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Posts relating to Introversion:

5 years ago

High and Low Reactives 2

◊ Posted by A β Pseudolonewolf
Categories: IntroversionPersonality
This is a follow-up to the other post that I wrote yesterday, based on some of the comments that people left, which suggested that I'd not explained things very well.

I talked about "high reactives" and "low reactives"... but several people seemed to assume that 'high reactive' meant 'introvert' and as such the traits I was describing as 'high reactive' were actually introverted traits. I can see how people read it this way, but that's not accurate.
I've checked the book again, and apparently 20% of people are 'high reactive', 40% are 'low reactive', and the remaining 40% fall somewhere in the middle, so it's not a binary thing, and most introverts are not high reactive. I imagine most of you here are in the middle group...

As a high reactive myself, the traits of this type are obvious and recognisable to me, but they also seem irritatingly difficult to actually describe without hinting at other traits that have different causes... Many introverts are 'shy' and averse to too much input and that kind of stuff, but high reactives are more averse to being overwhelmed by input... but this is a very difficult thing to imagine if you're not one of them, because how can you really know how others react internally compared to yourself? How do you know whether you react to things more than average or less? This is a difficult thing to know, especially when you're still in your younger years.

People are high reactive when they have an overactive amygdala, which is the part of the brain that handles input and triggers the flight or fight response. It's the part that makes you duck when a frisbee is flying towards your face (an example that the book used). People with overactive amygdalae are more likely to feel deeply 'jangled' (as the book says) by new experiences, and they're more likely to be anxious, alert, etc rather than calm and relaxed. I can easily imagine my anxiety disorder being caused by an overactive amygdala.
Most people will feel some trepidation when entering into new and unfamiliar situations, though, which is why things like this are difficult to communicate, because I say "high reactives are anxious about new things", and someone who's not a high reactive could easily say "I am anxious about new things!", though they'd not be anxious in the same way or to the same degree... but how can I possibly explain the degree which is characteristic of a high reactive? I don't know.

Several different traits emerge as a result of this hyperactive amgydala, apparently, and the book mentions several. I'm going to skim through the relevant chapter and collect some quotes:

The more reactive a child's amygdala, the higher his heart rate is likely to be, the more widely dilated his eyes, the tighter his vocal cords, the more cortisol (a stress hormone) in his saliva - the more jangled he's likely to feel when he confronts something new and stimulating.

High- and low-reactivity are probably not the only biological routes to introversion and extroversion. There are plenty of introverts who do not have a the sensitivity of a classic high-reactive, and a small percentage of high-reactives grow up to be extroverts.

High-reactive children pay what one psychologist calls "alert attention" to people and things. They literally use more eye movements than others to compare choices before making a decision. It's as if they process more deeply - sometimes consciously, sometimes not - the information they take in about the world.

High-reactive kids also tend to think and feel deeply about what they've noticed, and to bring an extra degree of nuance to everyday experiences. This can be expressed in many different ways. If the child is socially oriented, she may spend a lot of time pondering her observations of others - why Jason didn't want to share his toys today, why Mary got so mad at Nicholas when he bumped into her accidentally. If he has a particular interest - in solving puzzles, making art, building sand castles - he'll often concentrate with unusual intensity. If a high-reactive toddler breaks another child's toy by mistake, studies show, she often expeiriences a more intense mix of guilt and sorrow than a lower-reactive child would. All kids notice their environments and feel emotions, of course, but high-reactive kids seem to see and feel things more.
"Putting theory into practice is hard for them, ... because their sensitive natures and elaborate schemes are unsuited to the heterogeneous rigours of the schoolyard".

I can easily imagine many people feeling that their own guilt and sorrow is strong and genuine, and their own focus strong, so they'd want to say 'that's me!' to this... but again, it's difficult to really know whether you really match the intensity that's described here. I know I do and manifests as a crippling anxiety disorder and pounding headaches over conflict on this site, the inability to put things out of my mind or 'just ignore them' like some people so easily can, amongst countless other things.

It's also interesting that I can imagine autistic people relating to the particular wording there. I've read things recently that suggest that autism is related to the amygdala in some way, so perhaps there's a link of sorts. Being autistic and being high-reactive aren't the same, though.

...high reactivity is associated with physical traits such as blue eyes, allergies, and hay fever, and that high-reactive men are more likely than others to have a thin body and narrow face. Such conclusions are speculative ...

