Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Social Occupational Types

  • Christopher Marcin KowalskiEmail author
  • Julie Aitken Schermer
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_798-1


Social Interest Tour Guide Realistic Type Occupational Type Vocational Interest 
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A category of occupations from Holland’s (1973) RIASEC (realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional) model of vocational interests that involve the serving of others and social interaction

Social Vocational Interests

Holland (1973) described individuals with the social occupational interest type as having a preference for occupations and activities that involve interaction with other people (e.g., teaching, tour guide, and human relations). These individuals have a tendency to avoid ordered, systematic activities that involve the use of materials, tools, and machinery (i.e., realistic occupations). Social individuals value cultivating the welfare of others and see themselves as empathetic, patient, and interpersonally gifted. Social people report a lack of interest in mechanical fields. People of this type are often described as helpful, idealistic, sociable, feminine, agreeable, idealistic, and persuasive. An ideal environment for this type is one that requires interpersonal skills and the ability to mentor, treat, heal, or teach others (Holland 1996). A social environment demands empathy, selflessness, and sociability.

The location of the social type on Holland’s hexagonal typology is adjacent to the artistic and enterprising types and opposite of the realistic type. This indicates that out of Holland’s six types, the social type is most closely associated with the enterprising and artistic types and least associated with the realistic type. According to Prediger’s (1982) two-dimensional conceptualization of Holland’s hexagon (People vs. Things, Data vs. Ideas), the social type is located at the People end of the Things-People axis. In other words, a social individual prefers occupations that require the interaction with other people rather than objects.

Correlations with Personality and Individual Differences

The study of vocational interests in relation to the Five Factor model has received a great deal of attention from personality researchers in the past few decades. Using a meta-analysis, Barrick et al. (2003) found small positive correlations between social interests and agreeableness (r = .15) and openness to experience (r = .12) and moderate relationships between social interests and extraversion (r = .29). Specifically, research has found that social interests are correlated with the facets of agreeableness of trust (r = .30), morality (r = .23), altruism (r = .49), cooperation (r = .24), and sympathy (r = .42), as well the facets of conscientiousness of achievement striving (r = .19), and dutifulness (r = .19; see also Armstrong and Anthoney 2009). Social interests were also related to the facets of extraversion of gregariousness (r = .26), friendliness (r = .32), assertiveness (r = .19), activity level (r = .14), and cheerfulness (r = .33) and the facets of openness of imagination (r = .12), artistic interests (r = .36), and emotionality (r = .37).

Sex Differences

Sex differences are consistently found in vocational interest research. Using meta-analytic methods, Su et al. (2009) found the greatest mean effect size (d = .90) regarding sex differences is for Prediger’s Things-People dimension with women preferring occupations that dealt with people (e.g., social occupations) and men preferring occupations that dealt with things. A significant effect size was also found for the social type (d = −.68) favoring women.


Individuals with a social vocational interest profile tend to be female, are agreeable, open to experience, cheerful, and value both interacting and helping others. Career areas would include jobs which deal with the public, such as counsellors, help desk employees, and areas such as social work.


  1. Armstrong, P. I., & Anthoney, S. F. (2009). Personality facets and RIASEC interests: An integrated model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75, 346–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrick, M. R., Mount, M. K., & Gupta, R. (2003). Meta-analysis of the relationship between the five-factor model of personality and Holland’s occupational types. Personnel Psychology, 56, 45–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Holland, J. L. (1973). Making vocational choices; a theory of careers. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  4. Holland, J. L. (1996). Exploring careers with a typology: What we have learned and some new directions. American Psychologist, 51, 397–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Prediger, D. J. (1982). Dimensions underlying Holland’s hexagon: Missing link between interests and occupations? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 21, 259–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Su, R., Rounds, J., & Armstrong, P. I. (2009). Men and things, women and people: A meta-analysis of sex differences in interests. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 859–884.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Marcin Kowalski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julie Aitken Schermer
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Julie Schermer
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Western OntarioLondonCanada