The Essential Guide to Introversion and Extraversion

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introverts and extroverts talking

Personality is a set of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive tendencies we display over time and across situations that distinguish us from one another. In many personality theories, introversion and extraversion/extroversion are key traits defining a fundamental dimension of personality. Rather than a dichotomy, the quality is considered a spectrum encompassing people with different levels of introversion/extraversion. 

Find out what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert and understand yourself better. 

What is an introvert?

Introversion is a personality trait characterized by an interest in directing inward towards one’s feelings and thoughts. People with introverted personality traits focus more on internal feelings and tend to gain energy by spending time alone. Introverts are natural listeners but usually lose energy after socializing for a long time and thus prefer activities like reading books, drawing and writing, in which they can spend quality “me-time” reflecting on their own.  

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Signs you may be an introvert

Typically, introverted people usually show traits related to quietness. If you identify with some of the following characteristics, you may be an introvert: 

  • Quiet 
  • Reserved 
  • Aloof
  • Task-oriented
  • Serious 
  • Shy 
  • Prefer solitude
  • Dislike being the center of attention
  • Seclusive

4 Types of introverts

In 2011, psychologists proposed a model to classify introverts into 4 different types — but most introverts may identify themselves with a combination of different types, unconfined to a specific one. 


1. Social Introverts

Social introverts favor both interacting within small groups and staying in solitude. They prefer hanging out with close friends but may have a hard time going to parties and socializing with strange faces. 


2. Thinking Introverts

Thinking introverts are reflective, meditative, thoughtful and also highly creative. Unlike social introverts, thinking introverts generally do not avoid being with crowds deliberately. Even in the presence of others, they maintain boundaries of an inner world with rich imaginations and thoughts.


3. Anxious Introverts

Anxious introverts prefer spending time alone and unlike social introverts, tend to be shy and uncomfortable around strangers. Anxious introverts also ruminate extensively on situations they encounter and imagine themselves acting differently. 


4. Restrained Introverts

Restrained introverts tend to think obsessively before they speak or act. They usually function at a slower pace and appear as being reserved. Nonetheless, restrained introverts are calm and rarely let external forces, like stress, influence their decision-making.

What is an extrovert?

On the other extreme of the spectrum is extraversion (also spelled as extroversion), a personality trait characterized by a preference or orientation to engage with others socially. Individuals with an extroverted personality trait gain energy by interacting and socializing with others. They prefer spending time around people and lose energy when being alone. Extroverts tend to enjoy social events and parties, living or working with more people and identify themselves as leaders in school. 


Signs you may be an extrovert

In general, extroverts are often seen as being sociable and outgoing. If you think these words describe who you are, you may be an extrovert: 

  • Sociable 
  • Talkative 
  • Affectionate 
  • Person-oriented
  • Fun-loving 
  • Energetic
  • Assertive
  • Outspoken
  • Outgoing

The Big Five Personality Traits

Introversion versus extroversion is a central dimension in many personality theories. Personality theories are generally used in career consultation and clinical settings like psychiatric hospitals. One of the personality theories, the Big Five, suggested that personality is a spectrum instead of a categorical system. 


Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five, also commonly known as the Five-Factor Model, proposes that there are 5 core personality traits, with the acronym “OCEAN”: 

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Big five and culture

Certain personality traits are influenced heavily by our cultural backgrounds, more specifically Asian or Western cultures. One particular study compared personality traits between American and Malaysian young adults and found that Malaysian students obtained higher scores in “Agreeableness” but lower scores in “Extraversion” and “Openness to experience.” Nature and nurture, cultural backgrounds and the environment people grow up in also play a significant role in shaping who they are. 

Personality trait as a spectrum

The Big Five indicates that introversion and extraversion are a spectrum of personality instead of clear-cut labels. Personality is a complex system and it is arbitrary to classify a person as entirely extroverted or introverted. In reality, most people find their place somewhere in the middle of the spectrum according to the level of extraversion.


Simply put, individuals who score low on extraversion are more introverted, while those who score higher on extraversion are more extroverted. People who fall into the middle range of the spectrum are known as “ambiverts”, a combination of both qualities 

What are the differences between introverts and extroverts?

Not only do personality traits change your outlook on life, but they also influence the way you understand the world. Several aspects in life that introverts and extroverts may diverge are: 


Learning style

Introverts and extroverts learn languages differently. A recent study explored how personality traits influenced the process of language learning. Interestingly, extroverted learners learn by interactions with others in the language, spending less time on reflections. In contrast, introverted learners talk less and reflect more before speaking the language. They are also more passive and inclined to learn independently or with a small group. 


Communication style

One particular study invited both introverted and extroverted participants to communicate with each other to find that introverts tend to identify themselves as an interviewer or advisor by avoiding expressing their personal thoughts and interests. However, extroverts tend to express themselves more and look for common interests during the conversation. 


Job-related burnout

Another research examined how introverted and extroverted employees experience work stress differently. Psychologists conducted a survey among 860 participants and measured their job-related burnout and personality traits. Surprisingly, it was found that introverts who also score high in neuroticism are more likely to have stronger burnout when dealing with stress. In contrast, extroverts maintain lower stress levels overall.

How do I know if I am an introvert or extrovert?

Psychologists often measure personality by conducting interviews, observation and applying psychological inventory. If you wish to gain a deeper understanding of your personality, here are several tools that may help you:


Big five inventory

The Big Five Inventory (BFI) is a 44-item personality questionnaire that measures an individual on the 5 personality traits: 1) openness to experience; 2) conscientiousness; 3) extraversion; 4) agreeableness and 5) neuroticism. 

Users will be invited to rate how much they agree or disagree with statements like: 

  • I see myself as someone who is curious about many different things. (openness to experience)
  • I see myself as someone who gets nervous easily. (neuroticism)
  • I see myself as someone who has an assertive personality. (extraversion)

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Like BFI, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a famous personality test that is widely used by career counselors and educators. The MBTI is developed based on psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung’s personality theory. This inventory makes use of 4 dichotomies to define personality with respect to 4 dimensions:

  • Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

By combining the results from each of the 4 dimensions, the MBTI describes personality with a total of 16 personality types. Examples of personality types include:

  • INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling and judging)
  • ESTP (extroverted, sensing, thinking and perceiving)
  • ISTJ (introverted, sensing, thinking and judging)

No matter if you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, there’s no right or wrong to be who you are. It is only one of the ways to describe your personality. Learn to embrace your nature as everyone is unique in their own way!


What is an introverted person like?

An introverted person focuses on internal feelings and tends to gain energy by spending time alone. However, as introverts generally lose energy when communicating with others, an introverted person may appear quiet, reserved and passive.

What are introverts good at?
Is being an introvert bad?
What is an Ambivert?

This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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