The King or Queen of the class Extroverts or Introverts?


This week I cast my mind back to when I was on a weeks work experience in my former primary school and it got me thinking about the students individual responses and reactions when the teacher asked them a question, some jumping off their seats arms waving eagerly, others remaining very quiet indeed.

Eysenck and Rachmans (1965) and Fouts (1975) define Introverted children as ‘nonsocial that is, they prefer being alone, have few friends, and tend to be generally introspective and inhibited’ . Extroverted children on the other hand are characterized as ‘social’ that is, they like to be with others, have many friends, and are impulsive’ (Eysenck and Rachmans, 1965) and (Fouts, 1975). Although as with most things in life the majority of people are somewhere along the spectrum between an introvert and an extrovert.

But why genuinely fairs best in a school setting extroverts or  introverts?  From looking into the research it is often provides conflicting evidence.

Eysenck (1967) argued that Extraversion and Neuroticism are theoretically and empirically linked with aptitude, predominantly as a consequence of likenesses in mental speed (i.e., high Extraversion, low Neuroticism, and high intelligence are all related to high mental speed). Also, it has been proved that stable, as opposed to neurotic, individuals tend to score higher on ability tests—possibly due to the fact that they are generally less influenced by anxiety (Furnham & Mitchell, 1991; Zeidner, 1995; Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham  (2003); Zeidner & Matthews, 2000) and perform better in university classes (Cattell & Kline, 1977; Goh & Moore, 1978; Lathey, 1991; Sanchez-Marin, Rejano-Infante, & Rodriguez-Troyano, 2001; Savage, 1962).

In addition, Rolfhus and Ackerman (1999) discovered a negative relationships between Extraversion and many knowledge tests, and put forward that these connections may be linked, there may be discrepancies in knowledge acquisition time, between introverts (spend more time studying) and extraverts (spend more time socializing).

However, Furnham, Forde, and Cotter (1998a, 1998b) showed  that extraverts significantly outperformed introverts on a test of logical reasoning.  Thereby it is challenging to reveal a consistent pattern for the link between intelligence and Extraversion, which is either weaker or more context/task specific than Neuroticism. A number of the ambiguities may be clarified by Eysencks  (1967) and Furnham et al.s (1998a, 1998b), suggestion that the relationship between Extraversion and intellectual ability depends on the intelligence test used:  extraverts perform better at timed tests, while longer and non-timed test are performed better by introverts.

Research into the relationship between Extraversion and academic performance,  (Child, 1964; Entwistle & Entwistle, 1970; Savage, 1962) reveals that introverts perform better than extroverts—because of a greater ability to consolidate learning and better study habits (Entwistle & Entwistle, 1970). Yet, many researchers (Kline & Gale, 1971) have been unable to replicate these results.

Although stable introverts  generally  have the most positive attitudes toward studying, their examination results were similar to those of neurotic extraverts (Cowell and Entwistle, 1971). Furnham and Medhurst (1995) repeated these results, but found extraverts to be rated more positively in seminar classes than introverts.

On the other hand Sanchez-Marin et al. (2001) discovered that extraverts were inclined to fail their courses to a greater degree than introverts, no doubt due to their distractibility, sociability, and impulsiveness. A reasoning behind the ambiguity of results was put forward by Anthony (1973), who said that extraverts generally do better than introverts in primary school, while the opposite occurs in higher levels of education. This would be due to higher education involving more analytical, formal and complex tasks compared with lower education.

In terms of purely personality traits influences on academic performance, two longitudinal studies were carried out in University samples. The results indicated that, the Big Five personality factors (Costa & McCrae, 1992)—especially Neuroticism and Conscientiousness—predicted overall final exam marks more than  academic predictors, accounting for more than 10% of unique variance in overall exam marks. Neuroticism has been shown to impair academic performance, while Conscientiousness may lead to higher academic achievement. Eysenck , 1985 showed that personality measures were the most powerful indications of academic performance, accounting for nearly 17% of unique variance in overall exam results. It is demonstrated that (similar to Neuroctisim) Psychoticism could also have a negative impact on academic success.

On a side note I discovered research by Thompson, and Hunnicutt (1944) that showed ‘that repeated praise increased the work output of introverts much more than that of introverts who were blamed or extroverts who were praised’.’ Repeated blame increased the work output of extroverts more than that of extroverts who were praised or introverts who were blamed’.

So possibly the fact that extraversion falls along a spectrum is very positive as it means that individuals may benefit from the positives of either extraverts or an introverts without having too many of the drawbacks associated with either. But from looking into the research there is certainly as mentioned above conflicting evidence that needs to be clarified and then applied to the school setting to benefit subtly different learners.


8 responses »

  1. I found interesting research (Burton , Ballantine & McIlveen,2009) Eliza,that suggested that certain personality traits predicted certain learning approaches. Those scoring highly on conscientiousness for example, are more likely to use a deep learning approach- they try to understand what they learn and link to previously learned material. This may explain the greater academic achievement of conscientious individuals.
    There doesn’t seem to be any research into whether extroverts dominate the classroom more, affecting the learning outcomes of the introverts. Perhaps because their voice gets heard, their questions get answered, they are more motivated to be involved? The quiet introvert at the back of the class may not understand, but feel too dominated to contribute or ask questions, affecting their motivation to work or enjoyment of school.
    What do people think?

