Introversion

Introvert is a colloquially used term for people who are quiet, reserved, thoughtful, and self-reliant and who tend to prefer solitary work and leisure activities.

Individuals who are quiet, reserved, thoughtful, and self-reliant are often referred to as introverts. They are likely to prefer solitary work and leisure activities. Extroverts draw most of their energy from social interaction and respond to external stimuli immediately and directly. Introverts tend to mull things over before formulating a reaction, and their energy is replenished by time spent alone.

Carl Jung (1875–1961) was the first psychologist to use the terms introversion and extroversion, which literally mean inward-turning and outward-turning. Subsequent researchers in the field of personality, most notably Hans Eysenck (1916–1997), have popularized these terms. Eysenck claimed there is a biological basis for introversion and extroversion, rooted in different sensitivities to physical and emotional stimulation. He posited that introverts are more sensitive to cortical arousal and thus more likely to be overwhelmed by external stimuli. Extroverts, who are less sensitive to arousal, are likely to consistently seek out stimuli. Eysenck's system of personality types combines introversion and extroversion with degrees of emotionality and stability. He arrived at four types of personality based on the classical four temperaments first delineated by Hippocrates around 400 BCE. These types, elaborated by Eysenck, are melancholic (emotional and introverted); phlegmatic (stable and introverted); choleric (stable and extroverted); and sanguine (emotional and extroverted).

Introversion can be seen in early childhood. Introverted children are able to entertain themselves alone for extended periods of time, while extroverts need company most of the time. When it comes to socializing, introverts are likely to focus their attention on only one or a few best friends rather than a larger social group. Introverts like to look before they leap, observing situations before they are ready to participate, and thinking matters over before they speak. They are independent thinkers who feel comfortable turning inward to formulate their own ideas about various subjects. Introverts are more likely than extroverts to act differently in public than they do at home; they feel less at ease among strangers. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and dislike interruptions. True introverts are likely to become absorbed by their own emotions and their rich inner world; they may pay less attention to the people around them. They may also be more reluctant than extroverts to talk about their feelings.

The personality traits that characterize introversion overlap at several points with those often seen in gifted people, such as independence of thought, the ability to spend long periods of time in solitary pursuits, and heightened sensitivity to social interactions. The association between introversion and giftedness has been reinforced by the findings of Dr. Linda Silverman at Denver University's Gifted Child Development Center, who found that an unusually high percentage of introverted children are gifted.

Although introversion and extroversion are observable, documented personality tendencies, people usually possess characteristics of both types. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator treats introversion and extroversion as two ends of a continuum, with most people falling somewhere in between.

See also Extroversion ; Eysenck, Hans Jürgen; Jung, Carl; Personality .

Resources

BOOKS

Arciero, Giampiero, and Guido Bondolfi. Selfhood, Identity, and Personality Styles. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Clark, David L., et al. The Brain and Behavior: An Introduction to Behavioral Neuroanatomy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Coulter, Jeff, and W. W. Sharrock. Brain, Mind, and Human Behavior in Contemporary Cognitive Science: Critical Assessments of the Philosophy of Psychology. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007.

Deaux, Kay, and Mark Snyder. The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Engler, Barbara. Personality Theories. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2014.

Eysenck, Hans J., and Michael Eysenck. Personality and Individual Differences. New York: Plenum Press, 1985.

Fiske, Susan T.,et al. Handbook of Social Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010.

Jung, C. G. The Essential Jung. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.

Jung, C. G., and Beatrice M. Hinkle. Psychology of the Unconscious. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2011.

Isaacs, Susan. Social Development in Young Children. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Kellerman, Henry. Personality: How It Forms. New York: American Mental Health Foundation, 2012.

Wilde, Douglass J. Jung's Personality Theory Quantified. New York: Springer, 2011.

WEBSITES

World Health Organization. “Social Environment.” http://www.who.int/topics/social_environment/en (accessed September 9, 2015).