- Introversion is a personality type characterized by traits such as reserve, passivity, thoughtfulness, and a preference to keep emotional states private.
- Introverts are most comfortable interacting in small groups and with one-on-one relationships, and are energized by spending time alone.
- Extroversion is a personality type characterized by traits such as sociability, assertiveness, and cheerfulness. Extroverts seek out novelty and excitement, and enjoy being the center of attention.
- The concept of introversion/extroversion was introduced in 1910 by Carl Gustav Jung, existing as part of a continuum with each personality type at separate ends of the scale.
In This Article
What is an Introvert?
An introvert can be defined as being someone who gets their energy from being in their own company, having time to ‘recharge’ on their own. Someone who is introverted may appear to be withdrawn and shy, although this may not always be the case (Carrigan, 1960).
Introverts may also prefer taking part in less stimulating activities and get pleasure from reading, writing, or meditating.
Introverts may typically prefer to concentrate on a single activity, analyze situations carefully and take time to think more before they speak.
Introverts are individuals that recharge when they have time to engage in introspection. They tend to prefer engaging in the internal world, reflecting on their own feelings, emotions, and thoughts.
Introverts typically have a small group of close friends and value quality time alone. They find themselves most comfortable in solitude.
Signs You Might Be an Introvert
- You have a small group of close friends.
- Energized by being alone
- Enjoy solitude
- Tends to keep emotions private
- Quiet and reserved in large groups or around unfamiliar people
- Feel drained by people, and need privacy
their thoughts in their head rather than
talk them out
- More sociable and gregarious around people they know well
- Learns well through observation
What is an Extrovert?
An extrovert is a person with qualities of a personality type known as extroversion, which means that they get their energy from being around other people. Someone who is extroverted may appear as very talkative and may be popular among peers (Carrigan, 1960).
Extroverts may wish to seek out as much social interaction as possible because this is how they feel more energized. According to estimates, extroverts outnumber introverts by about three to one (Cain, 2012).
Extroverts are people who recharge when they interact with others in social settings. They have larger circles of friends and are often quite adventurous.
Extroverts enjoy talking with others, expressing themselves verbally, and engaging with the outside world. They are most comfortable around others.
Remember that extroversion isn’t an all-or-nothing trait; it’s actually a continuum and some people might be very extroverted while others are less so.
Signs You Might Be an Extrovert
- Enjoying social settings
- Seek attention
- Energized by being with others
- Are friends with many people
- Enjoy group work
- Prefer talking over writing
Is It Better To Be An Extrovert Or An Introvert?
Both extroverts and introverts have unique characteristics that might make them look more appealing than the other.
For example, maybe a large friend group that comes with being extroverted is important to you. Or perhaps the lifestyle of deep thought that introverts practice is more your style. Still, each personality has strengths and weaknesses crucial to its place on the personality spectrum.
Introverts have a strong ability to practice quality reflection. As they stay absorbed in their minds, they are often creative and have deep consideration for the world around them.
Introverts take the time to view their world in many different ways and tend to think and feel deeply. Though at times an advantage, some studies show that introverts may have higher chances of having mental illnesses like depression due to their higher tendency to engage in inner reflection (Janowsky, 2001).
Extroverts’ strong suits lie in their ability to be outgoing and interactive with the outside world. This social and bubbly personality is helpful for them in cases like job opportunities (Wilmont et al., 2019) and meeting new individuals.
However, extroverts also crave new adventures and are impulsive. Their impulsivity can lead to behavior that some studies show to be linked with “lower rational decision-making styles” (Radwan et al., 2020). This study highlights that extroverts may not make the best choices and are left to deal with the consequences of those actions.
Both personality types have advantageous qualities that make them valuable to society, as well as attributes that can be negative.
Extroverts and introverts are both good in their own ways, and no “better” or “worse” personality type exists. In fact, it is good to have variance in personalities as both extroverts and introverts alike have crucial roles to play when it comes to balancing the flow of social interactions.
What is an Ambivert?
