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Do Introverts Really Have Less Fun?

New research traces whether introverts can squeeze joy out of their daily lives.

Finding joy in everyday experiences is an important way to keep yourself stressless and carefree. It may be something as simple as a young relative taking your hand as you walk down a hallway. That immediate boost helps shine a little light on your day. Known as an “uplift” in the psychological literature, such events are known to help reduce stress. Uplifts can counteract the effects of “hassles,” which are equally small events that, through wear and tear, can impact your mental and physical health.
As described in a new study by Pennsylvania State University’s Natasha DeMeo and colleagues (2023), “uplifts and hassles not only make up the topography of daily life…but these experiences… have implications for health and well-being” (p. 355). Importantly, though, people differ in their propensity to and resistance to such impacts.
Why Introverts Might Have Fewer Uplifts
Previous research has established that extraverts seek out and relish joyful experiences, even those tiny ones that qualify as uplifts. Introverts, with their greater inner focus, may be less likely to take advantage of these stress-buffering effects. However, they may also be more affected by hassles. Laboratory studies provide compelling evidence that introverts show greater emotional and physiological reactivity to external stressors. They may also be less likely to see themselves as successful copers and even take a bleaker view of a stressful situation than people high in extraversion. These self-perceptions, seen as critical in the so-called “cognitive” model of stress, can further exacerbate the deleterious effects of stress on health.
The Penn State authors note that, despite the strength of these prior studies, they may fail to capture the nuances of the personality–stress relationship. A lab study is useful for experimentation purposes, it but lacks the so-called “external validity” of seeing how people react in the context of their daily lives. Furthermore, prior studies rely on people’s memories for their hassles and uplifts, making the data subject to a retrospective bias. You can appreciate this problem if you think about the way you recall an event from several days or even hours ago. The details fade and, worse, become colored by the emotions the event arises after the fact.
Testing the Personality–Stress Link
Taking the approach that hassles and uplifts are best studied as they occur in real time, DeMeo and her collaborators used the method known as “ecological momentary assessment” (EMA). Their 242 participants ranging in age from 25 to 65 years lived in housing development in the Bronx and were part of a larger study on aging through which the EMA data were collected. Racially and ethnically diverse, nearly two-thirds were non-Hispanic Black, and a quarter were Hispanic; three-quarters either had a college degree or had at least some college courses.
Each participant was beeped through a smartphone app five times a day for 14 days. At each assessment, they reported on “any event, even a minor one, which affected [the participant] in a positive way.” If they did report an uplift, follow-up questions asked them to rate its intensity on a 1-to-100 scale. To measure introversion, the Penn State researchers administered a standard 10-item questionnaire, and the research team also measured hassles at the same time as they assessed uplifts.
The sample appeared relatively fortunate in the sense of experiencing relatively few hassles (less than 1 per day on average) and on the 0-to-100 scale, the average hassle amounted to about 67 points in intensity. Also fortunately for the sample, they reported about 19 uplifts over the 14-day period, and these qualified for a rating of nearly 80 in intensity.
Although prior research indicated a tendency for introverts to derive less joy out of their days, DeMeo et al.’s analyses hinged on the findings with respect to uplifts, based on the idea that introverts would be less sensitive to rewards. Consistent with prediction, those scoring higher on introversion reported fewer uplifts on a daily basis and they rated those uplifts as less enjoyable than did their less introverted counterparts. In round numbers, this amounted to only 15 uplifts over the two weeks that were rated as 76 rather than 79 out of 100.
Introversion alone, however, wasn’t the only factor affecting uplift ratings. When neuroticism, depression, and anxiety were taken into account, the effect of introversion remained only for frequency of uplifts, not intensity.
In terms of predictions regarding the ways that introverts would perceive their own coping abilities, the finding did emerge of a tendency for them to regard “miscellaneous” hassles (i.e., not specific to situations such as finances or traffic) as higher in intensity. As the authors concluded, “we found some preliminary evidence of person-environment interactions—where the occurrence or experience of an event depends on the characteristics of both the situation and the person” (p. 361). In other words, whether people high in introversion believe an event to be a hassle may be specific to the given situation and the match between the way they see themselves and the nature of the hassle itself.
How Introverts Can Extract More Joy From Life
As the Penn State study suggests, people who tend to focus on their inner life appear to be more resistant to the possibility that an ordinary experience, however small, could produce a rush of positive feelings. Although the authors didn’t explore this particular line of reasoning, it may very well be that this focus on an inner state may not only inoculate them from hassles but also stand in the way of the simple pleasures that are so much a part of everyday life.
Given the high stakes in terms of mental and physical health associated with achieving a favorable pleasure–pain balance, the DeMeo results suggest that it would be worth the effort for people high in introversion to find ways to let the sun shine in on a more frequent basis.
To sum up, successful coping is more than a matter of fending off the bad. Finding joy in the seemingly insignificant experiences in life can help build not only resilience but also fulfillment.

