Why Socializing is Exhausting for Introverts

“Your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it, you will find all your paths.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

While for the average extrovert socializing is food for the soul, introverts are known to have a limited battery life when it comes to the schmoozing game.

As Dean Burnett humorously puts it in his book The Idiot Brain: “If invited to the rotten-pork exhibition, an extreme extrovert will attend and bring their own hastily made sculpture to show off, and end up posing alongside all the exhibits for their Instagram account. An extreme introvert wouldn’t talk to someone long enough to be invited.”

In a research conducted by the University of Helsinki, both extroverts and introverts reported similar levels of fatigue after three hours of constant socialising.

Extrovert or introvert, we are all human beings and we tend to get tired after longer periods of engagement with others.

There are, however, true differences between the two groups.

The reason for the introverts’ lack of interest in socializing is partly due to their less active dopamine system.

Dopamine is a chemical our brain releases upon sensing the possibility for reward, such as money, or social recognition. A quick and easy path to dopamine release is the use of drugs. Hence many people feel helpless when it comes to combating narcotic addiction.

Extroverts might come off as louder, and even faster talking when it comes to interacting with larger groups of people, in order to receive attention and quick social points from others.

In an MRI cognitive experiment extroverts and introverts were given gambling tasks, and subsequently received rewards for their performances. Scientists looked specifically at the nucleus accumbens (the part of the brain aiding the dopamine distribution in the body’s reward system) and the amygdale (the part mostly in control of emotions). The results showed that extroverts had much stronger responses to rewards.

Introverts, on the other hand, seem to give higher value to inner satisfaction and meaning (which they seem to prioritise over financial gains). 

Therefore it is less likely to see introverts in positions of leadership. This is partly due to introverts perceiving leadership as a less enjoyable undertaking than extroverts, and thus experience higher levels of negative effect, showed a research by Timothy Stansmore and Peter O’Connor at the Queensland University of Technology.

However, even though this might be true in many instances, there are exceptions to the rule, as can be seen when taking into account one of the most popular personality trait measurement systems in the world, namely The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI).

While being an outdated system that is not supported by the wider scientific community, the MBTI test has been adopted by business owners worldwide, wanting to manage their employees in the most efficient manner. By sorting employees into introverts (working alone) and extroverts (working with publicity and engagement) companies have come up with an easy way to achieve maximum efficiency in the work place. Human beings, however, are more complicated than that.

To the issue Dean Burnett adds “If you’re applying for a job and they make you do a test which asks ‘Do you enjoy working with others?’, you’re unlikely to put , ‘No, others are vermin, only there to be crushed’, even if you do think this. The majority of people have sufficient intelligence to play it safe with such tests, thus rendering the results meaningless. The fact that it would be helpful for managers if people conformed to limited and easily understood categories doesn’t mean it’s what happens”.

In conclusion, regardless of being more prone to depression due to their less active dopamine system, it is the introvert’s ability to find deep significance encased in their own thoughts, thanks to which we can enjoy some of the greatest works of art known to us. And as a recent Yale University study shows, introverts make great psychologists!

Author: Kris Dimitrov

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