Although many people view introversion and extroversion as two opposing categories, new personality theories have come to accept that it is more likely that introversion and extroversion are on a scale.
Some people may be placed more around the extroverted end of the scale, or towards the introverted end, and some may fall in the middle.
An ambivert is a person who shows characteristics of both extroversion and introversion. In other words, they fall somewhere in the middle of the scale. People who are ambiverts are said to be moderately comfortable in social situations but also enjoy some solitary time.
An ambivert essentially changes their behavior based on the situation they find themselves in. For example, they may be quite introverted and reserved around strangers, but will be more energetic and extroverted around close friends and family.
Ambiverts can tap into different ranges of the extrovert-introvert spectrum. They are not limited to a specific personality and are advantaged to take attributes from each.
For example, an ambivert can hold extroverted characteristics, like enjoying talking with people, while also holding introverted traits, like enjoying listening and reflecting. They can also feel just as comfortable at a party as they may be when spending a night alone.
Their place in the middle of the personality spectrum makes them highly adaptable in their daily scenarios. Ambiverts’ flexibility can also help to balance social environments that may be overcrowded with a particular personality type.
Ambiverts understand their own behavior well and can read when a situation might call for them to act more introverted or extroverted. This self-awareness aids them in several areas of their lives.
For example, research shows that ambiverts are better salespeople in professional careers. This might be because ambiverts take the time to be persuasive (typically an extroverted trait) and attentive (typically an introverted trait) when making a sale (Grant, 2013).
Differences Between Introverts And Extroverts
Introverts are often content to work and think by themselves. Most of their time is spent reflecting on their ideas. As a result, introverts will daydream or brainstorm throughout their day, often “zoning out” as their mind roams.
Introverts are also more likely to stay away from the center of attention or conflict, preferring their inner world for comfort. For this reason, they are known to be more reserved and quieter than extroverts.
At times, introverts are stereotyped as shy or socially awkward, but these characteristics differ from introversion. Introverts do not necessarily avoid others but find it difficult to speak to others.
Since introverts find verbal communication challenging, they may spend more time writing, drawing, or listening to music. When they do speak, introverts tend to be more literal with the words they say (Beukeboom et al., 2013).
Extroverts are typically confident and talkative in their day-to-day lives. Since they love being social, you will find them chatting with others most of the time.
As they are very expressive, one study suggests extroverts tend to use more abstract and colorful language in their conversations (Beukeboom et al., 2013).
On top of being social butterflies, they also enjoy encountering exciting situations. Extroverts love going on adventures, especially if those plans include being bold and daring. They often have free spirits that take them to all sorts of new places.
Their spontaneous behavior can sometimes be impulsive. Extroverts are also very optimistic and tend to find the good in their situations, meaning they are usually very animated and bright. Typically they are described as warm-hearted and enthusiastic.
Differences in Social Settings
Introverts find social settings challenging. Introverts value time to decompress and reflect alone. Consequently, too much time around people can be taxing for an introvert and might make them uncomfortable or tired.
Feeling exhausted in social events does not equate to introverts disliking people. Some introverts may enjoy interacting with others but prefer to be around individuals they have deep bonds with and can maintain substantial conversations with.
As a result, an introverted person might shy away from small talk or engage in dialogue with strangers. After participating in large social gatherings, introverts may need unaccompanied time to regain energy.
Extroverts find themselves very comfortable in social settings. Since extroverts are very outgoing and friendly, they thrive in situations where they can make new friends and share their ideas.
Extroverts can easily verbalize their emotions and speak about their opinions, even around people they have just met. As a result, interacting with others comes easily to them. Additionally, they enjoy working in larger groups and are confident collaborating with others.
Extroverts can organize events, spearhead conversations, and quickly become leaders in group settings. Cooperating with others and maintaining connections is essential for extroverts who find themselves refreshed when spending time with people.
Differences in Relationships
Introverts tend to have a smaller number of friends than extroverts. However, introverts maintain close friendships with the individuals they surround themselves with.
