An introvert questioning the defense of the introvert.

Defending introverts?  I saw it first in my facebook feed from one of my dear former teachers.  He is a cognitive scientist, so what does he know 😉  The gist seems to have been that there is too much emphasis (in the US) on the extrovert, on the wisdom of crowds, on the superiority of group work (now – isn’t that getting the research wrong?), and too little on the quiet, creative genius of the introvert. 

The tribal warfare of the anecdotes of personality differences. 

I sometimes mention (anecdotally) to my students that people on the opposite end of the extroversion schedule have a tendency to pathologies the other.  My mother, very introverted (not shy, just introverted), felt sorry for those poor extroverts that could not do anything by themselves, always needed company.  A colleague from way back reiterated how a potential date had said how much he liked staying home and read, and how terribly boring that would be.  Or the piano-playing, book-reading son of the jock family, that had to fight against going out in the sun tossing a ball. 

But, we’re just different.  Not pathological.  Different.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses.  This dimension exists in other animals too (from DS Wilson’s research, among others).

My first thought, on the quiet creative genius, is that the quiet creative genius is not so alone.  Those shoulders of gigants.  It is serial collaboration.  Perhaps serial, unidirected collaboration.  No genius is alone. 

And, of course, the wisdom of crowds is not always so wise when they communicate.  Brain-storming doesn’t seem to work like they thought.  Lots of us have suffered as the lone worker among social loafer (and a few of us can admit to having been the social loafer).

But, groups also matter.  As DS Wilson (again) showed.  More brains are better than one, have a wider perspective, more diverse background.  They even had a cool talk at Santa Fe Institute (available via itunes U) on it. 

So, why pitting the loner against the friendly?  Why again moving into this dichotomous tribal warfare?  Beats me, but we’re good at that. 

But, like me, I’m introverted and shy, and sometimes stymied alone.  All my ideas suck.  All my ideas are flat.  But, sometimes, in conversation, they move into 3-D, they take shape, there is something interesting and exciting there.  Like I need the dialog, the talk to find David in the granite. 

Defense of neuro-diversity, perhaps.  People won’t be just like you, even within the same culture, and there is nothing wrong with that.  That is a species strength.

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About asehelene

... because if I'm in a room with a second person, I want to be reasonably sure I'm the crazier one.
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