About the SA Blog Network

Beautiful Minds

Beautiful Minds

Insights into intelligence, creativity, and the mind
Beautiful Minds Home

Will the Real Introverts Please Stand Up?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

Quick Quiz: Which of the following are signs of introversion?

  • Highly sensitive
  • Deep Thinker
  • Reflective
  • Introspective
  • Negative emotions
  • Socially Anxious
  • Defensive
  • Vulnerable
  • Always prefers solitude over social interaction

Answer: Not a single one.

Introversion is one of the most misunderstood dimensions of personality. Many people are not aware that the original definition of introversion, as posed by Carl Jung, is not how the term is used in modern personality psychology. Jung equated introversion with “inwardly directed psychic energy”. Even the modern Wikipedia page for Extraversion and Introversion defines introversion as “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life.”

But that’s not introversion.

Common Misconceptions About Introversion

Whereas Jung based his definitions of extraversion and introversion on his own theory, experience, and intuition, modern psychology identifies personality dimensions empirically, based on what patterns of behavior tend to go together within individuals. Today, extraversion-introversion is one of the “Big Five” dimensions of personality, the other four being neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and intellect/imagination.

The most common misunderstanding of the extraversion-introversion dimension is that introverts are more introspective than extroverts. In reality, introverts are not necessarily introspective and highly introspective people aren’t necessarily introverted. In a recent analysis, Jennifer Grimes, Jonathan Cheek, and Julie Norem found that measures of Jung’s conceptualization of “Thinking Introversion”– introspectiveness, fantasy proneness, and having a rich inner life– were not significantly correlated with Big Five scales of extraversion-introversion, including a need for positive stimulation and gregariousness.

In fact, what many people ascribe to introversion really belongs in the intellect/imagination domain [1]. Intellect/imagination represents a drive for cognitive engagement of inner mental experience, and encompasses a wide range of related (but partially separate) traits, including intellectual engagement, intellectual curiosity, intellectual depth, ingenuity, reflection, introspection, imagination, emotional richness, artistic engagement, and aesthetic interests.

Traits such as sensitivity and social anxiety are also not part of Big Five introversion-extraversion domain. To be sure, many people may think of themselves as introverted because they are highly sensitive. But research shows that sensory processing sensitivity is independent of introversion. The various manifestations of being a highly sensitive person– inhibition of behavior, sensitivity to environmental stimuli, depth of information processing, and physiological reactivity– are linked to neuroticism and intellect/imagination, not introversion.

What’s more, there are lots of people who view themselves as “sensitive introverts”, when they are really covert narcissists. These individuals are characterized by their sense of entitlement to social attention. Accordingly, they are hurt easily by the slightest remark of others, are hyper self conscious and self absorbed, and are frequently upset that others don’t recognize their brilliance. Covert narcissism is strongly associated with neuroticism, not introversion.

Finally, there’s a common misconception that all introverts enjoy solitary activities. However, that isn’t a defining feature of introverts. Responses such as “Enjoy spending time by myself” and “Live in a world of my own” involve an equal blend of introversion and intellect/imagination. Contrary to popular conceptualizations of introversion, preferring to be alone is not the main indicator of introversion.

All of this, of course, leads to the major question: What is the essence of introversion? Let’s explore the core of the extraversion-introversion dimension of personality.

The Core of Extraversion-Introversion

Extraversion-introversion comprises many related traits, including being talkative, sociable, friendly, gregarious, assertive, active, persuasive, and excitement seeking.

But what links all of these traits to each other?

One possibility is that the core of extraversion-introversion is simply sociability. Maybe extroverts are more social: plain and simple. However, the research doesn’t support this conclusion. While it is well known that extraverts experience more positive emotions than introverts, extraverts tend to experience more positive emotions all throughout the day, regardless of whether the activity is social or solitary.

This doesn’t mean that introverts experience more negative emotions during daily life (that’s neuroticism). They are just lower in positive emotions. In fact, some researchers have suggested that “detachment” is a more accurate description of low extraversion than “introversion” [2].

