Friday, 12 December 2014

Why do friendly people usually lead happier lives?

High scorers on the personality trait of agreeableness are eager to please, concerned for others, and compliant to other perspectives. On average, they live happier lives too. A new study suggests a possible reason: when they have the chance, friendly people tend to avoid engaging with negative things.

The researchers, Konrad Bresin and Michael Robinson, began by asking participants to view a series of positive and negative images, spending as much time as they wanted on each one. Most people lingered longer on the nasty images, but participants high in agreeableness showed no such tendency. This effect persisted through two experiments involving around 200 student participants, and also generalised to another setup, where 73 participants had to indicate whether they would prefer to engage in a fun or unpleasant pastime. Examples included: an upbeat happy song or a slow sad one; a documentary profiling a famous entertainer or one on government corruption; or a lecture on how to bake a cake versus one on dissecting a body. Low-agreeableness participants were equally likely to go for a negative experience as a positive one, whereas the high agreeableness ones showed a strong preference for the positive: anthems, nation's sweethearts and shortbreads.

Although it's unlikely this finding would generalise to very negative situations, Bresin and Robinson argue that the bulk of real-life experiences tend to fall within more narrow boundaries - slightly nicer or less pleasant situations. And across many of these situations, people differing in agreeableness will fork out on more positive life routes. Previous research has looked at how people of different outlooks may respond to challenging events differently: when life gives you lemons, optimists make lemonade. This research suggests agreeable people are more likely to amble past lemon-groves into the orchard next door.


Bresin K, & Robinson MD (2014). You Are What You See and Choose: Agreeableness and Situation Selection. Journal of personality PMID: 25109246

Post written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.


Research Digest said...

Ignorance is bliss.

Research Digest said...

Indeed it is. For example, some people like to believe that the world sucks in general, and therefore that happy people are happy only because they're ignorant of How Things Really Are. This is false, but some people like to believe it anyway. It makes them feel special, on the inside. It helps them to excuse their perpetual cranky misanthropy. It makes them feel good - blissful, even.

Research Digest said...

another aspect may be that negative people may tend to be fatalistic and not take action to give up bad habits and improve their lives - positive people may tend to take appropriate action as a positive step to avoid problems and improve their lives, you know - like get regular checkups and follow doctors orders

I see this every day - most people seem to prefer to complain rather than actually do something to change things - that would be risky and involve personal responsibility - so many people will rant until the cows come home that 'someone should do something' - all the while avoiding the obvious - that they are someone - and probably best placed to know what to do to solve their problem

but hey - as a local volunteer - like the phone call I received last night - a woman I didn't know demanding to know why something had happened inside her unit (that she owned, that I wouldn't know about) - I should wear that t-shirt that says 'sure - let me drop everything - and work on Your problem'

Research Digest said...

it can also flow from chronic health problems - that make people cranky - and/or diet - like if I skip breakfast I'll get hypoglycemic and into a nasty argument with someone before 1030am - it happened yesterday !

Research Digest said...

I blame fairy tales

Research Digest said...

I don't see how they reached a conclusion involving life satisfaction. Perhaps the less agreeable people are life's problem solvers. Tackling difficult situations could cause more frustration and yet may turn out to be more satisfying.
for the other commenters I also want to share the observation that complaining about complainers is no less proactive.

Research Digest said...

Great post. This article is really very interesting and effective. I think its must be helpful and informative. Thanks for sharing your nice post .

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