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The trait of extraversion-introversion is a central dimension of human personality. Extraverts (also spelled extroverts[1]) tend to be gregarious, assertive, and interested in seeking out excitement. Introverts, in contrast, tend to be more reserved, less outgoing, and less sociable. They are not necessarily loners but they tend to have smaller circles of friends and are less likely to thrive on making new social contacts. Introverts are less likely to seek stimulation from others because their own thoughts and imagination are stimulating enough. A common misconception is that all introverts suffer from social anxiety or shyness. Introversion does not describe social discomfort but rather social preference. An introvert may not be shy at all but may merely prefer non social or less social activities.

The terms introversion and extraversion were first popularized by Carl Jung.[2] Virtually all comprehensive models of personality include these concepts. Examples include Jung's analytical psychology, Eysenck's three-factor model, Cattell's 16 personality factors, the Big Five personality traits, the four temperaments, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and Socionics.

Extraversion and introversion are typically viewed as a single continuum. Thus, to be high on one is necessarily to be low on the other. Carl Jung and the authors of the Myers-Briggs provide a different perspective and suggest that everyone has both an extraverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other. In any case, people fluctuate in their behavior all the time, and even extreme introverts and extraverts do not always act according to their type.





Extraversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self".[3] Extraverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, such as parties, community activities, public demonstrations, and business or political groups. Politics, teaching, sales, managing, brokering, and acting are fields that favor extraversion. An extraverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.


Introversion is "the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life".[3] Introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in large groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, drawing, and using computers. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer, and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though they tend to enjoy interactions with close friends. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate[4]. Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement. They are more analytical before speaking[5].

Introversion is not the same as shyness or the social outcast. Introverts choose solitary over social activities by preference, whereas shy people avoid social encounters out of fear[6] and whereas the social outcast faces solitude, but not by choice.


Although many people view being introverted or extraverted as a question with only two possible answers, most contemporary trait theories (e.g. the Big Five) measure levels of extraversion-introversion as part of a single, continuous dimension of personality, with some scores near one end, and others near the half-way mark.[7] Ambiversion is a term used to describe people who fall more or less directly in the middle and exhibit tendencies of both groups.[3][8] An ambivert is normally comfortable with groups and enjoys social interaction, but also relishes time alone and away from the crowd.


Extraversion-introversion is normally measured by self-report. A questionnaire might ask if the test-taker agrees or disagrees with statements such as I am the life of the party or I think before I talk.

Imagine a questionnaire consisting of ten "agree or disagree" statements. For the first five questions, agreement indicates a tendency towards extraversion, while for the last five questions, agreement indicates introversion. Five people take this questionnaire and answer as follows:

John Maria Marcus Sarah David
I am the life of the party. Agree Agree Agree Disagree Disagree
I enjoy being the center of attention. Agree Disagree Agree Disagree Disagree
I am skilled in handling social situations. Agree Agree Agree Disagree Disagree
I like to be where the action is. Agree Agree Disagree Agree Disagree
I make new friends easily. Agree Agree Disagree Agree Disagree
I am quiet around strangers. Disagree Disagree Agree Disagree Agree
I don't like to draw attention to myself. Disagree Agree Agree Agree Agree
I don't like to party on the weekends. Disagree Disagree Agree Agree Agree
I like to work independently. Disagree Agree Disagree Agree Agree
I often enjoy spending time by myself. Disagree Disagree Disagree Agree Agree
Score 100% Extravert 70% Extravert 50% Extravert
50% Introvert
70% Introvert 100% Introvert

In this example, John and Maria are extraverted, Sarah and David are introverted, and Marcus is neither.

Self-report questionnaires have obvious limitations in that people may misrepresent themselves either intentionally or through lack of self-knowledge. It is also common to use peer report or observation.

Another approach is to present test-takers with various sets of adjectives (for example: thoughtful, talkative, energetic, independent) and ask which describes them most and least. Psychological measures of this trait may break it down into subfactors including warmth, affiliation, positive affect, excitement seeking, and assertiveness/dominance seeking.


Jungian theory

According to Carl Jung, introversion and extraversion refer to the direction of psychic energy. If a person’s psychic energy usually flows outwards then he or she is an extravert, while if the energy usually flows inwards, the person is an introvert.[9] Extraverts feel an increase of perceived energy when interacting with a large group of people, but a decrease of energy when left alone. Conversely, introverts feel an increase of energy when alone, but a decrease of energy when surrounded by a large group of people.

Many modern psycho-biologists consider theories of psychic energy to be obsolete. First, it is difficult to operationalize mental "energy" in ways that can be scientifically measured and tested. Second, more detailed explanations of extraversion and the brain have replaced Jung's rather speculative theories.[10] Nevertheless, the concept is still in popular usage in the general sense of "feeling energized" in particular situations. From a psycho-biologist perspective, Jung’s primary legacy in this area may be the popularizing of the terms introvert and extravert to refer to a particular dimension of personality; social psychologists generally maintain a richer valuing of Jung's contributions.

