Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality | Brian Little

Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality | Brian Little

What an intriguing
group of individuals you are … to a psychologist. (Laughter) I’ve had the opportunity
over the last couple of days of listening in on some
of your conversations and watching you interact with each other. And I think it’s fair to say, already, that there are 47 people in this audience, at this moment, displaying psychological symptoms
I would like to discuss today. (Laughter) And I thought you might
like to know who you are. (Laughter) But instead of pointing at you, which would be gratuitous and intrusive, I thought I would tell you
a few facts and stories, in which you may catch
a glimpse of yourself. I’m in the field of research
known as personality psychology, which is part of a larger
personality science which spans the full spectrum,
from neurons to narratives. And what we try to do, in our own way, is to make sense of how each of us — each of you — is, in certain respects, like all other people, like some other people and like no other person. Now, already you may
be saying of yourself, “I’m not intriguing. I am the 46th most boring person
in the Western Hemisphere.” Or you may say of yourself, “I am intriguing, even if I am regarded by most people
as a great, thundering twit.” (Laughter) But it is your self-diagnosed boringness
and your inherent “twitiness” that makes me, as a psychologist,
really fascinated by you. So let me explain why this is so. One of the most influential approaches
in personality science is known as trait psychology, and it aligns you along five dimensions
which are normally distributed, and that describe universally held aspects
of difference between people. They spell out the acronym OCEAN. So, “O” stands for “open to experience,” versus those who are more closed. “C” stands for “conscientiousness,” in contrast to those with a more
lackadaisical approach to life. “E” — “extroversion,” in contrast
to more introverted people. “A” — “agreeable individuals,” in contrast to those
decidedly not agreeable. And “N” — “neurotic individuals,” in contrast to those who are more stable. All of these dimensions have
implications for our well-being, for how our life goes. And so we know that, for example, openness and conscientiousness
are very good predictors of life success, but the open people achieve that success
through being audacious and, occasionally, odd. The conscientious people
achieve it through sticking to deadlines, to persevering, as well as
having some passion. Extroversion and agreeableness
are both conducive to working well with people. Extroverts, for example,
I find intriguing. With my classes, I sometimes
give them a basic fact that might be revealing
with respect to their personality: I tell them that it is virtually
impossible for adults to lick the outside of their own elbow. (Laughter) Did you know that? Already, some of you have tried
to lick the outside of your own elbow. But extroverts amongst you are probably those
who have not only tried, but they have successfully
licked the elbow of the person sitting next to them. (Laughter) Those are the extroverts. Let me deal in a bit more detail
with extroversion, because it’s consequential
and it’s intriguing, and it helps us understand
what I call our three natures. First, our biogenic nature —
our neurophysiology. Second, our sociogenic or second nature, which has to do with the cultural
and social aspects of our lives. And third, what makes you
individually you — idiosyncratic — what I call your “idiogenic” nature. Let me explain. One of the things that characterizes
extroverts is they need stimulation. And that stimulation can be achieved
by finding things that are exciting: loud noises, parties
and social events here at TED — you see the extroverts
forming a magnetic core. They all gather together. And I’ve seen you. The introverts are more likely
to spend time in the quiet spaces up on the second floor, where they are able
to reduce stimulation — and may be misconstrued
as being antisocial, but you’re not necessarily antisocial. It may be that you simply realize
that you do better when you have a chance
to lower that level of stimulation. Sometimes it’s an internal
stimulant, from your body. Caffeine, for example, works much better
with extroverts than it does introverts. When extroverts come into the office
at nine o’clock in the morning and say, “I really need a cup of coffee,” they’re not kidding — they really do. Introverts do not do as well, particularly if the tasks
they’re engaged in — and they’ve had some coffee — if those tasks are speeded, and if they’re quantitative, introverts may give the appearance
of not being particularly quantitative. But it’s a misconstrual. So here are the consequences
that are really quite intriguing: we’re not always what seem to be, and that takes me to my next point. I should say, before getting to this, something about sexual intercourse, although I may not have time. And so, if you would like me to — yes, you would? OK. (Laughter) There are studies done on the frequency with which
individuals engage in the conjugal act, as broken down by male, female;
introvert, extrovert. So I ask you: How many times per minute — oh, I’m sorry, that was a rat study — (Laughter) How many times per month do introverted men engage in the act? 3.0. Extroverted men? More or less? Yes, more. 5.5 — almost twice as much. Introverted women: 3.1. Extroverted women? Frankly, speaking as an introverted male, which I will explain later — they are heroic. 7.5. They not only handle
