Description: I am sure you know quite a bit about personality. Based on what you know, what would you predict about the relative wellbeing of people who we might describe as extroverts and introverts in relation to their experiences with the current and recent states of their social worlds as a result of the circumstances and restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic? As you collect your thoughts on this question think a little bit as well about how you are defining extroversion and introversion as personality traits. Think not just in terms of the social behaviors that define these traits but think also about how you are applying those traits to the hypothetical people you have in mind. Are you treating them, theoretically, as two teams (team extrovert and team no thanks)? That fits with the way we typically ask these sorts of personality questions; in terms of categorical membership withing distinct personality types. With your hypotheses and, I hope maybe a few doubts, in mind read the article linked below both in terms of what is suggests about answers to the main question above AND in terms of what it might have to say about theoretic doubts you may have or could have if you think about this a bit more.
Source: How Introverts and Extroverts Handle The Covid-19 Pandemic Differently, Brittany Wong, Life, Huffington Post, UK.
Date: September 12, 2020
The idea that extroverts will have a harder time with social distancing requirements than introverts is certainly supported by some of the discussion and reported research findings noted in the linked article. However, the in-home social tensions caused by an introvert and an extrovert, in a relationship, being sequestered together might have been unexpected. In broader terms it is also worth noting that the notion that we each have a fixed personality profile that is defined in terms of categories (e.g., we are AN introvert OR and extrovert) does not actually fit the data well. If you have ever completed a personality inventory you most certainly had at least a passing thought at some point that the questions were hard to answer because your first thought when asked if you behave as one type of person or another was that “it depends.” Think about that. It is NOT that you are ill-defined but rather that how you present yourself in social situations (and how you WANT to do so) varies from situation to situation and is perhaps, our social realities or experiences are more negotiated than are they the inevitable results of which types of people happen to find themselves together. Somewhat related to this is the fact that personality dimensions are just that, dimensions. Those dimensions are typically understood to be normally distributed meaning that very few people behave in social situations in ways that would place them out in the extremes of a personality dimension. So, if introverts and extroverts are people who score out on the extreme tails of the Introversion/Extraversion personality dimension then there are actually very few of them and most of us are actually neither pronouncedly introverted or extroverted and THAT also suggests a high degree of flexibility in how we engage socially. A different way to look at and to think about personality was suggested by a Personality Psychologist by the name of Timothy Leary. Leary was a well published personality researcher at Harvard who eventually quit there and set out as a sort of counter-culture guru advocating for the use of LSD as a consciousness expanding experience. Before entering his guru-phase Leary argued that a healthy personality is NOT one that matches cultural ideals for a “good” profile (e.g., a conscientious, agreeable, stable, interested, extrovert) but rather one that is flexible and who can adapt their social behaviors to the interpersonal situations they encounter. The Interpersonal Personality Model, as developed by others given Leary’s other interests offers some potentially quite useful reframes of social skill, wellbeing, and resilience.
Questions for Discussion:
- Who did better in Covid-lockdown, introverts or extroverts?
- What are some implications of paying attention to the fact that most people are really NOT introverts OR extroverts?
- What sorts of things (theories, definitions of wellbeing, approaches to therapy etc.) might be need to be re-worked if we more seriously consider an Interpersonal approach to personality?
References (Read Further):
Balsari-Palsule, S., & Little, B. R. (2020). Quiet Strengths: Adaptable Introversion in the Workplace. In Adaptive Shyness (pp. 181-197). Springer, Cham.
Bartone, P. T., Krueger, G. P., & Bartone, J. V. (2018). Individual differences in adaptability to isolated, confined, and extreme environments. Aerospace medicine and human performance, 89(6), 536-546. Link
Pincus, A. L., & Ansell, E. B. (2003). Interpersonal theory of personality. Handbook of psychology, 209-229. Link
Kiesler, D. J. (1997). Contemporary interpersonal theory and research: personality, psychopathology, and psychotherapy. The Journal of psychotherapy practice and research, 6(4), 339. Link
Hopwood, C. J., Wright, A. G., Ansell, E. B., & Pincus, A. L. (2013). The interpersonal core of personality pathology. Journal of Personality Disorders, 27(3), 270-295. Link