Another possibility– which has received more support– is that the core of extraversion is sensitivity to rewards in the environment. Reward sensitivity refers to the tendency to experience “an incentive motivational state that facilities and guides approach behavior to a goal.” As Colin DeYoung points out in an upcoming paper:

“People who score low in Extraversion are not necessarily turned inward; rather, they are less engaged, motivated, and energized by the possibilities for reward that surround them. Hence, they talk less, are less driven, and experience less enthusiasm. They may also find levels of stimulation that are rewarding and energizing for someone high in Extraversion merely annoying or tiring (or even overwhelming, depending on their level of Neuroticism). Their reserved demeanor is not likely to indicate an intense engagement with the world of imagination and ideas, however, unless they are also high in [Intellect/Imagination].”

Multiple studies are consistent with the reward sensitivity account of extraversion. In one set of studies conducted cross-culturally, Richard Lucas and colleagues administered traditional measures of extraversion, all of which involve reward. For example:

  • I enjoy talking to strangers
  • I prefer to be with people who are exciting rather than quiet
  • I like doing exciting things with people more than just talking quietly

They also administered a newly developed test that measured a preference for social over solitary activities. Crucially, they removed the reward value of the items. For example:

  • I always prefer being with others to spending time alone
  • I rarely spend time alone
  • I rarely go out of my way to find time for myself

Across four studies they found that the traditional measures of extraversion (that involved reward values) were all correlated with each other, and with positive emotions. But critically, their new scale (which removed rewards from the items) was not correlated with extraversion, or positive emotions. These results suggest that a mere preference for social interaction, independent of the reward/enjoyment of the interaction, is not the core of extraversion. In a followup study, Richard Lucas and Ed Diener found that extraversion was related to the tendency to enjoy pleasant situations (social and nonsocial) but was unrelated to reactions to unpleasant situations (social and nonsocial).

Therefore, it seems to be specifically the reward value of a situation, not the social nature of the situation, that predicts whether extraverts enjoy the situation more than introverts [3]. Consistent with this, several fMRI and EEG studies have shown that brain activity in response to a variety of rewards (favorite brands, humor, happy faces, monetary rewards and pleasant emotional stimuli) are associated with extraversion.

Not all behaviors are equally related to extraversion, however. The desire for positive social attention seems to be a particularly strong indicator of extraversion [4]. For example, Jacob Hirsh and colleagues found that taking into account the rest of the Big Five personality traits (agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and intellect/imagination), the following 10 behaviors were most uniquely predictive of extraversion (from a list of 400 activities):

1. Told a dirty joke.

2. Planned a party.

3. Entertained six or more people.

4. Told a joke.

5. Volunteered for a club or organization.

6. Tried to get a tan.

7. Attended a city council meeting.

8. Colored my hair.

9. Went to a night club.

10. Drank in a bar.

Why might the drive for social attention be so strongly linked to extraversion? One possibility is that many human rewards are social in nature. Our complex social lives are probably the dominant force in human evolution, driving the evolution of intelligence, creativity, language, and even consciousness. The human reward system, therefore, most likely evolved to be particularly responsive to social rewards.

Indeed, one of the most important gateways to rewards (e.g., money, power, friends, alliances, mates, exploration of the environment) is the ability to capture the attention of other people. Along these lines, some researchers have suggested that extraversion represents a high-intensity strategy for gaining social attention.

There are costs to extraverted behavior, however. This includes time and energy that could be invested in other activities, such as accomplishing a goal (conscientiousness) or engaging with ideas and imagination (intellect/imagination). There is also the risk that inappropriate attention-seeking behavior can fall flat, leading to reduced attention-holding power. Finally, high levels of exploration of the environment can expose extraverted individuals to increased physical risks. For instance, extraverts are more likely to be hospitalized due to accident or illness, and are more likely to become involved in criminal or antisocial behaviors and get arrested.

From an evolutionary perspective, there’s a reason why both introversion and extroversion evolved, as both have fitness benefits and disadvantages depending on the context.

