Tag Archives: cognitive functions

Social and Cognitive Intro/extraversion

This week I’ll be providing some theories behind the popular scales of introversion and extravertion that have been prevalent on the internet and in real life for years. 

In my early teens, I hinged much of my personality on being an introvert (which was further reinforced by thinking I was an INFP due to typing by letter instead of functions). Although it is harmless to not wish to engage more deeply with personality theory than this, in online forums you might come across discussions which mention “social” or “cognitive” intro/extraversion. 

Let’s start with definitions, since I’d like the rest of this post to be coherent for everyone. The popular understanding of the introversion-extraversion scale is as follows: introverts are quiet and aloof and extraverts are loud and outgoing. On a slightly more realistic scale we would have the approach of energy levels, where introverts are “recharged” by alone time, while extraverts gain their energy through socializing.

In reality, the vast majority of people lie somewhere between introversion and extraversion, typically known as being ambiverted.  

In my opinion, the second definition is more accurate to real life, so I’ll be referencing energy levels when referring to the social axis. This “social” axis will be what the majority of people are talking about in casual language, but there is an additional definition which pertains to cognitive functions.

The cognitive axis deals with your cognitive functions and is therefore more black and white. Unless you aren’t sure of your MBTI type, you will have a dominant function that is either introverted or extraverted, representing your primary method of “communication” with either the internal or external.

Some people might insinuate that an individual’s social axis will dictate your dominant cognitive function, or vice versa, but I feel like that is too strict of a definition. This is especially true given that the social axis doesn’t have a strict definition, and many popular interpretations peg most people as ambiverted anyway.

For example, an ESTJ (Te-Si-Ne-Fi) will always lead with extraverted thinking (Te), making them cognitively extraverted. This hypothetical person could be introverted, extraverted, or ambiverted by the social frameworks definitions, but cognition only has a marginal impact on the social axis. 

I hope that this inspires you to think more deeply about your preconceived notions around intro/extraversion when trying to type people and characters. Someone being withdrawn and traditionally introverted doesn’t bar them from being an EXXX, and the same goes for introverted types. 


Typing Autistic Characters in Media

Finding a fictional character who is explicitly stated (or at least heavily implied) to be autistic has always been a surprise for me, no matter how old I get. I grew up relating to a lot of characters who were not intended to be on the spectrum, but were nonetheless influenced by the creator’s life in some way.

In recent years, there have been more frequent attempts to create thoughtful and accurate depictions of autistic people in the media, which I appreciate. Despite the many creators who are careful about these portrayals, many people consuming said media reduces the characters to stereotypes. 

A phenomena I’ve personally encountered lies on the website Personality Database, which is a forum-turned social media site dedicated to voting on the personality of celebrities, historical figures, fictional characters, etc. Although the comments section is not usually filled with the best arguments, I find an especially annoying disparity around canonically (or heavily implied) autistic characters. 

Many autistic characters do happen to be either ISTJs or INTPS, but it is absurd to believe that autistic characters (and therefore people) will all have functions such as high Si and Tx, and low Fx. This shows a blatant misunderstanding of cognitive functions, behaviour versus personality, and the overall meaning behind what it means to be autistic.

In order to prove my point, I will be comparing and contrasting Abed Nadir of the TV show Community (2009) and Gin Ibushi of the video game Your Turn to Die (2017). These two characters showcase how sharing autistic traits does not equate to being the same personality type (seeing as they are an INTP 5 and ESFP 7, respectively).

Abed Nadir is implied to be autistic throughout Community, with jokes and references to being on the spectrum since the very first episode. However, underneath the comedic aspect of Abed’s “awkwardness” and “obsession with movies” lies an accurate representation of the autistic experience.

In many episodes (including his first appearance) Abed is clearly shown to be collecting and infodumping facts without prompting. This is usually either dramatized to a ridiculous effect for a joke, or serving a distinct narrative purpose, such as giving Jeff (who doubles as an audience stand-in) exposition for the 5 other main characters.

Aerodynamics of Gender is based on the common autistic trait of being blunt in terms of speech. The women of the study group pick up on this aspect of Abed, and manipulate him into being a jerk to other people for their own entertainment.

There is a cold open in Curriculum Unavailable where Abed is seen being comforted by Troy and Annie while the study room’s clock is being changed for daylight savings time. This is clearly meant to show the common hesitate to accept change in our environments and need for consistency.

In Advanced Criminal Law, Troy explains how friends sometimes mess with each other by lying. Abed doesn’t understand that the other person is supposed to know that it’s a joke, and goes completely overboard for the entire episode in order to keep up the lie that he is an alien. 

These are all examples of ways in which autistic traits are exhibited in areas related to communication, interests, and sensitivity to changes. 

Next we have Gin, who was widely considered autistic-coded throughout the first few chapters of Your Turn to Die, but was explicitly stated as being diagnosed in chapter 3 through a flashback to his past.

