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July 25, 2013

Science: Acting Like an Extrovert Can Make an Introvert Happier

I actually had this theory a while back, and occasionally I've attempted to put it to a test -- if I just faked being happy, cheerful, outgoing, etc., would I wind up being a little happier and cheerful?

Based on my sporadic and non-rigorous experiments, I think the answer is "yes." But oh man, the effort. It is very easy for a natural introvert to completely cut himself off from the world in this Virtual Age, and one always prefers the downward-sloping path to the rising one.

Via Instapundit, a Wall Street Journal writer interviews scientists that say if you Fake Happy you have a good chance of becoming Real Happy.

Extroverts, those outgoing, gregarious types who wear their personalities on their sleeve, are generally happier, studies show. Some research also has found that introverts, who are more withdrawn in nature, will feel a greater sense of happiness if they act extroverted.

Experts aren't entirely sure why behaving like an extrovert makes people feel better... [But:]

"If you're introverted and act extroverted, you will be happier. It doesn't matter who you are, it's all about what you do," said William Fleeson, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

...

A series of studies, which included more than 600 college students, found that introverts misjudge how they would feel after acting extroverted. They often predicted feelings of anxiety and embarrassment, which never transpired.

"Introverts kind of underestimate how much fun it will be to act extroverted," said Dr. Zelenski. "You don't think you want to go to a party and then go and have a great time." Dr. Zelenski and other researchers also considered whether people acting in a way that goes against their natural disposition might wear themselves out. In two studies, a total of about 150 college students were instructed to behave in an extroverted or introverted manner during a group activity. Questionnaires and cognitive tests measured how much mental energy was depleted.

"We didn't find a lot of evidence for…the idea that acting like an extrovert would wear out introverts," said Dr. Zelenski.

Yeah, I'm not sure about that. Another scientist doesn't think that sounds right:

...

Dr. Little says some of his students are starting a study to explore the cost of acting out of character. "I'm quite confident that we can show that going against your traits is going to use up resources," such as glucose, he said. "Anything that requires concentration is going to deplete glucose resources," he said.

The article does not give pointers on how to Act Like an Extrovert. The only thing I know about is this: When you're trying not to act like your actual shy self, it helps to just have in mind the idea that you're playing a character, not yourself, who is more outgoing and smiles more and laughs more easily than you yourself actually do. So you don't have to feel embarrassed about it, because it's not you, really, it's this absurd bumptious character you've created.

They can't judge you if it's not really you in the first place. *

I used to get a little freaked out even by podcasts and radio interviews until I started playing a character, a character who's totes eager to talk and who just loves the idea of his voice being recorded. That's what I do when I do the Andy/Drew/Gabe/JohnE. podcast.** Which we're doing tonight; we have NRO's Charles W. Cooke as a guest. I think it'll be available on the weekend.

* Of course you can wind up seeming like a phony, but then, that's because you are being phony. The real me would rather hide in the corner than talk to people, which is just a dreadful experience all the way 'round and I don't recommend it to anyone.

** No, it's not why I call myself "Rick Tempest," that's just a joke; though, I guess, sort of, I am playing the sort of character who would call himself Rick Tempest.



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posted by Ace at 02:50 PM

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