Personality traits close to those in U.S.: study
Canadians like to think of themselves as polite, soft-spoken, welcoming and as unlike their American neighbours as can be.
But a U.S. expert on personality psychology recently completed a study that reveals the two national characters are more similar than many would care to admit.
David Schmitt, a professor at Bradley University in Illinois, analysed the geographic distribution of the "Big Five" personality traits -- extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousnes, neuroticism and openness -- in 17,837 people from 56 nations. Using the U.S. as a statistical benchmark at 50.0 in each of the five categories, Canada scored 48.32 in extroversion, 49.14 in agreeableness, 49.05 in conscientiousnes, 50.58 in neuroticism and 48.75 in openness.
This means Canadians are only slightly less extroverted and open than Americans, and a touch more neurotic. It also suggests denizens of the True North are actually less agreeable and conscientious than their U.S. counterparts, turning decades of contrasting stereotypes on their head.
"One funny definition I heard is that a Canadian is someone who apologizes when you step on his foot," says Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity. "We can be quite civil, but I don't think we're spineless. ... We're not people who stand back from a just fight." Given this country's personality scores, and their close statistical ties to those of Americans, that appears to be true.
But Mr. Kenney cringes at the idea of using one nation as a yardstick to measure the other.
"I'm fed up with that kind of neurotic version of Canadian nationalism where we constantly compare ourselves to the United States," he says. "We have our similarities and our differences." The Canadian participants in the Bradley University survey, which is published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, comprised 1,039 college students: three English-speaking groups from Ontario, Alberta and B.C., and one French-speaking group from Quebec. The results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Where Canadians proved most like their U.S. neighbours, reports Mr. Schmitt, was in the study sub-section dealing with attachment styles.
"North America is different from most regions of the world in that our models of self are good -- we believe we're worthy of love and we love ourselves," says Mr. Schmitt. "But our models of others are lower than the rest of the world." We think pretty darn highly of ourselves, in other words, but are deeply untrusting of the people around us.
The Quebec sample was the only group of Canadian respondents that diverged from North American averages, with scores Mr. Schmitt said more closely resembled those of France than the U.S. and English-speaking Canada.
France drew one of the lowest global scores for extroversion (45.44), was found much less agreeable (46.64) than North America in general (Canada, Mexico and U.S. together averaged 49.27), and was among the most neurotic of all surveyed nations (52.29). Exact numbers for Quebec were unavailable.