When bonding with others, introverts value understanding individuals’ minds in the same way they enjoy reflecting on their own. As a result, deep conversations and genuine connections are critical for introverts and their relationships.
Since introverts are observant and good listeners, they also make quality companions. Introverts are known to be empathetic with their friends. They take the time to acknowledge the experiences of others.
Consequently, their considerate nature allows introverts to create robust support systems within their relationships.
In social situations, extroverts are known to like connecting with the people they meet. Since alone time has the potential to exhaust them, extroverts enjoy social gatherings.
Through this social interaction, they make and maintain many relationships. More than enjoying their company, extroverts rely on their social networks to listen to their feelings and experiences, big and small.
Talking through their thought process allows extroverts to express themselves fully. For this reason, extroverts will often ask their friends for advice and talk through their problems.
They value multiple people’s opinions and tend to work out their thought processes with those individuals.
Differences in the Workplace
Introverts often bring their logical and detailed-oriented characteristics into the workplace. Their dedication makes them valuable workers.
When they reflect and take time to understand situations in their brain, introverts can help the team produce quality work to tackle complex tasks (Belvins et al., 2022). Additionally, introverts’ tendency to be rational and contemplative in their everyday lives allows them to carefully inspect their work and choices.
This skill makes them practical decision-makers in their careers (Belvins et al., 2022) and helps the companies they work for. When it comes to precision and quality work, introverts have an advantage in the workplace.
Introverts work well at jobs with less social interaction, or jobs with more independent work such as writing, engineering, or accounting.
Extroverts are very successful in their workplaces (Wilmont et al., 2019). Their adaptability, positive attitudes, and good interpersonal skills set them aside as exceptional workers.
Moreover, when extroverts connect and talk to others at work, they build rapport among their co-workers. By engaging in friendly conversation and keeping an upbeat demeanor, extroverts can help boost the company’s morale (Duffy & Chartrand, 2015).
Extroverts can come across as the ‘team player’ at their jobs. Additionally, extroverted characteristics can indicate more awards, promotions, and higher salaries (Wilmont et al., 2019), as well as an increase in leadership positions at work (Judge et al., 2002).
In the workplace, extroverts are more likely to take on leadership roles since they are more likely to assert themselves in group situations (McCabe & Fleeson, 2012). Similarly, extroversion has been shown to be a predictor of leadership and social skills throughout life (Guerin et al., 2011).
Therefore, extroverts are more likely to do well at jobs with lots of interaction such as teaching, sales and management.
Myers (1992) found a significant correlation between extroversion and self-reported levels of happiness. Extroverts also tend to report experiencing more positive emotions, whereas introverts are more neutral.
Likewise, Swickert et al., (2004) found that extroverts reported higher levels of self-esteem than introverts in their study. Fleeson et al., (2002) found that participants which were instructed to act extroverted, led to an increase in positive affect, even for those who described themselves as introverted.
Furnham, Forde, and Cotter (1998) found a positive association with introversion and levels of intelligence and being successful in academic environments. However, Eysenck (1996) perceived extroversion to be a predictor of high grades at school, but lower grades at university level.
Despite this, Lekaviciene and Antiniene (2014) suggested there is a positive correlation between extroversion and emotional intelligence. There are also some suggested differences in how introverts and extroverts perform best.
For example, when participants had to complete cognitive tasks with music in the background, extroverts performed best, although introverts performed better when there was no music or noise being played (Mistry, 2015). This could be linked back to introverts feeling overstimulated/ too much cortical arousal.
The introversion-extroversion dimension is one that has been shown to be measured reliably across the globe, although there are distinct differences between cultural groups.
Especially in western cultures (e.g., the United States and United Kingdom), there tends to be a bias towards extroverts as people are often taught from a young age that being sociable makes you happy (Cain, 2012).
In the workplace, there is said to be a bias towards those who are extroverted, which can result in those who are not extroverted to feel negatively towards their job if their employer favors those who are typically more outgoing and assertive (McCord & Joseph, 2020).
In a seemingly extrovert-dominated world, introverts can often wish they can be more extroverted and try to go against what is their most comfortable behavior in order to be accepted or achieve more.
