Female Extraverts Differ from Male Extraverts in Two Ways
New personality research explores the link between extraversion and gender.
Posted Nov 18, 2020
Male extraverts are similar to female extraverts in many ways. Both feed off of the energy of others, both spend many of their waking hours communicating with others, and both have large social networks—online and in real life.
But there are some important differences. A recent paper published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science identifies two such differences—female extraverts are less likely to experience romantic happiness and they are less likely to have a high degree of occupational commitment.
This is not to say women extraverts can't have these two things; it just may come a bit more naturally to male extraverts.
To arrive at this result, a team of researchers led by Christopher Soto of Colby College in Maine analyzed over 6,000 personality tests to see which personality dimensions were most predictive of different life outcomes.
Surprisingly, Soto and his team found remarkable consistency across gender. Many of the personality traits they measured (for instance, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism) were predictive of the same life outcomes (leadership, well-being, humor, and job satisfaction) for men and women.
“I expected that most of the trait-outcome associations would be consistent across gender, but I wasn't sure whether the degree of consistency would be closer to 60% or 90%,” commented Soto. “So finding that 90-95% of the trait-outcome associations were consistently observed across demographic groups was definitely at the high end of my expectations.”
Where did meaningful differences emerge? For one, women who scored high on the personality dimension of agreeableness—that is, the set of characteristics that cause people to be perceived as kind, warm, considerate, and cooperative—possessed less financial security than agreeable men. This should not come as a surprise, as other research has found agreeableness to be associated with lower wages for women. Agreeable men also exhibited marginally higher romantic satisfaction than women, although agreeableness in women was generally associated with higher romantic satisfaction than other personality traits.
The trait of conscientiousness, or the tendency to exhibit carefulness, diligence, and seriousness, showed considerable divergence between men and women. Conscientious men were more likely to exhibit occupational commitment and intrinsic success than women. Alternatively, conscientious women were more likely than conscientious men to exhibit pro-social behaviors.
The scientists also examined the personality dimension of “openness,” or the degree to which a person is imaginative, intellectually curious, and variety-seeking. They found that openness was more strongly associated with volunteerism in women. It was also more highly associated with job attainment and job success in women. For men, openness was associated greater well-being and a heightened ability to engage in forgiveness.
This research was conducted as part of a broader effort to replicate many of the associations between personality traits and life outcomes that have been found in previous research. To this end, the researchers view their work as a success. They write, “These results indicate that the personality-outcome literature provides a reasonably accurate map of trait–outcome associations but also that it stands to benefit from efforts to improve replicability.”
This work also echoes the findings of another study exploring personality differences between men and women. In that research, psychologists analyzed the results of more than 30,000 personality test results taken by individuals around the world. While they found gender differences to exist—for example, women scored higher on measures of "sensitivity" while men scored higher on traits associated with "duty" and "responsibility"—they also found a high degree of overlap. For instance, the correlations between personality traits in a given person were similar in men and women. They write, "Invariance tests and indices of matrix similarity indicated that the correlational structure of personality was equivalent in the two sexes."
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Soto, C. J. (2020). Do Links Between Personality and Life Outcomes Generalize? Testing the Robustness of Trait–Outcome Associations Across Gender, Age, Ethnicity, and Analytic Approaches. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1948550619900572.