Step aside ambivert, there's a new type of extravert in town.
A team of psychologists led by Jason Huang of Michigan State University has identified a new unit of personality, which they refer to as the “other-contingent extravert.”
This is someone who has all of the trappings of a classic extravert—outgoing, sociable, and positive—but only reveals their true extraverted nature around people they view as friendly and in settings they perceive as comfortable. “We conceptualize other-contingent extraversion as an individual difference in the tendency to elevate one’s state extraversion when interacting with friendly others,” the researchers state in a study forthcoming in the Journal of Individual Differences.
While the basic idea behind other-contingent extraversion makes perfect sense—we’ve all probably encountered people who only come out of their shells under just the right circumstances, or perhaps we are one ourselves—demonstrating its existence in a scientific way is not an easy task. To accomplish this, the scientists designed a study in which they asked 83 U.S. undergraduate students to participate in a 3-week-long experiment. At the start of the experiment, participants were asked to complete a series of personality measures, including one that measured extraversion.
Participants were then contacted via email twice per day for a three-week period to report the characteristics of their most recent social interactions. They were asked to “think about the social interactions they had with others in the hour before receiving this email survey” and to rate the friendliness of the person(s) with whom they interacted by answering the following three questions on a 7-point scale (1 = not at all; 7 = extremely):
- “How friendly was the other person/people you were interacting with?"
- “How willing to engage in conversation was the other person/people?”
- “How sociable was the other person/people you were interacting with?”
Participants were then asked to rate the degree to which they approached each social interaction with an elevated sense of extraversion (“While interacting with the other person, how talkative, bold, and energetic were you?”).
The researchers found, not surprisingly, that participants generally approached friendly people with elevated extraversion. However, some participants were especially attuned to others’ friendliness cues. The researchers isolated these people as the other-contingent extraverts and showed that they were different from those who scored high on traditional measures of extraversion. As they stated, “As expected, individuals tend to elevate their state extraversion when interacting with others who appeared friendly to them. More importantly, other-contingent extraversion differs across individuals. Its low correlation with trait extraversion suggests that other-contingent extraversion is a dynamic response pattern distinct from people’s general level of extraversion.”
This research adds to our growing understanding of the nuances of the extraverted personality. Other recent research, for instance, has found that female extraverts differ from male extraverts in terms of their romantic satisfaction and that extraverts tend to use more positive language in daily speech.
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Huang, J. L., & Wu, D. (2020). Other-contingent extraversion and satisfaction: The moderating role of implicit theory of personality. Journal of Individual Differences.