Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The problem with introverts

Having recently come from a holiday with my family where most of them are highly extroverted it kind of occurred to me what the main difference between the two is.

I have noticed when I am in a large group or in particular, with a strong extrovert, my brain shuts down. Ive seen alot of other introverts report this aswell. If you google search this topic you will also find similar testimonials, of introverts being unable to speak/think in the presence of ( strong ) extroverts. On these googled websites they will tell you some pseudoscience rubbish that introverts are "sensitive" to dopamine. And that too much dopamine "shuts" your brain down.

Here's what I think is happening......

If we remember from sapolsky's texts, dopamine is involved in the "pursuit of reward". Even better, I think its fairer to say that dopamine is a "do it" and "action/reaction" driving neurotransmitter.

When an organism receives a stimulus from the environment, the magnitude of the dopamine spike in response to that stimulus determines the magnitude of the reaction that the organism makes to that stimulus.

So, the problem with introverts is that the random small talk bullshit that extroverts like to spew forth doesn't cause a dopamine spike in an introverts brain, and thus the response from the introvert is either very short/breif/dull/boring.

Its not that your introverted brain is "shutdown". Its that the pointless banter of the extrovert doesn't stimulant it.

Its not that introverts are "boring", but rather Introverts like to talk about stuff that interests them, stuff that is meaningful, has logical purpose, is relevant to our survival, or conducive to success and improved quality of life.  That is what they dopamine spike to.

If you as an extrovert ask me a question to which I return a vacant blank stare and dull short response, its because im too polite to say "stfu , im not interested in that irrelevant shit"

There is no willpower, or conscious thought, involved in dopamine spikes, they are completely involuntary responses, and so your instinctual urge of how to respond is also pre-programmed and involuntary.  "boring" or "dull" has nothing to do with it.

Another problem with introverts is there brains are less likely to retain information that is not helpful for their survival or future success. This is an additional reason why small talk with introverts is hard because they dont care to remember WORTHLESS fucking details.


  1. As an introvert, I can relate. No idea about the dopamine, but for me, that is another WORTHLESS fucking detail. Ha.

    I work with an extrovert who rambles on and on and tells me the same stories over and over. He eventually got used to me tuning out and ignoring him.

    I sometimes feel rude when not caring about trivial details and small talk. But it passes. Life is too short to pretend to be something you're not.

    Have a good one.

  2. YEP -- makes a lot of sense to me! fact is, MOST people are boring, because even if they are intelligent enough to be interesting, but pursue hobbies which don't float our boats, we don't make a connection anyway. and the dumb people???!!! please -- i have no interest in your favorite television show, nor in your sports team, nor what your kid's best subject is....

    i also think that extroverts have a sort of vampiritic action going on -- they seem to suck up the energy of people around them to fuel this ebullience of theirs!

  3. Your observations are very interesting. Extroverts get kicks from social interactions, introverts feel drained, it must different brain chemistry. I think I am neither because I could be both types, it depends on the people I am communicating with.

    1. definitely, Galina! btw, when is your birthday?

    2. At the middle of December.

  4. My introvertness is way off the scale and I simply cannot stand social gatherings of more than 1 or 2 people that I know and like and am bored silly at parties or social events to which I beg off regularly. Not only are extroverts draining, they are silly, boring and not at all interesting. Dopamine is not relevant to my situation. Nothing wrong with us introverts but boy do the extroverts try to make you feel guilty about it.

  5. It reminds me of an old Far Side cartoon. A dog's master is saying, "OK, Ginger, I've had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else! Ginger hears, "Blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah!"

    I do like my extraverted friends, though (my best friend and my dog are extraverts), but can't relate to extraverts' need for constant attention, chit chat, noise, and disappointment if they miss a party.

    There's been some research about introversion, and it seems we're different from the cradle.

  6. On the wikipedia page it talks about regional variation and how people living on remote islands tend to be more introverted. and people in the mainland more extroverted.

    introverted people tend to be better at things like , like logical reasoning, curiosity, problem solving, have no difficulty spending alot of time alone, basically understanding and figuring stuff out, sometimes complex stuff, more interested in survival and success. All skills that would be key for surviving in small isolated groups.

