How Extroverts Think About Risky Behaviors

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Quiet: The Power of Introverts" by Susan Cain. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do we know how extroverts think? How does it differ from the way introverts think and what does this mean for management?

How extroverts think depends on the specific situation. One area of clear difference between introverts and extroverts is the thought process on risks. Extroverts are significantly more likely to engage in risky behavior, indicating that how extroverts think about risk and calculating risk is different from their introverted counterparts.

Keep reading for more about how extroverts think.

How Extroverts Think Versus How Introverts Think

There are personality differences in making decisions, taking chances, recognizing and heeding warning signs, and solving complex problems. Both have strengths that they can leverage to their benefit when they also mitigate the downsides of their way of thinking. Companies can benefit by making sure both kinds of thinkers are involved in key decisions.

Risk-Taking

Along with making risky investment decisions, extroverts are prone to downplay or ignore danger in other areas. For instance, extroverted people are more likely than introverts to:

  • Be killed while driving
  • Be hospitalized due to injury
  • Smoke
  • Have risky sex 
  • Be unfaithful
  • Participate in high-risk sports
  • Be overconfident

All this suggests that when it comes to making group decisions, extroverted people would do well to listen to introverted ones, especially when introverts see problems ahead.

Genetics may be a factor in risk-taking. One researcher found that extremely reward-sensitive extroverts who have one variant of a dopamine-regulating gene are more likely to take financial risks. However, introverts who have another gene variant—of a serotonin-regulating gene—take 28% less financial risk. These introverts outperformed others at complicated gambling games. In another study, of traders at a large investment bank, the best performers were even-keeled introverts.

Introverts also may be better at delaying gratification—in studies where participants had a choice of an immediate reward or a larger one later, extroverts tended to go for the immediate reward, while introverts waited for the larger one.

Looking back at the 2008 financial crisis where financial institutions made risky loans, some analysts contended a major cause was that aggressive risk-takers dominated the decision-making process and pushed more cautious people aside.

A similar thing happened at Enron in 2001. The energy company’s business culture favored risk-taking extroverts, who ostracized introverts and pushed for reckless business deals that ultimately led to bankruptcy. (Shortform: Read our summary of The Smartest Guys in the Room here.)

How Extroverts Think About Risky Behaviors

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Quiet: The Power of Introverts summary:

  • How society overvalues extroverts
  • Why introverts' overlooked strengths are the key to greater success in work, school, and society
  • How extroversion caused the fall of Enron

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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