Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Race differences in personality: I found an interesting British study (Journal of Occup. and Organizational Psych. 2002. 75, 255-76) that examined racial differences in personality. The sample included university students: 324 whites, 56 blacks (Caribbean, African and other), 47 Asians/Indians (Pakistani, Bengladeshi, Indian), and 30 Chinese. Three personality tests were used. They are all self-reports:

Let's just hit the larger differences. Compared to whites, blacks have more managerial potential and are: less sociable, more prudent, and more service-oriented. Compared to whites, Chinese folks have more clerical and managerial potential and are more ambitious, prudent, service-oriented, and geared toward school success. Compared to whites, Asians have more managerial potential and are more ambitious, prudent, and oriented toward school success.

Compared to whites, black are more indecisive, relaxed, emotionally controlled, and more likely to give socially desirable answers. Chinese are more influential, emotionally controlled, active, data rational, achieving, methodical, and are less decisive, relaxed and sociable. Asians are more influential, empathic, innovative, data rational, achieving, and methodical.

Compared to whites, blacks are warmer but have less stamina. Chinese people are more competitive, limelight-seeking, and have less stamina. Asians are more risk-taking.

Some of the results for Chinese and Asian students seem plausible, but many black-white differences don't square with other types of data; in fact, they seem just the opposite. I'd like to see personalities assessed by others--perhaps by spouses, close friends, or experts, with a mixed-race population as the reference group. Or measurement through experimental manipulation would be interesting. Keep in mind that the sample is university students, so the range of personalities is restricted. Also--it would be nice to know how many students are immigrants.

UPDATE: In connection with this post, it is interesting that black Americans rate themselves as the smartest in self-assessments of intelligence, while Asian Americans rate themselves as least intelligent.

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