What is an Ambivert? An In-Depth Definition and Guide

By Charlotte Nickerson, published June 14, 2022 | Fact Checked by Saul Mcleod, PhD


Ambiversion is the tendency to display characteristics of introversion and extraversion in approximately equal degrees. Such a person would be referred to as an ambivert.

An ambivert essentially changes their behavior based on the situation they find themselves in. For example, they may be quite introverted and reserved around strangers, but will be more energetic and extroverted around close friends and family.

extrovert introvert ambivert intersection diagram infographics with flat style

Other psychologists have called ambiverts (Petric, 2019):

  • Outgoing introverts: introverts who can be outgoing in certain situations, around certain people, or when they absolutely need to.
  • Antisocial extroverts: extroverts who need time to recharge before socializing, or who like to be alone more than a typical extrovert.
  • Social introverts: an introvert who can behave in a more extroverted way when needed.

Key Takeaways

  • Ambiversion is the quality of having both introverted and extroverted personality traits. Unlike introverts, who gain energy from solitude, or extroverts, who feel energized by socializing, ambiverts fall somewhere in the middle.
  • They often enjoy spending time with others, but also value their alone time and need some time to recharge after social interactions.
  • While many people tend to assume that they are either introverts or extroverts, research suggests that most people are actually ambiverts.
  • The term ambiversion was coined in the early 20th century by psychologist Kimball Young. Young believed that everyone has both introverted and extroverted qualities and that each person falls somewhere on a spectrum.
  • Research suggests that ambiverts may be better salespeople than either introverts or extroverts because they are able to adapt their approach to the customer. Other studies point to the strength of ambiverts in academics.

Theoretical Origins

The first person to coin the term "ambiversion" was psychologist Kimball Young in 1927 in, Source Book for Social Psychology.

However, the concept of introversion and extroversion dates to Carl Jung's core ideas in his exploration of personality.

He defined extraversion as “an outward turning of libido” and introversion as “an inward turning of libido." Jung referred to libido as motivational to a range of behaviors – including and not including sexual gratification.

Since then, research has shown that ambiversion is fairly common, with estimates suggesting that more than half of the general population are likely to be ambiverts.

Despite the prevalence of ambiversion, it is less commonly written about than extraversion and introversion.

This is largely due to the widespread belief that extraversion and introversion are binary traits. As a result, many ambiverts fail to recognize their own ambiversion, instead placing themselves on one extreme end of the spectrum or the other.

Personality Spectrum

The introvert-extrovert spectrum is a model that suggests that there is a continuum of introverted and extroverted behaviors, with ambiverts falling in the middle.

On one end of the spectrum are introverts, who tend to be quiet, reflective, and reserved. On the other end are extroverts, who are usually more outgoing, assertive, and sociable. Ambiverts fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

There may be a genetic component to introversion and extraversion, as well as ambiversion. The evidence for this debate largely comes from research on twins. One study found that identical twins were more likely to share the same orientation than fraternal twins.

Other research has shown that introverts and extroverts differ in their brain activity. For example, one study found that introverts have more blood flow to the frontal lobes of their brain, while extroverts have more blood flow to the rear regions.

This suggests that there may be some underlying neurological differences between the two types. However, there is also evidence to suggest that introversion and extraversion are not entirely fixed traits.

For instance, one study found that people's self-reported orientation can change over time. This suggests that people are not necessarily locked into one type or the other, but may instead fall somewhere in between (Botwinick, 1984).

This debate has important implications for how psychologists understand and study personality. If introversion and extraversion are truly binary traits, then it would be relatively easy to study them.

However, if they are not, then it becomes much more difficult to connect the outward signs of these personality traits to the underlying biology.

Ambivert Characteristics

Ambiverts are able to exhibit both introverted and extroverted traits, and may switch depending on the context and individual factors.

For example, an ambivert  may be somewhat talkative, quite assertive, but not exceptionally sociable (Petric, 2019).

This mix of traits can make it difficult to identify ambiverts, as their behavior may vary depending on the situation.

