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Researchers find power in seeing the ‘silver lining’ of negative personality traits

Associating one’s own negative trait with a related positive characteristic can increase productivity in that area, according to a New York University study.

In a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, NYU researchers detailed a series of experiements they conducted on the existence and power of the “silver lining theory,” or the idea that personality traits that may be seen as negative can also lead to an associated positive trait.

In the study, researchers first asked subjects if they believed in the “silver lining theory” — if negative attributes, such as being conceited, could also be seen as positive, such as having high self-esteem. The majority endorsed the theory.

In the second experiment, the subjects took a common personality test, the Barrett Impulsiveness Scale, and were split into two groups: impulsive and non-impulsive. Both groups were then split again and given one of two mock scientific articles: one article that claimed impulsiveness is tied to creativity, and another that refuted this idea. All participants were then given an object and asked to come up with as many different uses as possible in three minutes.

The group that was both impulsive and told that impulsiveness is linked to creativity outperformed the other impulsive group that was told there was no link. On the other side, the non-impulsive group that was told there was a link between the two traits underperformed compared to the other non-impulsive group.

While others may argue about what personality traits are considered positive or negative, believing that weakness can offer an advantage regardless.

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