No Extroverts on Mars, Please

A NASA-funded study has found that there might be serious drawbacks to having a bunch of extroverts on a long space missions. Finally, a win for the introverts.

DePaul University professor Suzanne Bell and her researchers reviewed the research on teams in situations that are close to what an astronaut team might find on a mission to Mars, including the over-100-day simulated missions and isolated teams in Antarctica. Bell said that usually extroverts are good on teams because their tendency to speak up and engage with others makes planning easier. She added that because extroverts are outgoing, they know more about their teammates — their strengths and weaknesses. That helps team coordination.

However, the unique properties of long-haul, confined missions add new elements to that usual dynamic. As Rachel Rettner of Live Science reports:

"You're talking about a very tiny vehicle, where people are in very isolated, very confined spaces," said [Bell]. "Extroverts have a little bit of a tough time in that situation."

If one person on a crew always wants to talk, while the other members are less social, "it could actually get pretty annoying," in that environment Bell said.

That conclusion was backed up by a study of the members of a space mission simulation, where the two reserved teammates actively avoided working with their extroverted colleague. They basically decided that he was "too brash" and "talked too much."

It's not just the introverts that suffer from long-exposure to extroverts. The specifics of these isolated missions could also negatively affect the extroverts. They could have difficulty dealing with a situation that doesn't let them be engaged with a lot of different things and interacting with many different people.

Bell also thinks that her study isn't just restricted to future space-exploration, but could change how any small, isolated team is put together. Bell writes:

In addition to having negative implications for [long-distance space exploration], high extraversion within teams may also be problematic for other teams function and living in extended confinement. These include sport teams in training, military teams, oil drilling teams, hiking groups, and scientific teams in remote locations such as Antarctica.

Maybe, just maybe, this will help change the fact that most workplaces are designed for extroverts and make them happier. [Live Science, The Atlantic]

Top image: Twin Peaks in Super Resolution by NASA/JPL