psychology today

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Can Thinking About Change Help You Actually Change?

New research examines how beliefs about change affect psychological growth.

When you think about yourself over the course of your life, which features stand out as having changed the most? Projecting into the future, what aspects of yourself would you like most to change? Perhaps you’ve struggled your entire life with feelings of low self-confidence. You’d like to think, though, that as you get older and pack more experiences under your belt, you could become better able to appreciate your strengths. Like the “Little Engine That Could,” do you “think you can”?
Personality and Beliefs About Change
Norwegian Business School's Adrian Furnham and Hogan Assessment Systems' Ryne Sherman (2023) ask the question, “We all want to believe that we can change (for the better), but are we deluded?” (p. 1). This drive for self-improvement can lead people to turn to unreliable sources, according to Furnham and Sherman, but it may also underlie the desire to seek help through psychotherapy or other change-focused treatments.
However, as you might imagine, the belief in upward growth throughout life doesn’t reside equally in everyone. That “little engine” is definitely an optimist. Indeed, the research team maintains that optimism in its many forms (religious, political, and personality) would be the main driver of an eternally sunny view of one’s own future.
Another factor that can influence your beliefs about future change is the perception that you have already changed. For example, if you see yourself as growing over time in self-confidence, however minimal, this could be enough to give you a basis for believing that trajectory will only grow over time.
As Furnham and Sherman point out, however, there can be a difference in your thoughts about future change based on the inventory you take of your various attributes. If you’ve always been punctual, you might not expect much to change in this quality, a belief that corresponds to previous research on changes in the trait of conscientiousness over adulthood. In the area of health, though, you may be convinced that change will occur, and the odds are that it will, given increases in chronic diseases over the adult years. If you’re an optimist, though, you may decide that your health doesn’t have to change if you are able to commit yourself to a regimen of better daily habits.
How Change Beliefs Actually Change
Using a sample of 510 adults (equally divided between male and female, average age 40 years), Furnham and Sherman first asked participants to rate their degree of religious beliefs, extent of political conservatism, and tendencies to be optimists. These simple questions were followed by a more extensive set of items concerning their beliefs about whether change is possible (on a 0–10 scale) in such attributes as personality, appearance, health, ambitiousness, IQ, education, hobbies, posture, height, and body shape (BMI). You might put yourself in the place of the participants here and see what your views would be.
For the next part of the study, participants rated themselves on the changes they’ve perceived in themselves over the past 10 years. Again, think about where you would come out on 0-to-10 rating in such qualities as habits, beliefs, personality, health, appearance, self-confidence, and the overall quality of “emotional intelligence” (people skills).
Adding to the mix, the research team also asked participants to rate what’s called a “mindset,” another way of approaching beliefs about personal change, In the fixed mindset, you are convinced that you’ll be the way you are now forever, but in the growth mindset, improvement is forever possible.
The final set of questions simply asked whether the respondent believes that counseling or therapy can work, whether it’s possible to change from an introvert to an extravert, and whether people become nicer/kinder as they get older. Based on some of Furman’s own musings, you might agree that these are certainly interesting questions to ponder.
Turning to the findings, participants gave the highest ratings for change beliefs in the areas of physical health, wealth, and emotional intelligence and the lowest ratings to height, religious beliefs, and punctuality. How do these compare with your own views? When it came to thinking about past changes, participants generally saw themselves as changing almost across the board, except in the area of beliefs. Almost three-quarters thought they would grow in emotional intelligence. In those general questions about change, two-thirds thought that therapy can work, but few believed that an introvert could become an extravert.
Taking on the “Changophilic” Mentality
As expected, Furnham and Sherman observed a positive correlation between the optimism item and the majority of the change belief items. However, self-esteem also factored into the equation such that it was the optimistic people who already thought more highly of themselves who were most convinced that they were capable of changing.
Altogether, as noted by the research team, a group of people in the study fit the category of what they somewhat humorously labeled “changophiles,” based on the high intercorrelation among all of their change beliefs. Potentially a new mindset factor, it would be this approach to life that could help people look at their future glass as being half-, or maybe three-quarters, full rather than steadily emptying.
In terms of the favorable attitudes participants showed toward the possibility of change through psychotherapy, there actually is a potential downside that the authors note. Being “naively optimistic” (p. 5) about what therapy can and cannot do could ironically predict failure. These high hopes could lead you to expect some kind of magical transformation instead of being prepared for the work that therapy can entail.
Left unanswered in this study, as Furnham and Sherman note, is the question of where people get the ideas that bolster their change beliefs. In part, this may be accounted for by religiosity, which was predictive of change beliefs, but, other than that, the present research couldn’t go much farther. Similarly, the question remains of whether people see changes as potentially long-lasting. You could perhaps imagine yourself reducing your weight to restore what’s considered a healthy BMI, but “often there is a clear return to the original BMI” (p. 6).
To sum up, being able to identify your own change beliefs can be a worthwhile exercise in and of itself. Reflecting on how you’ve changed so far can inform this process, but so can taking a page from the high self-esteem/high optimism group. Thinking about yourself as getting better in the future could potentially lead to the types of changes that can make these thoughts a reality.

