Finding the most extroverted town in America in Iowa

A “marketing research firm” recently named Keota, Iowa as the most extroverted town in America. How exactly does a researcher determine the most extroverted town?

Pyco, which claims to specialize in “psychological profiling,” ranked 61.639 percent of adults in Keota (pop. 1,009, according to the 2010 census)  as extroverts — just beating Manchester, N.Y.’s 60.570 percent for the title of most outgoing. Yet despite this designation, locals are reportedly confused as to how they ranked so high…

In fact, nobody outside Pyco quite understands the methodology for the rankings. According to the Register, the firm collected data in part from other research firms, and processed the numbers with a proprietary 2,000 page algorithm. Keith Streckenbach, the company’s chief operating officer, could not specify which factors most affected whether a person was deemed extroverted.

Keota’s designation has led to a series of stories in Iowa media examining the honor. One piece on the blog Eastern Iowa News Now interviewed Kevin Leicht, the chairman of the University of Iowa’s Sociology Department, and found that extroversion may be a trait inherent to small towns…

Pyco’s algorithm found that only about 57 percent of New York City adults are extroverts.

Several questions follow:

1. I would be really curious to know how this proprietary data was collected. Is it culled from the Internet? Could it be partially determined by the number of local businesses or “third places” (found in the Yellow Pages or some other kind of community listings)?

2. The differences between Keota and New York City are not huge: 61.6% to 57%. If you factor in the margin of error from these estimates (possibly fairly large since how many data points could there be in each town of more than 1,00 people across the US?), these figures may be close to the same. It would be worthwhile to see how broad the range of data for communities really is: are there towns in the US where less than 40% of people are extroverts?

3. Would we expect an extroverted community to know they are more extroverted than another community? Put another way, are extroverts more self-aware of their extroversion or are introverts the ones that are more likely to be aware of these things?

4. Since this data was collected by a marketing firm, I assume they would want to sell this information to companies and other organizations. So if Keota is the most extroverted town, will residents now see different kinds of promotional campaigns in the near future?

Politicians not necessarily crazy; just tend to be extroverted and narcissitic

It is common for pundits and citizens to try to psychoanalyze politicians. Interestingly, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) doesn’t allow its members to speculate about politicians “unless they’ve personally conducted an examination and have been granted authorization to speak about it.” So there is no real way to determine whether most politicians are crazy, unfit for office, or not.

But Newsweek talked to a few “professional profilers” who suggest politicians tend to share two traits: “What we do know about these people, says Dietz, is that they may often display two general qualities: extroversion and narcissism.”

This analysis seems to have face validity. But it does appear that we have an uptick in conversations about whether political opponents are “crazy” or some variation on that. Can we get a moratorium on political candidates and their supporters speculating about the mental status of their opponents?

An Evangelical emphasis on extrovertedness

If you have ever gone to church and felt left out because you are quiet, reserved, or introverted, you are likely not alone. Adam McHugh argues that Evangelical churches tend to privilege the extroverted and equate faith with outgoingness:

Even more dangerous is the tendency of evangelical churches to unintentionally exalt extroverted qualities as the “ideals” of faithfulness. Too often “ideal” Christians are social and gregarious, with an overt passion and enthusiasm. They find it easy to share the gospel with strangers, eagerly invite people into their homes, participate in a wide variety of activities, and quickly assume leadership responsibilities. Those are wonderful qualities, and our churches suffer when we don’t have those sorts of people, but if these qualities epitomize the Christian life, many of us introverts are left feeling excluded and spiritually inadequate. Or we wear ourselves out from constantly masquerading as extroverts.

This is insightful. This may be linked to the typical Evangelical church presentation: generally loud music, brashness about the message, highlighting people in the church who are doing things.

I’ve often wondered why churches don’t feature more testimonies/stories/insights from “average” or “typical” congregants who have often lived rich lives of faith full of troubles and triumphs. These would be people that others could relate to. Congregants can learn from ministers and church leaders but they can also learn from the people sitting next to them.