all the male extroverts, they pick up a few introverts as well. (Laughter) (Applause) We communicate differently,
extroverts and introverts. Extroverts, when they interact, want to have lots of social encounter
punctuated by closeness. They’d like to stand close
for comfortable communication. They like to have a lot of eye contact, or mutual gaze. We found in some research that they use more diminutive terms
when they meet somebody. So when an extrovert meets a Charles, it rapidly becomes “Charlie,”
and then “Chuck,” and then “Chuckles Baby.” (Laughter) Whereas for introverts, it remains “Charles,” until he’s given
a pass to be more intimate by the person he’s talking to. We speak differently. Extroverts prefer black-and-white,
concrete, simple language. Introverts prefer —
and I must again tell you that I am as extreme an introvert
as you could possibly imagine — we speak differently. We prefer contextually complex, contingent, weasel-word sentences — (Laughter) More or less. (Laughter) As it were. (Laughter) Not to put too fine a point upon it — like that. When we talk, we sometimes talk past each other. I had a consulting contract
I shared with a colleague who’s as different from me
as two people can possibly be. First, his name is Tom. Mine isn’t. (Laughter) Secondly, he’s six foot five. I have a tendency not to be. (Laughter) And thirdly, he’s as extroverted
a person as you could find. I am seriously introverted. I overload so much, I can’t even have a cup of coffee
after three in the afternoon and expect to sleep in the evening. We had seconded to this project
a fellow called Michael. And Michael almost brought
the project to a crashing halt. So the person who seconded him
asked Tom and me, “What do you make of Michael?” Well, I’ll tell you
what Tom said in a minute. He spoke in classic “extrovert-ese.” And here is how extroverted ears
heard what I said, which is actually pretty accurate. I said, “Well Michael does have
a tendency at times of behaving in a way
that some of us might see as perhaps more assertive
than is normally called for.” (Laughter) Tom rolled his eyes and he said, “Brian, that’s what I said: he’s an asshole!” (Laughter) (Applause) Now, as an introvert, I might gently allude to certain
“assholic” qualities in this man’s behavior, but I’m not going to lunge for the a-word. (Laughter) But the extrovert says, “If he walks like one, if he talks
like one, I call him one.” And we go past each other. Now is this something
that we should be heedful of? Of course. It’s important that we know this. Is that all we are? Are we just a bunch of traits? No, we’re not. Remember, you’re like some other people and like no other person. How about that idiosyncratic you? As Elizabeth or as George, you may share your extroversion
or your neuroticism. But are there some distinctively
Elizabethan features of your behavior, or Georgian of yours, that make us understand you
better than just a bunch of traits? That make us love you? Not just because you’re
a certain type of person. I’m uncomfortable putting
people in pigeonholes. I don’t even think pigeons
belong in pigeonholes. So what is it that makes us different? It’s the doings that we have
in our life — the personal projects. You have a personal project right now, but nobody may know it here. It relates to your kid — you’ve been back three times
to the hospital, and they still don’t know what’s wrong. Or it could be your mom. And you’d been acting out of character. These are free traits. You’re very agreeable,
but you act disagreeably in order to break down those barriers
of administrative torpor in the hospital, to get something
for your mom or your child. What are these free traits? They’re where we enact a script in order to advance
a core project in our lives. And they are what matters. Don’t ask people what type you are; ask them, “What are your core
projects in your life?” And we enact those free traits. I’m an introvert, but I have a core project,
which is to profess. I’m a professor. And I adore my students, and I adore my field. And I can’t wait to tell them
about what’s new, what’s exciting, what I can’t wait to tell them about. And so I act in an extroverted way, because at eight in the morning, the students need a little bit of humor, a little bit of engagement
to keep them going in arduous days of study. But we need to be very careful when we act protractedly out of character. Sometimes we may find
that we don’t take care of ourselves. I find, for example, after a period
of pseudo-extroverted behavior, I need to repair somewhere on my own. As Susan Cain said in her “Quiet” book, in a chapter that featured
the strange Canadian professor who was teaching at the time at Harvard, I sometimes go to the men’s room to escape the slings and arrows
of outrageous extroverts. (Laughter) I remember one particular day
when I was retired to a cubicle, trying to avoid overstimulation. And a real extrovert came
in beside me — not right in my cubicle, but in the next cubicle over — and I could hear various
evacuatory noises, which we hate — even our own, that’s why we flush
during as well as after. (Laughter) And then I heard
this gravelly voice saying, “Hey, is that Dr. Little?” (Laughter) If anything is guaranteed
to constipate an introvert for six months, it’s talking on the john. (Laughter) That’s where I’m going now. Don’t follow me. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality | Brian Little