psychology today

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The Secret Behaviors That Make People Likable

How to impress others in initial encounters.

We meet someone — a stranger – and we immediately form an impression of that person. Often, we make a snap decision: “I like that person,” or “I really don’t care for them.” This important initial judgment can affect not only how we feel about the person, but whether we continue to interact with them, whether we want to develop a friendship or dating relationship, or, in the case of a hiring interview, whether the person gets the job.
Social psychological research suggests that there are certain behaviors that can strongly affect our initial impressions of strangers. In one study (Dufner & Krause, 2023), unacquainted young adults met in small groups and then spent a short amount of time interacting with each group member one-on-one. After each meeting, they rated how likable they found each stranger — whether they would like to get to know them and become friends with them. Trained observers watched each interaction and coded them for “agentic” and “communal” behaviors. Agentic behaviors are those that show confidence, dominance, and are slightly boastful. Communal behaviors include being polite, warm, friendly, and benevolent.
As far as initial likability, strangers who displayed high levels of both agentic and communal behaviors were better liked. However, when it came to establishing a deeper connection, it was only the communal behavior that predicted whether people wanted to form a friendship with the stranger. This makes sense. In an initial encounter, we may be impressed with people who are confident and proud/boastful. An air of confidence can increase liking. On the other hand, communal behavior – being warm, friendly, and polite – is strongly appealing and we want to get to know people better if they are warm, friendly, and seem to care.
Nonverbal Cues of Likability
In our own research, we found that in initial encounters with strangers, expressive body language led to greater liking. However, we also found a sex difference, such that men who were expressive with their bodies via posture and head movements were better liked, while women who were expressive with their facial expressions were most liked (Riggio & Friedman, 1986). We also found that nonverbally expressive people were better liked, and perceived as more attractive potential dating partners (Riggio, Widaman, Tucker, & Salinas, 1991).
So, what should someone do to increase their likability when meeting strangers? Try your best to appear warm and friendly, but it is also important to bring expressive energy to the encounter. Show that you are interested. Exude positive affect/emotions and a slight air of confidence. Demonstrate that you care about the other person by being a good listener. Let people know something about you, and show that you are proud of the positive things that you have accomplished.

psychology today


13 Questions That Measure “Flow Proneness” in Daily Life

Take this 13-item survey to learn if you are prone to flow.

