— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.
Most of us echo the widely held belief that extroverts are happier and better at expressing their happiness than the rest of us.
But how much of that popular idea is true, according to science?
You may find it interesting that psychologists and academics use “Extravert” – note the “ra” in the original spelling – while the rest of the world uses “Extrovert.”
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Are Extroverts Really Happier Than Introverts?
Several personality studies have identified the same trend: extroverts tend to be happier than introverts. According to a well-received theory, the reason extroverts are happier is that they enjoy fun activities more than introverts, implying that they could have a more responsive “dopamine-driven pleasure system” in their brains. Researchers also found evidence that acting like an extrovert can improve well-being, even among introverts.
Do the psychologists agree with the common theory that extroverts are happier people? Yes, they agree. Experts say indeed extroverts are a happier lot.
Here are six findings from studies where psychologists found extroverts are happier than introverts:
1. Hans Eysenck found that extroversion and happiness depend on each other. According to him, extroversion can be regarded as an index of happiness. In his Eysenck Temperament Test, a test to assess the personality traits of a person, extroversion and happiness are dependent on each other.
2. Headey and his team found in 1985 that young extroverted people have greater chances to experience favorable events in their lives. The extroverts are more likely to find chances to fall in love, for example. This gives them a “happiness edge” over others.
3. Hills and Argyle in their 2001 study found strong correlations between happiness and extroversion.
4. Nader Kalali and his team, in their research paper The Effect of Personality on Happiness, write: “Evidences show that there is a positive relationship between happiness and extraversion. In researches on 131 undergraduates in Oxford, 101 students in London, 114 individuals in Oxford, 95 students in Australia, and 1076 students in UK, USA, Canada and Australia, a positive relationship between happiness and extraversion was found.” (Momeni, Kalali, et al., 2010).
5. Willibald Ruch, in 1998, concluded that extroverts laughed a lot.
6. Willibald Ruch also found that long-term social relationships caused increased extroversion in people. These long-term relationships, as anybody would vouch for, are the anchors of our existence and the cause for many moments of joy in our lives.
By the way, the extroverts are the ones to arrive at the party the earliest and leave the last. And they are the life and soul of the party.
• A problem extroverts face more is: How To Say “NO” Without Hurting Anyone’s Feelings?
These are the 7 Reasons Why Extroverts Are Happier Than Introverts:
1. Extroverts Are Readily Influenced By Rewards
One of the consistent findings in personality research is that extroverts are generally happier than introverts, and this effect stretches over several decades into their lives — though all experts do not agree with the second assumption.
The theory that extroverts are more responsive to rewards and hence happier was first proposed by Gray in 1982. Later, in 1991, Larsen and Ketelaar also found that extroverts react more strongly to positive situations. A chocolate bar can make an extrovert happier than others. And it can do so much faster.
In contrast, neurotics (persons with anxiety and irritability) are more responsive to punishments and are unhappier.
Now, the reward system in the brain has a key player: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter (a chemical that transmits signals between brain cells).
Dopamine motivates people to pursue external rewards such as money, mate, and promotion. Introverts and extroverts both have the same amount of dopamine in their brains, and both become more talkative and eager to take chances when dopamine fills the brain.
However, extroverts have a more active dopamine reward pathway, and this makes them happier than introverts.
2. Extroverts Do More of Socially Enjoyable Things
Extroverts do more socially enjoyable things, according to Gray. This is another reason for their happiness. They go to parties, clubs, dances, meets, more than others.
They want to be around others.
3. Extroverts Are Masters of Mood Regulation
Extroverts are masters of mood regulation. Psychologists have suggested that extroverts are in better control of their moods. They can quickly get into lighter moods — and hold on to it for longer periods. And they can snap out of their blues faster than others.
4. Extroverts Get It From Their Parents
Extroverts get some of their extroversion from their parents. Lykken and Tellegen in 1996 carried out their famous study involving 1400 twins and found that extroversion is partly inherited. So, if your parents are extroverts, you get passed on some of that to you.
5. Extroverts Store Stacks of ‘Golden Memories’
Extroverts remember their past in a far more positive light than others. They are collectors of “golden” memories.
In 2011, Ryan Howell found that “highly extroverted people are happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets.”
While the extroverts hold on tightly to their pleasant memories, the neurotics keep a more negative and less positive view of their pasts.
6. Extroverts’ Memories Cause A Stronger Effect
Extroverts have a shorter dopamine-mediated brain stimulation pathway. Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. Dopamine is released whenever we receive a reward (such as food, sex, a promotion, approbation, or victory).
The brains of extroverts produce a stronger dopamine response to their memories of rewards, as found by Depue and Fu in 2013.
7. Extroverts From Different Cultures Express Differently
Extroverts have a cultural correlation — people from various cultures can have different levels of extroversion. In an interesting 1995 study, Lynn and Martin tried to establish cultural correlations to extroversion.
They found that India, Nigeria, and the USA scored very high on extroversion. Britain and Canada scored slightly lower. China was the lowest on this extroversion scale. And the Chinese are the least extroverted people.
That is, country-specific cultures have an influence over how extroverted you are.
In her passionate TED talk, introvert Susan Cain argues that introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.
Extroverts vs. Introverts
Extroversion has ties to dopamine, adrenaline, energy-spending, and the sympathetic nervous system. While introversion is linked to the acetylcholine, energy-conserving, and parasympathetic nervous system.
Scans of brains found introverts and extroverts use different primary pathways for information processing.
The extrovert’s dopamine pathway is shorter and simpler, while the introvert’s acetylcholine pathway is longer and tortuous. That is why introverts often need more time to process the stimuli before they respond.
Introverts are highly observant and often catch what others are likely to miss, like the microexpressions on a friend’s face. Research shows they are also more likely to be riddled with anxiety.
How to spot an extrovert in a crowd?
The extroverts have a definite tell-tale pattern in their social behaviors. You can recognize them easily if you look for these 6 characteristics:
- Extroverts smile more.
- They look at others more.
- They place themselves nearer to you.
- Extroverts speak in loud and high-pitched voices.
- They make an effort to find out things about you.
- Extroverts are energetic and high spirited.
Extroverts use words that relate to people and social processes. This study analyzed Facebook status updates from more than 66,000 users and reported that extroverts post statuses that are more likely to acknowledge the existence of other people, such as party, girls, tonight, amazing, love.
Thorne, in 1987, carried out an interesting experiment. He put two extroverts together and found they were soon trying to learn about each other by asking questions and paying compliments.
In a reverse experiment, when he put pairs of introverts together, they sat there in absolute silence.
So, extroverts are happier than introverts. But, as we talk about extroverts and their perpetual state of happiness, you must realize that introverts are also happy — in their own ways.
It’s just the type of happiness – the effusive, the declarative, and the socially exuberant type of happiness – that makes the extroverts score more in the studies by psychologists as well as in the minds of common people.
Happiness can also be found in serenity, equanimity, placidity, and tranquility.
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