The Four Types Of Introversion Explained

You may have taken the Myers-Briggs test and discovered that you're an introvert, but you still want to understand yourself a little better. We're here to expand on what you think you know about introversion.


The American Psychological Association (APA) defines introversion as an "orientation toward the internal private world of one's self and one's inner thoughts and feelings, rather than toward the outer world of people and things." But there's not just one way to be an introvert, and the definition has evolved over time.

Jonathan Cheek, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, noticed that the way people described introversion often differed from its definitions in science. When he asked people on the street to define it, they would use words like "thoughtful" or "introspective" (via The Cut), which were never ways to describe it according to scientific literature he had read before. 

So, he decided to investigate and concluded that there are four types of introversion, which spell out the acronym STAR — social, thinking, anxious, and restrained. In 2011, Cheek and his colleagues Jennifer Grimes and Julie Norem presented this research at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference.


Though there are several distinct types, it's certainly possible for them to overlap. People may primarily be one type or they might be a blend of two or more. Before we dive into each one, let's take a look at what many people seem to get wrong about introversion.

Misconceptions about introversion

Introverts are commonly misunderstood due to their quiet and introspective nature. The top three misconceptions are that all introverts are "shy," "emotionless," or "loners" (via Introvert Dear). 

Most introverts think a lot before they speak, and it may take some time before they begin talking in groups. Once they open up, they often have a lot to say.


People also equate introversion to social anxiety disorder, but these are two different things. Social anxiety disorder gets in the way of everyday life. Introversion is a personality trait. Social interactions don't necessarily make all introverts anxious — they just need alone time to recharge.

Introverts tend to be accused of being emotionless or disinterested. A lot of the time, people perceive quietness as rejection. When an introvert isn't immediately opening up or showing emotion, it may come across as cold. But introverts often internalize their feelings and deal with them on their own rather than wearing their heart on their sleeve.

Being an introvert doesn't automatically make you a "loner." You may just crave time alone to decompress, and there's nothing wrong with that. 


Introversion can truly be a gift. A 2019 paper from the University of South Carolina described a link between introversion, creativity, and having a strong sense of self. Quiet self-esteem, thoughtfulness, and creativity are valuable assets to any workplace. Each type of introversion has its own strengths. 

Social introversion

A social introvert prefers being in small groups or alone time over large gatherings and parties. They feel most comfortable with a select group of friends and loved ones. Rather than attending loud parties with large crowds, a social introvert may prefer more intimate gatherings and calmer activities. They find more enjoyment in staying in to watch movies or reading a book rather than going out to a raging party. 


Social introverts are not necessarily shy. They can be very open with the people they are close to, while they prioritize their alone time in order to recharge. For most social introverts, this is not because of anxiety — it's about energy. Many introverts thrive in solitude and small group settings, while extroverts are energized from being in larger groups of people.

Introverts often get a bad rap, but there is strength in being a social introvert, as psychologist Carla Marie Manly explains to Well and Good. "The well-grounded social introvert is often a quiet 'rock' in gatherings. And, a social introvert can certainly be a comfort for those who are anxious or prefer to be in the background," she says.


Thinking introversion

Thinking introversion is pretty much exactly how it sounds. A thinking introvert is very introspective, thoughtful, and self-reflective, often lost in their imaginations and thoughts about the world. Many of them are artists, creatives, or intellectuals who feel most at peace when they are learning, reading, studying, and creating things. 


They may appear to be lost in thought or drifting from the conversation because their mind is always moving. Though they're quiet, they usually have very profound things to say when they do speak. It may take them some time to respond, but they are also great listeners.

Thinking introverts have a knack for bringing some depth into a conversation. If the conversation feels like it's a bit flat or superficial, leave it to thinking introvert to make it more interesting. "A thinking introvert can be an invaluable asset in regards to adding much-needed thoughtfulness and creativity to social settings," Dr. Manly tells Well and Good

Anxious introversion

Social anxiety doesn't affect every introvert, but it plays a big role in anxious introversion. This type of introversion is characterized most by feelings of anxiety around others. Anxious introverts often seek solitude because they feel uneasy or nervous at social gatherings, especially unfamiliar ones. They may become burnt out from the anxiety and stress they feel in social situations, leading them to avoid them altogether. 


Their anxiety may follow them even when they're alone. Anxiety often leads people to ruminate on past social interactions and things that haven't happened yet, according to the National Social Anxiety Center. While other types of introverts seek out alone time because they enjoy it, anxious introverts retreat inward because it feels safer to them. 

Though socializing can be difficult for anxious introverts, Dr. Manly points out a quiet strength that comes with this type of introversion. "The anxious introvert's sensitivity can actually be powerfully helpful in creating subgroups in social gatherings that even out the general tempo," she tells Well and Good. "For example, an anxious introvert may form a quieter group outside during a busy social gathering." At large gatherings where not everyone is as bubbly or outgoing, sometimes the quieter, anxious folks stick together to find comfort in each other. 


Restrained introversion

Have you ever known someone who put up walls when you first met but then eventually let their guard down over time? They may be a restrained introvert, also known as an "inhibited" or "reserved" introvert. These introverts think before they speak or act and might take a while to warm up to others. 


They are not avoidant like anxious introverts, but they do appear guarded when meeting new people. They tend to err on the side of caution rather than act on impulse. It's not that they dislike social interactions or aren't friendly; they are just careful with how they respond and react. 

Like the other forms of introversion, this type has a lot to offer. "The restrained introvert often adds an element of common sense to discussions and activities," says Dr. Manly (via Well and Good). They may act as a voice of reason due to their cautious nature, and this allows them to be reliable and responsible friends.