Eysenck's theory

Hans Eysenck described extraversion-introversion as the degree to which a person is outgoing and interactive with other people. These behavioral differences are presumed to be the result of underlying differences in brain physiology.[11] Extraverts seek excitement and social activity in an effort to heighten their arousal level, whereas introverts tend to avoid social situations in an effort to keep such arousal to a minimum. Eysenck designated extraversion as one of three major traits in his P-E-N model of personality, which also includes psychoticism and neuroticism.

Eysenck originally suggested that extraversion was a combination of two major tendencies, impulsiveness and sociability. He later added several other more specific traits, namely liveliness, activity level, and excitability. These traits are further linked in his personality hierarchy to even more specific habitual responses, such as partying on the weekend.

Eysenck compared this trait to the four temperaments of ancient medicine, with choleric and sanguine temperaments equating to extraversion, and melancholic and phlegmatic temperaments equating to introversion.[12]

Twin studies find that extraversion/introversion has a genetic component.

Biological factors

The relative importance of nature versus environment in determining the level of extraversion is controversial and the focus of many studies. Twin studies find a genetic component of 39% to 58%. In terms of the environmental component, the shared family environment appears to be far less important than individual environmental factors that are not shared between siblings.[13]

Eysenck proposed that extraversion was caused by variability in cortical arousal. He hypothesized that introverts are characterized by higher levels of activity than extraverts and so are chronically more cortically aroused than extraverts. The fact that extraverts require more external stimulation than introverts has been interpreted as evidence for this hypothesis. Other evidence of the "stimulation" hypothesis is that introverts salivate more than extraverts in response to a drop of lemon juice.[14]

Extraversion has been linked to higher sensitivity of the mesolimbic dopamine system to potentially rewarding stimuli.[15] This in part explains the high levels of positive affect found in extraverts, since they will more intensely feel the excitement of a potential reward. One consequence of this is that extraverts can more easily learn the contingencies for positive reinforcement, since the reward itself is experienced as greater.

One study found that introverts have more blood flow in the frontal lobes of their brain and the anterior or frontal thalamus, which are areas dealing with internal processing, such as planning and problem solving. Extraverts have more blood flow in the anterior cingulate gyrus, temporal lobes, and posterior thalamus, which are involved in sensory and emotional experience.[16] This study and other research indicates that introversion-extraversion is related to individual differences in brain function.


Extraverts and introverts have a variety of behavioral differences. According to one study, extraverts tend to wear more decorative clothing, whereas introverts prefer practical, comfortable clothes.[17] Extraverts are likely to prefer more upbeat, conventional, and energetic music than introverts.[18] Personality also influences how people arrange their work areas. In general, extraverts decorate their offices more, keep their doors open, keep extra chairs nearby, and are more likely to put dishes of candy on their desks. These are attempts to invite co-workers and encourage interaction. Introverts, in contrast, decorate less and tend to arrange their workspace to discourage social interaction.[19]

Although extraverts and introverts have real personality and behavior differences, it is important to avoid pigeonholing or stereotyping by personality. Humans are complex and unique, and because extraversion varies along a continuum, they may have a mixture of both orientations. A person who acts introverted in one scenario may act extraverted in another, and people can learn to act “against type” in certain situations. Jung's theory states that when someone's primary function is extraverted, his secondary function is always introverted (and vice versa).[2]


Acknowledging that introversion and extraversion are normal variants of behavior can help in self-acceptance and understanding of others. For example, an extravert can accept her introverted partner’s need for space, while an introvert can acknowledge his extraverted partner’s need for social interaction.

Researchers have found a correlation between extraversion and happiness. That is, more extraverted people tend to report higher levels of happiness than introverts.[20][21] This does not mean that introverts are unhappy. Extraverts simply report experiencing more positive emotions, whereas introverts tend to be closer to neutral. Furthermore, the causality is not clear. Extraversion may lead to greater happiness, happier people may become more extraverted, or there may be some other factor such as genetics or social involvement that affects both. In addition to the research on happiness, other studies have found that extraverts tend to report higher levels of self-esteem than introverts.[22][23]

Extraversion is perceived as socially desirable in Western culture, but it is not always an advantage. For example, extraverted youths are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior.[24]Conversely, while introversion is perceived as less socially desirable, it is strongly associated with positive traits such as intelligence[25] and "giftedness."[26][27] For many years, researchers have found that introverts tend to be more successful in academic environments, which extraverts may find boring.[28]

Career counselors often use personality traits, along with other factors such as skill and interest, to advise their clients.[29] Some careers such as computer programming may be more satisfying for an introverted temperament, while other areas such as sales may be more agreeable to the extraverted type.

Although neither introversion nor extraversion is pathological, psychotherapists can take temperament into account when treating clients. Clients may respond better to different types of treatment depending on where they fall on the introversion/extraversion spectrum. Teachers can also consider temperament when dealing with their pupils, for example acknowledging that introverted children need more encouragement to speak in class while extraverted children may grow restless during long periods of quiet study.


