Science of Extraversion

by Erina Lee, Ph.D.

Science of Extraversion

Extraversion is a personality trait or behavioral style that describes an energetic and engaged approach towards the world. It includes traits such as sociability (being outgoing and talkative), activity (being active and energetic), dominance (being assertive and forceful), expressiveness (being outspoken and adventurous) and the tendency to experience positive emotions (being enthusiastic and optimistic).

People with high levels of extraversion are generally called "extraverts," while those with low levels of extraversion are generally called "introverts." Extraverts enjoy being with other people and often talk and assert themselves in groups. They tend to be action-oriented individuals who like excitement and experience positive emotions from their outgoing approach to life.

In contrast to extraverts, introverts generally need less stimulation from other people and prefer time alone. They are often described as quiet, reserved or withdrawn. They tend to be low-key, deliberate and detached from the outside world, and are often less enthusiastic and energetic than extraverts.

Extraversion, introversion and shyness
Although introversion is commonly associated with shyness, they are considered to be two different things. However, while introverts simply prefer solitary to social activities, people who are shy often fear social encounters.

Introverted and shy people may have social skills which allow them to be behaviorally extraverted, especially in highly regulated situations like work or social functions in which they play a certain role. But at the same time, they can experience feelings of discomfort or fear that people might see "who they really are. In other situations like close or intimate relationships, these people may feel less control over the situation and may not know what to do or how to act. These ambiguous situations can lead to feelings of awkwardness or inhibition and result in feelings of internal shyness.

Sometimes people may exhibit extraverted behaviors (like being talkative and assertive), but their personality description may be more in line with introverts. People like this can describe themselves as extraverted and shy (publicly outgoing but privately shy).

Shyness can be experienced as discomfort or inhibition in interpersonal situations. Internally, it may be experienced as a form of excessive self-focus, a preoccupation with one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions. Shyness is self-reported in almost 50% of the population. It can be associated with social anxiety or social phobia, but doesn’t have to be—those diagnoses generally occur when persistent social avoidance and discomfort significantly interferes with a person’s everyday life.

The role of extraversion in relationships
Personality traits like extraversion and introversion play important roles in understanding how people interact in relationships. While extraverts may develop relationships quickly and with ease, in some cases, a need for companionship or excitement may cause extraverts to continuously look for things that are new and adventurous, causing them to look outside of an established relationship. Introverts, on the other hand, may have difficulty initially getting to know other people or initiating intimacy. This is especially true if introversion is accompanied by shyness or social anxiety. Once established, however, introverts may put even more effort than extraverts into maintaining relationships making them deep and satisfying.

Although it is often thought that introverts and extraverts are compatible, when it comes to long-term relationships, similarity in these traits may be most important. Research shows that couples who are similar in personality are happier and more stable compared to those who are dissimilar. For example, having similar outlooks on life or agreeing on how you spend time as a couple are two ways in which similar levels of extraversion may not only benefit the relationship but also help fulfill individual needs of social interaction.

The 29 Dimensions of Compatibility
It’s important to understand that introversion and extraversion are not black-or-white classifications that can completely define how a person behaves. Each person has a unique combination of many different aspects that make up who they are. In turn, it is the complete picture of this unique combination of personality traits and behaviors that helps to determine what type of person you are most compatible with.

Extraversion is just one of the aspects revealed in the 29 Dimensions of Compatibility that comprise a person’s social style. Together with the dimensions of character, kindness, dominance, autonomy and adaptability, the dimension of "sociability" describes how you relate to other people.

 

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