Upfront

Are people in Omaha, Neb., kinder and more modest than New Yorkers?

Yes, finds research from University of Rhode Island psychology professor Nansook Park, PhD, and University of Michigan psychology professor Christopher Peterson, PhD. The two presented their data at "Applying the Science of Positive Psychology to Improve Society," a Jan. 24 conference at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., which showcased a wealth of new research on how enhancing human strengths and promoting optimal human functioning affect health and well-being.

Park and Peterson presented data from 203,303 adults residing in the 50 largest U.S. cities that looked at how such character strengths as honesty, curiosity, forgiveness and modesty differ geographically. They found that cities with the highest scores in intellectual or "head" strengths, such as creativity, curiosity, love of learning and appreciation of beauty, typically scored lowest in more interpersonal or "heart" strengths, such as modesty, gratitude and teamwork. Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle had more intellectual strengths, while Omaha, Neb., and Jacksonville, Fla., had more "heart."

With more than half of the world's population now residing in cities, an urban geography of psychology deserves greater attention, said the researchers. Park and Peterson are now examining character strengths across occupations to determine what effect they may have on career development and success.

Nearly 650 attended the positive psychology conference, and an additional 130 participants worldwide joined in discussions online via a live webcast. A video of the entire conference—including research presentations on positive psychology-inspired teaching in public schools and the effects of positive leadership on organizational performance—is available online at www.positivepsych.eventbrite.com.

—A. Novotney