Misconceptions of the Mind

By Fiona Cohen


intro-extro online photo

For years, societal misconceptions about the true definitions of the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” have caused widespread mislabeling of various behaviors and traits.  The meanings of these words have been lost behind the symptoms we associate them with, such as shyness or aggression.  Millions of people are either completely unaware or simply do not understand how they identify on this psychological spectrum.

“It’s a scale,” AP Psychology teacher Jessica Kouba said. “Typically introverts just get more reenergized or more reward out of being by themselves or more independent, whereas your extroverts tend to like being more social. They feel more reward being around people and doing things in groups.”

The identifying clue of a person’s innate introversion or extroversion is expressed in their relationships with other people.  These two polar personality traits favor opposite scenarios for social interactions. One’s preference is the other’s poison.
“I feed off of people’s energy,” said freshman and extrovert Erin Blume. “More people, more fun.”
Blume is a textbook extrovert. Like many who fall under this category, Blume’s interactions with other people increase her own energy and give her a higher sense of reward than she would find in independent activity. This ability to absorb and generate a sense of happiness from others is what makes extroverts true to their name.

“It’s based less on your behavior and more on your reaction to certain situations,” sophomore Elmira Adili said. “If you’re extroverted, you know you need to be around people to be happier. And if you’re introverted, you know to lay off the group settings to make yourself happier.”

As an extrovert, Adili has found fulfillment through competitive speech and debate. However, this form of competition is not limited to those who identify as extroverted. In fact, Adili claims that after a draining day of debate, she recharges in the company of her friends and teammates on the bus ride home more so than she does during her individual speaking contest.
“An extrovert will go find a group of people because they don’t like being lonely,” Blume said. “During Strutters, I’m really out there and really myself.  It’s easier for others to accept me as a person because I’m willing to talk and be myself.”

For an extrovert, participation in team sports is far simpler than it is for an introvert. For the individual who prefers privacy and solitude, a team can be overwhelming. While extroverts thrive in large group settings, introverts must adapt their own natural behavior to participate.
Senior Becky Nam, like many introverts, has adapted to and accepted the behaviors expected of introverts in an extroverted society.
“The reality is we’re social people, and we need one another. That’s just healthy,” Nam said.

Extroverted habits and expectations have become the societal norm because extroverts are willing to convey their opinions or beliefs more so than introverts. These standards have changed the way that introverts are commonly viewed.

“Introversion is different from shyness, though a lot of times they are mistaken for each other,” Nam said.  “Introversion is simply when a person gets their energy primarily from themselves. Shyness stems from a fear of talking with people.”

In school, students of both personalities face challenges in finding stimulating classroom environments. For the introvert who does not enjoy group assignments, an individual project may be a more ideal creative outlet. In the same way, confining an extrovert to his or her own task may be extremely limiting.

“When it comes to assignments, my extroverted students tend to enjoy group assignments and working with others and tend to be chatty when working together, whereas my introverted students are more likely to finish the assignment really quickly when we have group work and move on to do something different,” English teacher Teresa Laffin said. “I think it’s important for teachers to consider how to give introverted and extroverted students opportunities to feel comfortable.”

The Myers-Briggs personality test has helped people identify themselves along the introvert-extrovert scale. The exam is one of many ways that modern psychologists and researchers are aiming to increase equality and comprehension of introverts and extroverts. This transition is helping the collective groups of introverts and extroverts truly understand one another and relate more effectively.

“We need both in the world to have good balance,” Nam said. “Whether we’re introverted or extroverted, it’s important to be aware of one another.”