Are you more likely to take risks if you are an extrovert or an introvert? Or do you just choose a different type of risk?
The concepts of extroversion and introversion are oftentimes misunderstood. Let's look at some examples of extroverts and introverts.
Extroverts tend to seek information more through engaging with the outside world. Introverts tend to seek information more through observation and reflection. If you are an extrovert, you tend to relax by being around other people. If you are an introvert, you tend to relax by being by yourself. Many people are both extrovert and introvert -- it just depends on the situation.
One theory of risk-taking is that extroverts may be more likely to take risks because they are more comfortable engaging with the world around them. Here are three studies that find extroverts may have advantages over introverts in the area of risk-taking:
1. Children who scored higher on the Children's Scale for Courage were more likely to score higher on extraversion, openness/intellect, and lower on anxiety traits than their peers (Muris, Mayer, and Schubert, 2010).
2. Extroverts may take more risks in learning than introverts. When learning a second language, extroverts are more likely than introverts to join a language-learning group and use their language skills inside and outside of the classroom. It is thought that extroverts are more likely to engage in classroom participation, which involves risk-taking behaviors such as asking questions in class and meeting with one's teacher. Classroom participation is a key factor in the acquisition of a second language in a school setting (Zafar and Meenakshi 2012).
3. Surgeons who scored as "extroverted" were more tolerant of risk than their introverted peers. They scored as less likely to be reluctant to admit a mistake to a physician than those who were introverted (Contessa, Suarez, Kyriakides, and Nazdam, 2013).
However, according to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (2013), introverts are just as likely to take risks as extroverts -- we just need to take a look at the type of risk.
Introverts are more likely to take calculated risks than their extroverted peers. Calculated risks are ones in which a person steps back and looks at the pros and cons of a decision before taking action. Cain writes that introverts may be less likely to want instant gratification than extroverts, so they take the time to think through things thoroughly instead of jumping right in. They don't need a result or payoff right now.
Introverts also tend to have more experience with self-reflection -- this improves the odds for a good decision because you are looking at whether personal bias is impacting your decision. In many areas of life, such as in the business world, the risks you take must be calculated risks. Cain argues that you want introverts on your team when you are faced with big decisions.
It's possible that extroverts and introverts take risks equally -- it's just a different kind of risk.
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