If you spend any time at all on Facebook, you can’t help but come across personality tests that often base their results on whether the test taker is an introvert or an extrovert, and tend to pigeonhole people into these categories based on a few stereotypical qualities.
Introverts are assumed to be shy, quiet and into books and art, whereas extroverts are thought of as sociable, dramatic and the life of the party. But is there any real science behind this? Are some of us actually wired to be outgoing and to thrive in big groups while others prefer to be alone, curled up with a good book on a Saturday night?
First, introverts have a thicker pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain that helps to manage problem-solving, decision-making and planning. This might explain why introverts tend to be more risk-averse than extroverts, and why they might be less outspoken. Unlike an extrovert who might say whatever is on their mind (a.k.a., they have “no filter”), an introvert is more likely to carefully weigh their opinion and consider the possible outcome of their statement.
Second, extroverts have been shown to have a stronger dopamine reward system. The brain releases dopamine, a chemical which gives us a natural high. Research shows, for example, that extroverts experience higher levels of dopamine than introverts do when looking at pictures of loved ones.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that introverts don’t love their family or friends. It just might mean that they prefer to socialize in smaller groups of people.
And, for those of you who have never felt like you fit squarely into either category, extrovert or introvert, it turns out there’s a third group: ambiverts, people who are equally extroverted and introverted.
These lucky ducks get the best of both worlds. They are social but able to enjoy time alone. They are thoughtful and good planners, but they aren’t afraid to be spontaneous and jump out of a plane. (Well, they may not all be quite that bold or impulsive!)
To learn more, check out the full video from AsapSCIENCE: