Archive for January 21st, 2008

Can higher income and higher job satisfaction be tied back to cheerfulness in college?

That appears to be the case if you believe research conducted several years ago.

The researchers looked at answers to a survey given by more than 13,000 freshman college students who entered college in 1976. Nineteen years later the researchers looked at how their lives had turned out, specifically looking at their incomes, job satisfaction and unemployment history.

Cheerfulness (or a positive outlook) generally has a positive effect on income. The better the outlook, the higher the income. Those with a more positive attitude also had less incidents of unemployment.

Why the connection?

Researchers think several dynamics are at play. First, they say cheerfulness may have a motivational element. They say that happier individuals may be more likely to anticipate success and so are more willing to tackle difficult or challenging tasks. Potential setbacks don’t have the same negative impact on them compared to other people. That may be especially useful in work environments as their “can do” attitude translates into better performance and greater rewards.

Second cheerful people may have more social skills and be more adept at the interpersonal dynamics at play in a job. Individuals with a pleasant or upbeat personality may also be offered more desirable positions or be more successful at persuading others.

A third possibility may be that upbeat people also may get more favorable performance ratings. A “halo effect” may occur where an overall general impression creeps into evaluations of specific behaviors.

The research leads to an intriguing question. If income levels can be predicted based on one’s attitude in college, should students seek out a personality/attitude survey that might give them some early feedback? While income should not be the sole criteria for a happy and successful life, it does matter. An early tool may help students evaluate their mindset before jumping into a competitive job market.

Source: Dispositional Effect and Job Outcomes. Ed Diener, Carol Nickerson, Richard E. Lucas, Ed Sandvik. Social Sciences Research.59, 229-259.



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