The Universe Within

The title of this weeks blog pays homage to Yoko Ono, who had the quote- “You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my head.” She’s talking about introversion, which is also what I want to talk about.

I was having a little trouble trying to figure out a topic, so I did a little internet surfing. I ended up on the BuzzFeed website and came across an article that lead me to this week’s conversation; introversion. It had a fun little test I could take to see what kind of introvert I was so of course I took it and my results were nothing surprising. The quiz used a newly proposed “STAR” model of introversion proposed by Professor Jonathan Cheek, a personality psychologist at Wellesley College. STAR stands for social, thinking, anxious and restrained introversion and according to my answers I was mostly a social introvert but also a thinking introvert. Now, I didn’t just want to base all of my research on an article that was also probably written by a student so I did some more (scholarly) digging of my own on how introverts interact with society compared to an extrovert. I’ll also leave the BuzzFeed link with my other references if any other introverts out there want to take the test for themselves. (1)

What It Is:

Introversion definition(2)

1. a shy person.

2. Psychology. a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings (opposed to extrovert).

What I found:

According to this article, “Happiness, introversion–extraversion and happy introverts” subjective well-being, or happiness, is not necessarily a unitary construct. The researchers argued that subjective well-being has at least three components: positive affect, negative affect and cognitive variables such as satisfaction with life. Negative affect positively correlates with neuroticism and positive affect correlates strongly with extraversion. Most measures of happiness are also known to correlate positively with extraversion. A recent meta-analysis done by the article reported correlations between extraversion and several measures of subjective well-being between 0.17 and 0.27, although in studies with the Oxford happiness inventory (OHI) happiness and extraversion are typically associated with correlation coefficients of about 0.45. So why the discrepancy? For such reasons, extraversion has come to be regarded as the individual personality difference that is most strongly and positively allied with happiness. In a longitudinal study done by other researchers mentioned as a secondary source, it was reported that extraversion predicted positive affect 17 years later. It is also mentioned in the paper by another contributor that the idea of happiness, or more specifically positive emotionality, forms the core of the trait of extraversion.

From this perspective it was seen that the main characteristic of an extravert is social activity, which can be a major source of happiness and the paper investigated some motivational factors that might lead young people to engage in a variety of leisure pursuits. As such activities are voluntary and not generally undertaken for material gain, it seemed reasonable to assume that they were carried out for the happiness or satisfaction that they are expected to generate. The most widely applicable explanation for taking part in leisure activities were found to be the opportunity they created for social interaction, which provided further support for a link between happiness and the sociability that characterises the extravert. But how come introverts are happy too?

Well, the results were not fully consistent with the authors personal observation. They were also at variance with the ideas of those classical philosophers, like Epicurus and Aristotle, who had given the greatest attention to human happiness. Their prescriptions for happiness involved withdrawal from many of the social aspects of life and living a quiet, peaceful existence in relative solitude. The same could be said of the ways of life commended by most religious systems. Their aim is to provide great personal happiness for believers, either in life or after death, and medieval anchorites and hermits believed that total isolation was the way to achieve it. Nevertheless, religious systems usually prescribe detailed “codes” of social behaviour that may include taking part in regular corporate worship. This could be a source of social support that may in turn enhance well-being. However, these types of practises are generally regarded as duties or obligations and not as the primary source of religious happiness; religious happiness comes from a personal relationship with the Divine. It was also noteworthy that the majority of those who report intense religious experiences say that occurred in solitude like when in a meditative state.

Introverts and extraverts differ in their primary orientations. The introvert’s main concern is to establish autonomy and independence of other people, whereas the extravert looks towards and seeks the company of others. It was further that explained that there difference between introverts and extraverts in terms of cortical arousal. The extravert needs to have people to talk to, craves excitement and opportunities for physical activity, and engages in many social interactions, which are a major source of happiness. The extravert is not easily aroused and, in compensation, seeks stimulation in the company of many people. In contrast, the introvert has a low arousal threshold and can function without the need for high levels of external stimulation. The introvert is usually represented as a quiet individual who is fond of “being with one’s self” rather than other people, can be seen as distant except to intimate friends, and doesn’t like excitement. The view that extraversion is a preferred state has come to be widely accepted among our society. In consequence, introverts are sometimes represented as withdrawn, isolated or lacking social competencies, rather than as individuals who seek autonomy or independence and that concentration on the link between extraversion and happiness could have led researchers to overlook states of happiness enjoyed by introverts that do not involve a great deal of social interplay.

