Study: Extraverts have reduced cardiovascular response to social stress

Extraverts exhibit more adaptive physiological reactivity to social stressors, according to research published in the journal Psychophysiology. The study found extraverts tend to have reduced cardiovascular responses to stressful social situations.

“My research field is individual differences in physiological stress responses,” said study author Wei Lu of Shaanxi Normal University. “Personality traits like extraversion, openness, and resilience are the important personality variables to illustrate differences between individuals.

“In the past, researchers have explored the difference between extraverts and introverts on cardiovascular responses to stress. However, it remains unknown how extraverts and introverts physiologically cope with repeated stress. This is why I was interested about this topic, and aimed to solve this issue in my study.”

In two experiments, which included a total of 175 college students, the researchers found that those high in extraversion displayed less heart rate reactivity to recurrent social stressors social stressors.

In the experiments, the students were told they had to explain for 3 or 5 minutes why they would make a good high school teacher. After speaking for 3 or 5 minutes, the researchers left the room and gave the participant a few minutes to relax. They then re-entered and told them they had to explain why they would make a good office secretary. As all of this was going on, the researchers monitored the participant’s heart rate and blood pressure.

Participants high in extraversion tended to have a smaller jump in their heart rate and their heart rate tended to return to normal quicker compared to less extraverted participants.

“My study findings suggest that individuals high in extraversion have a better ability to cope with repeated social stress in their daily life,” Lu told PsyPost. “Their better cardiovascular response adaptation to repeated social stress could help them to maintain better health.”

The findings indicate extraverts are better at handling social stress. But they might not be better at handling other types of stress.

“My research question is addressed in the social stress situation,” Lu explained. “Persons high in extraversion are high of sociability; therefore, social stress is treated as a trait relevant stressor to extraverts. However, there are other types of stressors like cognitive stress or emotional stress, so such a question still needs to be addressed in other types of stressors.”

“This study extends the research field about personality traits and cardiovascular responses to stress. In our daily life, we are actually exposed to stress many times, not just a single time, therefore, using a repeated stress exposure experimental paradigm increases the ecological validity of the findings.”

The study, “Physiological adaptation to recurrent social stress of extraversion“, was also co-authored by Zhenhong Wang.