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The Science Behind Introverts and Extroverts: How Biology Plays a Role

We’ve all heard the terms introvert and extrovert, but do we really know what makes each group unique?

Which is better, to be introverted or extroverted?

Neither introverts nor extroverts are better or worse than the other. They’re just different. And both have their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

What Makes People Extroverts?

Extroversion is a personality trait characterized by a focus on the outside world and a high activity level.

Extroverted people tend to be outgoing, talkative, and energetic. They enjoy being around people and often seek out social situations.

Key Characteristics of Extroverts

  • Enjoy being the life of the party and being surrounded by people.
  • Prefer group activities and opportunities to make new friends.
  • Don’t mind loud noises and being in the thick of things.
  • Need stimulation from their surroundings.

What Makes People Introverts?

There are a few factors that can make someone introverted.

One is genetics. If your parents were introverts, chances are you’re introverted, too.

Key Characteristics of Introverts

  • They feel comfortable being alone. 
  • Can enjoy groups but need time alone to recharge. 
  • Are better suited to activities with a few friends. 
  • Prefer deep focus to think through problems and solutions. 

A Closer Look at the Science Behind Extroverts & Introverts

Dopamine and acetylcholine are two important neurotransmitters in the brain.

Dopamine is involved in pleasure, motivation, and learning, while acetylcholine is involved in memory, attention, and sleep. 

  • Dopamine and Extroverts

So, where does extroversion come from?

One scientific explanation involves the activity level in the brain’s dopamine network.

Dopamine is often called the “reward molecule.” It’s released in the brain in response to seeking external rewards like food, earning money, getting picked for a prestigious project, or interacting in social situations. 

Dopamine levels are the same for both introverts and extroverts.

However, the dopamine network is more active in extroverts’ brains than in introverts, which may explain why extroverts are more outgoing and enjoy social situations more. 

Dopamine is also involved in the brain’s pleasure and reward systems, so people with higher levels of dopamine activity may be more likely to seek out novel and exciting experiences.

  • Acetylcholine and Introverts

Introverts have higher levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

This chemical is linked to attention and focus, which may be why introverts might seem shy or aloof – they’re taking everything in. 

Acetylcholine is involved in the parasympathetic side of our nervous system, which regulates the body’s “rest and digest” function.

Introverts tend to engage this side of the nervous system more, so they value rest and are more likely to be contemplative. 

Finally, introverts tend to have higher levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex

This is the part of the brain responsible for planning and decision-making, and Introverts often think through multiple scenarios and outcomes.

Extroverts, Introverts, and their Superpowers

It’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong personality type.

We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and something special to offer.

Strengths of Extroverts

  • Good at Socializing: Extroverts are less inhibited and more outgoing.
  • Good at Multitasking: Extroverts can juggle multiple tasks efficiently because they feel more stimulated when they work on many things simultaneously. 
  • Great at Networking: Extroverts are fine meeting new people.
  • Confident: Extroverts are more comfortable being in the spotlight.

Strengths of Introverts

  • Good at Concentrating: Introverts can tune out distractions and are great at tasks that require deep focus and attention to detail.
  • Attentive Listeners: Introverts pay close attention to who and what’s happening around them.
  • Great at Solving Problems: Introverts play out scenarios in their heads so that they can consider multiple good courses of action.
  • Creative: Introverts possess highly active imaginations and often develop innovative solutions.

No one is 100% an extrovert or 100% an introvert. We lean more towards one way or the other. But the fact that we’re not all the same is worth celebrating!

And we should appreciate people who think differently – and have different brain chemistry – than we do.

If you’re an extrovert, we hope you can see the beauty in how introverts think and behave. And if you’re an introvert, now you have a deeper insight into why you are the way you are.

Together we can all use our extroverted and introverted superpowers to our advantage.

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