Majors represent collections of courses that a student takes in order to gain expertise in a specific field of study. They represent career goals and interests for the student. Associated with a college major are the people that comprise it. These are people who enjoy similar interests to the student, so it can be reasoned that certain majors are more likely than others to attract certain types of people. While research on college major selection is minimal, that of extraversion is very expansive. The Myers-Briggs test (1962) defines extraversion as the following: “The extrovert is oriented primarily to the outer world, and thus tends to focus his perception and judgment upon people and things. The introvert is oriented primarily to the inner world postulated in Jungian theory, and thus tends to focus his perception and judgment upon concepts and ideas” (Briggs-Myers, 1962, p. 1). A study of communication apprehension by Opt and Loffredo (2000) found that introverts exhibit higher levels of communication apprehension than introverts. From the sample of 200 college students, the study had shown that while both introverts and extraverts enjoyed social situations, introverts found them more “draining”. Lucas and Deiner (2001) found that extraverts only display levels of pleasant affect when the situation is enjoyable. Using a survey of his own design, Lucas polled participants in thirty-nine different countries. It was concluded that an extravert’s pleasant affect, as well as the need for social rewards, is present across both individualistic and collectivistic cultures (Lucas 2000). Iizuka (1992) conducted a study on extraversion and interpersonal interaction. She found that extraverts maintain eye contact for longer periods of time. Iizuka also noted that women tend to be more introverted than men. Young and Shoemaker’s study (1928) explored the selection of college majors as a personality expression. Using their own scale for introversion/extraversion, the researchers surveyed 108 Colgate University undergraduates. Students of the Chemistry-Biology discipline were found to have higher extraversion levels than the other majors. The emergence of the Social/Behavioral Sciences and Humanities in subsequent decades could cause the findings of this study to be different if replicated today. A protocol was created incorporating three major curricula within the Loyola University New Orleans College of Arts and Sciences. The curricula included the natural sciences (chemistry and mathematics), behavioral/social sciences (political science and psychology), and humanities (drama and English). It was hypothesized that if students were attracted to one type of major then there would be higher levels of extraversion in the humanities.
ParticipantsConvenience and quota sampling provided fifty-nine undergraduates from six different majors, grouped into three major categories. Students were of sophomore, junior and senior class standings (mean age = 21.4) freshman participants were excluded from the data set. There were ten participants of each specific major; English, Drama, Psychology, Political Science, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Twenty participants came from each major category, Humanities (English and Drama), Behavioral Sciences (Psychology and Political Science), and Natural Sciences (Chemistry and Mathematics). MaterialsA survey was compiled of 13 questions taken from the Form F Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. Questions used scored on both the Extraversion and Introversion scales (E and I Scales). The questions used were specifically numbers 6, 19, 25, 33, 41, 50, 58, 66, 126, 134, 138, 148 and 160. Design and ProcedureThis study used a non-experimental correlational design. The variables studied were levels of extraversion and college major. An extravert in this study was defined as someone who scored higher on the E scale of the Myers-Briggs than on the I scale. Negative E scores indicate that the participant scored higher on the I scale. College major was operationalized as being the academic department in which the students’ degree is to be granted. Students reporting double majors, students reporting that they had changed their major in the past year, or students of Freshman standing were not included in the sample as they would not be as representative of a given major as someone who had a greater commitment to that major. Extraversion is considered here to be a component of personality that does not fluctuate significantly throughout the day and would not be altered by environmental situations. Experimenters assumed this fact would control for most confounding variables.Experimenters administered the survey to six classes, one of each major. All students completed the survey within ten minutes and were given time to ask questions of the experimenters if necessary. Participants were told they could find the results of this study on the Internet following May 31st as per the informed consent contract.
This study failed to find significant difference in the mean Extraversion scores across the three major categories (Humanities M = 0.89, SD = 7.38, Behavioral Sciences M = 3.00, SD = 5.97, Natural Sciences M = 0.00588, SD = 7.00, F (2,56) = 1.032, p = 0.363). An independent samples t-test failed to find a significant relationship between Extraversion scores and gender, contrary to previous research (Male N = 24, M = 0.00, SD = 6.90, Female N = 35, M = 2.49, SD = 6.55, F (1,57) = 0.177, p = 0.676).
No relationship was found between level of extraversion and college major. The data does not support the original hypothesis that if extraverts were more attracted to one type of major, then there would be higher levels of extraversion in students majoring in the humanities. The results are in sharp contrast to the Young and Shoemaker (1928) study. Young and Shoemaker found a positive correlation between level of extraversion and college choice. They found Chemistry-Biology Majors were the most extraverted, this was however before the disciplines of the social sciences became popular. This study also failed to find a significant relationship between gender and extraversion, failing to support Iizuka’s (1992) finding that women to be more introverted than men. One problem that may have affected the results of this study was the sample. It is possible that the men and women of this university deviate from the trends Iizuka found, it is also possible that the sample of this study was not representative of the University’s student population. Also enrollment and gender distributions within each major were not taken into account, this could have resulted in data that is not truly representative of the population. Another source of error may have been the survey. The Myers-Briggs test manual indicates that one of its four scales is not an accurate representation of personality alone. The manual states that the Extraversion/Introversion (E/I) scale is very closely related to the Judgment/Perception (J/P) scale. Opt and Loffredo (2000) studied the E/I scale in conjunction with the Thinking/Feeling (T/F) scale. In future replications using multiple Myers-Briggs scales would provide a much more accurate representation of personality. Also as Lucas and Deiner (2001) found extraversion is influenced by the desire for positive social rewards. Many of the questions used related to social situations. Students may not have accurately answered these questions out of a need to feel more socially desirable, if only to themselves. It is also possible that the questions were answered truthfully but the actions are contradictory to the student’s actual nature because of the social rewards gained by acting in such a manner. The grouping of majors into categories may also have affected the results. Perhaps if the majors were studied independently of one another perhaps relationships would be seen between individual majors and extraversion. If this study were to be replicated it would be advisable to use a larger questionnaire that would provide a much more accurate picture of the subject’s personality. Also the enrollment and gender distributions of each major should be controlled for, providing a more accurate representation of the university’s student population. Also each major should be studied independently of each other major. A larger sample size would also be beneficial because in every case a larger sample provides a more accurate representation of the population. Extraversion is not the only factor in determining why students are attracted to one type of major, therefore future studies on these subjects should be as diverse as the spectrum of college majors and the individuals that partake in them. The results of this study cannot deny or confirm a relationship between personality and major preference, but previous research indicates that there should be some relationship, meriting some amount of future investigation into this field.
Briggs-Meyers, I. (1962). The Myers-Briggs type indicator manual. Palo Alto, California: Consulting Psychologists Press. Iizuka, Y. (1992). Extraversion, introversion, and visual interaction. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 74, 43–50.Lucas, R. E., & Deiner, E. (2001). Understanding extraverts’ enjoyment of social situations: The importance of pleasantness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 343–356.Opt, S. K., & Loffredo, D. A. (2000). Rethinking communication apprehension: A Myers-Briggs perspective. The Journal of Psychology, 134, 556–570.Young, J., & Shoemaker, E. (1928). Selection of college majors as a personality expression. School and Society, 27, 119-120.