In 1975, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced the concept of flow in his groundbreaking book, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play. From the outset, he was interested in identifying why some people are more prone to having flow-state experiences than others, which led to a focus on "autotelics."
What Does It Mean to Be Autotelic?
Autotelic means "an activity or creative work that has an end or purpose in and of itself." Autotelics are people with autotelic personality traits. So-called "autotelics" find purpose and pleasure solely in the process of doing an activity, regardless of external rewards or accolades.

Csikszentmihalyi's early research cultivated his theory that autotelics are more likely to experience flow and to experience flow states more intensely than those who don't have an autotelic personality. For autotelics, losing oneself in the flow zone is often an autotelic experience, regardless of the activity.

In a 2012 paper about how the Big Five personality traits relate to people's proneness for experiencing flow in everyday life, Csikszentmihalyi and co-authors concluded that "Flow proneness is associated with low neuroticism and high conscientiousness."

Autotelic Personality Traits Are Back in the Spotlight
In 2023, almost 50 years after the concept of "flow proneness" was introduced, two psychologists in Norway unveiled a 13-item questionnaire that measures people's proneness for flow-state experiences in daily life based on autotelic traits.

Magdalena Elnes and Hermundur Sigmundsson of NTNU's department of psychology call their new test the General Flow Proneness Scale (Elnes and Sigmundsson, 2023). This 13-item scale for assessing flow proneness was published on February 20 in the open-access journal SAGE Open.

According to the authors, "Our General Flow Proneness Scale is a self-report questionnaire with 13 items focusing on preference for challenge, ability [to balance] skills and challenges, frequent flow experiences, and development of interests." In a March 2023 news release, Sigmundsson said that the survey "is easy to administer and can be used in several different contexts."
For their recent study on flow proneness in daily life, Elnes and Sigmundsson had 228 people between 18-76 years of age complete the survey below:

The 13-Item General Flow Proneness Scale
I enjoy challenging tasks/activities that require a lot of focus.
When I'm focused on a task/activity, I tend to forget my surroundings (other people, time, and place).
I usually experience a good flow when I do something (things are neither too easy nor too difficult for me).
I have several different areas of interest.
It's difficult for me to quit or walk away from a project I'm currently working on.
I become stressed in the face of difficult/challenging tasks.
It's difficult for me to maintain concentration over time.
I quickly become tired of the things I do.
I am usually satisfied with the results of my efforts across various tasks (I experience feelings of mastery).
I often forget to take a break when I focus on something.
I get bored easily.
My daily tasks are exhausting rather than stimulating.
I develop an interest in most things I do in life.
How would you respond to these 13 prompts? When over 200 Norwegian study participants responded to this 13-item scale, Elnes and Sigmundsson asked each person to choose which numbered items described them best. Respondents also rated their feelings about each line item using a 1 to 5 Likert scale (1 = Strongly disagree, 5 = Strongly agree).

"The goal was to test whether flow proneness could be limited to specific characteristics of the autotelic personality, including deep concentration ability or attentional control, perception and adjustment of challenge, in addition to the development of interests and enjoyment," the authors explain their paper's discussion section.

Flow Proneness and Autotelic Personality Traits Go Hand in Hand
The latest (2023) study on flow proneness suggests that Csikszentmihalyi was definitely onto something when he posited in 1975 that "autotelics" are more prone to experiencing flow than people who don't have autotelic personality traits.

In their paper's conclusion, Elnes and Sigmundsson write, "Our current research can be considered important within the literature on the topic of flow, and the field of positive psychology in general, and may be used in future studies for the exploration of the autotelic personality."

The authors note that more evidence is needed to support the validity of their recently unveiled General Flow Proneness Scale. In closing, they encourage people to use the 13 prompts as a tool that sheds light on how certain autotelic personality traits can help individuals increase their flow proneness in daily life.

Reference : 
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