Are You An Introvert: The Quiz

Last week I wrote an article titled Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert? It was written partly in response to a new definition of introvert that has cropped up in the last five years or so, where introverts are loosely defined as people who ‘gain energy’ when alone and ‘expend energy’ when around other people.

It’s a compelling way of looking at things, and it’s helped people shift books with titles like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The author of that book (Susan Cain) gave a TED talk exploring the idea, and it’s been loosely adapted into webcomics and other sharable media. It has been a successful meme.

People find it easy to identify as an “introvert” using this new definition. My article was about how such self-diagnosis can be harmful, but I don’t want to repeat myself here. I think that labels are important, but that some labels are damaging. (Previously, I tackled another potentially harmful label, which is also subject to rampant self-diagnosis within the furry community, in an articled titled No, You Don’t Have Asperger’s.)

In my enthusiasm to talk about labels and self-identity, I failed to define what “introvert” actually means. This article remedies that oversight, and talks about how introversion ties into the furry condition. And, yes, there is a simple one-question quiz at the end which will help you understand where you sit on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.

In general, introversion is a tendency to be internally focussed, as opposed to externally focussed. So if you are lost, consulting a map would be an introverted act, whereas asking for directions would be an extroverted act. People who are introverted can be shy (and extroverted people can be outgoing) but this is not always the case.

Modern psychology uses a personality model that originated with our good friend Karl Jung. Personalities are measured using a model called the Big Five, which considers there to be five key, measurable personality traits, one of which is Extraversion*. People fall somewhere on a spectrum, with “very introverted” and “very extroverted” at the extremes.

* Blame America Dept.: In American English (which is the basis of Big Five jargon), “extrovert” and its derivatives are spelt** with an “a”, as in “extravert”. I accept that there are spelling differences in American English (and that American English is often more logical) but why oh why change “extrovert” but not “introvert”? It makes no sense.

** Note to Americans: this is what the rest of the English-speaking universe uses instead of your provincial neologism “spelled”.

Anyway. Deep breath.

Researchers prefer the Big Five because the measured personality traits (of a single person) don’t change much with mood, time of day, or any other factor. People change in personality up to about age 30, and are pretty much fixed beyond that point. (Clinical research on personality is underway with furries as well: the International Anthropomorphic Research Project uses the Big Five.)

The Big Five has replaced Myers-Briggs as the personality model du jour, but the difference is only really important if you’re a researcher. Most people are more familiar with Myers-Briggs (that’s the one that tells you you’re INTP, or whatever), and there are a lot of simple, free, multiple-choice Myers-Briggs quizzes hosted around the internet (like here). These quizzes are reasonably useful: no substitute for an assessment by a professional, but better than, say, a quiz on OkCupid titled Which Power Ranger Are You?

None of these personality models make any reference to gaining/expending energy in social/non-social situations. The idea that an introvert, say, expends energy in social situations and then must ‘recharge’ has nothing to do with personality, as least from a scientific point of view.

We humans are social beings. Yet socializing, or even being around people, can be stressful. Non-verbal communication is a huge part of the social experience, and we rely on body language and other subtle social cues, which require mental processing and accordingly a lot of conscious and unconscious effort. It can be exhausting, and it’s worse if we’re somewhere unfamiliar, or if we’re feeling anxious. So meeting new people in a foreign place can be tiring, while watching TV at home with a close family member is usually easy.

It’s worth adding that all humans have a need to socialize, to some extent. The amount of social contact required for mental health varies from person to person. Happily, we live in a world where social contact is easy enough to find (online, for example), so it’s rarely a problem, at least among the computer literate.

The idea that we expend energy in social situations isn’t clinically meaningful, but it is useful as a tool to help us think about ourselves. There is a lot of value in thinking about ourselves and our own behaviour; this is one of the ways we grow and improve. I think that the “energy model” of socializing helps us understand our unconscious motivations (although I think that “introvert” as a label can be harmful).

We consider ourselves to be furries, which means that (for most of us) we perceive ourselves as animal-people. We create versions of ourselves from scratch, each of us with at least one (virtual) physical body and (virtual) personality. And research from the IARP (link) suggests that our furry selves are significantly different—indeed, happier and more mature—than our non-furry selves. I think that furry can be seen as an exploration of who we really are. I think that we are, collectively, doing ourselves a lot of personal and mental good.

A therapist will often use a simple personality test as a tool. This might be a Myers-Briggs test, or a question like “if you were an animal, what animal would you be?” The therapist’s intent is to get the client thinking about themselves: a follow-up question might be “what is it that attracts you to wolves?”*

* Furry joke answer: “foxes, duh”.

