Introverts and Language

From Research Digest:

Participants who scored higher in extraversion tended to describe the photos in terms that were rated by an independent coder as more abstract. For example, they used more “state verbs” (e.g. Jack loves Sue) and adjectives, and they admitted to engaging in more interpretation – describing things that were not directly visible in the pictures. On the other hand, the higher a person scored in introversion, the more concrete and precise their speech tended to be, including more use of articles (i.e. “a”, “the”), more mentions of numbers and specific people, and making more distinctions (i.e. use of words like “but” and “except”).

The differences make sense in terms of what we know about social behaviour and the introvert-extravert personality dimension, with the introverted linguistic style being more cautious, and the extravert style being more casual and vague.

The researchers said their results have far-reaching implications because we know based on past research that the contrasting speech styles are interpreted differently. For instance, they said behaviour described in abstract terms, in the style of an extravert (e.g. Camiel is unfriendly), is usually attributed to personality, as opposed to the situation, and therefore interpreted as enduring, more likely to occur again, yet harder to verify. By contrast, behaviour described in more concrete terms, in the characteristic style of an introvert (e.g. Camiel yells at Martin), tends to be interpreted as situation-specific, and as more believable.

“Thus an introvert’s linguistic style would induce more situational attributions and a higher perception of trustworthiness than an extravert’s style,” the researchers said.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.margaretfeinberg.com Margaret

    fascinating! I’ll have to pay attention to that next time I’m describing something

  • Pete

    I am an introvert pastor. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have listened to extrovert preachers or read extrovert authors who seem to overstate what a text of scripture says. I cringe and think to myself, “that can’t be what he means.” Then I sit in fear that someone will believe what they just heard. I’m not picking on televangelists here. I’m also referring to friends and local preachers.

    Seems to fit with what you are reporting.

  • Joe Canner

    This is true for me (an introvert) in other domains: my attempts at art are very concrete and realistic (or at least try to be), and my writing is also very matter-of-fact, with minimal excess description or interpretation.

  • Adam

    Doesn’t the audience also matter? Wouldn’t an extroverts respond differently to extrovert language than an introvert would respond to introvert language?

    A statement like this “an introvert’s linguistic style would induce more situational attributions and a higher perception of trustworthiness” can’t be treated as universal.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    I can relate. I think I’m an introvert in large part BECAUSE I fear that my words will be misunderstood and/or misconstrued. I’m not confident that I am able to verbally convey the many nuances that I see in a given situation so I’d usually prefer to remain quietly in my own world. When I do speak I try in vain to talk about the subject from many different perspectives at once, so I end up endlessly qualifying to the point of confusion. I am blessed and cursed with the ability to see both sides of nearly every issue and often feel like that’s impossible to convey in conversation without getting on people’s vs sides.

  • Pam

    The scripture verse in Jeremiah that says that we are wonderfully made is evident in the myriad of personalities possibilities and combinations. Introverts love to work on their own. In the ministry, they tend to be counselors, in children’s ministries, bookkeepers, photographers, etc. With that said, I wonder about our friend, Pete, who is an introverted pastor. Could it be that God has a much higher calling for you? And could it also be that the claims of “overstating of the scriptures” by your extroverted counterparts is actually your own perfectionism being brought to light? If I am hitting a nerve, then you might want to take time for some introspection and see if leadership and the position is really keeping you from being what God created you to be. Free yourself!

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    I can relate as well. I suspect this is part of why good writers are usually introverts- show don’t tell. I have to be careful because like Nate, I want to express myself clearly without triggering everyone’s “vs side”. Which means if I’m not careful, I can get very long winded. Which is probably also why good writers often have even better editors!

  • David P Himes

    In my view, this highlights the importance of “audience analysis” in communications planning. Communications occurs most completely when the audiences hears what the speaker intended for them to understand. So, when speaking to one individual, you should use words they will understand the way you intend, but when speaking to an larger, more diverse audience, you should use multiple stories, multiple examples, multiple perspectives, to insure everyone in the audience understands the message you intended for them to hear.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Pam#6, that hit a nerve for me! I bet you are an extrovert since you did exactly what the article said and labeled the person and ascribed the difference directly to the personality without even knowing the situation!

  • Amanda B.

    Joe #3: I hear you on that. I was in a poetry critique group for a while, and one of the leaders told me I was the only poet he ever encouraged to be less literal. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the place of straightforward communication in art, and whether abstraction always necessarily means “better, deeper, and more art-y”.

    Introverted artists FTW. :)

  • Brian Roden

    I find myself trying to be very precise, even across languages (my wife’s native language is Spanish). She’ll ask what a certain English word means, or how to translate a certain word into English. I end up giving the various contexts, “If it’s in this situation it means this, if you’re talking about this other thing it can mean thus-and-so, …”

    It’s one reason I am much better at writing papers than at preaching. That kind of precision doesn’t work as well in spoken communication (at least from the non-introvert listener’s perspective).

  • Pam

    DRT #9 Sorry about hitting your nerve! I am very much an introvert who has a degree in this very subject so of course my linguistic pattern exhibits criterion of different levels. In addition, my church (mcgregor.net) has a whole ministry of testing and placing new members in the body according to such characteristics as introvert/extrovert. They seem to think that God has given spiritual gifts to everyone so that they can best serve the body in their own unique place of position. That is why that I know that introvert has a proclivity for positions other than a pastor.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X