However, it is suggested that introverts perceive the world differently and may notice things that extroverts do not, meaning they are valuable to employers in this sense.
Whilst Western cultures are often biased towards extroversion, in Eastern cultures however, they tend to be more inclined towards introversion. Western cultures are typically more individualistic (focused more on promoting more individual success) whereas Eastern cultures are collectivist (focus on promoting cultural/group success). These differences between cultures need to be taken into account when researching introversion and extroversion.
Feiler and Kleinbaum (2015) assert that extroversion may not be as common as we think since extroverts tend to be over-represented in social networks.
As extroverts typically have larger groups of friends and are often friends with other extroverts, they are disproportionately represented in social networks. In reality, introverts make up an estimated 25 to 40% of the population.
Differences in the Brain
There have been many studies on the brain when it comes to introversion and extroversion, investigating whether there are any biological differences between them.
Stenberg, Risberg, Warkentin and Rosen (1990) found that introverts have higher levels of blood flow to their frontal lobes than extroverts. The frontal lobe is responsible for memory, problem solving and planning, therefore it could be interpreted that introverts have higher functioning in these areas than extroverts.
Another study by Johnston et al. (1999) found that extroverts have higher blood flow in other areas of the brain associated with sensory and emotions (the anterior cingulate gyrus, temporal lobes and posterior thalamus).
Fu (2013) found that the neurotransmitter dopamine (a chemical that turns on the reward and pleasure-seeking part of the brain) reacts differently in introvert’s and extrovert’s brains. In extroverts, they found a stronger dopamine response to rewards, so they experience more frequent activation of strong positive emotions.
This could explain why extroverts may appear more outgoing and cheerful compared to introverts. Another study found that the traits of extroversion encompass more ‘wanting’ traits (e.g. assertiveness) and ‘liking’ traits (e.g. enjoyment of social interactions) – traits which are associated with the dopaminergic system around areas of the brain responsible for motivation, emotion and reward (Schaefer, Knuth & Rumpel, 2011).
Kehoe, Toomey, Balsters and Bokde (2012) used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate cortical arousal in introverts and extroverts. They found that introverts tended to become stimulated very easily, whereas extroverts had lower levels of cortical arousal.
This can explain why extroverts may need to have more external stimulation as they can become easily bored. Gale et al, (2001) asked their participants to emphasize with positive and negative facial expressions and measured their responses using an electroencephalogram (EEG).
They also found a higher frequency of cortical arousal in introverts than extroverts. This evidence supports Eysenck’s theory that extroverts, and introverts have varying levels of cortical arousal.
Another study which used fMRI on participants completing cognitive tasks has shown that extroversion is associated with activations in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, middle temporal gyrus, and the amygdala – areas associated with memory, attention, and emotional response (Lei, Yang & Wu, 2015).
Psychological Theories of Introversion and Extroversion
Introversion is generally viewed as existing as part of a continuum along with extroversion, and most people tend to lie somewhere between the two. For example, they might be outgoing in some situations with some introverted tendencies.
Carl Jung was one of the first people to define the terms introvert and extrovert in a psychological context. According to Jung (1910; 1923), personality is based on four pairs of opposing types.
He claimed that these types are present in all of us, but one is more dominant than the other, meaning that personality is on four dimensions, which are:
- Extroversion/ Introversion
- Sensing/ Intuition
- Thinking/ Feeling
- Judging/ Perceiving
Jung (1923) described extroverts as preferring to engage with the outside world of objects, sensory perception, and action. Introverts he described as being more focused on the internal world of reflection, are thoughtful and insightful.
Jung (1923) believed a balance between extroversion and introversion best served the goal of self-realization.
Jung’s theory differs from more modern perspectives of introversion and extroversion which tend to focus on the behaviors associated with the traits (e.g. sociability and assertiveness).
Whereas Jung’s theory is expressed through perspectives: introverts viewing the world subjectively, extroverts viewing it objectively. Because of this, perhaps Jung’s theory is limited in terms of describing introverts and extroverts.