This is an interesting observation that the psychologist studying this reactivity stuff suggested. Obviously it's biased towards white people, but it is interesting that introverts in fiction often have that look about them... and interesting that I myself have a thin build, narrow face and blue eyes. I've always thought that I looked like the archetypical shy, neurotic, wispy nerdy man, and not at all like anything macho, so it's interesting that there' be some actual correlation between body type and temperament.
This doesn't mean that ALL high reactives look that way, of course.

Here's something that I myself try to explain quite often:
Psychologists often discuss the difference between "temperament" and "personality". Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioural and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix. Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building.
One of the most common ways of untangling nature from nurture is to compare the personality traits of identical and fraternal twins. ... if you measure introversion or extroversion levels in pairs of twins and find more correlation in identical twins than in fraternal pairs - which scientists do, in study after study, even of twins raised in separate households - you can reasonably conclude that the trait has some genetic basis.
... studies ... have consistently suggested that introversion and extroversion, like other major personality traits such as agreeableness and conscientiousness, are about 40 to 50 percent heritable.

The author interviews the scientist who did work on the high reactivity stuff, Jerome Kagan:
Ironically for a scientist whose books are infused with humanism and who describes himself as having been an anxious, easily frightened boy, I find him downright intimidating. I kick off our interview by asking a background question whose premise he disagrees with. "No, no, no!" he thunders, as if I weren't sitting just across from him.
The high-reactive side of my personality kicks into full gear. I'm always soft-spoken, but now I have to force my voice to come out louder than a whisper. ... I'm aware that I'm holding my torso tensely, one of the telltale signs of the high-reactive. .. he notes that many high-reactives become writers or pick other intellectual vocations where "you're in charge: you close the door, pull down the shades and do your work. You're protected from encountering unexpected things."

This is an excellent description of why I'm doing game development by myself rather than getting a typical job or working with others. I can't handle the new and unexpected situations that might come up, the responsibility, the potential conflict.

I mention a little girl I know who is "slow to warm up". She studies new people rather than greeting them; her family goes to the beach every weekend, but it takes her ages to dip a toe into the surf. A classic high-reactive, I remark.
"No!" Kagan exclaims. "Every behaviour has more than one cause. Don't ever forget that! For every child who's slow to warm up, yes, there will be statistically more high-reactives, but you can be slow to warm up because of how you spent the first three and a half yours of your life! ... it's really important that you see, for behaviours like slow-to-warm-up, shyness, impulsivity, there are many routes to that."
He reels off examples of environmental factors that could produce an introverted personality independently of, or in concert with, a reactive nervous system: A child might enjoy having new ideas about the world, say, so she spends a lot of time inside her head. Or health problems might direct a child inward, to what's going on inside his body.
My fear of public speaking might be equally complex. Do I dread it because I'm a high-reactive introvert? Maybe not. Some high-reactives love public speaking and performing, and plenty of extroverts have stage fright

...people who inherit certain traits tend to seek out life experiences that reinforce those characteristics. The most low-reactive kids, for example, court danger from the time they're toddlers, so that by the time they grow up they don't bat an eye at grow-up-sized risks.
Conversely, high-reactive children may be more likely to develop into artists and writers and scientists and thinkers because their aversion to novelty causes them to spend time inside the familiar - and intellectually fertile - environment of their own heads.
On the other hand, there is also a wide range of possible outcomes for each temperament. Low-reactive, extroverted children, if raised by attentive families in safe environments, can grow up to be energetic achievers with big personalities - the Richard Bransons and Oprahs of this world. But give those same children negligent caregivers or a bad neighbourhood, say some psychologists, and they can turn into bullies, juvenile delinquents, or criminals. Lykken has controversially called psychopaths and heroes "twigs on the same genetic branch".

Scientists have known for a while that high-reactive temperaments come with risk factors. These kids are especially vulnerable to challenges like marital tension, a parent's death, or abuse. They're more likely than their peers to react to these events with depression, anxiety and shyness. Indeed, about a quarter of Kagan's high-reactive kids suffer from some degree of the condition known as "social anxiety disorder", a chronic and disabling form of shyness.
... these risk factors have an upside. ... High-reactive kids who enjoy good parenting, child care and a stable home environment ... [become] exceedingly empathetic, caring, and cooperative. They work well with others. They are kind, conscientious, and easily disturbed by cruelty, injustice, and irresponsibility.

