Generally speaking, there are two types of people: those who prefer the peace and quiet and those who just love to socialize.
We know these people as introverts and extroverts. Introverts are typically the quieter, more solitary individuals, while extroverts are outgoing and exceptionally sociable.
Now, these two personalities often clash about which reigns supreme—introverts assert how nice social withdraw can be, while extroverts cite the very importance of socializing. So, which takes home the prize?
A plethora of research has shown just how damaging too much social isolation can be, which just might give extroverts a leg up—that is if emerging research didn’t counter the opposite. A new study “How BIS/BAS and psycho-behavioral variables distinguish between social withdrawal subtypes during emerging adulthood” from the University at Buffalo suggests that not all forms of social withdrawal have negative outcomes; in fact, one form—called unsociability—has positive effects, such that it boosts creativity.
Julie Bowker, lead author of the study and associate professor in UB’s Department of psychology, explains that motivation is a huge factor: “We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits.” For instance, if an individual is excited and optimistic about their time spent alone, the unsociability can truly do them some good. But if, on the other hand, they look at it as missing out on fun times with their friends, then it will more likely do some damage instead.
Oftentimes, we look at social withdrawal as having negative consequences or we similarly focus on the potential harmful effects—which just might explain why previous studies didn’t explore or find this positive link. But as of late, we’ve gained a better understanding of why we withdraw socially and recognize that the effects (whether they be negative or positive) depend on our intentions. For example, some forego social situations due to shyness or anxiety, while others simply dislike social interaction. But some withdraw simply because they like their alone time, not because they’re fearful—they’re unsociable. These individuals are the ones who can benefit from the social withdraw, according to Bowker’s study.
Bowker explained that unsociable individuals are not the same thing as antisocial—they do spend a healthy amount of time with peers, which then allows them to appreciate and utilize their solitude to their benefit. “They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas—like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office,” said Bowker. Those who withdrew because of shyness, anxiety, or fear, however, likely only experience negative effects because they’re distracted by their negativity regarding socializing.
To reach these findings, Bowker and her team recruited 295 subjects to report on their motivations for social withdrawal. Additionally, these self-reports measured creativity, anxiety sensitivity, aggression, and depressive symptoms, to name a few. This ultimately led the researchers to find that the motivation behind social withdrawal led to varying outcomes. And unsociability—whereas an individual is still somewhat social and optimistic about social withdrawal—yielded several positive outcomes: it related positively to creativity and also showed a positive link between shyness and anxiety sensitivity.
Introverts, you can let out a sigh of relief—as this study shows that social withdrawal isn’t necessarily a bad thing nor does it always equal harmful consequences. The key is to utilize your time alone wisely, and see the positive potential in social withdraw. So instead of thinking about all of the fun you might be missing out on, focus on the therapy your solitude can provide, and make the most of it.
University at Buffalo (2017, November 20). Non-Fearful Social Withdrawal Linked Positively to Creativity. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/creativity-social-withdrawal-7993/
Bowker, J. C., Stotsky, M. T., & Etkin R. G. (2017, August 16). How BIS/BAS and psycho-behavioral variables distinguish between social withdrawal subtypes during emerging adulthood. Personality and Individual Differences. Retrieved November 22, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886917304920