Across cultures, introverts benefit from social behavior

Humanity can be roughly divided into 2 personality camps: introverts and extroverts. Generally speaking, introverts prefer small groups of friends, enjoy stretches of solitude, and may feel drained by the expansive socializing that fuels the more numerous extrovert camp.

There’s a common stereotype that assumes introverts are antisocial or fundamentally unhappy. But studies show that introverts aren’t antisocial; like extroverts, they experience higher levels of happiness when they engage in outgoing behaviors. However, those studies were done in the U.S. and other Western countries with similar cultural values.

WSU professor Timothy Church wanted to see if these personality-related behaviors transcended culture. With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Church and his team in the WSU College of Education adapted a standard psychological survey to measure the behavior, mood, and personality traits of college students in Venezuela, China, the Philippines, Japan, and the U.S.

Despite the sharply differing cultural and social structures of each country, results were the same across the board. People reported more positive emotions in daily life when they felt more extroverted or took outgoing actions—for instance, when calling an old friend or smiling at a passerby on the street.

And regardless of their baseline levels of introversion or extroversion, the students in Dr. Church’s study reported traits associated with higher happiness when they were able to choose their own behavior—in other words, when they felt free to be themselves.

Quantifying this knowledge may improve interpersonal and international relationships, and could especially benefit complex, increasingly diverse societies like the United States. It can also bring better health: happier people tend to live longer and healthier lives.