The Research into Gestures of the Introverts and Extroverts

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Hypothesis/Aim
  • Literature Review
  • Summary
    Validity and Usefulness
  • Summary
  • Validity and Usefulness
  • Procedure
  • Data
  • Analysis of Data
  • Conclusion


Personality types may be determined through the microexpressions in an individual’s hand gestures or body language, with enough consistency in people’s expressive behaviour to actually determine personality types based on nonverbal communication (Gordon Allport and Philip Vernon, 1933). When involved in a conversation which requires an individual to recall or imagine situations, an individual tends to show expansive movements such as gesturing wildly (Ronald E Riggio, 2014), demonstrating or re-enacting a situation as an extrovert. However, an introverted personality may shows signs of “keeping to themselves” (Ronald E Riggio, 2014). Although there are common misconceptions about personality types, such as introverts being “closed off”, shy and unhappy and extroverts being expressive, outgoing and having “shallow” personality characteristics. Despite these common misconceptions, studies done by psychologists, working with neurologists, suggest that there are certain outstanding traits of being an introvert or extrovert, but with the limiting factor of an individual not specifically being only introverted or extroverted (Margarita Tartakovsky, 2018). Also stated by Gordon Allport, in his book Studies in Expressive Movements, is that [gestures] should reflect [an individual’s] general behaviour.

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It has also been scientifically suggested that extraversion and introversion are as a result of the way we react to the neurotransmitter dopamine (Jennifer Granneman), however, not due to a difference in levels of dopamine, but rather due to how responsiveness to the activity of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is more active in the brain of an extrovert and in an introvert the levels of dopamine will be the same, but introverts are more responsive to a different neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is responsible for rewarding pleasure when we are not attending to external stimuli (Scott Barry Kaufman and Jennifer Granneman), hence depicting introverts to enjoy quiet and calm environments.

In my project I explore the idea of whether hand gestures and body language movements indicate personality type. By studying the various actions performed by an individual who is interviewed with questions that evoke some form of lexical recall. The questions and answers in the interview themselves are not essential, the only importance being the nonverbal communication of the body of the individual. Through interviewing volunteers, I will be able to record the gestures and movements of an individual and then using various sources written by psychologists and affiliate psychologists, I will infer how the recorded gestures indicate traits and characteristics of an individual. Using the inferred information, I will further refer to other sources which will show the correlations between the traits I have inferred and a specific personality type.


The aim of the project is to determine whether the hand gestures and body language movements of an individual in Grade 12 in St John’s College situated in Houghton determines the personality type of that individual. Additionally, the aim is to determine whether the total number of gestures and interview time for an individual determines the individual’s personality type, through inferences made with sources.

Specific links to certain gestures and movements are indicative of the traits of an individual and will hence indicate the individual’s personality type.The expected results for the project is to have the hand gestures and body language movements of an individual reflect whether a person is a introverted or extroverted. A longer interview time and a greater number of gestures for an extroverted individual is expected and a shorter interview time with less gestures is expected for an introverted individual. Additionally, more expressive gestures and movements are expected from an extroverted person, with more shy or minimal actions and gestures from an introverted person.

Literature Review

Body Language experts and authors of 18 bestsellers (15 co-author books) with 70 seminars given on body language all over the world


“Scientists have noted that there are more nerve connections between the hands and the brain than between any other parts of the body, and so the gestures and positions we take with our hands give Powerful insights into our emotional state.” (Allan and Barbara Pease, The Definitive Book of Body Language, 2006) Hand gestures in communication plays a role in grabbing the listeners attention, and increases the impact of what the person in trying to say. With our hands in front of us, it is easy to see the signals and gestures made, with people having “several trademark” gestures which can be linked to certain personality types. Using hand gestures also aids in lexical recall when recalling details of stories. Hand gestures can show a level of status/power in people, the more “power or authority” you exert over people shows qualities that can be attributed to people with qualities of extraversion. People with introverted qualities tend to keep their hand gestures closer to their body than away from their body, as this shows a person with reserved thoughts, and may show the person to be closed off. Hand gestures can tell a great deal about how a person portrays themselves, for example a person may indicate confidence and certainty, while some may indicate a sense of containment.

