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Brain Science of Is and Es

Posted August 25, 2016 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

It wasn’t at all surprising to learn that I was considered an extrovert when I took the Myers-Briggs in college. I’ve always loved to be with people and to go to social activities. But it wasn’t until I took a class on Myers-Briggs that I learned that being an introvert or extrovert is more than just liking people and being social.

The way I describe introversion versus extroversion to people is by asking “where do you get your energy from?”

Extroverts get their energy from other people. That’s because in social settings an extrovert’s brain is stimulated with dopamine. Their brains view social interaction as a reward so they seek opportunities for that reward. Extroverts have a more active dopamine-reward network than introverts – meaning extroverts need more dopamine to feel pleasure.

An introvert feels overwhelmed, in addition to excitement, when their brain is flooded with dopamine. They feel overstimulated. Introverts are also more responsive to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which makes us feel good when we turn inward. Acetylcholine powers our abilities to think deeply, reflect, and focus intensely on just one thing for a long period of time.

Introverts thrive when they are operating in parasympathetic mode. In this mode our body is calm, muscles relax, energy is stored and our heart rate slows. This is one of the reasons that introverts crave alone time – they desire to engage in quiet, thoughtful activities. Image Credit

When extroverts are not in their preferred environment they can experience fatigue, inability to concentrate, increased anxiety, and depression.

No one is a full introvert or extrovert. “Ambiversion” is the middle area and it’s where the most people fall on the spectrum.

Where do you fall on the introvert – extrovert spectrum?

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#1

Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/25/2016 11:22 AM

Where do you fall on the introvert – extrovert spectrum?

Introvert...now go away and leave me alone!

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#2

Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/25/2016 1:18 PM

...another social I before E (wink,wink)!

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#3

Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/25/2016 4:22 PM

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, points out that some characteristics of introversion and extroversion aren't exactly on a continuum. I highly recommend it not just for introverts who want, finally, to be able to say "this person really GETS me" but also for extroverts who want to understand what introverts are good at. I was typed as Myers-Briggs INTJ 25 years ago (there aren't many of us, by the way), but that didn't help me understand anything about my type.

The brain chemical connection is interesting! I'd not seen that before. Does this mean that if an introvert took a dose of dopamine, s/he would turn extrovert until the effect wore off?

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#5
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Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/26/2016 12:09 AM

I've seen that 'There aren't many of us INTJs out there' before.

Being one myself I looked it up. And actually a bunch of the 16 personality types can make the same claim. Some are even less common than INTJs.

http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/my-mbti-results/how-frequent-is-my-type.htm

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#6
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Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/26/2016 8:26 AM

Wow, INFJ at 1% ... still, 2% for INTJ is pretty low.

I found out my type because I participated in a research project that, in part, looked at MBTI types of librarians (which is what I am, even though I don't work in a library any more). Something like 35% of librarians were INTJs, with, if memory serves, another 30% ISTJs. Yes, many librarians are introverts, but that doesn't necessarily equate to timid wallflowers. Trust me on that one.

I'm sure there's research on other professions to see what the preponderant MBTI types are. I've seen career suggestions based on MBTI type but haven't looked for research that might bear out the recommendations. If anyone can supply such data, I imagine Bayes could be persuaded to make one of his charts .

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#4

Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/25/2016 8:33 PM

I would be willing to bet 3 GOOZ cards (that I don't have - so don't call my bluff!), or 5 quatloos, that the STEM people are predominantly toward the Introvert side. While people in the entertainment arena are predominantly toward the Extrovert side.

I wonder if there is a breakdown by profession somewhere? Maybe something Bayes could put together?

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#7
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Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

08/27/2016 8:57 PM

You might be right about introverts comprising more in STEM.

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On the entertainment side, I'm not sure the correlation with extroverts would be as strong. Many actors, when not in character, are reserved, removed, quiet and even shy sometimes. The early impulses toward being on stage are not uncommonly counterproductive.

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A group that probably is comprised largely of extroverts could be sales. Salespeople do seem to often be extroverts. I only have anecdotal evidence. Just speaking from life experience here (Lyn).

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#8
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Re: Brain Science of Is and Es

11/14/2016 3:49 PM

"On the entertainment side, I'm not sure the correlation with extroverts would be as strong. Many actors, when not in character, are reserved, removed, quiet and even shy sometimes. The early impulses toward being on stage are not uncommonly counterproductive."

There seems to be a spectrum in the entertainment industry, from the John Balushis and Chris Farleys who need to be in crowds all the time and are constantly 'on,' all the way to the Harold Ramises and Bill Murrays, who are quiet and reserved when not in character. I have no clue how to rate Peter Sellers, since he was never seen in person; it was always one of his characters that you interacted with, on or off set.

I also do some entertaining, mainly as part of the 'variety show' held every year at this sci-fi convention I go to. While I prefer quiet thoughtfulness for the most part, when I am on that stage, performing a skit or song, I'm soaking up the limelight and the applause. On a good day, I can get up to 750 miliBlesseds(1) in the Variety Show.

Notes:

  1. 1,000 miliBlesseds = as hammy as Brian Blessed(2)(3)(4)
  2. Wikipedia article here.
  3. TV Tropes article here.
  4. TV Tropes article for the hearing impaired here.(5)
  5. And now you know why he is considered the reference standard for hamminess.
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