Summary: Chapter 5 Five Basic Traits‐in the brain and in behavior
Researchers have conducted more empirical studies on the human trait of extraversion than any other
trait. Like all of the Big 5 dimensions, Extraversion is a broad and bipolar continuum, running from the
high end (extremely high extraversion) to the low end (extremely high introversion). There are very few
100% extraverts or 100% pure introverts. Most people fall in the middle of the continuum. Extraversion
is really a family of related smaller traits, which share a resemblance to each other (sociability, warmth,
and excitement seeking).
Social Behavior and Cognitive Performance
The first modern theorists of E emphasized its social meanings:
• Hand Eysenck made a distinction between the two, calling extraverts outgoing, sociable, and
enthusiastic but somewhat impulsive and heedless. The introverts, in contrast are quiet and
withdrawn but also more contemplative, deliberate and less likely to take bad risks. Eysenck
developed and validated the first self‐report scales to assess the different levels in E.
• Laboratory research has examined the relation between E and various forms of cognitive
performance: extraverts show superior performance on tasks requiring divided attention,
resistance to distraction, and resistance to interference ( Eysenck,1982; Lieberman & Rosenthal,
2001). Extraverted locomotive drivers showed a better detection of railway signal stimuli
(Singh,1989); extraverted post office trainees performed better on demanding, speed mail‐
coding tasks (Matthew, Jones and Chamberlain, 1992) and extraverted TV viewers show better
short term recall of television news broadcasts (Gunter & Furnham, 1986)
• Conversely, introverts performed better on tasks requiring vigilance and careful attention to
details (Harkins& Green, 1975). Evidence also suggests that introverts show better long term
memory for words (Howarth & Geen, 1975) and superior performances under conditions of very
low arousal, as when deprived of sleep for long periods of time (Matthews, 1992).
• AS for learning styles, extraverts focus on speed vs accuracy and vice versa for introverts.
Extraverts report a higher level of positive affect (reports of good feelings) in everyday life than
introverts. Costa and McCrae (1980a, 1984) conducted a series of studies in which they administered self report measures of E and subjective well being to large samples of adults. Two independent features
were used: positive affect (reports of good feelings) and negative affect (reports of bad feelings). It was
found that E is positively associated with reports of good feelings but unrelated to reports of bad
In other words : extraverts report more positive affect than introverts, but do not necessarily report
less negative affect.
Explanations for the findings:
‐extraverts may be less responsive to punishment than introverts.
‐ Introverts dwell on negative and punitive features of certain social situations ( Graziano, Feldsman
‐Introverts recall less positive information and rate others less positively in social situations (Lishman,
Extraverts are more likely to continue responding in the face of punishment and frustration. Pearce‐
McCall and Newman(1986) exposed 50 extraverted and 50 introverted college men to two
“pretreatment conditions” in a problem solving experiment: either a ‘reward condition’ in which the
participant received 2.50$ or a ‘punishment condition’ where the student was told that his earnings had
dwindled from 5$ to 2.50$ from poor performance. In reality the students had been randomly assigned
and the actual performance had nothing to do with the received awards or punishments. After the pre‐
treatment , the students made bets on how well they would perform on a subsequent problem solving
task. Extraverts who had been punished placed larger wages on their ability to succeed, reported higher
levels of expecting to succeed, and expressed greater confidence that they could “control” the situation
in the future.
Patterson, Kosson, and Newman (1987) showed that extraverts typically fail to pause following
punishment. Impulsively seeking out rewards, extraverts may actually be motivated by punishment to
work even faster and more impulsively.
Extraverts appear to be able to better regulate their moods. Hemenover (2003) found that good moods
induced in a fun laboratory experiment lasted longer for participants who were high on E. Life is Beautiful Experiment: Lischetzke and Eid (2006) found that extraverts reported a better ability to
keep a good mood going, but they were no more likely than introverts to report better abilities to
coping with bad moods. Lischetzke and Eid played clips from the movie Life is Beautiful, where a father
turns serious situations into comic ones to shelter his son from the evils of the concentration camp
where they are held. Extraverts felt more positive emotion after the film than introvert. The study
suggests that in an emotionally complex situation where people feel conflicting emotional states,
extraverts manage to keep positive.
Argyle and Lu (1990) conducted a path analysis(figure 5.2 page 161) : in simple terms a path analysis
enables researchers to understand statistically both direct and indirect effects of variables on one
another. They found that the association between extraversion and happiness happens in two ways :
first highly extraverted people have more social skills and competence which tends to produce or lead to
more happiness. Second, after accounting for this first relationship there is leftover direct effect of
extraversion on happiness itself. In other words, social skills tell some of the story, but not all of it.
Conflict between psychologists on the topic of the relation between E and positive emotions: One camp
argues that E should be renamed “positive emotionality” or “Positive affectivity”. According to this
view positive affect is the emotional core of what is E. Other researchers interpret the literature on
affect and extraversion as being correlated, but by no means the same thing. High E can be associated
with lower positive affect in some situations. Brandstatter (1994) found that E was associated with
positive affect when mood ratings were collected in social settings, but reported lower levels of
positive emotion when they were alone.
Measures of chronic anxiety, excessive emotionality, nervousness, moodiness, hostility, vulnerability,
self‐consciousness, and hypochondriases all converge in this trait cluster. Neuroticism is usually the
dimension labeled negative affectivity (Watson and Tellegen, 1985) Studies concerning N contrast those
on E, suggesting that E is associated with positive affect states. As we’ve seen extraverts report higher
levels of good feelings about themselves than introverts . But introverts and extraverts do not differ
with respect to bad feelings. To oversimplify, extraverts report higher levels of good feelings, introverts
report low levels of good feelings. Persons with high N report high levels of bad feelings, and people low
in N report low levels of bad feelings. People with high N report poorer health (Larsen and Kasimatis, 1991), are more likely to get divorced
(Kelley & Conley, 1987) and there is some proof that there is an increased risk for life threatening
illnesses such as heart disease. Why is N associated with such bad things? Bolger and Schilling (1991)
conducted a study of daily stressors to analyze this problem. They recruited adults to provide reports of
daily stressors and moods for 42 days. The results indicated that on average, high N adults were more
distressed then low N adults. High N adults reported a greater number of stressful incidents than low N
adults. One could argue that the high N adults were more likely to be oversensitive, however reports
from spouses tended to support the accuracy of these accounts. In other words, high N seems to
expose individuals to a greater number of stressful daily events. (?) Not only did participants with high N
report higher instances of stressful events but their negative emotional reactions were significantly
stronger than participants with low N.
In order to characterize the factors that contribute to the negative quality of life that people with high N
experience, Jerry Suls and Renee Martin (2005) describe a neurotic cascade. In the neurotic cascade,
five different processes reinforce each other in neuroticism to cause a build up of negative emotion in
daily life. The end result being a cascade of emotion, a small negative event can precipitate a negative
emotional avalanche. The five factors of neurotic cascade are:
‐ Hyperreactivity: people high in N are more sensitive to signals of punishment and negative
affect in their environment.
‐ Differential exposure: People with high N experience negative events more frequently, because
they are more sensitive to negative stimuli.
‐ Differential appraisal: People with high N interpret events in more negative terms
‐ Mood spillover: Negative emotions in one area of life spill over into others and carry over time
‐ Sting of familiar problems: failure to cope with old problems when they reoccur.
Studies also suggest that that N is associated with inappropriate and awkward behavior in social
settings.( Chaikin, Derlega, Bayma & Shaw, 1975) According to tests persons with high N find it difficult
to adjust their social behavior to meet situational demands. Neurotic individuals seem to be oblivious to
social cues, perhaps self pre‐occupied to note what their environments are saying to them.
Stress and Coping:
N is the trait that is most strongly and consistently related to stress symptoms of various kinds. The
question is whether stress causes neuroticism or does neuroticism cause stress? Ormel and Wohlfarth (1991) reported a longitudinal study of 296 Dutch adults who were given
measures of N at the beginning of the study ( Time 0) and then asked about stressful life events and
psychological distress 6 years( Time 1) and 7 years later (Time 2). Stressful events were broken down
into endogenous (influenced by a person’s own behavior e.g. marital discord) and exogenous events
(events that originate from outside sources such as illness). The researchers found that both
endogenous and exogenous events at Time 1 had an impact on psychological distress at Time 1 and
Time 2. However a much stronger predictor of distress at Times 1 and 2 was the persons level of N at
Time 0. N also predicted endogenous life events. Individuals high in N at Time 0 experienced more self‐
generated stressful events 6 years later, which in turn predicted psychological distress.
In other words high N tends to cause stress. Research indicates that people who are high in N do not
cope well with high stress situations because they already have a negative outlook and appraise a
situation in even more negative terms. People with high N tend to believe they have relatively weak
support systems and few resources to help them cope with problems. Rather than adopting a game –
plan, many with high N adopt emotion‐focused or avoidant coping strategies (Endler & Parker, 1990).
Instead of tackling the problem that is causing the stresss, they may focus their efforts on soothing their
fears and calming their nervousness, or they may seek to escape the problem through drug/alcohol use.
Extraversion and Neuroticism in the Brain
Beginning with Hand Eysenck’s research in the 1940s, scientists have searched for the underlying
linkages between the basic traits and brain functioning, in particular extraversion and neuroticism.
Eysenck borrowed concepts from Pavlov. In some of Pavlov’s experiments the dog was exposed to a
high degree of stimulation , where the dog seemed to reach such degree of stimulation that a decrease
in response was found ( as if the dogs body were beginning to shut down from stimulus perceived to be
too high). This point was called the threshold of transmarginal inhibition. Pavlov noticed that different
dogs reached the threshold at different times, dogs who displayed affable and outgoing characters had a
“strong nervous system” whilst dogs who were stoic and less affable had a “weak nervous system”. The
dogs with the strong nervous system seemed able to withhold more stimulation, and the dogs with
weak nervous systems could take less and began to inhibit their responding sooner and at lower levels
of external stimulation.
So Eysenck analogized extraverts to dogs with strong nervous systems and introverts with weak nervous
systems. According to this theory, extraverts need more stimulation to get to an optimum level of arousal and introverts at low levels of stimulation are rather highly aroused to begin with, thus reaching
their peak optimum sooner than extraverts. Eysenck refined his ideas about arousal and proposed that
the brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) was responsible for individual differen