Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
While his predecessor, Sigmund Feud, explored the personal unconscious, Carl Jung studied and developed the unconscious further to show the collective unconscious, which represents a form of the unconscious common to mankind as a whole. Carl Jung was the first to distinguish the two major attitudes or orientations of personality – extroversion and introversion. He also identified four basic cognitive functions (thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting).
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What is Extroversion and Introversion in Carl Jung’s original work?
This dimension has to do with where we naturally direct our energy and recharge as well as our first order of importance: the inner world vs the outer world:
- Inner world is made up of thoughts, ideas, memories or so-called the subjective experience that is unique and aware of only by the individual
- Outer world is made of people and experiences outside of one’s self, or the “objects”
Extraverts have a stronger relationship with the objects of the outer world because they feel a stronger cognitive need for frequent interaction with the world. To Extraverts, what’s going on outside is more important than what’s happening inside. Overall, they are more “action-oriented”.
Introverts have a stronger relationship with the inner world because they feel a stronger cognitive need to connect with their inner subjective experiences. To introverts, what’s happening inside is more important than outside. They are characterised for being more “reflective”.
I would like to clarify an important distinction between “trait” theory versus “type” theory. Jungian psychology is about type. Many free online MBTI tests give you results in percentage such as 70% Introvert, 30% Extrovert etc. However, this does not mean you are a different type 30% of the time. Being 90% or 51% introverted still means you have an introverted outlook in life. This kind of test fails to show that Jungian theory is a “type” theory, which mean you are either introvert or extrovert, and not a “trait” theory where you can exist in a continuum like the Big 5.
A good metaphor for extroversion vs introversion is land vs water. You can naturally be comfortable in both, but to an extrovert, the outer world is like the shore and the inner world is like water. They can certainly enjoy staying in water but where do they eventually get respite from? The shore. Vice versa for introverts, the inner world is like the shore and the outer world of objects is the water!
Neurologically, Extraverts and Introverts have different pathways in the brain for processing information. Extraverts use a shorter pathway and are much faster at processing incoming information from the world. Therefore, they have a higher tolerance for stimulation and tend to actively seek out stimulating experiences.
Introverts’ pathways are much longer as the information is processed and filtered internally. They are easier to suffer from “information overload” given the same amount of external stimuli. Hence they prefer a slower “reflective” pace and tend to avoid situations that might overwhelm them. This difference is noticeable in babies as young as 4-months old!
According to statistical studies, Extraverts and Introverts are roughly evenly split in the general population, with a few studies finding a slightly greater number of Extraverts.
Still not sure where you fall in this dichotomy? Read how to know if you are an introvert or extrovert to find out more!