Coping Styles Used by Introverts and Extroverts in Varying Stress Situations.


Daniella Posella


St. Bonaventure University


























Extraverted and introverted personalities often employ different coping strategies that are most conducive to their needs.  It has been found that introverts tend to be over stimulated by their surrounding in contrast to extroverts who are found to be under stimulated in their normal environments (Burger, 2000).  Using a coping mechanism, regardless if passive or active helps an individual deal with the situation (Burger, 2000).  The following study is a 2 x 2 design with personality (introvert/extravert) as one variables and stress level (high/low) as the other.  It was predicted that main effects would exist for personality and stress level.  This indicates that both personality and stress level, individually, affect the type of coping mechanism used.  An interaction was also predicted between personality and stress level on the coping strategy.  Extroverts cope more actively as the amount of stress in a situation increases.  This would conclude that both personality and stress together would also affect the type of coping mechanism used.  The data collected supported the stated hypotheses. 










Coping Styles Used by Introverts and Extroverts in Varying Stress Situations

            Often times different personalities types deal with stressful situations in distinct manners.  It is important to know which type of coping style is more effectively useful to specific personality types.  The goal of this research is to aid individuals in identifying and implementing specific coping mechanisms that will allow them to deal with situations of varying stress levels.  There has been many previous research studies that have independently discovered the implications of coping styles on particular personality traits.    

            Extraverts and introverts are two of the major personality types that people are often characterized   Each person is not purely an introvert or an extravert, but rather fall on a continuum of extroversion and introversion (Burger, 2000).  Extraverts are known to have more outgoing and optimistic personalities and tend to be more sociable, active, and carefree (Burger, 2000).  People high in extroversion orient themselves outward and enjoy being social and surrounded by other people and objects (Arndt, 1974).  Introverts are at the opposite end of the spectrum from extraverts.  People high in introversion are known to be quieter, more thoughtful, controlled, and careful (Burger, 2000).  According to Carl Jung, introverts orient themselves inward and establish their behavior based on biased conclusions (Arndt, 1974).  In a recent study, Introverts were found to withdraw socially after an increase in stress, in a recent study (Peters, 1996).  These differences in extraverts and introverts cause them to cope with the situations around them differently.       

            Often times during stressful situations individuals employ coping strategies used by people when they feel threatened and the purpose is to ease one’s anxiety.  There are many different types of coping strategies that are often used by people.  The use of a strategy is often dependent upon on the situation surrounding the person, their personality and one’s own personal preference of how they may be able to decrease their own anxiety (Burger, 2000).  “We sometimes refer to a person’s general approach to dealing with stress as his or her coping style,” (Burger, 2000 p.147).  There are a number of other variables that determine one’s coping mechanism.     

            There are two categories of coping, active coping and passive coping.   Emotion focused coping is a type of passive coping that is directed toward ones feelings and thoughts at the time a problem or stressful event occur. It is typically used to decrease ones emotional anxiety regarding a situation (Burger, 2000).   Avoidant coping, which is another type of passive coping, occurs when a person manages their awareness in order to decrease unfavorable emotions.  People often overlook stimuli in order to minimize their stimulation level and stress level (Appelhans & Schmeck, 2002).   Problem-focused is an active coping strategy that is used to decrease anxiety by dealing with the actual problem, and therefore dealing with the stress by actively helping the problem (Burger, 2000). 

            Each personality has a different manner with which they use to cope with the situation around them, and each coping strategy used is usually based on the needs of that personality.  The event surrounding the emotions also has an effect on the type of coping strategy each personality will engage in.  When the situation presented in the Langens and Moerth (2003) study had a low level, passive, specifically avoidance coping skills were applied.  This information indicates that the circumstances surrounding the event, as well as the personality are indicators of the type of coping, active or passive, that would be employed by the individual.   Introvert and extrovert respond to situations with behaviors that correspond to their level of arousal, in order to produce an optimal outcome in a situation.  When people were presented with a situation with a high level of threat; active coping strategies are often used.  When the situation presented in the Langens and Moerth (2003) study had a low threat level, passive, specifically avoidance coping skills were applied.  This information indicates that the circumstances surrounding the event, as well as the personality are indicators of the type of coping , active or passive, that would be employed by the individual.  Introverts and extroverts respond to situations with behaviors that correspond to their level of arousal, in order to produce an optimal outcome in a situation.  It had been found that the coping behaviors for introverts in this study are different than that of extroverts, and that coping is in fact, related to personality (Gallaghar, 1996).  Therefore introverts and extroverts have different methods of coping and they each apply the coping method that causes them to have the best performance possible.

            Extroverts have been positively correlated with using adaptive coping styles (Baoyong, 2000).  Adaptive coping styles are methods of coping that are flexible and conform to the needs of the situation or problem, which does not include avoidance.  Extroversion has been negatively correlated with avoidance coping, indicating that passive coping is not significantly used by extroverts (Bosworth, Feaganes, Vitaliano, Mark, and Siegler, 2001).  Introversion, in contrast, has been correlated with maladaptive manners of coping (Baoyong, 2000).  These are coping strategies that are not conducive to the resolution of the problem or situation, which can also be known as passive coping strategies.  Halammandaris and Power (1999) found that neuroticism, or introversion, has also been found to be associated with passive coping mechanisms.  Introversion has, “often (been) equated with neuroticism,” which indicates that introversion and passive coping are related (Bradely, 1996).   Introverts use modes of coping that are primarily passive, focused on emotion, and aimed at the decrease of stress.  Extroverts are found to typically use more active coping strategies. 

