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The Injustice of Personality Prejudice,
This review is from: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Hardcover)
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First, look at this list from pg 5 in the introduction to this book:
"Without introverts, the world would be devoid of
the theory of gravity
the theory of relativity
W.B. Yeats's 'The Second Coming'
Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time'
Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm'
The Cat in the Hat
'Schindler's List,' 'E.T.,' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
Of course, that is only a tiny list of the accomplishments of introverts, and she forgot to put the Theory of Evolution in that list. Let's face it. One cannot expect people handicapped with extroversion to be able to think deeply or meditate over the serious philosophical, scientific, or supremely artistic subjects which move the deeper among us.
Okay, maybe extroversion is not a handicap, but it is important to realize that introversion is no more a handicap than extroversion. So, the extroverts deserve a retaliatory jab once in a while for treating introverts as though we are mentally and socially challenged.
This book by Susan Cain is the ultimate jab, though she is sometimes overnice toward the ones that have promoted "The Extrovert Ideal" for more than a century in the U.S. I do not believe I have read any better work dealing with the issue of personality than "Quiet."
There are some scientific points to be made in the book, with mention of studies that show how introversion or extroversion are biologically, genetically ingrained in us, though some of the studies (particularly the one mentioning literal "thin skin") strike me as somewhat irrelevant if not pseudoscientific. Some of the best information has to do with twin studies, particularly notable for showing the error of "blank slate" theory. See also The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker. I am a little puzzled there was no mention of Pinker in this book, even in the footnotes.
I am tempted to go through all of the subjects covered in this book and give a summary, but better than that is the list of thoughts from Susan Cain's blog, which will give an idea of the thrust of the book:
1. There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much": thinkers.
2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our "heed-takers" more than ever.
3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
4. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronyous, non-F2F communication.
5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it's cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there's nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.
6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.
7. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There's always time to be quiet later.
8. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
10. Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
11. It's OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
12. "Quiet leadership" is not an oxymoron.
13. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.
14. If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you've been.
15. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.
16."In a gentle way, you can shake the world." - Gandhi
The last thing I would like to convey is that I am happy I read this book, because being an introvert all of one's life can be difficult in modern U.S. culture. Being treated as a freak because of the personality characteristics introversion entails is unfortunate. Extroverts have it good right now, and frequently get the best rewards, even when an introvert is the one that deserves those rewards, value being placed on personality rather than merit, but it helps introverts to know we have superior characteristics, and should not regret them.
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Showing 41-50 of 128 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2012 3:43:37 AM PST
I also think Evolutionary Psychology is fake; I am so happy to see many people are recognizing it. Steven Pinker specifically seems an opportunist who is trying to make money out of other people's hard work. I am a linguist and know how the field is running. I found his claims about linguistics (specifically Chomskian linguistics) in his books quite reprehensible, fulled with exaggerations and hyperbole.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2012 12:23:42 AM PST
Brianna R. Palmer says:
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2012 9:54:45 PM PDT
Sophia, I don't think "having superior characteristics" was meant here as "having the traits of the one true superior type of person." I think it was meant to say "having traits that are desirable, valuable, & honorable." So why not say desirable / valuable / honorable? By the author's thesis, society holds the introvert's skill set as collectively inferior, ... so using the opposite word - "superior" - makes the her disagreement the most obvious. But simply flipping it: "I'm no loser; you're the loser," would be pretty self-embarrasing, so the counter-labeling is softened by applying it to traits, not the inherent totality of the person. (Also, that is simply more the author's point: that introverts have some traits that are very good things for society.)
I hear it like this: A quarterback is a superior passer. He passes better than most or all of his teammates, and passes better than he does probably anything else on the field. A wide receiver is a superior catcher (and runner). He catches & runs better than most of his teammates, and catches and runs better than he does anything else on the field. Neither is superior as a player to the other. And neither is superior as a person to anyone else, by virtue of their superior football skill/s.
Boiling that down: "Is the introvert inferior? No; they are not inferior (at everything). They are often superior at some important things, for which we are all better off."
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2012 8:03:41 AM PDT
Thank you, ZenGeekDad! This is very helpful. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this!
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 7:00:41 PM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 10:43:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 25, 2012 10:44:59 AM PDT
@Phaedrus - Your "logic" does not make sense to me. Frequency does not determine whether something is injurious or not. By your definition, slavery was an acceptable condition because slavery has existed in much of human history. But now, we as human beings have evolved enough to consider this as a reprehensible act/system.
Being an introvert does not make me mentally ill. It means that I have a preference towards fewer social interactions and that I like being by myself. I'm not a psychologist nor do I read psychiatric papers or topics, but I would call mental illness a state of being in which the individual is not able to take care of himself or may harm other people through his or her actions. Does my need for solitude really fall within this definition? Am I harming myself when I recharge so that I can interact with the world? I assure you, if you saw me at a party, you would see an outgoing, friendly, verbally articulate person. What you wouldn't see was the time spent in quiet immediately before and after the party. There are trade offs for being an introvert just as there are trade offs for beings an extrovert. The only problem is that western culture has begun to ascribe value judgments to one personality over the other.
Posted on Apr 13, 2012 12:22:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012 8:44:19 AM PDT
I'm deeply disturbed that no one has questioned the utility, or felicitousness, of labeling someone an 'introvert' or an 'extrovert.' It's such a dangerously misleading oversimplification! 'Personality' isn't really a stable phenomenon over time - in fact, people only think of it as stable across different situations in certain parts of the world, most notably the US and Canada (check out Richard Nisbett, the Geography of Thought). The idea of 'introverts' being a class of people is just straight up wrong, from a psychological standpoint. In a similar vein, I agree with the commenter earlier who was denigrating evolutionary psychology (check out Raymond Tallis, Aping Mankind). Gene's don't, and can't 'code for' personality in any meaningful way. A personality is something that arises only by means of a personal developmental history and a deeply complex embeddedness in a social, cultural, historical, and ecological situation. So as a final recommendation, check out Susan Oyama, Evolution's Eye (which disabuses us of the idea of causal genes or stable internal mental traits). This kind of hypersimplistic framing about 'introverts' and 'extroverts' is hilariously damaging to our cultural psychology, in a blackly humorous kind of way.
Wait, one more recommendation. For an actual treatment of our disconnectedness as a society, try Sherry Turkle's Alone Together. It's still on the edge of psuedoscience, but at least it has no pretentions to being otherwise and provides a deeply thoughtful commentary on thirty years of research from MIT's Science, Technology, and Society department.
Final note - that list at the beginning of the review, taken from the book? Please, think for ten seconds: none of those would have been possible without their respective cultural mores and values, the profound influence of caretakers and childhood playmates, friends, tormentors, allies, enemies, and crushes. There is no such thing as a 'handicap of extroversion,' and historically much of human memory and thought has been performed collaboratively. Alex Pentland, also of MIT, has argued empirically and persuasively that we literally cannot understand human intelligence as internal , belonging to a single person. It is an interactive phenomenon (see On the Collective Nature of Human Intelligence). What this means is that 'introvert' and 'extrovert' are nothing more than slightly abstract categories of preferred behavioral patterns, not profound descriptors of the psyche.
Posted on Apr 25, 2012 8:41:00 AM PDT
I think this review was written by an extrovert who, for whatever reason, imagines himself to be an introvert.
In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2012 4:54:48 PM PDT
happy harding says: