The Effect of Age and Personality on Social Separation
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
AMBRIZ, S. O. (2006). The Effect of Age and Personality on Social Separation. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 9. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Effect of Age and Personality on Social Separation

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
Americans, as a culture, are a very socially oriented society. Though individualistic at times, the culture is socially very collective, engaging in activities with two or more companions. So, what happens when this norm, which is an informal rule or pattern, is broken? Three characteristics were observed in relation to social separation, which is the engaging of social activities alone; age, gender and level of introversion. Traditional students of the age of 23 or younger and non-traditional students over the age of 23 completed a self-assessment to determine the level of introversion and were given a personal questionnaire to find the frequency of social separation and how they perceive the activity, as well as how they perceives the activity is received by society. A chi-square test of independence found that there was no significance between gender and introversion or extroversion tendencies, although a significant correlation was found in the relationship between age and level of introversion. A 2 (introvert/extrovert) x 2 (traditional/non-traditional) between-subjects ANOVA was conducted and found no significant results. It can be concluded that age, gender and level of introversion have no significant correlation with social separation tendencies.

As a culture develops over time, a set of standard customs, or norms, is developed. These are not formal laws, or even spoken agreements, but yet, they are agreed upon by most. Norms, according to Kayser and Nouiqua (2004), are the act of structuring our knowledge in terms of usual and exceptional factors, and there are two ideas in reference to “norms.” One idea is prescriptive which corresponds to the adjective “normative” and the other is descriptive, referring to the adjective “normal.” Norms encompass many aspects of life. There are functional norms, ones that encompass daily happenstances, such as checking both directions on a road one is about to turn onto. There are also social norms, how a group and the individuals in that group go about their lives. It is socially normal to wear a heavy coat in December; however it is not socially normal to wear one in July. Social influences on norms directly impact the feeling of expectations from others. Hence, those, as a group of people, look to others for approval, to assure one another that no one is violating those norms.How people react to norms in regards to his or her personal actions and towards reacting towards others’ is dependent on various factors. One factor being that the attention to a certain norm is dependent on the subjective perception of the individual, how they perceive others’ opinions of certain norms and how others will react to the violation of those norms (Terry and Hogg, 1996, as cited in Bagozzi and Lee, 2002).In an effort to explain why certain societies or cultures hold certain beliefs or attitudes, authoritarianism offers one explanation. Authoritarianism is also linked to the conflict between social conformity and personal autonomy. This concept first began with investigating the roots of anti-Semitism, which became a study of ethnocentrism. Prejudice and intolerance should be observed among those who value social conformity (Adorno et al., 1950, as cited in Feldman, 2003). Adorno argued that authoritarians will show hostility to groups that are seen as weak and inferior and that they will punish norm violators. Social conformity, where individuals flock towards norms, is disrupted by personal autonomy. Individuals who are autonomous feel agentic in their own behavior and not under the influence, so to say, of a group (deCharms, 1968 as cited in Gagné, 2003).It was discovered that prosocial behavior, or actions that people take to benefit other people, was also linked with personal autonomy (Gagné, 2003). This study showed that norms could have a significant effect on people’s actions. Some engage in prosocial behaviors because they feel socially obligated to. And in the case of “mandatory volunteering,” the response was overall negative. Even though volunteers were helping others and performing what is seen as a positive community action because it was the “right” thing to do, they did not feel positive about their time, and in addition, the public did not find much merit, more like a lack of altruistic motives. This all boils down to say that a person must motivate him or herself and must first find satisfaction in his or her accomplishments before they will feel positive about the experience. This is to say that those with low personal autonomy will take part in certain social expectations, but will not find it particularly worthwhile or enjoyable. Those with low personal autonomy will be more inclined towards social conformity, as well.What establishes a person’s approach to self-identity, self-determination and one’s views of social norms and their proneness to adhere to them? One must first specify what culture is in question, for there are most definitely differences in each culture. But, if it were the American culture that was observed, what factors are influential? There are both biological as well as psychosocial factors, which contribute to establish this individual and societal approach. Gender is one determinant. Helgeson (1994, as cited in Ryan, 2005) stated that boys are prone to be more agentic and independent, but girls are more communal and interdependent. Age is another factor in establishing feelings and adhesion to norms (Soenens et al.). For instance, adolescents have different ways of establishing a self-definition than do mature adults. Intelligence quotient (IQ) is another factor, containing both environmental and chronemic significance.In a study done by Ryan, et al. (2005), the interpersonal regulation of emotions is looked at between genders, relationships and cultures. Ryan states that emotional reliance is typically beneficial to well-being, but with different social norms, it can vary, culture to culture and gender to gender. Social partners supporting personal autonomy in their partner are seen as favorable. One can be autonomously dependent, remaining self-legislating, while still receiving some feedback and support from others. This form of self-governance authorizes certain beliefs, desires or other psychological aspects. In this study, it was proposed that higher levels of emotional reliance (ER) would be associated with greater well-being. And last, personality and personal development are influential factors in regards to social norms. The influence of a group’s established norms on an individual results in internalization, which is the adoption of a decision based on the congruence of one’s values with the values of another’s. A way of lessening internalization is intrapersonal empowerment, a form of mastery over one’s own life (Speer, 2000).Self-determination theory assumes that individuals are dynamic and are always working towards elaborating and unifying their identity (Soenens, et al. 2005). According to this theory, development of autonomous self-regulation is described in terms of increasing personal integration and internalization (Berzonsky, 1997, 2003; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Lerner, Freund, De Stefanis, & Havermas, 2001; Waterman, 1992, as cited in Soenens, et al. 2005). In a study regarding identity styles in adolescents, Soenens states that some adolescents will actively process self-relevant info, but others are inclined to adopt the expectations of others. Self-discovery can result in a well-explored sense of self, but if other motivational forces come into place, as in a social environment, the process can be derailed by the social context.Introversion and extroversion, two terms popularized by Carl Jung (Wikipedia, 2006), describe two different personality types. Extroverts seek gratification through external means – outside the self. They are prone to enjoy social gatherings and spending their time with other people. They tend to be enthusiastic and assertive. Extroverts, who are more socially savvy, would tend to be more aware of particular norms and place more emphasis in adhering to them. On the other hand, introverts tend to be concerned with one’s own mental life. They are more low-key and do not tend to engage in social activities, preferring solitude or perhaps the presence of a close companion. While there are many factors influencing perception of norms, the purpose of my study is to determine if two particular factors, age and personality, are directly related to the pattern and approach of breaking certain social norms. Americans are a very social culture, individualistic, yet with conformist attitudes, as well. A widely observed social norm is the act of engaging in social activities with two or more companions. The presence and/or excess of companions can be a public display of social acceptance as much as the absence of companions can be seen as a display of social distance or exclusion. The social exchange theory describes social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. There is a cost benefit relationship within social parties; that is to say that those who find more costs than benefits of a particular person or group, then that person is predicted to leave the relationship (Wikipedia, 2006). If the benefits are seen as great, they are more likely to remain in that relationship. How do people (more specifically in this study, Americans) tolerate and engage in what this researcher calls social separation, or the engagement of social activities with no companions? With the basis of a self-assessment of introversion and extroversion, this study will explore the relationship between the two.