Different gestures give different impression to the person being spoken to, such as clenching your hands, which displays a negative attitude and a sense of anxiousness. However, the different heights at which a person’s hands are clenched indicates the degree to which a person is frustrated or anxious (higher clenched hands means heightened anxiousness and frustrations). Steepling hands indicates confidence in a person, or even superiority, while holding hands behind your back can also show the same level of confidence and superiority. However, if the person grasps their hand or arm behind their back, then it can be interpreted as an attempt of self-control or of frustration. Your hands are almost always in front of you which can give a good indication of revealing your emotions and attitudes.

Validity and Usefulness

The book was valid and useful, as there are very detailed explanations of why certain gestures are used by people and in what situation they use, which can be inferred with the different traits of either extroversion or introversion. The other reason this book is useful and valid is because it is written by two well-renowned body language experts who have been co-writing books with each other since 1981, and cited by 11 related articles and journals.


The reliability of this book can be argued to be slightly flawed, as we are not told on how many person’s they observed their results on. However, the book is still reliable enough as it has been cited by 11 psychology journals and articles, with information which is commonly also found in other articles of the same field of study. Another reason for the reliability is that this book has been made using multiple well-known sources as references, such as articles and journals from the University of Pennsylvania, Oxford University, Cambridge University Press, Columbia University Press and Harvard University Press among others.


This book had the following limitations: The book was originally published in 1981, with a revised edition released again in 2006. The age of this book can be limiting as some of the information may be outdated. Another limitation is that this book does not directly refer to my topic of research for personality types, but rather discusses, in detail, the different gestures made by people. Educational consultant and speaker on psychology, Master of Science in Education from Boise State University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Idaho State University.


The things that we don’t say are still conveyed through our non-verbal communication and actions, and according to Kendra it is suggested that between 50 and 70 percent of all our communication is accounted for in our body language. The three points which relate to my topic is about “gestures”, “the arms and legs” and “postures”. Gestures are the most common, direct and obvious way of picking up on a person emotional state of mind as an individual’s hands are almost always in front of them, with a few common gestures with meanings such as anger and solidarity in the case of a person clenching their fists. However, it is also important to understand that gestures may be culturally related and may affect the way a person displays themselves to you.

Defensiveness, dislike and discomfort may be shown through the positioning of a person’s legs and arms, such that crossed arms indicates a sense of a person being closed off and self-protected, while crossed legs may indicate that a person is in need of privacy. Finger tapping is a sign of boredom and impatience, while a person tapping his foot may display a subconscious level of insecurity within them at that point. It was also suggested a person’s posture relates to the way in which an individual places his arms and legs, as a closed posture involves the individual attempting to hide the torso, while keeping the arms and legs crossed over one another. This form of being closed off is an indicator of shyness, unfriendliness and, or even, a sense of anxiousness. On the other hand, an open posture is one where an individual keeps his torso exposed with his arms and legs casually relaxed. This can be seen as an indicator of friendliness and willingness to talk.

Validity and Usefulness

This source was useful, but not as much as it was expected, as most of the findings in this source had already been discussed by authors Allan and Barbara Pease. However, it was insightful in the sense that it provided information on the individual’s emotional state. One of the main reasons that this source was also useful, is because it covered areas where my previous source did not. This source could be considered valid as it is written by a person who has two credible degrees from two credible and well-known universities.


This source may be considered valid as it has been researched by an individual who has a Master of Science in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. However, one of the reason that it may be argued that this source is not entirely valid is because there are no references to other works


This source is limited as it is written by only one author, without any reference to any other works in the same field. The other limitation is that the source does not expand on gestures that are not commonly found, and only focuses on gestures and postures made commonly. The questions used to interview the volunteers:

  • What is your favourite sport and what do you enjoy most about that sport?
  • If you were in a dark isolated alley and you felt someone grabbing you from behind, how would you react to that situation?
  • If your five-year-old-self found themselves inhabiting your current body, what would your five-year-old-self do first?
  • What is your worst pet peeve, anything which annoys you very much? When is the last time it happened and how did you feel when it happened?
  • What’s your biggest screw up while trying to cook something in the kitchen?
  • What is the dumbest way in which you have injured yourself?
  • If there were absolutely no consequences for a day, what would you do throughout the day?

