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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 07-Apr-09


Tuesday 07-April-09

Extraversion, introversion and eccentricity

Would you say that eccentrics are extraverted? There's a view of eccentricity that agrees and there's a view of the eccentric as very much the opposite. The extraverted eccentric is larger than life and happily chats with all and sundry. Yet the eccentric by definition eschews many social norms and thereby takes him- or herself out of many social situations. In fact many eccentrics are quite reclusive.

I was recently at the Greatest British Eccentric Awards and was pondering on this question. All four finalists stood up and spoke for a while on their particular situation, and splendidly they all did too, each in their own way of course. Yet on reflection, I think more than one was actually introverted. One, for example, who dresses every day in the garb of an Edwardian gentleman, (top hat and all) said he didn't think of himself as being eccentric and sat quietly whilst others were a bit louder in their interactions.

But then I wasn't that sure even the more boisterous contestants. One contender was unmissably dressed in a pink superhero outfit with orange skin paint, but I still wondered if this was a mask to cloak a more reticent insider. Some actors are notoriously retiring in private life whilst playing larger-than-life characters on stage. But if the whole world's a stage, then the eccentric character may be more a suit of armour than the original skin.

All this highlights another factor: whether the eccentric is particularly conscious of their eccentricity. An unconscious eccentric may be mystified when treated as if they are significantly to others, and maybe many of us are like this when we get rejected for no apparent reason. A conscious eccentric knows what they are doing and uses the eccentric brand as an enabler, leveraging the rule that eccentrics have greater social permission than full conformers to social rules.

So perhaps eccentricity is statistically independent of extraversion and introversion, though its mantle may yet provide benefits to anyone courageous enough to live and play on the edge.

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