This distinction relies on individual differences in the need for stimulation, but is stimulation the same as happiness? Introverts may not derive much satisfaction from gregarious situations because they do not need the external stimulation provided by the presence of many people (otherwise known as the dreaded small talk) but they could be no less open to other kinds of happiness. Extraverts may need many people around them, introverts may be more selective and focus on establishing individual affiliative relationships with a few special friends and experience higher levels of empathy with them. Introverts may have highly satisfying leisure activities that can be carried out in relative isolation. They may also enjoy an intense inner life, based on intellectual, musical or religious activities which give them much to think about without the need to rely on other people

I feel like this idea of the introvert and how they obtain happiness is very relevant and needs to be taken into account when addressing social situations. We may not have the energy to be out in public places with our friends for as long and may find more happiness in an afternoon alone or a good book but I agree that our degree of happiness isn’t subordinate to those that identify as extroverts. The author concluded that the variables that most closely represented happiness in life was self-esteem, life regard, mental stability and life orientation. (3)



(1) Oakes, K., & Curry, P. (2015, October 19). What Kind Of Introvert Are You? Retrieved February 02, 2017, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/kellyoakes/what-kind-of-introvert-are-you?utm_term=.tqKgM02yB#.mt0zW6Pr2

(2) Introvert. (n.d.). Retrieved February 02, 2017, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/introvert

(3) Hills, P., & Argyle, M. (2001). Happiness, introversion–extraversion and happy introverts. Personality and Individual Differences, 30(4), 595-608. doi:10.1016/s0191-8869(00)00058-1

(4) Photo. Dunn, S. (n.d.). Universe Within [Photograph found in WordPress]. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from https://stephaniedunn86.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/cropped-cropped-universe_within_031.jpg (Originally photographed 2015, March 27)




4 thoughts on “The Universe Within

  1. hey i liked the blog this week its very interesting. i would like to think of myself as more of an introvert, but im not so sure about introverts being equal or more happier than extroverts. i found a study that found that while introverts can achieve high levels of happiness extroverts have higher levels for longer periods of time. it also showed that extroverts have an easier time turning their mood around, or as they call it “mood repair”, rather than introverts that when they were in a bad mood they had a harder time getting to a happier mood quickly.

    Lischetzke, T. (01.08.2006). Journal of personality: Why extraverts are happier than introverts: The role of mood regulation Blackwell Publishing.


    1. It’s interesting that you mentioned that it may take longer for introverts to become happy and I think I found some more evidence to support your information. The article that I read talked about information processing in introverts versus extraverts and the researcher’s conducted a study to see if there is a biological advantage/disadvantage to having one of the personality types. I feel like the “mood repair” you mentioned could fall into the same category as the “psychological refractory period” mentioned in this study, which suggests that extraversion was related to faster statistical analysis and processing speed but that it was task specific.
      To put it in simpler terms, an individual that was seen as an introvert (according to this paper) had a bottleneck effect when it came to certain information processing- which could possibly correlate with mood (happiness) and would be why it took longer for introverts to regulate their moods or achieve happiness for long periods of time; but that is only an assumption based on the information of the papers referenced above and below.
      Rammsayer, T. H., Indermühle, R., & Troche, S. J. (2014). Psychological refractory period in introverts and extraverts. Personality and Individual Differences, 63, 10-15. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.01.033


  2. Hi Avery,
    Great post! I was reading a book a while ago and it discussed how introverts and extroverts are viewed in society, a point which you touched on in your blog. Susan Cain looks at the history of how extroversion became the cultural ideal in North America, and notes there was a shift from a “Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality” (Cain 21). The culture of character essentially embraced an ideal of discipline and honor and was more focused on one’s inner self, whereas the culture of personality promotes the self as the “performer” and is focused on how the self is perceived by others. She notes that this is why people are so drawn to people with magnetic and charming personalities because they embody the extrovert ideal. Although this idealism tends to favor the extrovert, it casts a harsher light on introverts because they are not portraying the Culture of Personality’s expected characteristics.

    Cain, Susan. (2012). Quiet. New York, Broadway Paperbacks.


  3. I found this blog really interesting because my roommate(also my best friend) and I are so different because she is incredibly introverted and I’m quite extroverted! So it got me thinking about how these two types of people get along if they find happiness in very different ways!
    This article I found says that prioritizing your friends more and setting up boundaries can help and introvert keep their extraverted friends happy, and that by planning around the introvert and having many options can keep the extraverted friends happy. I thought this was interesting because sometimes we get into a bit of a hard place because of it!
    Some of the tips the author mentioned came from this site!


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