Are Finns truly more introverted than everyone else? Are there other interesting facts which can be revealed about us, and even overall global trends by doing a personality poll? The answers may surprise you.
Are Finns truly more introverted than everyone else? Are there other interesting facts which can be revealed about us, and even overall global trends by doing a personality poll? The answers may surprise you. First, have a look at the numbers, then scroll down for my complete analysis.
If you’re a bit unsure of what all these types mean, don’t worry, I am going to explain something of it, but you can also read a short summary of each type for yourself here.
So here’s the scoop: 140 people of Finnish descent, largely American Finns, followed by Canadian Finns and finally, natural Finlanders, were polled (via Facebook) about their MBTI type. MBTI was used since it is perhaps the most popular personality measuring format, and a large number of people are already aware of their type. A mixture of “test” sources was used, including multiple online self-tests as well as professionally conducted real world tests.
For Finnish people, the results are already interesting at first glance, and would seem to indicate an unusually high number of introverts – more on that soon – but the second unusual thing which should get everyone else’s attention, is the extremely high number of INFP at 17.8%. This is if we are to believe the general estimated percentages for Americans, which puts the number of INFP at 4.4%. ISTJ in our results are somewhat higher at 16.4% vs 11.6% in the general estimate. INTJ, our third highest result, towers above the estimates at 13.5 vs a measly 2.1%. In fact, if you keep going, inconsistencies continue. What does it all mean?
For us to really make sense of any of this, we need to figure out what’s different about these estimates, and perhaps get a more reliable control. The above estimates were compiled from data gathered between 1979 and 2002. That’s quite a vast time span, but more importantly, even the most recent data is from 14 years ago, just a few years after internet use became commonplace in North America and Europe. Most assuredly, the tests were mostly administered in real-world settings and not self-tests. But that doesn’t necessarily mean much.
Let’s explore further, with a side by side comparison of Finnish vs a global control group. The control group data and Finnish group were both polled in 2016. The mixture of Americans vs non-Americans in the control group is actually fairly similar, so I am confident that this is a good comparison source. 160 people were polled in this case:
And now the surprises reveal themselves. Are Finns (or at least, Finnish Americans) more introverted than the general population? The answer is, well… yes, but not really. This is probably well within the margin of error to the point where we could almost say it’s neck and neck with everyone else. But that’s not even the most interesting part.
The trend of more INFPs and more INTJs holds in almost exactly the same pattern. The doozy is how many more ISTJ there are among the Finns. I am going to attempt to break down what may be responsible, and after that, for the rest of you MBTI buffs, Finnish or not, explain my theory behind these other higher numbers.
INFP vs ISTJ: Iron Sharpens Iron
INFP and ISTJ are almost completely diametrically opposed. If you are one of these types, it’s quite possible indeed that anyone in your life who is the other grates on you more than anyone you know. It’s also possible that you’ve learned a lot from them simply because they are so different. They are both introverted types, and as a result, it can be difficult for them to have much positive and open interaction with each other, but when they do, a lot of respect can be gained as they discover that they have the same goals, but just very different ways of moving toward them.
ISTJs tend to be steadfast in pursuing functionality. They value tradition and loyalty. They are practical people, and thus get annoyed with a lot of theoretical thinking or digging into feelings. INFPs on the other hand, spend a lot of time doing just that: examining the world’s problems, their own problems, and thus living inside their own heads a large fraction of any given day. Their other affairs can become a mess from the lack of attention, but that is because in their world, they have bigger fish to fry. And so, both types are inclined to tell you exactly what they think, but for completely different reasons and usually about different things.
What this might indicate, as far as Finns are concerned, is that they are far more inclined to be confrontational with each other in any setting – family life, friendships, or a larger community group such as a church. Whatever the result, it is possible that this promotes a society which tries to make the most balanced decisions possible, identifying social injustices and practical problems equally, then implementing and preserving solutions to the maximum extent possible. It may not always succeed, but Finland is a global leader in many areas.
Among the control group, INFJ and INFP make up the main dichotomy, with ISTJ a distant afterthought. Both are highly theoretical feeling types, not necessarily inclined to implement solutions easily when working in tandem. If there is any potential weakness in the control group poll, it is that it was performed on people who themselves sought out the MBTI community, which probably tends toward these introspective types in the first place rather than practical people such as ISTJ. So let’s mix our consistent INFP result with the most popular type in the 1979-2002 data instead:
INFP vs ISFJ
Yes, the most common personality in the United States is supposed to be ISFJ. This is not biased by inclinations to seek out information about ones personality, and I can confirm that the ISFJs in my life were never even inclined to think about their personality type before being heavily coaxed to do so.
