The phone rings…and even if it’s someone you care about who doesn’t generally annoy you, still you send it straight to your voice mail. To most people, this would be offensive and rude but to the introvert this is normal. You see, the introvert views the phone ringing as if someone jumped out and scared them like one of those cheesy haunted house ghouls in green makeup and fake blood. They will call you back but it will be when they are ready on their own comfort level.

If you think you know an introvert from an extrovert however, guess again. It is not necessarily the solitary person on their lunch break away from the crowd playing on their tablet. It is largely based on brain function and energy that you receive from certain stimuli.

“Spotting the introvert can be harder than finding Waldo,” says author Sophia Dembling (The Introverts Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World). “A lot of introverts can pass as extroverts.”

Noted psychologist Carl Jung coined the terms “introverted” and “extroverted.” His studies revealed that extroverts were energized by social interactions while introverts needed time to “recover” from similar stimulus. Jung described extroverts as outgoing, outspoken and energetic while introverts were more quiet, reserved, and withdrawn.

Even Jung knew that people were rarely classified as one or the other. “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert,” he said. “Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Rather, he described a type of continuum where they flowed between both categories. There is even a word scientists coined for this type of personality- “ambivert.”

Recently, researchers have found the difference between the two is in the brain’s cortical arousal center – the speed and amount of information the brain processes. Introverted people have high cortical arousal and process more information per second. This also means if you put them in a place with a lot of stimulation, they become over stimulated, overwhelmed and withdrawn. Introverts despise social mixers. They are always looking for the exits at crowded parties.

Extroverts, on the other hand are more hard-wired for the brain’s reward system. They are actively seeking out stimulating events and gatherings which feed the pleasure centers of their brains.

Scientists even found introverts had more blood flow to the frontal lobe which is involved in decision making while extroverts had more flow to the temporal lobes which interprets sensory stimulation. Jung described this many years ago as introverts tend to turn inwards while extroverts look outward.

So, are you an introvert? Do you dislike small talk and mingling, feel alone in a crowd, sit on the end of the bench instead of the middle, have a constant inner monologue, have low blood pressure and notice things other people miss?

Or are you an extrovert? Do you go to parties looking to meet new people, are you in a relationship with an introvert, say things out loud that you wish you didn’t, love audience participation, and have never been told to “come out of your shell?”

If you are like most people, you are a little of both and you should celebrate the unique person you are!

We’ve got your back.
Dr. K.