The Five Factor Personality Model: Extraversion – advantages and disadvantages
I have already discussed Neuroticism, the tendency to worry, in Neuroticism the lethal protector
Now it is the turn of its complement, extraversion. Like all the other factors it has advantages and disadvantages and has been selected for and against at different times resulting in a wide variation in this trait in humans and other animals
The Good News
High extraversion scorers can do very well, take on enormous challenges with enthusiasm and win money. status and sexual partners: apparently there is an almost linear relationship between extraversion score and the lifetime number of sexual partners a person has. Thus an extravert is more likely to pass their genes on if male and attract high quality partners to improve the genetic fitness of their children if female. For sex high extraversion is a benefit.
It seems likely that extraverts, with their restless desire to explore new boundaries would do well in an environment that is rapidly changing, being ready to move on at short notice, whether this is physically or to a new relationship, job or career.
I have argued elswwhere that high scorers on this factor should find manifestation and related practices easier than low scorers and much easier than high Neuroticism scorers. I also think an extravert medium to high in Neuroticism (They are not exclusive ) will make a good research scientist. The desire to explore will lead them to seek out new fields and problems and the Neuroticism will ensure they check their work to avoid embarrassment or worse. An example of this is Bongo drum playing Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, one of the great physicists of the 20th Century.
The low Neuroticism extravert will do well in sales and marketing and those who are low in the trait of Agreeableness will make good lawyers, policeman and, if low in conscientiousness, criminals. Anyone who reads real crime stories will see that extraversion comes with the territory, police are in many ways the law abiding mirror images of the criminals they pursue, and lawyers, like actors, have to love being in the public eye,
An extravert is an excellent person to put into operation a scheme where the details have been well thought out and the risks minimised. Their focus on rewards will drive them to succeed often beyond expectation. Give the extravert a target and a few fences to stop them going off the rails and they will do well.
What is extraversion?
The extrovert is seen as a lively sociable person who likes being the centre of attention and the life and soul of the party, but this is only one type of high extraversion scorer. The High Neuroticism scorer reacts strongly to negative emotions and thus to threats or possible threats, and tries to avoid the situations that give rise to them, the extravert responds to positive emotions and seeks out things that will give rise to them. The extravert may be sociable, talkative and make new friends quickly. They also like risky sports like mountaineering and parachuting because of the adrenaline buzz and they enjoy travel and novelty.
The Bad News
The tends to seek out risky experiences, like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen, extramarital sex, sex in risky places or traveling to unexplored areas. In stable and predictable environments the extravert's tendency to explore the new and rock the boat can be seen as a hazard to the community. Their tendency to seek new rewards may lead them to neglect what they already have and so lose it. The millionaire Entrepreneur who loses all their money on bad investments is an example of this, as is the lottery winner who spends all their winnings.
Perhaps the best example of the dangers of high extraversion and low Neuroticism is the 2007-2009 recession which seems to have been the result in part of excessive optimism. The boom and bust of the late 1990s leading to the dot-com bust of 2002 was similarly partly the result of unbounded optimism fuelled by a widespread Prozac habit in the stockbroking community. There is one other factor to be considered. People like to be with people like them selves and no one loves a pessimist. This mean that Ageism became rife ans the older, more experienced and more cynical brokers jumped or were pushed and were replaced by younger less experienced brokers with more energy and the optimism of the young.
The extravert will do well in Politics because of their sociable and charming personality, but may well not be the best person to lead a nation if they are low in Neuroticism unless they have the wisdom to surround themselves with more cautious advisors. Do you really want a leader who says “Let's let off a few Nukes, it will be fun”. The Emperor Caligula who made his horse a consul is the dire warning here, along with Nero who loved to be praised for his musical talent and neglected his empire.
The extravert is not the person to put in sole charge of implementing a high risk scheme where there are plenty of opportunities for mistakes for their unbounded optimism and desire for a buzz will lead them into perilous territory
There is no right or wrong level of Extraversion or any other trait, but ideally the successful individual should be able to shift from an extravert mode when implementing a project to a cautious mode when deciding whether to take on a project, planning a project, or reviewing the progress of a project. Perhaps the best way to implement a project is to put an extravert in charge with guidelines produced by Worriers: Not so many guidelines that the extravert feels hemmed in, but enough that they do not go off the rails. And the reason for the constraints should be explained. Most extraverts will find succeeding in such a rule bound system a more rewarding challenge than working in an environment without rules.
© 2010 AlexK2009