And by prejudice, we meant is Extraversion generally perceived as more desirable than Introversion? This was just one of the questions posed during last night's meeting at the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter of the Association of Psychological Type. Our presenter, Elizabeth Murphy (Murph), gave this thoughtful response:

by janie.hernandez55 - intended to show outside energy! ;-)
by janie.hernandez55 - intended to show outside energy! ;-)

When Isabel Myers began her exploration of Type and constructing the MBTI(r) instrument, she assumed the E-I distribution was around 75-25. More recent research today shows that it's closer to 50-50, with slightly more males reporting Introversion preferences, and slightly more females reporting Extraversion preferences.

Murph also mentioned something like "residual misinterpretation", where many people may still base their understanding of what E and I mean on the old trait instruments. A trait instrument measures "how much" of something and then pronounces a fixed-sounding result, as Vesa had mentioned in her comment to an earlier post. Very much to the contrary, Type instruments like the MBTI do not measure "how much", they do not measure "how well", but they do measure "which". Therefore, the results will not be plotted on a bell curve, they will show up as either - or.

So, according to the numbers, E and I are pretty evenly distributed. I'd like to add the following cultural perspective for your consideration.

Over the last few hundred years, the USA became the home to large numbers of immigrants. People who had to or chose to leave their home countries in Europe, for instance, due to political or religious persecution, as well as for economic motivations and dreams of a better life.

Were those immigrants more likely to have E or I preferences?

That's hard to tell. If you were a German "Dichter & Denker", i.e. poet & thinker, you may have had Introversion preferences, like Einstein (INTP). If you were ambitious to make a name for yourself, you may have had Extraversion preferences, like Heidi Klum (I'm guessing ESFP, but can't be sure). In any case, going back those hundreds of years when people first started arriving, the immigrants generally left behind their extended families, bringing with them a sense of adventure, and often not much else.

It became necessary to form new alliances, make new friends, find and build new communities.

pic found on
pic found on

Imagine you've just arrived on the East Coast. You step off a boat and need to find your way to that gold mine you heard about. You may want to travel on your own, but is that the safest option? Wouldn't it be more practical to join a group of wagons, all heading West? Well, taking a proactive approach was probably more likely to secure you a spot on that caravan than waiting to be asked.

These circumstances were fertile ground for the development of an individualism, specific, and achievement-focused society.

What does that mean?

In individualistic cultures, the needs of the individual are considered more important than those of the group he or she belongs to. To support individualism, values like self reliance, autonomy, independence, and personal responsibility develop naturally. Behaviors that support those values are readily visible, e.g. a focus on tasks and eating lunch by yourself at your desk where you can continue to check your email instead of taking time to go outside the office and relaxing with a group of colleagues.

Sounds like Introversion, but it isn't. Introversion explains that your mental energy tends to flow inward first. Individualism describes that your circle of primary focus is quite small, mainly on yourself and your nearest relatives.

In specific cultures, the approach to public and private life is compartmentalized and with that, communication patterns like small talk and the ability to form mutually beneficial, but not necessarily long-lasting relationships are the norm. The USA are home to a highly mobile people; moving around for work or studies multiple times throughout one's life is common. Check out the oldie but goodie video about this concept here.

We have already covered that Extraversion has nothing to do with how much a person talks, in fact, some people with Introversion preferences may talk "too much" if they don't pick up on external cues that the conversation partner is ready to move on. However, people with E preferences are more likely to taking action and seeing their thoughts and ideas realized in the outside world. Taking action and doing something is highly valued in achievement-oriented cultures, more so than "just" thinking about doing something.

Since it is considered important that you can show your worth, or display your ability in achievement cultures, everybody has equal opportunity to do so and be considered successful. You don't need to have Extraversion preferences to have a big house, a fast car, go on expensive holidays, enjoy a golf club membership, or lead thousands of Twitter followers.

Are you more likely to achieve such outwardly visible success when using behaviors attributed to Extraversion types in the USA?

Perhaps. In traditional business probably more so, but online and social media are a completely different story. In any case, I don't think we can reduce the expression of Extraversion to the Type principles alone. In my view, the cultural values that have developed over time as a response to environmental circumstances and that continue to influence the behavior we see as desirable today also play a role.

Image by Daryl L. Hunter, Flickr, Creative Commons License.