Acting out of character

Introverts seem to be getting a lot of attention recently.

We read a newspaper article about the advantages of being an introvert and discussed it in our last blog post, and we also read Bryan Walsh’s article “The Upside of Being an Introvert (and Why Extroverts Are Overrated)” in the February 6, 2012, issue of Time magazine.

At the end of his article, Walsh makes some interesting points about how “we can act out of character in the service of core personal goals.” It’s an idea that comes from Brian Little, a research psychologist at Harvard, who refers to it as the free-trait theory.

Basically, our inborn personality may be either introverted or extroverted. That’s our biogenic identity.

But, to get along in a family or at a party or on the job, we may have to make some adjustments in our biogenic identity and create a sociogenic identity.

Then, depending on what’s important to us—“our personal desires and our sense of what matters,” we can create an ideogenic identity.

Little, the Harvard professor who is another introvert, says that he could be comfortable never leaving the library. But he asks: “Am I going to strike out and change and grow and challenge? The answer depends on what you want out of life.”

We like Little’s theory about multiple identities. When we think about our multiple identities, we’re reminded that we can change and adapt.

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2 Responses to “Acting out of character”

  1. Mary Hunter February 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I think your last point is right on — people should remember that they can change and adapt.

    I think some people get stuck on labels and then use the labels to explain their behavior — “I can’t do that because I’m an extrovert” or “I can’t do that because I’m an introvert.”


  2. Joy February 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    You’re exactly right, Mary. We all can adapt and change. Plus, most of us are not complete introverts or complete extroverts. We can be more introverted when it’s appropriate or more extroverted when it’s appropriate.

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