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How Does Being an Introvert or an Extrovert Affect a Person’s Career

Introversion and extroversion are arguably very interesting concepts.  One question that has been asked about these two concepts, is how it affects one’s career.

Diving into its history, the terms were popularized by Carl Jung in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, their meanings have been distorted as time passed. In fact, it has got to a point where people categorise themselves an others into either camp with no shades of grey.

So, if people analysed themselves, they would never be on either spectrum of the scale. It’d be much more likely that they would land somewhere in the middle.

There are a few theories about the differences between introverts and extroverts, and some recent research has even shown that our genetic makeup has a lot to do with which tendencies are strongest in each of us. And unlike my theory about how outgoing or shy we are, introversion and extroversion actually relate to where we get our energy from.

Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.

Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.

In the ’60s, psychologist Hans Eysenck proposed that the difference between introverts and extroverts was that they simply had different levels of arousal–meaning the extent to which our minds and bodies are alert and responsive to stimulation.

Hans’s theory was that extroverts have a lower basic rate of arousal. This means that extroverts need to work harder to arouse their minds and bodies to the same ‘normal’ state that introverts might reach quite easily. This leads extroverts (or extroverted people, though they might not be quite on the extreme end of the scale) to seek novelty and adventure, and to crave the company of others.

For introverts, this kind of stimulation can be overwhelming, since their rate of arousal is much higher, so they are stimulated easily. Time alone, one-on-one conversations and predictable situations are more likely to be pleasant for introverts who are more sensitive to external stimulation.

This becomes especially interesting if we look at any other of the most common elements of body language and how introverts and extroverts might perceive behaviors differently.

On the same note, while exercising makes you happier in general, for an introvert to do a group sport, this might not lead to happiness in the same way it does for an extrovert.

Research has actually found that there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people in terms of how we process rewards and how our genetic makeup differs. For extroverts, their brains respond more strongly when a gamble pays off. Part of this is simply genetic, but it’s partly the difference of their dopamine systems as well.

An experiment that had people take gambles while in a brain scanner found the following:

When the gambles they took paid off, the more extroverted group showed a stronger response in two crucial brain regions: the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens.

The nucleus accumbens is part of the dopamine system, which affects how we learn, and is generally known for motivating us to search for rewards. The difference in the dopamine system in the extrovert’s brain tends to push them towards seeking out novelty, taking risks, and enjoying unfamiliar or surprising situations more than others. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotional stimuli, which gives extroverts that rush of excitement when they try something highly stimulating that might overwhelm an introvert.

More research has actually shown that the difference comes from how introverts and extroverts process stimuli. That is, the stimulation coming into our brains is processed differently depending on your personality. For extroverts, the pathway is much shorter. It runs through an area where taste, touch, and visual and auditory sensory processing takes place. For introverts, stimuli run through a long, complicated pathway in areas of the brain associated with remembering, planning, and solving problems.

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