Introversion and Extraversion: real or fake?

There’s no such thing as introversion and extroversion.

Here’s another one of those curious articles about personality and psychology that keep popping up all over the place in major news outlets these days. This one is from Inc. magazine which recently published an article titled, “There is no such thing as Introversion and Extroversion [sic].”

Really? They seem to be very widely used terms. So, what’s going on here? Perhaps a bit of insight into the situation might be in order.

The field of personality testing, such as it is, is littered with personality traits, e.g. introversion and extraversion, each claiming to measure a specific trait of a person’s personality, people’s outwardly observed behaviors. Some of these have been tested and validated, such as the introversion-extraversion scale (a trait used by the NEO or Big 5) researched and validated by Messer’s Costa and McCrae. Yes, unfortunately, the very one our Inc. writer seems to be most upset about.

But, and this is perhaps where our Inc. magazine writer is going with his article, do these personality traits when taken individually or together actually add up to an understanding of a person and what makes them tick? In his article the clearly frustrated writer appeals to us to abandon the introversion/extraversion scam (and perhaps this trait-based approach in general), telling us, no more, this approach is flawed.

Herein lies the problem.

Observing a monkey, or measuring its personality, cannot lead you to understand the nature of the monkey nor its mind or motivations. It can only lead you to observations and your own speculative conclusions about what you may have seen or measured. Unless you have a model of how monkeys think, a theory of monkey mind that has been validated and correlated with all other validated scientific observations of monkeys, until then, you have only your own labels and ideas about how things actually work.

There's no such thing as introversion and extraversion

This is an issue that is plaguing psychology and more specifically the psychology of individual differences, or personality testing as it is commonly called. The lay public has misinterpreted this approach to understand people as validation that an observer, or personality test, can understand the workings of another’s mind. The label becomes the explanation rather than a shorthand descriptor. This is garbage of the worst kind, not what any self-respecting psychologist would agree to.

The only way to understand another’s mind is if we understand the fundamental patterns or structures that shape human thinking—amounting to an a priori theory of mind—and can measure them in a given individual. Only such an a priori theory, of which there are none in traditional trait-based personality testing, can be used to predict human behavior and intention.

Read on…

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