Introvert: a shy, reticent person
Extrovert: an outgoing, socially confident person
How INTROVERT and EXTROVERT terms can encompass the variety of human personalities?
In human personality theories, introversion and extroversion, and the traits associated with introvert and extrovert, are central points around which psychological and social understanding are developed.
Popularised by Carl Jung, his explanations of both introversion and extroversion differ to the simpler, mainstream understanding we have today. Jung’s definitions were:
- Introversion: “an attitude-type characterised by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents”
- Extroversion: “an attitude-type characterised by concentration of interest on the external object”.
Rather than being one of the other, Jung argued that everybody had introverted and extroverted sides, with one more dominant.
The study of introversion and extroversion exists in multiple branches of psychology. As a study, it can be explored and analysed from various angles, including biology (nature vs nurture) and numerous other factors.
What are introverts like?
Often regarded as shy, reflective and solitary people, a popular psychological view is that introverts expand their energy through reflection. During social interactions, their energy levels decrease. Jung shared a similar view, but with a focus on mental, rather than physical energy. Introverts also exhibit a preference for quieter environments, finding larger social gatherings overly stimulating. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, defines introverts as having “a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.”
A misconception is that all introverted people are antisocial, but introversion, and extroversion, exists on a continuum. This means that you exhibit extreme, moderate, or in between behaviours. So some introverts will enjoy social stimulation more than others.
For the most part, introverts are commonly associated with:
- Spending time alone – introverts get their energy internally, rather than externally.
- As such, we are often drained by social interactions.
- Smaller, close knit groups of friends.
- Spending more time thinking and daydreaming.
- Preferring writing to talking.
Introversion does not mean disliking people. As an introvert, there are a few people I like a lot and they’re all I need. Having too much stimulation from social interaction or environmental influences leaves me drained, tired and usually rather crabby. As an introvert, I am happier on my own, thinking and daydreaming quietly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to pop round to my grandmas for a cup of tea and a natter.
What are extroverts like?
In contrast, extroverts are defined as seeking gratification from external sources. Extroverts are energised by being around people, so re more likely to found in larger social gatherings, parties and activities. On their own, extroverts are more likely to be bored.
As such, extroverts are more likely to:
- Have larger friend groups
- Take more risks
- Be more sociable
- Prefers communication through talking
- Seeks external ideas and inspiration
Generally speaking, extroverts have been categorized as being more friendly and approachable, seeking social interaction with other people and being renewed by it. Extroverts are more likely to talk about their thoughts and feelings and tend to verbalise their thoughts processes, using speech to explore and organise their thoughts.
Broadly speaking, the theory of introversion and extroversion is best thought of as a spectrum, with people falling in various places along it. There is also regarded to be a lot of overlap between the way people behave and interact, and that most people display introverted and extroverted characteristics, but the one we define ourselves with is likely to be the one we display more.
A study by Lippa in 1978 found evidence for expressive behaviour that found that introverts consciously put more effort into presenting a more extroverted and ‘desirable’ version of themselves, showing that people regulate and modify their behaviours based off their environments.
So, it’s difficult to label a person as an introvert or an extrovert, but they are useful in self-acceptance and understanding others. In working situations and personal relationships, being aware of another person’s needs and behaviours are important to having a good bond.
For example, my mum is fully aware that I need to shut myself away to be alone and recharge, and I know that she like to think aloud to organise her ideas. Being aware and receptive to the way another person thinks, behaves and reacts to certain situations without being annoyed or insulted can be accomplished through simple personality theories. Introversion and extraversion is one theory on many, including Myers-Briggs, the Big Five Model and 16 personality factors.
So, which are you?
There are many ways to determine whether or not you are introverted or extroverted, and plenty of tests and quizzes out there to check. Some of our favourites are:
Organisational psychologist and TED speaker Adam Grant’s ten question test.
The Big Five Model, is considered one the most accurate and commonly used model.
Author Susan Cain has created The Quiet Revolution Personality Test