            A study done in 2000 has found that aggression is negatively correlated with avoidance coping behaviors (Blair, 2000).  People who tend to be aggressive typically do not use avoidance coping, a passive coping mechanism (Blair, 2000).  On the other hand, people that are highly neurotic, which is “equated” with introversion, were found to have low verbal aggression and low apprehension about communication.  Extraverts, however, view themselves as aggressive, aware, are often impulsive communicators, and tend to have a tolerance for arguments (McCroskey & Heisel, 2001).  Therefore, extroversion and aggression are related, and highly aggressive people typically do not use passive coping strategies.  Introversion was associated with a low level of verbal aggression which indicates the possibility that they use passive coping.  The choice of passive or active coping strategies are also affected by the level of stress in a situation.  Stowell, Kiecolt, and Glaser (2001) found that situations of higher stress brought about more active coping mechanisms in people.  However, lower stress situations were found to be significantly associated with more passive coping skills.  The level of stress is another variable used to determine the type of coping strategy a specific personality may employ.   


            In this study it was attempted to show that introverts, under high stress situations would have low overall coping scores because they will employ more passive coping skills.  In a low stress situation introverts will have a medium coping score which indicates that they will need to employ more passive coping and very little active coping.  Introverts have many personality characteristics that have been highly correlated with the use of more passive forms of coping. Extraverts will receive high coping scores because they tend to use active coping skills in situations of high stress.  In low stress situation however, extroverts would have low coping scores because of the under stimulation that the extrovert will experience.  Main effect are predicted for both independent variables of personality and stress level on the dependant variable of they type of coping used.  An interaction is also predicted between personality and stress level on the type of coping used.       
















            Forty undergraduate psychology students participated in this study.  Twenty of the participants were male, and ten were labeled as introverted and ten labeled extroverted according to the personality inventory.  Ten of the twenty female participants were also labeled introverted and ten labeled as extroverted based on the inventory.  Each participant voluntarily signed up for a time to participate.  Each subject received extra credit points, to be determined by professors, for their participation in this study.


            The Eysenck personality inventory was administered to each person (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975 as cited in Lu & Chen,1996).  The inventory was used to determine where on the continuum of introversion/extroversion each participant fell.  As each participant was assigned to a group they were either administered a sheet containing ten easy or ten hard anagrams, and asked to complete the task.  The purpose of the anagrams was to administer a low amount of stress, using easy anagrams, or a high amount of stress, using hard anagrams. After the participants completed or attempted their task, the Strategic Approach to Coping Scale (SACS) was administered (Hobfall, Dunahoo, Ben-Porath, & Monnier 1994).  This is a valid and reliable method of assessing each students passive or active coping strategy.    



ProcedureThe participants first signed a consent form and as previously stated they were administered the Eysenck personality inventory to determine each subjects level of introversion or extroversion.  Each test was then scored and the participants were then assigned a label of extrovert or introvert, based on their scores from the personality inventory.  The participants were then  randomly assigned a sheet containing ten easy or ten difficult anagrams, which manipulated the participants, stress level.  After the participants completed the anagrams, they were administered the SACS (Strategies Approach to Coping Scale).  At the conclusion of this study they were given a debriefing statement that informed them of the purpose of this study and were given an opportunity to ask any questions.














            The results of the study were statistically analyzed using an 2(introversion) x2 (stress levels) between subjects ANOVA (N=40).  Each group (n=10) consisted of one personality (introverts or extraverts) exposed to a high or low stress situations.  The mean was 52.3 for introverts in low stress and a mean of 19.8 for introverts in high stress situations was found(see Table1).  Extroverts had means of 21.6 and 84.4 for low and high stress situations respectively (see Table 1).  After the data was analyzed using an ANOVA results indicated that there was a main effect regarding the level of active or passive coping used by each personality with a value of F(1,36)=15.561, p< .05.  This indicates that individuals with extroverted personalities cope more actively.  This suggests that the dependant variable of coping style is significantly affected by the individuals personality, the independent variable.  Stress was also found to have a main effect and be a significant factor in predicting the level of active or passive coping with a value of F(1,36)=12.432, p< .05.  This indicates that the coping style is also affected by the level of stress the individual was exposed to.  An interaction between ones personality and the level of stress was also found to be significant with a value of  F(1,36)=122.980, p<.05.  The analysis also concludes that personality and stress levels together affect the coping mechanism utilized.    







            These results are concurrent and found to be significant to those predicted. The results indicate that there is an interaction between the two independent variable of extroversion/introversion and their level of stress and the dependent variable of the type of coping strategy they use.  The high levels of stress imposed on introverts cause them to use more passive coping, and extroverts to use more active coping.  Under lower levels of stress introverts had medium levels of coping which indicated that more passive than active coping was present.  Under low stress situations extroverts were found to utilize purely passive coping skills.

            Concurrent with the previous research that has been done on personality and coping, and stress and coping, this research indicates that both have significance in the prediction of the levels of active or passive coping each personality would utilize.  This research may prove beneficial to aid individuals in selecting coping strategies that would best fit their personality and stress level of the situation in order to achieve the optimal outcome.  This research is important to individuals so that they can better deal with situations in a manner that is more receptive by their personality.  This would also allow them to implement coping strategies that are more effective for their specific personalities and situation.   Further research may focus on specific types of active and passive coping strategies to predict specific coping rituals.  






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Table 1.


Means of Personalities in Varying Stress Situations





High Stress



Low Stress




































Figure 1.  Coping as a function of personality and stress level