Signaling as a basis for understanding introversion and extroversion

Basing our understanding of human “psychology” on signaling and signaling systems—essentially seeing people as complex signaling systems—can make many aspects of being human clearer.

For example, rather than analyze “introversion” versus “extroversion,” we can use terms that work better with the signaling model—introspection versus extrospection.

Extrospection is a made up word. In this context it means someone who looks (spec, specere) outwardly for the establishment, maintenance, and validation of their identity.

In the signaling model, identity can be defined as “the (somewhat) complex nexuses of meaning/signaling that ’embodies’ our comprehension of the semiotics of our cultures and experiences.”

An extrovert is normally seen as someone who likes people and wants to spend time with them, as opposed to an introvert who prefers spending time alone.

There is probably some value in this distinction. But all introverts know that we also like people and want to spend time with them; the problem is spending time with strongly “extroverted” types is not fully satisfying.

Similarly, extroverts are generally not as satisfied with the company of introverts as they are with other extroverts.

It may be hard to see why this is until we use the terms “introspection” and “extrospection.”

A person whose identity depends heavily on the opinions of others—one who favors extrospection—will tend to spend more time with other people than alone. They will be good at getting along with other people of their type because “extrospectors” value the mutual validation they offer each other.

To a person whose identity depends heavily on introspection, the “extrospector” may be fun to be around for a while, but will probably become tiring because the “introspector” does not want the same sort of validation required by the “extrospector.”

In terms of signaling, the introspector relies on internal signaling while the extrospector relies on external signaling. The introspector can and does enjoy other people, but they are far more likely to be satisfied with other people who share their tendency for internal signaling.

The signaling systems of introspectors with introspectors and extrospectors with extrospectors mirror each other much better than when the two types are mixed.

Extrospectors tend to form groups and have a much easier time finding each other than introspectors do. This is why extrospectors control so much of what happens in the world.

Moreover, extrospectors also tend to base their opinions of themselves and each other on external, measurable things—property, money, status symbols. To the introspector, these things are not as valuable to their identity as depth of analysis, depth of internal signals, depth of communication.

Extrospectors are great and we need them. But if you are not one, it might be good to realize that it is not people per se that you want to avoid, but rather the tedium of extrospectional values, aims, and beliefs.

Find another introspector with compatible interests and there is a good chance you will become highly “extroverted” toward each other.

UPDATE 02/02/21: Since introspection produces an identity that is grounded more on internal signals, self-generated or discovered signals, introspectors tend to be more different from each other than extrospectors within the same culture.


first posted AUGUST 25, 2013

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s