Introverts and Extroverts.

I was asked by the founders of the #DiversityJC (Journal Club) to be a co-moderator with them and will cross post blog posts from their to Postdoc Street as well, as I will be writing at least some of the blog posts that they do. 

This week in #DiversityJC we’re going to talk about one of the core personality traits that we all have. Are you more extroverted or introverted? Introverts make up a third to half of the population and yet they’re too often looked over in the extrovert-idealizing world of the United States.

There are a few articles we’ll get into:

Do Introverts rate their extroverted peers more harshly?

And with such an emphasis being placed on active learning, participation, and otherwise outwardly demonstrating a metric of being present, are introverts marginalized? 

And last, this from the Chronicle a few years ago about how introverts might be selected against in academia.

Where do you fall?

If you aren’t sure, you can take a test like the myers-briggs personality test (caution: results are not grounded in science, but it does seem to identify Introverts/Extroverts pretty well) or this test I like better from Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ website.

I want to disambiguate introversion and shyness. They’re different things. Shyness is more about social anxiety and what others will think and there are ways of getting over being shy. Introversion is a baked in personality trait.

The Extrovert-Introvert spectrum is just one dimension of personality, just one aspect of a person, but it’s one is both hard wired, yet somewhat malleable too. It’s possible to act against type for all of us for a time, but we always return to our base state eventually, needing to recharge.

The biggest population probably falls into the mildly extroverted/mildly introverted line, somewhere in the middle, so called ambiverts that are comfortable extending themselves both ways.

Why does this matter?

In the United States at least, the paragon of success, of who people look up to and want to be, the ideal, is an extrovert. The personality type that derives energy from interacting with other people, think by talking, seemingly take charge, and dive right in to do things. Introverts consider new projects, but take their time to think them through before starting in on them. Extroverts tend to have more people they call friends. Introverts tend to have a small group of close friends that they’re fiercely loyal to.

And it’s the extroverted ideal that is really damaging to some introverts. It’s considered the ideal in the US. I have been told that I shouldn’t pursue a field because the person thought being extroverted was a job requirement (it probably isn’t…many performers/entertainers that seem loud and out there on stage are in fact introverts).  I grew up thinking something was fundamentally wrong with me until I read “Quiet” a few years ago (bias alert: I have a huge place in my heart for Susan Cain and ‘Quiet’– it’s a book that changed my life for the better).

Introverts can’t be successful and good leaders– in fact evidence suggests that introverts are more successful leaders assuming their teams are self-starters and motivated.

Introverts have to navigate a loud world. Open labs and offices, classrooms that emphasize only group work.

Join us to talk Introversion-Extroversion on Monday at 2pm, Eastern

Being aware of how best to communicate with introverts and extroverts will help us all get along.

Here’s a Lifehacker post on doing just that.

See you on Monday at 2pm!

Ian Street

Doctor PMS

Emily S Klein.


Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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