Acting like an extravert increases wellbeing (and the reverse is true too)

extraversion and wellbeingAlthough researchers have long recognised a correlation between extraversion and general levels of happiness and wellbeing in individuals, the idea that simply acting in more extraverted could make people happier has been a source of contention. Now a new study from researchers at the University suggests that not only does acting in more extraverted ways increase people’s levels of positive emotion, the converse is also true, so merely acting like an introvert can reduce wellbeing.

In the new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: GeneralSeth Margolis and Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California, Riverside, asked 131 participants to alter their behaviour over a two week period to mimic the characteristic behaviours of introverts and extraverts. These characteristics included assertiveness, spontaneity, talkativeness for extraversion and reserved, quiet and deliberate for introversion. Throughout each week, participants were encouraged to remain consistent in their behaviour.

The result was that participants experienced more positive emotions during the week behaving as an extravert and fewer positive emotions during the introverted week. Other measures of wellbeing, such as feelings of connectedness and flow while working were also found to improve and reduce in the same ways. However, over the course of both weeks, participants also reported fewer negative emotions regardless of how they were behaving.

The report concludes that: “Given that introversion is generally not regarded as desirable or advantageous in US culture, we believe our most compelling results are those showing that well-being decreases can be substantial when people act more introverted than usual … We hope that research from our and others’ laboratories encourages future investigators to test the potential of behavioral interventions to spur both personality change and wellbeing gains.”

A recent piece by Julian Sharpe also highlights the role that workplace design has on reflecting the needs of different character types and improving levels of productivity and wellbeing as a result.