How to Know if you Tend towards Introversion or Extraversion?

Nice people, cheeky, shy, social … They are adjectives that we often use when talking about the social dimension of people. However, many of these concepts are not only found in popular knowledge: science has also taken care of studying them.

One of the most interesting topics is the relationship between introversion and extraversion, as well as the study of its biological bases.

The precedent: analyzing introversion and extraversion- Carl Jung was the first author to work with the concepts introversion and extraversion in a systematic way. In his book Psychologische Typen (Psychological Types), Jung speaks of two types of attitudes that define the person: one whose interests are focused outward and the sphere of the social, and those oriented towards the private sphere. They are, respectively, the psychological types of extraversion and introversion. In addition, Jung draws a parallel between introversion and the archetype of the Apollonian (introspection, rationality, moderation) while the psychological type of extraversion corresponds to the Dionysian (disorder, the search for the new and interest in the world of sensations).

It seems clear that Jung tried to emphasize the relationship of incompatibility and mutual exclusion between these two categories. These are expressly antagonistic attitudes that not only affect our way of relating to others but go further and talk about our way of relating to the world, about our way of inhabiting reality.

Eysenck’s theory- The German psychologist Hans Eysenck was another of the scholars to address the issue, although he adhered to the scientific method, although working from categories very similar to those of Jung. Eysenck talked about personality, especially looking at the biological and genetic basis of the human being, what is not learned through experience, but which is expressed through our way of adapting to the environment. Therefore, it raises the relationship introversion-extraversion as a dimension of the temperament present in all people and that is defined from the physiology by levels of excitation and inhibition (the denial of excitation) to the stimuli we live. High or low levels of excitation can be measured by indicators such as sweating, the electrical conductivity of the skin and brain wave reading.

According to this theory, then, and although it may seem confusing, the introvert lives in a permanent state of excitement or “nervousness”, and that is why the stimuli he experiences leave a greater psychological mark on him, while extroverts have “assigned” a state of relative chronic inhibition of brain activity, and its reaction to stimuli is lower. From these tendencies, which would somehow be programmed in the genes of each person, the human being seeks to balance these levels of activity in their interaction with the environment.

Someone whose brain activation is relatively low (because of the inhibition in this internal environment) is concerned with acting seeking excitement, and this is achieved by participating in socially demanding activities (speaking before a large group of people, for example) and looking for situations new and that require alertness. Therefore, outgoing people have been defined as prone to boredom. Someone in need of exciting situations may be upset if they experience only personal relationships based on repetition and everyday life.

Instead, according to Eysenck, someone who is introverted is because he already lives in a state of permanent alertness, although not in the sense of being very focused on what happens around him voluntarily, since it is an involuntary propensity and that it doesn’t depend on where the focus is at each moment. Simply, the introvert is more sensitive to what is happening around him, and that sensitivity is biological. As excitement predominates in its internal environment, it tends to be socially inhibited: it acts rather avoiding experiences that raise its level of activity, even more, looking for more stable or predictable environments and, although it is sociable as long as it can enjoy relations with others as much as extroverts, these relationships are characterized by not being very socially demanding (the idea can be expressed with the phrase “I need my own space”).

As we have seen, although shyness and introversion may seem the same, it really is a superficial similarity.