Does extraversion increase with age? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does extraversion increase with age?” and explores the concept of extraversion and its relation with the various aspects of life like age to help understand the answer. 

Does extraversion increase with age?

No, extraversion does not increase with age. Instead, extraversion decreases with age  The following are 3 insights into how extraversion decreases with age –

  • Extraversion was found to be adversely related to age.
  • Two elements of extraversion.
  • Extraversion ratings fell from 30 to 90 years old.

What are these 3 insights into how extraversion decreases with age?

Extraversion was found to be adversely related to age.

Extraversion is characterised by outgoing, positive feelings, assertiveness, high energy, a desire for adventure, and warmth.

The British Household Panel Study (BHPS; N 14,039) and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSEOP; N 20,852) used two large datasets from Britain and Germany to study cross-sectional age variations in the Big Five personality characteristics. 

In 2005 or 2006, participants ranging in age from 16 to the mid-80s completed a 15-item version of the Big Five Inventory (e.g., John & Srivastava, 1999).

Across both datasets, the observed age patterns were largely consistent. Extraversion and Openness were shown to be adversely related to age, but Agreeableness was found to be positively related to age. 

Participants in their forties and fifties had the greatest average levels of conscientiousness. The only difference was that in the BHPS, neuroticism was somewhat adversely linked with age, whereas in the GSEOP, it was slightly favourably associated with age. 

In the Big Five, neither gender nor education level was a consistent mediator of age differences. For millennia, age-related personality characteristics have piqued people’s interest. 

There is a general agreement that five major areas account for most of the variation in personality characteristics (John & Srivastava, 1999; but see Ashton & Lee, 2007; Block, 1995). 

Extraversion (traits such as active and social), Agreeableness (traits such as thoughtful and kind), Conscientiousness (traits such as hard-working and orderly), Neuroticism (traits such as neurotic and tense), and Openness (traits such as open and welcoming) are the “Big Five” (traits like artistic and creative). 

Roberts et al. (2006) collated the data of 113 longitudinal samples comprising 50,120 people to summarise mean-level variations in the Big Five over the life span.

Different longitudinal studies looked at different personality qualities for different lengths of time, hence the degree of comprehensiveness for each trait they looked at differed. 

Two elements of extraversion.

Following Helson and Kwan, Roberts and colleagues distinguished two elements of Extraversion: qualities associated with independence and dominance (named Social Dominance) and traits connected to positive emotion, activity level, and sociability (called Social Vitality) (2000).

According to Roberts et al. (2006), average levels of Social Vitality tended to be rather steady throughout time, with a modest surge from adolescence to the early 20s, followed by mean-level constancy from the mid-20s to the mid-50s, when there was a minor fall.

In contrast, from adolescence until the mid-30s, Social Dominance exhibited a more obvious and persistent rise, with mean levels remaining steady until the mid-50s. 

Because just seven research addressed changes in Social Dominance for individuals in their 50s and later, data on average levels of this attribute were not available beyond this point in life. 

Agreeableness and Conscientiousness exhibited progressive gains in absolute scores over time, but Neuroticism showed gradual declines.

Finally, from adolescence through the early 20s, mean levels of openness increased, then stayed rather stable until the mid-50s, when average levels began to fall.

Extraversion ratings fell from 30 to 90 years old.

Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, and Costa (2005) used cross-sectional and longitudinal studies to look at the relationship between age and Big Five mean values. 

This study was conducted too recently to be included in the meta-analysis by Roberts et al. (2006). Extraversion ratings fell from 30 to 90 years old, according to Terracciano et al., however, the reduction was more apparent after the mid-50s.

Conscientiousness showed a curvilinear pattern of rising with age, with scores increasing up to a peak somewhere between the ages of 50 and 70 and then declining. 

Neuroticism levels normally decreased with age but began to rise somewhat about the age of 80. Finally, age had a negative and linear relationship with openness. 

Terracciano observed identical cross-sectional and longitudinal results in general, with the exception that the cross-sectional zenith for Conscientiousness was around age 50, but the longitudinal zenith was around age 70.

In cross-cultural studies, age disparities in the Big Five have also been discovered. McCrae et al. (1999) observed that self-reports of Extraversion and Openness were lower in older participants than younger ones in convenience samples from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, and Korea, but Conscientiousness and Agreeableness exhibited the opposite tendency. 

