Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Extraversion and introversion

The relative importance of nature versus environment in determining the level of extraversion is controversial and the focus of many studies. Twin studies find a genetic component of 39% to 58%. In terms of the environmental component, the shared family environment appears to be far less important than individual environmental factors that are not shared between siblings.

Eysenck proposed that extraversion was caused by variability in cortical arousal. He hypothesized that introverts are characterized by higher levels of activity than extraverts and so are chronically more cortically aroused than extraverts. The fact that extraverts require more external stimulation than introverts has been interpreted as evidence for this hypothesis. Other evidence of the "stimulation" hypothesis is that introverts salivate more than extraverts in response to a drop of lemon juice.

Extraversion has been linked to higher sensitivity of the mesolimbic dopamine system to potentially rewarding stimuli. This in part explains the high levels of positive affect found in extraverts, since they will more intensely feel the excitement of a potential reward. One consequence of this is that extraverts can more easily learn the contingencies for positive reinforcement, since the reward itself is experienced as greater.

One study found that introverts have more blood flow in the frontal lobes of their brain and the anterior or frontal thalamus, which are areas dealing with internal processing, such as planning and problem solving. Extraverts have more blood flow in the anterior cingulate gyrus, temporal lobes, and posterior thalamus, which are involved in sensory and emotional experience.  This study and other research indicates that introversion-extraversion is related to individual differences in brain function.