Extrovert Definition and Personality Traits

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The average person is familiar with the common definition of extroversion. It’s the opposite of introversion. Bold versus shy, risk-taking versus thoughtful, and social butterflies versus wallflowers. However, the true definition of extroversion isn’t that simple.

Modern psychological theories suggest that all personality traits operate on a sliding scale. For example, you might be confident talking to a large group of friends but timid while making a speech to a crowd of strangers. 

Not all extroverts are outgoing all of the time. What defines someone as an extrovert is how situations affect their energy.

Want to know about extroversion? Read on for signs of extroversion, life outcomes, etymology, and more.

Common Traits of Extraverts

Extroverts recharge or feel invigorated by social encounters. They embrace change and are energized by new experiences. While most remember extroverts as outgoing, charismatic people, the more crucial fact is that they enjoy being busy. In fact, they thrive.

If someone is highly extroverted, they probably avoid being alone for long periods. A blank schedule and alone time can lead to boredom or anxiety. Too many quiet evenings are a drain on their internal battery.

Extroverts charge their internal batteries with social connections and unique experiences. They tend to talk a lot and aren’t afraid to tell you how they really feel.

Unfortunately, that can sometimes lead extroverts to clash with introverts. Extroverts often act first, think later. The fast-paced, optimistic, and loud extrovert can be exhausting for an introvert. Likewise, the slow-paced, thoughtful, careful introvert can be dull for an extrovert.

When an unreserved person must cooperate with a coworker demonstrating antisocial behavior, the mismatch of extroversion levels can lead to tension. While the adverse situation might be unavoidable, we can tailor our responses when we understand the dimensions of personality.

For example, those with extrovert tendencies might encourage their group to speak up and practice patience.

Many Americans are believed to be extroverts, with estimates between half to three-quarters. So, understanding your default reactions can help you next time you're face-to-face with your opposite personality.

Life Outcomes

Extroverts have a variety of potentially positive and negative outcomes, depending on their degree of extroversion. 

Leaders are extroverts because they make decisions faster, take risks, and speak up. Generally, this means extroverts are more successful, and they tend to be happier. In addition, extroverts have a broader social circle and are likely to have more sexual partners. Mental health is also thought to be less of a struggle for extroverts. 

As risk-takers, it's not surprising that extroverts are more likely to die young. Extroverts also experience more infidelity. An increased dependency on change is one of the weaknesses of people with extroversion.

However, it's notable that it's rare to be a pure extrovert. Instead, most people are a mix but weigh closer to one end of the other. But some, known as ambiverts, fall in the middle.

Ambiverts share the strengths of people with extroversion and introversion. Personality theory suggests that the ambivert advantage offers the best possible life outcomes.

The Big 5 Theory and Extroversion

The Big Five Model, Five-Factor Model, or Big 5 Theory is a popular theory that categorizes personality traits. The five traits are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extroversion. The model can be referred to by the acronym CANOE or OCEAN.

Each of the traits represents a scale of opposites. Someone might have high extroversion or low extroversion. Here are the five personality factors and examples and the opposing characteristics they represent:

The theory supports the idea that people aren't one or the other, extroverted or introverted. Instead, personality traits exist on a scale, exhibiting high or low values.

For example, consider these signs of someone with a high level of extroversion:

  • Active social schedule
  • Energized by activity
  • Enjoys being the center of attention
  • Seeks new or thrilling activity

Extraversion vs. Extroversion

Psychology owes "extroversion" to Carl Jung, but with one significant difference: the spelling. When Jung wrote about this personality descriptor, the original spelling was "extraversion."

In Jung's original personality type assessment, he focused on a person's need to engage with the social world's bustle, noise, and influence. However, the common spelling and meaning transformed somewhere along the journey from German to English.

In 1918, American psychologist, Phyllis Blanchard, wrote a paper that borrowed Jung's term for personality types. However, Blanchard used the spelling 'extrovert.' 

