Findings in United States replicated in 39 other countries
WASHINGTON -- A new study which looks at the cross-cultural fundamental features of the extraversion personality trait indicates that extraverts find social situations more rewarding than introverts, not because they are more sociable, but because they are more sensitive to the rewards inherent in most social situations.
The article in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), involved four studies which tested how extraversion and reward sensitivity are linked. Results show that although sociability (individual differences in the enjoyment of social activities and the preference for being with others over being alone) is an important part of extraversion, it may actually be a by-product of reward sensitivity, rather than a core feature of extraversion.
The findings are not unique to Americans. In order to generalize their findings to other cultures from their initial sample of 443 U.S. college students, lead authors Richard E. Lucas, Ph.D. and Ed Diener, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign along with three other researchers, conducted a study involving over 6,000 college students from 39 other countries. They found cross-cultural support for their contention that sensitivity to rewards, rather than sociability, forms the core of extraversion.
As evidence that sociability may not be at the core of the extraversion trait, the authors point to prior research which shows extraverts tend to feel more pleasant affect (feelings of desire, wanting, excitement, enthusiasm, energy, etc.) even when they are alone. "Both extraverts and introverts benefit from social interaction," said the authors. "However, extraverted participants did not spend any more time in social situations than introverted participants but reported more pleasant affect even when alone, both indicating that some additional factor had to be accounting for their greater reported happiness."
By examining the structure of the relations among different aspects of extraversion and pleasant affect, the authors found that extraverts may be drawn to social situations not because they are more sociable but because they are more sensitive to the rewards involved in such situations. These rewards include warmth, affection and close emotional bonds.
In analyzing the results from the cross-cultural aspect of the study, the researchers argued that social activity may serve different functions in different cultures. Specifically, because people in collectivistic cultures (such as China, Korea, Indonesia) tend to place more importance on societal norms than do people in individualistic cultures (such as Australia, Puerto Rico, Germany), social activity may be more constrained and less rewarding in collectivistic cultures. In support of this argument, the researchers found that there was less of a relation between extraversion and pleasant affect in the collectivistic sample.
The current study did not directly assess extravert's and introvert's enjoyment of rewarding and nonrewarding social and nonsocial situations. The authors say more research is needed, but they say their model predicts that extraverts should enjoy rewarding situations more than introverts, regardless of whether they are social or not.
Article: "Cross-Cultural Evidence for the Fundamental Features of Extraversion," Richard E. Lucas, Ph.D., and Ed Diener, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Alexander Grob, University of Berne, Eunkook M. Suh, Ph.D., and Liang Shao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 79, No. 3.
Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at http://www.apa.org/journals/psp/psp793452.html
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