The Engine Behind Extraversion-Introversion

It’s important to distinguish, however, between the most prominent behavioral manifestation of extraversion (desire for social attention) and the core underlying mechanism of extraversion (reward sensitivity). Even though reward sensitivity need not be limited exclusively to social situations, high reward sensitivity likely motivates extraverts to seek out potentially rewarding positive social interactions, and fuels them to display behaviors that will increase social attention (e.g., friendliness, smiling, high energy, loudness, exhibitionism, positive emotions).

From a biological perspective, reward sensitivity is likely governed by dopamineWhile dopamine is involved in a variety of cognitive and motivational processes, the unifying function of dopamine is exploration. According to Colin DeYoung, “the release of dopamine, anywhere in the dopamingergic system, increases motivation to explore and facilitates cognitive and behavioral processes useful in exploration.”

Dopamine isn’t only related to extraversion. Dopamine is also causally related to intellect/imagination, although differences in openness are more likely to reflect variation in salience coding neurons (which increase curiosity and the desire to obtain information). In contrast, extraversion is more likely to reflect differences in the operation of value coding neurons (which indicate the incentive reward value of attaining a specific goal). Indeed, fMRI studies have found that extraversion is associated with greater volume of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a region known to be involved in coding the value of rewards.

This probably explains why a lot of introverts notice that they often need to be alone to recharge their batteries after vigorous social interactions, whereas extraverts appear to gain energy from social interactions. This can be explained by dopamine’s function in energizing potentially rewarding social interactions, as well as its role in overcoming the cost of effort. For introvert’s, such interactions are more effortful and tiring due to their less active reward system [5].

Are you an introvert?

Researchers have found that the various facets of the introversion-extraversion domain can be boiled down to two related but separate aspects: enthusiasm and assertiveness.

Enthusiasm encompasses traits like sociability, friendliness, self-disclosure, gregariousness, and positive emotionality. Enthusiasm is primarily about social affiliation, but goes beyond sociability to include positive emotions, more generally, like joy, exuberance, and excitement [6]. Assertiveness encompasses traits like leadership, dominance, provocativeness, activity, talkativeness, and persuasiveness. Assertiveness is more about social status than social affiliation.

These 20 items have been found to accurately capture these major aspects of the introversion-extraversion domain of personality. Rate each item from 1 (doesn’t apply to me at all) to 5 (really applies to me):

1. Make friends easily. __

2. Am hard to get to know. __

3. Keep others at a distance. __

4. Reveal little about myself.  __

5. Warm up quickly to others. __

6. Rarely get caught up in the excitement. __

7. Am not a very enthusiastic person.  __

8. Show my feelings when I’m happy. __

9. Have a lot of fun. __

10. Laugh a lot. __

11. Take charge. __

12. Have a strong personality. __

13. Lack the talent for influencing people. __

14. Know how to captivate people. __

15. Wait for others to lead the way. __

16. See myself as a good leader. __

17. Can talk others into doing things. __

18. Hold back my opinions. __

19. Am the first to act. __

20. Do not have an assertive personality. __

Now reverse code items #2, #3, #4, #6, #7, #13, #15, #18, and #20 (replace 5=1, 4=2, 3=3, 2=4, and 1=5).

Now take the average of all the items.


If you averaged 3.0 or less, you are probably an introvert.

If you averaged between 3.1-3.8, you’re probably an ambivert.

If you averaged 3.9 or higher, you’re probably an extravert.

(Note: If you score the first 10 questions and the second 10 separately, you can assess the engagement and assertiveness aspects of extraversion separately. Some ambiverts are high in enthusiasm (first 10) but low in assertiveness (second 10), and vice versa.)


It is my hope that this article helps you understand yourself better. There are many ways you differ from others. However, it doesn’t all come down to the extraversion-introversion dimension. Maybe you realized that instead of being an introvert, you are actually an extravert (enthusiastic and assertive) who is also a highly sensitive person. Or maybe you realized that you are really an extravert who likes to daydream and reflect deeply about ideas. Or maybe you even realized you are actually an introvert who daydreams a lot, or an introvert who doesn’t have a vivid fantasy life but is high in intellectual curiosity. All of these combinations are possible, and more.

