Humans have been interested in personality differences for centuries, dating back to the 18th century. Maybe you’ve heard of the famous Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or more commonly called the Myers Briggs Personality Test. The first letter in the assessment determines whether you are an extrovert (E) or introvert (I).
Being an extravert doesn’t necessary mean you are more social or have more friends than an introvert (although you might). Rather, it's an indication of where you derive energy and how you interact with the world around you. Extroverts tend to interact with people more frequently and get energy from these social interactions.
Most of us have taken a personality test at some point in time whether to learn more about ourselves or perhaps, we were asked/required to do so by an employer. However, did it ever occur to you when you sat answering questions about yourself that your genetics could be playing a role in who you are, how social you are, and where your energy comes from?
What does being extroverted say about me?
According to The Myers and Briggs Foundation, extroverts make up ~ 50% of the US population. It’s not just the MBTI that analyzes extroversion vs. introversion as an important link in overall personality. The Big Five model designed in the 1960s considers extroversion as one of the five factors that determine personality.
Are extroverted people better at being leaders or superior in sales since you get energy from being around others? Do people value your opinion more since perhaps you speak out more than an introvert? These are common questions that modern personality research attempts to answer.
For Susan Cain, an author and co-founder of the Quiet Revolution, being an extroverted person doesn’t mean you are superior in social situations or more energized by surrounding yourself with people; however, you do desire stimulation and experience more positive emotions compared to introverts.
Regardless of your extroverted or introverted personality type, the truth is most of us are in a grey area and don’t strongly relate to either side. We all have moments when we feel a bit antisocial and crave alone time, characteristics associated with introverts. We are all human and humans are social creations that like being around others at times.
How does our DNA influence how extroverted we are?
It was Carl Jung that coined the terms extrovert and introvert back in the early 1900s. But, it wasn’t until a famous psychologist with controversial views, Hans Eysenck, brought biology into the equation. He believed the way individuals view and relate with the world defines us so much so that he labeled extroversion vs. introversion as a first-order personality trait in which other traits expand upon. Additionally, he connected personality and genetics with one’s mental state.
A recent study put this concept to the test by analyzing five dimensions of personality to identify genetic variants. Since the authors used the Big Five model as a guide, extroversion was one of the personality traits the scientists examined. After performing a genome wide association (GWA) scan from 3,972 individuals, they identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three genes associated with extraversion: BDNF, CDH13, and CDH23.
This type of research can be complex and be similar to finding a needle in a haystack. In the study discussed above, while the sample size was large, there were a number of limitations to the research study: the population was homogeneous, it relies on one of many personality models, it did not obtaining consistent results. Learn more about the study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18957941.
Find out what your DNA says
Research suggests that there is a link between personality traits such as extraversion and genetics. If you are curious as to whether you are genetically predisposed to being more extroverted than introverted, upload your data to Genomelink to find out now.