Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking Part 41


1. Meet Professor Brian Little: The stories about Brian Little throughout this chapter come from numerous telephone and e-mail interviews with the author between 2006 and 2010.

2. Hippocrates, Milton, Schopenhauer, Jung: Please see A Note on the Words Introvert and Extrovert for more on this point.

3. Walter Mischel: For an overview of the person-situation debate, see, for example, David C. Funder, The Personality Puzzle (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), 11844. See also Walter Mischel and Yuichi Shoda, "Reconciling Processing Dynamics and Personality Dispositions," Annual Review of Psychology 49 (1998): 22958. In further support of the premise that there truly is such a thing as a fixed personality: We know now that people who score as introverts on personality tests tend to have different physiologies and probably inherit some different genes from those who measure as extroverts. We also know that personality traits predict an impressive variety of important life outcomes. If you're an extrovert, you're more likely to have a wide circle of friends, have risky s.e.x, get into accidents, and excel at people-oriented work like sales, human resources, and teaching. (This doesn't mean that you will do these things-only that you're more likely than your typical introvert to do them.) If you're an introvert, you're more likely to excel in high school, in college, and in the land of advanced degrees, to have smaller social networks, to stay married to your original partner, and to pursue autonomous work like art, research, math, and engineering. Extroversion and introversion even predict the psychological challenges you might face: depression and anxiety for introverts (think Woody Allen); hostility, narcissism, and overconfidence for extroverts (think Captain Ahab in Moby-d.i.c.k, drunk with rage against a white whale).

In addition, there are studies showing that the personality of a seventy-year-old can be predicted with remarkable accuracy from early adulthood on. In other words, despite the remarkable variety of situations that we experience in a lifetime, our core traits remain constant. It's not that our personalities don't evolve; Kagan's research on the malleability of high-reactive people has singlehandedly disproved this notion. But we tend to stick to predictable patterns. If you were the tenth most introverted person in your high school cla.s.s, your behavior may fluctuate over time, but you probably still find yourself ranked around tenth at your fiftieth reunion. At that cla.s.s reunion, you'll also notice that many of your cla.s.smates will be more introverted than you remember them being in high school: quieter, more self-contained, and less in need of excitement. Also more emotionally stable, agreeable, and conscientious. All of these traits grow more p.r.o.nounced with age. Psychologists call this process "intrinsic maturation," and they've found these same patterns of personality development in countries as diverse as Germany, the UK, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. They've also found them in chimps and monkeys.

This makes evolutionary sense. High levels of extroversion probably help with mating, which is why most of us are at our most sociable during our teenage and young adult years. But when it comes to keeping marriages stable and raising children, having a restless desire to hit every party in town may be less useful than the urge to stay home and love the one you're with. Also, a certain degree of introspection may help us age with equanimity. 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.

4. social life is performance: See, for example, Carl Elliott, Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), 47.

5. Jack Welch advised in a BusinessWeek: Jack Welch, "Release Your Inner Extrovert," BusinessWeek online, November 26, 2008.

6. Free Trait Theory: For an overview of Free Trait Theory, see, for example, Brian R. Little, "Free Traits, Personal Projects, and Ideo-Tapes: Three Tiers for Personality Psychology," Psychological Inquiry 7, no. 4 (1996): 34044.

7. "To thine own self be true": Actually, this advice comes not so much from Shakespeare as from his character Polonius in Hamlet.

8. research psychologist named Richard Lippa: Richard Lippa, "Expressive Control, Expressive Consistency, and the Correspondence Between Expressive Behavior and Personality," Journal of Behavior and Personality 36, no. 3 (1976): 43861. Indeed, psychologists have found that some people who claim not to be shy in a written questionnaire are quite adept at concealing those aspects of shyness that they can control consciously, such as talking to members of the opposite s.e.x and speaking for long periods of time. But they often "leak" their shyness unwittingly, with tense body postures and facial expressions.

9. psychologists call "self-monitoring": Mark Snyder, "Self-Monitoring of Expressive Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 30, no. 4 (1974): 52637.

10. experience less stress while doing so: Joyce E. Bono and Meredith A. Vey, "Personality and Emotional Performance: Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Self-Monitoring," Journal of Occupational Health Psychology" 12, no. 2 (2007): 17792.

11. "Restorative niche" is Professor Little's term: See, for example, Brian Little, "Free Traits and Personal Contexts: Expanding a Social Ecological Model of Well-Being," in Person-Environment Psychology: New Directions and Perspectives, edited by W. Bruce Walsh et al. (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum a.s.sociates, 2000).

12. "a Free Trait Agreement": See, for example, Brian Little and Maryann F. Joseph, "Personal Projects and Free Traits: Mutable Selves and Well Beings," in Personal Project Pursuit: Goals, Action, and Human Flourishing, edited by Brian R. Little et al. (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum a.s.sociates, 2007), 395.

13. "Emotional labor": Howard S. Friedman, "The Role of Emotional Expression in Coronary Heart Disease," in In Search of the Coronary-p.r.o.ne: Beyond Type A, edited by A. W. Siegman et al. (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum a.s.sociates, 1989), 14968.

14. people who suppress negative emotions: Melinda Wenner, "Smile! It Could Make You Happier: Making an Emotional Face-or Suppressing One-Influences Your Feelings," Scientific American Mind, October 14, 2009, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=smile-it-could-make-you-happier.