ParticipantsThe participants for this study were undergraduate students at Missouri Western State University, a medium-sized university. The group included 11 non-traditional students, which are categorized as being 24 or more years of age, and 27 traditional students, who were 23 years old or younger. All were enrolled in a lower level psychology course and received extra credit for their time.Materials Each participant was given one packet of questions to fill out which included the Self-Assessment of Introversion/Extroversion (Branigan, 2000). This survey has 24 questions and rated each participant on a scale of one to 24; 1 to 12 was defined as introversion and 13 to 24 was defined as extroversion. The second part of the packet was a personal inventory created by the researcher with questions about their social patterns and tendencies. Participants had as long as they needed to complete the survey.Procedure The researcher went to two different psychology classes at the beginning of the class. Each time, the researcher informed the participants that a study was done regarding social activities in college students and that a packet, containing two different inventories would be handed out. Participants were informed that participation was optional, although no one declined participation. However, upon revision of the surveys, three were tossed out as to not being filled out completely. Students handed in the surveys as they finished.

To determine the relationship between both groups of students and the frequency of introversion or extroversion, a chi square test of independence was conducted. The findings were significant, x2(1)=5.124, p=.024. Traditional students are more likely to be introverted (92.9%) than traditional (51.9%). A chi-square test of independence was calculated to compare the frequency of introversion and extroversion between males and females. The results were not significant, x2(1)=1.010, p=.315. Introverted males (50%) were just as likely to be extroverted (50%). Introverted females (67.9%) were only slightly more likely than extroverted females (32.1%). Gender does not appear to influence the level of introversion. A 2 (introvert/extrovert) x 2 (traditional/non-traditional) between-subjects ANOVA was conducted to find the frequency of attending social functions alone. The results were not significant with the main effect for introversion (F(1, 1.34)=.607, p=.269), the main effect for type of student (F(1, 1.34)= 2.68, p=.540) and the interaction between the two (F(1, 1.34)=3.82, p=.204), all failing to reach significance.

