Is Being Unsociable the Secret to Creativity?


Source: University of Buffalo at New York

Summary: Researchers in a new study examined three kinds of social withdrawal and found that one of them correlates with higher creativity.


Generally, people choose to be alone because of one of the three reasons – they may be shy, they do not like to interact with other people, or they enjoy spending time alone. Technically in Psychology, these three social withdrawals are called as shyness, avoidance and unsociability. Many people think that being alone is something undesirable and even some studies confirm that solitude can cause harm to one’s health. But researchers from the University of Buffalo in a new study examined three kinds of social withdrawal forms and found that one of them, unsociability correlates with higher creativity and other two forms shyness and avoidance are negatively correlated with creativity. The study findings were published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Unsociable individuals are more creative

The study involved 295 participants with age ranging between 19-31 years. They are given a series of questionnaires in which they were asked about their motivation for wanting to be alone, and their creativity, sensitivity to anxiety, predisposition to depression, aggression, and lacking pleasure in social activities (social anhedonia). The researchers even assessed the participants’ BAS (Behavioral Activation System) and BIS ( Behavioral Inhibition System) which help to regulate avoidant behaviors and distinguish between different kinds of social withdrawal. Finally, the study found that unsociable individuals are more likely to be creative, able to enjoy the solitude (the little peer interaction they get is enough for them; they are not antisocial) and develop new ideas. But shy and avoidant individuals are not creative as they are distracted by negative cognitions and fears.

Prof. Julie Bowker said, Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal. But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”


More Information: Julie C. Bowker et al, “How BIS/BAS and psycho-behavioral variables distinguish between social withdrawal subtypes during emerging adulthood”, Personality and Individual Differences (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2017.07.043


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