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Extroverts: Not Your Companion of Choice on a Mission to Mars

Jun 16, 2014 12:39 PM EDT
Mars mission
Extroverts may be the life of the party here on Earth, but on a manned mission to Mars they are more of a "liability," according to a new study. Pictured: Artist's rendering of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a deep space mission.
(Photo : NASA)

Extroverts may be the life of the party here on Earth, but on a manned mission to Mars they are more of a "liability," according to a new study.

As NASA focuses considerable effort on getting humans to Mars, psychology researchers are making their own preparations by looking at what types of personalities would work the best together on such a long trip, Live Science reported.

A mission to Mars could be a three-year long trip, and extroverts in particular may prove to be a nuisance due to their talkative and gregarious nature, the researchers say.

"You are talking about a very tiny vehicle, where people are in very isolated, very confined spaces," said Suzanne Bell, an associate professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. "Extroverts have a little bit of a tough time in that situation."

In the new NASA-funded study, researchers reviewed previous studies on teams who lived in environments similar to those of a long-term space mission, including simulated spacecraft missions of more than 100 days, as well as missions in Antarctica.

Bell and her team found that an extroverted crew member from a simulated mission was shunned by two less talkative crew members, who thought he spoke his mind too often.

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

Extroverts particularly may have a hard time adjusting to environments where there's little opportunity for new activities or social interactions, the researchers added.

"People who are extroverted might have a hard time coping because they want to be doing a lot; they want to be engaged in a lot of things," said study researcher Shanique Brown, "And [on these missions], there won't be that much to do - things become monotonous after a while, and you're seeing the same people."

In other words, extroverts may find themselves getting bored very quickly, Daily Digest News reported. Their natural tendency is to socialize a lot with their peers to relieve their boredom.

Despite the findings, that's not to say extroverts are voted off the island, so to speak. Researchers will have to discover a balance for team members and train them to work together, Bell said.

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