    • On the point of do extroverts affect the learning outcome of the introverts, I too did not discover any research specifically along these lines.

      But I found research to show that extroverts and introverts may actually have similar needs when it comes to a learning environment. Despite extravert’s and introverts seemingly opposite needs in terms of arousal levels, ie. extraverts with their high levels of optimum arousal needing more stimulation from their environment and introverts with their low levels of optimum arousal simply requiring reduced stimulation from the world around them (Zuckerman, 1994). This differing levels of arousal is supported by (Stenberg et al. 1990) who found that introverts have higher levels of blood flow in the temporal lobe in comparison to extroverts.

      Michel (1999) examined extroverts and introverts task performance while background music was played for arousal. But to look into this issue further regarding an everyday event, a television distraction with introverts and extraverts was studied by Furnham et al (1994). A comprehension task proved that both groups performed better in silence, yet when carrying out the task with a distraction, extraverts outperformed introverts. Campbell and Hawley (1982) analysed students in a library and discovered that extroverts locate themselves where there is more external stimulation while studying. Therefore this supports the arousal theory indicating that they need more stimulation to learn.

      So although extroverts and introverts seek out differing study environments the optimum work environments for both groups is actually the same in silence rather than with music or the existence of any other stimulation.

  2. Some more research by Eysneck (1965) had he suggests that introverts are more conditionable than extraverts. So this would make them better at school where token economies are used along with punishment to teach acceptable behaviour. Being able to behave how teachers want you to behave will increase the likelyhood that your relationship with teaches will be positive, you will enjoy school, and therefore want to learn; whereas the opposite could be true for extraverts. Further to this extraverts have been said to take a reward withour the fear of the consequence, which could be a punishment; thus showing they have no fear of punishment compared to intraverts who are susceptible to punishment(Eysneck, 1964). In school this would mean the children who are extraverts will continue to behave in a way they feel acceptabl, even if they are punished they will continue to behave badly due to a lack of fear. Therefore to me this suggests that a method is needed to help extravert children learn how to behave appropriatley in school to enable them to learn just as easily as introverts.

    • Thanks rgadd18 for bringing Eysnecks (1965 and 1964) interesting research to the fore. Certainly from personal experience I found that in my classes Extroverts were often the most disruptive and from some brief experience teaching I found extroverts are often the biggest trouble makers and causes of disruptions in the classroom as they are often attention seekers. But then again it can also go the other way and certainly as a trainee teacher, eager pupils can be motivating as for example if you pose a question to the class and you receive no answers it can be a daunting prospect. Often if a student does respond it is normally the more extroverted pupils as the introverted pupils are often too shy to put up their hands or shout out the answer even if they know it. So possibly it is not only about enabling extroverts to learn as easily as introverts but also about finding a manner or classroom setting in which both introverts and extroverts feel comfortable to speak out and finding a balance between responding and listening to extroverts and introverts and appropriate classroom management.

  3. Maybe the use of extraversion and introversion alone is too unspecific to predict academic performance consistently. Many outcomes are the result of more than one factor (Miles & Shevlin, 2001). Likewise, as you have mentioned, interactions between extraversion and neuroticism have found for academic performance. What’s more, each of the Big 5 Personality traits have been considered to have 6 further sub-facets, which for extraversion includes assertiveness and excitement-seeking (Klimstra, Luyckx, Teppers, Goossens & de Fruyt, 2011). With consideration of this, Bipp, Steinmayr and Spinath (2008) have found that the use of some of these sub-facets could lead to more comprehensive predictions and stronger correlations than the usual weak to moderate correlations associated with the use of the Big 5 Personality traits alone.


    Bipp, T., Steinmayr, R., & Spinath, B. (2008). Personality and achievement motivation: Relationship among Big Five domain and facet scales, achievement goals, and intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1454–1464. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.01.001

    Klimstra, T., A., Luyckx, K., Teppers, E., Goossens, L., & de Fruyt, F. (2011). Congruence between adolescent personality types based on the Big Five domains and the 30 NEO-PI-3 personality facets. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 153–517. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.07.004

    Miles, J., & Shelvin, M. (2001). Applying regression & correlation: A guide for students and researchers. London: Sage Publications.

  4. I think personality types are not only going to have a relationship with intelligence and academic performance but personality types in children also influence their behaviours and attitudes. Social competence can be a drive to achieve and personality determines the pupil’s social competence. Caspi (1998) founds that highly conscientious and agreeable students are less likely to have behavioural problems in the classroom. It may also affect how teacher’s view and treat the students. It is know that teacher’s expectations and attitudes towards students can have a massive impact. Asendorf & Aken (1999) found that over-controlled boys tended to be withdrawn whilst under-controlled were more likely to be aggressive. Furthermore, older children who showed low conscientiousness and agreeableness but were high in extroversion were more likely to become involved in delinquent behaviour as youths (Caspi et al. 1994). Extroversion itself might not be the only trait leading to higher academic performance. Maybe there are a number of trait that are combined to make the desired personality?

  5. what they said about extroverts and introverts are more likely to be true as for me, an introvert can prove them right of course

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