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Why Introverts Are Introverts? Because Their Brains Are Different

Why Introverts Are Introverts? Because Their Brains Are Different

You prefer to curl up and read a book by yourself over going to a flashy social event. You like the company of one close friend rather than a group of many rowdy people. Once more you prefer to stay on the safe side than take risks. Does this sound familiar? If so, then you are probably an introvert. You may already know this but what you may not be aware of is that there are physical differences in your brain that make you prefer quiet activities over those that are highly energized.

Carl Jung’s studies

It was Carl Jung who in the 1920s coined the terms introvert and extrovert. He did so to describe contrasting personality types and to explain why different people were energized in distinct ways. He hypothesized that extroverts gained their energy from their social interactions and eternal environments and tended to feel uncomfortable and anxious when they found themselves alone.

Introverts, on the other hand, Jung explained, are able to replenish their energy levels when they are in quiet environments. Unlike extroverts they find socializing and busy environments overstimulating and too demanding.

Dr. Laney clarifies in her book, The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child that “introversion and extroversion are not black and white. No one is completely one way or another – we all must function at times on either  side of the continuum”.

Introversion and extroversion are at the opposite ends of the same spectrum. Everybody moves up and down the spectrum depending on external and internal factors, however, a person tends to prefer one personality type over the other.

The Dopamine difference

A major difference between the brains of introverts and extroverts is the way they react to the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical that is released in the brain. It gives a person their motivation to achieve external goals and receive external rewards. For example, dopamine may motivate an individual to earn more money, increase their circle of friends, attract a good looking partner or advance to a higher role at work. When dopamine is released all of us become more alert to our surroundings, more talkative and more motivated to undertake activities that may be perceived as risky.

Introverts and extroverts have equal amounts of dopamine in their brains, however, the difference between these two categories of people is the activity of the dopamine reward network. The dopamine reward network is more active and dynamic in the brains of extroverts as Scott Barry Kaufman, the Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute says. When an extrovert anticipates a social event, for example, they feel good and energized, whereas the introvert will feel overstimulated.

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Acetylcholine and Introverts

Christine Fonseca writes in her book Quiet Kids: Help your introverted child succeed in an extroverted world that introverts prefer to rely on a different neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is related to pleasure, just like dopamine, however acetylcholine makes a person feel good when they turn inward. It gives a person the skill to reflect and focus solely on an individual task for an extended period of time. As it is simpler to turn inwards when there is limited external stimulation, introverts opt for a calm environment.

Introverts prefer one side of the nervous system over the other

The nervous system is divided into two distinct parts: there is the sympathetic side which is related to the “fight, fright, or flight” response; and the parasympathetic side. The parasympathetic side allows us to rest and digest.

When the sympathetic side is stimulated the body prepares for action; adrenaline is released, glucose energizes the muscles and the amount of oxygen in the body increases. The thinking mechanisms in the brain are put on hold. Dopamine increases alertness in the rear of the brain.

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When the parasympathetic side of the brain is in gear; muscles relax, energy is stored and food is metabolized. Blood flow and alertness in the front of the brain increase as acetylcholine is released.

Although extroverts and introverts use both sides of the nervous system, various times introverts tend to prefer to use the parasympathetic side. This allows introverts to be calm and to act in a slow and measured way.

Why introverts tend to overthink

When information from the external world is received by an extroverts brain it travels via a short pathway that goes through the areas of the brain where touch, taste, sound and sight are processed.

When introverts receive stimulus from the outside world the pathway that the information travels through is a lot longer. The information goes through many areas of the brain including:

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  1. The right front insular,
  2. Broca’s area,
  3. The right and left front lobes and,
  4. The left hippocampus.

The right front insular is an area involved with empathy, emotional thought and self-reflection. The Broca’s area activates self-talk and plans speech. The right and left front lobs, plan and select ideas and actions. The left hippocampus decides what things are personal and places them in long-term memories.

The long journey that the information takes when an introvert receives stimulus from the external world is the reason that introverts take longer to speak, react and make decisions.

Introverts have more gray matter in the front of their brains

study published in the Journal of Neuroscience discovered that introverts have larger, thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the place in the brain that is linked to abstract thought and decision-making. Extroverts, on the other hand, have thinner gram matter in the same area.

What does this mean? It means that introverts devote more of their energy and resources to abstract thought while extroverts have the propensity to live in the moment.

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Summation

Things may now make more sense to you, as an introvert. You can now understand that there are physical differences in your brain that make you prefer peaceful activities and self-reflection over highly energized situations.

Featured photo credit: Introvert Dear via introvertdear.com

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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