46 pages 1 hour read

Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2012

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Summary and Study Guide


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a nonfiction book by Susan Cain, published in 2012. It is considered part of the psychology and self-help genres. The book made several bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and National Public Radio. It also was voted the best nonfiction book of 2012 by the Goodreads Choice Awards and has been translated into over 40 languages. Cain has written two other books about introversion, one geared for children and the other a book of exercises in a journal format, and gave a TED Talk on the topic the same year the book was published.

This guide is based on the first edition hardcover.


The book is divided into four parts. In the first, Cain examines the trends in American history that led to what she calls the Extrovert Ideal. This is the notion that everyone should strive to be an extrovert, implying that the qualities of extroversion are superior to those of introversion. Chapter 1 describes the shift from the Culture of Character in the 19th century to the Culture of Personality in the 20th century, precipitated in large part by the emergence of corporations and the increase in urban living, as Americans moved off family farms and out of the countryside. The new mores put surface-level personality above character—as people sold goods, they, in effect, had to also sell themselves. Outside of rural areas where residents knew each other, first impressions counted much more, so an outgoing personality helped. Chapters 2 and 3 look at two myths that developed around extroversion in the 20th century. The first is that only outgoing, charismatic types make good leaders, which Cain disputes with psychological research. The second is that working with other people in groups spurs creativity, generating good ideas via the collaboration of people with various strengths. Again the author presents research to show that working alone is also necessary at times.

The second section of the book investigates the biological aspects of personality types. Chapter 4 presents research indicating that personality types are heavily influenced by genetic factors. While no single factor determines an individual’s personality, genes probably provide at least a propensity for being introverted or extroverted. The next chapter describes how willpower can overcome genetics, stretching one’s personality traits to enable a person to act in ways that don’t come naturally. Chapter 6 looks at ways introverts and extroverts complement each other and the factors that likely contributed to both types surviving evolution. In Chapter 7, Cain discusses how extrovert qualities contributed to the financial crash of 2007-2008 and why introverts are necessary to balance financial risk-taking.

Chapter 8 constitutes its own section, examining attitudes towards extraversion in other cultures. In particular, the author finds differences in Asian cultures, especially those influenced by Confucianism. The experiences of several Asian Americans show how the introversion that Asian societies promote clashes with the Extrovert Ideal in America, causing conflict for such individuals.

The final part looks at how to live in a world of different personality types. These last three chapters explore how introverts can best interact in relationships and in the workplace. Chapter 9 looks at the Free Trait Theory, which postulates that while everyone is born with fixed traits—making them either predominantly introverted or extroverted—they can make use of free traits that permit them to act in the opposite way when desired. The next chapter covers romantic relationship between people of different personality types—what each can do to communicate their needs and forge compromise. The last chapter discusses raising children who are introverts. In a brief conclusion at the end of the book, the author summarizes her ideas, and offers advice for introverts, their parents, their teachers, and their employers.

The book covers the themes of the Power of Introverts, the Genetic Origins of Introversion, and the Extrovert Ideal in American Society.

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By Susan Cain