Coming from a Vietnamese ethnic background that praises introversion but living in a Western culture that is high strung into extroversion is a tiny bit difficult.
“One researcher, Robert McCrae…found that Asian cultures consistently favored more distinctly introverted personality characteristics”. Eight to ten year old children living in Shanghai and Canada were carefully studied by researchers. Contrast strikes: shy and sensitive children were unfavorable to their peers in Canada; however, in China, shy and sensitive kids were easily sought out as companions and greatly considered for leadership roles.
When interviewing Chinese high school students, researchers found out that they prefer friends who are: humble, altruistic, honest and hard working. On the other hand, American high school students often sought out the: cheerful, enthusiastic and sociable. Michael Harris Bond, a cross cultural Psychologist who focuses on China, shares: “The contrast is striking. The Americans emphasize sociability and prize those attributes that make for easy, cheerful association. The Chinese emphasize…moral virtues and achievements” (Asian culture more introverted, 2016).
Now, I’m not a traditional Vietnamese woman. I’m a self-categorized ambivert and it’s oddly interesting how extroverted or introverted I can easily become given the current situation I am placed in. I’ve always been critiqued for being too energetic and talkative in comparison to a typical Asian gal (ha). On the other hand, observe me at work (where I’m surrounded by social butterflies who abide to the high socially threaded American culture) and yikes…I get awkwardly quiet because I’m in constant observation mode.
Around extroverts, I enjoy sitting back, observing and listening. On the other hand, around introverted people, roles are reversed and I like to take the lead and spark conversation. Additionally, I once was informed by a wise peep that: “If you sit back and listen, you learn something. If you just talk, you are already repeating information you know”. Interesting, eh?
January 2nd…the day after the long holiday marathon. The day where we reflect on the past two weeks of Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, etc. parties with relatives asking us an endless list of (dreadful) questions from “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” to “When are you going to finally graduate college?” (I thought it was social etiquette to not ask such questions?! Sigh…)
Psychologist Felicitas Heyne wrote an article in 2011 suggesting for a World Introvert Day, with the hopes of “…sharpening the awareness of a world on behalf of the introverts’ distinctiveness that has increasingly been devoting itself to the cult around extraversion”. Although not a National Holiday, people worldwide have established January 2nd to be World Introvert Day (Heyne, 2011).
On this day devoted to Introverts, here are 10 psychological studies to better equip an understanding of introverts:
- German Psychologist Hans Eysenck derived a biologically based theory that explains introverts naturally have high cortical arousal (the speed and amount of the brain’s activity) and may process more information per second. Therefore, introverts tend to avoid highly active environments. If you place them in an environment with a great deal of stimulation, like a loud concert or party, they will quickly become overloaded and shut down to stop the inflow of information (Bennington-Castro, 2013).
- Introverts view random human faces with the same value as viewing flowers. Utilizing event-related potential methodology, a 2010 study conducted at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences gathered a group of 28 healthy young adults between the ages of 18 and 40 who fell all over the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Researchers monitored the participant’s brain reactions as they were exposed first to a series of images of flowers and then a series of human faces, looking for a reaction called the “P300”. Introverts had the same P300 reactions when shown the faces as they did when shown the flowers (Bellugi, Fisherman, Ng, 2011).
- When it comes to describing things, introverts talk more concretely. Camiel Beukeboom and his co-workers asked 40 employees at a large company in Amsterdam to describe out loud the same five photos depicting ambiguous social situations. Participants were informed they could take as long as they needed to describe each photo. Their answers were recorded and transcribed for later coding. Three days later, the participants also completed a personality questionnaire. “… the higher a person scored in introversion, the more concrete and precise their speech tended to be, including more use of articles (i.e. “a”, “the”), more mentions of numbers and specific people, and making more distinctions (i.e. use of words like “but” and “except”)” (Introverts use more concrete language, 2012).
- A study was conducted on college students living in the United States, China, Japan, the Philippines and Venezuela and is published online in the Journal of Research in Personality. The ultimate goal was to explore the connection between extroversion and happiness in more community-based cultures such as those in Asia and South America. In the most recent study, researchers found they still got the same results as previous studies. Therefore, studies done in various and different geographical locations showcase that introverts measure less on the happiness scale in comparison to extroverts. “We are not the first to show that being more extroverted in daily behavior can lead to more positive moods. However, we’re probably the first to extend this finding to a variety of cultures”, the study’s author, Timothy Church, explains (Dovey, 2014).
- According to about a 500 participant adult study conducted by Psychologist Jonathan Cheek, there are four shades of introversion: social, thinking, anxious and restrained. Most introverts are a mixture of all four. The study surveyed these adults asking them about things like their preference for solitude or how inclined they are to daydream. The connection between all four kinds of introversion is the tendency to turn inward rather than outward. Social introversion is the preference for socializing with small groups instead of large ones or sometimes, a preference for no group at all. Thinking introversion is introspective, thoughtful and self-reflective. Anxious introversion are introverts that seek out solitude because they feel awkward and painfully self-conscious around other people (Dahl, 2015). Restrained and reserved introversion are introverts that operate at a slightly slower pace, preferring to think before they speak or act. Psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia, Laurie Helgoe, says introverts just “seem shy because they tend to think before they speak.” They process things internally, whereas extroverts process things as they’re speaking (Tartakovsky, n.d.)
- Introverts have very vivid imaginations that fuel creativity and an incredible ability to problem solve. Some of the most well-known introverts are: J. K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Rosa Parks, and Mahatma Gandhi. The downside to this introspective mentality is that introverts may get stuck in their heads, over-analyzing and replaying events (both positive and negative) over and over in their minds (Granneman, 2016).
- In a series of three studies, results showed that introverts tend to live in mountainous regions, while extroverts live in open and flat regions. Researchers warn that there is no evidence that mountains make people introverted but, rather, introverts tend to live in these geographic locations because of the secluded environment (Introverts prefer mountains, 2015).
- Since introverts are the observer in a group, their observation of people can lead these introverts to better understanding people, which can make an introvert a very likable person. In a world full of opinionated individuals, everyone appreciates a companion who listens and allows them to speak out for a change (14 Truths about Being an Introvert, n.d.).
- A Harvard University Associate conducted a study in 2012 that discovered that introverts tend to have larger and thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortex— a region of the brain that is linked to abstract thought and decision-making — while extroverts had less gray matter.” Buckner concluded that this might be accountable for introverts’ tendencies to sit in a corner and ponder things thoroughly before making a decision…” (Bushak, 2014).
- Introversion may be encoded in our brain more than scientists originally thought. Brain science reveals it all comes down to dopamine. In 2005, researchers at the University of Amsterdam studied groups of volunteers who were identified as introverts and extroverts via a personality quiz. “The volunteers gambled while researchers monitored the activity in two regions of their brains: the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens, which are both tied to excitement and reward. The amygdala handles emotional reactions, while the nucleus accumbens is tied to how we process dopamine, a chemical that we use to process “rewards” and positive reactions. The researchers found that the folks identified… as introverted brains may not reward such [risk taking] behaviors, which is why introverts might find staying home with a book more rewarding than going out to a club (Moss, 2015).
To conclude, as most countries are cultural societies that are not created for the happiness or ease of introverts, these ten research pieces are very promising and suggest that society should fully embrace introverts! We should further develop our world to allow everyone to be unapologetically and uniquely themselves, whether they be an introvert, extrovert or ambivert.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more interesting facts about introverts, watch our video here:
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