You know you’re an introvert when….
you have three library books featuring the word Quiet in the title.
This post is about just one of those books, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I started with a Goodreads review, but there were just too many interesting points, and I couldn’t include them all.
Susan Cain is featured here, and after watching her TED talk, I decided to order her book from the library. It is quite a comprehensive volume on introverts and how they differ from extroverts. At times, I felt the material was a bit repetitive, but I made it through. Here are some of the points that piqued my interest:
First, I was intrigued that certain chemicals in our brain may affect our introverted or extroverted temperament. Some introverts, for example, have a genetic variation that causes them to process serotonin less efficiently than extroverts given a stressful environment. This same variation, however, allows introverts to process serotonin more efficiently than extroverts given a healthy environment. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that effects mood (thus all the anti-depressant SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs on the market). Those who have this genetic variation will be more likely than their peers to suffer from depression and anxiety under stressful situations, but they will also be less likely than their peers to experience depression and anxiety in healthy situations.
Dopamine is another chemical that is processed differently. The dopamine pathways generally appear to be more active in extroverts than in introverts, allowing many extroverts to feel more of a “buzz” associated with exciting or rewarding experiences. This is why extroversion is often associated with an adventurous and reward-seeking temperament while introversion is associated with a more cautious and risk-avoiding temperament.
Of course, the history books contain the stories of both introverts and extroverts, and we need both temperaments in our society. Some notable introverts include Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt. A present-day introvert whom Cain compares to Eleanor Roosevelt is Dr. Elaine Aron. She is the author of The Highly Sensitive Person. Having read that book awhile back, I was pleased to see her work included in this study of introversion.
Finally, Cain sheds some light on how we might function more productively as a society given what we know about both introverts and extroverts. For example, brainstorming as a group is a very popular workplace strategy, but studies show that this group work actually produces fewer ideas than individuals working alone. Yes, we do need to work together sometimes, but not all the time. The same might be said for the classroom. Many conscienscious teachers learn that it is best practice to have their students work cooperatively in groups, and they work to implement this in the classroom. Students do need to learn to work cooperatively, but again, not all the time. Desks in rows might not be such a bad thing after all.
There is much more I could add, but I think I’ll stop. Honestly, I did not know so much study had been done on the subject of introversion and extroversion. If I were back on the the high school speech team, I think I could make this my topic. How does an introvert successfully participate on the high school speech team? Well, that might be the subject of another post…