But a first step is shedding outdated and inaccurate notions of what it means to be an introvert.

© 2014 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Colin DeYoung for his feedback on this article, and for having so many discussions with me about this topic.

[1] What I refer to as “intellect/imagination” is frequently referred to in the personality psychology literature as openness to experience. I decided to label the domain intellect/imagination to emphasize that this domain of personality represents openness to new inner mental experiences, not just any kind of experience. In fact, extraverts are more likely to be open to new behavioral experiences that relate to exploring the external environment.

[2] This doesn’t mean that introverts don’t ever experience positive emotions, or don’t enjoy social interactions. Research shows that both extraverts and introverts experience more pleasant affect in social situations than in nonsocial situations. This does have implications for happiness and subjective well-being, however. One of the most robust findings in the happiness literature is that extraversion and happiness are strongly related to each other. A major cause is most likely the positive emotions that extraverts feel on a more regular basis.

[3] It should be noted that introverts also want to experience pleasant emotions; it’s just that what they tend to experience as pleasant is different than what extroverts report as pleasant. Also, a lack of negative emotions can also be experienced as pleasant, even if it’s not specifically positive.

[4] This also applies to how extraversion is measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. The MBTI extraversion-introversion scale only includes items relating to being talkative, gregarious, and sociable (vs. quiet and reserved). Since there’s not a single item on the MBTI extraversion-introversion dimension that mentions being introspective or reflective, even the MBTI doesn’t measure Jung’s original conceptualization of the term!

[5] To be sure, extraverts also get drained by too many social interactions (even though their threshold for exhaustion during rewarding social interactions is higher).

[6] Of course, those scoring low in the enthusiasm aspect of extraversion may still show enthusiasm for specific activities. For instance, an introvert who scores high in intellect/imagination will likely be enthusiastic about engaging with ideas and imagination.

image credit: creativemarc / shutterstock

Scott Barry Kaufman About the Author: Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow on Twitter @sbkaufman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Rights & Permissions

Comments 21 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. MrSure 9:40 pm 06/9/2014

    Take into account adaptability.I have had to greatly adapt to be what your test calls an ambivert.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Jay1296 10:43 pm 06/9/2014

    So, what is the definition of an introvert?

    Link to this
  3. 3. Robotics101 12:16 am 06/10/2014

    Just a comment:

    “These 20 items have been found to accurately capture these major aspects of the introversion-extraversion domain of personality. Rate each item from 1 (doesn’t apply to me at all) to 5 (really applies to me):
    1. Make friends easily. __
    2. Am hard to get to know. __
    3. Keep others at a distance. __
    4. Reveal little about myself. __
    5. Warm up quickly to others. __
    6. Rarely get caught up in the excitement. __
    7. Am not a very enthusiastic person. __
    8. Show my feelings when I’m happy. __
    9. Have a lot of fun. __
    10. Laugh a lot. __
    11. Take charge. __
    12. Have a strong personality. __
    13. Lack the talent for influencing people. __
    14. Know how to captivate people. __
    15. Wait for others to lead the way. __
    16. See myself as a good leader. __
    17. Can talk others into doing things. __
    18. Hold back my opinions. __
    19. Am the first to act. __
    20. Do not have an assertive personality. __

    Now reverse code items #2, #3, #4, #6, #7, #13, #15, #18, and #20 (replace 5=1, 4=2, 3=3, 2=4, and 1=5).

    Now take the average of all the items.”