Nonetheless, there are a few key traits that are commonly associated with ambiverts, including:

  • Being able to adapt to different situations

  • Being good at communication -  both listening and speaking

  • Being comfortable with both large groups and small intimate gatherings

  • Being able to work well both independently and in teams

  • Having a strong sense of self-awareness

  • Providing balance in social situations

  • An ability to regulate behavior and responses

While ambiverts share some characteristics with both introverts and extroverts, they are unique in that they are able to draw from both sides of the spectrum. This allows them to be more flexible and adaptable than either type alone.

Ambiverts are also able to process thoughts and emotions both out loud and internally, meaning that they may benefit from talking out problems with others as well as from processing  through a solitary activity, such as writing.

Sales

Adam Grant conducted a personality survey and conducted three-month sales records on more than 300 salespeople of both genders.

Those who were in the middle of introversion and extraversion - ambiverts - tended to be the best salespeople.

Overall, ambiverts generated 24% more revenue than introverts, and 32% more revenue than extroverts.

Grant (2013) believed that this ambivert advantage in sales stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited.

Business Research

Karl Moore (2012) of McGill University conducted research into introverted versus extroverted personality traits in the business world.

From his perspective, blending the two personality types fosters success in the workplace.

Contrary to popular opinion, he believed that becoming an ambivert is a skill that both introverts and extroverts alike can master.

In one of Karl Moore's studies, he found that those who were in the middle of the scale - ambiverts - performed best when making business decisions.

He argues that this is because they are able to take into account both sides of an issue and come to a more well-rounded conclusion.

Academic Performance

A study by Tretiak and Severynovska (2016) found that ambiverts tend to do better academically than either introverts or extroverts.

The authors suggest that this may be because they are able to draw on both introverted and extroverted qualities, such as being able to focus on their studies while also socializing with classmates.

The study also found that ambiverts are more likely to seek out help from others, which may lead to improved performance.

This is in line with the idea that ambiverts are more flexible and adaptable than either introverts or extroverts.

Evaluation

Overall, ambiversion confers the advantage of flexibility, adaptability, and balance.

For example, an ambivert can easily adjust their behavior to fit different social situations, whether that means being quiet in a one-on-one chat or taking on more of a leadership role in a larger group.

This allows them to navigate social interactions effectively and build strong relationships with others. On the other hand, while they might be able to draw from both introverted and extroverted traits, ambiverts may find it difficult to fully embrace either side at the exclusion of the other.

As such, some people may perceive them as lacking conviction or passion about anything in particular, relegating themselves to the "peacekeeper" in social and work settings.

Additionally, being torn between two extremes can lead to exhaustion when attempting to seek balance.

Lastly, with ambiversion may come pressure to remain a certain way in a specific event or setting, as others may not realize the alternate side of an ambivert’s personality (Grant, 2013).

About the Author

Charlotte Nickerson is a member of the Class of 2024 at Harvard University. Coming from a research background in biology and archeology, Charlotte currently studies how digital and physical space shapes human beliefs, norms, and behaviors and how this can be used to create businesses with greater social impact.

Fact Checking

Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication.

Cite this Article (APA Style)

Nickerson, C. (2022, June 14). What is an Ambivert? An In-Depth Definition and Guide. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/ambivert.html

References

Botwinick, J. (1984). Personality development: Stability and change. Aging and Behavior, 143-165.

Georgiev, S. Y., Christov, C. V., & Philipova, D. T. (2014). Ambiversion as independent personality characteristic. Act. Nerv. Super. Rediviva56(3-4), 65-72.

Grant, A. M. (2013). Rethinking the extraverted sales ideal: The ambivert advantage. Psychological Science, 24(6), 1024-1030.

Jung, C. G. (1921). Psychological types. The collected works of CG Jung, Vol. 6 Bollingen Series XX.

Moore, K. (2012). Introverts no longer the quiet followers of extroverts. Forbes.

Petric, D. (2019). Introvert, Extrovert and Ambivert. The Knot Theory of Mind.

Tretiak, T. O., Severynovska, O. V., & Boyko, M. (2016). Connection of students’ academic performance and cognitive abilities with their psychological characteristics. Regulatory Mechanisms in Biosystems, 1(7), 18-26.

Young, K. (1927). Source book for social psychology.