Researchers have found that people who live on islands tend to be less extraverted (more introverted) than those living on the mainland, and that people whose ancestors had inhabited the island for twenty generations tend to be less extraverted than more recent arrivals. Furthermore, people who emigrate from islands to the mainland tend to be more extraverted than people that stay on islands, and those that immigrate to islands.[30]

In the United States, researchers have found that people living in the midwestern states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois score higher than the U.S. average on extraversion. Utah and the southeastern states of Florida and Georgia also score high on this personality trait. The most introverted states in the United States are Maryland, New Hampshire, Alaska, Washington, and Vermont. People who live in the northwestern states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are also relatively introverted.[31]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ The spelling extrovert is common in general use (Merriam-Webster has extravert as a variant of extrovert), but extravert is more typical in psychology (The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology and Corsini's Encyclopedia of Psychology use the term "extravert").
  2. ^ a b Jung, C.J. (1921). Psychologischen Typen. Rascher Verlag, Zurich - translation H.G. Baynes, 1923.
  3. ^ a b c Merriam Webster Dictionary.
  4. ^ Introversion Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood & Adolescence. Gale Research, 1998.
  5. ^ Laney, Marti Olsen (2002). The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. Workman Publishing. ISBN 0-7611-2369-5.
  6. ^ All About Shyness Meredith Whitten, Psych Central, 21 Aug 2001; Accessed 2007-08-02
  7. ^ The OCEAN of Personality Personality Synopsis, Chapter 4: Trait Theory. AllPsych Online. Last updated March 23, 2004
  8. ^ Cohen D. and Schmidt J.P. (1979) Ambiversion: characteristics of midrange responders on the Introversion-Extraversion continuum. California School of Professional Psychology, Berkeley, USA. Journal of Personality Assessment 1979 Oct;43(5):514-6
  9. ^ The Old Wise Man Time magazine article about Jung, Feb. 14, 1955
  10. ^ See Biological factors in extraversion and introversion.
  11. ^ Eysenck, H. J. (1967). The biological basis of personality. Springfield, IL: Thomas Publishing.
  12. ^ Eysenck, H. J. and Eysenck, S. G. B. (1965). The Eysenck Personality Inventory. British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Nov., 1965), p. 140 doi:10.2307/3119050.
  13. ^ Auke Tellegen, David T Lykken, Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., Kimberly J. Wilcox, Nancy L. Segal, Stephen Rich (1988). Personality Similarity in Twins Reared Apart and Together Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 54, no. 6. 1031-1039.
  14. ^ Lemon juice experiment Wired-up March 18, 2005, issue: 22. Note that this is an online demonstration of research published in peer reviewed journals.
  15. ^ Depue, R. A., & Collins, P. F. (1999). Neurobiology of the structure of personality: Dopamine, facilitation of incentive motivation, and extraversion. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, 491-517.
  16. ^ Johnson, D. L., Wiebe, J. S., Gold, S. M., Andreasen, N. C. (1999). Cerebral blood flow and personality: A positron emission tomography study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 252-257.
  17. ^ Sharma, R. S. (1980). Clothing behaviour, personality, and values: A correlational study. Psychological Studies, 25, 137-142.
  18. ^ Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The do re mi's of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1236-1256.
  19. ^ Gosling, S. (2008). Snoop. New York: Basic Books.
  20. ^ Myers, David G (1992). The Secrets of Happiness Psychology Today.
  21. ^ Pavot, W., Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1990). Extraversion and happiness. Personality and Individual Differences, 11, 1299-1306.
  22. ^ Swickert, R., Hittner, J. B., Kitos, N., & Cox-Fuenzalida, L. E. (2004). Direct or indirect, that is the question: A re-evaluation of extraversion's influence on self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 207-217.
  23. ^ Cheng, H. & Furnham, A. (2003). Personality, self-esteem, and demographic predictions of happiness and depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 921-942.
  24. ^ Ryckman, R. (2004). Theories of Personality. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
  25. ^ Furnham, A., L. Forde and T. Cotter (1998). Personality and intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences 24:2, 187-192.
  26. ^ Gallagher, S.A. (1990). Personality patterns of the gifted. Understanding our Gifted, 3, 11-3.
  27. ^ Hoehn, L. & Birely, M.K. (1988). Mental process preferences of gifted children. Illinois Council for the Gifted Journal, 7, 28-31.
  28. ^ Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Readings in Extraversion-Introversion. New York: Wiley.
  29. ^ Ateel, Saqib Ali (2005). Personality Career Tests.
  30. ^ Camperio Ciani, A. S., Capiluppi, C., Veronese, A., Sartori, G. (2006). The adaptive value of personality differences revealed by small island population dynamics, European Journal of Personality, 21, 3-22.
  31. ^ Stephanie Simon (2008-09-23). "The United States of Mind. Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America".  Original research article: Peter J. Rentfrow, Samuel D. Gosling and Jeff Potter (2008). "A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics". Perspectives on Psychological Science 3 (5): 339–369. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00084.x. 

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