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.