If want to hear lots of specific details about a TV show you missed, you’re better off asking a shy person in the office, rather than the loud-mouth talking about it in the break room. According to a study by Dutch scientist Camiel Beukeboom, introverts use more descriptive and concrete language than extroverts. Extroverts are far more likely to use abstract language and remember details less accurately.
In the experiment, 40 subjects were asked to describe a set of ambiguous photos and then returned three days later to take a personality test. Participants who were graded as introverts had more mentions of numbers, used more definite articles (i.e. “a”, “the”), and made more distinctions in their speech (i.e. use of words like “but” and “except”). On the other hand, extroverts used more colorful adjectives and described objects/events that were not visible in the photos. When asked, the extroverts admitted to engaging in interpretation. (Note: ‘interpretation’ might be a nice way of saying exaggeration.)
These results may not be surprising since previous research has shown introverts behave more cautiously due to fear of punishment. Extroverts tend to be more thrill seekers, and therefore may be more expansive in their word choices. As one article summarized, “introverts tell it like it is; extroverts tell it like it might be.”
It’s an intriguing theory but it doesn’t conclusively prove introverts are more detailed than extroverts. Using only 40 subjects from the same company doesn’t seem like a representative sample for the general public. In addition, the authors did not consider other personality factors which might also affect language use. This could be a situation of correlation but not cause.
I’ve read the study a few times but there aren’t enough details for me to decide for myself. The author must be an extrovert.
Studies have shown that introverts generally have excellent problem-solving and analytical skills which could explain why they are good with the details. However their articulation will be subjective to the channel which they choose to communicate. It might be possible that an introvert will be more effective articulating in a nonverbal mode.
As an introvert who shares office space with an extrovert 40 hours a week, I can agree 100%!
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Yay for introverts! The current office culture tends to de-value introverts and quiet work time in preference of “collaboration” and “team work” which means constant meetings, a lot of talk, a lack of specificity about who is responsible for what, and less progress on the actual hands to computer (or paper or whatever) and creative thinking work that needs to get done. It’s been disproven that brainstorming actually results in more creative solutions.
I think that this unbalanced approach to working is the company’s loss AND extends the employee’s day in an unhealthy and unnecessary way — they have to do their “quiet” work after hours. Can’t wait for balance to be established in the office though I sense that I may have to wait awhile.
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In the experiment, 40 subjects were asked to describe a set of ambiguous photos and then returned three days later to take a personality test. Participants who were graded as introverts had more mentions of numbers, used more definite articles (i.e. “a”, “the”), and made more distinctions in their speech (i.e. use of words like “but” and “except”). On the other hand, extroverts used more colorful adjectives and described objects/events that were not visible in the photos. When asked, the extroverts admitted to engaging in interpretation.
A great presentation by our new champion for introverts and quiet work time: Susan Cain. In fact, she published a book called “Quiet” just to drive the point home.
Hi Holly – I’m reading “Quiet” right now – it’s got some great tips and insights about introverts, especially for those us us who are extroverts in management/leadership roles. What motivates introverts and what makes them feel comfortable and productive is quite different than what motivates extroverts. It’s important to get to know people for who they are if you want them to be successful.
You know, that is a very interesting study, and the potential implications of it have a lot of applications to business. For example, although it seems like the extrovert is often the one the gets a promotion or is well-known around the office, it may in fact be true that the introvert who pays attention to the details is better suited for the job.
I agree with Holly Roland’s comment above about the current office situation really playing havoc with productivity. Although some people may well be suited for a team approach, there are a good many others who should perhaps enjoy a more limited collaboration that is better suited towards their individual skills, preferences, and “ideal” work enviroment. What works for some may not work for all, and this seems to have been forgotten in the current business enviroment.
I am introvert. I am not all that tight with details but I do use expansive and colorful language. One commenter mentioned using non-verbal ways to communicate. I do think I am more detailed and flowery when writing. I also think the subject matter would elicit different responses.
Very interesting! I am a proud introvert.
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