In a therapeutic environment, there isn’t any real value in personality profiling. The therapist doesn’t care that you’re ENTJ, or that you feel you would be a macro silver wolf centaur with thunderbolts in your fur and teardrops that taste like Irn-Bru. It’s just a conversation starter. Yet it’s a very useful tool in the therapist’s kit: therapy is a lot more than “just conversation”.

Furry gives us a framework to continually converse with ourselves. We can challenge ourselves with new ideas, we can road-test behaviour, we can think and rethink who (or what) we really are. Furry can be a kind of self-administered therapy. We can think about it ourselves (if we are feeling introverted) or we can chat with others (if we are feeling extroverted). We’re a group of very lucky animal-people.


Are You an Introvert? A One-Question Quiz

Question 1

Think back to a time where you emotionally reacted to a negative event. This may have been a break-up, or the death of someone close to you, or a sudden health scare. Pretend you are watching a video of yourself during this difficult time.

Watch the video and observe how you cope. Do you spend time on your own, trying to manage your thoughts? Or do you look for support from other people, in person or online?

Undoubtedly you did both. Both are always required, for all people.

If you (mostly) unplugged your internet and refused to answer your phone, you are more introverted. If you (mostly) sought help from others, you are more extroverted.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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15 thoughts on “Are You An Introvert: The Quiz

  1. I still come out as introvert.

    By the way, I don’t know where you got the impression that it is acceptable in America to spell “extrovert” as “extravert.” It is not, though that is probably a common spelling error in these days of inadequate education and careless two-finger typing.

    1. Excellent question! “Extravert” is the form of the word used by Jung, when writing in English, and it’s the standard American spelling as far as I can tell. It is certainly the correct spelling when it’s used as technical jargon, understandable since that’s all Jungian anyway.

      Curiously the word is derived from the prefix “extra-“, but this spelling doesn’t happen over on this side of the pond, at least not any more.

      And I’d always thought of you as a controvert :)

      1. “Extravert” appears on several lists of commonly misspelled words found here in the library.

        Some dictionaries allow it as an “alternate” spelling, but none, including the American ones, grant it primary status.

        The psychology texts to which I have access here, including even the popular self-help junk, all spell it “extrovert.”

        We seem to live in different worlds at times. The derivation of the “o” in the traditional spelling is probably dubious, since “extra-” is a common Latin prefix. The “o” would be more typical of a Greek prefix, and that might be how it got in there. I imagine 20th century psychiatrists, with classical medical backgrounds that included Greek and Latin, preferring the “o” while psychologists with their modernist viewpoint might use the logical but historically incorrect “a” spelling.

        Sort of like watching Roger and Romeo in a swordfight over who gets to be the proper representation of “R” in the phonetic alphabet. ;p

      2. My observation on that is that ‘extrovert’ is by far the more common spelling in American English than ‘extravert’. In fact, until I read this article, I hadn’t even thought of them as being variant spellings of the same word. I had assumed, when I saw ‘extravert’ being used in the Big Five, that there was some difference, possibly subtle but important from a psychological perspective, in the meaning of the term to distinguish it from the usual and much more common term ‘extrovert’. I never quite puzzled out from their explanations what that difference was supposed to be. The notion that ‘extrovert’ and ‘extravert’ are supposed to be the same thing and someone thought the latter was the American spelling for it simply boggles the mind.

        1. Hi Mwalimu, thanks for the comment. I never thought that my jocular aside on the spelling of “extrovert” would be the subject of most of the comments, but then I am often surprised by the intelligence and nuance of the [a][s] audience.

          The lesson here is that I should always show my references when I assert something. In this case, my reference is the OED and its companion volume on grammar and style, Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Fowler notes that the extra- form of extrovert/extravert is the original form of the word, and that’s the form used by Jung (when he wrote in English). So the Big Five personality trait must be written as “Extraversion” because it’s Jungian technical jargon. Fowler goes on to say that extra- is the “better” formation despite being deprecated, and the OED confirms that British English requires extro-, whereas extra- is still used in American English.

          So mind-boggling it may be, but rest assured that my comments are based on research, not speculation.

          1. To answer the question from the quiz, as it applies to the time period in my marriage leading up to my separation and divorce, I would say my behaviors overall were more in line with being an introvert, although there were moments when I went the extrovert route.

            This post and the comments to the earlier one brought up the concept of ‘points’ or ‘energy’, noting the fact that most introverts expend these in social situations and need time to recharge, and some of the commenters noted that interacting with their spouse was a zero or even a net positive expenditure as compared to other types of social interaction. That was probably true of me earlier in our marriage but toward the end, interaction with my wife had become quite draining on me. I would go so far as to suggest to any introvert using this points/energy model that if your relationship with your significant other burns up points rather than recharging them, your relationship is in trouble.

