The Percentage of Introverts in the population in the United States you see quoted most often is based on an old and erroneous number.
This 'fact' is used over and over again in multiple books and numerous websites. It is based on an old estimate from the early 1960's by Isabel Myers of the Myers-Briggs organization. It was just a personal guess with no real statistical data behind it.
She estimated that 25% of the population of the United States were introverts and 75% Extroverts.
This rough estimate has developed a life of it's own. It's grown and spread with the growth of the Internet. That favorite hang out of introverts.
The real Percentage of Introverts
Remember that the terms Introvert and Extrovert were created by Carl Jung. In developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [instrument], the aim of Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, was to make the insights of Jungs type theory accessible to individuals and groups. For over 50 years the organization they founded has been refining the descriptions and the 'test' that can indicate those type preferences.
The real number based on the first stratified random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998 showed Introverts 50.7% and Extroverts 49.3% of the USA.
How can introverts believe it's 25% when it's really 50%? Well, it's a matter of perspective. Most introverts asking this question are very strongly introverted. If you are ever on the extreme end of something, even moderates look strongly the opposite to you.
Remember the Introvert Extrovert difference is on a continuum with characteristics overlapping and merging with no real decisive difference between one point on the continuum and the next. Look at the color bar. Can you tell exactly where one color stops and the next begins? No, Of course not.
Everyone spends time being an extrovert and time being an introvert. Remember, it's a Preference. Do you prefer the world of ideas and your own inner thoughts? Or the outer world of people and things
I think the population of introverts and extroverts - and this is strictly my own personal, unsupported position - is like the classic bell curve. Most people are in the middle and could be considered either introvert or extrovert, depending on the circumstances.
So, just like someone who is short believes even those of average height are 'tall'. Those who are very introverted think those people in the middle of the bell curve - the 'average' people - are extroverted. I am very introverted and when I talk to people about an introverts preferences, even those I think as solid extroverts say they are introverted too! I've caught myself staring in disbelief when they say they prefer to be alone too!
Isabel and her mother have both been described as being strongly introverted, so of course they would come up with a biased number before they had any real statistics.
With that perspective, it is entirely possible that the percentage of introverts in the population is 50%. But those strong introverts - myself included - can have a hard time believing it.
Comment by Fred from OK, USA
This is an awesome article. I was a psychology major, and a bonafide introvert.
I didn't know that new research was suggesting that the introvert/extrovert difference was closer to 50/50. One of the coolest things about introverts is, as you said, we're typically more gifted.
Though we represent only 25% (or 50%?) of the population, we're something like 75% of the people with a near genius or genius level IQ.
Same goes for people who score as intuitive (N) on the myers-briggs test. We're 25% of the population - whereas 75% are sensors (S) - but 75% of the really smart folks are N's.
It's a fun little thing to think about, and I can definitely relate to some of the things you said in this article.
I used to be a secretary for an office. I had to stay on the phone all day, then when I got off work, I went to school and sat in rooms full of people. I actually had fantasies of leaving civilization and wandering around in the wilderness.
That lifestyle just wasn't for me, at all! Now I'm much better. I've used some of the perks of introversion (increased cleverness, depth of knowledge, creativity) to start generating income in my own way, so I don't have to work in a busy office or anything. I've also taken to learning on my own, which works much better than in the classroom anyhow.
It's been an exciting journey for this introvert, and I really appreciate this article!
Thank You for the kind words. I never heard that most of the 'gifted' are Intuitives (N). It seems likely.
The official distribution in the general population of the United States is:
According to the 1998 National Representative Sample, the
breakdowns by preference are:
E- Extroversion, I- Introversion
E 49.3%, I 50.7%
E 45.9%, I 54.1%
E 52.5%, I 47.5%
S 73.3%, N 26.7%
S 71.7%, N 28.3%
S 74.9%, N 25.1%
T 40.2%, F 59.8%
T 56.5%, F 43.5%
T 24.5%, F 75.5%
J 54.1%, P 45.9%
J 52.0%, P 48.0%
J 56.2%, P 43.8%
Myers, I. B., McCaulley, M. H., Quenk, N. L., & Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI Manual: A guide to the development and use of the
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (3rd ed.). Palo Alto,
CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
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