Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

Understanding personality type: Extraversion and introversion

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0411410
  1. Anita Houghton, careers counsellor and coach1
  1. 1London

In the second article in our series, Anita Houghton asks you to consider where you focus your attention--inside or out

I will be examining each of the four pairs of preferences measured by the Myer Briggs type indicator (extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving) in some detail. It is important to remember that in practice these preferences coexist, and any examples given will inevitably include expression of more than one preference.

Picture this

You are arriving early for the first day of a new job. On entering the department, you notice a quiet man collecting a pile of notes and making for one of the rooms off the reception area. His eyes alight on you briefly, as he does so he nods and smiles briefly--long enough to be polite but not to encourage. He vanishes. You look around for someone who might help you, and you notice a woman behind the reception desk. You move towards her, and before you can speak she beams at you and asks if she can help. You explain who you are and she beams another welcome and proceeds to tell you who you should see, when they are likely to arrive, where the toilets are, how to get lunch, who your secretary will be, what the boss is like, and where she went for her holidays.

Introvert and extravert

These are caricatures of the first two preferences measured by the Myer Briggs type indicator, introversion and extraversion, and the behaviours are indications of where these two people like to focus their attention. When you are ambling along deep in thought, not noticing the people you pass, or the noise of the traffic--when nothing short of a cloudburst would draw your attention to what is around you--you are focusing on your internal world (introversion).

When you are chatting with people, watching …

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