Friday, October 15, 2010

Does empirical research confirm the "Caring for Introvert" article?

In this little Atlantic article about introverts from 2003 (which was so wildly popular that the Atlantic saw fit to publish not one, not two, but three retrospectives about it), Jonathan Rauch said:

Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.
This 2009 psychology study (via) said in its abstract:
We examined the differences between estimating the emotions of protagonists and evaluating those of readers in narrative comprehension. Half of the participants read stories and rated the emotional states of the protagonists, while the other half of the participants rated their own emotional states while reading the stories. The results showed that reading comprehension was facilitated when highly extraverted participants read stories about, and rated the emotional experiences of, extraverted protagonists, with personalities similar to their own. However, the same facilitative effect was not observed for less extraverted participants, nor was it observed for either type of participants under the condition in which participants rated their own emotional experiences. Thus, at least for highly extraverted participants, readers both facilitated the construction of a situation model and correctly estimated the emotional states of protagonists who were similar to themselves, perhaps due to empathy.