Jung’s (1923) view of extroverted and introverted types serves as a basis for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This questionnaire describes a person’s degree of introversion versus extroversion, thinking versus feeling, intuition versus sensation, and judging versus perceiving.
Hans Eysenck (1947; 1966; 1967) constructed a theory of personality which has a biological basis. He believed that personality was the result of biological differences in individuals’ nervous systems which ultimately affect their ability to learn and adapt to the environment.
Eysenck proposed that personality could be represented by three dimensions:
- Introversion/Extroversion (E)
- Neuroticism/Stability (N)
- Psychoticism/Normality (P)
Eysenck asserted that each personality trait can be traced back to a different biological cause, particularly that personality is dependent on a balance between excitation and inhibition of the autonomic nervous system.
Eysenck (1967) also claimed that differences in behavioral extroversion and introversion are the result of differences in the brain.
He explained that extroverts tend to seek excitement and social activity in order to raise their naturally low cortical arousal levels, whereas introverts tend to avoid social situations in order to minimize their already high cortical arousal levels.
It has been widely accepted that Eysenck’s introversion / extroversion dimension exists (McCrae & Costa, 1985). However, the Big Five model of personality traits states that personality is the result of five core traits which are all represented on a spectrum.
The five traits are::
- Openness to experience
In terms of extroversion and introversion, this theory would not categorize people are being one or the other. It would say that everyone is on a scale of extroversion and people can be low on extroversion or high on extroversion.
According to the Big Five model, there are facets, or behaviors associated with high and low levels of extroversion (McCrae & Costa, 1985).
People who are highly extroverted tend to be more sociable, are outgoing, enjoy being the center of attention, and are energized by social interaction. Those low on extroversion prefer spending time alone, are reserved, dislike attention, and are drained by too much social interaction.
It was found that an individual’s Big Five scores tended to stay stable over time with only some slight changes such as scores of extroversion increasing over time.
Although developed in the United States, the Big Five model appears to describe personality well throughout a range of cultures, suggesting that this theory is universal and remains the most widely accepted personality theory today (McCrae, 2002).
Likewise, throughout literature, synonymous traits have been found which supports these 5 core factors of personality.
How can introversion and extroversion be measured?
Extroversion and introversion are critical aspects of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). However, extroversion is also a part of the Big Five Personality Traits, which also determine our characters.
The Big Five Personality traits maintain that extroversion is linked to someone’s ability to be social. Extroversion is measured on a scale through self-report questions. These questions allow the test to gauge how individuals react to the outside world and people.
Introversion is not a personality trait per se but is defined instead by a lack of extroversion. So individuals who self-report enjoying more social situations will be weighed more to have high levels of extroversion. In contrast, those who prefer solitude will be scored to have more levels of introversion.
Is it possible to change from an introvert to an extrovert?
In some situations, we may use more extroversion and introversion in our behavior; however, your position on the personality spectrum is fixed.
Research is still developing, but some studies have shown that personality traits might be linked to our genetic makeup (Smeland et al., 2017). Our personality is critical to our identity and potentially engrained into our DNA. Still, changing certain behaviors associated with different personality types is an option.
Going from introvert to extrovert is not possible. However, if someone wanted to be more extroverted, they could practice specific skills like public speaking to exert more extroverted characteristics. Practice will not change your personality, but it can help you become more confident with abilities outside your comfort zone.
What is an introverted extrovert?
Just like ambiverts fall into a sliding scale, introverted extroverts are somewhere in the middle of the personality spectrum. However, introverted extroverts tend to lean towards enjoying social interaction while still valuing their rest and alone time.
An introverted extrovert’s core will be more oriented to behave outwardly extroverted. For example, an introverted extrovert might be a strong leader at work. However, they still dislike the spotlight and might divert praise back onto their team to avoid being the center of attention.
Though it may be challenging to sometimes respond negatively to the same kind of interaction is energizing, introverted extroverts have the skill sets of the full spectrum. They can use it to their advantage, like ambiverts.
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