Answer One to Ten

I AM an introvert. I am not altogether sure that it is wise for me to publish the fact; perhaps it would be as well to keep it within the family circle. It sounds as if it were a condition demanding six months’ rest and the ministrations of a trained psychiatrist. But I have been reading up the subject, and I find that it is really nothing to be ashamed of. I find that some quite eminent persons have also been introverts. It appears that we must all of us be either introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts, and there is apparently little to choose. An ambivert would seem to be a rather characterless individual, neither one thing nor the other. An introvert is slightly more intellectual than an extrovert, but an extrovert usually makes more money. On the whole, I am quite content to be an introvert.

I did not know until yesterday that I was an introvert. In fact, I did not know that I had to be any one of the three. I found out my condition by means of what the psychologist terms an emotional hygiene test. I found it out by placing forty-eight crosses in carefully thought-out positions, by translating, with the aid of an ingenious table, the crosses into yes’s and no’s, and finally by adding the resultant affirmatives. Since I had twenty yes’s to my credit, and since I am a female, I am an introvert.

I answered the questions very slowly and carefully; ‘with thought,’ as the directions bade. I did not look ahead to see to what my answers were committing me; I tried to answer with the utmost honesty. It was a difficult test.

Each of the forty-eight questions had to be answered by placing a cross against a number from one to ten inclusive. The first question read: ‘How steadily have you worked at the ordinary task of the day? Answer one to ten.’ I considered carefully and finally gave myself a rating of five. I went on: ‘How well have you remembered most, of the errands and details of your daily routine? Answer one to ten. ’ I was just about to put a large cross under ten when conscience whispered, ‘Ought you to call it remembering when you write everything down ? ’ and added, ‘What about your blue silk umbrella?’ and I put a small cross under four. ‘How have you acted and felt at social affairs? Answer one to ten.’ But ‘acted’ and ‘felt’ are two different things. And just what do you mean by social affairs? ‘How high a value have you placed on yourself and your abilities?’ Oh, come, that’s hardly fair. ‘Do you like to argue?’ That’s an easy one. ‘How have you met the obligations of your conscience?’ Answer ‘with thought.’ ‘Do you make friends with the opposite sex? Answer one to ten.’ And so on for forty-eight questions.

The psychologist has the most abiding faith in the inherent value of questions and answers. He has the most touching confidence in the infallibility of figures. And if he can translate answers into figures, and especially if he can then translate the figures into graphs, he feels himself competent to compute and weigh the imponderable, to measure the immeasurable, almost to unscrew the inscrutable. He remembers that in the days of his childhood he was told that ‘figures don’t lie,’ but he forgets that he was also told that ‘you cannot add apples and pears.’ The psychologist knows that figures don’t lie. He has found a way to add apples and pears. He not only adds apples and pears, but he adds plums as well, and he divides the result by cherries and he produces his final answer in terms of tomatoes. In that emotional hygiene test the psychologist adds physical facts and mental states, and he brings out an answer in terms of occupations. For that emotional hygiene test is an aptitude test. The answers to those forty-eight questions tell you whether or not you are properly fitted to your job. An introvert, it appears, needs one type of job; an extrovert, another; an ambivert, a third.

And I am an introvert. For I am a female, and I have twenty yes’s to my credit. For some strange reason, a male needs but fifteen yes’s to be an introvert. In my case the decision was close. Had I but nineteen yes’s to my credit, I, being still a female, should be an ambivert. How much depends on how little! My fitness for my position, my happiness in my life’s work, all dependent upon the answer to one single question! Now I answered those questions thought fully and honestly. It may, however, be wise for me to go over them again. I may find that there was room for reasonable doubt. ‘Do you keep a diary?’ Since the answer was no, I allowed myself but one on that. But I used to keep a diary. I kept a diary for five consecutive years once. They were formative years, too; and five years is a long time. Ought I not to give myself some credit for that? Suppose I change that cross from one to three. Then my conscience bothers me a bit about question number thirty-one: ‘How have you been at selling things? Answer one to ten.’ Yesterday I rated myself seven on that, though I could n’t remember that I’d ever sold much of anything except tickets to church suppers. I gave myself that seven because I remembered the reputation I once acquired of being the only person in town who’d ever thought of selling tickets to a sleigh ride. Since that action turned our customary deficit into a substantial balance, I felt that I had, along the line of salesmanship, latent ability which ought to be recognized. So I put my cross under seven. I feel a little guilty about that; perhaps the estimate was too generous. A careful revision of that questionnaire may show that I am not an introvert after all.

Of course I should have seen that questionnaire years ago. It is rather late now. When one is already trained and established in a job, it is not wise to begin wondering whether or not it is the right job, whether or not one would be happier or more successful somewhere else. And yet, that emotional hygiene test sets me to thinking. I am sure that five years ago I should not have answered those forty-eight questions as I answered them yesterday. If my job fitted me then, does it fit me now? And five years from now? Who can say? Aptitude is only a combination of inherited factors acted upon by environment. Environment is a shifting thing. And the centre of one’s interests surely changes with the years. Will the job I chose at twenty be the job I shall have the most aptitude for at forty? Can a man always choose wisely for his future? Must he content himself with being at times a square peg? Shall he change his job every few years? Such questions as these challenge thought.

The psychologist assumes that all questions can be answered either categorically, by yes and no, or numerically, by one to ten. He allows no counterquestions; he admits neither ‘if’ nor ‘but.’ He makes no allowance for ‘that depends’ or ‘other things being equal.’ But in life, if not in questionnaires, much does depend, and other things seldom are equal. Take that first question, for instance. ‘How steadily have you worked at the ordinary task of the day?’ How very, very largely the answer depends (1) on the task, (2) on the day! ‘Do you prefer to work alone or with others?’ How can one generalize? The honest answer here is ‘It depends (1) on the work, (2) on the others.’ ‘How have your likes for things intellectual and things athletic compared?’ Again, it depends. It depends upon the mood; it depends upon the weather. It depends upon the answers to other questions: ‘Who’s going?’ and ‘What’s the book?’ The answer cannot be three or five or seven. The answer to that question depends upon circumstances which, psychologists to the contrary notwithstanding, are very rarely equal.

Next month, when I shall have forgotten just where I put those fortyeight crosses, I shall try that test again. And I may find that I am not an introvert, after all.