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A term used to characterize people who are typically outgoing, friendly, and open toward others.

Extroverts are people who are often leaders, work well in groups, and prefer being with others to being alone. Other personality traits often associated with extroversion include optimism, risk taking, and love of excitement and change. People who are extroverts prefer having company and tend to have many friends.

Extroversion is generally defined in comparison to its opposite, introversion, which is used to describe people who are quieter, more reserved and sensitive, and more comfortable in solitary pursuits. The two tendencies can be regarded as opposite ends of a continuum, with most people falling somewhere in between. Nevertheless, many people have traits that clearly place them closer to one end than to the other. Both extroversion and introversion in some people are thought to be the result of inborn tendencies—called temperament—that are shaped by environmental factors. The psychologist Hans Eysenck has suggested that the temperamental foundation involves the ease with which the cerebral cortex becomes aroused. Eysenck notes that in introverts some parts of the brain are very sensitive to arousal and are easily over-stimulated, causing them to prefer quiet surroundings and calm situations. The extrovert, on the other hand, can tolerate a higher level of cortical arousal and thus seeks out social interaction and exciting situations for stimulation.

Tendencies toward extroversion or introversion often lead people to develop and cultivate contrasting strengths, sometimes referred to in terms of contrasting types of intelligence. Extroverts more readily develop interpersonal intelligence, which has to do with making friends easily, demonstrating leadership ability, and working effectively with others in groups. In introverts the more highly developed traits are more likely to be those associated with intrapersonal intelligence, such as the deeper awareness of one's feelings and the ability to enjoy extended periods of solitude. All people have both types of intelligence, but in many people one is stronger than the other, depending on whether the person is an introvert or an extrovert.

Further Reading

Eysenck, Hans J., and Michael Eysenck. Personality and Individual Differences. New York: Plenum Press, 1985.

Campbell, Joseph, ed. The Portable [Carl] Jung. New York: Viking, 1971.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Kenneth John William Craik Biography to Jami (Mulla Nuruddin ʼAbdurrahman ibn-Ahmad Biography