Friday, 13 February 2015

Introversion/ Extraversion and Neuroticism/ Emotional Stability in Genius

I have written extensively on the Psychoticism trait  - its nature and role in Genius; but have so-far neglected to discuss Eysenck's other suggested major personality traits of Introversion/ Extraversion and Neuroticism/ Emotional Stability



In general, it would be expected that Introversion trait was high in genius - in the sense that introverts are inner-stimulated and autonomous of their environment, in contrast with extraverts who depend on external stimulus to maintain a state of arousal or alertness.

But the self-rating scales for measuring Introversion focus on behaviours, and not psychological mechanisms - therefore those scoring high in Introversion will include people who are simply anhedonic, inactive; who lack motivation and drive - and these attributes would be fatal to the prospects of a genius accomplishing anything significant.

In other words, real Introversion would be a characteristic of genius, but a high score on the introversion scale would also contain undermotivated people - thereby blurring the measurement by misclassification error.

Thus, a genius needs to be a genuine introvert; but people with pathology might lead to 'false positive' measures of high introversion.



Analogously, but in the opposite direction, high Neuroticism (N) would be bad for a genius, in the sense that N refers to an unpleasant and overwhelming sensitivity of emotions and moods to the environment - such that a high N person tends to be overwhelmed with negative emotions such as anxiety, shyness, low self esteem, misery etc.

But the opposite state of low-N (or high Emotional Stability) as it is measured by behavioural questionnaires, is also potentially hostile to genius, since it implies an insensivity to events; a lack of emotional-responsiveness - including people with weak emotions.

These would all tend to be a disadvantage to genius - since emotions are used to evaluate situations and evidence; so weak emotions would tend to impair discrimination.

These would be the processes of Neuroticism, but in practice N is measured using a tally of (usually self-reported) behavioural traits - and these could not distinguish between different causes of the same behaviour; and so would conflate subtle and useful emotional sensitivity, with the pathological state of too-easy triggering of negative emotions.

So, a genius might score as somewhat high in N, but this would not necessarily reflect a pathology.



Nicholas Fulford said...

Deep inner reflection can create an intuitive awareness of hidden connections which then have to be sussed out, modelled and tested. Too deep into the rabbit-hole of introversion and emotional sensitivity can be a problem though, as fantasy and reality can be mixed into a useless amalgam of delusion. To be useful, the genius has to be able to surface and be informed by the external world enough to ground his or her creative leaps.

Introversion and extroversion should be regarded as a continuum between the two poles. Almost nobody is at the poles, and there is likely a most productive zone in which the genius operates. There also seems to be a need to play in the mind-space - to mix and turn associations and perspectives in various permutations and combinations. There has to be enough focus to not lose track of the elusive quarry that draws one into that imaginative area of creative thinking, and enough freedom to not overly constrain what is explored. My own sense is that there is a serendipitous quality in which things may align for a few moments, and the trick is to hold that alignment long enough to record enough quick notes to enable it to not be forgotten. It is not unlike my experience of photography with my old large format field camera. Something grabs my attention such that I know that something meaningful is close at hand. I play with framing, and focusing, imagining and trying different filters and framing until I get the 'aha' moment which usually is quite literally a little visceral pinch of recognition. I would take the image and quickly jot down a few notes to remind me of what I was experiencing, and what I want to realise. What is always tricky about this is to be able to record the notes quickly and without much rational involvement - as one would record dream recollections upon waking - and avoid switching mental gears so abruptly that the state which was experienced as meaningful has been overwhelmed by rational thought. Like writing, it is important to not interrupt the flow with editing until it is "down on paper".

Ngoc Nguyen said...

"Thus, a genius needs to be a genuine introvert; but people with pathology might lead to 'false positive' measures of high introversion. " [Introversion]

"So, a genius might score as somewhat high in N, but this would not necessarily reflect a pathology." [Neuroticism]

Your respective one-sentence conclusions for Introversion and for Neuroticism--which are quoted above--seem to imply that a genius by definition is free of pathology. Is this sense true, or am I merely misinterpreting your words? Please explain.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NN - Good question but NO - a genius is not by definition *free* of pathology - however, for a genius pathology is just pathology. Pathology is not an essential basis of his being a genius.

So, the 'social misfit' aspect of being a genius is not necessarily a pathology - in its essence it is because genius is serving the best long-term interests of the group (and not of the genius himself) - this may look like pathology in the short term and in the chances of real life and judged from the perspective of *individual* well-being, but it is really a necessary and (sometimes) inevitable side effect of the process of genius.

Anonymous said...

''Pathology is not an essential basis of his being a genius.''

A combination among the elements, where the pathology is present.

''He's very intelligent despise bipolar disorder''

Nope, he's intelligent also because the bipolar disorder, a combination, a phenotype.

Introversion OR introspection***

I think most geniuses are very introspectives and not only introverts.

Bruce Charlton said...

@S - I am trying to say that introverts are introspective, because introversion is domination by inner cognitions - and to be dominated by inner cognitions is (usually) to have access to inner states.

- said...

We had a great argument on our forum on whether high intelligence and introversion go hand in hand:

I personally proposed that they do; I couldn't envision an extraverted genius, but couldn't unequivocally support it with existing studies either.