Introversion vs Extroversion: A Jungian Perspective

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).

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”.

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

References:

https://mbti-notes.tumblr.com/

How to Know If You Are An Introvert or Extrovert?

Let’s start with the definitions:

The simplified definition of introversion-extroversion scale is the source where an individual gain energy from. An introvert will gain energy reflecting and listening to his inner world of thoughts, feelings or ideas. Meanwhile, an extrovert is energized by interacting with surrounding people, ideas or projects and will get bored being left alone for too long.

I would like to clarify some common misconceptions. Many tests give you results in percentage such as 70% Introvert, 30% Extrovert. 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. Being more in the middle of the scale probably means you are more versatile in channeling your energy to meet extraverted tasks.

Being more introverted does not guarantee you are a loner, unfriendly or have very few friends either. It is simply a generalized tendency,. Introverts are very capable of being confident in public speaking or having more friends than an extrovert. Outward behaviors can be misleading. Being an introvert or extrovert is deeper than that, going to the core values and overall attitude towards the outside world. So read below for 3 guidelines which will help you better decide which side you are on. 

Extroverts seek social approval while introverts prioritize individuality

From a sociology point of view, since the time where mankind still lives in cave and in small closely-knitted communities, there are two distinct social strategies. One one hand, one may regard the community’s standards and needs as absolute and everything he thinks or does ultimately allows him to be better recognized by the tribe. The introvert’s ultimate basis is his own needs and himself. It is not about being selfish, but prioritizing individual perspectives and standards over the norms.

For example, an introverted feeling-dominant person will prioritize his moral standards and his subjective experience over the tribe’s. Such a type is the inspiration for the typical protagonist in many classic romance stories where the character is willing to fight and suffer for a personal passion despite resistance from the community or family. An extraverted feeling person, as you can guess, would more likely to follow what the social norms dictate.

introvert feeling in Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a good illustration of introverted feeling

In the case of thinking, an extraverted thinkers will have the habit of thinking how to obtain knowledge from well-validated external sources and to apply a principle or rule to as many people as possible. An introverted thinker, on the other hand, is often more comfortable relying on his original understanding of how things work and how he can “game the system” to obtain what he wants.

Extroverts prefer quantity while introverts want quality

Carl Jung himself mentioned in his book that the extroversion scale points beyond humans to include all living organisms. In the same population of a specific species, on one end of the spectrum are individuals who are more aggressive and less discriminate in acquiring food and mates. On the other end, there are those that prefer to conserve energy, striking with fewer but more efficient attempts.

Of course, like many other biological drives, introversion-extroversion has grown to be more complex in humans. But the general principle stays the same: extroverts prefer to expand their energy while introvert conserves. Both are valid survival strategies. It explains many different outward behaviors between the two types, like how introverts tend to prefer fewer but closer friends or how extroverts seem more outgoing and socially assertive in pursuing their goals. 

Extroverts are often generalists while introverts are specialists

Introverts often can think and work for much longer on a single topic or project, obtaining more unique and in-depth insights than their extroverted counterparts. Extroverts, like Thomas Edison, are of course capable of invention and creating ideas. However, what introverts are naturally good at is depth in subject matters. They are certainly over-represented in professions such as research, writing, drawing, engineering etc.

Meanwhile, extroverts often use ideas to achieve real world objectives. They are over-represented as managers, politicians, marketers… They usually prefer well-validated or popular knowledge and have relatively less patience to dwell on a topic for too long.

Conclusion

If you are a so-called ambivert, trying to pinpoint the side of this spectrum is not an easy task and personality tests online often do not help due to a lack of accuracy. I believe the best way to do is to contemplate the 3 principles above and search within yourself about what you really want. 

Most of us want success or popularity eventually, but does that success needs to come from your original understanding and ingenuity? Do you often distrust the mass and wish everyone can be more unique and think more for themselves? If those questions constantly itch you, you are more likely to be introverted than extroverted. 

Yardstick Introvert Extrovert
Social approval Have a general dislike and often question popular ideas , standards or tastes Seek to achieve socially-approved concepts and objectives without “overthinking”
Quantity versus quality Prefer quality, being picky (job, relationship…) Want to experience it all, easy-going and easy to blend in
Generalist versus specialist Are often specialist Are often generalist