Although many people feel that introversion and extroversion are black and white, others believe that introversion and extroversion are two ends of a spectrum (people in the middle are often called "ambiverts"), or even that people can be extroverted in some areas and introverted in other areas.
Experts find in studies that the brains of extroverts and introverts really are different — it isn't just imaginary. Extroverts seem to respond better to social cues and rewards, while introverts are more motivated by ideas and internal rewards. On a brain level, it seems to be true that extroverts are more focused on the external world, and introverts on the internal world.
How can you tell an extrovert from an introvert?
One way to tell whether you are an introvert or extrovert is often where you get your energy. If you get a lot of energy from being around others and being focused on people, but being alone drains you, then you are probably an extrovert. If you are drained by being around a lot of people, and get energy from "alone time," then you are probably an introvert.
Introversion and extroversion aren't descriptions of how shy you are, whether you can handle social situations, or whether you are a good employee or leader however. Many people misunderstand this and think that being outgoing is a prerequisite for leadership. Both introverts and extroverts learn how to cope with the world, and can be great contributors and leaders.
Who is an Ambivert?
Ambiverts are people who have a balance of extroversion and introversion in their personality. Since introversion and extroversion are traits on a spectrum, most people are ambiverts. People also behave differently depending upon the setting; some people may be gregarious with friends or family but not be very outgoing in new situations or around strangers.
Who is happier?
Extroverts report higher overall happiness than introverts, but experts aren't sure whether this is because the happiness actually is lower, or whether introverts are just less declarative about their feelings. Happiness-increasing strategies have been found to work differently on introverts and extroverts, so focusing on helping an extrovert cheer up the same way an introvert cheers up, for instance, may not work.
Some feel that the world is biased in favor of extroversion, encouraging collaboration to improve productivity, when it actually does the opposite for many introverts. Introverts on the other hand sometimes wonder why extroverts waste so much time talking instead of staying on task. Both positions have some merit, but the answer isn't in choosing only one or the other, but in recognizing the strength of each, and allowing all types of people the room and the flexibility to succeed.
Extroverted or Extraverted?
Carl Jung used the classic Latin-origin spelling so technically "extraversion" is correct. From Jung's seminal work Psychological Types:
Extraversion is characterized by interest in the external object, responsiveness, and a ready acceptance of external happenings, a desire to influence and be influenced by events, a need to join in…the capacity to endure bustle and noise of every kind, and actually find them enjoyable, constant attention to the surrounding world, the cultivation of friends and acquaintances… The psychic life of this type of person is enacted, as it were, outside himself, in the environment.
Extra means "outside" in Latin, and Intro means "inside". Since Jung defined extraverts as people to turn outward, it is natural that he used "extravert".
However, "extrovert" is the more common spelling in the U.S. today. Writing for Scientific American, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman credits the modern spelling to Phyllis Blanchard and her 1918 paper A Psycho-Analytic Study of August Comte, in which she not only changes the spelling but also redefines the terms:
...we must keep in mind Jung's hypothesis of the two psychological types, the introvert and extrovert, -- the thinking type and the feeling type.
Today "extrovert" is by far the more commonly used spelling but scientific journals still tend to use "extravert".
Several websites offer online quizzes to gauge where an individual falls on the extroversion scale. Some of these introversion/extroversion tests are as follows:
- Are You an Ambivert?
- The Introvert Test -- Quiet Revolution
- Extroversion Introversion Test - Psychology Today
- The Extrovert/Introvert Test - Nerd Tests
- The psychophysiological basis of introversion-extraversion - ScienceDirect
- The Science of What Makes an Introvert and an Extrovert - io9
- The power of introverts by Susan Cain - TED
- Personality Fit and Positive Interventions: Extraverted and Introverted Individuals Benefit from Different Happiness Increasing Strategies - Scientific Research Publishing
- Extraversion and Introversion - Wikipedia
- There are 4 kinds of introversion - NYMag
- All About Introversion - Psychology Today