Introversion and Extraversion are personality types which can be viewed on a continuum, the degree of which varies from person to person. There are some individuals who land on the extreme ends of the scale, but most people are somewhere toward the middle, or if they are more or less in the center of the scale, they are referred to as Ambiverts, who have both intro and extra qualities.

  1. Extreme introverts – people who epitomize the introvert – they are drained of energy by crowd, noise and stimulation, and refreshed and restored by quiet and solitude.
  2. Extreme Extraverts – they are energized by bright lights, noise, crowds, and are outgoing.
  3. Ambiverts – encompass traits of both introverts and extraverts- they are in the middle of the introversion/extraversion continuum.

Recently however, four subtypes of introversion have been proposed; known by the acronym STAR: (Social, Thinking, Anxious, Restrained) (Grimes, Cheek, & Norem, 2011; Kaufman, 2014).

They are:

1. Social Introverts, who like to socialize with others, but have a preference for solitary and small group activities (Newman, 2015). This subtype seems to correspond with the typically understood or traditional model of introversion.

2. Thinking Introverts are cerebral, but welcome social events, which is also a departure from the traditional model of introversion, depending on how you interpret this type. Introverts enjoy social events where they get to talk about ideas. This can be with one or two other introverts, or speaking in front of 300 people. Thinking introverts are introspective and self-reflective, or what some people may refer to as intellectuals. Amazing how a disturbing social norm has emerged that to be a thinker is bad. Too many people are embracing pseudo-science and conspiracy theories and actively rejecting science and rationalism. It is amazing to me that an insulting comment directed at someone of lower, limited intelligence is heinous and not acceptable, but mocking someone smart is OK. To make fun of someone who is overweight is heinous, but it is OK for to people to heckle runners for bicyclists rom the safety of a car as they drive by. The emerging social norm in America, as well as the UK, is that being ignorant, uninformed, as well as slovenly, overweight and out of shape is not just acceptable, it is cool (Donaldson, 2008). Ironically this is one of the very things introverts will be aware of and experience distress over; the long term effects of a society which is abandoning long held, universal standards.

3. Anxious introverts. I am not clear on how this is this different from social phobia. This subtype challenges the traditional model of introversion, as introverts are not truly phobic of social situations; social situations involving large numbers of people and a great deal of sensory stimulation are experienced as overwhelming, with a recovery period needed afterward. It could be argued this is a matter of semantics, as avoidant behavior is part of a phobia, as is an irrational basis to the fear. Anxiety is a matter of degree. If it is very distressing, or produces impairment in functioning, pervasive in many areas of one’s life, then it is classified as a disorder. A lesser degree of anxiety may be deemed sub-clinical, but pathological. In other words, it is not a diagnosable anxiety disorder, but it produces some level of impairment of distress. As I have stated elsewhere on this site, not everything needs fixing, not all behaviors are pathological, but rather variations in human behavior which are not always pleasant. My profession loves to over-pathologize. This is one I will have to think about some more.

4. Restrained introverts have difficulty overcoming inertia. Once they get warmed up and get going they are fine, but they need time. They are cautious meeting new people, and slowly reveal themselves; they have solid boundaries in place.

I would speculate there is a fifth type- a blend of all the above. As human psychology is complex and dynamic, there may be people who visit all four of the above subtypes at various points in life.

The knowledge base in Psychology is constantly changing and growing, as all sciences should. This recent typology of introversion is a different way of viewing introverts, but like all scientific findings, must be scrutinized, critiqued, and replicated to increase the validity and reliability of the model.

 

Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice, Otter Creek Associates
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology, Community College of Vermont & Burlington College
Freelance Behavioral Science writer