Tag Archives: extroverts

Introverts have challenges but they’re not oppressed. Prove me wrong (please).

This is a reworking of something I posted on reddit last night in response to someone’s question about why introverts are the subject of discrimination.

I’m not an expert in prejudice-against-introverts research (if that exists) but a few (admittedly quick) searches aren’t turning up anything about that (link here to a google scholar search). I think it’s at least 50% probable that there is some research like this, somewhere, but until I find it the evidence I can see around me does not seem to suggest that introverts are the targets of systematic prejudice or discrimination or negative stereotyping.

On the other hand, there’s certainly a lot of assuming that introverts are a marginalized class of individuals. I should probably put “introverts” in quotes because introversion is a dimensional personality trait, not a category. Even with dimensions, of course, categories can arise; people who all have similar values on some trait might “cluster” in terms of other things, like correlates of the trait, outcomes, life experiences, etc. So that’s still possible, but I don’t have that information so I continue to think in dimensional terms: everyone has some “amount” of introversion: some people have lots, and others have only a little. I’ve included measures of introversion/extroversion in some empirical studies (N=400-1,000) and it’s a quite normally-distributed variable. Other researchers find the same. The vast majority of people have “medium” levels of introversion.

Despite the (apparent to me, right now) lack of evidence, lots of writers of scholarly and quasi-scholarly literature insist that “introverts” (OK, I made my point about dimensions; I’ll stop using the quotes, but it hurts me to do so) are marginalized, in some cases implying that they experience discrimination similar to racism or misogyny. The evidence presented by these introvexperts, (dorky label, just go with it), tends to rely heavily on lists of cultural messages (e.g., common sayings, famous quotes, familiar experiences) critical of traits associated with high-introvert personalities and demonstrations that many benefits in our society are more difficult to achieve for people with very high levels of introversion.

I don’t think any of the above adds up (yet?) to the conclusion that introverts are an oppressed social group, for at least four reasons. Details for each after the “more” link:

  1. There might not be any empirical research documenting such discrimination or oppression
  2. Alongside the lists of introvert-negative/extrovert-positive social messages it’s fairly easy to make large lists of the opposite—introvert-positive/extrovert-negative social messages
  3. Difficulties for people with a particular characteristic do not necessarily imply discrimination or oppression
  4. The overall tone of the “in defense of introverts” messaging is not totally consistent with the message that introverts are systematically disadvantaged or that equality is the motivation of the messages.

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