The Psychology of Introversion
Let’s say you’re invited to a party.
No special occasion; just a regular house party. You’ll know a good amount of people there, but they’re mostly just acquaintances. No one will be upset with you for being a no-show, but they’d appreciate your being there, nonetheless. The question now is whether you accept or decline that invitation. Your answer, whether it be “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know”, can give you a place on the frequently referenced introvert-extrovert scale.
The words “introvert” and “extrovert” are often used, but they may be hard to define. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines introversion as “the state or tendency of being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life”. Conversely, it defines extroversion as “the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self”. Famous psychologist Carl Jung agreed with this definition, believing himself that introversion is the state of being inwardly concerned, whereas extroversion is the state of being outwardly concerned.
Of course, because reality isn’t as black and white as theory, no one is just one or the other. Hence the aforementioned “scale”. However, most people have an inclination to either side, whether that inclination be strong or almost non-existent. You can make an educated decision on which side you lean toward through hypothetical scenarios, looking at clear definitions, or- wait for it- brain science.
Put simply, extroverts react differently to stimuli than introverts. Psychologist Hans Eysenck believed that extroverts are naturally under-stimulated, which could very well be the reason behind their tendency to take risks, and would also explain why they gain energy from social interaction. Eysenck also believed that the opposite is true for introverts: they’re very easily stimulated, so they require alone time to remain at peace. Too much contact from the outside world, specifically human contact, could result in exhaustion, or a mental imbalance.
Additionally, a study in 2012, completed by Harvard University’s Randy Buckner, suggested introverts tend to have thicker nerve tissue in their prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that deals with decision-making and abstract thought. This is another possible reason for introverts’ thought-oriented mannerisms. It also implies that extroverts would lack nerve tissue in that same area, which could be why they tend to live in the moment, rather than thinking things through.
Here are some situations to help you determine whether you’re more of an introvert or extrovert:
- Introverts prefer to spend time alone when in a group of people.
- Introverts prefer solitary activities such as reading or writing or staying home.
- Introverts don’t like the party scenes. Feel free to add to this list.
Alternatively, you can take our Introvert or Extrovert Quiz here to find out: http://localhost:8888/test/are-you-an-ambivert/.
There are 10 questions only and the result is presented at the end.
Now that we’ve delved a bit into the meaning of being an introvert/extrovert, you should have just enough information to decide which side you fall on. So, what do you think? Would you say you’re more outwardly focused and stimulation-hungry, like an extrovert? Or do you lean more on the thoughtful side, content with less socialization, like an introvert? Or do you think you fall exactly in the center of the scale, flipping back and forth between the two frequently, as an ambivert would?
Whatever you identify as, remember that neither side is better than the other, and that this label doesn’t define your entire personality. It simply helps you understand yourself better, and- really- who doesn’t want a better idea of who they are?
For more on introversion, go here.
For more on extroversion, check this out.
We release a new article on the topic of introvert every Sunday. If you’re interested, feel free to add yourself to our email list here: http://eepurl.com/cvwN45
Also, we have a video on 21 signs you might be an ambivert (another term for someone who doesn’t doesn’t identify as either introverted or extroverted) here:
Introversion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/introversion
Extroversion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extroversion
Frager, R., & Fadiman, J. (n.d.). Transpersonal Pioneers: Carl Jung. Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.sofia.edu/about/history/transpersonal-pioneers-carl-jung/
Bushak, L. 2014, August 21. The Brain Of An Introvert Compared To That Of An Extrovert: Are They Really Different? Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.medicaldaily.com/brain-introvert-compared-extrovert-are-they-really-different-299064
Holmes, A., Lee, P., Hollinshead, M., Bakst, L., Roffman, J., Smoller, J., Buckner, R. 2012, May 24. Individual Differences in Amygdala-Medial Prefrontal Anatomy Link Negative Affect, Impaired Social Functioning, and Polygenic Depression Risk. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32(50):18087-18100. Abstract retrieved from http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/50/18087.short
[Untitled Digital Image]. Retrieved June 23, 2015 from http://www.fakulteti.mk/news/12-06-30/ubavinite_na_zrze_-_selo_vo_pregratkite_na_dautica.aspx