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Jan. 18th, 2017 @ 11:37 am Introverts
I've kicked this idea around before as a possibility, but I've been thinking more about it since.

People have a great tendency to expect to find underlying truths. Introverts and extroverts are *really* like this underneath. Men and women have blah blah bullshit different brains. Etc.

But my idea of introversion is almost the reverse. I speculate that it's best understood as a catch-all for people who are less social for whatever reason. Two axes I think of (I don't know if this makes sense for other people) is "how much you NEED interaction with other people" and "how EASY you find interaction with other people".

And some of that is who you are, and some of that is circumstance: lots of external factors can make socialising easier or harder, which forms a self-reinforcing feedback loop in how easy you find it. This would predict that some people who aren't that interested, some people who naturally find it difficult, and some people who are prevented by circumstance, are similar in many ways.

And it also ties into the "extroverts gain energy from interaction, introverts spend energy on it" idea which many people endorse. In my way of thinking, that's more of a consequence than a root cause, that you need it a certain amount, and it takes a certain amount of effort to do, and if it refreshes you more than it costs, it leaves you net positive on energy and if it's the other way round, you need a reserve of energy to spend on it.

For instance, I notice with Liv and I, when we're interacting with each other, we need quite similar amounts of time. We can spend a *lot* of time just interacting, but we both need a certain, not that large, amount of time having a break from it too. But it seems to me, Liv is like that with *more* people. Whereas the number of people I can interact with basically indefinitely is quite small.

So my theory is, some people don't *need* that much social interaction, whether or not they find it easy when they need to do it. And other people find it difficult to varying degrees, but act quite similarly when they're with people they *can* interact easily with, but vary in how often they are.

But I don't know if that sounds like it applies to other people, or just how it helped me to think of it.

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Date:January 18th, 2017 01:40 pm (UTC)
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Also, what counts as social interaction varies between people. I have a clear difference between interaction with People and interaction with family, and when I say I have social needs, it's about interaction with People not family.

Even then family isn't the right word, because it has so many different levels of meaning. What I mean is, my social needs cannot be provided by playing with my partners or children, and while I do need time on my own, I need more time recovering from People than those who don't feel like People.
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Date:January 18th, 2017 05:41 pm (UTC)
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some of that is circumstance: lots of external factors can make socialising easier or harder

Yes! One thing I hated when I worked somewhere that was very big on Myers-Briggs types is that everything about the description of extroversion sounded like me growing up, but anxiety and emigration make the introversion label fit me much better. When I tried to mention this to my colleagues they insisted personality types are unchanging throughout life. Which I never liked. It seems to ignore anything to do with people who can/have to code-switch, and any other factors that might lead to finding people more or less work, such as various characteristics of one's identity: class, race, gender, disability, and so on.
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Date:January 19th, 2017 02:58 pm (UTC)
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Huh. My mother is a professional counsellor and psychologist who uses MBTI extensively, but she definitely does think people can change their type. I was solid Extrovert at primary school, solid Introvert at secondary school, and am slap bang in the middle of the axis (0 +/-1 out of 100) as an adult.
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Date:January 20th, 2017 02:32 pm (UTC)
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I suspect treating them as absolute is a tendency people, even professionals, fall into, but people who look at it objectively treat them more as useful-but-not-absolute.
Date:January 19th, 2017 01:28 pm (UTC)
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I have a favourite quip: "the problem with the idea of X is not that there are no Xes, but that there are too many". I think this applies to underlying truths; that there's a whole mess of things going on beneath the surface.

The five-factor model (which seems to be the model of choice for personality research, but which has flaws) has six facets (yes, this is an arbitrary number) for each of its five factors; for Extraversion the originators list Warmth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Excitement-Seeking, Positive Emotions. What seems to happen with facets is that all of the facets within a factor are correlated with each other, but none perfectly, and it's totally possible to have individuals very high on one facet and very low on another. There are all sorts of models of underlying factors, dependencies between then, how they add up and interact, etc. that could fit this pattern.

So, yes, it seems that introversion is a catch-all - except that the things that it catches tend to occur together anyway.