Extraverts Categorize their Daily Experiences by Specific Social Relationships

by Kyra Baldwin, Kenyon ’18

Being extraverted or introverted defines the way an individual interacts with the world around them. The relationships a person seeks, the career they enter, how they carry themselves at a party are all affected by being high or low in trait extraversion. William Tov and Kelly Koh, researchers in Singapore, carried out a 2014 study to examine how exactly extraverts and introverts differ in understanding and categorizing their daily experiences. The results showed that extraverts tended to categorize their lives based on who they were socializing with more than how, when, or where they were socializing.

Every event we participate in has multiple ways it can be interpreted and cataloged. A study session with friends can be labeled as an academic obligation, as a social bonding occasion, or as a neutral commitment. Because one event embodies numerous themes and features, the way we ultimately decide to categorize and define an event often reveals our primary focuses. These primary focuses are in turn revealing about our personality traits, motivations, and the constructs we access most frequently.

The relative accessibility of some constructs and categories over others is involved in two important functions: prediction and goal attainment.

First, when a type of event occurs frequently, the categories involved with this event are more easily accessible to an individual. An extraverted person who is routinely social has easier access to the categories pertinent for understanding and predicting social interactions than an introverted person. The second function of category accessibility is goal attainment. Knowledge of categories relevant to an individual’s desires and goals is more easily accessible than irrelevant categories. Category accessibility enables the achievement of goals by increasing the awareness of goal-related stimuli and goal-directed behavior. This means that extraverts will be more knowledgeable in social interaction categories and this will then lead to more social interaction.

In summary, category accessibility may be a reflection of an individual’s day to day experiences and the goals an individual pursues in daily life. Extraverts both want affiliation more than introverts and engage more often socially than introverts do everyday. Having access to the constructs involved with socializing also help fulfill the more complex aspects of extraversion. For example, the trait of extraversion involves social motives of dominance, having fun, and connecting with others. No one relationship could fulfill these motives, so instead the extravert belongs to multiple social networks. In a work setting, the social motive for dominance could be fulfilled while in a romantic setting, the social motive for connection could be fulfilled.

This study examined 176 students at Singapore Management University. The participants were first given a Big 5 questionnaire and a California Q-Set to ascertain if they were extraverted or introverted.   For a month, the participants logged onto an online diary twice a week to report two positive and negative events that had happened recently. After a month of filling in this diary, participants went to the laboratory and were given a spreadsheet listing all the events they had reported. The participants were given instructions to group the events ‘‘in any way that makes sense to you,’’ which made the subjects create their own meaningful categories.

The major finding was that extraverts and introverts create different categories for their daily lives. Extraverts tended to organize events around their relationships with people. When thinking back over daily experiences, extraverts clustered events based on who they were with more than what they were doing or when they were doing it. These results suggest that relationship categories like family, friends, colleagues and so on may be more cognitively accessible to extraverts than introverts. Contrastingly, introverts may focus less on the relationship categories and more on a social/ not social binary. Defining their social network based into relationship clusters may help extraverts direct themselves so as to fulfill the different social motives associated with extraversion.

Although the results showed that extraverts were more likely to cluster their daily events by relationship than by sociality or by academic/ leisure, this study was limited by a relatively small sample that was insufficient for detecting differences between correlations of small to moderate size and that only looked at students. These methods should be expanded to a larger population to see if the results are generalizable. Another limitation was that the event-sorting task required participants to look back over events that were weeks removed from when they originally experienced them. It would be valuable to examine if the same trend of extraverts clustering their experiences based around relationships continues when categories are created as they’re happening and not just retrospectively.

References

Tov, W,. & Koh, K. (2014). Extraverts categorize their daily experiences by specific social relationships. Journal of Research in Personality, 52, 13-19.

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