I am a horse for single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork….
Full well do I know that in order to attain any definite goal,
it is imperative that one person should do the thinking and commanding.
Okay, let’s jump right in! Introversion and extroversion are biological. Meaning, they are influenced by molecules within our body. Many of our decisions and interactions with the people around us are a direct result of the way these molecules act inside of our body. A portion of the brain, called the amygdala (Amy), is in charge of many of these molecules. Some of us have high functioning amygdalae. Let’s dive into the relationship between this and introversion. I will supplement this information with a number of quotes from the book Quiet by the genius and beautiful, Susan Cain.
Let’s start right off the bat with this:
“The more reactive a child’s amygdala, the higher his heart rate is likely to be, the more widely dilated his eyes, the tighter his vocal cords, the more cortisol (a stress hormone) in his saliva–the more jangled he’s likely to feel when he confronts something new and stimulating. As high-reactive infants grow up, they continue to confront the unknown in many different contexts, from visiting an amusement park for the first time to meeting new classmates on the first day of kindergarten.”
This sums up what we talked about yesterday–that a high functioning amygdala (the ‘switchboard’ summoning all of those bodily functions in response to emotion) causes ‘sensitivity’ or ‘high-reactivity’ to new people and experiences.
* * * * It is important to mention at this moment, that introversion and extroversion are complex identities. This explanation is only a part of the giant, complicated picture. What is most important, is that the relationship between the amygdala and introversion, shows to us that personality is biological. It is not always as simple as making a choice: “To ask whether it’s nature or nurture…is like asking whether a blizzard is caused by temperature or humidity. It’s the intricate interaction between the two that makes us who we are.” The activity of the amygdala also shows us that it is okay to be Quiet. * * * *
Let’s look at another excerpt:
“High-reactive children pay what one psychologist calls “alert attention” to people and things. They literally use more eye movements than others to compare choices before making a decision. It’s as if they process more deeply–sometimes consciously, sometimes not–the information they take in about the world.”
“High-reactive kids also tend to think and feel deeply about what they’ve noticed, and to bring an extra degree of nuance to everyday experiences. This can be expressed in many different ways. If the child is socially oriented, she may spend a lot of time pondering her observations of others–why Jason didn’t want to share his toys today, why Mary got so mad at Nicholas when he bumped into her accidentally. If he has a particular interest–in solving puzzles, making art, building sand castles–he’ll often concentrate with unusual intensity. If a high-reactive toddler breaks another child’s toy by mistake, studies show, she often experiences a more intense mix of guilt and sorrow than a lower-reactive child would. All kids notice their environments and feel emotions, of course, but high-reactive kids seem to see and feel things more.”
Join me after the weekend to broaden our understanding of high-reactive children…and adults :)