I have been thinking I was an extrovert for 26 years. Partially because I have always been receiving signals from everywhere and everyone telling me “introverts are worse than extroverts”. It took me a while to figure out the difference and start valuing introverts as much as extroverts. In other words, introverts are no better or worse – they are different.
As we all know (I assume), extroverts are the ones who are always bubbly, surrounded by million of friends and feel guilty if stay at home and do “nothing” for too long. Introverts on other hand are often seen as anti-social, self absorbed and … weird. Extroverts are loved by everyone and noticeable everywhere, they are loud and fun and everyone wants to be with them. Introverts are quite, don’t have many friends and no one really notice them. Extroverts become successful business people (do they?), managers and leaders whereas introverts work in the library or get involved in some boring science activities. Extroverts are always happy and introverts are always depressed. Extroverts are always stressed and introverts are always mellow. Or are they?
In fact it is not entirely true! Although introverts are often seen as shy, reserved and typically self-centered individuals they are simply thinkers. Introverts have an aptitude for developing ideas, undertaking strategic planning and endeavoring to understand and rationalise concepts which makes great scientists and writers. Great! However WHY introverts appear so “anti-social”, quite and selfish?
Believe it or not but introverts are the way they are because of their brain. They have different to extroverts wiring in their brain.
Let me explain! Positron emission tomography (PET) scan is used to look at how our bodies use substances such as glucose, ammonia, water and oxygen. We need to observe it to see how and where molecules move through your body, and where they are being used. Computer analysis the data and produces a picture of what is happening in the body, anywhere including brain. It is often used to find potential diseases or damages; however can also help us understand different personalities.
Inside The Introverts & Extroverts:
1. BLOOD FLOW
One of the studies used PET to observe the blood flow in the brain of an extrovert and an introvert while both of them were resting. Amazingly, introverts’ blood flow is richer than extroverts even when they are resting. However this stronger blood flow is connected to the part of the brain responsible for problem solving and planning. Why is it important? Well, more blood floor causes more stimulation therefore while an introvert is resting he / she is still very active but inside / intro the brain 🙂
Now, extroverts blood flow is targeting sensory part of the brain traveling on a straight “highway”. Therefore while introverts were drowned in their thinking extroverts were actively analysing what was happening in the environment around them. Don’t get me wrong, their blood flow is not wrong, just different.
I will try to be as simple as possible to explain the following idea. It involves chemical called dopamine. In plain language it is a signal transmitter in the brain which is also very important for movement, attention, alert states, learning and reward-motivated behavior. Dopamine is crucial for human beings but too much of it causes hallucinations and paranoia, and too little causes depression, lethargy and misery.
Now, this “right” amount of dopamine is different for an introvert and an extrovert. Introverts are highly sensitive to it and don’t need too much stimulation to get over-excited and anxious whereas extroverts crave more of it to simply feel well. Introverts rely on a different chemical – acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter in both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS) in many organisms including us, human beings. Introverts’ brain does not like dopamine much (because it can easily over-excite) hence prefers to use acetylcholine. It is a different chemical but it is available in everyone’s brain, it is simply one of many other transmitters. Extroverts’ brain simply does not like it as much as introverts’ one does.
3. TRANSMITTING HIGHWAYS
Another reason why introverts and extroverts are so different from one another is relatively hard to understand if you are not an introvert (kidding). According to “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney [as many authors I’ve read recommended to reference], the pathway which is a highway for chemicals or a transmitter for the stimulus is different in extroverts and introverts’ brains.
Amygdala is the emotional center in our brain.Whatever we feel we need to be transmitted to amygdala for further analysis. Brain receives the data and simply makes sense of it. However, we now know that different brain does it differently 🙂
Basically introverts rely on different chemicals in the brain rather than extroverts as well as different sizes pathway. Different chemicals affect different nervous systems. Therefore an introvert and an extrovert are almost different type of humans.
This is why introverts need to take breaks from people to re-charge while extroverts are re-charging while (& by) interacting with others. Now, imagine an introvert hanging out with an extrovert!? It will most likely be draining for one and puzzling for the other. This sentence explains it better than I can paraphrase it:
“… after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating” [Source: “The Rise of the Introvert”]
If you are still embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you are an introvert, don’t be. Be proud of being different no matter whether you are inverted or extroverted 🙂 See more: “introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated“
Want to discuss or add regarding the topic please feel free to contact me! 🙂 I have also realised that the topic is way to big for just one post and will need further research. Feel free to join in!
1. Are we only one or another (introverts or extroverts)?
2. Which sex is more introverted: men and women?
3. At what stage our brain decides to go either way (conceiving an extrovert or an introvert)? Is it interchangeable or we are stuck with one forever?
4. Why introverts are less popular? Are they?
5. Living with an introvert / extrovert.