The Difference Between Introvert & Extrovert Personalities, According To Experts
The concept of introversion versus extroversion has been around since the early 1900s, yet is still often misunderstood today. Existing as a spectrum, the introversion-extroversion scale is is part of many popular personality assessments, such as the "Big 5" and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Wondering whether you're an introvert versus extrovert? Here's what to know.
What is an introvert?
An introvert is a person who is high in introversion, a personality trait characterized by a tendency to be energized by alone time rather than socializing. "Introvert" in psychology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things."
According to cultural studies researcher Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D., low scores of extroversion indicate a more reserved person who enjoys solitude. "Introverts don't necessarily dislike social gatherings; however, they may get fatigued by them and require time alone to regain their energy," she explains.
And relationship therapist Ken Page, LCSW echoes this point, previously telling mindbodygreen that while extroverts gain energy from social interaction, "introverts expend energy in social situations," adding that "recharging" by themselves helps them to build that energy back up.
Introverts also tend to be relatively shyer in social situations, according to certified couples' therapist and licensed professional counselor Alicia Muñoz, LPC. As she previously told mindbodygreen, "[They] often feel most comfortable and energized when turning their attention inward rather than outward, engaging in thoughtful activities or creative pursuits."
Signs you're introverted
- You prefer solitude to company
- You prefer intimate gatherings over large ones
- You feel drained after being around a lot of people
- You can be overstimulated by external disturbances like crowds, noise, and chaotic environments
- You prefer to work alone than with a team
- You retreat inside your own mind
- You are self-reflective
What is an extrovert?
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have extroverts. "Extrovert" in psychology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations."
As Allen explains, "Extroversion looks at how sociable and outgoing a person is, and where they feel most energized. High scores [of extroversion] indicate a person energized by the company of others."
Where introverts require solitude to recharge after being around people, it's the opposite for extroverts, and they'll actually start to feel drained if they have too much alone time. Being around other people energizes them, and they tend to be your social butterflies, going out to events, meeting new people, and often having multiple friend groups.
These people are also less likely to be quiet or reserved, and often have no trouble striking up a conversation, according to Muñoz.
Signs you're extroverted
- You prefer company to solitude
- Large events and groups of people excite you
- You feel drained spending too much time alone
- You enjoy collaborating and working with a team
- You're communicative and expressive
- You tend to focus on external things and seek connection
- You have varied friends, interests, and hobbies
What is an ambivert?
An ambivert is someone who has a balance of both introversion and extroversion, with the ability to lean more into one or the other depending on the context. For example, where introverts may prefer to listen while extroverts prefer to chat, an ambivert will likely have no trouble with either. They're flexible.
An ambivert's propensity for introversion and extroversion can change depending on individual needs in any given moment or situation.
It was famed psychiatrist Carl Jung who was the first to come up with the concepts of "introvert" and "extrovert," though he didn't give a name for those in the middle of these two personality types—that was Kimball Young in the 1920s.
"Almost all of us are ambiverts to some degree," Page previously told mindbodygreen. After all, we're all located somewhere along the spectrum between introversion and extroversion, meaning we do have access to both sets of personality traits in varying degrees and forms.
Even though you'll be assigned an "E" or "I" in your Myers-Briggs personality type, for example, everyone is actually somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. You might consider yourself a true ambivert if quiz results indicate you fall very close to the middle.
Signs you're an ambivert
- Neither "introvert" nor "extrovert" feel accurate for describing your personality
- You need alone time just as much as social time
- You prefer a balance of both solo and group work
- Too much alone time and too much time with others can feel draining
- You appreciate good conversation but also value comfortable silence
- Small talk doesn't bother you, though you also love deep conversations
- You have a lot of friends and a handful of close friends
Differences between introverts and extroverts
As aforementioned, the introvert-extrovert scale is based on things like sociability and where you get your energy. On one end of the spectrum, introverts prefer quiet, reflective alone time, while extroverts prefer engaging with others, expressing themselves, and directing their focus outward.
Introverts also feel drained after spending time with people (especially large groups), whereas this is where extroverts thrive, and they'll feel drained after too much alone time.
Research has also pointed to explanations in the brain for why some people are more introverted versus extroverted. Namely, one study1 found thicker regions in the prefrontal cortex of introverts compared to extroverts—the part of the brain that deals with things like planning and decision making, which could explain why introverts tend to be more reserved, while extroverts tend to be more impulsive.
"Of all the different personality traits, introversion and extroversion are one of the ones that are most strongly hereditary," Page says, adding that environmental factors, such as how you were raised, will also come into play.
Our DNA also determines the degree to which we can be flexible in these traits, he says. "Introversion and extroversion is really connected to a whole bunch of issues around our neurotransmitters, and the most important one is dopamine," he says.
Dopamine fuels our reward center in the brain, and Page explains that extroverts tend to appreciate or be motivated by those dopamine hits. "But introverts," he notes, "their brains are less driven by that need for dopamine and that excitement over dopamine."
As you might imagine, where you fall on the spectrum can manifest into many different areas of your life, from how you approach friendships and dating, to how you best get work done, to how you prefer to spend your time.
If you're still not sure whether you're an introvert or extrovert, here's a quiz to find out.
What are the 4 types of introverts?
The four types of introverts are: social introverts (emphasis on solitude), thinking introverts (emphasis on introspection and cognition), anxious introverts (emphasis on nervousness and avoidance), and restrained introvert (emphasis on being reserved and thoughtful).
Which is better introvert or extrovert?
It is not inherently better or worse to be an introvert or extrovert. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, and both traits can be desirable in different context and situations.
What is difference between introvert and extrovert?
The key difference in introverts versus extroverts is that introverts prefer quiet, reflective time where they can recharge alone, while extroverts prefer engaging with others, expressing themselves, and directing their focus outward.
Whether you're an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, rest assured, one is not better than the others. Both introverts and extroverts have their own set of strengths and weaknesses that make them distinct, and wherever you are on the spectrum, it's simply one aspect of what makes you, you.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.