I have two sons, and they are both great boys. They don’t get into trouble, are doing well in school, and have close ties to friends, family, and community. I am proud of them every day, and I have enjoyed watching them grow. Especially as they are both so very different from one another. Speaking to them is like apples and oranges. One is outgoing, and one is much more reserved. One goes out all the time and I rarely see at home, one rarely leaves his room and getting him outside is like pulling teeth.

This could change in the future. After all, teenagers are ever adapting and have a tendency to move from stage to stage at will. It is part of their forming personalities. But when it comes down to it, those habits are formed as part of a more centralized aspect of who they both are. One of my sons is an extrovert. The other is an introvert. Both are valuable, and I am happy with their choices.

The Truth About Introverts

Many people will mistake introversion for shyness. But the two are not synonymous; someone can be both introverted and shy, but they don’t have to be. It is just like how someone who is depressed can be introverted, but it doesn’t mean the two are connected. Instead, introversion and extroversion are both ways that people relate to the world, other people, and their place within it. Two contributing factors apply:

  • Neurotransmitters
  • Neuropathways

Information is fed differently between an extrovert and an introvert. While shyness can be a learned behavior, introversion and extroversion are both hardwired. They are not social constructs.

Let’s take a gander at the two above factors and how they really work.

How The Brain Rewards

When we do things that we find enjoyable, our brain lets out a chemical known as dopamine through neurotransmitters. This chemical provides a rush, rewarding us. It makes us want to do more to get that reward. Exercise, socializing, and doing something adventurous can all be examples of activities that activate dopamine.

An extrovert has a high tolerance for this chemical. They love that rush, and so they chase it. They go out more often, interact more, and are overall more outgoing. They are like dopamine junkies, always looking for that next feel good mood. In fact, a study has shown that dopamine may even change how memories are retained, so it could make their recall of those events even more positive.

Introverts, on the other hand, are not as prone to enjoying dopamine. While they get the same good feelings and rushes, they have less of a tolerance for it. Have you ever heard an introvert say they have to recharge themselves with some alone time after a night out? They get the same positive feelings, but they don’t want or need it as much. Too much dopamine burns them out, and begins to have an opposite effect.

Rather than get their fix from dopamine, introverts prefer the gentler good vibes of the chemical acetylcholine. This is released when you are in a comfortable, familiar space, doing more relaxing things.

The Way Information Moves

The second factor, neuropathways, is another big reason for the difference between the two. Someone who is more outgoing responds to sensation at a rapid rate. Sight, taste, sound, and smell will all shoot through the brain, following the pathways that light up the corresponding sections. Extroverts can therefore process and respond to situations quickly, and it is exciting for them.

Introverts experience the way informational response pathways, with one major difference: information also triggers emotional and speech related brain segments. This gives them an additional step before they can respond appropriately to that stimuli, making them more introspective and thoughtful than the fast acting extroverts.

Neither of these personality traits is better than the other. Both of my sons have their unique perspectives and reactions. But it is fascinating to see just how the brain plays a part.

Author's Bio: 

Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and freelancer, with experience in writing and outreach for organizations that help troubled teen girls and their parents. Tyler has offers tasteful humor and research backed advice to readers on parenting tactics, problems in education, issues with social media, mental & behavioral disorders, addiction, and troublesome issues raising teenage girls. Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin