What Is Extroversion?

How Extroversion Influences Behavior

Extroverts
Extroverts gain energy from social interactions. Portra Images / Taxi / Getty Images

In the big 5 theory of personality, extroversion (often known as extraversion) is one of the five core traits believed to make up human personality. Extroversion is characterized by sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and excitability.

People who are high in extroversion tend to seek out social stimulation and opportunities to engage with others. These individuals are often described as being full of life, energy and positivity.

In group situations, extroverts (extraverts) are likely to talk often and assert themselves.

Introverts, on the other hand, are people who are low in extroversion. They tend to be quiet, reserved and less involved in social situations. It is important to note that introversion and shyness are not the same thing. People low in extroversion are not afraid of social situations, they simply prefer to spend more time alone and do not need as much social stimulation.

Extroverts are often unfairly pegged as overly-talkative or attention-seeking. In reality, they simply gain energy from engaging in social interaction. People who are high in extroversion need social stimulation to feel energized. They gain inspiration and excitement from talking and discussing ideas with other people.

Common Extroversion Traits

Extroversion is often marked by a number of different sub-traits. Some include:

  • Warmth
  • Seeking novelty and excitement
  • Gregariousness
  • Assertiveness
  • Cheerfulness
  • Talkativeness
  • Enjoys being the center of attention
  • Action-oriented
  • Friendly
  • Engaging

What Causes Extroversion?

The exact reason why people tend to be more extroverted or more introverted has been the subject of considerable debate and research in psychology. As with many such debates, the question tends to boil down to two key contributors: nature or nurture.

  • Extroversion clearly has a strong genetic component. Twin studies suggest that genetics contribute somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of the variance between extroversion and introversion.
  • Environment can also have an impact. Sibling studies have suggested that individual experiences carry greater weight than do shared experiences in families.
  • Some researchers including Hans Eysenck have suggested that the variability in this trait might be linked to differences in cortical arousal. Extroverts tend to need more external stimulation while introverts tend to become stimulated very easily.

Extroversion and Behavior

How does extroversion impact our behavior? Researchers have found that being high in this personality trait is linked to a number of different tendencies. In addition to contributing to our personalities, this trait may also play a role in the type of career that we end up choosing.

According to researchers, extroversion is associated with leadership behavior. Since extroverts are more likely to assert themselves in groups, it makes sense that these individuals often take on leadership roles when working with other people.

Research has also shown that extroverts are less likely to experience anxiety over negative feedback. Those high in extroversion are often described as having a very positive outlook on life as well as being friendly, energetic and highly adaptable. All of these tendencies can serve a person well, particularly in certain social situations.

As you might imagine, high levels of extroversion can be particularly well suited to jobs that require a great deal of interaction with other people. Teaching, sales, marketing, public relations, and politics are all jobs in which an extrovert might to well.

Introverts prefer less social interaction so jobs that require lots of independent work are often ideal. Writing, computer programming, engineering, and accounting are all jobs that might appeal to a person low in extroversion.

How Common Is Extroversion?

While it might seem like everyone in your circle of friends and acquaintances is more extroverted that you, recent research actually indicates that extroversion is less common than previously thought. In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers found that extroverts tend to be overrepresented in social networks. Because outgoing, popular people tend to have a lot of friends, they are disproportionately represented in social networks.

“If you’re more extraverted, you may really have a skewed view of how extraverted other people are in general,” explained researcher Daniel C. Feiler of Darmouth University. “If you’re very introverted you might actually have a pretty accurate idea.”

The researchers also suggested that there are two key factors that determine who people become friends with. Extroverts tend to be very sociable, making them more likely to form new friendships than introverts. People also tend to form friendships with people with similar levels of extroversion as themselves.

While extroverts are more likely to become friends with other extroverts, introverts tend to forge relationships with both introverts and extroverts. To extroverts, it seems like most people are also extroverted because that personality trait is overrepresented among their group of friends and acquaintances. Introverts, however, might have a better grasp on the true structure of social networks.

References

Feiler, D.C., & Kleinbaum, A.M. (2015). Popularity, similarity, and the network extraversion bias. Psychological Science, 26(5), 593-603.  doi: 10.1177/0956797615569580.

Fremont, T., Means, G. H., & Means, R. S. (1970). Anxiety as a function of task performance feedback and extraversion introversion. Psychological Reports ,27,455-458.

Hogan, R., Johnson, J. & Briggs, S. (Eds.) (1997). Handbook of personality psychology. California: Academic Press.

Tellegen, A., Lykken, D.T., Bouchard, T.J., Wilcox, K.J., Segal, N.L., & Rich, S (1988). Personality similarity in twins reared apart and together. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1031–9. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1031

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