Do you respond to questions quickly? You might be seen as an extravert
New research explores the link between response timing and perceived extraversion, and how it influences hiring decisions and other interpersonal situations.
What makes a person come off as an introvert or an extrovert? When it comes to forming impressions of someone’s personality, people often rely on observing behavioural cues — including appearance, body language, and other non-verbal cues. The judgement of other people’s personality traits is crucial because they can impact interpersonal relationships, such as promote friendships, enhance chemistry in romantic relationships, and even affect hiring decisions.
In the current climate, the widespread use of mobile and online communication (e.g., online chatting, phone calls) has resulted in social interactions without traditional visual cues such as gestures. Face-to-face interactions also suffer from incomplete visual information due to mask-wearing measures that aim to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore, Dr Deming (Adam) Wang, Senior Lecturer of Psychology at James Cook University in Singapore, set out to examine response timing — “a non-visual, non-verbal, yet ever-present social cue” — with regards to perceived extraversion.
“We sought to test the prediction that responders providing a response immediately (versus after a slight pause) are perceived as more extraverted because immediate responses reflect lower levels of responder nervousness and passivity,” says Dr Wang. “We believe that this prediction is imperative to test because response timing is a ubiquitous feature of social interactions that could have surreptitious or insidious effects on important social outcomes.”
Previous research has shown that response timing is associated with impressions of honesty, confidence, certainty, compliance, and intelligence. For example, studies have shown that compared to immediate responses, delayed responses are often perceived as higher in quality, since response delays signal cognitive effort and thought calibration. However, response delays are also seen to reflect uncertainty, doubt, reluctance, or hesitation. In situations where deception and honesty may be pertinent, delayed responses have been shown to be judged as less sincere, since response delays could be attributed to the responder taking time to fabricate a lie.
Over a series of studies, Dr Wang’s research (published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001254) showed that prompt responses were seen as relaxed and proactive, while responses after a slight pause are considered to signal nervousness and passivity in social interactions, even with close friends. As a result, responders providing a prompt response were judged to be more extraverted than those who provided the response after a slight delay.
Dr Wang remarks, “Specifically, a slight difference in response timing (e.g., responding after four vs. two seconds) could be enough for job interviewers to form different impressions of applicants’ extraversion levels, even when the question was not straightforward and rightfully required some thought, and consequently judge them to be differentially suitable for different types of jobs”. The study showed that people are seen as more suitable to take on social jobs (such as salespersons) if they respond to questions swiftly in job interviews, and if they respond after a short pause, they are seen as more suitable to solitary jobs (such as admin staff). These findings highlight the important role of response timing as a non-verbal cue that influences personality impression formation processes. More importantly, it highlights that response timing and other seemingly subtle social cues could potentially influence important social outcomes in life, such as whether people are hired for a job.”
Of course, since response timing can be controlled volitionally, the findings also suggest that individuals may take advantage of response timing to appear more introverted or extraverted, whatever their goal is. For example, a person could intentionally delay their response timing if they are motivated to appear more introverted. On the other hand, they could begin responding more promptly if they wish to appear more extraverted, and if they need more time to prepare their answer, they could use filler words and phrases like “Umm…” or “That’s a good question…” while they prepare their answer.
Dr Wang points out: “Observers are cautioned to be mindful that not all non-verbal cues are equally reliable in extraversion judgements, since response timing is a relatively controllable exception.”
Wang, D., Ziano, I. (2022) Faster Responders are Perceived as more Extraverted. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001254
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