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Romania is one of the most unequal countries in the EU, regarding various development indicators. Such inequalities have fuelled concerns about further polarisation of development. As such, there is a high demand for a more comprehensive understanding of uneven geographical development.

The overall objective of the project is to analyse spatial-temporal developmental inequalities and polarisation in relation to psychological characteristics on the territory of Romania. The current project draws together social sciences (i.e., psychology, economics, political sciences/sociology, human geography) research capacities on developmental inequalities/polarisation and the modelling tradition in physics. This includes research on psychological characteristics (e.g., personality traits/rational-irrational beliefs) and social and economic disparities, as well as the logic of modelling psychological, social, and economic processes. With its interdisciplinary layout and the spatial focus, the project also contributes to the emerging supra-disciplinary field of econo-physics.

Classical research in the field is interested in how psychological characteristics are related to various political, economic, social, and health (PESH) indicators, in established geographical regions and/or how all these variables differ in well-established geographical divisions. Our approach here is radically different (see also Rentfrow et al., 2013/2015). The core frontier idea of the project is that the aggregated psychological characteristics should not be only related to PESH indicators in various geographical regions, but (1) they should be expressed in psychological maps/patterns of the geographical areas and (2) they should be conceptualised as mechanisms behind individual-level behavior that in the end is expressed in terms of macro-level PESH indicators of the established psychological maps. Therefore, creating the first psychological map of Romania will help us to better understand and model the “causal nexus” of various macrolevel PESH indicators.

One of the major outcomes of the current project is related to the formulation of policy recommendations targeting the efficient management of spatial inequalities. Public policy can only be effective if those who elaborate it have a realistic image and understanding of spatial inequalities and polarisation and the relationships between spatially differentiated psychological characteristics and regional economic performance. Accordingly, with the help of the data, we will be able to provide evidence and make well founded recommendations for future public policies in the field of spatial inequalities.

Although the current project is focused on Romania, its scientific outcomes (e.g., methods/models, etc.) are planned to be applicable to any country and to cross-cultural research.

This work is supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNDS-UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P4-ID-PCCF-2016-0084.