A worldwide survey casts doubt on national stereotypes.
Every nation has stereotypes
The English are cold and reserved, Brazilians are lively and fun-loving, and the Japanese are shy and hardworking – these are examples of national stereotypes that are widely believed, not only by other nationalities but also by many people among the nationality themselves. But how much truth is there in such stereotypes? Two psychologists, Robert McCrae and Antonio Terracciano have investigated the subject and the results of their research are surprising. They found that people from a particular country do share some general characteristics, but that these characteristics are often very different from the stereotype.
The large survey
In the largest survey of its kind, a team of psychologists used personality tests to establish shared characteristics among 49 different nationalities around the world. They then interviewed thousands of people from these same groups and asked them to describe typical members of their nationality. In most cases, the stereotype (how nationalities saw themselves) was very different from the results of the personality tests (the reality).
For example, Italians and Russians thought of themselves as extrovert and sociable, but the personality tests showed them to be much more introverted than they imagined. The Spanish saw themselves as very extroverted, but also as rather lazy. The research showed them to be only averagely extrovert and much more conscientious than they thought. Brazilians were quite neurotic – the opposite of their view of themselves. The Czechs and the Argentinians thought of themselves as bad-tempered and unfriendly, but they turned out to be among the friendliest of all nationalities. The English were the nationality whose own stereotype was the furthest from reality. While they saw themselves as reserved arid closed, Dr. McCrae’s research showed them to be among the most extrovert and open-minded of the groups studied.
We are much more
The only nationality group in the whole study where people saw themselves as they are was the Poles – not especially extrovert, and slightly neurotic. Dr. McCrae and Dr. Terracciano hope that their research will show that national stereotypes are inaccurate and unhelpful and that this might improve international understanding – we’re all much more alike than we think we are!