A recent study by researchers at Northwestern University (NWUS) demonstrates how data and words are manipulated to misrepresent reality (what is true) to fit a preconceived notion and agenda. That agenda serves a political and social prejudice (feminist, progressive, postmodern liberalism). This is also known as confirmation bias. Unfortunately, today, this is a common practice in higher education. In this study, the researchers twist personality theory (OCEAN, or the Big Five) by misrepresenting and/or misinterpreting what is commonly understood to be the traits and behaviors representing extroversion and neuroticism. Therefore they mischaracterize just who is who and what is what. They do this by relabeling and redefining words. They manipulate words.
I deconstruct their research in figure 1 below. They assert that the “average” personality type is a “neurotic extrovert”, which is counter to all personality theory. Such an individual would actually have a Borderline Personality Disorder, characterized by extreme, impulsive and erratic intense passion. In other words, unstable emotions regarding interpersonal relationships. That is contrary to extroversion’s primary characteristic of cheerfulness and joy, with regard to almost all engagement of the external world.
The neurotic extrovert
A highly neurotic, highly extroverted person is rare not average. A good example would be the female Mercedes Benz saleswoman, Gloria Trillo, whom Tony Soprano was attracted to in the HBO serial The Sopranos. Borderline personalities’ tend to be very attractive (sexually), and also female.
The Borderline personality
I wrote a novel, OVERCAST: The Unauthorized Biography of Sunshine Rodriguez (2014), about that personality. In the novel I profile all the characters, as well as other historical figures, regarding their personality type using the OCEAN construct. I turned to my analysis in the book when I read about the Northwestern study. I looked for a highly neurotic, highly extraverted paring and found only one, the fictive Sunshine.
The neurotic introvert
What is far more common in today’s highly complex and confusing world is the neurotic introvert. Such an individual struggles on the inside, but may well try and cope by pretending to be cheerful and joyful, i.e. extroverted. Thus, they might answer a questionnaire untruthfully. That’s one explanation.
What went wrong
The researchers, seeking to confirm their hypothesis, either misinterpret or twist the data. This is not uncommon. They don’t use synthesis-analysis. Instead, they manipulate words. The reason being – time, money, and esteem.
Here in Figure 1, I straighten the authors’ manipulation (highlighted in yellow) with a more accurate description (mine, highlighted in pink). I use actual personality distribution based upon the theories of : Maslow, Eysenck, Wilber, Freud, Jung, Erikson, Wallace, Gosling, Nettle, Cattell, Adler, Wilson, Barash, Rogers, May, Bandura, Ellis, and others – who all suggest most people are not “self-actualized“.
The “average” person, in today’s highly complex and connected world, might well be a neurotic introvert. Most people are simply trying to survive by whatever works, pretending to be extroverted, or cheerful and joyful. The vogue-words today are mindful and grateful. But truly, on the inside, they’re frightened, anxious, needy and desperate. Hardly extroverted.
A few words about personality theory.
What is personality? Everybody has one and almost everyone has a different theory concerning it. Where does it come from? How does it develop? What causes it? Why does anyone need one? Is it fixed, stable? Or, can it change? All good questions, which I’ve studied for over fifty years.
OCEAN is a “trait” theory. I think it’s very useful when looking at people in general and also any individual, even cross-culturally. In figure 1, I’m combining a trait (confidence) with a thing (achievement) to tease out one’s personality and challenge the Northwestern research. I’m suggesting a “stage” process of becoming (who you are).
Beginning at the lower right quadrant as a child, who given good-enough care, will be “self-centered” yet fully dependent. The individual then progresses (grows) into adolescence – becoming “Self-conscious”. With regard to their place in the world and in relation to their peers. In this sense that state of being (in agreement with the NWUS) is “average”. But again, hardly extroverted.
Moving forward (progressing/growing) into the upper left quadrant, I suggest one can become a successful adult. Or a high-achieving/under-confident individual. I put the percentage of the adult population who reach this stage at 23.
Finally, a few of those individuals (2%) progress/grow/achieve into the state of being referred to as “self-actualized”, or self-realized. In the word manipulation of the authors – a “role model”, characterized by high openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, and agreeableness, and low neuroticism. There we agree, but probably not in the percentage nor the label.
As of 2016 there were 232 million registered voters in the US. If we take 2% of that – that’s 4,640,000 self-actualized adults. They are engaged and living life to their highest potential, and voting in the US. Holy smokes! That ought to be enough “role models”, or self-actualized independent thinkers, to figure things out!
So what’s the problem? Malpractice via word manipulation? (Or self-centered motivated behavior?) Set yourself free
In general, this malpractice applies to all levels of social and professional interaction. Such as: Parenting, Friendship, Marriage, Teaching, Therapy, and so on. In other words, you’ve been ill-educated, via word manipulation and weaponized lying. I wrote about this problem of malpractice in my account of the presidential election of 2016. We (US citizens) are in trouble. Here is an excerpt:
Malpractice, Victimology, and the Greatest Problem [pages 97-100]
MARCH 29, 2016
When I began reading the attached article, “Is Donald Trump Literally Making Us Sick” by Jean Kim MD, a practicing psychiatrist, I thought it was satire, then I realized the author was serious. http://www.damemagazine. com/2016/03/20/donald-trump-literally-making-us-sick.
