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Extraversion: Nature, Development and Implications to Psychological Health and Work Life

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Abstract

Extroversion is a personality trait characterized by gregariousness, excitement-seeking, and positive affect. Sociability is also considered as an important part of extraversion, as persons that enjoy social activities prefer being with others than being alone (Lucas & Diener, 2001; Lucas & Fujita, 2000; Lucas et al., 2000). This chapter reviews current psychological studies on extraversion. The nature, development, and factors related to extroversion will be initially explored. The relationship of extraversion on personality traits, health behaviours, subjective well-being and positive psychological development will then be discussed. Finally, empirical evidences will be analysed regarding how extroversion relates to work life. The implications of extroversion in different aspects of psychological health and work life are discussed.
Chapter
EXTROVERSION: NATURE, DEVELOPMENT AND
IMPLICATIONS TO PSYCHOLOGICAL
HEALTH AND WORK LIFE
Belén Mesurado1,
, Niño Jose Mateo2, Marshall Valencia3
and María Cristina Richaud1
1Interdisciplinary Center of Mathematical and Experimental
Psychology Research (CIIPME) -
National Council of Scientific and Technological
Research (CONICET), Argentina
2De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
3The University of Nottingham, Malaysia
ABSTRACT
Extroversion is a personality trait characterized by gregariousness, excitement-
seeking, and positive affect. Sociability is also considered as an important part of
extraversion, as persons that enjoy social activities prefer being with others than being
alone (Lucas & Diener, 2001; Lucas & Fujita, 2000; Lucas et al., 2000). This chapter
reviews current psychological studies on extraversion. The nature, development, and
factors related to extroversion will be initially explored. The relationship of extraversion
on personality traits, health behaviours, subjective well-being and positive psychological
development will then be discussed. Finally, empirical evidences will be analysed
regarding how extroversion relates to work life. The implications of extroversion in
different aspects of psychological health and work life are discussed.
Corresponding author: Belén Mesurado. Tte. Gral. Perón 2158, 1040 Buenos Aires, Argentina. E-mail:
bmesurado@conicet.gov.ar or mesuradob@gmail.com.
Belén Mesurado, Niño Jose Mateo, Marshall Valencia et al.
2
INTRODUCTION
Traits have been defined as “broad predispositions to respond in particular ways” (Pervin
& John, 2001, p. 226). The great majority of trait theories attempt to formulate a common set
of traits that can be employed to describe the personality of any given person. They use factor
analysis to pinpoint dimensions that summarize individual-level differences in personality
traits (Pervin & John, 2001). As a result, since the eighties consensus has formed on adopting
the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality as the best comprehensive system of basic
independent personality factors (Costa & McCrae, 1992, 1995). The five higher order factors
or personality traits labeled neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness,
and conscientiousness are found to influence appraisals of everyday life (Ebstrupa, Eplovb,
Pisingera, & Jørgensena, 2011).
Much research has been done to show that most personality traits can be categorized into
these five domains or personality traits proposed by the Big Five (e.g., Digman, 1990;
Goldberg, 1990; Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002; Richaud de Minizi, 2002).
Additionally, the traits of these five personality dimensions can be generalized to other
languages and, therefore, across cultures (Goldberg, 1990; Richaud de Minzi, Lemos, & Oros,
2002).
In this chapter, we focus on one dimension of the Big Five personality
trait:“Extroversion”. Extroversion is one pole of the extroversion-introversion dimension and
is included in almost all important models of personality. Extroverts are characterized as
spontaneous, exuberant, joyful, enthusiastic, sincere, and uninhibited. Introverts, on the other
hand, are uncommunicative, reserved, quiet and shy. Introverts are more influenced by
punishments than by rewards, and they are more sensitive than extroverts to social
prohibitions. All of this tends to make the introvert more restrained and inhibited.
Furthermore, introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to pain, more prone to fatigue, and
their performance suffers more when they are excited (Schmeck & Lockhart, 2013).