These questions were made by asking friends what sort of questions they would find evocative of hand gestures as well as body language. These questions were not specifically designed to record the response of the volunteer, only the hand gestures and body language movements made. These questions do not serve a purpose other than to evoke some form of nonverbal communication from the volunteer. Other questions which are not relevant may have been used, but must be evoking of gestures in some way.

For the first question, I was expecting the volunteers to perform more indicating hand gestures as this question was asked for the volunteer to show some form of describing the sport they play or enjoy through their hand gestures. The responses that I got for this question tied in with my expectation as all the volunteers had used an indicating hand gestures to describe the asked question. However, the introverted personalities performed this action less frequently than the extroverted personalities. For the second question I also expected the volunteers to use indicative hand gestures rather than circular hand movements as well as clasping their hands. The clasping of hands was expected as I imagine that the volunteers may have to think about their response before answering, with the clasping of hands being a gesture indicating that a person is generally in thought or the gesture may also be used during a negotiation (Allan Pease, 2006) to indicate a sense of anxiousness. The response I received for this question showed that volunteers did not use as many indicating hand gestures as I had thought, rather using circular hand gestures to aid in conversation and not in ‘re-enacting’ what they would do in the situation. However, the volunteers also clenched their hands while explaining, choosing not to use any other hand gestures.

In the third question, leaning backwards, stroking of the chin or hair and an indicative hand gesture was expected. Volunteers did not display stroking of the chin or hair during this question, and hardly used any indicative hand gestures. The fourth question was asked to see if the volunteer would use more of a circular hand movement, as this question asks the person to recall when last they remember experiences this ‘pet peeve’ and what it was. This requires a person to lexically recall the memory, which in turn causes the person to use circular hand movements used in recalling memories. Additionally, some volunteers also tapped their feet or knees. The fifth and sixth question was asked with no specific gesture expected from the volunteer, as the volunteer could either lexically try to recall the memory or use indicative gestures to describe the situation, or even not use any gesture at all, and the responses to this question varied. The seventh question varied from the volunteer putting their hand to their cheek, slightly rubbing the nose or clasping the hands.


Handout video consent forms to 20 individuals in grade 12 who have volunteered to participate. Send out the personality type test link to each volunteer to complete and send you the end result of whether the individual is an introvert or an extrovert. Communicate to arrange on which days to interview each volunteer. Create a questionnaire with 7 predetermined questions, which can be determined by asking friends who are not participants for what they think are gesture evocative questions. Create a list with all the different possible hand gestures and body language movements. Setup the camera and tripod in the venue that is going to be used for interviewing. Face the camera to where the volunteer will sit/stand. Ensure the volunteer has signed the parental/guardian consent form before recording, and that the volunteer is fully aware of the fact that they do not have to answer a question if they do not feel comfortable in doing so. Start the video recording just before you begin the interview. Start the digital stopwatch as soon as you begin interviewing. Interview the volunteer with the predetermined questions, asking only what is on the question sheet in front of you. In an appropriate table, group volunteers according to their personality type sent to you (introvert or extrovert) and calculate the average number of gestures and body language movements made, as well as the average interview time per personality type


The difference between an indicating hand gesture and a circular hand movement is that an indicating hand gestures is where the person makes hand movements which re-enact the what the person is telling, whereas a circular hand movement is a hand gesture made by the person which does not aid in re-enacting the narrative being told. Rather, the circular hand gesture is used more often when a person is trying to lexically recall something from their memory.