Neuroticism was shown to be lower in older individuals compared to younger people in Germany, Portugal, and Korea, but no statistically significant differences were detected in Italy and Croatia. 

In a study including participants from 50 nations, McCrae et al. (2005) discovered that observers scored adults (ages 498) higher on measures of Conscientiousness but lower on measures of Extraversion and Openness when compared to college students.

Age differences in Neuroticism and Agreeability were tempered by gender: the negative relationship between age and observer reports of Neuroticism was stronger in men than in women, while the positive relationship between age and observer reports of Agreeability was stronger in women than in men.

In conclusion, the data reveals that levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness are favourably related to age, whereas levels of extraversion and openness are adversely related to age (see also Costa, McCrae, Zonderman, Barbano, Lebowitz, & Larson 1986; Helson et al., 2002; Mroczek, Spiro, & Griffin, 2006; Srivastava et al., 2003).

Although there are outliers in the research, consistent age differences have not appeared in all nations, and there are suggestions that this characteristic may grow around the age of 80, average levels of Neuroticism are often adversely related to age. 

Overall, these general patterns point to age-related increases in the alpha factor of Digman (1997) and age-related declines in the beta component of Digman (1997). 

In other words, as people become older, features connected to social interest and communion tend to rise while traits related to agency and a zestful attitude to life seem to decline.

Despite the development of some rather constant age differences among the Big Five, there are a few limitations to the present evidence that should be noted. To begin with, no one research employing nationally representative samples has looked at age differences in all of the Big Five. 

Costa et al. (1986) looked at cross-sectional age differences in Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness in a representative sample from the United States, and Steunenberg, Twisk, Beekman, Deeg, and Kerkhof (2005) looked at changes in Neuroticism in a representative sample from the Netherlands, but neither study looked at all five traits at the same time.

Indeed, the lack of data from nationally representative samples is likely the most fundamental flaw in this entire body of work (see Roberts et al., 2006, p. 20). 

Terracciano et al. (2005), for example, defined the majority of their participants as “usually healthy and highly educated” (p. 494). Second, just a few research cover people above the age of 70. (Terracciano et al., 2005).

Although there is a lot of interest in gender differences in personality mean levels (e.g., Chapman, Duberstein, Sörensen, & Lyness, 2007; Costa, Terracciano, & McCrae, 2001; Feingold, 1994; Goldberg, Sweeney, Merenda, & Hughes, 1998), there isn’t a lot of evidence that gender moderates age differences in the Big Five (Roberts et al. 2006). 

Similarly, the present evidence (e.g., Costa et al., 1986; Goldberg et al., 1998; Löckenhoff et al., in press) does not imply that education will have a substantial impact. Given the absence of unambiguous trends in the current literature, we consider these gender and education analyses exploratory.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does extraversion increase with age?” and reviewed the concept of extraversion and its relation with the various aspects of life like age to help determine if extraversion increases with age. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Donnellan, M. B., & Lucas, R. E. Age differences in the Big Five across the life span: evidence from two national samples. Psychology and aging, 23(3), 558–566. (2008). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562318/#:~:text=Extraversion%20and%20Openness%20were%20negatively,for%20participants%20in%20middle%20age.

Kersting, K. Personality changes for the better with age. (2003, July/August). https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/personality

Young, E. Here’s How Our Personality Changes As We Age. (2020, June 30). 

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https://digest.bps.org.uk/2020/06/30/heres-how-our-personality-changes-as-we-age/

Personality Is Not Set By 30; It Can Change Throughout Life. American Psychological Association. (2003, May 13). Retrieved from 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030513075924.htm

Gorvett, Z. How your personality changes as you age. (2020, March 16). Retrieved from 

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200313-how-your-personality-changes-as-you-age

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https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201808/how-do-personality-traits-change-16-66

Personality changes. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2022, March 28). 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_changes

Marloes P.A. Van Dijk, et al. Personality Development from Age 12 to 25 and its Links with Life Transitions. (2020, May 13). Retrieved from 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/per.2251

Gensowski, M. These 3 Personality Traits Affect What You Earn — but Only After Age 40. (2018, April 24). Retrieved from 

https://hbr.org/2018/04/these-3-personality-traits-affect-what-you-earn-but-only-after-age-40

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