Researchers have agreed that the primary difference between extroversion and introversion is
that the former is focused on obtaining gratification from the external environment while the
latter obtains gratification within one’s internal environment.
Sociability is considered as an important part of extroversion, as persons that enjoy social
activities prefer being with others than being alone (Lucas & Diener, 2001; Lucas & Fujita,
2000; Lucas et al., 2000). Extroverted individuals feel that there is not enough going on in
their own lives. They therefore engage in sensation-seeking behavior to compensate for this
lack of activities. As a consequence, extroverts run the risk of engaging in rule-breaking
behaviors and delinquent activities (Laak, Goede, Aleva, Brugman, Leuven, & Hussmann,
2003).
DEVELOPMENT OF EXTROVERSION AS A PERSONALITY TRAIT
A major issue in the discussion of traits in general, and extroversion in particular
concerns how they emerge. Currently, there is an agreement among trait theorists that
variations may be explained through biological reasons (Pervin & John, 2001). Gray’s (1987)
reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) indicates that two systems are connected to
Extroversion
3
personality. These are the behavioral activation system (BAS, reward system) and the
behavioral inhibition system (BIS, punishment system) (Elliot & Thrash, 2002). A recent
study conducted found that the BAS is clearly linked to extroversion and regulates approach
behavior. This is accomplished by signaling the presence of rewards through the promotion of
positive affect (Corr, 2008). Another study found that dopaminergic processes, which form
the substrate of the BAS, have a stronger correlation with extroversion (Depue & Collins,
1999).
Pervin and John (2001), however, argued that it is important not ignore the influence of
environment factors on the development of personality traits. Caspi, Roberts and Shiner
(2005) highlighted several studies that show that it is not possible to separate environmental
influences on personality development from their genetic influences. Evidence exists that
throughout one’s life, personality and identity are greatly influenced by both genes and
environment (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2002). Research demonstrates that temperament,
which is considered a largely stable individual characteristic, is mainly hereditary in nature.
Nevertheless, parent-child interactions can still tip the scale of one’s temperament to a certain
extent, influencing or altering it (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2002). Traits are considered as
the average tendencies of individuals to show general styles of emotion or behavior. The
development of a steady conception of oneself and one’s personal qualities is a vital feature
of personality, something that is influenced to a large degree by interactions between children
and their parents.
Recent studies have shown the important relationship between different types of parental
styles and personality traits in children, particularly extroversion (Mesurado & Richaud,
2013ab). The results of these studies have shown that when children perceive that their
parents are accepting, they develop positive traits (i.e., high levels of extroversion) and do not
developnegative traits (i.e. Neuroticism) regardless of gender. Results showed specifically
that perceived parental acceptance (of both the father and the mother) promotes extroversion,
while protecting children from developing Neurotic personality traits. Parental acceptance is
linked to the promotion of good socialization and communication of emotions in children,
which is a characteristic linked to extroversion.
Reti et al. (2002) found similar results in a study on community-based individuals.
Maternal and paternal care w positively correlated with extroversion. Maternal and paternal
behavioral restrictiveness, however, were negatively correlated with it.
AGE AND GENDER DIFFERENCE
Several studies have looked into the relationship of personality traits with age and gender.
In relation to gender, women were found in general to have higher levels of neuroticism,
agreeableness and extroversion while males have higher levels of openness to experience
(Lehman, Deissen, & Allemand, 2013). According to Schmitt (2004) these results would go
against the what evolutionary theory predicts that males will have higher levels of
extroversion given that it makes more “evolutionary” sense for males to have higher levels of
sexual promiscuity and this is a tendency seen to accompany high levels of extroversion. This
point of view do not take into account the influence of culture in sexual habits and behaviour.
A possible future research direction, therefore, would be to clarify the effect of culture in
Belén Mesurado, Niño Jose Mateo, Marshall Valencia et al.
4
gender personality differences and to look into the diverse dimensions of extroversion when
evaluating those differences.
