Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Lack of Imagination and Empathy Among Extroverts

I have found that contrary to the myth, introverts are far more empathic than extroverts. And since women in general are more extroverted than men, this means many women aren't all that empathic. Again, that is contrary to the myth than women are more empathic than men. This is why I've run across several articles on the internet that claims many women aren't empathic.

Introverts are more empathic than extroverts because they are more imaginative than extroverts.

There are people who have little imagination and are completely literal-minded. All of them have problems relating to other people, because it requires imagination to put yourself into somebody else's place.

Imagination allows you to empathize with other people. That’s one of its functions. By imaginatively identifying with them, you in a sense bring them into you, making them part of you. As the philosopher Josiah Royce wrote, right before the 20th century, “Who can realize a given aim save by repeating it in himself?”

Another philosopher, Robert Bass, said the above account is similar to the Stoic concept of oikeiosis, a “process in which we gradually expand our self-concept and recognize larger and larger parts of the whole as ‘ours,’” writes Scott Ryan.

Adam Smith, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, said that empathy (which in his day was called sympathy) was wholly dependent on imagination. If this is true, and I believe it is, then imagination is what creates benevolence in people, since they become empathic through the use of their imaginations. This leads to some truly interesting concepts.

For one: a writer creates a novel, I read it, empathize with the characters through my imagination, and so understand what the author is trying to say. Looked at from a certain angle, it’s mind-reading – and “feeling-reading,” too. As Spinoza wrote: “From the fact we imagine a thing like ourselves…to be affected by an emotion, we are thereby affected by a similar emotion.”

The same thing can happen with music. You hear a song and listen to the lyrics, and you understand what feelings and thoughts the writer is trying to get across. As James Engell wrote in The Creative Imagination, “…sympathy also becomes that special power of the imagination which permits the self to escape its confines, to identify with other people, to perceive things in a new way, and to develop an aesthetic appreciation of the world that coalesces both the subjective self and the objective other.”

“To mean things in a new way” means creativity. Without imagination, there can be no creativity. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He didn’t say knowledge wasn’t important (indeed it’s indispensable), but that imagination is more important. And this is from a man who imagined what it would be like to ride on a light beam. (Of course, Einstein was an introvert.)

Two: I wouldn’t be able to understand what the author was trying to say unless the concepts weren’t already within me. I’d have to be born with them, which means none of us are blank slates, tabula rasas. This means, in a way, we wouldn’t understand the answer to anything unless the answer was already in us.

Three: the “self” does not stand alone, unconnected to anything. If anything, it’s created in relationship with others, even if those others are imaginary fictional characters. “I” don’t exist, apparently at all, or else in a minimal way, unless it’s in a relationship with something or somebody.

Four: if we fully understood someone else – fully, completely understood them – then it seems we’d be that person, or else very close to it. This is similar to a comment by the philosopher Brand Blandshard that to know an object fully we’d literally have to have it within our consciousness.

Even more interesting, if we could incorporate everything into us, we’d be God. We cannot do this, but the fact we can enlarge our selves adding more and more to us through our imagination, is a kind of love.

And if someone can do the same to us, then they, in varying degrees, love us. Or, as Shakespeare wrote, love is the true meeting of minds. What this means is that love cannot exist without imagination. Or, if there are truly literal-minded people in the world, they cannot love.

The word “benevolence” comes partly from the words “wish” and “will.” We direct our will, our attention, on someone, and wish them benevolence. We can’t actually wish it on them, but we can wish it on them in our imagination and feelings, and that is the first step.

This empathy and imagination, and the benevolence arising from them, and the fact our “selves” are created only in relationships, means none of us can exist without some extremely large measure of cooperation. This puts the kibosh on any kind of extreme selfishness as a successful way of life.

Harry Wolfson, a commentator on Spinoza, wrote, “In order to understand another we must completely identify ourselves with that other, living through imaginatively his experience and thinking through rationally his thoughts. There must be a union of minds…”

Spinoza of course was an introvert.

All of this raises some disturbing questions about the introversion, extroversion, men, women, and the relationships between them.

Extroverts make up about 80% of the population and introverts about 20%. Introverts are generally far more intelligent than extroverts and are capable of more concentration and thus more creativity. A world without introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. They are also overwhelmingly men.

A world without male introverts (whom quite a few extroverted women seem to hate, and I know well about this), i.e. a world based on the whims of extroverted, less intelligent women - say feminist women - would be a world with less empathy, less discoveries and creation, less advancement of society...any of this sound familiar? Sure it does.

A good example of this is the Adria Richards (what a dog) kerfluffle, in which an unimaginative, extroverted, not-very-bright feminist got a man fired because she says he was making mild sexual jokes behind her - although she has given conflicting accounts of what they said. She was listening in on a private conversation that was none of her business. Fortunately she got fired, which I guarantee you she does not understand because of her lack of empathy and imagination.

Since Pareto's 80/20 Law explains the oversupply of retarded extroverts compared to smarter introverts, this means only 20% of men and women advance society. Both these men and women tend to be conservative/libertarian. They aren't liberals, and if there are any, I've never encountered them.

Obviously a feminist-centered world wouldn't be a better world. It'd be a worse world, which we are now seeing.


Anonymous said...

Lack of empathy among extroverts? Isn't the common knowledge opposite?
Because of their "people skills" and ability to move with ease through a wide variety of different groups, they are more empathetic to a wider variety of people than introverts.

