There are two seemingly opposite personality types known as extroverts and introverts. According to Carl Gustav Jung, an extrovert seeks intensive contact with the outside world seeking action and sensory input. An introvert instead focuses their energy internally, on reflection, dreaming and understanding. Jung believed that no one is 100% extrovert or 100% introvert, but most minds tend to lean more to one side. If both characteristics are equally present, we can speak of someone who has an ambivert personality.
The full story
Introversion and extroversion are terms first coined by psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung in Switzerland in the 1920s. According to Jung, an extrovert seeks intensive contact with the outside world. An introvert instead turns the psychic energy inwards. Jung believed that no one is 100% extrovert or 100% introvert, instead, we carry both traits. However, most minds tend to lean either to one side or the other. If both characteristics are equally present, we can speak of someone who has an ambivert personality.
Introverts and extroverts’ mental energy
In the 1960’s, the psychologist Hans Eysenck, added to Carl Jung’s ideas. He argued that the main difference between introverts and extroverts lies in the way they gain and recharge their mental energy. By nature, introverted people have a higher level of brain activity and therefore feel a greater need to shield themselves from external stimuli. By withdrawing themselves they gain mental energy. The neuronal activity of extroverts is lower. They overcome this lack by exposing themselves to external stimulation. This charges their inner batteries
Jay is extroverted. He loves to be surrounded by classmates, enjoys being the center of attention and loves to talk to his buddies about all kinds of stuff. He organizes football games with strangers and right after is open to playing ping pong with someone else. By seeking social stimuli he gains mental energy. Ann is introverted. As others play around in the park, she often enjoys sitting alone watching. At home she plants herbs in the garden all by herself. She slowly becomes a real expert in this field – but that’s her secret. To recharge her batteries, Ann needs peace and quiet time.
Introverts are not necessarily shy, even if it appears they like to walk away from small talk. Ann in fact is not shy at all. She is not afraid to talk to anyone, not even seniors. When too many people are around and the conversations become superficial or confusing, she gets super tired. Her strategy is to fade out and to go inside herself to recharge through silence. Jay loves to have many people around him. To jump from one conversation to the next stimulates him.
Some experts claim that extroverts and introverts use different brain areas to form their thoughts. An extrovert tends to use short-term memory and therefore is able to come to fast associations. Jay therefore talks fast and a lot. He appears smart because his brain always offers an answer quickly. However, he often speaks before he thinks and later changes his mind. Someone like Ann works with her brain to carefully retrieve information from her long-term memory. Her thoughts are more complex, and hence need more time to develop. She therefore thinks first, and then speaks.
If the two were asked for directions by a tourist, Ann would spend time thinking about the best answer, while Jay would have already come up with different kinds of options.
At work and school
Good teachers and clever business leaders know about the different nature of introverts and extroverts and try to develop their strengths. When raising questions, they ask everyone to think for a minute in silence before answering. Extroverts then learn to formalize their thoughts before they speak, and introverts get more talking time to practice public speaking. When brainstorming they use a formal process or a talking stick to make sure an Ann also gets to participate.
Group projects can be formalized to support both temperaments. In one project, extroverts and introverts work together. Jay then learns from Ann how to think ideas over to develop more complex thoughts. Ann, in return, benefits from Jay’s fast association skills and learns to think and speak more flexibly. In the next project, people with the same temperament work together. Then they see their own traits in the opposite person. If confronted with problems in teams of the same character, introverts need to speak up and extroverts are forced to think deep to proceed. The educator Rudolf Steiner was a proponent of this method for his Waldorf schools.
Nature vs. nurture
Psychologist Jerome Kagan’s Research on Temperament in Toddlers showed that many character traits we are born with make it into adulthood. He confronted 500 babies with different stimuli, like loud sounds and bad smells. Around 20% of the babies cried or got nervous, 40% stayed relaxed and the other 40% were somewhere in between. A second test years later showed that babies who didn’t react strongly turned out to be more extroverted.
What about yourself? Do you consider yourselves more introverted or extroverted? Or do you think this classification is flawed and there is no such thing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
“Best explanation I’ve ever heard. Well done.”– GavinAnna Shailer
- Extraversion and Introversion – Wikipedia
- The Psychology of Introversion: Eysenck’s Theory of Arousal – Introvert Palace
- Carl Jung on Extraversion and Introversion – Wikipedia
- Learning Styles of Introverts and Extroverts – Our Lady of the Lake University
- Introverts vs. Extroverts: How Each Add Value to the Workplace – Accion
- The Surprising Benefits of Being an Introvert – Time
- Ambiverts Rock! Why introverted extroverts represent the future – Psychology Today
Creating classroom dynamics that balance out extrovert and introvert learners is no easy task, and may very well need a small revolution of the education system, but there are a few tips out there that may help you get started.
As said in a resource by Common Sense Education (5 Classroom Strategies That Help Introverts and Extroverts Do Their Best Work) “Extroverts and Introverts depend on each other to do great things”. Try mixing up your students so you have introverts and extroverts mixing naturally (in project groups or use the seating plan to help this along). Adapt classroom activities to allow extroverts to introspect and introverts to move around. Check out our blog on Brainstorming Techniques for more ideas and let us know how it goes!