John Tierney in The New York Times:
Do you make decisions quickly based on incomplete information? Do you lose your temper quickly? Are you easily bored? Do you thrive in conditions that seem chaotic to others, or do you like everything well organized?
Those are the kinds of questions used to measure novelty-seeking, a personality trait long associated with trouble. As researchers analyzed its genetic roots and relations to the brain’s dopamine system, they linked this trait with problems like attention deficit disorder, compulsive spending and gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse and criminal behavior. Now, though, after extensively tracking novelty-seekers, researchers are seeing the upside. In the right combination with other traits, it’s a crucial predictor of well-being. “Novelty-seeking is one of the traits that keeps you healthy and happy and fosters personality growth as you age,” says C. Robert Cloninger, the psychiatrist who developed personality tests for measuring this trait. The problems with novelty-seeking showed up in his early research in the 1990s; the advantages have become apparent after he and his colleagues tested and tracked thousands of people in the United States, Israel and Finland.