My roommate recently started reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and after the first few pages, put down the book and asked me, “Are you an introvert or an extravert?”
Hmm…if I say extraverted does that make me appear arrogant? But if I say introverted, will I seem timid? What if I’m both? Wait. I think I am both. Is that possible? There’s no way.
Needless to say, my definitions of introverted and extraverted needed some help, and as we delved into a long discussion regarding personality types, my roommate and I came to the conclusion that a person could be both introverted and extraverted. Well duh, Carl Jung already told us this a century ago. Jung’s theories must have been put on the back burner, overshadowed by Freud’s psychosexual theories in my introductory psychology course.
Which brings me to my newest interest, the science of personality.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, proposed and developed the concepts of extraverted and introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious in the early 1900s. Jung defined introversion as being focused on one’s inner psychic activity and extraversion being focused on external factors in the outside world. His theories inspired the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which measures psychological preferences in how people interpret the world, which thus influences decision-making tendencies. The MBTI is intended to translate personality type theory into practical application, such as in the workplace. It is thought that workplace efficiency can be increased when an employee’s personality type is considered and catered to accordingly.
According to Jung and Myers-Briggs, the four principle psychological functions by which we experience the world are sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking; sensing and intuition are perceiving functions, and thinking and feeling are judging functions. Further, each of the functions can be expressed in an either introverted or extraverted form. The MBTI sorts these psychological functions as pairs, resulting in 16 possible personality types. For example:
ENTJ: entraversion (E), intuition (N), thinking (T), judgment (J)
Extroversion vs. Introversion indicates whether one directs attention and gets energy from the external world of people or the internal world of concepts and ideas. Introverts are powered by the inner worlds and can be social but thrive on alone time; they want to think more than talk and may create interconnected frameworks of abstract information. Extroverts find energy in people and socializing; they tend to think on their feet and thrive off interpersonal interaction.
Sensing vs. intuition indicates whether one perceives the world by observing reality or using their imagination. Sensing people rely on their five senses; they want facts. Intuitive people just have that “spidey-sense” about something that tells them it is right; they are innovative.
Thinking vs. feeling indicates a person’s preference in decision making. Thinkers take analysis, logic, and principle into consideration; they value fairness in making decisions. Feelers value empathy and harmony and focus on human values.
Judging vs. Perceiving tells us whether a person views the world as a structured or spontaneous environment. Judgers are decisive self-starters; they take action quickly and follow their plan of action. Perceivers are curious, adaptable and spontaneous; they may start many things that they never finish and like to leave their options open.
Obviously, the science of a personality is multi-faceted, plastic, and highly variable. It would be impossible to cover the topic in a textbook, let alone a blog post. Though I’m not entirely convinced that each person falls into a specific personality, I do agree that people fluctuate in their behavior all the time, and even extreme “introverts” and “extraverts” do not always act according to their type.
According to my personality test results, I’m an ENTJ. Apparently I’m a leader that values knowledge and competence, and usually has little patience with inefficiency or disorganization. This may be true, however, right now I am writing this blog instead of studying for my last final, which means–brace yourself–I’ve stepped outside of my personality type. But in this age of technology, innovation, and distraction, I really think I have to be a little of both to succeed, and that is exactly what I will strive to be.