    Reversing the above items did not change the value – in my case. Second, the items are too general:
    #1 Make friends easily. When? After a few drinks?
    #2 Am hard to get to know. When? When I’m drunk?
    #3 Keep others at a distance. When? When I’m sick?
    #4 Reveal little about myself? When? In a crowded elevator?
    #5 Warm up quickly to others. When? At 6am when I’m trying to sleep?
    #6 Rarely get caught up in the excitement. When? At a Korn concert?
    #7 Am not a very enthusiastic person. When? About agreeing to government polices that favor polluting the environment?
    #8 Show my feelings when I’m happy. When? When a Republican is shown to be bigot?
    #9 Have a lot of fun? When? Playing Skyrim?
    #10 Laugh a lot. When? At hearing a bigoted right-wing politician talk about equality for the rich?
    #11 Take charge. When? When attempting to save a woman from a savage beating from a right-wing fascist bigot?
    #12 Have a strong personality. What? What’s a strong personality? Is that like strong ‘body odour’?
    #13 Lack the talent for influencing people. When? When trying to convince ignorant people that climate change is a reality?
    #14 Know how to captivate people. When? When I can’t tell jokes and sing in perfect pitch?
    #15 Wait for others to lead the way. When? When trying to convince smokers that polluting the air (not to mention their lungs) is a bad thing to do?
    #16 See myself as a good leader. What is good? What is a good leader?
    #17 Can talk others into doing things. What things? Get drunk on the weekends? Watch pornography when you’re not watching the football?
    #18 Hold back my opinions. When? When it means I’ll lose my job?
    #19 Am the first to act. When? What does it mean ‘to act’?
    #20 Do not have an assertive personality. We still have not defined ‘strong personality’, and now you want a decision on whether I have an ‘assertive personality’. When you define this, and ‘personality’, I might be able to make a comment.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Cythera7 1:52 pm 06/10/2014

    I agree with all three previous commenters. This article, while interesting in terms of the latest pop-psych shell game of emphases and titles, was itself misleadingly titled and was much more all about how great it is to be an extrovert, don’t worry, introverts aren’t all that, etc. than it was about any sort of clarification or groundbreaking new definition of introversion. Oh hey, introversion isn’t even one of the so-called “Big Five”! Why was the word “introversion” used in the title and conclusion of this article at all? Seems purposefully misleading. I was left mainly with the sense that the best a wise person can do is identify individual traits and try to resist the temptation to group people into facile categories because whomever is doing the grouping inevitably spins an entire world out of his own bias. And as far as I can tell, that’s the definition of the field of psychology.

    Link to this
  5. 5. MeganSwanek 3:20 pm 06/10/2014

    Many people falsely believe that introverts aren’t good with people. We are! the main way you can tell the difference is by one question: If you’re tired, what energizes you? If its going to a party or being around others, you’re an extrovert! If it’s staying home (like me) you’re an introvert. My blog post on the topic:

    Link to this
  6. 6. catalinda8 3:03 pm 06/11/2014

    Robotics 101 makes an excellent point about the questions being too general, and I concur with Megan Swanek’s post. I consider myself an introvert, and yet of course I can have fun, laugh a lot, take charge, and have a strong personality, etc.. Public speaking doesn’t even rattle me. IMO, an introvert feels drained after being around people (even in a fun situation), while an extrovert is energized by being around people.

    Link to this
  7. 7. TonyM 4:37 pm 06/11/2014

    All this article says is that extroversion is good and introversion is failure to be extroverted. Maybe what’s really misunderstood is extroversion! Or maybe neither has any meaning if “experts” do not agree on their meaning.

    Link to this
  8. 8. garyoke 7:41 pm 06/11/2014

    Interesting – but only goes to show why psychology is not a true science, but conjectural. All of the signs of introversion that you initially dismiss are true of me, and other introverts I know.

    I am a classic “social introvert” – a gregarious, joke telling teacher who loves to act on stage. Yet when I’m “off”, I crave solitude and reading/music time. Uncomfortable in groups, yet a leader when called upon. I never plan parties, and attend them reluctantly – yet enjoy animated, dynamic 1:1 and small group conversations.

    Those who truly know me are shocked to discover my true nature.

    Link to this
  9. 9. skates 9:05 pm 06/11/2014

    While I can agree with some of the ideas , the article uncovers several issues. Epistemically:
    1. The attempt to adapt acceptable ideas to modern human science by removing the ‘taint’ of any spiritual connotation. For me it has fallen flat. There is much in the ethos, i.e. human thought and social interaction, that can’t be described without such references, including attributes that were once considered aspects of the (now defunct) psyche, as Jung has introduced. For example, traits such as introspection, reflection, insight, and intuition imply this aspect and bring clarity to the description of personality, whether introvert or extrovert. Unfortunately, relegated to the muse and classic literature, they are for the most part deemed lacking in utility and may be forgotten.

    Conversely, I believe human knowledge will be wonderfully enhanced by advances in neuroscience and epigenetics. And I’m not averse to minimizing the reliance on religion and its derivatives in empirical knowledge in the face of compelling evidence. However, to do so for its own sake when there is an absence of another acceptable definition, is unscientific and narrow minded. Dogmatic.

    I could live with this oversight if it weren’t for the introvert in me taking umbrage with this issue:
    2. There is no essence to the question of introversion in this article which has completely failed to define it. Unlike personality traits which can narrowly escape scrutiny by being defined by their counterparts, unless it was the article’s failed attempt to show otherwise, apparently introversion is a personality type. That is, the definition of introversion depending solely on its opposite makes the summation sound more like an encouraging pat on the back to the poor introvert. “Don’t worry, we know you’re suffering but you’re not such a total introvert after all. You probably have some characteristics that make you more like an extrovert than you think.”

    Science is compelled to understand man the animal, in light of its evolutionary development as homo sapiens. Ergo the reliance on the social reward system in explaining the dynamics of these two personality types. But it is amazingly short-sighted to rely on existing studies that correlate dopamine with the unfortunately encapsulated term ‘exploration’ as a social behavior, when the nature and value of that behavior are academically prescribed by the society’s socioeconomic state. I agree with ‘“… the release of dopamine, anywhere in the (dopamingergic)(spelling) system, increases motivation to explore and facilitates cognitive and behavioral processes useful in exploration.”‘ However, it is obvious that it is the outer material world – not solitude and its rewards, being explored – another complete denial of the essence of introversion; and the reason why labels such as negative-thinking and antisocial have been applied to this type. If there are such persons as a true introverts, and to credit their independence and resourcefulness, I think they probably haven’t completely died out; it wouldn’t be surprising that measuring the pleasure center while in the lab looking at pictures of gregarious social interactions would produce different results than hiking alone in woods. Indeed to avoid distortion, dopamine levels should be measured with the subject in situ, whatever exploration, mental or physical, they consider rewarding. Perhaps then we could understand why introverts have had a notoriously difficult time integrating in certain cultures.

    It would also be valuable to study the correlations between the incidence of bipolar disorder and the (economically driven) pressures on everyone to be more one way than the other.

    Link to this
  10. 10. jonhuie 10:06 pm 06/11/2014

    This article implicitly propagates the prejudice that being extroverted is somehow “better” than being introverted. If the author intended a value judgement, he should justify that bias. Otherwise, he should avoid the bias.

    Link to this
  11. 11. ozziecookie 1:53 am 06/12/2014

    This article is not consistent with what I have read and learned in the past about introversion and extroversion at all. I have read the book Quiet about introversion and many other articles through the years. My understanding of introversion is that a person “fuels up” on energy by being alone. That does not mean that an introvert does not enjoy being in social situations, although an introvert may become tired of social situations after a period of time and seek solitude or less social setting to restore their energy. The extrovert may enjoy solitude, but seeks social situations to get energy….

    Also, I agreed with another comment here that the article seems biased to extroversion – it is not clear on the definitions or conclusions of studies and suggests that extroversion and creativity, positive emotions, and “deep thinking” are related, which is not the case.

    Link to this
  12. 12. kvinayagamoorthy 5:05 am 06/12/2014

    Introversion does not mean “Highly sensitive”, “Introspective”, “Reflective” etc. That is one thing which seems relevant and correct in this article. Tying up introversion/extroversion to rewards and correlating with all the other irrelevant things could have been avoided.

    Also I am unable to accept the 5 traits and the models based on that to be as useful in predicting the behavior of people. To me the 4 temperaments and the 16 types categorised by “Keirsey, Bates” is much more useful in predicting the behavior of people.

