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Personality Research articles on personality

30Nov/0952

SimilarMinds Personality Descriptions are TOO Negative!?

I occasionally get angry missives from people complaining about how negative some of the personality descriptions on SimilarMinds are.

All the personality type descriptions on this site are entirely composed of personality items each type (i.e. the aggregate of people that scored like you) self rated highest on compared to the average. To clarify further, one of the descriptions on the RLUEI page is "not usually happy".  The source of the description is the personality item "I am unhappy". 645 test takers that scored as RLUEI had a self rating average of 2.34 (on a 0-4 likert scale) on that item. The average of all test takers was 1.32, so RLUEIs scored significantly higher on that item.

In fact that item had one of the highest type vs. average differences (D-score), hence it's inclusion at the beginning of the description. (The order of descriptions is entirely determined by D-scores.)  This can mean that an item with a seemingly average score of 2.0 for example could show up first, if the D-score is sufficiently high. On the personality item "I don't like happy people" RLUEIs self rate as 1.51. That number could be described as low, but the average score on that item is .7, much lower, resulting in a D-score of .81. So despite a seemingly low score, that is a very meaningful  RLUEI item.

The highest scoring item for RLUEIs is "I love music". The average score is 3.58 on that item. That undoubtedly is very high. It's not included in the RLUEI description though. The reason is every one else apparently also likes music. The average score overall on that item is 3.62, so the RLUEI D-score of that item is very low. Liking music is just not very descriptive of the unique personality of RLUEIs.

I've added a note on the description pages to hopefully minimize confusion and I'll try to make sure when transcribing description items that they reflect both the D-score and the raw score (i.e. that when an item has a large D-score but a low raw score that is conveyed). Based on the D-score, RLUEIs are not huge fans of happy people, but as the raw score reflects, they don't, on average, dislike happy people.

Additionally, recently I've been working on a new personality system (MOTIV / R-Drive) which profiles people's perceived reward drives, what they think makes (or will make) them happy (regardless of whether it does). One of the drives involves having a sense of identity and enjoyment of living/life. It's called the Vitality drive. Interestingly, I've found that people who score high on Introversion (or Reserved on the SLOAN test) are more likely to have a weak sense of identity, a lower enjoyment of life, and are more likely to hate themselves. They are also more likely to be bitter, defensive, and self deceive. This alone would account for both the more negative introvert self descriptions and the vitriol I occasionally get about that. That's not to say a small percentage of introverts might not be perfectly happy and/or well-adjusted, but that's simply not the case with most people that self rate as reserved, unassertive, private and other traits associated with Introversion by the Big 5 and Myers Briggs personality systems. There also seems to be a clear link between lack of exercise (/poor cardiovascular fitness) and introversion (as well as depression).

Some evidence:

A significant positive relationship has been shown between a predominance of introverted interests (as measured by the E-I Interest test) and the predominance of depression in characteristic affective tone and attitude. (source)

The personality dimension of introversion may be a risk factor for suicidal behaviour in depression. (source)

Normalization of weight in anorexic patients is associated with increased extraversion and more realistic perception of self within a social context, as well as a greater self-doubt and unease. (source)

A growing body of information suggests that core or underlying personality is a significant concomitant of depression and suicidality. Introversion (ie, low extroversion) is especially promising in its relationship to the phenomenology and outcome of depression, and may represent an underlying heritable trait of etiologic significance. (source)

Physically active men (n = 11) have lower depression (scale 2) and lower social introversion (scale 10) than the sedentary men (n = 11). Depression (scale 2) is the most powerful discriminator between physically active and sedentary men, followed by hysteria (scale 3) and social introversion (scale 10). (source)

Adolescents who engaged regularly in physical activity were characterised by lower anxiety-depression scores, and displayed much less social behavioural inhibition than their less active counterparts. (source)

In multivariate analyses, introversion and depression were independently associated with mortality. We conclude that personality introversion and depression are associated with increased mortality following stroke. (source)

Lower depression, social introversion, and psychopathic deviance scores were associated with increased probability of exercising in midlife for both men and women. (source)

The most important predictors for weekly hours of physical activity were the EDI scales “drive for thinness” and “body dissatisfaction”, and the personality variables “extraversion” and “neuroticism”. (source)

