Happiness, it’s been said, is the goal of all human endeavour. Why else do we strive to improve medicine, strengthen economies, raise literacy, lower poverty, or fight prejudice? It all boils down to improving human well-being.
Psychologists have conducted hundreds of studies of the correlates of well-being. You might think well-being is determined by your circumstances — such as the size of your social circle or your pay cheque. These factors are important, but it turns out a far stronger role is played by your personality.
Some years ago, personality psychologists working in this area came across a powerful idea: what if we could harness the happiness of extraverts simply by acting more like they do? A wave of studies investigating this idea seemed to support it.
For example, lab experiments showed when people were instructed to act extraverted during an interactive task, they felt happier. Surprisingly, even introverts — enjoyed acting extraverted in these studies.
Researchers have also used mobile devices to track people’s levels of extraverted behaviour and well-being in the real world. This, too, showed people feel happier when acting more extraverted. Again, even people who described themselves as highly introverted felt happiest when acting more like an extravert.
These findings appeared to suggest engaging in extraverted behaviour could be an effective tool for boosting well-being, and potentially form the basis of well-being programs and interventions.