Picture an ISTJ as described above, and add the empathy that they usually lack, and you have an ISFJ. Equally loyalty oriented, conscientious, and committed to tradition. A tad less driven to accomplish tasks at all costs, they are more inclined to put others first, to their own detriment. How do they get along with INFPs and how would a society driven by these two types function?
Well, probably not too bad. But they’re just not really bound to interact as much as you would think, since ISFJs spend a lot of time with their own families, or in careers involving service to their community. They are not usually the boss in the workplace, whereas an INFP will likely interact with many more extroverted types as bosses.
Speaking of the extroverts, I haven’t covered them much, and they may be feeling a little left out. Obviously they play a huge role in society. They’re the performers, the marketers, the doers and the executives. Extroverts are out there being visible, and society is generally actually modeled around their example, treating anyone who cannot live up to it as somehow less functional. According to a measure of how well they uphold “the system”, this is sometimes true. But it’s a false measure of what makes a person valuable to society as a whole, and one we need to stop using.
Why IS ISTJ SO DOMINANT IN Finns?
I believe that there is actually a pretty easy answer for this, and we could go into a whole lot more detail but I will keep it simple. The simple answer is that we have been through a lot as a very small ethnic group trying to survive incredibly difficult circumstances.
Our specific background of living in harsh nordic climates, facing both nature and large military forces, led us to discover what works and be steadfast in a pursuit for functionality. Finns are forest people, and even in recent times have gravitated toward northerly habitats surrounded by lakes and woods and with plenty of snow available. Practical functionality has therefore always been of high importance, especially among those who live in smaller communities with lower population density. Self-sufficiency has historically been key to survival in Finns.
A Shift In Global Consciousness
Full disclosure: I have tested for years as either INTP or INFP. In my younger days when I saw my own logic as impeccable and yet was also a rather angry person, the result always came out INTP. Only later after a lot of communication with my wife, much practice trying to be more empathetic, and also a lot of thinking oriented around the injustices of our current global situation, did it gradually and permanently shift to INFP. My wife began as INFJ, and later shifted to INFP for the same reasons. Also: My father was very likely ISTJ.
I am not trying to paint INFP as the holy grail of personality types – far from it. There are a ton of very damaged, confused, low-functioning INFPs, and they do tend to seek each other out on the internet. But my theory is that they are not usually born, but created by circumstance. Yes, they often begin as sensitive people, but it is a number of different things which come together to create a more empathetic individual who is attuned to the bigger issues.
If we look at the fact that from 1979 to 2002, when the internet was in its infancy, INFPs supposedly made up a mere 4.4% of the population, yet today it stands between 18 to 23% according to the polls above, what we see is a trend that cannot be ignored, and the internet itself may be a large part of the explanation.
Many, regardless of type, take to the internet seeking answers to the problems in their lives and in society which they have identified. Since our entrance into the 21st century, marked rather quickly by 9/11 and the subsequent rise of “truth movements”, social justice has become a hot topic, there’s no way around it. Whether it’s inequality in classes, genders, races, sexuality, religious belief, or a number of other issues, the perceived underdogs are gaining a voice, and society as a whole is slowly moving toward acceptance of others.
Indeed, it’s such a big movement now, that “Social Justice Warrior” is frequently used as a derogatory term implying a liberal agenda. I am not here to debate whether or not there are such influences, I am only ready to state that a large variety of people, for a large number of reasons, have attempted to develop themselves to become better, more effective people. I am ready to state that the internet has played a role, whether it is via social media campaigns or part and parcel of being a vehicle to disseminate and distribute other media such as videos and books, and connect us to communities both online and off which we never knew existed before.
What this implies about where humanity is going is slightly outside the scope of this article, so I am going to leave that up to you to mull over, or alternatively, tell me I’m stupid and ignorant and that my data is flawed. It may very well be, but I’m simply showing you what I see and believe it would be irresponsible of myself to not do so.
It’s one major takeaway from this study I think – the other is the idea that personalities are almost certainly developed just as much as they are “born” (epigenetics helps explain the latter). For the Finns, the group that I write for regularly, our primary takeaway is that our specific history has shaped this current dichotomy that we have. Were things much different 50, 75 or 100 years ago for us in terms of the overall balance? It’s of course impossible to tell for sure, but I have a sense at least that we’ve been following a slowly evolving course and, and this insight into ISTJs’ dominant role offers something to the conversation of what defines us as a culture.
I am sure that polling only native Finns would have some differences, but for practical reasons, this will have to wait.
Thanks for reading, and I welcome you to join the discussion!
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