Happiness Comes From Extroversion In Any Culture
April 15, 2014

Being Extroverted Leads To Happiness In Any Culture

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Western cultures consider being extroverted as a desirable quality associated with happiness, but what about other cultures that tend to prize close-knit relationships and group dynamics?

According to a new large international study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, acting outgoing and outwardly happy makes a person feel happy – regardless of culture.

"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 recent statement.

The new study was partly inspired by a 2012 study that showed American introverts experience greater levels of happiness when they smile at a stranger, reach out to an old friend or engage in other extroverted behaviors.

To see if this effect was culture-based, the authors of the new study surveys college students in the US, China, Japan, the Philippines and Venezuela. To determine aspects of mood and personality, the study team used the “Big Five” scale, essentially a bell contour of attributes that can vary from one end to the other. On the scale, extroversion is on the reverse pole from introversion, and geniality is opposite of antagonism. On a daily basis, most individuals sit somewhere in the center.

Not only did the researchers find that being extroverted led to happiness regardless of culture – the study team also saw that college students felt more extroverted and open-minded in situations where they could act independently, as opposed to being restricted by outside pressures.

“Cultural differences in the strength of the trait-state relationships were limited and were not accounted for by cultural differences in individualism–collectivism, dialecticism, or tightness,” the study authors wrote.

The findings of the new study add to the body of work conducted by Church and his colleagues across numerous other cultures and countries. Taken together with other work, researchers around the world have reported Big Five similarities across 60 different 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."

While the Big Five appear to be universal, Church noted that there are fluctuations in which each of them is expressed from culture to culture. However, people of all cultures prize happiness, Church pointed out.

A 2011 study from researchers highlighted the impact happiness can have on physical health – finding happy people tend to live longer and healthier lives than their depressed counterparts. Other research has shown that happiness reduces levels of stress hormones that can cause long-term damage to the body.

In addition to the social and medical implications of the study, Church pointed out that the study has significance in diplomatic or business settings involving more than one culture.