  2. ** I am fully American, yet use “spelt” and “spilt” and have never had anyone question those spellings.

    I am an introvert in all definitions and I see nothing wrong with that. Even when mildly stressed I tend to unplug from the internet and not answer the phone. When greatly stressed, I pull in even more.

    In your earlier post you seemed to repeatedly claim there was nothing wrong with being introverted, yet you then seemed to suggest it was an immature trait and that someone who labeled themselves an introvert would be limiting themselves.

    The label introversion helps describe my natural proclivities, but does not prevent me from trying to stretch myself.

    1. Keito, I think you have it right on all counts:

      – There is nothing wrong with being introverted.

      – Introversion is an immature trait. I don’t mean this to be negative, I’m simply noting that people become more extroverted as they mature, up to the age of 30 or so. (Ref C. Robert Cloninger’s Personality and Psychopathology, chapter 6)

      – Some people who label themselves as an introvert are limiting themselves, for the reasons I laid out in my article. It sounds like you are not one those people, and you are not limiting yourself. I base this on your comments here and in the other article: you are clearly a thoughtful and balanced person, and not prone to make judgments about yourself lightly. However I think that this puts you in the minority.

    1. Hi Rakuen, thanks for the comment.

      You are spot on, in two ways. Myers-Briggs has not been used in any serious way since the 1980s, because the results vary with mood, time of day, and other factors. It’s why researchers use the Big Five, because the results are a lot more consistent (although hardly perfect).

      Its use is exactly what you imply: it gives you a starting point for thinking about your personality. As I said, the results of an online MB survey are no substitute for an assessment by a professional, but better than a Power Ranger quiz.

      MB is never used by researchers (nowadays). It used by therapists, but only ever as a starting point for conversation. Personality can never be summed up with a code. In fact, it can be harmful if you take such simplifications of identity to heart – which is this subject of this article and its predecessor.

      Thanks for making the point.

      1. A little late to this party, but I love what’s going on!

        Anyway, use of the MBTI tends to be scaled back for copyright reasons. Big Five has tons of support and gets published and republished in various forms. If there’s a free MBTI out there, you can lay odds that it’s not in the original form and that its statistical reliability hasn’t been tested. Which, actually, can be a big problem with using the Big Five as well. Because anyone can use any chunk of it for personality tests, you have to double check the reliability values. As for allegations that MBTI isn’t in-depth enough, there are layers of interactions between letter groupings, depending on who is interpreting.

        I do fully agree that, no matter which test you use, your results are not specifically a label. They are an explanation of behavior, but behavior and personality can change over time. And as is the case with both MBTI and Big Five, all of these personality items occur on a spectrum as a notion of *tendency* or *preference* and are not absolutes.

        Bravo for the article, JM. I’m going to enjoy catching up on [a][s]!

  3. Really, the concept of an introvert being someone who regains energy in solitude and extrovert being someone who regains energy by being social is not something which arose in the past 5 years. It’s a concept which was put forward decades ago, and has been a part of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator since its inception in 1962.

    As far as there being no nuance to the MBTI, as some in this comment thread have said, there have been refinements to it across the years which allow for evolution of personality across time, stressor or influencing factors on various facets of personality, and a lot of other things.

    Yes, it is not a useful tool if one takes it too literally and uses it as a label, but it is quite helpful as something to give someone as snapshot of their approach to life. It allows for some understanding of what may have been heretofore puzzling aspects of one’s psyche and life-approach, and sheds light into areas of life which may have only been darkness and shadows before.

    As with all such tools, it is best taken as a basic outline, and using it empowers one to not only evaluate and perhaps feel more comfortable with one’s approach, but also gives the subject the power to make different choices which can lead to life changes.

    1. Hi Ergon, thanks for you comment. I think you’ve raised a couple of important points.

      I’m not aware of the “energy model” of introversion/extroversion being used except very recently. It was never proposed by Jung—he uses the terms to me inward/outward focus—and Myers-Briggs is Jungian. Having said that I appreciate that the difference between the two definitions is small. And the “energy model” is, I think, a very clever and useful metaphor for the competing needs of our social and asocial selves.

      The comment about “nuance” was made by Rakuen in a preceding comment, and I completely agree with all your comments. Myers-Briggs is a very useful tool for self-reflection and in a therapeutic environment. Rakuen is wrong on that point. I guess I try not to directly contradict people when they make comments here – firstly because I appreciate that it takes time and mental energy to compose a thought; secondly because it’s easy for a disagreement to become personal on the internet; but mostly because criticism is always good, and I get things wrong sometimes, and I only learn by people point out my errors.

      Or, in this case, lack of nuance, on both points. So thankyou.

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