Extroversion is a personality trait typically characterized by outgoingness, high energy, and/or talkativeness. In general, the term refers to a state of being where someone “recharges,” or draws energy, from being with other people; the opposite—drawing energy from being alone—is known as introversion.
Extroversion was first proposed by noted psychiatrist Carl Jung in the 1920s, and extroverts are thought to make up anywhere from half to three-quarters of the American population. People who identify as extroverts tend to search for novel experiences and social connections that allow them to interact with other individuals as much as possible. Someone who is highly extroverted will likely feel bored, or even anxious, when they’re made to spend too much time alone.
Though many psychologists argue that extroversion and introversion exist on a sliding scale, and that very few people are “pure” extroverts, someone’s degree of extroversion is a core factor of their personality and is generally difficult (though not impossible) to modify. True extroverts are often considered “the life of the party,” but they can clash with more introverted types, who may find an extrovert’s energy and enthusiasm overwhelming or difficult to tolerate.
Many people are significantly more extroverted than they are introverted, or vice versa. But a large number of people may be more accurately classified as “ambiverts,” whose personalities are split relatively equally between introverted and extroverted traits.
Introverts and extroverts can form close friendships; many report that their seemingly opposing personalities actually complement each other. But misconceptions about the other’s personality—such as an extroverted friend assuming, without asking, that their more introverted friend doesn’t want to attend a party—can lead to tension if not properly addressed.
Gaining a better understanding of personality type can help an individual choose a career, manage relationships, and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. How, then, can someone tell if they’re an extrovert or if they skew toward introversion?
Many people, based on a lifetime of experiences and feedback from others, already have a good sense of which end of the introversion-extroversion spectrum they fall. But others may be unsure, especially because it’s possible to feel extroverted in some situations and introverted in others, or to fall closer to the middle of the spectrum. Online personality tests, while imperfect, may help someone determine if they’re closer to being an extrovert or an introvert.
Extroverts tend to, in general, enjoy social situations, seek out new experiences, feel comfortable in groups, and prefer a full schedule. If this sounds like you, you likely lean toward extroversion; if you're still not sure, introversion/extroversion checklists can give you more information.
Many people would like to change their personality, either by cultivating more positive traits or minimizing negative ones. Research suggests that change is possible, but it takes work. In a recent study, participants were able to improve extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability—but it required consistent effort over several months.
Extroversion has been linked to a number of potentially positive life outcomes, research shows. Those who lean toward extroversion tend to be happier, more successful, and more likely to be leaders than introverts. They may also have more sexual partners and struggle less with mental health concerns than those who are more introverted.
Does that mean, then, that it’s “better” to be extroverted? Not necessarily. Anyone who identifies strongly as an introvert or an extrovert is likely to argue that their type holds the greater advantages—but in reality, there are pros and cons to each. Recently, some researchers have proposed an “ambivert advantage,” theorizing that ambiverts—individuals who fall near the middle of the introversion-extroversion scale—may be better off overall than those at either extreme.
It depends on your definition of “better.” Extroverts are typically more successful at work than introverts—but they’re also more likely to die young or experience infidelity. Introversion is perceived as less socially desirable and introverts may struggle more with anxiety or depression—however, the trait has also been linked to intelligence and giftedness.
Some experts speculate that because introverts tend to form fewer friendships, they may be able to become closer to each friend. However, they may struggle more than extroverts to make social connections in the first place, and their need for solitude may lead them to avoid social obligations.
Introverts who deliberately act extroverted could experience increased positive emotions and feelings of connectedness to others, recent research found. However, it may also come with decreased authenticity and heightened mental fatigue.