After finishing it, I googled her and saw that she is employed by the US government in Washington DC, and obviously, what she says carries some weight. This is, in my opinion, malpractice and exemplifies the greatest problem affecting the health and well-being of the general population of the United States. The problem is the failure “of observers of the world to determine whether their perceptions are genuine and verifiable or whether they are merely the projections of inner feelings [emphasis mine].”[fn 34] Said another way: “The single great informing conflict of the American psyche—the conflict between the subjective centrality of our own lives
fn 34 Michael Crichton, State of Fear (2004), 649.
versus our awareness of its objective insignificance.”[fn 35] What it is, in essence, is the distortion of reality via one’s own perception, so as to make oneself feel better or, in this case, to unscrupulously twist reality for one’s own benefit at the expense of others’ health and well-being (i.e., malpractice). Kim is, no doubt, a “thought leader” by virtue of her education, standing, status, and employment. And she is so wrong, which is likely not her fault, but nevertheless, it doesn’t absolve her of the responsibility regarding the health and well-being of others, given her profession.
No one, not even Donald Trump, can make another person sick. This is important! One’s health is, first and foremost, the responsibility of the person, the individual, once they reach maturity—maturity of personality at or around twenty-two years of age. A person then becomes responsible for themselves, their physical and mental health. Kim declares herself to be an expert on PTSD, and her argument is that Trump re-traumatizes victims of childhood abuse or war or fathers . . . some thing or some person and, Kim states with all the authority of her position, is making them, at the least, anxious, and at the worst, physically sick. Seriously?
This is victimology at its most profound—telling a person, client, patient, voter that whatever it is that is bothering them is not their fault or responsibility and that they are powerless victims. The cause lies outside of them, and so the remedy is to remove, or change the other, and then everything will be fine. There is so much wrong with this approach to problem-solving, to “helping others,” thus my designation of the greatest problem. It simply leads to so many other problems. It is a recipe for disaster! Such crooked thinking causes an escalating spiral of helplessness and misery and, yes, physical and mental problems. It simply compounds the problem. Even Jesus Christ knew this, instructing his followers to not be anxious: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Ask, and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them, for that is the law and the prophets.” [fn 36] You reap what you sow, in other words. You earn your life.
The irony is this: Jesus Christ and Donald Trump live by the same rules, though with admittedly different results—Christ being crucified and Trump soaring around in a customized 757 jet airliner. But both got what
fn 35 David Foster Wallace, “The Suffering Channel,” in Oblivion (2004), 284.
fn 36 This is the gospel according to Matthew.
it is/was they desired. It is as Christ intimated—the law of attraction—a philosophy that Trump was raised on by his pastor, Norman Vincent Peale, who preached the power of positive thinking. Seek, and you will find. [fn 37]
The mature personality is now thought to be best described as a constellation of attributes known by the acronym OCEAN—openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism— or the Big Five. For this discussion, I’ll focus on just two, extroversion and neuroticism. Each domain, it’s important to understand, contains within it many other traits or characteristics. For extroversion, you’ll find friendliness, gregariousness, assertiveness, energy level, excitement-seeking, and cheerfulness. [fn 38] Could there be more descriptive terms for Mr. Trump? So let me designate Trump as a highly extroverted person. It’s necessary for understanding that these five domains are each on a spectrum going from very high to very low and, as such, have opposites. Staying with extroversion, it’s opposite, or very low extroversion, would be introversion. Under the rubric of extroversion then would be very high extroversion and also very high introversion.
The other domain I want to include in this discussion is neuroticism. Under the domain of neuroticism (negative emotion systems) are traits such as fearfulness, anxiety, shame, guilt, disgust, and sadness. [fn 39] So regarding Trump, it’s safe to say that he is very low in neuroticism. [fn 40]
What I’m going to do next is ask you to imagine in your mind a matrix of four squares. Clockwise from the top left is Donald Trump, a very high extrovert who is also a very low neurotic. To the right would be a person who is a very high extrovert and also a very high neurotic. This person could be diagnosed as bipolar or manic-depressive. Below that would be a person who is a very high neurotic and a very low extrovert (i.e., a neurotic introvert). It is that personality that Kim is exploiting— the neurotic introvert. (As do many others in the field of mental health, including Big Pharma and those individuals under their purview). In the
fn 37 Trump cites this in Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again (2015) yet alludes also to the advantages of considering negative outcomes, the downside, thus practicing a more real/accurate/practical form of Peale’s positive thinking (The Art of the Deal, p. 48–50). This is not the secret.
fn 38 Sam Gosling, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says about You (2008), 43.
fn 39 Daniel Nettle, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (2007), 108.
fn 40 Trump is correct when he declared himself a “very stable genius.”
bottom left quadrant is a person low in both extroversion and neuroticism. This person is stoic, perhaps a Buddhist.
The good news is that this typology is fairly simplistic and that people or individuals are way more complicated than just a two-dimensional graph. After all, there are three other personality domains, as well as physical appearance, intelligence, and athleticism. In other words, people are very complex. But professionals, like Kim, exploit vulnerable people for their own benefit, consciously or unconsciously. And the effects of that on the overall health and well-being of a society, a culture, or a nation can be devastating.
This is my fourth book. Like the others it deals with the intersection of politics and personality. From a unique psychological, evolutionary, and personal perspective it combines history, geography, and fiction in an attempt to get close to reality.
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