In an online article titled “Don’t Call Introverted Children ‘Shy’”, Susan Cain argues about how society differs in giving privileges between outgoing and shy people. She points out advantages of shy and introverted people, in which these traits, according to Cain herself, are perceived as disadvantages among today’s life. Another point is that society actually is in need for introverted and shy people, because of their cautious temperament, not just those who are bold and outgoing. And thus, Cain infers, both people who possess these contrary temperaments, should have no preference of one over another, and even work to build the world together. Indeed, these points were made out arguably clear by Cain, but, where she obtains these psychological terms and definitions, is something questionable itself.
In the article, Cain states, in which according to Elaine Aron (the author of Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person), 70% of children with careful temperament grow up to be introverts, which is, she defines, as people who prefer minimal stimulation from their surroundings. Yet according to C.G Jung (who had created the first extraversion-introversion personality psychological concept) on his earliest English publicised journal in On Psychological Understanding (1914):
The introverted type is characterised by the fact that he applies his home chiefly to himself i.e. he finds the Unconditioned Values within himself, but the extraverted type applies his home to the external world, to the object, the Non-Ego, i.e. he finds the unconditioned value outside himself. The introverted considers everything under the aspect of the values of his own Ego; the extraverted depends upon the value of his object (Jung, 1914 as cited in Gayer, 2012).
From this definition, introversion is a trait valuing inner world and beliefs, while extraversion trait values outside world. This definition itself does not concerning careful temperament. While, this careful temperament, appears in definition of Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) who has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment (Aron, 2012). While according to Aron, only 70% of these HSPs are introverts, means, the rest 30% are extraverts. Now, this also concerns Cain’s way of addressing those who are cautious as all introverts, as she stated in ‘It’s no accident that introverts get better grades than extroverts (…) even though their IQ scores are no higher.’ and ‘Extroverts are more likely than introverts to get into car accidents, participate in extreme sports and to place large financial bets.’ while definitions from Jung and Aron do not suffice to prove this generalisation.
Another point, Cain brings some supportive facts and quotes to strengthen her arguments more, while these arguments should be looked on with contempt. One example of these facts is that according to a recent study by management professor Adam Grant of University of Pennsylvania, introverted leaders delivered better results than extraverts in employees management, because they encourage others’ ideas instead of trying to put their own stamp on things. And that they refrain more from taking dangerous risks. These behaviours are not necessarily correlated to extraversion-introversion, but are related to Openness to Experience factor, which is one of the factor constructing Big 5 Model or known also as OCEAN (a psychological instrument in measuring people’s behaviour). Openness to experience (versus closed-mindedness) was described as the breadth, depth, originality, and complexity of an individual’s mental life and experiences (John & Srivastava, 1999, p. 121). This trait concerns the ability to see different perspectives regarding an issue and thinking outside-the-box, which correlates into creativity as one of major points of Openness to Experience trait (Oleynick et al., 2017, p. 16), while closed-mindedness responds negatively to these experiences, and distrusts others perspectives. Given that personality is inherently different from behaviour, it is safe to say that both introverts and extraverts have the possibility of becoming open-minded and closed-minded.
Then, in response to the statement which introverts refrain more from dangerous risks, the definition of highly sensitive person and introversion should be once again looked upon. That those who is more likely to refrain, should be a highly sensitive person, not introverts, since both extraverts and introverts could be highly sensitive. And also examples of quotes Cain brings to the table, ‘“Neither E=mc² nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal.” stated by science writer Winfred Gallagher’, and that ‘extraverts are more likely than introverts to get into car accidents, participate in extreme sports and to place large financial bets’, also apply the same term. Party animal and extraverts here should refer to those who seeks highly stimulating environment, which could also applied on both introverts and extraverts.
While Cain dishes quite clear arguments herself, these arguments wouldn’t be valid when the terms and definitions, which serves as the foundation of the arguments themselves, are misleading. After all these days the term of extraversion-introversion, especially, has already been blurred enough, Cain should has been more careful in reassessing psychological terms into her arguments.
- Oleynick et.al. (2017). Openness/Intellect. Retrieved from https://scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Oleynick-et-al.-2017.pdf
- Geyer, Peter. (2012). Extraversion – Introversion: what C.G. Jung meant and how contemporaries responded. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264782791_Extraversion_-_Introversion_what_CG_Jung_meant_and_how_contemporaries_responded
- John, O. P. & Srivastava, S. (1999) The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. New York: Guilford Press. p. 121.
- Aron, Elaine. (2012). The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. Retrieved April 18. 2018 from http://hsperson.com/books/the-highly-sensitive-person/