5 min read
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.
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.
Typically, introverted people usually show traits related to quietness. If you identify with some of the following characteristics, you may be an introvert:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 extroverted personality 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.
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:
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.
The Big Five, also commonly known as the Five-Factor Model, proposes that there are 5 core personality traits, with the acronym “OCEAN”:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!
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.
Introverts are excellent listeners. When introverts interact with others, they tend to consider the feelings and ideas of others, making them great companions to have. Their sensitivity makes them empathetic and considerate towards others’ feelings as well.
There is no good or bad about being an introvert, as introversion is merely a personality trait. There are many good qualities in introverted and extroverted people. For example, introverts make quality friends and are compassionate leaders; while extroverts may be better at widening their social circles and inspiring people.
Ambiverts are people who show qualities of both extroverted and introverted personalities. In the Big Five personality model, ambiverts are individuals who fall in the middle of the spectrum. They may incline towards an introvert at a time, and an extrovert the other time, depending on their mood, situation and goals.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. 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.
Healthy Matters is Hong Kong’s leading health resource. Our mission is to help you make better health decisions and take control of your health.
Our team of experts is committed to producing reliable health content that is accurate, engaging and relevant, to cover your health & wellness journey from prevention to treatment.
Whether you are looking for trusted information on health conditions, wellbeing or looking for the right doctor or service in Hong Kong, we’re here to help!
Your health matters. Begin your health journey with Healthy Matters today!