Blog of Sara Jakša

Introverts (Wrongly ?) Think they will Experience Negative Emotions during Socialization

When I was reading scientific articles, I have come across an interesting idea in one of them. They based their work on the notion, that introverts don't become informal leaders, because they think that they will experience more negative emotions because of it. The articles can be found here.

So, the idea is, that introverts think that acting like an extrovert will be negative, even though it ultimately is not. I think it is an interesting idea, and it does have some basis in current theories, but I do think, that in the end, it is a bit limited.

The first idea is, that connection between affect (or emotions) and the big five traits. The extroversion is connected to the positive feelings. But neuroticism is the one that is connected to the negative feelings. So, somebody high on both would feel a lot of both negative and positive feelings, while another that was low on both would not feel any of them as much.

And there is some work done, which showed that number of friends and frequency of contact with others and so on is correlated with higher well-being regardless of level of extroversion. I am trying to remember, if there was any study, that was measuring well-being in the moment of socialization, but I can't remember any from the top of my head.

And I mean, even as an introvert, I do sort of agree. When socializing, I don't feel negative feelings or anything like that. Being in a new group would produce a lot more of thinking, but I would not classify this as the result of socialization, but the result of being in a completely new environment with new rules, that I don't know yet. I mean , it is nice.

What I think this theory ignores are two things: motivation and energy levels.

Nettle in his book Personality has a really good chapter on the extroversion and motivation. How the extroverted people are more likely to pursue new goals, met new people and just do something. While people lower on extroversion don't have a strong drive to simply do something. I also got an impression from reading it, that it has a lot to do with achievement. So maybe instead of simple forecasting of negative feelings, maybe the introverts actually do an affective cost-benefit analysis. They not only predict more negativity, but they also predict less positivity than extroverts. So even if the negative prediction is not true, their corrected cost-benefit analysis still looks quite different.

The second one is the energy levels. When I am socializing, it is like an exercise. Just like a person is tired after the exercise, the same way I can be tired after socialization. Yesterday, I had quite a lot of socialization. So today, I can still feel the effect. I cannot concentrate as much. Doing any kind of high intensity mental work would not happen, if I had to socialize every day.

I am glad that people are researching things like that. And they may be on to something. If there is something that I had learned during my work on a qualitative project is, that I come up with a lot of crack-pot theories and most of them are not right. At least they tested theirs.