My previous post on extroverts and introverts looked at their energy sources. Problematically, many personality tests don’t explain differences between extroverts and introverts beyond a social context. They also don’t explain how orientation might change with moods and circumstances.
A major deficiency of personality tests is their tendency to score extroversion-introversion as a zero-sum game. We gain introversion at the expense of extroversion and vice versa. There is no allowance for moods and circumstances in this one-dimensional assessment.
Naomi Quenk, an authority on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), wrote several books on how our extroversion-introversion orientation (as well as the other MBTI functions) can change depending upon our moods:
- Beside Ourselves: Our Hidden Personality in Everyday Life
- Was That Really Me?: How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality
For example, a friend received an outlying MBTI result. It ran counter to his previous three. However, the night before this outlier, he and his wife had a bad argument. This easily changed his mood and likely results too.
It’s quite common for extroverts to become more introverted when under stress or attack. They become withdrawn and quiet. Introverts often become more extroverted by going on the attack. Now, consider this. When we test athletes’ bodies, we put them through a stress test. Yet, when we test people’s personalities, we want them calm.
Circumstances also influence our extroversion-introversion orientation. Many extroverts fear public speaking. Many introverts enjoy being on stage, such as Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Circumstances also change our moods. The Velten Mood Induction demonstrates how this can be done over the short term. If the same circumstances persist (i.e. work, stress), the orientation will too.
Surrounding all of this, energy, moods and circumstances, is that extroversion-introversion is benchmarked. Testers take a sample population, score it and declare one half extroverts and the other introverts. Unlike the kilogram stored under glass in Paris, no extroverts or introverts are held anywhere in the world as the objective standard for their kind.
In other words, we really aren’t extroverts and introverts. It’s all relative. We are either more extroverted or introverted than another person . . . depending upon moods and circumstances of course.