Introversion and extraversion are personality traits lying at opposite ends of a spectrum. Some people fit with one extreme or another, but many people fall somewhere in the middle. While societal expectations might make it seems like introversion is rare, it’s actually not.
Introversion & extraversion – what’s the difference?
Much of the difference between the two comes down to energy – where someone tends to focus it, and how they recharge it.
Introverts tend to focus more of their energy and interest inward, and they recharge their batteries with alone time. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need social connections. People who are introverted can feel lonely just as much as extraverted people can. The social support is still important, but it may be accessed in a different way.
Extraverts are more outwardly focused, and being around others energizes them. For extraverts, small talk may just be part and parcel of creating social connections, and they thrive off of that social energy. For introverts, on the other hand, small talk may feel like a lot of work.
Introversion isn’t social anxiety
Introversion is sometimes confused with shyness and social anxiety disorder, but they’re actually separate constructs. Social phobia doesn’t just happen to introverts; it can happen to extraverts too.
One important difference between introversion and social anxiety is that introversion can feel very comfortable if you accept that it’s the way you are, whereas there’s no comfort in social anxiety disorder.
What are the stats?
PositivePyschology.com cites some statistics related to introversion. A few studies have shown an approximately 50:50 split between introverts and extraverts. A 2014 study of over 3000 people used a 5-point scale to represent the introvert-extravert spectrum. A small percentage of respondents identified as highly extraverted or highly introverted, and most fell somewhere in the middle, as shown below.
|Extraverted (1)||2||3||4||Introverted (5)|
One study found a higher proportion of librarians were introverted. In another study, a small majority of lawyers were introverted, but certain areas of law, such as labour law, tended to draw more extraverts. Likely, other career areas also have a tendency to draw more of one or the other.
Overall, though, it looks like introversion is very common, but we live in a society that, at least for the most part, expects extraverted behaviour.
A mismatch to social expectations
I think that a mismatch between personality and expected behaviour can cause a lot of dissonance in people who are quite introverted. The external pressure to be social fights with the inner drive to have alone time, and somehow a behavioural compromise must be found.
Social pressure to perform as expected can be pretty strong, so there are probably a lot of introverts roaming around in the world behaving as though they’re extraverts. While this makes the extraverted people satisfied, other introverts may feel like they’re in the minority, because everyone else appears to be extraverted.
I think it would be nice if we shifted towards a more balanced social model, where it’s acceptable to behave in ways consistent with extraversion or introversion. It would be nice for it to be socially acceptable to decline invitations to certain types of gatherings. Why should extraverts get all the social rule-making powers when there are just as many introverts?
The power of acceptance
Given that introversion is quite common, if introversion feels uncomfortable, it’s not because you’re different from everyone else. There are a lot of people who are in the same boat, at least some of the time. Maybe the way around the discomfort is acceptance of your introversion. Your preferred way of socializing is just as valid as anyone else’s, and just because you feel like people expect you to conform to expectations of extraversion doesn’t mean you have to do so.
Personally, I embrace my introversion. The older I’ve gotten, the less inclined I am to pretend otherwise. And small talk? No thank you. Give me guinea pigs over humans any day.
The Psychology Corner has an overview of terms covered in the What Is… series, along with a collection of scientifically validated psychological tests.
31 thoughts on “How Common Is Introversion?”
First I was an introvert, then I really enjoyed company and many extroverted things to do. Since living on my own I became more introvert, enjoying all the me-time and me-space. Since falling ill I suffer from too much alone-time. But the advice given to me is most frequently to ‘go out’, to ‘move’ and so on. I don’t feel comfortable doing that. It’s a very thin line than can change over time. I would love not te be ‘expected’ to do all those ‘extraverted’ things no matter how I feel.
Yes it would be nice if people would just drop the expectations altogether.
Those are my thoughts put into words for every time i have to be somewhere i absolutely do not want to be. It is very difficult to explain the whole idea of being around too many people as draining rather than charging when it is always portrayed otherwise.
Yean it would be nice if people were more open to the idea that not everyone feels the same way.
I have mingled a bit more than I used to with people or friends, but I still like my own time and space a lot.
I make sure I get my own time, otherwise I will really be craving it and feeling really tired and possibly grustrated if I don’t.
I have to have me time, to re-charge.
Finding that balance is so important.
Yes, it is very important.
My father suppressed my personality my therapist informed me.
For 50 plus years I was an introvert until I improved then an extrovert popped out
He may have suppressed, but it’s great that the inner you was still there waiting to connect.
All of our inner selfs are always there waiting on us
Not many truly find who is below all the noise
I loved that photo too! Hilarious! I have no complaints as far as being an introvert. As far as I’m concerned, I hold the keys to deciding whether or not I want to be a part of a gathering. I never allow someone to make those decisions for me or guilt me into doing something I would feel uncomfortable doing.
Excelletn post, Ashley! 🤗
Good for you for taking charge!
This is a great post. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as introverted, I think I am often extroverted but sometimes I want to recharge on my own. You do well to give credit and understand those who have to work hard at being extroverted. They do it, but it is draining at times. I’ve become a lot more aware of this as I’ve gotten older, too.
Yes it seems to be a common theme that this becomes clearer with age.
Great post fellow introvert 😁✌
I’ve always believed I ran down the middle though as with age, I identify more as an introvert. Enjoyed the post.
Funny how that happens…
Thank you for this! I’m not sure when it happened but I’m definitely more introverted than I used to be. I’ve always been happy in my own company but also had days where I felt like I had to be with people and that rarely happens now.
I spent my birthday week last month with so many people and it took such a long time to recover afterwards. I always wonder how people can be around others for so long.
I know, right?! That sounds like an exhausting way to spend a birthday, yet there are people that love it!
I was so done by the end of it, I just wanted alone time before going back to work. Everyone looks at me weird when I say I enjoy night shifts but I get to work alone and don’t have to interact with too many people, it’s perfect for me!
Yup, me too,
Hmmm. So interesting. It makes me wonder if introversion and extroversion is a product of our evolution as a species, or if these traits have been ingrained in us from the beginning. I’m not sure why this question is even in my stream of consciousness. Maybe because I recently listened to a podcast that explored how differently we might move through life without language (words with assigned meanings). Love your insight, Ashley, and I’m enjoying reading others’ thoughts.
That’s a very interesting idea. It makes sense that diversity would have been useful in promoting survival overall.
Yes, good point.
This is such a great, refreshing post! I’ve definitely been one of the introverts to act like an extrovert. Thanks for the reminder to embrace who I am!
We are all different, that’s the beauty of it .
I’m in the middle too. I used to be much more extrovert but getting bullied and people who hurt me made me realize that being alone can be so peaceful. I don’t have to fake anything and can just be myself. I also love to be around good people such as my friends ❤️
Sounds like you’ve found a good balance.