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What Is an Ambivert?

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For a very long time, extraversion (also spelled “extroversion”) was considered the healthy default. It was considered perverse or pathological to avoid crowds or to crave time alone. Fortunately, introversion is far more accepted these days. People self-identify as introverts in their online dating profiles. You can buy “Go Away, I’m Introverting” T-shirts and coffee mugs.

You might be an introvert. You might be an extravert. But it’s more likely you’re an ambivert: that is, somewhere in between.

That’s because extraversion is not an all-or-nothing identity; it’s a spectrum. Psychologists count extraversion—that is, the quality of finding energy and gratification outside of oneself—among the “Big Five” dimensions of personality (along with conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to new experience, and neuroticism). Each of us is extraverted to some degree, just as we’re conscientious or neurotic. That degree could be zero (although it probably isn’t). Very few people are 100 percent anything.

Personality psychologist Robert McCrae spent his career examining and testing the Big Five model. In a 1992 study [PDF], McCrae and his collaborator found that many people (around 38 percent) fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for all five traits, including extraversion.

Adam Grant is a management expert at the Wharton School of Business. In 2013 he conducted a study on 340 call center employees. Since these are people who talk on the phone for a living, you might assume that the majority of them would be extraverts. But two-thirds said they were neither extraverted nor introverted—rather, somewhere in-between. And, more surprising still, these ambiverts outperformed extraverts on their sales calls.

Why? Grant theorized that it's because phone calls are about more than talking. Sales reps also have to listen. Ambiverts are naturally comfortable doing both, he wrote, which means that they’re “likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale, but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.”

Many people who self-identify as introverts or extraverts do so after taking a personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Despite its lack of scientific support, the MBTI has become immensely popular, in part because every test result is flattering. It’s a little like a horoscope: We can find ourselves in our readings, but there’s no science to back it up. The MBTI also perpetuates the myth of the all-or-nothing identity, labeling each test-taker as either an introvert or an extravert.

Look, we’re not going to tell you that you can’t be one extreme or the other. But the human experience is rich and complex. Isn’t it better to be flexible?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Happened to the Physical Copy of the 'I Have a Dream' Speech?
AFP, Getty Images
AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

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Big Questions
How Are Rooms Cleaned at an Ice Hotel?

Cleaning rooms at Sweden’s famous ICEHOTEL is arguably less involved than your typical hotel. The bed, for example, does not have traditional sheets. Instead, it’s essentially an air mattress topped with reindeer fur, which sits on top of a custom-made wooden palette that has a minimum of 60 centimeters of airspace below. On top of those reindeer hides is a sleeping bag, and inside that sleeping bag is a sleep sack. And while it’s always 20ºF inside the room, once guests wrap themselves up for the night, it can get cozy.

And, if they’re wearing too many layers, it can get quite sweaty, too.

“The sleep sack gets washed every day, I promise you that. I know it for a fact because I love to walk behind the laundry, because it’s so warm back there," James McClean, one of the few Americans—if not the only—who have worked at Sweden's ICEHOTEL, tells Mental Floss. (He worked on the construction and maintenance crew for several years.)

There isn’t much else to clean in most guest rooms. The bathrooms and showers are elsewhere in the hotel, and most guests only spend their sleeping hours in the space. But there is the occasional accident—like other hotels, some bodily fluids end up where they shouldn’t be. People puke or get too lazy to walk to the communal restrooms. Unlike other hotels, these bodily fluids, well, they freeze.

“You can only imagine the types of bodily fluids that get, I guess, excreted … or expelled … or purged onto the walls,” McClean says. “At least once a week there’s a yellow stain or a spilled glass of wine or cranberry juice … and it’s not what you want to see splattered everywhere.” Housekeeping fixes these unsightly splotches with an ice pick and shovel, re-patching it with fresh snow from outside.

Every room has a 4-inch vent drilled into the icy wall, which helps prevent CO2 from escalating to harmful levels. Maintenance checks the holes daily to ensure these vents are not plugged with snow. Their tool of choice for clearing the pathway is, according to McClean, “basically a toilet brush on a stick.”

When maintenance isn’t busy unstuffing snow from that vent hole, they’re busy piping snow through it. Every couple days, the floor of each room receives a new coat of fluffy snow, which is piped through the vent and leveled with a garden rake.

“It’s the equivalent of vacuuming the carpet,” McClean says.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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