Updated: Apr 27
..kaun hain yeh log, Kahan se aaten hain? (Who are these people, where do they come from?)
The terms’ introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ were first coined by Psychoanalyst Carl Jung in his book Psychological Types, in the early 1900s. He described introverts as directing their energy inward by focusing on more thoughtful activities, whereas extroverts as leading their lives outwards by engaging more in social encounters.
Often very casually, we tend to label people as introverts or extroverts basing on their overt response to anything. We attribute behaviour as extroverted or introverted depending on their response in a social situation. Say, for example, someone expressing oneself comfortably in public swiftly gets a tag of an extrovert. However, someone shying away and mostly preferring to keeping to oneself is tagged as an introvert.
Our brain, by default, ends up categorising an individual as an extrovert if they are more outgoing, articulate, and the centre of everyone’s attention. Those who deviate from this category automatically fall under the introvert personality type.
What we fail to understand is that more than this being the two ends of a pole, it is a spectrum where people may not always be at the extreme ends. It can be a mixture of both with one being a little more in proportion than the other. This leads to the establishment of two new types called an ambivert or perhaps, an omnivert. An ambivert is someone whose overall behaviour is between extroversion and introversion. But an omnivert is a person who can be both given the time and situation.
So, to get a better picture of these terms, we need to delve deeper and go all the way back to its origin. These words took their shape in the context of personality. The name, ‘personality’ comes from the Latin word persona, meaning a theatrical mask worn by performers to play different roles in a play. It is basically the thoughts, behaviours and feelings that make us who we are. Personality, by Gordon Allport (1961), is understood as the dynamic organisation within the individual of those psychosocial systems that determine his characteristic behaviour and thought. Thus, outlining the uniqueness or a distinct set of characteristics in each individual that guides our behaviour and helps us stand out from the rest.
Among the various theories of personality, it is the trait approach that assumes that behaviour is determined by relatively stable traits which are the fundamental units of personality. Under this approach, psychologist, Hans Eysenck provided a detailed explanation to the terms as he spent much of his life working on understanding the various factors that contribute to the development of an individual’s personality. Using the method of factor analysis, he elaborated on them in the 1950s and 1960s, stating that personality could be understood from two dimensions, i.e., extraversion-introversion and neuroticism-stable. The psychologist established the PEN model, where psychoticism was added. He described psychoticism, extraversion and neuroticism as the three main traits of personality development.
Eysenck in 1979 also explained extraversion and introversion from biological perspectives claiming that extroverts have low levels of cortical arousal as a result of which they seek stimulation from their environment. In contrast, introverts have optimum levels of cortical arousal, which reduces their need to seek it outside of themselves.
Here it is important to note, as stated earlier in this article too, that extroversion and introversion are not understood explicitly as two ends of a pole instead they are typically viewed as a single continuum, with individuals being high on one and low on the other, or receiving a score for an ambivert or an omnivert. Any personality test that mainly measures these two dimensions include these concepts in various forms. Be it the Big Five model by Jung or the three-factor model (PEN model) by Eysenck, each considers these factors as valid and interprets one’s personality type accordingly.
However, nowhere is it mentioned that one is better than the other. Both are two different types. They excel in their lives in their own unique ways. Being extrovert doesn’t guarantee happiness and being introvert doesn’t always mean that they are sad or live gloomy lives, preferably, on the contrary, introverts thrive in social gatherings where they are surrounded with their close group of friends. As for extroverts, research at Wake Forest University, in North California states that their talkative and perky nature/personality type doesn’t assure that they shall never be sad and have no blue days that there is a weak correlation between happiness and extroversion personality type.
In fact, from the evolutionary perspectives too, both should have been at an advantage. Where the less impulsive introverts could have avoided danger and kept themselves safe, the extroverts because of their rather adventurous nature would have stumbled upon a new source of food and water.
So let’s cherish our uniqueness and impart the same.