Studies conducted on extroversion and adolescence paint a diverse picture on the
relationship between extroversion and development. Lehmann, Dennisen, and Allemand
(2013) argued that the general picture emerging from research is that during adolescence, the
level of extroversion and openness to experience tend to increase while the level of
neuroticism decreases. Klimstra et al. (2009) also showed increase emotional stability among
males ages 16-20, while extroversion and openness to experience increased with females of
the same age range.
A recent study showed that extroversion is positively predicted by self-rated physical
attractiveness, other-rated physical attractiveness, and physical strength among adolescent
boys. Among adolescent girls, however, extroversion was positively predicted for both
physical attractiveness measures (self and other), but strength was not correlated with
extroversion. The same study demonstrated a significant partial mediation of the effect of
other-rated attractiveness on extroversion by self-rated attractiveness across both sexes. The
mediation is partial because the author found direct and indirect effects of other-rated
physical attractiveness on extroversion (Lukaszewski & Roney, 2010).
Although these studies were made in children and adolescents, is important to note that
different findingshave shown that childhood personality structure may share important
similarities with adult personality structure. In initial studies by Costa and McCrae (1989), the
authors argue that there exist some differences between personality traits during adolescence
and over-30 adults, aiming towards stability during this age (McCrae & Costa, 1996).
Subsequent studies developed by the same authors showed how extroversion decreases in
adulthood (McCrae & Costa, 1999). Given the results of their several studies, however, the
authors were inclined to give more emphasis on stability of personality trait than change
throughout the lifespan. Recent findings among working-age adults support the same
conclusion; personality traits do appear to be stable, and changes founded in the Big-Five
personality traits, including extroversion, are small and do not vary substantially across age
groups (Cobb-Clark & Schurer, 2012).
A meta-analysis developed by Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer (2006), however, has
shown that personality traits continue to develop throughout adulthood. People increase in
measures of conscientiousness, emotional stability and the extroversion facet of social
dominance, especially in young adulthood from ages 20 to 40. In contrast, people increase on
measures of openness and the extroversion facet of social vitality in adolescence but both
decreases as one approaches late adulthood. Another cross-sectional study found the same
results; significant mean-level change in all trait domains was found at some point in the life
course, and statistically significant change was found in 75% of personality traits in middle
age (4060) and old age (60+) (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008). Age difference has been found
suggesting that mean levels of neuroticism decreases with age. Agreeableness and
conscientiousness, however, increases with age.
Research indicates different trends from emerging adulthood to middle age, with
extroversion displaying a small negative association during emerging adulthood and
eventually a flat trend from young adulthood to middle age for both men and women
(Lehmann et al., 2013). Males, however, showed stronger positive association of extroversion
with age compared to females across the lifespan. Taking into account both genders, it was
shown that there is a negative age association on extroversion.
Extroversion
5
As it stands, there is a need to conduct further studies on the stability of personality traits
across developmental stages as the current research appears to favour both directions.
EXTROVERSION AND MENTAL HEALTH
Several researchers have shown that personality is one of the main predictors of
subjective wellbeing (SWB). In a meta-analysis developed by Steel, Schmidt, and Shultz
(2008), it was indicated that personality traits play an importantrole in determining an
individual’s general level of SWB. DeNeve and Cooper (1998), in their own meta-analysis,
also indicated that personality is one of the strongest predictors of SWB. Specifically, this last
study found that overall SWB is positively correlated with extroversion as well as other
personality traits. Some studies suggest that both extroversion and SWB share similar
biological components. For example, the behavioral activation system (BAS, reward system)
and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS, punishment system) have been found to be
connected to both personality and SWB (Elliot & Thrash, 2002; Steel, Schmidt, & Shultz,
2008).