Blanchard also altered the meaning. She described introversion as the "thinking type." Extroversion was the "feeling type."

The etymology is relevant as in Latin, "extra" relates to "outside." It works in opposition with the "intro" from introversion, meaning "inside." The idea is that extraverts seek outside influences while introverts look inward. 

When Jung’s terminology was translated to English, it may be that the translator preferred the symmetry—spelling both terms with the ‘o.’ 

As the translated version of the term became more popular, it also took on additional meaning. As the “feeling” type, extraversion grew to contain more than Jung’s definition. The ‘o’ version included the expressive and impulsive aspects of extroversion.

Both versions can be the correct spelling, primarily if you're referring to Jung's original interpretation. If you catch anyone correcting your spelling of the word, now you know the whole story. 

Causes of Extroversion

In the debate of nature versus nurture, is extraversion genetic? Or is extroverted behavior learned?

Evidence for the causes of extroversions leans more heavily towards genetic factors. But, that doesn’t discredit the importance of environmental influence.

One notable piece of evidence that supports biology as a cause of extroversion was the work of psychologist Hans Eysenck. In the 19060s, Eysenck declared a striking idea: extroverts need more stimulation. He studied the concept of arousal, how our minds sense and react to incitement, including tasting delicious food or seeing a beautiful painting.

Eysenck theorized that introverts have a lower basic rate of arousal than extroverts. For example, introverts find a one-on-one conversation thrilling but are overwhelmed by a crowd. On the other hand, extroverts need the buzz of a crowd or a busy social schedule to rise to that basic stimulation rate.

But if extroverts are made because they need more stimulation, do they need it because they were born that way? It's a bit of a feedback loop, making it tricky to decipher if extroverts are born or made.

Is Behavior Genetic?

Genetics can be a significant predictor for which type of personality might develop. For example, the genes that control dopamine, known as the "happy hormone," can determine the threshold of excitement we feel. More specifically, DNA dictates whether someone's threshold is lower, such as an extrovert who needs to engage in more stimulating behaviors to feel pleasure.

Extroverts are more sensitive to the brain-reward system and the stimulation necessary to release dopamine. So when extroverts find something that results in pleasure, whether it's a social gathering or skydiving, they associate positive feelings with the type of event or environment.

Introverts respond to dopamine, but they don't have the potential for similarly strong connections. Some experts theorize that extroverts experience more happiness than introverts because they connect more. Others question if it's more likely they express joy more. 

In other words, an extrovert is an unreserved person and will tell you exactly how they feel. An introvert might be equally excited to go to a concert or win the lottery. Still, an introvert won't display their emotions as openly as an extrovert would.

In further support of the nature over nurture debate, twin studies have observed the connection between personality, environment, and genetics. For example, studies indicate DNA contributes 40% and 60% of the contrasting traits.

DNA is a significant contributor to whether or not you're an extrovert. Nevertheless, the story doesn’t end there. Your gene might create the framework, but it’s the individual that decides what to do with it.

Imagine you're on a baseball team. The size of the field, the bases, and the rules were decided long before you decided to play. You didn't pick the players, but you can choose how you play the game. You can't change your talent level, but you can practice and get better.

Extroversion might have predetermined the rules, but your encounters with the world can set boundaries. Your DNA has already decided your upper and lower limits of extroversion. Still, your environment can challenge you to reach the highest point or drop to the lowest.

External positive stimuli, such as compliments for speaking up, can encourage your brain to continue that behavior. Likewise, for extroverts, an environment that promotes risk-taking, socializing, or other extroversion traits will encourage those tendencies.

Suppose a natural-born extrovert is consistently scolded by parents or authority figures when they speak up. They might experience negative stimuli when they take a risk. In that case, they'll be less likely to act that way. 

In other words, an extrovert might exhibit more introverted traits, such as shyness or over-thinking.

Can Introverts Learn to Be Extroverts?

