Western cultures have promoted the notion that being extroverted is a desired quality and is associated with happiness. A new international study investigated if this characteristic is linked to happiness across multiple cultures.
Published in the Journal of Research in Personality, researchers have found that an outgoing behavior promotes feelings of happiness - regardless of culture. The study was inspired by a 2012 study that showed American introverts experience greater feelings of happiness when they smile at a stranger, contact an old friend, or engage in extroverted behaviors.
“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 study author Timothy Church, professor of counseling psychology and associate dean of research in the College of Education at Washington State University, in a statement.
Dr. Church's team wanted to see how the "Big Five" personality traits were applied from culture to culture. The Big Five represents a "bell curve" of features. On the scale, extroversion is on the reverse pole from introversion, where most individuals will land somewhere in the middle of the curve. The Big Five personality traits are:
- Conscientiousness or carefulness
Church and his colleagues compared behavior and temperament between college students in the United States (56 students), Venezuela (56 students), China (66 students), the Philippines (60 students) and Japan (54 students) to see if the effect of extraversion was culture-based using the “Big Five” scale. The researchers knew before that cultures may vary in the average expression of the “Big Five” traits. For example, some cultures may appear more sociable than others.
First, the participants rated their general personality traits in group sessions. The participants then rated their personality states and levels of positive feelings and negative feelings three times a day, for 20 days. Positive and negative feelings were measured using the following adjectives:
The researchers found that being extroverted, not only led to happiness regardless of culture, but college students felt more extroverted and open-minded in situations where they could act independently, as opposed to being restricted by outside pressures.
“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.”
Though the “Big Five” appear to be universal, Church added that there are fluctuations in which each trait is expressed from culture to culture; however, all cultures value happiness.