Difference Between Extraverts and Introverts

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In the 1920s, eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first of the modern personality theorists to clearly detail the difference between introversion and extraversion. He spoke of these attributes primarily in terms of sociability object. Jung (Jung & Hull, 1992) decribed introversion and extraversion as follows:

  • Introversion is normally characterized by a hesitant, reflective, retiring nature that keeps itself to itself, shrinks from objects, is always slightly on the defensive and prefers to hide behind mistrustful scrutiny.
  • Extraversion is normally characterized by an outgoing, candid, and accommodating nature that adapts easily to a given situation, quickly forms attachments, and, setting aside any possible misgivings, will often venture forth with careless confidence into unknown situations.

In the first case obviously the subject, and in the second the object, is all-important.(p. 44)

Jung stated that introversion-extraversion was the primary personality difference among people. According to him, we possess both characteristics but have a strong preference for one. If introversion is preferred, the individual becomes an adept introvert. He is capable of extraversion but utilizes this characteristic with awkwardness.

Jung was not alone in identifying introversion-extraversion as an important individual difference variable. The majority of the comprehensive theories of individual differences (i.e., those of Eysenck, Cattell, Tupes, and Christal) include introversion-extraversion as a primary trait. Additionally, most broad-based, general personality tests measure introversion-extraversion.

Many modern theorists view introversion-extraversion as being related to positive emotion, in addition to being related to sociability.

Specifically, extraverts tend to experience high levels of positive emotion, whereas introverts generally feel low levels of positive emotion.

This point has to be made clear, however: introverts are not necessarily high in negative emotion such as sadnessOpens in new window, fearOpens in new window, or angerOpens in new window. Rather, introverts generally experience low levels of happinessOpens in new window, joyOpens in new window, excitement, and hedonistic feelings compared to extraverts.

According to some psychologists (e.g., Watson & Clark, 1997), it is this high positive emotion that leads to the outgoing, assertive, active, and excitement-seeking behavior that is characteristic of extraverts.

Introverts, without this outward-directed excitement and energy, are more solitary, withrdrawn, and hesitant. The rewards they seek may be of a quieter variety such as the gratification that comes from doing solitary work, reading, hobbies, or individual sports such as swimming.

Results of some studies reveal that introverts are more sensitive to stimuli. According to a review by Eysenck (1990), introverts have lower pain thresholds than extraverts. Introverts salivate more than do extravertsOpens in new window when drops of lemon juice are placed on their tongue (Deary, Ramsay, & Riad, 1988).

Additionally, introverts are more difficult to sedate than are extraverts; they require higher dosages of sedative drugs (Wilson, 1978). The interest in introversion and extraversion has remained steady since the beginnings of modern psychology. In the last couple of decades, investigators have begun exploring the meanings of the emotional facets of these characteristics.

See also:
  1. Deary, I.J., Ramsey, H., Wilson, J.A., & Riad, M. (1988). Stimulated salivation: Correlations with personality and time of day effects. Personality and Individual differences, 9, 903 – 909.
  2. Eysenck, H.J. (1990). Biological dimensions of personality. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 244 – 276). New York: Guilford.
  3. Jung, C.G., & Hull, R.F.C. (1992) two essays on analytical psychology (Vol. 7). New York: Routledge.
  4. Watson, D., & Clark, L.A. (1997). Extraversion and its positive emotional core. In R. Hogan, J. Johnson, & S. Briggs (Eds.). Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 767 – 793). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  5. Wilson, G.S. (1978). Introversion-extraversion. In H. London & J. E. Exner Jr. (Eds.), Dimension of personality (pp. 217 -261). New York: John Wiley.