Researchers Debate Importance of Introverts Acting like Extroverts


Several courses I teach include discussion regarding the importance of understanding personality preferences.  Students often take personality tests to determine their “type”.  Part of their type includes whether they are introverts or extraverts (Myers Briggs spells extravert with an “a” instead of an “o”).  In my training to become a qualified Myers Briggs MBTI trainer, I learned that people have preferences for how they like to receive and process information.  We were told it was similar to how people prefer to write with their right or left hand.  That is why I found the recent Wall Street Journal article titled How an Introvert Can Be Happier:  Act Like an Extrovert to be so interesting.  The title contradicts some of what I learned in my training.

Some interesting highlights from this article include:

  • Introverts who are more withdrawn in nature, will feel a greater sense of happiness if they act extroverted (according to research from 2012 in the Journal of Personality).
  • Extraverts are more motivated than introverts due to a greater sensitivity to dopamine that drives rewards.
  • Genetics plays a large role in whether people are introverts or extroverts.
  • Introverts misjudge the amount of anxiety and embarrassment they feel when they must act like extroverts.
  • It was tiring for introverts to act like extroverts than for extroverts to act like introverts.

If Myers Briggs information teaches us that people have certain preferences and feel more comfortable with those preferences, this research contradicts that.  However, not all researchers agree with these results.  Some of the researchers in this article believed that trying to act against type would deplete glucose resources due to the concentration involved.  If genetics truly plays a role in whether someone is introverted or extroverted, then people may find it difficult to constantly fight their natural tendencies.

Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, argued that the people should draw on their strengths rather than try to be something they are not.  This is not unlike the position Tom Rath, author of Strengths Finder 2.0 takes in his book that embraces working on strengths rather than weaknesses.  In the book, It’s Not Your It’s Your Personality, several of the top personality theories and assessments are addressed including Myers Briggs and Strengths Finders, DISC, and Emotional Intelligence.

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