New research authored by Dr. Tara White suggests that there are two different types of extroverts – “agentic” and “affiliative” – each with distinct brain structures. Her findings confirms what the behavioural sciences have long known to be the case. According to Dr. White, agentic extroverts are “go-getters”: the kind of outgoing people who are persistent, assertive and focused on achievement. Affiliative extroverts tend to be more affectionate, friendly and sociable.
The study, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience
(Grodin & White, 2015
), determined that both types of extroverts had more gray matter in the medial orbitofrontal cortex. This area of the brain has been linked to making decisions based on rewards. Agentic extroverts, though, had larger volumes in some other areas as well. These were related to learning and memory for reward, cognitive control of behaviours and planning and execution. The study can’t tell us whether these areas are the cause of the personality differences or the result of them, or perhaps some combination of the two.
We see this distinction in the workplace all the time using the McQuaig Word Survey (a behaviour based assessment). It’s largely linked to the interplay between the behavioural traits of sociability and dominance. Agentic extroverts also have dominance as one of their core behavioural traits. Dominance brings with it the focus on results or achievement, a competitive drive, willingness to take risk, ambition and the need to be in control. Affiliative extroverts have accepting behaviour as one of their traits. They’re more about team play, harmony and are generally averse to taking risk. Both are social, able to quickly connect with others and build and leverage relationships. The agentic extrovert tends to do this with a greater focus on generating results.
- “Big Picture” thinker
- High sense of urgency
Dominant behaviour is represented by the red bar being above the 42 line
Social behaviour is represented by the green bar being above the 42 line
Accepting behaviour is represented by the red bar being below the 42 line
- Team Player
Whether you’re an extrovert, and which type you are, is easy enough to determine. The McQuaig Word Survey is a behaviour based self-assessment that takes about 15 minutes to complete. Click here to request a demonstration.