“Introverts are dependent on their own inside noise, extroverts are dependent of outside noise. The outputs are dependent on the quality of those noises.” – Amit K. Ghosh
In recent years, the concept of Introversion vs. Extraversion has gained increasing popularity in modern media. Unfortunately, the terms are often misinterpreted and understood as “shyness” versus “gregariousness”. In reality, the two terms delve deep into the psyche of the individual they describe and indicate an innate style of responding to the world with an infinite amount of complexities and nuances.
The term Introversion refers to the tendency to prefer and gain energy from more internal pursuits, while the term Extraversion describes those who feel energised from interacting with other people and the environment around them.
Where They Come from and How They are Used
These terms were originally popularized by psychologist Carl Jung who hypothesized that people are either introverts or “extraverts”, comparing them to Greek mythological figures, Apollo, the God of the Sun, who was more insightful and reserved, and Dionysus, the God of Wine and Spirits, who was very social and active in his environment.
The terms became much more widespread once they were identified as a primary category in the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI), a psychological assessment that measures personality types. The Myers-Briggs Foundation website distinguishes the two types by identifying Extraversion (E) as gaining energy from active involvement, socializing, and action, and Introversion (I) as acquiring energy from handling complex ideas and abstract values either alone or in small groups.
Introversion and Extraversion soon became household names and are now used for a variety of purposes, ranging from identifying what style of learning will fit best a certain student to determining what type of career an individual should pursue.
Neuroscience research supports the idea that there is a distinct difference between these two separate categories. Introverts tend to have a thicker prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain primarily responsible for forethought and planning, which may contribute to the introvert’s propensity for deeper thought. On the contrary, extroverts tend to respond more strongly to rewards as the reward system part of the brain is much more active.
Delving in Deeper: Introversion, Extroversion and Ambiversion
Introversion: Observation and Reflection
Introversion can be summed up in one word: introspection. Individuals who fall into this category are very attuned to their internal experience. They spend a significant amount of time pursuing more intellectual or internal interests, such as reading or examining their own reactions to the environment around them. This is not to say that introverts are not attentive to their external environment but rather, they are more focused on their response to the external environment. Introverts are constantly engaging in a process of observation and reflection.
Introverts often prefer to take part in solitary activities where they can reflect on their surroundings without frequent interruption. Interaction with large groups of people tends to leave the introvert feeling exhausted, craving alone time in order to restore their energy. Introverts tend to be much more selective with their friends and companions and generally prefer to have a smaller close-knit group of friends rather than a large group of acquaintances.
Leaning more toward the introversion side of the spectrum has some definite perks, these include:
- Increased knowledge of self and superior self-awareness
- Depth and deep connection in relationships
- Typically high IQ (due to time spent examining academic pursuits and more efficient study habits)
- High potential for success (due to tendency to carefully deliberate options and develop thorough plans for achieving goals)
Unfortunately, any personality category also comes with its drawbacks. The disadvantages of leaning more toward the introvert side are:
- Higher susceptibility to psychological distress (due to deeper thought)
- Unique thoughts may make introverts more susceptible to rejection
- Cynicism tends to run high with introvert populations
According to the Big Five Personality Assessment, the six key mannerisms associated with introversion include:
- Interpersonal Distance
- Reservation in Social Settings
While introverts are constantly engaged in a process of observing and interacting with their environment, extroverts are busy acting upon their environment. Those who fall in this category typically require more stimulation in the form of human or environment interaction in order to feel satisfied. For example, while an introvert may feel mentally satisfied with a leisurely stroll through the park, an extrovert may require some off-road adventuring in order to achieve the same level of satisfaction. Let’s take a deeper look at extraversion.
Although sociability and gregariousness are words that commonly come to mind when we think of Extraversion, relations to other people is not the sole focus of this trait. Extraversion also covers the tendency to pursue high-risk/high-reward situations and intensely experience positive emotions. People who identify themselves as extroverted may be more vocal about their joys because they are unable or unwilling to keep quiet about the good they have come by.
Those who fall in the Extraversion category can expect to experience a significant amount of benefits including:
- Higher chances of obtaining a leadership position (due to strong assertiveness and team orientation)
- Ease of establishing friendships
- High success rates due to propensity for a fast-paced lifestyle
- Strong leaning towards optimism
However, as with all personality traits, falling in the Extraversion category does have several definite drawbacks which include:
- Very high risk of frequent boredom
- Increased effort to attain an efficient amount of stimulation
- Lack of depth in interpersonal relationships
The Big Five Personality Assessment cites six key characteristics that, taken together, capture the broad trait of extraversion. These are:
- Positive Emotions
Somewhere in Between: Ambiversion
Over the years, psychologist began to come to terms with the fact that a black-and-white Introvert/Extravert distinction was not effective enough at accounting for the wide range of variation in individual personalities. While it was rare for someone to score 100% within either direction on the spectrum, it soon became clear that a third category needed to be added in order to represent people who fall exactly in the middle.
“Ambivert” is a term used to describe an individual who obtains an equal amount of mental stimulation from both quiet introvert activities and adventurous extrovert activities. Those who land in this category are said to have the “best of both worlds” because they are able to fit in well with people from either category.
Where do you draw energy from? And how do you interact with your environment? These have powerful implications for what kind of life you eventually lead, what career you may choose and how you can best experience subjective well-being.
Test Yourself Online Now
Would you like to know where you fall on the spectrum and get some advice on how to use this information for your personal growth?
The Myers & Briggs Foundation offer their full online assessment which is ideal for professional purposes and does come at a price.
Alternatively, for personal use, Psychology Today offer a quick and gratis test, which takes around 25 minutes to complete and has the option to receive a full report with advice for a small fee.
Where do you see yourself falling on the scale? How do you source and restore your energy? Let us know in the comment box below.
Borreli, L. (2016). Introverts vs. extroverts: Brain scans reveal pros and cons of personality types during human connection. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/introverts-vs-extroverts-brain-scans-reveal-pros-and-cons-personality-types-402185.
Detrick, P. NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO-PI-R). Retrieved from http://lib.post.ca.gov/Publications/PsycScreeningManual/NEO_PI-R.pdf.
Hills, P & Argyle, M. (2001). Happiness, introversion-extraversion and happy introverts. Personality and Individual Differences 30 (4). 595-608. Retrieved from http://ac.els-cdn.com.ezproxy.uky.edu/S0191886900000581/1-s2.0-S0191886900000581-main.pdf?_tid=fdff7fe0-9fe2-11e6-8421-00000aab0f26&acdnat=1477970975_d3eaac370b6fbbf041e308d2886c769f
The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Extraversion or Introversion. Retrieved from http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/extraversion-or-introversion.htm.