm-weather societies, farming could be done year-round. Minimal thought needed to be given to long-term needs, since food could be produced and any time. Future-time vs present-time orientation is a clear division here. Indeed, a recent paper confirmed that high GDP per capita countries (essentially the high IQ, and hence high latitude societies) display more future-time orientation than low GDP per capita countries. Anyone familiar with the attitudinal differences towards work between Northern and Southern Europe, for example, can see this dimension in action. [Edit, 9/5/14: Another recent paper directly examined the connection between historical farming practices, particularly high-investment crops (primarily found at high-latitudes) and low time preference (future-time orientation). This serves to essentially confirm this prediction. See Galor and Özak, 2014.] [Edit, 9/30/14: Yet another paper confirming this result looked at time-preference across 45 nations, noting a fairly strong relationship with latitude: Wang, Rieger, and Hens, 2010.]
O: Openness to experience: Liberalism. Plain and simple. Fundamentally, this dimension captures those core essences of liberal thought: receptiveness towards strangers/out-group members (basically, degree of reciprocal altruism vs. kin-altruism); sexual mores, with people who are more Open tending to favor less restrictive sexual attitudes (essentially, the conflict between outbreeding and inbreeding); and unconventionality (willingness to disregard tradition and established order – an opposition to hierarchy common in clannish societies). This is the other key essence of a clannish vs. non-clannish society. Higher openness works in societies where there are fewer external threats and group trustworthiness is high. An outbred society is more receptive towards outgroup members because reciprocal altruism means anyone could be a potentially ally. Historically, these were other group members, if not necessarily of the same clan. As well, outbred, high Openness individuals don’t favor tight sexual restrictions. By contrast, clannish inbred societies need to be more structured and tightly regulated when it comes to sex to exclude outsiders and enforce traditional rules on who can mate with whom – which is of course something traditional outbreeders have little use for. This is interestingly the dimension with the highest apparent heritability, which matches nicely with the high apparent heritability of overall political orientation. Staffan has noted problems with this dimension in how it was designed in the Big Five – notably, they included an “intellect” aspect which was clearly capturing IQ. That has been removed in the HEXACO.
It’s worth noting that the HEXACO was designed specifically with clannishness vs. non-clannishness in mind (or this passage of the Wikipedia article was written by someone familiar with HBD Chick’s work):
The HEXACO model is often used in research studies when behaviours or traits found on the Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality dimensions are of specific interest. The factors of Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality are distinctly different from their counterparts on the Five Factor Model (FFM). Honesty-Humility, Emotionality and Agreeableness are proposed to be measures of Altruistic versus Antagonistic behaviour. Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness both measure two different aspects of Reciprocal altruism, high levels of which indicate a propensity for helping behaviour and cooperation as opposed to the exploitation of others. The Honesty-Humility factor represents a person’s tendency for pro-social altruistic behaviours, while Agreeableness indicates an individual’s tendency to forgive and to show tolerance. Emotionality is a measure of kin altruism, that is, the tendency to show empathy and attachment to one’s kin.
So there we are. I predict that cross-national measurements of personality will find that the roughly follow these described patterns: higher psychopathy (less Honesty-humility) in clannish peoples, more agreeableness in genetically pacified people, more openness to experience in non-clannish people and less of it in clannish ones, etc.
Yet there is a major problem: personality tests are hard to do cross nationally. Why? Because people tend to rate themselves against the background and mores of their own societies, and not against the global background in these traits. An East Asian, for example, in his hard-working, driven society, may feel he is an undisciplined slacker, regardless of his actual behavior across these things. It may seem that in order to do proper cross-national comparisons, either some more objective metric needs to be utilized (say, actual average days late to/missed from work, for example) and/or “neutral” observers need rate behavior of the people they examine. Many of our proxies seem to be going in that direction. It is likely that such a project might uncover other important behavioral variables among different peoples. It’s a sign of how much more there is to discover about human behavior, and belying any notion we’ve made all the discoveries there are to make in HBD.
Edit, 8/30/14: See also: