One simple thing you can do to feel happier

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds being an extravert boosts happiness
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If you’re outgoing, chances are you’re happier too, according to a new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

The new study also found that it doesn’t matter where you lived or were raised, as these findings also applied to international cultures.

And just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, as indicated by previous studies by William Fleeson, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina who showed that even if you’re on the shy side, you can boost happiness by simply making the effort to be more outgoing.

You may ask how an introvert can go from being shy to exhibiting behavior like an extrovert? But Prof. Fleeson said that simply smiling at a passerby or picking up the phone to call an old friend will do the trick.

However, the one drawback to Fleeson's earlier research is that it only explored behavior in Americans.

Accordingly, Timothy Church, a professor of counseling psychology and associate dean of research at Washington State University, lead a team of researchers to find out if such behavior would be consistent across other cultures throughout the world.

In order to find out, the team launched a new study involving college students from different countries around the globe. Among the students, 56 were from the United States, 56 from Venezuela, 66 from China, 60 from the Philippines and 54 from Japan.

The researchers then compared the behavior and mood of these college students, using the “Big Five” personality traits to test for any variance.

The “Big Five” personality traits, which represent a broad scale of characteristics ranging from extroversion on one end to introversion on the other, are as follows:

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1. Extraversion
2. Agreeableness
3. Conscientiousness
4. Neuroticism
5. Introversion

If you were to use a bell curve, most people would fall somewhere in the middle of the Big Five personality traits listed above, which Church and his colleagues have used previously to see how personality traits varied among people in Mexico, Malaysia and Australia.

Meanwhile, the results of this new study showed that people across all cultures scored higher on happiness scales when their behavior was more outgoing.

Interestingly, the students in the study reported more positive feelings when they were in situations where they felt autonomous. In other words, they felt more confident and extroverted when they were in situations where they could choose their behavior than in situations where their behavior was being controlled in some manner due to outside pressure.

Because the study only compared college students from the Americas and Asia, Prof. Church and his team were not able to apply their findings to a wider range of cultures.

However, the research team was able to conclude that there was little difference among the cultures that they did study, as all the students tended to respond emotionally to situations, regardless of whether they were introverted or extroverted.

Despite the similarities across these different cultures, the researchers say that the expression of the Big Five personality traits could vary, depending on a particular culture's typical standards of behavior. For example, people in some countries may express outgoing behavior in a more robust manner than others, where the expression of such behavior in other cultures is more reserved.

As the team reported in their published study, what they found increased their understanding of how personality traits are "manifested in everyday behavior”, as well as how they can contribute to "integrating structure and process approaches in the study of personality across cultures."

SOURCES:

1. Washington State University, News Release: Outgoing behavior makes for happier humans, Prof. Timothy Church, April 15, 2014.

2. Journal of Research in Personality, Why extraverts are happier: A day reconstruction study, June 2014.

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