What makes an extrovert?

Do you ever why some people seem naturally adventurous and outgoing, while others prefer their own company and a quiet night in?

The term ‘extrovert’ was coined by psychologist Carl Jung at the beginning of the twentieth century and we now know that where we sit on the introvert–extrovert spectrum is dictated by the way our brains respond to the world.

Studies using brain scans and genetic profiling suggest that this aspect of our personality is, at least in part, governed by genetics and how our brains process rewards. The studies indicate that when a gamble pays off extroverts show a stronger response in two crucial brain regions: the amygdala (known for processing emotional stimuli) and the nucleus accumbens (a key part of the brain’s reward circuitry and part of the dopamine system).

This reaction in areas of the brain relating to reward, learning and responses to novelty explains why extroverts are more likely to enjoy higher risk, more adventurous activities and social challenges like meeting new people. A heightened sensitivity to rewards, resulting from their reactive dopamine system means that extroverts also learn differently.

So whether you’re a carousing risk taker, lone wolf, or somewhere in between, the genes controlling your dopamine function play a crucial role in defining your personality.

Learn more about your personality in our illustrated guides, The Mind Manual and A Mind for Business, published by Hamlyn Press and Pearson/FT.

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