If you spend any time at all in the Myers-Briggs community, then you’ve probably noticed – as have I – that a frequent complaint about this otherwise fairly robust system is from people who find themselves categorised as either Extraverted or Introverted whilst feeling like they’re actually a mixture of both. These people often style themselves as Ambiverts.
On the face of it, they have good reason to moan. MBTI purists assert that people are either Introverted or Extraverted and there can be no half way house. This seems stupid since people frequently, obviously, behave in ways that are somewhere in the middle. It’s annoying to be forced into a pigeon-hole at the best of times, let alone the wrong pigeon-hole.
However, I *think* I’ve got this sussed.
As I understand it, the “either/or” assertion is based upon actual structural, genetic and biochemical differences between the two groups. Introverts favour their parasympathetic, cholinergic nervous system whereas Extraverts favour their sympathetic, adrenergic nervous system (“favour” seems to mean “are more comfortable when using”). As such, it can be easily seen that you have to be one or the other. There is no half way.
However, the I-E axis is not the only determinant of behaviour. Let us also consider the Judging-Perceiving axis. J-people are naturally interested in their community and how they fit within it. P-people are more concerned with how they themselves are functioning and are less interested in group dynamics.
From here, it’s not a great stretch to see that J-people are likely to enjoy interaction with their community more than P-people. So the behaviour of J-Introverts is much more sociable than that of P-Introverts, even though both groups preferentially use the cholinergic rather than the adrenergic nervous system. A J-Introvert will nonetheless be “peopled-out” far sooner than a genuine, adrenergic Extravert.
Still with me?!
My own empirical observations suggest that most people who either behave as or regard themselves as Ambiverts are indeed I**Js. I’m wary of making too much of this observation since I live in England where it often feels like every second person you meet is an IS*J. I sometimes wonder where everybody else goes. However, my opposite observation also holds. The most solitude-loving Introverts I know are obvious I**Ps. Oh, except for one INTJ. But then, INTJs are a law unto themselves.
I hope this helps. 😀