  1. " अपना टाइम आएगा "
    ये दरबदर की ठोकरे जो खाके मैं हु आ गया,
    कहा से चल पडा था मैं कहा हु देखो आ गया.
    संभल संभल के चल रहा था पाव फिर भी जल गए,
    हातो की लकीरो पे देखो घाव कितने छिल गए.

  2. I am the sum total of my upbringing, my weaknesses, and what I have allowed people to make of me. Traits that often result in the psychopathy of hatred and revenge. Society often creates such circumstances and the recipients are punished for what society and usually family has done to them. No, I am not psychopathic, but I can understand where such ingrained behavior has flowered. Psychopaths are either born or made and so it is down to appropriate legislation and psychological advancement to regain some balance in the evaluation of such people.

  3. Extroverts: This man is a BADASS.

    Introverts: This man has the amazing capacity to articulate his ideas and thoughts so profoundly that he rightfully deserves the title of badass.

  4. Question is: is it a big deal to be introvert? because most of the peole who consider themselves introvert in the coments, talk as if it made them better than the rest of the world. I don´t consider myself either introvert nor extrovert, i thin it depends on the circumstances to me, and this takes me to the second question, do people need to be either introvert or extrovert? i mean there are mid points there are gray areas, i think.

  5. What a riot! Loved this talk. It's just magnificent to watch an introvert extend himself and go beyond.
    Humorous, eloquent, interesting, informative – what more can an audience want or expect?
    Thank you Professor Little!

  6. I have been in a YouTube black hole lately on controversy and politics and shaming and just generally the worst qualities humanity displays. This video popped up and reminded me how kind and genuine people can be.

  7. Don't profess to speak for extroverts. There are those of us who are just as thoughtful–perhaps
    more so–as inquisitive, as expounding, etc.
    …and what approach is more fruitful? Which would bring the most truth?
    I'd love to blow him with self esteem

  8. if someone is sensitive to emotions, where does that sit in the big 5? Extroversions? For example, some people handle insults better than others, where does this sit?

  9. Funny that here he only sees us as extroverts OR introverts; i think that might be a professional deformation,since he so much insists he is an introvert(yet he interacts very well with people here,and we can tell it's not his first time at it); i think the majority of us are actually in between, and a mixture of traits,not just man or woman.

