If you are an introvert, force yourself to be anextravert. You'll be happier.
That's the suggestion of the first-ever study askingpeople to act like extraverts for a prolonged period. For one week, the 123 participants were asked to -- in some cases -- push the boundaries of theirwillingness to engage, by acting as extraverts. Foranother week, the same group was asked to act likeintroverts.
The benefits of extraversion have been reported before, including those of "forced extraversion," but usually only for brief intervals. In one study, train-riders were asked to talk to strangers; acontrol group was directed to remain silent. The talkers reported a more positive experience.
UC Riverside researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wanted to extend the faux extraversion to see if itwould result in better well-being.
"The findings suggest that changing one's social behavior is a realizable goal for many people, and that behaving in an extraverted way improves well-being," said Lyubomirsky, a UCRpsychologist and co-author of the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
An initial challenge for this study was the presumption that extraversion -- as a traitrewarded in US culture -- is best. Many of the adjectives associated with extraversion are moreflattering than those tied to introversion. Most people would rather be associated with wordslike "dynamic" than with words like "withdrawn."
So Lyubomirsky's team went for words agreed upon as most neutral. The adjectives forextraversion were "talkative," "assertive," and "spontaneous"; for introversion, "deliberate," "quiet," and "reserved."
Researchers next told participants -- both the Act Introvert group and the Act Extravert group -- that previous research found each set of behaviors are beneficial for college students.
Finally, the participants were told to go forth, and to be as talkative, assertive, andspontaneous as they could stand. Later, the same group was told to be deliberate, quiet, andreserved, or vice versa. Three times a week, participants were reminded of the behavioralchange via emails.
According to all measures of well-being, participants reported greater well-being after theextraversion week, and decreases in well-being after the introversion week. Interestingly, fauxextraverts reported no discomfort or ill effects.
"It showed that a manipulation to increase extraverted behavior substantially improved well-being," Lyubomirsky said. "Manipulating personality-relevant behavior over as long as a weekmay be easier than previously thought, and the effects can be surprisingly powerful."
The researchers suggest that future experiments addressing this question may switch up somevariables. The participants were college students, generally more malleable in terms ofchanging habits. Also, Lyubomirsky said, effects of "faking" extroversion could surface after alonger study period.