Introversion has been the topic of conversation in recent years—spurred by books like Susan Cain’s Quiet—yet its telling signs are varied. Shyness, anxiety, discomfort, self-consciousness, and aversion to social situations are almost always connected to introversion, yet not every introvert can relate—which is a frustrating thing for an introvert living in an extrovert’s world.
In a recent article in Scientific American, writer Scott Barry Kaufman takes readers briefly through the history of introversion, beginning with Carl Jung’s belief that it is “inwardly directed psychic energy,” to pop culture’s most well-known books conceptualizing the topic.
This includes Elaine Aron’s best-selling The Highly Sensitive Person, Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage, Party of One by Anneli Rufus, and more. Kaufman doesn’t touch on the editorials or firsthand accounts that have been published on the introversion, but there are many.
“I’m in the bathroom of the American embassy in Tokyo, and I can’t leave,” wrote TIME reporter and former Tokyo bureau chief Bryan Walsh back in 2012. “Somewhere in the elegant rooms beyond, the ambassador is holding his annual holiday party. […] A few rounds of the room at a social event, however, leave me exhausted. So now and then I retreat into the solitude of the bathroom, watching the minutes tick by until I’ve recovered enough to go back out there.”
Titled “The Upside of Being an Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated),” Walsh continues: “My name is Bryan, and I’m an introvert. If this scene sounds familiar to you, then chances are that you’re one too.”
Finding a true definition for introversion has proven difficult, but recently personality psychology Jonathan Cheek and his colleagues have argued that when people use the term “introversion” they don’t use it on its own. That is, the term needs a modifier.
Kaufman writes, “In her masters thesis (written under the advisement of Cheek), Jennifer Odessa Grimes defined four meanings of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained (STAR). It’s possible to score high or low on either of these flavors of introversion. For instance, you could be low in social introversion by preference but not be particularly anxious in the presence of people.”
Have you ever wondered what kind of introvert you are? Cheek, Grimes, and their colleagues created the STAR test to help you find out.
To take the test, visit the Scientific American blog.
Author Bio: Andrea Fisher is a writer and blogger living in North Carolina. She has appeared in The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among others. Read more of her work @andreafisher007.