    Link to this
  13. 13. kvinayagamoorthy 9:54 am 06/12/2014

    I think I should have been a bit elaborate on Keirsey,Bates. According to them there are 8 extrovert types and 8 introvert types. To just talk about extroverts, there are ESTJ, ESFJ, ESTP, ESFP, ENFJ, ENFP, ENTJ, ENTP. I have seen lot of ESTJ, ESFJ, ESTP, ESFP in my life first hand. ESTJ, ESFJ are very different compared to ESTP and ESFP because SJs and SPs see the world differently, set different kind of goals, and approach goals differently. Their extroversion only says whether energized by social interaction and that they are expressive and may be other things. But it does not tell anything about what their paradigms will be and what kind of goals they will set. This is why I said that the temperament helps in the prediction of the behavior than the other models.

    Link to this
  14. 14. hkraznodar 5:56 pm 06/13/2014

    @Robotics 101: Since extrovert and introvert are generalizations your nitpicking over completely worthless detail just makes you a pompous jerk.

    @Cythera7: Happiness is a transitory state and is not the reason for existence. Just because extraverts have more happy thoughts does not in any way imply that they are better. My personal interpretation of extraverts per this article is that they tend to be lower intelligence, greedy social climbers and emotional parasites. Hardly superior. In interest of full disclosure I scored a 3.3 and am thus an ambivert.

    @MeganSwanek: Reread the article and pay particular attention to the section where he explains why you are completely wrong.

    @catalinda8: Your ignorant opinion is not science.

    @TonyM, jonhuie: See my reply to Cythera7.

    @garyoke: See my reply to catalinda8.

    @Skates: Thank you for giving a comment that cogently addresses issues with the article in a well thought out manner.

    @Ozziecookie: This article doesn’t mesh with most of what I’ve read either but the bigger question is who wrote that other material, how long ago and what was their motivation? I’m not blindly accepting that this article is 100% correct but I’ll gladly believe that buzzword wannabees have badly misused a scientific term in order to make money. When was the last time someone complimented you on having an enormous ego? Most people don’t realize that the ego in Freud’s psychology model was the good part and the ID and super ego were the bad parts.

    Link to this
  15. 15. TheGreenQueen 12:15 am 06/16/2014

    “It’s not that introverts think more deeply before they speak, it’s simply that they need more time to think before they speak.”

    First, define “deeply.”

    Second, so what’s the alternative? That we think for longer because we’re slower thinkers or something? At the very least *more thoughts* pass through our brains before we blurt anything out. Whether you want to wrangle over if that’s considered “deep” thinking (amount vs. quality perhaps?) is a rather moot point, isn’t it? Besides sounding worded to reassure extraverts?

    Link to this
  16. 16. RayCL 6:32 pm 06/16/2014

    I wonder if I’m unusual, highly doubt it. I scored a solid 3.0 on the test. The math was easy to do because I honestly had a 3 on all but a few questions, which were 1s and 5s. I had no quibbles with the material, because, like all such essays, it tries to describe human variability, which is almost always unsatisfying to the consumer. The most concrete part was about dopamine utilization and fMRI Studies, which seem to support the social reward factor at the core of the essay. Amusingly, in broad terms, the essay starts off by saying introversion is not what you think, but I infer that is just what is implied by the totality of the essay.

    Link to this
  17. 17. RayCL 6:46 pm 06/16/2014

    And I should perhaps add that I did not find anything threatening or insulting about any of the material, mainly because, at the end of the day, I don’t really care.

    Link to this
  18. 18. halbhh 12:27 pm 06/21/2014

    Interesting, but Jung’s sharp distinction I thought was about energy level — an introvert is *able* to work alone with continuing high energy, while an extravert is gradually drained by working alone to lower energy. Conversely at a party an introvert may enjoy it a lot, but is gradually drained of energy, and must be alone to recharge, while an extravert can continue at the party typically with higher energy. This was the central distinction, and all the rest was just elaborations.

