Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Slandering Introverts Again!

As an INTJ profile introvert, pushing at a threshold of nearly 95% toward the "I", I confess I have little patience with this sociophile society which glorifies blabbering, half-drunken (with themselves) extros, and the nitwits that provide them with incessant pedestals. But my greatest ire is reserved for the pseudo-scientists in the psychological arena that further contribute to this "extroverts are better"  meme with their half -assed research that attempts to show introverts are in some sense sick. Or at least maladapted and possibly neurotic.

Now, this comes to the fore in terms of recently reported research in a new British study  which attempts to make the case that extroversion and neuroticism are opposites. In other words, if I am not an extrovert (which I am assuredly not) than I must be "neurotic".  WTF?   According to the general first year textbook, 'PSYCHOLOGY', used at Clark University (p. 598):

"Extroversion and introversion refer to the main direction of a person's energies, toward the outer world of other people and material objects or toward the inner world of one's own thoughts and feelings. The extrovert is sociable, impulsive and enjoys new experiences, while the introvert tends to be more solitary, cautious, and slow to change. Extroversion is indicated by affirmative answers to questions such as 'Do you like to have many social engagements?' and 'Would you rate yourself a happy-go-lucky individual?'"

The same text page also notes "neuroticism is equivalent to emotional instability". Also, (as Eysenck conceived it) "neuroticism/ emotional stability and extroversion/ introversion are independent of each other."

With which I totally agree. What would be the consequence if such independence were not so? Well, it could mean that one half of humanity would be consigned to being labeled with a propensity toward emotional instability. We'd be viewed as potential serial killers, mass murderers, terrorists, or plain whackos! In other words, the already existing societal bias against us would be amplified.

Anyway, the authors of the British study, led by by Catharine Gale of the University of Southampton, concluded in an article appearing in the Journal of Research in Personality that extroversion had “direct, positive effects on well-being,”  Gale and her colleagues examined data on 4,583 people compiled by the National Survey for Health and Development, conducted by the U.K.’s Medical Research Council. All were born in 1946; they completed a short personality inventory at age 16, and again at age 26.

Decades later, when the participants were 60 to 64 years old, 2,529 of them answered a series of questions measuring well-being and their level of satisfaction with life. They also reported on their mental and physical health. Their answers point to a distinct pattern. “Even after a period of nearly 50 years,” the researchers reported, “extroversion is a direct predictor of wellbeing.”
Neuroticism, in contrast, had "a negative impact", due to its connection with “poorer mental and physical health.”  Hmmmmm.......,so I guess all of us "intros" are fucked, eh?

Note the false dichotomy betrayed by the words "in contrast".  It reminded me of the August, 2003 NBC Today show series headed up: "Truth or Conspiracy?"  Posed as the false dichotomy that one can have truth or one can have conspiracy, but not both. No wonder so many Americans have their brains in a mess, lack critical thinking ability, and exhibit one of the highest rates of mental disease in the world!   After that sequence - which had to do with the JFK assassination, I thought to myself that a warning label for every network news show ought to be on a crawler: "This may be hazardous to your mental health! Don't watch without some critical thinking skills or a knowledge of history!"

But we expect a much higher standard from researchers even remotely connected to a mental health field, who should not fall for such loose thinking. ( Extroversion was assessed by determining their sociability, energy, and “activity orientation.” Neuroticism was assessed by such measures as emotional stability, mood, and distractibility.)

Clearly, it doesn't take a professional psychologist, only someone who has worked in a strong scientific research field, to see these researchers loaded the dice against introverts. They did this by their choice of methodology, their biased emphasis - reflected in determination of "good-positive quality" markers -  and their obvious tendency to incorporate selection effects and not notice them.  How else explain lazily posing neuroticism opposite that of "healthy" extroversion?

One is almost led to conclude that Gale and all her co-workers were extroverts, hence were unable to see the bias latent in their approach to the study, the statistics and selection bias.  (I also seriously doubt that intro researchers would be so cavalier, certainly in their use of language!)

If accepted seriously, the effect of this "study" will be to reinforce the existing personality bias to further render one personality type acceptable and another abnormal. This despite the fact that at least 1 in 3 humans are born with the DNA of intros (see the book  'Nature's Thumbprint') and hence it's as much an abomination to expect introverts to become extroverts as it would be to expect short men or women to always wear 6" heeled shoes to fit in with "tallies". It also leaves enormous human potential unused if those introverts are unable to fit in, and hence must pay a steep status and economic price.

All of this is why Susan Cain's book, QUIET, is must reading for any introverts, and also ought to be for the extro brigade (including Catherine Gale and her co-workers). Cain, since its publication, has become the de facto spokesperson for introverts everywhere. To see more of Cain and her TED talk on introverts, go to:


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