Gin wears an outfit consisting of a hat attached to a cape, paw gloves, and a tail, with patterning similar to a cat and a plushie that he is often seen holding onto. He feels most comfortable talking to other people with these clothes on, but was discouraged from wearing the outfit at school. 

Gin also has vocal stims, often saying “meow” or “woof” at the end of sentences (which I actually share, as one of my biggest special interests is cat behaviour). Each of these elements is tied into his interest in animals; his favourites are cats and dogs, but he enjoys alligators currently. 

Only one other character has been shown to have a gameplay gimmick; the detective Keiji uses his experience as a detective to interpret other characters’ true thoughts.

In comparison, Gin is able to see clues the other characters miss, as his perceptive abilities are quite pronounced. Many autistic people have similarly strong perception, with the caveat of being more sensitive to sensory input. 

Finally, Gin is shown to have Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), which is an aspect of autism that has been proposed to be added to the official list of traits. 

PDA describes someone who avoids expectations being placed on them, due to a feeling of excessive anxiety and lack of autonomy. These feelings are triggered even when the individual usually enjoys the activity, and describe Gin’s experiences in school very well. 

In Gin’s case, his most prominent traits seem to be stimming and sensory perception, but he also presents intense interests and bluntness similarly to Abed. 

From these character examples, we can surmise that autistic traits and personality traits are separate aspects of a person’s identity, and are not a 1:1 match in most cases. The constant bickering over whether an autistic character is a Si dom for liking routine has no reason to exist, given that these are completely different discussions (and Si ≠ liking stability in the first place!).

I hope this post might encourage others to expand their definitions of autistic people (and correct their interpretations of the cognitive functions, for that matter). 

Relegating autistic people to just a few possible personality types is not only unrealistic, but also serves to deny us of the autonomy which is automatically given to others.


Untangling Morality in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Character archetypes have a fairly predictable lifespan of solidifying themselves in pop culture, going through subversions, and subsequently creating new archetypes based on those subversions over the course of many years.

A musical by the name of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog presents one such subversion of the conventional villain. Once again I will be showing spoilers, as this is 15 years old, has been available on YouTube for free since 2012, and only lasts around 40 minutes.

Dr. Horrible (real name Billy) is the titular protagonist and atypical supervillain of this musical. At his core, Billy is an idealistic man who believes that society is deeply flawed and seeks to reform it. His self-focused yet strong morals clearly show the decision making abilities of an Fi user, an INFP to be more specific. It’s rare to see a villain character who uses Fi as they are usually cast into the role of quirky side characters or sensitive heroes. I’ll be analyzing how Billy’s idea of morality intersects with his position in the story and showcases a great example of a realistic INFP character.

Despite Billy being generally correct that society has plenty of problems, he doesn’t actually seem all that interested in the important work that people like Penny (his crush) undertake. His primary goal is much more ambitious than that, seeking to rule the world in order to dismantle the issues he sees in it. In reality, his methods to reconcile these values turn out to be ill-defined and naive (in line with the poor planning and indecisiveness of low Te)

Billy becomes the supervillain Dr. Horrible in order to infiltrate the Evil League of Evil and use their resources to govern (and therefore “fix”) the world. In order to get accepted by the leader, Bad Horse, Billy needs to commit increasingly cruel objectives which only starts to become a problem when he is forced to assassinate someone.

Captain Hammer (Dr. Horrible’s nemesis) also preoccupies much of his time, leading to an unfortunate mess of priorities which ultimately ends with Billy alone and unsatisfied after accidentally killing Penny. Despite having achieved the one thing he needed, Billy is left without any reason to still be working towards that goal.

Billy starts off with fairly good intentions and is endearing and personable, if a tad awkward at the beginning. I firmly believe that Penny would have been open to a relationship with him if his rivalry with Captain Hammer didn’t get in the way of everything else. That’s precisely what makes it hurt so much when Billy becomes obsessed with making it into the Evil League of Evil, as his ordinary life falls apart and it all culminates into a tragic but captivating character progression. 

Aside from Billy’s obvious lack of preparation, the Evil League of Evil is an organization which we can deduce would not allow someone so outwardly open about his plans to actually overthrow their governance. We can see how the league breaks people down with their absurd and cruel standards, and can presume that even if Billy could change anything, the person he’d committed his life to is already gone.

At this point, Billy is so hopeless that we can presume he has lost his original goal and any motivation to dismantle anything at all. We see hints of his sense of self being degraded in service of the Dr. Horrible persona throughout the musical, but I certainly rooted for him despite the clues suggesting it wouldn’t end on a positive note. What starts as a comedic musical with air-headed characters and obvious tropes shapes into a deeply tragic story with a surprisingly dark ending. 

One of the most emotionally jarring moments happens right before the credits roll. Dr. Horrible is seen chatting up the other villains in a triumphant montage at the league, seemingly having moved on from the previous events. He has a stylish new outfit and is finally being taken seriously in front of his peers, and the music swells before the doors slowly close.

We cut to Billy, sitting in front of his video camera with the desolate expression of a man who has lost everything, including himself.