Outgoing behavior makes for happier humans


April 15, 2014
Brain & Behavior

Across cultures, extroverts have more fun

Happy is as happy does, apparently—for human beings all over the world. Not only does acting extroverted lead to more positive feelings across several cultures, but people also report more upbeat behavior when they feel free to be themselves.

These findings were among those recently published in the Journal of Research in Personality in a paper by Timothy Church, professor of counseling psychology and associate dean of research in the College of Education at Washington State University. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

“We are not the first to show that being more extroverted in daily behavior can lead to more positive moods. However, we are probably the first to extend this finding to a variety of cultures,” said Church.

Previous studies, including a 2012 paper by William Fleeson, psychology professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, have shown that in the U.S. introverts experience greater levels of happiness when they engage in extroverted behaviors—like smiling at a passerby or calling an old friend.

Intrigued, Church wanted to see if the findings held true for non-Western cultures. He and his team looked at behavior and mood in college students in the U.S., Venezuela, China, the Philippines and Japan. Using a “Big Five” personality trait survey, he found that, across the board, people reported more positive emotions in daily situations where they also felt or acted more extroverted.

A second finding revealed that the students felt more extroverted, agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable and open to experience in situations where they could choose their own behavior, rather than being constrained by outside pressures.

Each of the Big Five traits lies on a bell curve of characteristics that ranges from one extreme to the other. Extroversion lies on the opposite pole from introversion, for example, and agreeableness on the opposite side of antagonism. On a day-to-day basis, most people land somewhere in the middle.

Until now, these types of studies have been conducted primarily in the U.S. and other Western countries where independence and individualism are highly valued. Church’s study is among the first to show that these results transcend Western culture and also apply to the more relationship- and group-oriented cultures in Asia and South America.

Over the years, Church and his team have used the Big Five to investigate whether personality traits have similar effects on behavior and mood across a range of cultures. So far, they have studied people in eight different nations including Mexico, Malaysia and Australia. Similarities were documented in all of them.

Worldwide, personality psychologists have identified Big Five similarities in more than 60 countries.

“Cross-cultural psychologists like to talk about psychic unity,” Church said. “Despite all of our cultural differences, the way personality is organized seems to be pretty comparable across cultural groups. There is evidence to show that 40 to 50 percent of the variation in personality traits has a genetic basis.”

He also points out that while the Big Five traits seem fairly universal, cultures may vary in the average expression of those traits—for instance, some cultures present as more gregarious or conscientious.

But Homo sapiens, whether in Europe, China or South America, does seem to place a very high value on happiness. A quick Internet search reveals a bevy of titles on how to find and keep the elusive joy.

There’s good reason for that. A comprehensive study from the University of Illinois in 2011 found that happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their gloomy peers. Positive moods help reduce stress levels and promote healthy immune function. They even shorten the heart’s recovery time after a workout.

Church’s findings suggest that being more outgoing may be one way to increase happiness levels in most, if not all, cultures.

Similarities in personality—and knowing that we humans are more alike than not—can also smooth international relations by enhancing communication, understanding and the ability to predict behavior in others. And this applies to large, complex societies like the United States whose populations are growing ever more diverse, he said.




Outgoing behavior makes for happier humans

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4 Responses to Outgoing behavior makes for happier humans

  1. C.Rossouw (u14015375) May 1, 2014 at 1:25 am #

    I believe happiness lies in the eye of the beholder, although research supports the keys to happiness lie in having a sense of purpose, self acceptance and a supportive social network. When one have outgoing behavior one would find it easier to make new friends and get into a social network. Once you are there, you would feel accepted by others and therefore you will accept yourself much easier and a belief in yourself and in your life is inevitable.
    The three keys to happiness helped me a lot in a better understanding of why an outgoing behavior can actually make us happier.

  2. u14080070 (VR) April 27, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Outgoing behaviour improves ones social skills which in turn makes them more confident and happy. It is true that happiness comes from within and you are in charge of how you feel. Having the opportunity to open up (socialize) makes one happier because all that emotions and feelings are no longer bottled up inside you and thus reducing stress levels. An outgoing behaviour not only makes you happier but also the people that are around you. From experience the return of a smile from a person makes my day a whole lot better and happier.

  3. 14006384 (BS) April 23, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    I feel that there lies truth in what Professor Church said happiness might come from a variety of sources but the most important, is oneself. As a person you have the power to create your own thoughts which leads to the mood you are in.

    Being outgoing makes you feel comfortable with yourself and leads to being a happier and more self confident individual. Being outgoing also makes you do things that you would not normally do and by doing so you get the chance to learn more about yourself.

    I have to agree with u14002338 because once you are happy your stress levels will spontaneously decrease. To conclude i feel that being more outgoing makes for a physically and mentally healthier person.

  4. u14002338 April 16, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    I have to agree with what Professor Church says. In article he says “being more extroverted in daily behaviour can lead to more positive moods”, happiness can come from doing things you would not normally do and from being outgoing. Trying different things can help establish who we truly are; this in turn will reduce stress levels. Less stress provides for a happier human being. Smiling at stranger can be seen as outgoing behaviour. Personally I can see a change in myself if I smile at a stranger and I feel good if someone gives me smile.

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