As an introvert myself historically, I have to admit to my own history of self uncertainty, self hatred (prior to prioritizing physical fitness more), and poor attention to physical fitness. Of course the MBTI offered self hating introverts a more positive sense of identity, your money is as good as any other client and they want it (also the MBTI developers were probably Feelers/Irrational who value what feels right over what makes sense so they are unlikely to criticize even a serial killer if doing so would make them feel sad). So they tell introverts - you are just different, you recharge alone, you are just pickier about who to be friends with, it's perfectly normal to have anxiety in a crowded area. The reality is that anxiety is not healthy, its symptomatic of a psychological (life trauma) and/or organic health issue (poor cardiovascular fitness).

Based on the actual evidence, I have to conclude that many aspects traditionally associated with introversion are in fact serious dysfunctions linked to poor psychological health and/or poor physical health/fitness. For example, being private can mean being afraid to show others who you really are (often because you don't even know who you are). How anyone could spin that as a positive is testimony to the marketing greed of personality test companies or good intentioned people pleasing of the Accommodating disposition.

Certainly some traits associated with extroversion are linked to their own psychological issues such as external narcissism and materialism. However, Myers Briggs and Big Five extroversion is more associated with Vitality than with what Jungian Introversion/Extroversion which is better captured by the Materialistic drive of the MOTIV system.

Which brings up another flaw regarding Big 5/MBTI Introversion (and Extroversion as well). It's not a distinct type, it's, at best, a classification of a superficial shared behavioral pattern. A useful personality type has one shared motive, a classification is merely a grouping of superficially similar behaving people who lack a shared motive for that superficial behavior (hence my interest in developing a more uni-dimensional drive based personality system).

The Introvert 'class' behave the way they do (quiet, shy, private, etc.) because they...

A. don't know who they are

and/or

B. intentionally want to hide who they are from others (because who they are is unattractive/offensive/etc. to others in perception and/or in reality AND/OR because they perceive some tactical advantage over others by not revealing their 'hand')

and/or

C. are overwhelmed by / afraid of / don't trust others

and/or

D. are mentally/physically depressed (i.e. unhappy)

and/or

E. have no to little interest in others (Schizoid)

Some are A, some are B, some are C, some are D, some are E, and some are a combo of the five. This is just another reason why no Introversion description is likely to satisfy many of the people who score as introverts. Having little to no interest in others seems to be the most innocuous of the above introvert qualities, but generally people who have little to know interest with others tend to suffer from depression. To separate / cut yourself from others, as a general preference, is an indication of problems within you and/or with others. It doesn't mean you still can't contribute great things to the world (as many introverts have) but achieving things doesn't preclude you from having dysfunctions that you would benefit by fixing. Even if you are objectively better than everyone, you are reliant on others so it makes sense to have some connection to the world and share whatever your advantages are to the betterment of the world, just as you benefit from the efforts of others.

Typology flaws aside, it's unlikely for an individual to ever improve as a person or respond well to criticism about who they are if they've religiously embraced the notion that...

A. Personality type is fixed/unchangeable
B. Their personality type/preference is healthy (when it's actually not)

This site is devoted to objective research and honest deconstruction of human personality. I'm interested in helping people to become happier in an honest way. Informing someone they are great when they are troubled is a good way to make money as a personality consultant or author, but I really don't see any other benefit to it long term (for them or the world). As I've said, all the descriptions on this site are made up of items large sample sizes of individual types self rated higher on, there is no editorial involved (the only omitted items are ones with D-scores that are too low to merit inclusion). Most personality type descriptions you read on the web are not compiled in any remotely scientific way. They are based on and/or borrowed from books which themselves are based on a lot of subjective personal opinion or insufficiently small sample size personality testimonials, not to mention the inherent flaws in many of the personality systems themselves (Enneagram, Jung/MBTI, and even the Big 5).

Beyond the above, personality descriptions are never going to be one hundred percent accurate for each person (at best, they are pretty accurate for most people). Not everyone reads items to mean the same thing and not everyone is honest (consciously or unconsciously) about who they are. Also, the more you score between types the less accuracy you are going to find in the Jung and SLOAN descriptions.