Analysis of Data

This classification of personality types plays a role in the way that the participants communicated with their hands and body language, as our hands give powerful insights into our emotional state (Allan and Barbara Pease, 2006), which displays extroverted types as confident with certainty in their actions, as well as their thoughts. The more introverted types display more containment and reserved actions, including reserved thoughts as shown by the shorter interview times.

The top three gestures and body language movements made, are similar between the extroverted and introverted personality types, with the indicating hand gestures and the circular hand movements being the common factor. The difference between the two above mentioned hand gestures is that the indicating hand gesture suggests that the participants try to replicate the event which they were narrating, while the circular hand movement suggests that it is used more for lexical recall of memory. The indicative hand gesture was used more often by the extroverted types than the introverted types (fifty seven versus thirty two, respectively), however, the circular hand movement was also used less often in the introverted types than the extroverted (thirty one versus sixty six, respectively). The only major difference in the top three used gestures and movements, is that extroverted types tend to cross their hands over their genitals more than the introverted types (twenty eight versus three, respectively). This suggests that the extroverted participants felt more insecure and had negative thoughts and an anxious attitude (Allan and Barbara Pease, The Definitive Book of Body Language, 2006), due to not knowing the outcome of the interview that took place, and possibly did not feel comfortable with the interviewer.

The tapping foot/knee found in the extroverted participants, which was still done more often in the extroverted participants (twenty five for the extroverts versus fifteen for the introverted participants), shows that introverted personalities in this experiment tended to show a sense of anxiety, although different to that of the extroverted personalities. The difference being that they were anxious to move on with the interview and have it done as quick as possible, due to the nature of an introvert having an enhanced awareness of environmental stimuli and in particular social situations (Janey Davies, 2017). This could be further reinforced by the fact that the introverted participants were not associates of mine, adding to their enhanced awareness of the social situation.

It is reiterated that the introverted participants had a significantly shorter interview time, as well as a lower number of gestures and body language movements. It can hence be deduced to the given question of “Do hand gestures and body language movements made indicate a person’s personality type?”, that the gestures made during the interview indicate the participants personality type, as shown by the above analysis of the top three used gestures by each personality type. In addition to the statement made prior to this, the longer interview time and larger number of gestures made by the extroverted participants, shows that a person’s personality can be indicated by the gestures and body language movements. This may only be deduced through an experiment involving a group of participants. Although my findings and results could have been more accurate in the case of having a larger group of participants, such as a minimum of fifty participants, but with time being a constraining factor, it was not allowing for this number of participants.


It can be concluded that the number of gestures and interview time, on average, indicated a person’s personality type in my project. This is shown by the extroverted personalities having an interview time that was forty six seconds longer than the introverted people’s while also achieving a greater number of average gestures made (thirty vs twenty for extroverts and introverts respectively). It can also be shown that the inferences related to how the volunteer acted in the interview.

The limitations in my research was that I did not have the time to interview a significantly large group, which could have made my results more accurate, as well as not having sufficient resources that directly influenced my research. I was required to infer between different sources in order to analyse my results. Additionally, more professional questions could have been used to evoke the volunteer into displaying hand gestures and body movements. It is also recommended that this project be done with the help of a psychologist who can accurately aid in interpreting movements and explaining the emotional state behind why certain actions are used.

The uses of this topic can be used mainly in the field of Psychology, namely Psychometric testing. This form of testing can be used in business’ when hiring a person, as a psychometric test involves measuring a person’s mental capabilities and behavioural style. Personality types are also used in Business’ to measure preferences in how people see the world and make decisions (Psychometric Success, undated). Additionally, seeing how a person uses hand gestures and body languages, which can be used hand-in-hand with a person’s personality type, can be used to see a person will cope in a specific work environment, as well as how that person will interact with the people around them in that environment. Personality types may also be used to guide people into career options, but can only be administered by a qualified psychologist, which also relates to how a person will react in an environment.

In the field of Psychology, personality types may be used by a qualified psychologist to see how to specific-treat patients, according to how willing they are to open up to the psychologist. Psychologists may also use hand gestures for personality types who are not so easy to opening up, as their gestures and body language may give away subtleties to the psychologist of what the patient is thinking about.

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