What Is an Extroverted Introvert?

Gain a Better Understanding of Ambiverts

Group of friends sitting down together in the sun

Tom Werner/DigitalVision/Getty

What Is an Extroverted Introvert?

Also known as ambiverts, extroverted introverts possess a combination of the traits found in the broad personality types of introversion and extraversion (also spelled extroversion). While introverts are energized by their own inner thoughts and feelings, extroverts are fulfilled by focusing on other people and the outside world.

The Big Five

Extraversion is one of the components of the five-factor personality model, which also includes openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism—all factors thought to comprise the key frameworks of personality.

Extroverts are typically described as being outgoing, fun-loving, friendly, and talkative. In contrast, introverts are characterized as being reserved, withdrawn, and introspective with small social circles.

Ambiverts, on the other hand, may exhibit behaviors common to both extroverts and introverts. Depending on the circumstances, they might prefer to spend an evening alone or be the life of the party. They can be reserved when the situation calls for it, and gregarious when an outgoing manner is more suitable.

Extraversion and introversion aren’t static personality traits but occur on a spectrum, with ambiverts falling somewhere in the middle. Individuals who are moderately introverted or extroverted or who have characteristics of both personality types may be labeled ambiverts, a term that has yet to enjoy widespread popularity.

Ambiversion, however, is not a new term, and research indicates that these so-called extroverted introverts enjoy a distinct edge over people who identify mostly as introverted or extroverted.

The Origins of Ambiversion

During the 1920s, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the terms extroversion and introversion to the masses. As he researched personality types, he found another group of people. These individuals couldn’t quite be identified as introverts or extroverts.

Arguing that there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or introvert, he said, "There are people who are fairly well-balanced who are just as much influenced from within as from without, or just as little."

A label for these individuals wouldn’t be coined until the 1940s when psychologists began to increasingly use the word “ambivert” to describe them. The prefix ambi means “both,” while vert means “to turn.” Extroverts turn outward, introverts turn inward, and ambiverts turn both inward and outward.

Although psychologists have used the term ambivert for decades, it remains largely unfamiliar to the public. Thanks to popular YouTube videos, TEDx talks, and books about ambiversion, interest in the personality type has grown significantly in the 21st century.

And there’s another reason for the newfound attention ambiversion has received: More people are realizing that they’re neither introverts nor extroverts.

How Common Is This Personality Type?

Just how many people are ambiverts? According to Adam M. Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, two-thirds of people don’t view themselves as extroverts or introverts. He estimates that more than half of the population are ambiverts.

People don’t consciously choose to be a particular personality type. Instead, personality develops as early as infancy and doesn’t change significantly as one ages. That’s because both environment and genetics influence personality type, with extraversion linked to dopamine levels in the brain.

Dopamine affects the brain circuits that “control reward, learning and responses to novelty,” according to a study by lead researcher Michael Cohen. His research also found that the brains of extroverts react more strongly to activities that involve risks, such as gambling.

Other studies have also linked dopamine to personality, particularly to how much people enjoy new and unfamiliar experiences. Introverts, though, have fewer dopamine receptors in their brains than extroverts do. Ambiverts, again, would find themselves in the middle, with a higher dopamine threshold than introverts have but a lower threshold than extroverts do.

As a result, neither introversion nor extroversion dominates the behavior of ambiverts. A night out on the town isn’t likely to overstimulate them, but a night spent reading a book at home isn’t likely to bore them either.

They’re not party animals or wallflowers, but have shades of both. Overall, they have well-balanced personalities, and, because of this, ambiverts are thought to have some advantages over introverts and extroverts. 

The Benefits of Ambiversion

Extroverts have long been thought to possess the people skills, showmanship, and charisma needed to climb the corporate ladder, but research indicates that ambiverts might be the group of people who have the traits for career success. Grant’s research on the topic indicates that it is not extroverts who excel as salespeople but ambiverts.

He gave a personality test to 340 call center employees and found that ambiverts sold 51% more product per hour than the average salesperson did. He identified these workers as ambiverts because their personality test scores fell in the middle of introversion and extroversion.

So, why were the ambiverts so successful? Their personality traits make them adaptable; they know when to turn on the charm and when to pull back on their gregariousness. This differs from extroverts, who may not know when to reel in their outgoing personalities, and from introverts, who may be too reserved to reveal much of themselves to strange customers at all.

Having social flexibility helps ambiverts stay in sync with a wide variety of people—some of whom might be put off by overenthusiastic and highly talkative salespeople, and others who might be more likely to make a purchase from a really friendly salesperson.

The Challenges of Being an Extroverted Introvert

Although ambiverts can experience some advantages over more extreme personalities, they also have struggles. They need to be self aware to determine which side of their personality to bring out in a particular situation. They must also learn not to force themselves to behave like an extrovert during times when they feel more like an introvert (and vice versa), because doing so may leave them emotionally drained. 

Another challenge ambiverts face is that some people might struggle to read them correctly. A colleague, for example, might be surprised that the fun-loving person they met in the workplace often prefers to spend quiet evenings with just one or two friends.

Therefore, it’s important not only that ambiverts recognize when they’re feeling more introverted or extroverted but also when to set boundaries with others who pressure them to behave one way or another. As awareness of ambiversion spreads, more people can be expected to recognize the traits of ambiversion—in others and in themselves.

Was this page helpful?
6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Grant AM. Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage. Psychological Science. 2013 June 1; 24(6): 1024-1030. doi.org/10.1177/0956797612463706

  2. Jung, CG, and Evans, RI. Dialogue with C.G. Jung. New York, Praeger, 1981.

  3. Bernstein Elizabeth. Not an Introvert, Not an Extrovert? You May Be An Ambivert. Wall Street Journal. 2015 July 27.

  4. Fischer R, Lee A, Verzijden MN. Dopamine genes are linked to Extraversion and Neuroticism personality traits, but only in demanding climatesSci Rep. 2018;8(1):1733. doi:10.1038%2Fs41598-017-18784-y

  5. Cohen Michael X. Individual differences in extraversion and dopamine genetics predict neural reward responses. Cognitive Brain Research. 2005  December; 25(3): 851-861 doi:10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.09.018

  6. Golimbet, V.E., Alfimova, M.V., Gritsenko, I.K. et al. Relationship between dopamine system genes and extraversion and novelty seeking. Neurosci Behav Physiol. 2007; 37: 601–606. doi:10.1007/s11055-007-0058-8