People behave differently from one moment to the next and thus are frequently behaving ‘out of character’ or counter to their dispositions. Previous research exploring acting out of character indicated that acting extraverted was associated with increases in positive affect for both trait introverts and trait extraverts, whereas acting introverted was associated with cognitive control costs, but only for trait extraverts. These asymmetrical negative consequences can be partially explained by counter-dispositional behaviour as it may consume mental resources through monitoring and modifying
behaviour. I proposed that previous research exploring counter-dispositional behaviour has neglected the importance of situational effects. Research demonstrates that contra-normative behaviour is depleting. Previous findings of costs for acting ‘out of character’ were limited to when behaviour was also incongruent with situational norms. Thus, I extended this line of inquiry by using the acting paradigm in introverted situations. I posited that there would be negative costs associated with acting extraverted, as it was contra-situational. I also posited that there would be even greater
costs for dispositional introverts as they were also behaving counter-dispositionally. In two studies, I created introverted situations and randomly assigned participants to one of three experimental conditions (act extraverted, act introverted or control condition). In study 1 (N = 158), participants in the acting extraverted condition reported more positive affect, enjoyment, valence, and authenticity. Furthermore, no effects of cognitive fatigue were found. Thus, the hypothesized costs of acting extraverted were not found. In study 2 (N = 85) acting instructions were modified to
highlight the positive features of introversion and the negative features of extraversion. Study 2 also employed naïve confederates so that feedback was uniform across conditions. Unlike previous acting studies, study 2 found no benefits for acting extraverted, but did find that participants reported the most effort and least authenticity when acting extraverted. Study 2 results suggest contra-situational costs, but these did not differ by disposition. Previous research and study 1 demonstrate benefits for acting extraverted and suggest that introverts may be happier by behaving
extraverted more often. Study 2 provides a critical caveat that this may not always be true.