There’s a lot of confusion about what exactly an introvert is.

Partly this is because there are different ways the word is used.

Common Definitions

In common usage introverted is often used as a synonym for shy.

But as any introvert knows, these are not the same things at all.

I for one am rather an extreme introvert, but I’m not very shy at all.

Jung

Jung wrote of introverts as people who lose energy during social interaction, while extraverts gain energy from being with others.

According to Jung most people are a mix of the two – anyone who was purely one or the other ‘would be in the lunatic asylum’.

Although there’s some evidence for Jung’s energy distinction, it’s not quite what psychologists mean when they talk about the introversion-extraversion continuum.

MBTI

The hugely popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator extends aspects of Jung’s theories and provides 16 personality types.

Most people enjoy identifying their profile and learning about the implications for their personal and work life. I (an INTJ) sure do!

However, the MBTI does not meet psychologists’ requirements for a statistically valid and psychometrically sound personality test.

Psychology

Psychologists conceive of introverts as being sensitive to stimulation – noise, people, lights, everything.

Because of this sensitivity, introverts are easily over-stimulated and become uncomfortable with too much input. This explains why many introverts avoid parties and crowds and enjoy simpler, smaller pleasures. Why they cancel plans and crave personal space. Why they register everything that’s going on and feel exhausted by it all.

Extraverts, by contrast, tend to need a higher level of stimulation to feel comfortable. Therefore plenty of people around and lots going on feels good. Too little stimulation can be unpleasant.

According to psychological research, the tendency toward introversion or extraversion is biologically-based and appears to be relatively stable throughout life.

Other aspects of personality that seem to be relatively intrinsic are Neuroticism, Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.

This is not to say that people are born one defined way and stay the same forever. We are all affected by life experiences, different environments, and countless other factors – human psychology is not simple!

But there does appear to be a tendency toward introversion or extraversion that’s relatively fundamental to our personalities. And understanding this can help us to know ourselves better, to be kinder to ourselves and others, and to enjoy greater happiness.

Because psychologists look to evidence and research to back up their theories, and because my background is psychology, the psychological approach to introversion is the one I take on this site.

And it’s also why I use the psychological spelling of extravert.

Want to know more about the psychological approach to introversion?

Then this is for you:
Is Your Introvert Soul Getting Crushed In An Extrovert World? Here’s What You Need To Know…


UPDATE: Although extravert is the correct spelling used in psychology, extrovert is more common. I asked on Facebook what people would prefer and they overwhelmingly voted for the extrovert spelling – so that’s what I use in more recent posts.

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