Meet the introvert: commonly known for being quiet, reserved, and more reflective. They are the thinkers and the listeners, as opposed to the talkers. They barely mutter a word during a class discussion but probably take amazing notes. And on a Friday night, they are typically known to hibernate in their place of residence with a cup of tea and a good book to go with an early bedtime.

And then there’s the extrovert: they are the ones who are talkative, sociable, and have very expressive personalities. They spend the class discussion talking up a storm and chatting up their friends to find out when the next party is. Staying at home is not an option for these types of people on a typical Friday night. Whether it’s hitting up the downtown nightlife scene or a large gathering at someone’s house, they like to see and be seen and make the most out of life.

So, with that being said, the guy down the hall who always hides out in his room must be introverted, which means the person who never shuts up in class is obviously an extrovert, right?

Well, not exactly. What is typically associated with introverts and extroverts does not actively define someone’s personality type, according to psychology professors at Carleton. These two terms, which were first popularized by Carl Jung in the early 20th century are just personality traits.

The spectrum of personality

Personality types are often looked at in terms of a broad spectrum by many psychologists. John Zelenski, an associate psychology professor at Carleton, did research on differing personality types in Carleton’s Happiness Laboratory last year.

“These days we think of it as a dimension from introversion to extroversion,” he said.

“So rather than there being two kinds of people, we tend to think of it as a dimension of difference. Some people are in the middle and others are more extreme on the dimension,” he said.

But what happens when these roles get reversed?

On a typical Friday night, someone who is known for talking the most in class may prefer to stay at home to watch a movie and go to bed early.

On the other hand, the quietest person in the class who barely mutters a word may prefer to go out to a bar and come home at 3 a.m. At first glance, these two people couldn’t be more different from each other. But what about those of us who prefer an “in-between” kind of Friday night?

Zelenski said there are common societal misconceptions about both personality types.Introvert

For instance, he said many people associate extraversion with leadership, because an extrovert is seen as possessing an outgoing, commanding presence. They are thought to be be easily approachable, he said.

Whether it be in the classroom, the workplace, or within our social lives, he said the outgoing, sociable types are what people tend to gravitate towards in terms of someone who is a good leader and who can get along with others.But that’s not to say that extreme introverts can’t be sucessful at all. Just because they prefer a more quiet and reserved way of life doesn’t mean they are held back from leadership positions.

While they may not be on the forefront of the social scene, the fact that they listen well and spend more time thinking than their extroverted counterparts can actually make them fantastic leaders in life.

In fact, even the most reserved of introverts do enjoy personal and professional successes.

“Perhaps we undervalue the quiet thoughtful people who are thinking carefully about their work,” Zelenski said.

In addition, the assertive, outgoing people we see as extroverts may be seen as too assertive and intimidating, Zelenski said.

“Extroverts can also be too pushy and overbearing and loud and obnoxious,” he explained.

BrainRegardless of where a person may lie on the broad “spectrum” of personality, certain actions do not define them as being on one end or the other. So even the biggest social butterfly may appreciate a night in and the quietest of introverts may actually enjoy a night out, Zelenski said.

He added that no matter how extreme a person may be in terms of the dimension of personality types, they both may have the ability to turn on opposite traits that may be required at certain events, such as a job interview or a date, where being too reserved may not be a good thing and would not work in an introvert’s favour.

Likewise, extroverts, despite their engaging, outgoing personalities, may need to become more reserved at certain events where talking too much is not seen as a good thing, such as a library or a funeral.

“Even the most raging extrovert can usually sit quietly in a lecture hall when they have to,” Zelenski said.

The ambivert

Glen Howell is a PhD candidate in the psychology department at Carleton who researches ways of measuring personality that are different from what would be considered standard.

“Introversion and extroversion are usually seen as a whole dimension,” he said.

“So people can vary from being an ambivert where you’re in the middle of the distribution, or if you’re on either extreme you’re considered an extrovert or an introvert,” he explained.

Stick Figure 3The ambivert, as Howell mentioned, sits nicely in the middle of the great dimension of personality types.These people are a mix of traits from both introverts and extroverts. They may like to stay in on weekends but they may be fantastic conversationalists in the classroom or the workplace. Or they may seem like your typical extrovert who has a more reserved side to them.Different personality types may seem a whole world away from each other, but they aren’t as vastly different as they might appear, he said.

“I think people form stereotypes about a lot of things all the time, and whenever you see an example of a behavior or some kind of attribute that’s very central to a stereotype all of a sudden some kind of attribute will come to mind,” Howell said.

Timothy Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton, said personality types are really just generalizations in a lot of ways.

“The way we experience people is a blend of traits,” he said. He also added that people seem to want to generalise it to one major trait.

“Most of us are ambiverts,” Pychyl said. “We can act out of character when necessary — it all depends on the situation.”