Jennifer O. Grimes

The Inner Voice

Are You A-Freyd of Introverts?

How to tell if you're more likely to introvert than to extrovert

Posted Jun 14, 2011

photo courtesy of Novella photography, Matt & Paulette Griswold

In the previous post, I said that you're probably not an introvert or an extrovert, arguing against a bimodal distinction. However, you may show signs of a temperament described as being introverted or extroverted based on how you display certain tendencies.

But what are they? And how can you tell?

How do you measure introversion or extroversion? Do you think of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? The Big Five's Extraversion facet? Today, there are a number of new checklists and measures emerging that people claim measure introversion. As an introversion researcher, I find this really exciting and promising, because it raises some important questions and points out what people think constitutes introversion.

But I'm admittedly disappointed with these methods: no one has gestured toward a scale that emerged soon after Psychological Types was written, a scale by a well-cited psychologist whose very measurement model was also well-cited.

So I ask again: do you think you're an introvert (one who tends to have preferences described as "introverted")? Let's consult with Max Freyd (1924), who explains that the following "...descriptive terms apply to tendencies shown by 'introverts'" (quotes added):

  • Blushes frequently; is self-conscious
  • Avoids all occasions for talking before crowds; finds it difficult to express himself [or herself] in public
  • Prefers to work alone rather than with people; prefers to work at tasks that do not bring him [or her] into contact with people
  • Dislikes and avoids any process of selling or persuading anyone to adopt a certain point of view (except in the religious field)
  • Takes up work which requires painstaking and delicate manipulation
  • Hesitates in making decisions on ordinary questions that arise in the course of the day
  • Introspects; turns his [or her] attention inward
  • Depreciates his [or her] own abilities, but assumes an outward air of conceit
  • Is critical of others
  • Is extremely careful about the friends he [or she] makes; must know a person pretty thoroughly before he [or she] calls him [or her] a friend
  • Limits his [or her] acquaintances to a select few (this may be beyond his [or her] control)
  • Has ups and downs in mood without apparent cause
  • Has ups and downs in mood with apparent cause
  • Works by fits and starts
  • Worries over possible misfortunes
  • Feels hurt readily; apparently sensitive about remarks or actions which have reference to himself [or herself]
  • Is outspoken; says what he [or she] considers the truth regardless of how others may take it
  • Keeps in the background on social occasions; avoids leadership at social affairs and entertainments
  • Is absent-minded
  • Is reticent and retiring; does not talk spontaneously
  • Shrinks when facing a crisis
  • Prefers to work things out on his [or her] own hook; hesitates to accept or give aid
  • Is meticulous; is extremely conservative about his [or her] dress and painstaking about his [or her] personal property
  • Prefers participation in competitive intellectual amusements to athletic games
  • Is a poor loser; considerably upset and indisposed after the loss of a competitive game
  • Makes mistakes in judging the character and ability of others
  • If he [or she] unburdens at all, he [or she] does so only to close personal friends and relatives
  • Indulges in self-pity when things go wrong
  • Day-dreams
  • Limits his [or her] acquaintances to members of his [or her] own sex
  • Is persistent in his [or her] beliefs and attitudes
  • Shrinks from actions which demand initiative and 'nerve'
  • Gets rattled easily; loses his [or her] head in excitement or moments of stress
  • Expresses himself [or herself] better in writing than in speech
  • Is governed by reason rather than impulse or emotion. Is a good rationalizer
  • Derives enjoyment from writing about himself [or herself]
  • Is thrifty and careful about making loans
  • Is conscientious
  • Resists discipline and orders
  • Admires perfection of form in literature
  • Is sentimental
  • Rewrites his [or her] social letters before mailing them
  • Pays serious attention to rumors
  • Believes in 'mind' cures; accepts an idealistic philosophy
  • Talks to himself [or herself]
  • Keeps a diary
  • Is strongly motivated by praise
  • Is selfish
  • Is slow in movement
  • Prefers to read of a thing rather than experience it
  • Is suspicious of the motives of others
  • Is effeminate (if a man)
  • Is a radical; wants to change the world instead of adjusting himself [or herself] to it
  • Is creative of new and sometimes eccentric ideas and things

You'll notice that you probably didn't answer consistently throughout the questionnaire. Why? It is broadly representative of the many meanings of introversion. My mentor, Professor Jonathan Cheek of Wellesley College, and I followed the conceptual development of the construct of introversion and we ran factor analyses to find four major categorical groupings of markers of introverting (social, thinking, anxious, and inhibited subtypes. I'll explain those more in another post). These markers reflect the nature of the inner object (what you're introverting toward) and the nature of the process (how you do it). Therefore, you may be of a certain "subtype" of introversion.

Introversion means different things to different people -- some see it as a sociability factor (like Eysenck--he also saw it as low impulsivity), others as a type of self-expressiveness (Allport & Allport), or activity level (McDougall), while still others discuss a "thinking" component (Jung did for a time, and Guilford did, too). It may be a self-fixation versus a "flight into reality" (Conklin).

Perhaps the best way to find a compromise for these purposes is to accept a tendency toward introversion not as a source trait, but as a "rough approximation of a large surface trait" (Cattell, 1946, p. 497 in North, 1949). While no one scale will be a consistent measure of your introversion, they nicely point out how the subtlety and complexity of different personalities add such rich variation to who we are.

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