The purpose of this study was to determine if personality type (introverted or extroverted) and age (traditional or non-traditional) would impact the frequency of social separation as well as if gender and age had introverted or extroverted tendencies. While the age of the participants were significantly related to introversion and extroversion (non-traditional students were more likely to be introverted), no main effect for gender on level of introversion was found. The frequency of social separation activities was not found to be significant, either. This research suggests that extroverts no more prefer to attend social activities alone than do introverts. While the main effects of age and personality type were correlated, no significant relationship was found between the level of introversion or with the type of student. Only three participants stated they engage in social separation often (at least once a week) and of the three, all were classified as traditional students (under the age of 24). Two of these three ranked a moderately strong score of extroversion (16 & 17). Regarding the participants’ perception of social separation, the findings, while not significant, tended to have an overall negative response. Of those who engaged in social separation activities often (once every couple of months), more than half made at least one positive comment of their own experiences and/or how they feel the public perceives them. The majority of the positive comments came from the participants’ own experiences, however, and not how they feel society perceives this action. Even though they feel their actions go against the norm, they still engage in the activity. This might suggest that these participants have a strong personal autonomy, which supports the studies of Santiago (2005) that an autonomous person acts upon motives he or she sense to be his or her own, acting in a self-legislative manner. However, since the only three participants who rated they engaged in social separation at least once a week were the traditional students, this goes against the results of Soenens (2005). Soenens concluded that youth will change their behavior in away to avoid changing their sense of identity. Of the three “youths” in this study, two of them stated they felt the public looked negatively on those who engage in social separation, but they still engage in the act. One would assume the youths would try to correct this cognitive dissonance and either change the behavior or the sentiment, but perhaps personal autonomy had the greater impact. The limitations of this study may have prevented more significant results from surfacing. One limiting factor was the inequality of non-traditional versus traditional students. There was less than half the amount of non-trads as there were traditional students, which could have had a negative influence, preventing a more randomized sample of the group as well as decreasing the power of the study. Many participants scored in the middle on the introversion scale and this could have influenced the results as well. Demand characteristics such as the young age and lack of experience of the researcher may have caused participants to not take the survey as seriously and therefore not answer the questions as honestly. The mortality of some subjects may have also influenced the scores. Three surveys were removed from the study because they were incomplete. In some surveys that were analyzed, answers in the short answer section were non-descriptive or simply a “yes” or “no” response. Confounding variables such as amount of time to engage in social activities might have affected the results. Time consuming activities such as sports, media entertainment, studies and careers were not compensated for. Personality factors other than introversion and extroversion, such as openness to experience and conscientiousness from the Five-Factor Model may be other influences to the frequency of social separation as well.The findings of this study, at this time, cannot be generalized to gender, age or personality-specific influences on social separation. Future efforts for more generalization would include examining a more diverse participant group as well as examining more specifically psychosocial characteristics, such as other personality traits or the academic performance/dedication of an individual. Because this endeavor was simply a correlation study, suggestions for further research would include creating a true experiment, such as observing individuals dining or attending a play on their own to see how they act and interact with their environment and later receiving subjective feedback.

Bagozzi, R.P. & Lee, K. (2002). Multiple routes for social influence: The role of compliance, internalization and social identity. Social Psychology Quarterly, 65, 226-227.Branigan, G.G. (2000). Experiencing Psychology: Active Learning Adventures. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.Feldman, S. (2003). Enforcing social conformity: A theory of authoritarianism. Political Psychology, 24, 41-74.Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial behavior engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 199-233.Kayser, D. & Nouiqua, F. (2004). International Journal of Artificial Intelligence Tools, 14, 7-23.Ryan, R.M., La Guardia, J.G., Solky-Butzel, J., Chirov, V. & Kim, Y. (2005). Personal Relationships, 12, 145-163.Santiago, J. (2005). Personal autonomy: What’s Content got to do with it? Social Theory and Practice, 31, 77-104.Soenens, B., Berzonsky, M.D., Vansteenkiste, M., Beyers, W., & Goossens, L. (2005). Identity styles and casuality orientations: In search of the motivational underpinnings of the identity exploration process. European Journal of Personality, 19, 427-442.Speer, P.W. (2000). Intrapersonal and international empowerment: Implications for theory.Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 51-61.Wikipedia (2006). Introversion and extroversion. Retrieved November 28, 2006 from (2006). Social Exchange Theory. Retrieved November 28, 2006 from

Submitted 12/1/2006 4:27:40 PM
Last Edited 12/5/2006 3:19:39 PM
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