Does Your Negative Personality Have a Silver Lining?

A recent study reveals that we can all boost our personalities by performing a relatively simple mental trick on ourselves.

The study, led by Alexandra Wesnousky from New York University, suggests that something as simple as believing there is a ’silver lining’ to our negative characteristic is all it takes to improve that characteristic.

So, for instance, if you’re a generally pessimistic person, you might regard a positive aspect of this character trait that it makes you a more realistic individual than your more optimistic peers.

Every cloud has a silver lining

The study, which Wesnousky published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, discovered that convincing ourselves of this silver lining had some impressive consequences.  For instance, participants who believed their impulsive behaviour was contributing to their creativity were actually a lot more creative in a test given to them during the experiment.

“People know that a weakness can also be a strength, but these results show that if we actually believe it, we can use these beliefs to our advantage,” Wesnousky said.

About the research

A number of experiments were conducted to try and gauge the full impact these silver lining beliefs could have on us.  For instance, one saw participants complete a survey that assessed their unique personalities.  It was specifically on the hunt for perceived negative character traits that could also have a positive spin on them.

It emerged that most participants found this pretty easy to do.  A second experiment then tested the direct link between impulsiveness and creativity.

Participants were split into two groups, with each group containing a mixture of people who described themselves as impulsive and those who did not.  In one group however, participants were manipulated into thinking that they were much more impulsive than they really were.

These people were told that there was a strong link, proven by research, that impulsive behaviour was linked to creativity.  Those in the other group however were told that no such link existed.  The reality is that no such link had even been shown to exist (until this study anyway).

The results revealed that when people endorsed the connection between creativity and impulsiveness they ended up performing much better on a creativity test than the group who were told that the link was bunkum.

Does the silver lining apply across all traits?

Now, of course, it has to be said that the research only tested for a link between creativity and impulsiveness, so it isn’t clear whether the silver lining also applies to other character traits that are largely thought of as negative.

For instance could lazy people be tricked into thinking of themselves as patient, or pessimistic people as realistic?  Maybe the over analytical amongst us are really thorough, or the shy people in our midst actually modest?

Of course, it doesn’t really matter if these are actually true, merely that we believe them to be so.  That’s all it seems to take for the silver lining to work its magic.

Image: Campaign Asia




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