Why Extraverts Are Better At Self-Care Than Other Personalities

A new study identifies which personality types are naturally good at self-care.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 23, 2022

A new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality identifies the types of people who may be best equipped to satisfy their basic psychological needs, such as the need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

The researchers, led by Martina Pocrnic of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, found the traits of extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness to be most strongly associated with self-care behaviors and routines — and that people who possessed these traits were most likely to care for their basic needs.

"Although basic psychological needs are a human universal, there are individual differences in the degree to which people satisfy those needs," comments Pocrnic. "We wanted to investigate how individual differences in the satisfaction of basic psychological needs arise and how they are related to differences in personality."

To study this, the researchers asked 668 Croatian adults to complete a series of psychological questionnaires that measured various dimensions of need satisfaction and personality. Specifically, they asked respondents to self-report on the following dimensions of psychological needs:

  1. Sense of competence — i.e., feeling effective and having opportunities to express and expand one's abilities
  2. Sense of autonomy — i.e., having the ability to make one's own choices in life
  3. Sense of relatedness — i.e., feeling connected and sharing a sense of belonging with others

The researchers used the "Big Five" model of personality, which divides personality into five distinct dimensions (agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness, and extraversion), to measure respondents' personality traits.

They found extraversion and neuroticism to be most predictive of the three dimensions of psychological need satisfaction. Specifically, higher levels of extraversion promoted higher levels of need satisfaction while higher levels of neuroticism promoted lower levels of need satisfaction.

"It was a surprise to us that neuroticism and extraversion had the biggest correlations with all three needs — autonomy, competence, and relatedness," says Pocrnic. "We had expected that all three needs would show significant relationships with at least one trait, but we had not expected that extraversion and neuroticism would be the crucial traits for all three needs. That was certainly the most interesting finding for us."

They also found conscientiousness to be important when satisfying the need for competence and agreeableness to play a role in satisfying the need for autonomy and relatedness.

Pocrnic offers the following example to explain how personality traits impact our ability to satisfy our basic psychological needs.

"Someone with a high level of extraversion is likely to have a wide social network, is more prone to initiate contact with other people, spend leisure time socializing, and accept invitations to social events," says Pocrnic. "All of this can lead to situations that satisfy the need for relatedness. Another example is a student who has a high level of conscientiousness. Because of that personality trait, he/she is hardworking, organized, and highly self-disciplined and likely to study regularly, achieve better grades, and consequently satisfy the need for competence."

Importantly, the authors point out that personality traits are not fixed and that everyone has an opportunity to better meet their basic psychological needs.

"Although personality traits by definition are relatively stable over time, they are not set in stone," says Pocrnic. "If we try to lower our levels of neuroticism through practicing meditation or mindfulness, for example, it could lead to greater satisfaction of our psychological needs."

In the future, the authors hope to examine how a more nuanced analysis of personality might influence their results.

"It would be interesting to find out which specific facets of neuroticism are more important for low levels of need satisfaction," says Pocrnic. "Is it anxiety, depression, anger, or perhaps vulnerability?"

A full interview with Martina Pocrnic discussing her new research can be found here: Which personality traits facilitate self-care?