Nowadays the introversion’s subject became popular more than ever before. Introvert people that previously were seen as boring and shy became now considered as smart and creative. But, is it really the case? Are introverts smarter than extroverts? Is there real differences between them on a scientific level?
First, what should be known is that there isn’t “two types” as you may think, it is actually a spectrum of introversion (or extroversion, call it as you like), and each one of us is introvert (or extrovert) at a certain level. And the other surprising thing, is that we can be introvert and extrovert at the same time. I am sure you knew it deep inside, you just though it’s not a real thing. And yes, that’s why some people don’t really know how to define themselves. But we will talk about that later in this article.
There is a scientific explanation and difference between introverts and extroverts, it’s neuroscientific to be more precise. Some studies have shown that the brain of those two categories doesn’t react the same way toward situations and the regions stimulated aren’t the same.
On his book “Dimensions of Personality”, the psychologist Hans Eysenck said that extroverts tend to have a lower level of cortical arousal than introverts, leading to the fact introverts seek lower levels of stimulation. This explains why extroverts get energy from the interaction with what is surrounding (people and the external world), while introverts are drained by those interactions, get their energy within themselves and usually retreat to recharge their batteries.
Between introverts and extroverts, brain activation and responds are different too, due to dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter controlling brain’s reward and pleasure system
Also, the gray matter’s thickness in the prefrontal cortex is different (brain region linked to abstract thoughts and decision making): introverts have more gray matter, and this explains the fact that extroverts take risks more while introverts overthink before doing.
Studies suggest that this dimension of personality is related to the neural responses of the brain to social stimuli, but it has no relation with the smartness level. So that, the difference on the brain’s functioning and characteristics related to introversion doesn’t mean that someone is smarter than another just based on this criteria, this only means that we react differently.
There is no other personal traits linked to introverts and extroverts as we were always told
An introvert isn’t specifically someone shy and an extrovert isn’t always a charismatic person. That misconception exists even in the dictionary, which should be very offensive to all of us: in English, according to the Oxford dictionary, an introvert is “a shy, reticent person” and an extrovert “an outgoing, socially confident person”. I felt really amused and desolated at the same time when reading that, after checking two scientific papers about the neuroscientific differences between introversion and extroversion.
Now that we understand more the context and the functioning (and the linguistic misconception too haha), we can go further in our reasoning, by talking about the spectrum of introversion and extroversion (I will call it the I&E spectrum next time to be short). So, it’s not black and white, we can be more extrovert and little introvert and vice versa. Each one is different and we are all partitioned according to that huge I&E spectrum.
But, there is actually another category that exists, and this one is kind of special: there is some people that constantly jump from being introvert to extrovert: they can be introvert for two days then need a huge social connection for the next day. They can love partying and reading a paper book quietly at home at the same time. They feel the need to be alone but to connect with people all the time. And studies have shown that, those people tend to be smart and creative. It’s difficult to say how and why today, since neuroscience is very complex and there is a need of many other researches on the subject to bring the light on this. But what’s sure, if next time you don’t know which category you belong to, don’t freak out, it’s a good sign!