It's a shame that my poor upbringing didn't allow me to reach my full potential... but I can see a lot of myself in these things. For example, I hate overhearing my parents argue... They don't have angry rows or anything, but they 'bicker' fairly frequently because they can't agree on things, and it makes me literally want to cover my ears when I hear it. The same goes for any overheard conversations; I want to block them out because they bother me so much, as do various things like the sound of eating, too. I literally cover my ears and feel panicky and stressed when overhearing these things, and had a panic attack once, only a year or two ago, when my parents were bickering over the top of my head about some minor thing...
I don't kill insects, and from as early an age as I can remember, I never did. I find it horrible that other people would so casually kill other living creatures, and only a few days ago, I literally got teary when an insect flew at me while I was in the shower and got hit by the water and washed down the drain...
I even understand what it means by 'they work well with others'. It doesn't mean that they love seeking out others to work with; it means that when they work with others, they're likely to be attentive, fair, considerate and involved, rather than apathetic, harsh, or to spend their time messing around or arguing. If put into groups, I would do my best to contribute kindly and well and to make myself valuable, even if I don't normally prefer to be in groups at all due to anxiety.

Anyway, I could talk about this all day and quote even bigger chunks of the book, but if you're interested further, it's called Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain. I have it on the Kindle that I have (so convenient, that!), which is probably the only reason I bothered to get it in the first place... but I consider it a very worthwhile investment because it teaches me so much about myself and others!

Anyway, mainly I just wanted to attempt to explain the difference between 'introversion' and 'high reactivity' here, so hopefully I've made that clearer at least somewhat.

Oh, another thing I wanted to mention is how a lot of people don't understand what 'introverted' and 'extroverted' actually mean.
I've linked to this image before, perhaps, but I find it very useful and accurate: ∞ LINK ∞
Being shy, quiet and misanthropic is not being introverted. Introverts can express themselves and be silly as openly as anyone, especially amongst close friends; they just spend energy from external interaction - usually social, but not necessarily - while extroverts gain energy from it. So introverts would attend parties... but would prefer to leave earlier, or would prefer to talk deeply with a small number of people, or just one, rather than going around talking inanely with everyone present.
The way that some people speak of it, they seem to think that even uttering a peep is 'being extroverted', or being quiet and reflective for even a moment is 'being introverted'. These two words should best be used to describe overall trends and preferences.

One final thing that I want to comment on is how people spoke of how, during their childhood, they'd get teased and would cry and get hurt and so on. Most children are like this, and it doesn't suggest anything one way or the other. If you 'toughen up' into an apathetic teenager, then you're most likely not a high reactive... though perhaps you're in the middle group that doesn't tend to either extreme.
6 years ago

Introvert Site Thing Again

◊ Posted by A β Pseudolonewolf
Categories: Introversion
A while ago, I made a site for introverted people to share their thoughts with eachother, in order to get things off their chests and receive supportive feedback and stuff.

I haven't mentioned it in a while, but it's been active and I have been using it a lot and it's been very beneficial to me.

There aren't many people there at the moment, though; only around 20. I've decided to keep it as a small exclusive club... but I'd still like to invite other people who seem right for it.

I'm hoping to find more females though, to keep the gender ratio balanced. Currently the ratio is 55% male, which is much better than here where it's like 90% male, so I want to keep the ratio about the same. It's frustrating to me being around guys all the time...

I mentioned last time that I only want to invite people over the age of 16... I might knock that up to 18. It's not for children.

Effectively it's like a close-knit social group at this point - I don't have an in-person friendship group so I'm trying to build one up in this way, I suppose - and we're looking for other introverted people seeking that kind of environment, which is non-critical, supportive, and understanding of things like shyness and anxiety and things like that. It stresses empathy and understanding over advice-giving or criticism.

You're able to fill out a profile much like this site, which you can use to write 'Thoughts', which are sort of like status updates on Facebook (from what little I know of them) or blog posts on sites like LiveJournal. The Thoughts are a way of saying what's on your mind though rather than what activities you've been up to; it was designed so that people who don't 'have a life' would not feel left out; for people who don't like Facebook. For people who aren't constantly going out and who don't even want to.

So anyway, I'm looking for more people to potentially invite over there. So if you're gentle, empathetic, supportive rather than critical, not snarky, over 18, preferably female, and are looking for an online social group sort of thing to keep you company and stuff, then I'd be interested in hearing from you!

Though you'll have to tell me a bit about yourself so then I know whether the site would be appropriate for you.