    Link to this
  19. 19. Winterlily 2:35 pm 06/28/2014

    I originally found out I was an INFJ in highschool when the MTBI still belonged to Kiersey, who created it. His description and his questions on the test that determine introversion/extroversion score are based on your willingness to participate in social activities with a few or many. If you have one or two friends and that’s enough to call it party everytime you are an introvert. It also has to do with the way these two different types get their energy. An extrovert can go to a concert or a walk through a mall and come out feeling energized or at least the same as they were when they went in and generally prefer company, even if it’s strangers. Introverts will come away form both feeling drained and tired and need down time to regenerate their own energy.
    It is not to say that we are not social and do not enjoy being social as these are aspects of human nature.

    Link to this
  20. 20. Douglas Eby 3:17 pm 07/25/2014

    Dr. Kaufman also notes that “it’s well documented that shyness is not the same thing as introversion. Shyness is more related to being anxious and neurotic. There are plenty of introverts who prefer alone time but really aren’t anxious or shy when interacting with other people.” – Quoted in my article: Introverted, Shy or Highly Sensitive in the Arts

    Link to this
  21. 21. ceelouise 9:31 am 01/14/2015

    The article has it’s faults, and I prefer the MBTI to the Big Five because it is more positive about both ends of the spectrum, but to me the most fascinating thing is the comments here. I am an extrovert who believed for years she was an introvert and from the comments I am not alone as I think there are several comments from people who are probably actually extroverts but think they are introverts. So I guess the article did not convince!
    I almost never get lonely, love being alone, need time alone, get recharged by being alone, and yes, get exhausted after a party. But in truth I am most certainly an extrovert. I must admit, enthusiastic and assertive are certainly words that describe me well. But I am also Intuitive and a Thinker, which explains why I love my alone time to reflect and sit with my thoughts. So many people in the comments seem to still believe that if they are tired out by a party or if they prefer to be alone they must be an introvert. I would say this article does a poor job of explaining a good point: that introversion/extraversion are not exhibited by how much you seek out social interaction, but rather, by how you act in social situations (that reward mumbo jumbo).
    It is safe to say that a person who lights up in social situations, maybe who talks fast or at least whose thoughts flow easily into the conversation, is impulsive, interrupts others (or has to make an effort not to, as I do), is enthusiastic and assertive – as the article states – in short, seeks social reward (or perhaps is getting rewarded by the social interaction is a better way to put it), this person is an extrovert. Even if most of the time she would rather be alone with her thoughts, if, when she is placed with people, she connects with them, joins the conversation easily, again, that shows she is an extrovert.
    I think it is important to realize which one you are. I feel so much better now that I know I’m an extrovert. Now that I’ve realized I get a kick out of meeting and being with people, I enjoy my social interactions even more, although this still doesn’t mean when I’m alone that I would rather be with people. Before, when I filled out personality tests, I wasn’t completely honest. I focused on how I feel – I like being alone with my thoughts – rather than how I act – gregarious when with others. It’s like I was denying an entire reality because I didn’t think about how others act in public or even about how I really act when I’m with other people. That is to say, I thought I was an introvert, but if you filmed me at a party – walking right up to people, talking to ten different people, getting quite animated, smiling a lot – and then showed me and asked, if you are in an introvert, than who on earth is an extrovert, and what does that make that quiet person over there who is slow to speak up? How could I answer, I suppose that may have been my epiphany: ah, yes, I guess I’m an extrovert. (But one with “deep thoughts”!)
    A couple of extroverts-who-think-they-are-introverts I know claim that being at a party exhausts them but that is because they are so fired up while there, so present, connecting with everyone, feeling all the emotions, responding to every social cue. They go home tired. I know, that’s me too.
    This still hasn’t been well explained and the personality tests are poorly worded. They should focus on recognizing how you act in public, not how you feel. This bit about getting energized when with other people or alone is almost nonsense and very misleading. Rather than focus on if you prefer being alone – I think extroverts may prefer being alone, or at least find intense enjoyment in being alone, or like it just as much – they should ask if you act energetically when you are with other people, not if you are energized. Something like that. The article does make a good point about the words assertive and enthusiastic – if you act assertive or enthusiastic when with others, then perhaps you are an extravert.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article