Posts filed under ‘Personality’

The Secret To Happiness

The American Dream tells us we are free to pursue happiness, but doesn’t give us instructions. ¬†Even life-changing events such as winning the lottery have been shown (Brickman 1978) to only increase happiness in the short-term.

The secret to long term happiness is a concept that seems too sacred to be studied and dissected. However, many researchers devote themselves to this topic, and this paper by Sheldon and Lyubomirsky presents a nice theory about sustainable happiness.

This elusive goal is difficult, and may be impossible. Many past studies have shown that each person has a base level of happiness which they can only deviate from temporarily. Even more unfortunate, is that this base level of happiness is 50-80% inherited.

The researchers in this paper divided events that increase your well-being into: activity changes (intentional acts such as exercising) and circumstantial changes (such as being assigned a great roommate). They performed 3 studies on psychology students who had recently experienced an increase in well-being. These studies showed that sustainable happiness was only possible through activity changes. Intentional changes resulted in a bigger boost in happiness and more varied experiences.

After a period of time, those who experienced the increase in well-being because of an activity change retained their increase more than those who experienced the increase because of a circumstantial change. The ones who became happier by chance became accustomed to the change and were no longer affected by it.

There is no shortcut — effort and hard work are the best route to happiness.

Sheldon, K & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving sustainable gains in happiness: Change your actions, not your circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 55 – 86. [PDF]

Edit by Jeff Huang

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September 29, 2008 at 3:14 am 49 comments

Do Opposites Attract or Do People Look For Similar Partners?

“Opposites attract” is the common response when you see a contrasting couple — a tall woman and a short man, or a party person with a quiet introvert. Yet we all know couples who have the similar personalities — they like the same restaurants or are both neat freaks. So are people attracted to those unlike themselves to complement their personalities, or do people seek out a partner just like themselves because it’s positively reinforcing?

It turns out, neither hypothesis is true. A study of 36 couples found that there was no significant inter-personality similarity or differences. However, a two interesting findings emerged:

  1. People had partners who were similarly self-satisfied with themselves
  2. People’s perceptions of their partners were biased towards their ideal self

In other words, someone who was low self-esteem has a higher likelihood of having a partner with low self-esteem, while someone who is self-liking will look for a partner who also likes who they are. To elaborate on the second finding, there was no correlation between each individual partner’s personalities, but there was a correlation between a person’s ideal self-concept, and the perception they had of their partner. So if you aspire to be organized, you may believe that your partner is more organized than he or she really is.

Opposites Attract

Klohnen, E. C. & Mendelsohn, G. A. (1998). Partner Selection for Personality Characteristics: A Couple-Centered Approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(3), 268-278.

August 25, 2007 at 7:35 pm 24 comments

People Take on the Traits They Describe in Others

Spontaneous trait transference is a phenomenon where people are perceived as possessing a trait that they describe in others. Telling others that your math professor is lazy will cause them to infer that you are lazy. This works the other way too — describing positive attributes about your friend may ascribe you those attributes as well.

Several experiments showed that people will associate personality traits to communicators mindlessly without logical rational. They also have a poor recollection of whether the communicator was describing themselves or someone else in a conversation.

So be careful when gossiping about a co-worker, lest you be seen as what you describe. And if you want to appear more charming, perhaps you could add that word to your vocabulary when talking about others.

As the old saying goes, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

Skowronski, J. J., Carlston, D. E., Mae, L., & Crawford, M. T. (1998). Spontaneous Trait Transference: Communicators Take on the Qualities They Describe in Others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(4), 837-848. [PDF]

October 12, 2006 at 1:48 pm 27 comments


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