    Meanwhile, extroverted people have skills better suited to rising a social hierarchy, which would be a key asset for success and reproduction when living in very large groups where any one person's individual "ability" for acquiring resources to survive is less important since you can always rely on the "group" to support you, provided you have a good social standing with the group.

    In that respect I think extroversion is just a psychological trait that has evolved because it has been better and more successful at reproduction in larger social groups.

    1. i suspect introversion is also a defense mechanism, for people who don't fit into the society they're stuck with (like me). i can be plenty friendly and talkative when i'm around kindred spirits.

    2. Key word : " kindred spirits". ;)

      I find it difficult to start a conversation with people I don't know well. I don't watch a lot of TV so I have no idea what's popular and what's not. And talking about the weather gets old fast. So what does one do in such situations? Do I start with random questions like, " so... Do you like... Cheese?"

    3. I guess you could safely say "What a lovely dress you are wearing" when you think it is the case . People who are not kindred spirits could be interesting objects of observation nevertheless.
      The longer I read comments here, the more I approach the conclusion that I am the in-between type. I enjoy being alone, especially doing protects, and I could have fan socializing with the people who are very different than me, however, not for a long time. I usually escape withing one hour or sooner from parties with strangers. When I am upset with something, the best remedy for me - the talk with one of my friends by Skype or phone, not necessary about my problem, but in order to be switched on another person.

    4. I think that most people are bad actors when they decide to act, and insincerity is very obvious for your conversation partners. I guess many introverts in a social situations feel like they are hard pressed to act some role. Probably, trying to be more of himself/herself could be helpful, especially in the form of asking advice, like "or, there are so many cheeses/ appetizers here, Which do you think tastes the best ?". People often dislike others who behave like they know everything, and enjoy giving advice. Hm, it sounds like I am giving advice right now!

  7. Kindke I would argue that you might be confusing personality traits which are more like, perhaps, mild autism, than introversion per se.

    Introversion is defined as hypersensitivity to stimulation; this is why, someone like myself, I feel very overwhelmed at work, where everythign is noisy, busy, and I elect to work weekends and nights when it's quieter and less stimulating. This is the withdrawn, avoidant behavior of introversion.

    OTOH, lacking interest in people's conersations and only wanting to talk about mechanistic/hobby subjects that interest you is much more like autism ... social deficit and increased interest in systemizing, increased narrow focus but intense focus on that which you are interested in.

    Introversion is more of the hypersensitive behavior I describe. It may also be present with autism, autistic people have sensory disorders and are hypersensitive to sounds, changes in routine, environment in general, for the same reason they are preoccupied and very focused on their narrow set of hobbies. Both are dopamine excess disorders, the main difference is that autism involves brain wiring changes to motivate the individual away from the social world, toward the mechanistic, systemizing one. It may relate to elevated androgens prenatally and occurs in males at a rate of 90%. Even females who have autistic disorders, have evidence of elevated androgen prenatally but as said it is very rare in females.

    1. I write this because the lack of interest in socializing and increased interest in mechanistic, systemizing, non-people hobbies is not an intrinsic property of introversion, that is specific to autistic brain changes and common in males. Although, some females have this as well.

      Introversion, however, ALWAYS involves hypersensitivity to environment/social situationas and a desire to avoid them as they are overwhelming/fatiguing. Introversion does not feature this boredom/lack of interest in people, some introverts have no interest in mechanical subjects or technical, engineering, math, science, and love literature and art and human relationships and social things. These are the kinds of people who listen to morrissey in their rooms alone with just a few friends and have zero interest in systemizing hobbies, are very interested in having private conversations with their close friends where it is less overwhelming/overstimulating than a boisterous party with many people.

      Introversion only describes the hypersensitivity element, it does not describe interest in relationships and people, vs mechanistic/systemizing hobbies.

  8. There's this book called the introvert's advantage that suggests we are primarily in a parasympathetic, acetyl-choline dominant, energy conserving milieu. The processing pathway of stimuli actually takes longer in introverts- seven rather than the extroverts five- I found the diagram here:

    Unfortunately for the author, that's about the best part of the book. The rest is psychology. What I really needed were the extroverts capable of screwing with my life to learn how to behave...