If we are talking about Introversion vs Extroversion in terms of Carl Jung's original ideas. For the most part, both orientations are potentially equally dysfunctional, Jungian Extroversion is associated with Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Anti-Social personality disorders and being shallow and materialistic, so the middle, i.e. balance, is ideal. However, as previously discussed, Introversion/Extroversion as measured by the Big 5 and Myers Briggs tests (on my site, other sites on the web, or offline tests) shows greater correlations to the Vitality drive (with Big 5/MBTI extroversion correlating with a high Vitality orientation, and Big 5/MBTI introversion correlating with a low Vitality orientation) that's why the introvert descriptions on my site which are merely reflective of introvert self-ratings are more dismal than the extrovert descriptions.

One of the key Big 5/MBTI Extroversion vs. Introversion items is

Outgoing ooooooo Reserved

The correlations for the above item with the MOTIV system are:

Materialistic -.359
Offbeat -.050
Thinking .122
Intimate -.069
Vitality -.577

So, the more you rate yourself as Reserved (vs. Outgoing), on average, the more likely you are to not be Materialistic, but - to an even greater extent - the more likely you are to not be a happy/resilient/optimistic person, i.e. have high Vitality. I encourage you to go find a messageboard of Big 5/MBTI introverts on the internet if you want to observe/interact with people whose will to live is floundering.

Here are some of the items low Vitality scorers self rate far higher on...

I have little control over life.
At a certain point in life I became broken and I've never recovered.
I would be better off dead.
The image I present to others and who I really am are not the same.
Being optimistic leads to disappointment.

If you are open to the reality that Big 5/MBTI Introversion (or any other type score that yielded a more negative description) is in fact an indication of psychological and/or physical issues, conscious and/or unconscious unhappiness issues, and/or dysfunction, and you want to change/improve who you are, start working on the following two things:

1. Mental/Existential health - http://research.similarminds.com/the-motiv-personality-system/588
2. Physical/Organic health - http://research.similarminds.com/physical-exercise-chemical-exercise-and-maximizing-health/507

Further Clarification: The main thrust of this essay is to illustrate that the popular conception of Introversion/Extroversion is not consistent with Jung's original ideas/descriptions and that commonly found/understood Introversion descriptions are conflated with low Emotional Stability traits. Consequently, validation of Introversion as it's currently understood would be a validation of emotional instability. Stripping away the Emotional Stability biases found in most Introversion/Extroversion inventories, you are left with two equally flawed dispositions as demonstrated by the following average health items:

Average Health Introvert/Subjectivist Items
Appearance to me, doesn't really strike me as a priority.
I have no need for power over others.
I prefer a basic/simple/spartan living space to a high-end/luxury one.
External indicators of success such as power or recognition seem shallow to me.
I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status.
I do not like to appear better than others.
I don't care about dressing nicely.
When I am depressed, I desire less social interaction

Average Health Extrovert/Materialist Items
I find being better than others (superior) rewarding.
I gravitate towards people I think have the most prestige.
You can never be too attractive/popular.
I value beauty the most.
It is important that I impress my superiors.
I expect other people to entertain me.
I choose romantic partners I can control.
When I am depressed, I desire more attention.

One can see a clear pattern of rejection of external value vs. over dependence on external value in the above items, both of which are potentially very nonconstructive cognitive tendencies (in my opinion and in Jung's). So, while I think Introversion as it's defined by the MBTI, Big 5, and most personality systems and authors is more pathological than healthy, when it comes to a non-emotional stability biased Introversion/Extroversion spectrum, I don't think either preference is optimal. I think a middle preference is the ideal.

Emotionally Healthy Extrovert/Materialist Items
I do things that impress me.
I believe that we should be tough on crime.
I am assertive romantically.

Emotionally Healthy Introvert/Subjectivist Items
I never worry about my looks.
I don't measure my success by public opinion.
I do not get upset easily.

Emotionally Unhealthy Extrovert/Materialist Items
I'm jealous of people that I think are better than me.
My self esteem is based on how attractive I am to others.
I get upset when things don't go my way.

Emotionally Unhealthy Introvert/Subjectivist Items
I find not having to be in control rewarding.
I am overly modest.
I am not special.

Additional Relevant Links:

Personality Type Descriptions

   

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