1. people who value intimacy highly: Randy J. La.r.s.en and David M. Buss, Personality Psychology: Domains of Knowledge About Human Nature (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 353.

2. "Extroverts seem to need people as a forum": E-mail from William Graziano to the author, July 31, 2010.

3. In a study of 132 college students: Jens B. Aspendorf and Susanne Wilpers, "Personality Effects on Social Relationships," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74, no. 6 (1998): 153144.

4. so-called Big Five traits: Agreeableness is defined later in this chapter. "Openness to Experience" measures curiosity, openness to new ideas, and appreciation for art, invention, and unusual experiences; "Conscientious" people are disciplined, dutiful, efficient, and organized; "Emotional Stability" measures freedom from negative emotions.

5. sit them down in front of a computer screen: Benjamin M. Wilkowski et al., "Agreeableness and the Prolonged Spatial Processing of Antisocial and Prosocial Information," Journal of Research in Personality 40, no. 6 (2006): 115268. See also Daniel Nettle, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), chapter on agreeableness.

6. equally likely to be agreeable: Under the "Big Five" definitions of personality, extroversion and agreeableness are by definition orthogonal. See, for example, Colin G. DeYoung et al., "Testing Predictions from Personality Neuroscience: Brain Structure and the Big Five," Psychological Science 21, no. 6 (2010): 82028: "Agreeableness appears to identify the collection of traits related to altruism: one's concern for the needs, desires, and rights of others (as opposed to one's enjoyment of others, which appears to be related primarily to Extraversion)."

7. latter are "confrontive copers": See, for example: (1) Donald A. Loffredo and Susan K. Opt, "Argumentation and Myers-Briggs Personality Type Preferences," paper presented at the National Communication a.s.sociation Convention, Atlanta, GA; (2) Rick Howard and Maeve McKillen, "Extraversion and Performance in the Perceptual Maze Test," Personality and Individual Differences 11, no. 4 (1990): 39196; (3) Robert L. Geist and David G. Gilbert, "Correlates of Expressed and Felt Emotion During Marital Conflict: Satisfaction, Personality, Process and Outcome," Personality and Individual Differences 21, no. 1 (1996): 4960; (4) E. Michael Nussbaum, "How Introverts Versus Extroverts Approach Small-Group Argumentative Discussions," The Elementary School Journal 102, no. 3 (2002): 18397.

8. An illuminating study by the psychologist William Graziano: William Graziano et al., "Extraversion, Social Cognition, and the Salience of Aversiveness in Social Encounters," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49, no. 4 (1985): 97180.

9. robots interacted with stroke patients: See Jerome Groopman, "Robots That Care," The New Yorker, November 2, 2009. See also Adriana Tapus and Maja Mataric, "User Personality Matching with Hands-Off Robot for Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Therapy," in Experimental Robotics, vol. 39 of Springer Tracts in Advance Robotics (Berlin: Springer, 2008), 16575.

10. University of Michigan business school study: Shirli Kopelman and Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, "Cultural Variation in Response to Strategic Emotions in Negotiations," Group Decision and Negotiation 17, no. 1 (2008): 6577.

11. In her book Anger: Carol Tavris, Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion (New York: Touchstone, 1982).

12. catharsis hypothesis is a myth: Russell Geen et al., "The Facilitation of Aggression by Aggression: Evidence against the Catharsis Hypothesis," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 31, no. 4 (1975): 72126. See also Tavris, Anger.

13. people who use Botox: Carl Zimmer, "Why Darwin Would Have Loved Botox," Discover, October 15, 2009. See also Joshua Ian Davis et al., "The Effects of BOTOX Injections on Emotional Experience," Emotion 10, no. 3 (2010): 43340.

14. thirty-two pairs of introverts and extroverts: Matthew D. Lieberman and Robert Rosenthal, "Why Introverts Can't Always Tell Who Likes Them: Mult.i.tasking and Nonverbal Decoding," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80, no. 2 (2006): 294310.

15. It requires a kind of mental mult.i.tasking: Gerald Matthews and Lisa Dorn, "Cognitive and Attentional Processes in Personality and Intelligence," in International Handbook of Personality and Intelligence, edited by Donald H. Saklofske and Moshe Zeidner (New York: Plenum, 1995), 36796.

16. interpreting what the other person is saying: Lieberman and Rosenthal, "Why Introverts Can't Always Tell Who Likes Them."

17. experiment by the developmental psychologist Avril Thorne: Avril Thorne, "The Press of Personality: A Study of Conversations Between Introverts and Extraverts," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53, no. 4 (1987): 71826.


Some of the advice in this chapter is based on interviews I conducted with many caring teachers, school administrators, and child psychologists, and on the following wonderful books:

Elaine Aron, The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them (New York: Broadway Books), 2002.

Bernardo J. Carducci, Shyness: A Bold New Approach (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2000).

Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore, The Unwritten Rules of Friendship (Boston: Little Brown, 2003).

Jerome Kagan and Nancy Snidman, The Long Shadow of Temperament (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).

Barbara G. Markway and Gregory P. Markway, Nurturing the Shy Child (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005).

Kenneth H. Rubin, The Friendship Factor (New York: Penguin, 2002).

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