In Brief

People who display extraverted characteristics--such as being talkative or energetic--are happier at those moments than when acting introverted, suggests a recent study published in the  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 6).

While past research has shown that extraverts are, in general, happier than introverts, no studies showed whether introverts who display extravert characteristics are also happier. Wake Forest University psychology professor William Fleeson, PhD, and former students Adriane Malanos and Noelle Achille hoped to fill in the gap.

The researchers measured four extraverted characteristics--talkativeness, assertiveness, adventurousness and energy level--in 46 college students. Three studies tested the positive effects of extraversion in the short and long term among extraverts versus introverts.

In the first study, participants filed reports on their levels of happiness and extraverted behavior five times a day for 13 days. In the second study, participants recorded the extraversion levels in a diary at the end of every week for 10 weeks. And in the final study, participants were instructed to act extraverted or introverted during a 10-minute discussion and then report their levels of positive affect.

Researchers measured extraversion and introversion among participants with a standard questionnaire and then compared extraverts to introverts by correlating the extraversion score to the strength of the positive-affect boost. They found that it is possible to predict a person's positive affect based on the extraversion of that person's behavior.

All four extraverted characteristics studied were uniquely related to happiness, but energy level was most strongly related to happiness. The participants reported being happier when they displayed extraverted characteristics.

Fleeson says the results surprised him. While he assumed acting extraverted would be pleasurable for extraverts, he did not anticipate that acting extraverted would also be pleasurable for introverts. In fact, in comparing introverts to extraverts, Fleeson found that introverts were happier when they were displaying extraverted characteristics than when they acted introverted.

He says the research shows that people can take control of their personalities to lead happier lives. "We tend to look at the external world for being responsible for our happiness--good things happen to us and then we get happy," Fleeson says. "What's exciting about this is that it brings attention to the role we have in our own happiness. All you have to do is act extraverted and you can get a happiness boost."

--M. DITTMANN