The experience that not everyone functions in the same way has been the basis for numerous systems of typology. From earliest times attempts have been made to categorise individual attitudes and behaviour patterns, in order to explain the differences between people.
The oldest system of typology known to us is the one devised by oriental astrologers. They classified character in terms of four trigons, corresponding to the four elements— water, air, earth and fire. The air trigon in the horoscope, for instance, consists of the three aerial signs of the zodiac, Aquarius, Gemini, Libra; the fire trigon is made up of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. According to this age-old view, whoever is born under these signs shares in their aerial or fiery nature and has a corresponding temperament and fate; similarly for the water and earth signs. This system survives in modified form in present-day astrology.
Closely connected with this ancient cosmological scheme is the physiological typology of Greek medicine, according to which individuals were classified as phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric or melancholic, based on the designations for the secretions of the body (phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile). These descriptions are still in common linguistic use, though medically they have long since been superseded.
Jung’s own model of typology grew out of an extensive historical review of the type question in literature, mythology, aesthetics, philosophy and psychopathology. In the preface to Psychological Types, which contains his scholarly research and a detailed summary of his conclusions, he writes:
This book is the fruit of nearly twenty years’ work in the domain of practical psychology. It grew gradually in my thoughts, taking shape from the countless impressions and experiences of a psychiatrist in the treatment of nervous illnesses, from intercourse with men and women of all social levels, from my personal dealings with friend and foe alike, and, finally, from a critique of my own psychological peculiarities. – Carl Jung, Psychological Types, CW 6, p. xi.
An Overview of Introversion and Extraversion
Whereas the earlier classifications were based on observations of temperamental or emotional behaviour patterns, Jung’s model is concerned with the movement of psychic energy and the way in which one habitually or preferentially orients oneself in the world.
From this point of view, Jung differentiates eight typological groups: two personality attitudes—introversion and extraversion—and four functions or modes of orientation— thinking, sensation, intuition and feeling—each of which may operate in an introverted or extraverted way.
Although introversion and extraversion have become household words, their meaning is frequently misunderstood; the four functions are not so widely known, and even less understood.
Introversion and extraversion are psychological modes of adaptation. With introversion the movement of energy is toward the inner world. With extraversion interest is directed toward the outer world. In one case the subject (inner reality) and in the other the object (things and other people, outer reality) is of primary importance.
Introversion, writes Jung, “is normally characterised by a hesitant, reflective, retiring nature that keeps itself to itself, shrinks from objects [and] is always slightly on the defensive.” – [CW 7, par. 62]
Conversely, extraversion “is normally characterised by an outgoing, candid, and accommodating nature that adapts easily to a given situation, quickly forms attachments, and, setting aside any possible misgivings, will often venture forth with careless confidence into unknown situations.” – [Ibid]
In the extraverted attitude, external factors are the predominant motivating force for judgments, perceptions, feelings, affects and actions. This sharply contrasts with the psychological nature of introversion, where internal or subjective factors are the chief motivation.
Extraverts like to travel, meet new people, see new places. They are the typical adventurers, the life of the party, open and friendly. The introvert is essentially conservative, preferring the familiar surroundings of home, intimate times with a few close friends. To the extravert, the introvert is a stick-in-the mud, a spoil-sport, dull and predictable. Conversely, the introvert, who tends to be more self-sufficient than the extravert, might describe the latter as flighty, a superficial gad-about.
In practice, it is not possible to demonstrate the introverted and extraverted attitudes in isolation. Whether a person is one way or the other only becomes apparent in association with one of the four functions, each of which has its special area of expertise.
© from Daryl Sharp’s Personality Types, reproduced with kind permission of the author.
Some further notes on Introversion and Extraversion
“Everyone possesses both mechanisms, extraversion as well as introversion, and only the relative predominance of one or the other determines the type.” – CW 6, par. 4
“Outer circumstances and inner disposition frequently favour one mechanism and restrict or hinder the other. One mechanism will naturally predominate, and if this condition becomes in any way chronic a type will be produced; that is, an habitual attitude in which one mechanism predominates permanently, although the other can never be completely suppressed since it is an integral part of the psychic economy.” – CW6, par. 6
Jung explains that it is the relative predominance of one mechanism or attitude that determines the type, rather than the complete absence of one part of this natural life-rhythm.
Jung also cautions that to arrive at something useful, we need to also consider the basic psychological functions of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition in combination with introversion and extraversion. Otherwise we are dealing with a classification that is still extremely general, and subject to many further distinctions.
In the ‘Foreword to the Argentine Edition’ in 1934 Jung cautioned that “any typological terminology superficially picked up … serves no other purpose than a totally useless desire to stick on labels.” He recommended a deeper study of this subject, in particular reading chapters II and V of his volume on Psychological Types [CW6].