Potential Project Description for 2012-13


Title: Extraversion and Extreme Expressivity
Domain Expert: Donna McMillan (Psychology)

The concept of extraversion most typically is thought of in terms of being outgoing, gregarious, and warm; however, extraversion also includes an element of enthusiasm or “surgency.” Does extraverts’ enthusiasm carry over into how they respond to everyday situations, items or concepts? This research program examines the relation between extraversion and extreme expressivity. Our findings to date suggest that extraverts do respond more extremely than introverts to positive and neutral stimuli; for example, extraverts more frequently endorse extreme points on a Likert scale, such as a "1" or a "7." This tendency is present for items that are self-relevant (e.g., rating one’s own traits) and for those that are not self-relevant (e.g., rating photos). Our research also suggests that, compared to introverts, extraverts appear to prefer more extreme words rather than milder versions of the same word. Extraverts’ tendency to extreme expression connects to psychological theory in interesting ways, including the theory that extraversion is associated with a cortical need for external stimulation. Perhaps extraverts respond more extremely because this behavior itself is stimulating.

Open research includes:

1) Using current data to statistically select the questionnaire items that best distinguish extreme response tendencies.

2) Analysis of open-ended responses to see whether extraverts express themselves more extremely in open-ended formats.

3) Do extraverts prefer more extreme words because those words are more stimulating? If so, would extraverts similarly prefer fake words that are composed of rarely used (and thus perhaps more stimulating) letters, compared to fake words composed of common letters – e.g., “zubko” rather than “selta”?

4) A couple of recent studies in the literature have successfully manipulated extraversion by having participants act in an extraverted manner, regardless of their actual personalities. Would such an experimental manipulation (i.e., state extraversion) also lead to more extreme expressivity?