The Big Five Super Trait: Extraversion
The extraversion–introversion dimension is of of the “super traits” in the Big Five model of personality. The dimension reflects where you direct your energies, and what you find rewarding. If you prefer being with other people and connecting to the outside world, or if you prefer being alone with your thoughts and engaging in activities you can do on your own. External Stimuli vs. Internal Stimuli is another way of putting it.
The other four major dimensions of personality are:
You can get an idea of your level of extraversion through the following questions?
- What do you spend your time and attention on, and where do you get your motivation from?
- Do you like to engage with people and joined activities?
- Are you a doer rather than a thinker?
- Do you like action better than introspection?
- Do people often think you’re impulsive?
Extraverts tend to direct their energies outwards, towards people and the outside world. They are expressive and impulsive. People often have the impression that they’re loud or pushy. They get their motivation from external activities and from people.
Does that sound like you?
The Advantages of Extraverts
- Studies show that extraverts are happier. This doesn’t mean that introverts are sad or depressed. It only showed that extraverts more easily experience positive emotions from lesser stimuli than introverts.
- They are generally viewed as more desirable in Western societies.
- In some jobs, such as sales, public relations, and marketing, extraverts are preferred. · They are seen as a people-persons, which they are, and people naturally gravitate towards them.
- They establish relationships faster and are easier to get along with.
- At work, they get promoted faster since extraverts are perceived as skilled and action-oriented.
- It’s good to have one on your team. They are born leaders.
- They have more friends, and therefore, more social support.
Extraversion vs Introversion
The traits Extraversion and Introversion has been around a long time in Psychology. It was originally coined by Carl Jung. However, it was the work of Gerard Haymans which identified Extraversion as a dimension rather than a type. He described as a single continuum, meaning that you can’t be an extravert or an introvert at the same level, at the same time. If you’re high in one, you will automatically be low in the other.
We all have both of these traits. Sometimes, we are in the mood to party. But sometimes, we also prefer some quiet time. What you prefer doing more often helps you identify which personality dimension is stronger in you.
Most people think that to be an extravert is to be a social creature, and to be an introvert is to be shy – these are narrow descriptions. There’s more to the traits than that. Extraverts prefer social situations than introverts because they find it more rewarding, and not because they are more sociable. They are more sensitive to the rewards offered by those situations.
Both extraverts and introverts get benefits from social interaction. However, the extraverts get more satisfaction and the pleasant feelings will push them to do it more frequently. The key is in what a person finds more emotionally satisfying. Extraverts are drawn to the rewards of emotional bonding, affection, approval and warmth of a crowd. If they find themselves in an unrewarding social situation, they will avoid it too. If the right rewards factors are not present, they will not be as interested.
The Genetic Connection
According to a study by genetic specialist, Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, our tendency for extraversion is genetic. In extraverts, the gene D4RD is longer and less sensitive to dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brain responsible for feelings of excitement and motivation. This is the reason why extraverts need a lot more external stimuli to maintain their drive, as compared to introverts who have shorter D4RD and find too much external stimuli overwhelming.
Another study showed that the amount of blood that passes through certain areas of the brain determines extraversion/introversion. Extraverts have more blood flowing through their temporal lobes, the part of the brain involved with emotional and sensory experience. Introverts have more blood flow on their frontal lobes, the area that deals with problem solving and internal processing.
The 6 Facets of Extraversion
Facets further specify the sub-traits of Extraversion, which is only a broad summary of one personality trait. Like all of the Big Five super traits, it has 6 facets:
High Score – Tends to be friendly and shows interest in other people.
Low Score – Tends to be reserved and does not open up to people immediately.
High Score – Enjoys and prefers the company of others rather than solitude.
Low Score – Prefers a small group of trusted people and quiet time alone.
High Score – Likes to be popular / Expresses themselves forcefully.
Low Score – Prefers not to be the center of attention. Keeps thoughts and feelings to themselves.
4. Activity Level
High Score – Thrives in large social gatherings such as parties. More prone to boredom when alone.
Low Score – Prefers solitary activities such as reading, fishing, writing, computer games, etc.
5. Excitement Seeking
High Score – Seeks novelty and needs external stimuli.
Low Score – Prefers activities that are low-key. Self-sufficient. Finds too much stimulation overwhelming.
6. Positive Emotions
High Score – Has a higher tendency to experience positive emotions, even when alone. Easily pleased. Attracts more life circumstances which leads to more positive effects.
Low Score –Does not feel rewarded by external stimuli. Gets their rewards from reflective activities. Requires more positive reinforcement to be happy.
What your score means
People who score high on Extraversion are usually:
- More focused on the outside world – either people or things.
- Friendly and talkative.
- The life of the party.
- Energetic and enthusiastic.
- Having a positive outlook, most of the time.
- Acts first, thinks later.
- Communicates openly. Accessible and has no trust issues.
- Would prefer action to thought.
- Loves variety and excitement.
- Gets their motivation from other people.
- Popular and the Leader of a group.
- Assertive. Speaks their minds.
- Thrives when working with other people. A team-player.
- Easy to get along with. A people-person.
- Cheerful. Easily pleased. · More stable in their moods.
- Highly adaptable.
- Called Shallow.
People who score low on Extraversion often have the following qualities:
- Thoughtful / Introspective / Likes to reflect.
- Interested in self-discovery.
- Feels overwhelmed when overstimulated.
- Chooses friends and companions.
- Highly self-aware.
- Reserved when in front of unfamiliar people. Opens up with friends and family.
- A private person. Keeps emotions to themselves.
- Learns though observation.
- Prefers relationships with more depth, rather than breadth.
- Thinks before they speak. · Loves to understand concepts and ideas.
- Usually self-sufficient.
- Prefers quiet activities rather than those involving a large unfamiliar crowd.
- May seem shy
What is more dominant in you?
We’ve mentioned that we all exhibit Extraversion and Introversion behavior. It is possible that you may be a mix of both. You may be an extravert in one situation, and then switch to being an introvert in another situation. This is called “Free Trait”, which means that an individual may behave against their first nature when they need to advance a goal or achieve something. The only knowledge you’ll gain from a test is finding out which trait is more dominant.
Are you more of an extravert than an introvert? Take this test and find out: Are you an Extravert or Introvert?
Agreeing to disagree
Extraverts prefer other extraverts as friends, while introverts are able to forge friendships with both personality types. To extraverts, most people are just like them, since the people they mix with do exhibit the same preferences and behavior. It’s very seldom that they understand why people prefer being alone. Introverts are often called on to defend their need for quiet and solitude.
Now that you’ve heard both sides, you now understand that loud and assertive extroverts are not always shallow, and quiet introverts are not always shy. They just get their satisfaction from different things.
Whichever dimension is stronger in your personality, remember that you can act against your nature if it’s proving to be a detriment to your happiness and well-being. Do something or act a certain way often enough, and it will become second nature to you in due time.
- American Psychological Association: What makes an extravert extraverted?
- NEO Personality Inventory
- Personality Project: Extraversion
- About.com: What is Introversion?
- Wikipedia: Extraversion and Introversion
Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are
How is your personality? Read more about the extraversion–introversion dimension and the four other so-called "Super Traits" of human personality in the book "Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are" by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor.
Get the Book today