This winter, Carleton students will have the chance to learn more about themselves – and what they find out about their personalities may surprise them. John Zelenski, a psychology professor and director of Carleton’s Happiness Laboratory, will be teaching PSYC 2600: Personality.

“This tour will take us from genes to culture – there’s a lot to consider,” Zelenski explained. Once students cover common methods for assessing personality, the course will show students how personality differences can be linked to important life outcomes, such as health, interpersonal relationships, crime, accomplishment and, of course, happiness.

photograph of John Zelenski

John Zelenski

“We all have personalities, and we all encounter some fascinating personalities in others,” he added.

Gaining the tools to best describe the ways that people differ from one another will be a main focus of the course. Zelenski, whose research in emotional psychology has been widely published in academic journals and respected news outlets, added that the course will help to make sense of the ways individuals are completely unique, while also acknowledging the ways we are all the same. As a broad introduction to the science of personality psychology, the course is ideal for all students of the social sciences or anyone who has had an introductory psychology course.

Zelenski’s take on personality psychology tries to integrate all of the various processes – including social, cognitive, and developmental psychologies – into coherent wholes, or “how all the parts of people come together to form a person,” as Zelenski put it.

Zelenski’s world class research conducted in the Happiness Lab will likely seep into the course’s content, as well, connecting happiness to personality, emotions, and even nature. “In my lab, we are interested in happiness as a long term phenomenon, such as a happy life, as well as the moment-to-moment variations in mood and emotions,” Zelenski explained.

Specializing in emotions, the psychology professor became fascinated with what accounted for the individual difference of introversion-extroversion. Specifically, he said, “much work in my lab has focused on trying to understand why, and when, extroverted behaviour produces positive emotions.”

When asked for advice for people who feel generally unhappy, stressed, or overwhelmed, Zelenski simply said that some of these feelings are normal but if it is extreme, he added, speaking with a friend of a counsellor is a good idea. Shortly after, Zelenski’s research in the ‘happy lab’ related to nature prompted a further suggestion. “We have observed many times that even a brief walk in nature, like along the river on campus, can reduce feelings of stress and increase pleasant emotions.”

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