Other studies have shown that extroversion is not only associated with overall SWB but
also with different types of wellbeing, such as marital satisfaction or marital quality. Barelds
(2005) asserts that personality variables are important factors in the context of an intimate
relationship. Findings were found that people tend to select mates with similar personality
characteristics (Tyler, 1988). It is therefore probable that extroverts tend to select extroverted
partners. It was also examined the relationship between personality and marital quality, in a
sample of married and cohabiting couples, and it was found that extroversion have a strong
relationship with high levels of marital satisfaction. This may be the result of extroverts
experiencing lower levels of stress, and have greater ability to cope with problems (Barelds,
2005). Such characteristics are necessary to face different complex situations in the life of
couples. Moreover, a longitudinal study showed that positive emotionality (dimensions of
extroversion personality trait) was positively correlated with relationship quality while
negatively associated with negative interactions (Donnellan, Larsen-Rife, & Conger, 2005).
Extroversion seems to have not only a direct effect on the wellbeing of an individual, but
it might also have a moderating role. A recent study showed that extroversion has a
moderating effect on the relationship between altruism and positive mood. This study
specifically found that extroverted individuals have more intense positive mood reactions
after engaging in altruistic behaviors. Individuals engaging in altruistic behaviors who are
high on extroversion have higher increases in the level of positive mood compared to
individuals low on extroversion (Glomb, Bhave, Miner, & Wall, 2011).
Given the recent technological development and the increase use of social media,
research has focused on the relationship of personality traits and communication patterns.
One such finding shows that individuals low in extroversion and high in neuroticism tend to
locate their real self (aspect of one's being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows
organismic valuing, needs and receives positive regard and self-regard Rogers, 1951)
through social media. In contrast, individuals who are high in extroversion and low in
neuroticism tend to locate their real self through traditional social interaction. This study
indicated that the internet plays a vital role in providing opportunity for individuals who hold
Belén Mesurado, Niño Jose Mateo, Marshall Valencia et al.
6
certain personality traits in expressing their real selves (Amichai-Hamburger, Wainapel, &
Fox, 2002). Individuals low in extroversion may not be fully comfortable in face-to-face
social interactions and look for alternative ways to express themselves. As such, social
networks may provide an environment that is less threatening to them to reveal their real
selves. By contrast, individuals that are high in extroversion enjoy generating new
interactions. They are interested in the outer world of people and things and they try to be
more sociable and be attentive to what is happening in their environment. Thus, face-to-face
interaction seems to be their most preferred form of communication.
Other aspect of mental health associated with extroversion is its negative relationship
with stress and its positive relationship with functional dimensions of coping. In a study
conducted by Ebstrupa et al. (2011), it was revealed that neuroticism predicts the tendency of
individuals to appraise events as highly threatening and to view their coping resources as low.
On the other hand, individuals high in extroversion have a tendency to perceive events as
challenges rather than threats. They also have positive appraisals of coping resources.
Individuals with the combination of high neuroticism and low levels of conscientiousness
have been found to predict high stress exposure and threat appraisal. On the other hand, those
with a combination of low neuroticism and high levels of extroversion or conscientiousness
predicts low stress exposure and threat appraisal.
Extroverts have been found to have more fulfilling social interactions. This finding
complements studies that show that extroverted people tend to be happier in social situations
than not extroverted people (Pavot, Diener, & Fujita, 1990). This result could explain why
extroverted individuals report higher subjective wellbeing. Not all aspects of extroversion,
however, may be considered as positive. Extroverts have also a tendency to seek stimulation
which promotes engagement in risky situations (Becker & Eagly, 2004) and health-risk
behaviors (Tucker, Friedman, Tomlinson- Keasey, Schwartz, Wingard, & Criqui, 1995). The
relationship between extroversion and drug problems is controversial; some studies have
shown positive relations between both variables (Tucker et al., 1995; Skomorovsky & Lee,
2012), while others have shown these variables are unrelated (Caspi et al., 1997). Kuntze et
al. (2008) found that significantly higher scores on extroversion were associated with
alcoholic dependent subjects. Hampson et al. (2006), on the other hand, showed that
extroverted children were more likely to consume alcohol as adults than introverted children.
Vollrath and Torgersen (2002) found that high levels of extroversion combined with low
levels of conscientiousness increase the vulnerability of individuals to excessive drinking.