At least that's a common argument.

Anonymous said...

Only in your imagination do introverts have more empathy.

Unknown said...

Only cowards post as anonymous.

Isabel Townsend-Last said...

5Bob Wallace, i agree with you that introverts are more empathetic than extraverts but not because they are more imaginative. While they might be more imaginative, it is logical to say that because introverts are very much inside their own heads and generally think much more they are more empathetic. Introverts stop and think about things and therefore think about other people in a more abstract way. So i agree with you there you just used "imaginative" to describe this ability and i used "abstract".
But what i dont agree with you on is that women are less empathetic than men. It is completely the opposite and here is the TED talk to prove it:

WyredTail said...

Consider the systems of motivation and the capacities of both.

The extrovert shows a token display of sadness so they'll get comforted (rewarded) by fellow extroverts (and perhaps even introverts). They may make an effort to try to 'fix' the problem, if it's immediate to them, and they will be praised for that by other extroverts (even if not desired).

If they don't get their praise it makes them angry and this leads right into manipulations and power-plays, to try and make anyone who might criticise them look bad.

They were just 'trying to help.'

Now, the motivation of the introvert is fulfilment, and their capacity is for abstract thinking. They won't jump in to 'fix' something with the utmost immediacy as that isn't their way. Their raison d'etre is fulfilment, as I mentioned, so they're instead going to use their minds to create abstract constructs.

The introvert takes this problem home with them, they sit quietly and examine it within their mind, trying to actually put him or herself in the position of the subject. They try to actively empathise with whatever they may have suffered through by considering as many of the variables involved as possible.

The end result is empathy.

The extrovert sympathises for reward, the introvert empathises for fulfilment.

If you're suffering or you have a life problem that you cannot solve on your own, then you're better off taking that to an introvert than an extrovert. An extrovert will make a display of that's so sad, a big token affair, and might even try to ham-fistedly fix things.

The introvert, however? The introvert will spend a long period thinking about the problem, then they'll quietly sit you down to provide you with realistic, thought out advice as to how you can solve your problems. This is simply the end of the cycle of fulfilment.

So, yes, objectively an introvert is more capable of empathy than an extrovert because an extrovert has absolutely no capacity for empathy whatsoever.

Just as you have introvert and extrovert, you have empathy and sympathy. The introvert doesn't bother with sympathy, as generally it's just a waste of time and, to be honest, a masturbatory and self-congratulatory effort, anyway.

The extrovert sympathises to feel rewarded (good about themselves). The introvert empathises to just feel a sense of overall wellness in general, which isn't focused on themselves.

It's important to keep in mind that the extrovert and the introvert have auxiliaries, they have the opposite. So the extrovert seeks to draw energy inward (praise, comments, and whatnot), but the introvert pushes energy outward (providing genuine help to others).

Any psych major will tell you that all of this is true.

WyredTail said...

I think the key here is abstraction.

The introvert has more grey matter in the prefrontal cortex, which allows for a depth of abstract thinking which is physically beyond the capacity of the extrovert. This is what I believe you're speaking of when you talk of imagination.

When one can think in abstracts, one is more capable of creating a construct which is unfamiliar to oneself. From that construct, one may better understand the suffering of another, and with a greater depth. The extrovert sees only the suffering, they gawk, they cover their mouth with their hand ad ensure that their face carries the emotion of sadness and...

What does the extrovert do next?

One of two things.

Nothing. The extrovert realises that they have greater priorities and that now that they have shown the token display of sadness, they can move on. Often, an extrovert's empathy goes no farther than an a dramatic display of 'isn't that sad,' whilst avoiding going on to say 'but it isn't my problem.'

If an extrovert does decide it is their problem, then they try to solve the problem by attempting a state conversion between the existing state of being of the subject and their own, which they consider to be objectively happy.

It's clear to see that because the extrovert is unable to create constructs, they cannot actually empathise with the subject in question -- they can only SYMPATHISE.

It's unfortunate that many of the extroverts I've spoken with are unable to tell the difference between offering sympathy, and feeling empathy. Offering sympathy is a token affair, a platitude, and maybe an unwanted effort to 'fix' the person in question.

This is why, conversely, the extrovert often seeks to 'fix' their counterpart -- the introvert -- because in the moment that they are working with (as creatures of the moment) they genuinely believe that the end result will be a happy person who'll be thanking them and offering praise unto them, showering them with compliments and so on.

Praise and compliments are to an extroverts as blood is to a vampire. They need them to actually feel fulfilled and satisfied with life. If you want to make an extroverted person actually happy, just compliment them. The vast majority of them will take it at face value without even realising that there may be some sarcasm underlying.

The extrovert lives from compliment to compliment. It's their primary source of emotional nourishment. This is due to how the extrovert's brain differs from that of the introvert. The extrovert's mind is a hamster-wheel of action and reward. They need to feel rewarded.

However, an introvert's source of nourishment is, instead, fulfilment. An introvert needs to feel fulfilled because reward means nothing to them. Without fulfilment, reward is meaningless. So the introvert does something to feel fulfilled, an extrovert does something to feel rewarded.

(( Continued ... ))

WyredTail said...

Those two are out of order. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

WyredTail thank you for your post, overall great article to read.

Anonymous said...

Funny every introvert I talk to says ouright I don't like people they don't want to be around people the end

Anonymous said...

It's called Keeping the Undesirables at a DISTANCE!!!