How being happy changes your personality

Posted on February 10, 2014

Outgoing, conscientious, friendly people who are open to new experiences tend to be happier than those who are more shy, unadventurous, neurotic and unfriendly. It's easy to imagine why this might be so. Barely studied before now, however, is the possibility that being happy could also alter your future personality.

Christopher Soto has conducted the first thorough study of this question. He analysed personality and well-being results for 16,367 Australians surveyed repeatedly between 2005 and 2009. He was curious to see if personality measures at the study start were associated with particular patterns of well-being later on, and conversely, whether well-being at the start was associated with personality changes later on.

Soto replicated past findings for the influence of personality on well-being. But more exciting is that he found higher well-being at the study start was associated with various changes to personality. Happy people tended to become more agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable and introverted over time. This last finding - higher well-being leading to more introversion - was opposite to what was expected, given that higher extraversion usually leads to future happiness. Soto isn't sure of the reason happier people appear to become more introverted, but he speculated it may be because they no longer need to seek out new relationships.

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Source material from British Psychological Society

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