Nevertheless, Hong and Paunonen (2009) found only modest relationship between
extroversion and alcohol consumption, especially on the excitement seeking and
gregariousness facets. Excitement seeking is a facet of extroversion associated with necessity
of environmental stimulation while gregariousness is a facet of extroversion associated with
preference for the company of other. Both are important facets related to increased drinking
behaviors (Hong & Paunonen, 2009).
EXTROVERSION AND WORK
Individual differences in work settings have been fertile areas of research among
organizational psychologists. However, the utility of personality traits in the context of work
Extroversion
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and organizations has not always been well received. Back in the 1960s, critiques have
compellingly argued that personality traits have no significant predictive value with regards to
organizational variables (Mischel, 1968; Guion & Gottier, 1965). With the emergence of the
Big Five model, the last two decades saw the substantial increase of research on personality in
relation to various aspects of work life. Although different personality traits are associated
with success in the work environment, in this chapter we focused mainly only on
extroversion.
Many of the studies that have shown the impact of extroversion in the context of work
were mostly in the areas of job performance, job satisfaction, and leadership. Work
engagement and involvement is also one area where personality traits in general have recently
been examined and some facets of extroversion were found to be significantly correlated. In
this chapter, we focus on extroversion and its link with job performance, job satisfaction,
leadership, and work engagement and involvement.
Job Performance
Meta-analytic studies have consistently shown that personality predicts job performance
across various types of performance dimensions and across different types of jobs (Barrick,
Mount, & Judge, 2001; Barrick & Mount, 1991; Tett, Jackson, & Rothstein, 1991). In
particular, conscientiousness and neuroticism were found to be the most predictive facets of
job performance across most types of occupations. Extroversion, agreeableness, and openness
to experience were also valid predictors but to a narrower range of occupations (Ozer &
Benet-Martinez, 2006).
Matching personality trait factors with the relevant criterion variable is important. When
the criteria for performance are task-oriented, ambition (a facet of extroversion), emotional
stability, and conscientiousness were the best predictors. However, when the criteria for
performance are social in nature, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness
were the best predictors (Day & Stanley, 1989; Hogan & Holland, 2003).
Intuitively, one would expect that extroversion would sit well with occupations that
mostly involve interactions. Studies have shown positive correlations between extroversion
and job performance in occupations where the focus is on interaction, influencing others, and
obtaining status and power (Barrick, Mount, & Judge, 2001). Indeed, Barrick and Mount’s
(1991) meta-analytic study have shown that extroversion is related to performance measures
among sales and management occupations but not for other occupational groups like skilled
workers, professionals, and police officers. A meta-analysis of predictors of job performance
among sales people reflected the positive role of extroversion (Vinchur, Schippmann,
Switzer, & Roth, 1998). In sales and management, characteristics of extroverts (e.g. assertive,
talkative, and ambitious) are likely to contribute to success on the job.
Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction, which is another widely studied area in organizational psychology, is
positively related to extroversion. In a meta-analysis of 334 correlations from 163
independent samples, among the Big Five factors, only the relationship of extroversion and
Belén Mesurado, Niño Jose Mateo, Marshall Valencia et al.
8
neuroticism with job satisfaction generalized across studies (Judge, Heller, & Mount, 2002).
The estimated true score correlations with job satisfaction were -.29 for neuroticism, .25 for
extroversion, .02 for openness to experience, .17 for agreeableness, and .26 for
conscientiousness.
More recent studies have distinguished work personality from other role-based
personality like personality at home (Wood & Robers, 2006). Using a sample from a diverse
range of occupations, Heller and colleagues (2009) found significant correlations across all
the five factors of work personality and job satisfaction. Work extroversion and neuroticism
in particular had the strongest correlations (.30 and -.35 respectively). Their findings have
also shown that work personality was a better predictor of job satisfaction compared to global
and home personality.
Work Engagement and Involvement
Work engagement is ‘‘a positive, fulfilling, affective-motivational state of work-related
well-being’’ (Leiter & Bakker, 2010, p. 1). Engaged employees are characterized by high
levels of energy and involvement in work. The construct has been widely studied in terms of
a wide range of environmental factors. However, studies looking at the dispositional bases of
work engagement have notably been limited. Nevertheless, there are indications that
personality traits correlate with work engagement.
