An Alternative Introduction to the Four Dimensions: Introvert (I) / Extrovert (E)

In this series of posts we’re going to look at the four dimensions as if they were personality traits rather than a system that denotes the orientation and functioning of the psyche. When we type people for the site we always take a cognitive function approach, but nevertheless, in a broader context, it might be interesting to know the twists and turns that exist on the fringes of the main theory.

Extroversion is the most salient and measurable of all the personality traits ever discovered. People who are dominantly extroverted are often keenly interested in learning about the world.

The psycho-analytic view (ca. 1915): The first modern theory of Extroversion and Introversion was presented ca. 1915 by Carl Jung. Jung’s theory, which has later come to be known as the psycho-analytic view of extroversion, is concerned with whether one is primarily interested in the external world on its own terms, or whether perhaps one’s consciousness is primarily directed towards the inner world of one’s own thoughts, feelings, sensations and intuitions. According to this view, extroverts will be able to experience the world more broadly and more in-depth than introverts who in turn are more likely to take the time to develop a personalized insight which they can then use to perfect their craft.

To Jung, who was himself an introvert, the downside to introversion could be that introverts tend to experience the world through the prism of their own subjective consciousness. We all do this to some degree, but according to Jung, introverts generally pay far more attention to their inner worlds than extroverts. Jung also said something about extroverts being more sexually virile than introverts, but that was largely ignored at the time, only to be taken up by later psychologists.

The biological view (ca. 1965): In his book The Biological Basis of Personality noted psychologist H.J. Eysenck contended that the extroversion-introversion split was in fact due to biological factors, namely differences in the brain’s structure. Eysenck (who was himself an extrovert) proposed that introverts had more “sensitive” brains in the sense that an introvert’s brain is more easily overwhelmed by the neurochemicals that are released whenever we humans experience something. To Eysenck, introverts simply need more time to themselves, in private, controlled environments where they can wind down as the brain recuperates. Many introverts, he continued, would then find joy in what is routine and familiar because of a foreseeable, often low, level of stimulus. In contrast, the typical extrovert would get bored with too much familiarity representing a low level of neural stimulus. Interestingly, proponents of this view have recently found that (statistically speaking) extroverts do in fact have a higher sex drive.

The contemporary view: The vast majority of modern thinkers posit that extroversion-introversion is determined by a mixture of biological and psychological factors. Various studies accord a role for genetics ranging from 40% – 60%, but though the research may be state-of-the-art, the state of the art is still far from certain on this.

E / Extroverted

Gregarious
Deciding as they go along
Recharges with friends
Acting-then-thinking
Talkative
Social/outgoing
Expressive & enthusiastic
Distractable
Learning broadly
Socially relaxed
More positive moods

I / Introverted

Private
Deciding beforehand
Recharges alone
Thinking-then-acting
Quiet
Deliberate
Internally aware
Thinks before speaking
Learning deeply
Socially questioning
More neutral moods

Contrary to popular belief, extroversion does not say anything about the ‘depth’ of one’s personality or the person’s preferred level of abstraction. Many self-help books, including the popular The Introvert Advantage, peddle the myth that all introverts are deep and abstract-minded, while all extroverts are childlike and hedonistic, with no time for patience. However, extroversion does NOT in itself say anything about such things.

1 Comment

  1. This is very interesting, and I hope you will continue to expand on these descriptions. The I/E dimension has been the most difficult one for me, though it would appear to be a straightforward one. I believe I may be an ESTJ, and by the psycho-analytic description, extroversion suits me. The contemporary view of extroversion strikes me as more appropriate to Fe than Te. I do not consider myself socially awkward, but I view social interaction as a means to an end, rather than something to be engaged in for its own sake. Keep up the good work!

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