Introverts are content spending time on their own, while extroverts like to spend time with people. Both types mean differing forms of “happiness.”
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In the study, “On the Nature of Extraversion,” there is a biological account given on why some researchers believe extroverts are, on the whole, a “happier” bunch than introverts. According to the study, it’s related to the reward centers in the brain and the amount of the chemical dopamine it takes for extroverts and introverts alike to feel stimulated.
Published in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the study concluded that extroverts are much more likely to relate the dopamine with their surroundings. Introverts, on the other hand, have a completely different way in how they process rewards from their environments. The brains of introverts give greater importance to more, unsurprisingly, internal cues. Thus, external reward cues do little to nothing to affect the brain state of introverts.
What is Happiness?
As Susan Cain, acclaimed writer of the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” noted in the online journal Psychology Today, that extroverts being deemed happier than introverts is itself an odd thing to say when we consider that the word “happiness” can mean a myriad of different things.
“As a person with a pretty high baseline level of happiness, I always scratch my head about these findings,” Cain said. “And then I start thinking about how we define happiness. Is it joy, exultation, and a wide smile, or does it have many different expressions?”
Indeed, it seems somewhat a dubious assumption that pleasure gained by dopamine is the fundamental definition of happiness. At best, the study’s presuppositions seem a little naive when it is taken into account that happiness is a wildly abstract concept that’s been in discussion around philosophic circles for literally thousands of years. Thus, if one were to measure happiness based on positive responsiveness to external stimuli, is it really that much of a surprise that extroverts should come out on top?
The Extrovert Bias
Western society much prefers the doer to the reflector. This is something that can be seen reflected through the myriad number of ads, TV shows, films, and songs that continually promote extraverted ideals.
As Cain further noted in a BBC News article, “Whether it is job adverts using words such as ‘upbeat, people person and team players,’ practices like open-plan offices or brainstorming, the overall ability to put yourself out there is the great value of the age.”
Rejuvenated movements highlighting the importance for group work have infected schools and offices throughout the West. Though it seems fairly obvious that communication skills are of paramount importance, it also seems clearly the case that some people work best alone. In fact, one can venture to guess what would have become of people such as Stanley Kubrick, J.D. Salinger, or Ralph Waldo Emerson had they been busy constantly spending time with others.
Nonetheless, this bias remains. And so long as it does, it could go a long way to explaining the negative societal factors that plague introverts. This, in turn, might have an effect on their levels of happiness.
The Nature of Extroversion and Introversion
As Carl Jung, the man responsible for the terms introverted and extroverted, noted, introversion is an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents” while extraversion is “an attitude type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object.”
Because of this, extroverts are less likely to acknowledge their psychological problems as easily as introverts. Introverts, spending most of their energy on their inner-worlds, seem to be more fully aware of the chaos going on inside of them. This could be yet another reason as to why introverts might be perceived as less happy than extroverts.
In the end, it isn’t clear whether or not extroverts truly are a happier breed than introverts. However, the study does indeed spark many reflective thoughts on the nature of these two attitudes to life and their various advantages and disadvantages.
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