Personality remains roughly the same throughout a person’s life. In other words, if you’re an extrovert when you’re 10-years-old, you’ll most likely be an extrovert when you’re 90-years-old.

Notice we said most likely? You can alter some of your impulses, such as an extrovert practicing to think before acting or an introvert engaging in more social encounters. Although, there is a difference between changing some actions and changing your personality.

But should an introvert try to be more outgoing? Should an extrovert practice being a better listener?

Simply put, extroversion is neither good nor bad. Same with introversion. If you feel you’re living a fulfilled life and your behavior isn’t obstructing opportunities, you don’t need to change.

However, maybe you feel being too shy lost you a promotion at work or taking too many risks has caused you harm. If you’re feeling more of the negative aspects of your personality, you can learn new behavior patterns.

Can Introverts and Extroverts Be Friends?

Yes. Introversion and extraversion might define your common personality traits, but not your interests. For example, an extrovert and an introvert might love going to the same restaurant or watching the same shows.

However, it's best to form friendships with people who have similar social expectations or are clear about their expectations.

For example, let’s say your first friend enjoys outings once every other week while your second friend needs social activity twice a week. The first friend is more introverted and might be happy with seeing their friends less frequently. The second friend is more extroverted and might need to meet with more than one friend to satisfy their social needs.

You might hang out for relaxed movie nights with the first friend but go on adventurous camping trips with the second. 

Extroverts aren't outgoing all of the time. Like introverts, extroverts sometimes need quiet time, especially if they have introverted traits. Sometimes, an extrovert might need an introverted friend and vice versa to complement them. 

It's also likely that the extroverted friend will have a larger social circle than the introverted one. That means an extroverted friend has more social connections and can be more flexible about the pace of their social engagements.

List of Extrovert Personality Traits

If you're testing yourself or a friend, we've compiled the personality characteristics associated with extroversion. Of course, not all extroverts will show signs of everything on this list, but you'll probably see a pattern.

  • Assertive
  • Broad interests/hobbies
  • Bold / Confident
  • Can feel isolated alone
  • Center of attention
  • Daredevil (Risk-taker)
  • Emotionally vocal
  • Energetic/enthusiastic
  • Flexible
  • Impulsive
  • Magnetic personality
  • Prefers group work
  • Optimistic
  • Outgoing
  • Sociable
  • Talkative person
  • Thrill-seeking

How to Know if You’re An Extrovert

If any of the items on the above list strike a chord, you might be an extrovert. However, if you're still on the fence, there are some ways to find out. 

Start by asking the people in your life. For example, do others call you shy? Or do they count on you to speak first? If you ask for honest feedback, they'll likely help you notice traits about yourself you might have overlooked.

Try a personality test. There are plenty of free personality tests online. Most will ask similar questions. Usually, the tests ask about the obvious, such as whether you enjoy social situations. 

Which Personality Test Is Best?

One of the go-to personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, developed by mother-daughter duo Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. They based their personality project on aspects of personality described by C. G. Jung

The test uses a combination of preferences or characteristics to assign one of 16 personality types. For example, one of the factors is extroversion versus introversion.

The MBTI or Myers-Briggs test is recognized by many institutions and is frequently used by employers to screen applicants.

If you want a test that can describe multiple facets of your personality beyond extroversion, it's a reliable test.

Conclusion

Whether you're an extrovert, introvert, or fall somewhere between, there's a lot we can all learn from studying personality. We hope you enjoyed this article and maybe re-thought your definition of extroversion.

Were you surprised by any of the traits on this list? Are you an extrovert? Or, maybe you're an introvert with a few extrovert qualities? Tell us in the comments if you learned something new about personality. If you liked our article, share the link.

Cite this page: Psychology Dictionary, "Extrovert Definition and Personality Traits," in PsychologyDictionary.org, January 31, 2022, https://psychologydictionary.org/extrovert-definition-and-personality-traits/ (accessed May 25, 2022).