Extraversion and Introversion

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Extraversion and Introversion

Extraverts of equal intelligence as introverts will tend to give more answers to suggestions because they are less afraid of making fools of themselves. The introverts tend to censor themselves. (Hans Eysenck, Psychologist on Psychology, 1977)

Extraversion is perhaps the best known of many theories of personality and is well understood by laypeople.

There are two major theories of the origins of extraversion: the Jungian and the Eysenckian models, which are not mutually contradictory.

The Jungian theory is that extraverts ’get their energy from outside’ while introverts get it from inside. The MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Inventory) experts say extraverts like participating actively in a variety of tasks and are often impatient with long, slow jobs. They are interested in the activities of their work and in how other people do them. They tend to act quickly, sometimes without thinking. Many find phone calls a welcome diversion when working on a task. They develop ideas by discussing them with others and like having people around and working on teams.

On the other hand, introverts like a quiet and private space for concentration. They tend to be comfortable working on one project for a long time without interruption. Most are interested in the facts and/or ideas behind their work. Introverts like to think before they act, sometimes to the point of not acting. They find phone calls intrusive when concentrating on a task. They tend to develop ideas alone through reflection. Most like working by themselves or occasionally in small groups.

Eysenck argued that extraversion was substantially biologically inherited; it is explained in terms of cortical arousal and reward sensitivity and that extraverts thrive in high-pressure jobs that involve considerable interaction with strangers. They handle overload and stress, have task-focused coping methods, feelings of self-efficacy and a good sense of wellbeing.

A review of the dimension presents an impressive array of findings. Introverts are more sensitive to pain than extraverts; they become fatigued and bored more easily than extraverts; excitement interferes with their performance, whereas it enhances performance for extraverts; and they tend to be more careful but slower than extraverts.

Introverts do better in school than extraverts, particularly in more advanced subjects. Also, students withdrawing from college for academic reasons tend to be extraverts, whereas those who withdraw for psychiatric reasons tend to be introverts.

Extraverts prefer vocations involving interactions with other people, whereas introverts tend to prefer more solitary vocations. Extraverts seek diversion from job routine; introverts have less need for novelty.

Extraverts enjoy explicit sexual and aggressive humour, whereas introverts prefer more intellectual forms of humour, such as puns and subtle jokes.

Extraverts are more active sexually, in terms of frequency and different partners, than introverts are.

Extraverts are more suggestible than introverts.

Introverts are more easily aroused by events and more easily learn social prohibitions than extraverts. As a result, introverts are more restrained and inhibited. There is also some evidence that introverts are more influenced by punishments in learning, whereas extraverts are more influenced by rewards. It is hypothesized that individual differences along this dimension have both hereditary and environmental origins. Indeed, several studies of identical and fraternal twins suggest that heredity plays a major part in accounting for differences between individuals in their scores on this dimension.

Extraverts are more likely than introverts to prefer occupations that involve social contact. There is, therefore, a danger that introverted workers may become over-aroused if their jobs involve considerable extra organizational contact and a relative absence of routine.

Extraverts are less distracted than introverts. Their world is more busy, noisy and distracting. The open-plan office, the mobile phone, the relentless meetings all favour extraverts who like stimulation, whereas introverts are distracted by people, noise or stimulants of any kind. They are less comfortable, less efficient and less helpful in the noisy world of work.

Introverts take longer to retrieve information; longer to marshal their ideas and thoughts and longer to respond to the demands of the world around them.

From a motivational point of view we know extraverts respond better to carrots and care less about sticks, while introverts are less motivated by rewards and more sensitive to, and inhibited by, threats of punishments. Perhaps therefore extraverts are easier to manage. They are certainly easier to read.

People like extraverts because they tend to be more socially confident and comfortable. Children move towards, away from or against people. The stimulus-seeking extravert learns early on that people can be lots of fun. So most learn social and emotional intelligence earlier.

There have always been serious known disadvantages of being a (strong) extravert.

Accidents: Extraverts are risk takers. They drive fast and choose risky recreational activities. They trade off accuracy for speed. They are prone to all sorts of gaffes, preferring to speak before they think.

Crime: Extraverts are social and impulsive. They are excitement-seekers interested in novel experiences, which often leads them to be poorer learners than introverts at many tasks, including the acquisition of general social rules. They are difficult to train, naughty and rebellious. They are more likely than introverts to become delinquents or criminals, though it does depend on the nature of the criminal activity.

Learning: Extraverts do well at primary school but less well at university. The idea of sitting in a quiet room for hours learning complicated abstract ideas just does not suit the extravert.

Most people are able to accurately rate themselves and others on introversion and extraversion.


There are also related concepts like sensation seeking.

Sensation seeking scale was a concept developed by Zuckerman in 1979 as a way to measure individual differences in response to sensory deprivation; the extent to which an individual will deliberately reduce or remove certain stimulation from their senses.

Thrill- and adventure-seeking (TAS): This is the desire for outdoor activities involving unusual sensations and risks, such as skydiving, scuba diving and flying.

Experience-seeking (ES): This subcategory refers to new sensory or mental experiences through unconventional choices, also including psychedelic experience, social nonconformity and desire to associate with unconventional people.

Disinhibition (Dis): This is a preference for ’out of control’ activities such as wild parties, drinking and sexual variety.

Boredom susceptibility (BS): This depicts an intolerance of repetition or boring people, and an experienced restlessness in such conditions.


Argyle, M., & Lu, L. (1990). The happiness of extraverts. Personality and Individual Differences. 11 (10): 1011—7.

Cain, S. (2015). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Crown Publishing.

Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Readings in Extraversion-Introversion. New York: Wiley.

Jung, C. G. (1921). Psychologische Typen. Rascher Verlag, Zurich.