The present study examined the relationship between introversion and extroversion personality types and the fear of negative evaluation. Students attending a small Christian-affiliated liberal arts university were selected through convenience sampling to complete the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. It was hypothesized that individuals who were classified as introverted would have a greater fear of negative evaluation than individuals who were classified as extraverted. The results were measured using a two-tailed independent t-test with a significance level of 0.05. The null hypothesis was rejected and a statistically significant relationship was found between introverted individuals and fear of negative evaluation. The hypothesis was supported, affirming that individuals who are assessed to be extroverted will tend to have a lower fear of negative evaluation score than those who are introverted.
Affect, behavior, and cognition are all linked together and contribute to an individual’s perception of him or herself. Wells (2000) found that what individuals believe about themselves has a profound effect on their social interactions. People who have social anxiety generally assert more negative thoughts than positive thoughts about themselves. These negative thoughts may cause one to avoid social interaction, therefore turning oneself toward introversion, and positive thoughts may turn a person toward extraversion (Leary & Kowalski, 1995).
Although specific personality characteristics differ between individuals, extraverts typically prefer to be in social situations where they are busy and able to interact with others rather than spend time alone. When interacting with other people extroverts seem more confident than those who are introverted. Those who are extraverted typically desire to be known by others, while those who are introverted do not view recognition as significant (Jung, 1971). An extraverted individual spends more time each day interacting with people in social situations than an introverted individual (Leary & Buckley, 2000).
Introverted people are more inclined to keep their feelings to themselves and deal with issues alone, although they are generally quite sympathetic to the feelings of other people. Social relationships for introverts, often labeled as shy, start with less depth than social relationships developed with more outgoing individuals. Shyness could immobilize the social contact needed for quality relationships because the individual fears being rejected. Behavior connected to a shy personality does not always assist in the progress of building acceptance and familiarity with other people. Introverts may give off the impression that they do not want to receive attention from other individuals (Leary & Buckley, 2000).
Shyness may lead to a fear of negative evaluation in social settings, meaning feelings of anxiety over being judged by other people (Cowden, 2005). Many questions on the Fear of Negative Evaluation scale (FNE) (Watson & Friend, 1969) focus on the issues of being judged and concern over impressions made on others; questions cover items such as, “I am afraid people will find fault with me” ( Carleton, McCreary, Norton, & Asmundson, 2006). One subtype of social anxiety is fear or concern over social interaction and public speaking (Moore & Gee, 2003). Those who are anxious in social interactions tend to be extremely preoccupied with clearly articulating their speech and portraying a presentable physical appearance. They are highly concerned with the impression they make on other people, thus they are high self-monitors and have high levels of self-awareness (Kocovski & Ender, 2000). Leary and Kowalski (1995) stated that social anxiety is accompanied by excessive self-preoccupation because fear of negative evaluation affects the cognitive processing in three ways: (a) decreasing the individual’s attention to environmental cues, (b) affecting how a person encodes and interprets information, and (c) increasing the probability of certain overt behaviors.
Males and females tend to manifest this fear of negative evaluation in different ways; while females are more open with their fears, males generally mask their anxiety and use different strategies for coping. There is also speculation as to the effect of the level of education received on anxiety (Moore & Gee, 2003). Apprehension in social situations can cause people to restrict their actions, thus impacting the quality of their relationships with others (Cowden, 2005). This fear of making mistakes has an impact on not simply one individual but everyone who comes into contact with him or her, ranging from intimate relationships to interactions with the general public (Moore & Gee, 2003).
Although little research has been done to examine the effect of personality type, specifically introversion-extraversion, on fear of negative evaluation, it appears that those who are introverted experience a greater fear of negative evaluation than those who tend to thrive in a social setting (Cowden, 2005). The social interactions of these individuals are often hindered due to their fears (Larsen & Buss, 2002). It is a basic human desire to avoid rejection and search for approval, and those who are introverted doubt that they have the ability to make successful impressions on others (Leary & Buckley, 2000; Leary & Kowalski, 1995).
When individuals have a fear of being evaluated negatively, they will often do everything in their power to avoid social situations where they may face evaluation due to a concern of being embarrassed. It is impossible for them to avoid these interactions altogether and this avoidance causes an immense amount of stress for some individuals. Those who have an intense fear of social interaction often take on characteristics of introverts ( Leary & Kowalski, 1995 ). Further, many patients who are being treated for social phobias are found to be introverted. The question then becomes: was it the introversion that caused the social phobia or vice versa (Janowsky, Morter & Tancer, 2000)?
One difference between extraverts and introverts is that those who are extraverted tend to have lower levels of self-awareness than those who are introverted. Those who have high levels of self-awareness are often more anxious in social situations; because of this, it is very likely that those who are extraverted have a lower fear of negative evaluation (Harrington & Loffredo, 2001). It is hypothesized that individuals who are described as introverted (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) will have a greater fear of negative evaluation (as measured by the Fear of Negative Evaluation scale) than individuals who are classified as extraverted.
The population for this study included approximately 1000 students from a small Christian liberal arts university in the Midwest. The actual participants were 70 students ranging in age from 17-23 who were selected to participate in the study through convenience sampling. The mean age of participants in this study was 19.7. Of the participants, 28 were males and 42 were females, and 94 percent were Caucasian.
The Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (Watson & Friend, 1969) is composed of 30 true-false statements, measuring the anxiety an individual feels in social situations (Carleton, McCreary, Norton, & Asmudson, 2006). It includes statements such as: (a) I feel very upset when I commit some social error, (b) I am often afraid that I may look ridiculous or make a fool of myself, and (c) If someone is evaluating me I tend to expect the worst. Higher scores on the scale reflect an increased level of anxiety. Internal consistency for the FNE has been found to be excellent, with test-retest scores ranging from .78 and .94 in a one-month period. Experimental validity has been attained through using the FNE with college students (Antony, Orsillo, & Roemer, 2001).
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), there are four different components to each individual’s personality, including: (a) extroversion/introversion, (b) intuition/sensing, (c) feeling/thinking, and (d) judging/perceiving (Opt & Loffredo, 2003). For the purposes of this study, the MBTI was completed and scored online. Through test-retest, the MBTI has been shown to be reliable and consistent over time (Myers & McCaulley, 1985). The MBTI has been tested numerous times and has been found to have high validity and reliability (Wheeler, 2001).
The study was scheduled to take place on two separate days and a computer lab was reserved for each day. As an incentive to participate in the study, snacks were provided and a drawing for a gift card was held. A campus-wide email was sent to the 1000-member student body informing them of the times and location of the study. The email also explained that students would be completing two tests that would take approximately 30 minutes and that their personal results would be kept confidential.
As each student arrived, they received written instructions. They were handed a folder with a number on it; the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (Watson & Friend, 1969) was included in this folder. Students who received an even number were to start with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and students who received an odd number were to start with the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (Watson & Friend, 1969) in order to counterbalance. All students were directed to computers and students with even numbers were instructed to complete the Myers-Briggs online, printing out their results when they were finished. They then completed the Fear of Negative Evaluations Scale (Watson & Friend, 1969). Students receiving odd numbers took both of these tests in reverse order.
Upon completion, students gave both of their surveys to the researchers. The researchers confirmed that both tests were completed and in the folder. Students were invited to write their name on a slip of paper in order to be entered into the drawing for a gift card. They were also given a notification regarding counseling services on campus if they felt that this test elicited emotional concerns, although the researchers did not anticipate any problems.
A total of 70 participants completed both surveys. Two persons omitted one question each on the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (Watson & Friend, 1969) and these omissions were assigned a middle value of 0.5. The mean fear of negative evaluation scores of the introverted group was 19.234 (SD = 7.568), and the mean of the extroverted group was 14.434 (SD = 7.056). Using a two-tailed independent t-test with an alpha level of .05 and 68 degrees of freedom, the t value obtained was 2.743 and the critical t value was 1.995 (p = 0.008); therefore the null hypothesis was rejected (Table 1).
Table 1. Fear of Negative Evaluation Scores
Number of participants
The results verified that there was a statistically significant difference between the average Fear of Negative Evaluation scores for the introverted group and the extroverted group. Thus, the hypothesis was supported, affirming that individuals who are assessed to be extroverted will tend to have a lower fear of negative evaluation score than those who are introverted. It may be reasonable to conclude that introverted individuals tend to avoid social situations for fear of being judged.
These findings are similar to previous studies. Leary and Buckley (2000) found that social relationships are hindered for introverts. They lack depth in their relationships due to a fear of being negatively judged by others. Extroverts have been found to have lower levels of self-awareness than introverts. They are not as focused on the impression that they make on others, thus their fear of negative evaluation is much lower (Harrington & Loffredo, 2001).
Introversion has been found to correlate with social phobias. Janowsky, Morter, and Tancer (2000) limited their population to patients who had been clinically diagnosed with social phobias and found that the majority were introverted as determined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The population for the present study included college students who had not been tested for social phobias. In both cases, it was found that introverts were more anxious in social situations.
It was surprising to find that multiple extroverts ranked high on the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. However, the majority of extroverted individuals supported our hypothesis by ranking lower. One specific individual was classified as 100 percent extroverted by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and only scored 3 out of 30 on the Fear of Negative Evaluation scale. When considered as a group, introverted participants had higher Fear of Negative Evaluation scores, with one individual scoring 30 out of 30 on the FNE.
With regard to the practical implications of our research, it may be beneficial for school faculty to evaluate more carefully the personality type of individual students. In doing so, they may be able to eliminate some social anxiety from the learning environment. Although introverts should still be included in social activities, it may be beneficial for faculty to carefully monitor these and use smaller groups or one-on-one activities. Because extroverts feel more comfortable in group work, they could be encouraged to do more group projects.
In spite of the significance of this study, some improvements could be made if it were to be replicated. Because random sampling was not used the results cannot be generalized to the entire population, but we can affirm that the two variables are correlated. Both measures used were fairly lengthy which could have resulted in participants losing focus; future studies may benefit from finding measures that are similar but shorter in length.
Another limitation was the lab space. During the first hour of the study, the computer lab was overcrowded and not everyone could immediately have a computer. This setting was not ideal for the study, and this may have impacted the results. Furthermore, the sample size consisted of only 7% of the population; a larger sample size would be ideal. Two individuals omitted one question each on the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale and were assigned a middle value of .5. This middle value was determined due to the scores on each question ranging from 0 to 1. One introverted individual and one extraverted individual each omitted different questions, so no deleterious effects were expected.
One idea for future research would be to make the study multivariate rather than focusing on only two variables. For example, a participant’s age or gender may contribute to his or her fear of negative evaluation along with his or her personality type. If future research is conducted, it would be beneficial to include these components along with other similar variables.
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