  10. This may have been the funniest Ted Talk I've ever seen… which I believe, perhaps, is saying something significant, given the number of Ted Talks I've seen over the years 😂

  11. There are five axes in the OCEAN, which contribute to trait-psychology..
    ¨Now extraverts and introverts…¨ ignores the other axes, then asks, is that all we are?
    HUH, no? You cannot get an idea of a five dimensional space by exploring one dimension.
    And it´s just a model.. Strange talk..

  12. By this logic, I am an introverted, extrovert. I can not speak without great detail, but need very little speech to understand someone else's point. The more someone else speaks, the more I feel they are repeating themself. Externally, I am extremely extroverted. In my mind, I am an introvert. Why? I am a preposterous person an it gets to be very stressful and internally confusing.

  13. While I think this is an interesting video, I think it over simplified people. These binaries are too flattening. People change frequently. Perhaps someone is more of an introvert in new settings, but in familiar ones they are extraverted. Also, what if someone is an introvert, likes being alone, but also enjoys stimuli. I.e. someone who is climbing Mount Everest alone, or is a daredevil.

  14. Oh i understand why Ted trys to keep their videos around 10 minutes long, its because the longest time we can pay attention to somthing very well Is 10 minutes then we don't take in as much.:)

  15. I like more MBTI with added T/A dimension like on 16personalities.com . It is similar like OCEAN. Speaker acting like xNTP ( John Cleese. ) I'm INTP but he is extrovert against me. Feelings to "teach" others I compensate by trolling, years ago… 🙂 english is not my first or second language

  16. i fuckin hate the people who say im an "introverted extrovert" and vice versa but i swear to god i was an exact 50/50 split of each of his defining factors and i couldn't be more pissed about it

  17. The best Social Behavior
    in social interaction with people is what prophet Muhammad said,
    "The believer who mixes with people and endures their injury is better than the person who does not mix with people nor endure their injury"
    Guys, I advise myself first and U, to read about the biography of prophet Muhammad from true sources, and how he dealt with different people don't take it from the mainstream media.
    This is a pdf copy of him https://islamhouse.com/en/books/2824963/

  18. This means, extroverted females, the standard model of the female empowerment that goes on at the moment, is in fact a wh**e.

  19. I as a former introvert that has transitioned to the extrovert side while keeping some of my nice assets, can attest to his principles.

    I would of course go to the toilet and call his name do :)))))

  20. I am fascinated by those who analyze others and what makes them tick and whatever somebody thinks of me
    Is not at the for most of my thoughts i

    But I have seen a lot of people and I've read their books then I'm always fascinated what is their core

  21. …I basically almost ruined my life by people forcing me to be extroverted for too long.
    I became so overstimulated, playing the part. Acting. That I ended up not looking after myself properly, not eating, drinking or relaxing. My brain was on overload and I was at a point where I didn't know what to do or where to begin as "normal" again.
    …SO yeah basically, what I was thinking of- Oh f# I can't believe you done this!
    yeah don't become extroverted if you're not

  22. One of the greatest Ted talks ever. Imagine how lucky his friends and family members are. This guy seems to be a guy who has an answer to all your problems

  23. He says "Don't follow me to the toilet, I'm introverted." But wouldn't that just make him more uncomfortable, because now everyone knows he's on the toilet?

  24. Sometimes I notice how quiet I am during school but I still rarely feel the need to just talk to anybody cuz I know Ill be entertained in my head or will space out

  25. You are not your thoughts, your not your egotistical mind, you are not who you think you are. Find your true self, practice mindfulness meditation

  26. i always look at personalities as a cocktail mix of several things – different ingredients at different amounts go into each person and the end-result is always unique. We'd have similar ingredients but at varying amounts and mixing with other ingredients, so even when we share common traits, it's always different among everyone.

  27. Complete hogwash. There is no introvert vs extrovert. There’s annoyingly loud and very quiet. I’m an extrovert that surrounds myself with introverts. There are intelligent, extroverted linguists and laid back, not book savvy introverts

  28. Im an extrovert when I drink. Im an introvert when I smoke cigarettes and don't want people close enough to smell me.

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