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Personally I believe introvert and extrovert are one of the most thrown around and misused words. I would go as far to say as what they mean in common everyday English is not the same as what they mean in psychology.

What exactly is the definition of introversion and extroversion? I've seen lots of psychology surveys, such as this one, where the possibles answers are too limited. I mean, I know a lot of people who would be considered extroverts but are still tired after a music festival or concert.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe that people are not purely introvert or purely extravert. That is why, even in the survey you referred to, they speak of a spectrum. People may thus in many cases be extravert, which requires energy. Therefore, in another setting they may be less extravert $\endgroup$ Jul 20, 2016 at 11:13

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I totally agree. These words have become colloquial and have lost much of their meaning - and are therefore increasingly less helpful. Introversion is confused with shyness and sensitivity, while Extroversion is confused with social skills. This is partly because there is no agreed upon definition, insofar that they are operationally defined by each psychometric test/framework differently. That is to say, the same theoretical construct/concept is measured differently in each test, and therefore are operationally defined by a different set of responses.

Its is generally agreed that is is a continuum and that individuals do not reside exclusively on the same part of the continuum all the time, across contexts (which is where your festival example comes from). That is, an individual may have a strong/weak tendency but may behave differently dependent upon the situation they find themselves in. Anecdotally, for what it's worth, I find an individual's tendency is best revealed when they are under pressure or are experiencing anxiety.

For the original interpretation, look no further than Carl Jung's definition. The most widely accepted operational definition according to most Psychology research is possibly The Three Factor Model, while the most popular operational definition, where most lay people hang their hat is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I'd say people warm to this the most, and is the definition most people are likely referring to when they speak of Introversion/Extroversion.

Looking to these three sources, you should get the original theoretical definition for the construct.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you quote Jung's definition, instead of just linking to it? In addition, despite its popularity in the nonscience world, the MBTI has essentially no validity, so I'd argue with that as the most popular operational definition if you mean in a scientific setting. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Jul 21, 2016 at 14:45
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The most succinct and evidence-based definitions of introversion and extraversion were those of Hans Eysenck in the '60s. He defined introversion as having an over-aroused autonomic nervous system, so introverts avoid stimulation, and extraverts as having over-aroused autonomic nervous systems, thus they seek stimulation. Of course all this functions as a continuum, and his measuring instruments, (questionnaires), reflected this. His evidence for the theory was based on dozens of experiments, by him and by many other researchers where, (for example), the top 10% scorers (extraverts) and bottom 10% (introverts) on his Introversion-Extraversion scale were compared on many tasks. Strongest differences were found in vigilance tasks where introverts did significantly better than extraverts - as predicted. There were many such findings reported in many journal articles, research which was extended to include EEG and other physical measures of autonomic nervous system activity. It is possible that interest in his work faded as a result of his becoming involved in research on group IQ differences, not conducive to a quiet career at the time. The personality work was interesting, very carefully laid out, and worth looking up.

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    $\begingroup$ Just a minor technical point. It is Introversion (from the Latin introvertere), but extraversion (from the Latin extraversionem). Extro- here is indeed a recent variant of extra-, but only because of the informal influence of intro-. In other words extroversion is simply wrong. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2016 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ A less minor point: This answer does not provide any references. As a result, it cannot be checked whether claims are based on one of Eysenck's many retractions for fraudulent authorship, or any other of his work that has been discredited. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jan 5, 2022 at 7:02

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