Across cultures all over the world, outgoing behavior promotes feelings of happiness. This is according to a recent study in the Journal of Research in Personality.
The new study was inspired by previous research conducted by William Fleeson, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Prof. Fleeson's study found that introverts, when engaging in extroverted behaviors, experience greater feelings of happiness.
Two examples of happiness-boosting extroverted behavior cited in Prof. Fleeson's study include smiling at a passerby or calling an old friend.
However, Fleeson's study only examined this behavior in Americans.
The lead author behind the new study, Timothy Church - professor of counseling psychology and associate dean of research in the College of Education at Washington State University - wanted to see how these findings might apply to international cultures.
Prof. Church and his team compared behavior and mood between college students in the US (56 students), Venezuela (56 students), China (66 students), the Philippines (60 students) and Japan (54 students).
Church's team wanted to see how the "Big Five" personality traits translated from culture to culture.
The study only looked at people from Asia and the Americas - all of whom were college students - so the researchers are unable to generalize their findings to other populations.
The 'Big Five'
The Big Five personality traits are:
The Big Five represents a "bell curve" of characteristics, with extroversion on one extreme of the curve and introversion on the other. From day to day, most people will land somewhere in the middle of the curve.
Church and his colleagues have previously used the Big Five as part of investigations in how similar personality traits are across Mexico, Malaysia and Australia. Other personality psychologists have also identified Big Five similarities in more than 60 countries.
Although the personality traits that comprise the Big Five seem universal, psychologists have found that cultures may vary in the average expression of these traits. For example, some cultures may appear more gregarious than others.
In group sessions, the participants in the study first rated their personality traits in general. The subjects then rated their personality states and levels of "positive affect" and "negative affect" three times a day, for 20 days. Positive and negative affect were measured using four adjectives:
What did the team find?
Analyzing their results, the team found that, across all cultures, people scored more highly for positive emotions when they had encountered daily situations in which they behaved in a more extroverted manner.
An interesting second component of these results was that respondents felt more extroverted, agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable and open to experience when they were in situations where they felt autonomous. This means they felt more able to be extroverted when they could choose their own behavior - as opposed to situations where their behavior was constrained in some way by outside pressures.
But as the study only looked at people from Asia and the Americas - all of whom were college students - the researchers are unable to generalize their findings to other populations.
But, overall, Prof. Church and his team conclude that there is little difference between how the cultures they studied respond emotionally to situations where they feel introverted or extroverted.
"The results increase our understanding of how traits are manifested in everyday behavior and affect and can contribute to the important goal of integrating structure and process approaches in the study of personality across cultures."