Are You Naturally Envious?

A new study from researchers from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the universities of Barcelona, Rovira I Virgili, and Zaragoza, adds another personality assessment tool to the mix. The study, published August 5, 2016 in the journal Science Advances, identifies 4 basic personality types: Optimistic, Pessimistic, Trusting, and Envious.

pretty little brunette girl on black background frowning

The categories may call to mind certain preconceived associations, but they aren’t exactly what you think. Let’s explore.

And the Most Common Personality of All Is… 

Volunteers—541 of them—were presented with hundreds of social quandaries in which they had to choose an option. Options varied from collaboration or conflict to individual versus collective needs.

Co-author Anxo Sanchez explained: “Those involved are asked to participate in pairs, these pairs change, not only in each round, but also each time the game changes. So, the best option could be to cooperate or, on the other hand, to oppose or betray … In this way, we can obtain information about what people do in very different social situations.”

Researchers analyzed the responses using game theory, a branch of mathematics used to study human conflict and cooperation within a competitive situation. They applied a computer algorithm to the responses, which categorized 90% of participants into 4 personality types.

  • 20% were Optimistic: those who make the best decision for both them and their partner.
  • 20% were Pessimistic: those who make the decision they view as the lesser of two evils.
  • 20% were Trusting: those who are innately cooperative and don’t care if they win or lose as long as they collaborate.
  • 30% were Envious: those who aren’t attached to what they are achieving but just want to be better than everyone else.

As you can see by the results, the envious group was the most common! And then there’s the 10% of people who didn’t fall within one of these predictable categories, but were outliers whose responses couldn’t be measured in a determined way according to the 4 personality models.

“The results go against certain theories; the one which states that humans act purely rationally for example, and, therefore, they should be taken into consideration in redesigning social and economic policies, as well as those involved in cooperation,” said Yamir Moreno, from Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain.

Attitude of Gratitude

Researchers believe this study will help pave the way for more complex tests on human behavior.

Meanwhile, we know that tendencies such as pessimism and envy are harmful to our quality of life and to our long-term health. If you suspect you may fall into one of those categories, the fastest way to a healthier new mindset is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude—and it’s easier than you might think. Just start and end each day by making a list—on paper, out loud, or just with your thoughts—of every single thing you are thankful for in your life. Consider people, events, material items, meals, kind words, and even close calls that didn’t happen (like how you nearly tripped on the stairs but caught yourself!).

After a month of spending at least 5 or 10 minutes every morning and evening reflecting on all the goodness that surrounds you, you may be astonished at how grateful you truly feel!