Is There a Link Between Extroversion and Political Protest?

How It Works
Aug. 27 2013 2:22 PM

Are Extroverts More Likely to Protest?

Protesters shout slogans against German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as they demonstrate in front of the Greek Finance Ministry in Athens on July 18, 2013. Shouting is proof that a person is an extrovert, right?

Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Over at XX Factor, Katy Waldman discusses the Internet’s odd obsession with introversion, chalking it up to the structure of the Web itself, which allows introverts and shy extroverts to "interact from a distance, take time to compose their thoughts, and present a safe, curated image to the world.”

That’s great news for the future of clickbait listicle production, but could it be bad for civic culture? An introvert-friendly culture seems like it wouldn’t be all that conducive to real-world political organizing as opposed to less effective, Internet-driven, “slacktivist” campaigns.


Or maybe not. A study published this month in the journal Political Psychology uses data collected on citizens of Leipzig in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in an attempt to discover which of the “big five” personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—factor into a person’s propensity for participation in political protest. Protest propensity, as authors Hermann Brandstatter and Karl-Dieter Opp define it, is a person’s disposition to both “think of participating in political protest as a means of improving the individual and collective socioeconomic situation” and to “act by participation in protest activities.”

You would think that those who scored high in extroversion—defined as those who exhibit the “tendency to seek the company of others, external stimulation, a high level of activities, and [enjoy] being emotionally expressive”—would show a high protest propensity. Street protests provide all of those things in abundance! But in fact, “contrary to the predictions, extraversion turned out to be irrelevant in this context.” Openness to experience, neuroticism, and agreeableness were found to be the significant factors.

It would be a mistake to read too much into this. It’s a limited sample from a very particular historical and cultural moment. And studies from other regions have shown extroversion to be correlated with other types of political activity, such as contacting local representatives. But it’s probably worth keeping in mind that the people willing to go out on the streets with political demands aren’t necessarily the ones you’d expect. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Dear Prudence
Sept. 16 2014 6:00 AM Can of Worms Prudie offers advice to a letter writer who wants to blackmail a famous ex with tapes of his fetish.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.