Extraversion, also known as Extroversion, is a basic personality variable of the Big Five theory. It is a broad dimension that can be broken down into particular personality traits related to sociability, liveliness1, assertiveness, and impulsivity2.
People with a high degree of extraversion tend to be socially active, people-oriented, optimistic, spontaneous, and communicative. They are also predisposed to positive emotions and are more likely to feel good about themselves and what surrounds them.
Extraversion is a personality dimension highly associated with and dependent on social interactions. People who score high on this dimension are normally talkative, assertive, outgoing, and energetic.3 They take the initiative to approach others and feel comfortable expressing their opinions and making suggestions. They seek social interactions and feel energized in the presence of social stimulation.
Extraverts tend to have a positive attitude towards life and report higher levels of happiness. They also display a clear tendency to seek gratification from outside the self.4
People who have low levels of extraversion are also called introverts. They are often mistakenly labeled as individuals who are reluctant to interact with others.
Shyness and introversion are not the same.5 In reality, introverts are the opposite of extroverts in the sense that they do not need social stimulation to derive gratification and energy - they can find it inwards.6 They tend to be better listeners than speakers and they prefer to have a smaller social circle that helps them to create deeper relationships.
Extraversion and introversion are present in everyone, but one manifests itself more predominantly than the other in a person’s orientation.7 They both have strengths and weaknesses, particularly when one is clearly dominant over the other.
Individuals who score very high on extraversion have a higher tendency to engage in risk-taking and antisocial behavior in their quest for gratification through the approval of others, but also because of their excitement-seeking personality. For example, extraversion has been associated with increased ingestion of alcohol among college students.8
Extroverts also have a tendency to struggle with concentration and focusing on a task as they are easily distracted by social interactions.9
Additionally, they can be negatively perceived by their peers as attention-seekers and overly talkative. Since they feel energized by social interactions, they can become too assertive and dominate the conversation, disregarding the other participants.
Introverts, or people with low extraversion, also have their handicaps. Social interactions drain their energy and they require periods of solitude to recover. They also find it difficult to initiate a conversation and dislike being the center of attention, even in situations where they are being praised.
Extroverts are ambitious and their goal is to achieve power and social prestige.10 They often take the lead and are the first to offer opinions and suggestions.
Because they are friendly, assertive, and enjoy social interactions, they are also good influencers. They tend to achieve their goals and get the job done not by doing it themselves but rather through delegation and by persuading others to willingly do it. In this sense, they are good at interacting directly with clients and/or in positions of leadership.
In fact, Extraversion is closely associated with Leading and Deciding, one of the dimensions of Bartram’s Great Eight11, a theory that assesses competencies based on personality traits, skills, and interests.
According to this author12, people with a high score in the Leading and Deciding factor show also a great degree of extraversion. They tend to be good at delegating, supervising, and motivating others. They also assume their own responsibilities and their decisions are always based on a calculated risk. Workers with a high degree of extraversion are also good at taking the initiative.
Introverts, on the other hand, do not seek external approval. They value the feeling of self-accomplishment more than being praised by others. In this sense, they are not as ambitious as extroverts, and money and status is not their main motivation.
They enjoy working alone or in small teams that allow them to create a sense of trust and a comfortable relationship. Introverts also have the tendency to be serious and non-communicative. However, when they do communicate their opinions and suggestions, they are thoughtful and sincere.
Extroverts excel at leadership roles and jobs that require direct interaction with other people. Since they enjoy social interactions, starting conversations, and have a positive and friendly attitude, they can get along well with virtually everyone and be very persuasive.
Other personality traits may influence their predisposition to certain careers, but, in general, individuals with high extraversion tend to thrive in careers such as:
- Product manager
- Public Relations
- Sales representative
- HR Manager
- Event planner
People with a low degree of extraversion, or introverts, prefer to work alone or in small groups with which they can form tighter connections. They tend to be good listeners and only speak after careful consideration. Introverts also have the tendency to lack the ambition to reach leadership positions, preferring to stay out of the spotlight.
Due to these characteristics, potential good jobs for introverts include:
- Software Engineer
1 Saklofske, D.H., et al. (2012), Extraversion–Introversion. In Ramachandran, V.S. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior (Second Edition), Academic Press
2 Lucas, R.E. & Diener, E. (2001), Extraversion. In Smelser, Neil J. & Baltes,Paul B. (eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Pergamon
3 Salmon, C. (2012), Birth Order, Effect on Personality, and Behavior. In Ramachandran, V.S. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior (Second Edition), Academic Press
4 Nguyen, Hong V., et al (2013), Understanding Individual Variation in Student Alcohol Use. In Miller, Peter M. (ed.), Interventions for Addiction - Comprehensive Addictive Behaviors and Disorders, Volume 3. Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/C2011-0-07780-3
5 Condon, M. and Ruth-Sahd, L. (2013) Responding to introverted and shy students: Best practice guidelines for educators and advisors. Open Journal of Nursing, 3, 503-515. doi: 10.4236/ojn.2013.37069
6 Ikiugu, Moses N. (2007), Psychosocial Conceptual Practice Models in Occupational Therapy - Building Adaptive Capability. Mosby. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-04182-9.X5001-6
7 Ikiugu, Moses N., 2007
8 Nguyen, Hong V., et al, 2013
9 Salmon, C., 2012
10 Barrick, M., & Mount, M., & Li, N. (2013). The theory of purposeful behavior: the role of personality, higher-order goals, and job characteristics. Academy of Management Review, 38(1), 132-153. doi:10.5465/amr.2010.0479
11 Bartram, D. (2002). The SHL Corporate Leadership Model: SHL White Paper. Thames Ditton: SHL Group.
12 Bartram, D. (2005). The Great Eight Competencies: a criterion-centric approach to validation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(6), 1185-1203. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.90.6.1185