Introverts may be gaining skills, saving time

Oftentimes when people hear the word extrovert, the words "sociable" and "gregarious" come to mind, while the word introvert would conjure the image of a socially awkward loner who sits slack-jawed in an all-engrossing, single-person activity.

These images are stereotypes, and in modern society, introverts may oftentimes feel maligned and deficient. So what exactly is introversion and extroversion?

According to Psychology Today, an example of an introvert's experience at a crowded cocktail party could be described as a holding cell.

"Introverts tend to be drained by social encounters and energized by solidarity, often creative pursuits," the website states.

Psychology Today explains that introverts are more likely to be empathetic and interpersonally connected than extroverts. Furthermore, extroverts make up three-quarters of the American population, and extroversion is an intrinsic personality factor.

"It is not that introverts don't like people, they do like people," says Professor Lisa Farwell, head of the psychology department at Santa Monica College. "It is not a question of liking or not liking."

Recalling an experiment named "The Lemon Drop" study, a drop of lemon extract was placed on the tongues of people who, on psychological tests, had identified themselves as being either introverted or extroverted. The study found that introverted people tend to salivate more after the drop of lemon extract was placed on their tongues.

"It isn't just other people that introverts and extroverts are reacting toward, but also stimulation and the environment," says Farwell.

Farwell says there seem to be biological differences that become apparent in people's behavior. For example, when introverts are performing a task, they are more likely to turn the noise down lower, rather than have a noisy environment.

Rosy Garcia, an international relations major at Santa Monica College, considers herself an extrovert and has a brother who she says is an introvert.

"You know some introverts may be seen as arrogant or something, but it is really a difference in how they interact," says Garcia. "You can't just expect somebody to just talk. Being an introvert doesn't mean you never want to talk to people. It just means that you want time to yourself."

"Introverts may like to go to the party, but they just want to leave early," Farwell says. "Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to be less sensitive to stimulation, and so they are more likely to seek stimulation of a variety of kinds, including socialization with other people."

Farwell maintains that introversion and extroversion are not two sides of a coin, but two poles at opposite ends of a continuum. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, and thus many of us exhibit both introverted and extroverted traits.

"Our behavior can be very variable, depending on our mood, or our environment," says Farwell. "Some people are more predictable in how they behave because they tend to veer in one direction [of the continuum] more than the other."

In an interview featured on The Guardian, Susan Cain, bestselling author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking," asserts that society has a cultural bias towards extroverts, accusing the education system to be geared against introversion.

Farwell feels that American society tend to focus on extroverts, and our current ideal person is an extroverted one. As a result, our school system tend to encourage extroverted qualities which might not suit the needs of an introverted student.

"A lot of schools focus a great deal on group work, which may be helpful for some things," says Farwell.

Farwell adds there is research that shows when students study in groups, they are not as effective at studying because they get more distracted by each other, and don't get as much studying done. Thus students who spend more time studying alone, actually benefit from it.

Lyan WongComment