In a study of Inceoglu and Warr (2011), emotional stability and conscientiousness were
unique predictors of work engagement. When a seven-factor model was considered (by
breaking down extroversion and conscientiousness into sub facets), results indicated that the
social potency facet of extroversion and achievement orientation facet of conscientiousness
along with emotional stability were found to be significantly related to work engagement. In
another study that focused only on neuroticism and extroversion, Langelaan and collegues
(2006) found support for their assumption that these two factors are significantly correlated to
work engagement.
Individuals higher in extroversion are more actively engaged in social opportunities,
enabling them to become more quickly acquainted with the informal power structure of the
organization (Rode, Arthaud-Day, Mooney, Near, & Baldwin, 2008). However, some studies
have shown that extrovert employees have less levels of work involvement than introverts
employees because extroverts are typically more social and have more friends (Aziz &
Tronzo, 2011). Perhaps socializing with other coworkers could be a distraction and lead to
low work involvement. Moreover, Aziz and Tronzo (2011) found that extroversion was not
significantly related with work drive (work drive is a workaholic dimension, that refers to an
individual’s inner motivation to work).
Leadership
Among the Big Five personality factors, extroversion was the most consistent correlate of
leadership based on a meta-analysis of the relationship between personality and leadership
emergence and effectiveness (Judge, Heller, & Mount, 2002). Similarly, extroversion was
also the most predictive of transformational leadership (Bono & Judge 2004; Ployhart, Lim,
Extroversion
9
& Chan, 2001). These findings suggest the advantage of extroverts in the context of
leadership emergence and perceptions. Extroverts are typically assertive, talkative, energetic
and optimistic characteristics which can be facilitative in emergence of individuals as group
leaders (Judge, Heller, & Mount, 2002), and perceptions of leadership qualities (Hogan,
Curphy, & Hogan 1994), and exhibit transformational leadership behaviors (Bono & Judge,
2004).
While generally, extroversion is positively related to leadership abilities, there is also a
downside to this. Extroverted leadership characterized by dominance hampers performance
among employees who are proactive (Grant, Gino, & Hofmann, 2011). But among passive
employees, highly extroverted leadership seems to enhance group performance.
Since extroverts tend to be sensation seekers and aggressive, they would often behave in
attention-seeking ways and tend to be fleeting in focus. As such they run the risk of making
hasty decisions (Beauducel, Brocke, & Leue, 2006) and prone to over-estimate their own
capabilities (Hogan, R. & Hogan, J., 2001).
CONCLUSION
Extroversion is a personality trait characterized by gregariousness, excitement-seeking,
and positive affect. Sociability is also considered as an important part of extroversion, as
persons that enjoy social activities prefer being with others than being alone (Lucas & Diener,
2001; Lucas & Fujita, 2000). This chapter reviewed current psychological studies on
extroversion. The nature, development, and factors related to extroversion were explored. The
relationship of extroversion on personality traits, health behaviors, subjective well-being and
positive psychological development have been discussed. Finally, empirical evidences were
analyzed and discussed regarding how extroversion relates to work life and different aspects
of psychological health.
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... Big Five Personality Model (also known as Five Factor Model) has been used to predict the personality of the candidate which includes Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism [2,7]. ...
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Extraversion predicts leadership emergence and effectiveness, but do groups perform more effectively under extraverted leadership? Drawing on dominance complementarity theory, we propose that although extraverted leadership enhances group performance when employees are passive, this effect reverses when employees are proactive, because extraverted leaders are less receptive to proactivity. In Study 1, pizza stores with leaders rated high (low) in extraversion achieved higher profits when employees were passive (proactive). Study 2 constructively replicates these findings in the laboratory: passive (proactive) groups achieved higher performance when leaders acted high (low) in extraversion. We discuss theoretical and practical implications for leadership and proactivity.
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