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Extrovert vs. Introvert

By Erica R. Deligne
On January 27, 2004

he world seems to be divided into two different types of people, the extrovert and the introvert. But why do some individuals feel more confident while others are silent and shy?

Carl Jung popularized the notion that people fall into two attitude types: introversion and extroversion. These two elements of the human body are both physical and mental aspects that give us reasons to most of our actions.

Most people utilize elements of both introversion and extroversion in their daily lives. However, researchers at the College of William and Mary say there is generally a dominant personality trait that reflects how the individual prefers to work or deal with the environment, especially when that person is under stress.

Extroverts make up between 60 to 70 percent of society and introverts account for 20 to 30 percent, according to Dr. Ed Diener from the University of Illinois.

An extrovert is a person who thinks in a way that centers on and around the object, the object being a task or a person. They feel the most energized through interactions with others and feel the most drained or down when they are alone.

Unlike extroverts, introverts get their energy from themselves and are drained by people. An introvert is a person who thinks in a way that centers on his or her own feelings and thoughts about a situation.

Introverts are energized by spending time on solitary activities and will find being around many people at once bothers them.

Not all introverts are shy and mousy. Some can be assertive and socially confident, but prefer activities that involve inner experience and introspection. Other introverts have a lack of self-confidence when socializing with strangers.

Why are some people afraid to converse with others they do not know?

People set certain boundaries within themselves and they think if they step out of their comfort zone they are vulnerable to situations they do not know how to handle.

Various students consider themselves to be extroverts but seem more like introverts in the classroom. Some students are afraid they will look unintelligent if they ask a question in class due to lack of knowledge on the subject.

Mark Buckner, a marketing and management senior from Proctorville, Ohio, says no one wants to look stupid.

"If I don't know what's going on in class then I always ask questions to the person sitting beside me first, then if they don't know, I'll ask the teacher," Buckner said.

Elisabeth Neumann, an early researcher on public opinion, concluded people lack the confidence to speak up because they fear isolation. She said some consider relationships with others to be critical at times that one may change their opinions or be silent in order to be accepted by others and not stand out.

Sarajane Bailey, a junior nursing major from Huntington, said she is quiet in school and more outspoken when she is around her friends.

"When I am in school I am more of an introvert because you don't know everyone, but if my friends are in the classroom then I am more outgoing," she said. "Although, when I am around my friends hanging out I am definitely an extrovert, probably the most extroverted out of our whole group of friends," Bailey said.

Mark Buckner thinks he participates the most in the classroom when he is aware of his surroundings.

"If I know what is going on and if there is a question going around or if I have an opinion about it then I will say it, but if I don't know what's going on then I'm just real quiet," Buckner said.

The question of whether introversion and extroversion are characteristics a person grows into or is just born with is an issue scientist are still studying today.

Tiffany McCullough, a junior from Barboursville majoring in education, thinks a person grows into the qualities of introversion and extroversion.

"I was definitely an introvert when I was a child because I was the only child," McCullough said. "When I was young, I was quiet and shy and now I am kind of opposite of that."

Recent studies at the University of Iowa have shown signs of different brain activity in introverts and extroverts. They say introversion and extroversion is not something grown into or born with, but simply an indication of brain functions.

"We found more evidence that people might be shy or outgoing because of the way their brains are structured, not because of experiences they've had," Debra L. Johnson, a research scientist in psychology at the University of Iowa, said.

Johnson's research reveals that introverts have more activity in the frontal lobes of the brain and in the front thalamus, and extroverts show more activity in the posterior thalamus.

Introverts get more of their stimulation internally and the front thalamus provides them with the remembering, planning and processing of their own ideas.

The posterior thalamus is more involved in sensory processing such as listening, watching or driving, which attends to the extrovert's need when being socially active and seeking sensation from outside sources.

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