What makes us introverted or extroverted? Neurologists and psychologists alike have studied this question for decades. Is it in our brains? Our genes? Our upbringing? How did God make our personalities so different and why?
Known as social butterflies, extroverts are recharged by social interaction, while introverts are known for needing time alone to recharge. It’s a matter of what energizes you.
Theories abound as to how this part of your personality is expressed in your brain. But recent research has started to generate some answers. A study in 2005 by Michael Cohen of the University of Amsterdam tested subject’s reaction to gambling while they were in a brain scanner. He discovered that extroverts showed a stronger response in the part of their brain responsible for processing emotional stimuli and the part that generates rewards (the dopamine system). Those same subjects also had a gene known to increase dopamine in the brain.
So, extroverts could really be responding to an increased level of dopamine that floods their brain during higher-risk activities, which could include socially high-risk things such as attending parties and socializing with crowds. Whereas, the dopamine system (reward system) in the introverted brain is just not as responsive. Without the reward of dopamine, interacting in those ways loses its appeal for the introvert.
Of course, more studies need to be done to confirm this theory, but it does seem to make sense of the large amount of psychological data that says extroverts rate themselves as happier throughout their lifetime when compared to introverts. Please hear me on this, these results don’t mean that extroverts are actually happier. There may be other reasons they report higher happiness levels. Perhaps extroverts are more willing to be disclose their emotions in a survey or they may define happiness in a different way than introverts.
I’ve discovered I have become more introverted the older I get. Is this true for everyone else? (I’d love to know your answer in the comments section). Experts agree that as we mature into our personalities, they can change, but there doesn’t seem to be an agreement as to which direction that occurs—toward extroversion or toward introversion.
One thing seems clear—our genes in part determine our personality—so God must have designed it that way. How could we say one personality trait is better than another? I believe He enjoys our diversity of personality. We are all made in God’s image and our personalities reflect parts of Him.
References: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/will-the-real-introverts-please-stand-up/, http://io9.com/the-science-behind-extroversion-and-introversion-1282059791, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130717-what-makes-someone-an-extrovert, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304279904579515702293041712
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