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Personality and the College Experience: How Extraversion-Introversion Measures Shape Student Involvement and Satisfaction


The current work examines the role of individual, personality-linked characteristics in student involvement and associated outcomes. Personality characteristics of interest, tied to the extraversion-introversion trait domain, include reflectivity, responsiveness, sociability, reward sensitivity, and sensory-processing sensitivity. Four questions guided the inquiry: (1) How are introverted and extraverted students involved in college? (2) What aspects of students' extraversion-introversion are associated with their student involvement, and in what ways are they associated? (3) How do extraverts and introverts achieve congruence between their personalities and their involvement? And (4) How are involvement and congruence tied to college outcomes for extraverted and introverted students? To address the above questions, a select population of UCLA undergraduate students completed personality inventories. From these, a sub-sample of introverts and extraverts then participated in one-on-one interviews.

Personality-linked differences surfaced in the ways students divided their time and energy across academic pursuits and non-academic extracurricular pursuits. Further, academic involvement of students in the extraverted group exhibited a preference for higher levels of outward activity and interaction. Stronger responsiveness continued to characterize involvement of the extravert outside of academics, as did low sensory-processing sensitivity and unique social preferences in line with reward sensitivity. Among the introverted group, involvement in and out of academics evidenced stronger preferences for reflectivity; outside of class, high sensory processing sensitivity and unique social preferences also surfaced. Students generally achieved person-environment congruence in college less through personal and more through environmental shifts. A high amount of environmental diversity at the study site helps to explain this finding. Still, personal change did occur. It was the introverted students who tended to speak of substantial challenges associated with personal shifts deemed necessary to achieve congruence. Only limited evidence supported the prediction, in line with the fourth research question, that students' satisfaction with college and progress toward the degree would be positively associated with their perceptions of congruence between their own personalities and their environments, which reflected their involvement choices. The overall conclusion arrived at is that, like socioeconomic status and ethnic or cultural background, personality is an important variable to consider when examining student involvement in college.

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