Extroverts could cause problems on Mars mission

Jun 16 2014, 16:14 IST
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NASA focuses considerable effort on a mission to send humans to Mars in the coming decades. NASA focuses considerable effort on a mission to send humans to Mars in the coming decades.
SummaryExtroverts could potentially be a "liability" on long-term space missions - such as missions to Mars.

Extroverts could potentially be a "liability" on long-term space missions - such as missions to Mars - as they may have a hard time adjusting to confined and isolated environments, according to a NASA-funded study.

As NASA focuses considerable effort on a mission to send humans to Mars in the coming decades, sociology researchers are looking at what types of personalities would work the best together on such a long trip.

Extroverts tend to be talkative, but their gregarious nature may make them seem intrusive or demanding of attention in confined and isolated environments over the long term, researchers said.

"You're talking about a very tiny vehicle, where people are in very isolated, very confined spaces," said study researcher Suzanne Bell, an associate professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago.

"Extroverts have a little bit of a tough time in that situation," Bell said.

In the new study, Bell and her colleagues reviewed previous research 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.

Typically, extroverts - who tend to be sociable, outgoing, energetic and assertive - are good to have on work teams because they speak up and engage in conversations about what needs to be done, which is good for planning, Bell said.

And because of their social interactions, extroverts tend to have a good understanding of who knows what on a team (such as who the experts in a certain field are), which helps foster coordination, 'Space.com' reported.

But the researchers found several potential drawbacks to having extroverts on teams in isolated, confined environments.

In one study of a spacecraft simulation, an extroverted team member was ostracised by two other members who were more reserved, Bell said.

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

The study has led researchers to conclude that extroverts could potentially be a "liability" on these missions.

However, the new findings don't mean that extroverts can't go to Mars. More specific studies are needed to look at how extroverts fare on these teams, and whether certain kinds of training could help prevent problems, Bell said.

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