Is the secret of creativity is to be a little shy? New research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences has examined different types of elusive social behavior and has found that one of them is associated with a higher level of creativity: being unsociable.
When people choose to be alone, usually they do so for one of three reasons: they are timid, displease them to interact with others or like to spend time alone. Are these three categories related to negative psychological outcomes? This was the starting point of the study.
Many of us tend to think of loneliness as something undesirable, and some studies confirm that loneliness is too harmful to health. But the new study, led by Julie Bowker, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Buffalo in New York (USA) has found positive associations in a specific form of social isolation.
Not all loneliness is bad, “motivation matters”
“During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re getting too far away from your peers, you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers,” Bowker explains. “This may be the reason why so much emphasis has been placed on the negative effects of avoiding peer isolation.”
However, “we have to understand why someone is moving away or isolating, to understand the associated risks and benefits.” Motivation matters, says Bowker.
In their study, the experts asked 295 participants to complete a series of questionnaires about their motivation to want to be alone, and their creativity, sensitivity to anxiety, predisposition to depression and social anhedonia, that is, the lack of pleasure or entertainment in social activities.
The participants were “emerging adults”, with an average age of 19.31 years. Bowker and his colleagues also evaluated the so-called behavioral activation systems (BAS) and behavioral inhibition systems (BIS) of these participants (which serve to distinguish between different types of social abstinence).
The results revealed that unsociable people were more likely to be highly creative. It is “the first evidence of a potential benefit” of being unsociable.
On the contrary, being shy and avoiding relating to others was negatively correlated with creativity, which means that the more shy or evasive a person is, the less likely he is to be creative.
“Timid and evasive people may be unable to use their time of lonelinessin a happy and productive way, perhaps because they are distracted by their negative fears and cognitions. On the contrary, unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, but they are not antisocial. They do not initiate the interaction, but they do not reject the social invitations of their peers, “explains Bowker.
“Therefore, unsociable individuals can have enough interaction between peers so that, when they are alone, they can enjoy that loneliness. They can think creatively and develop new ideas, like an artist in a studio, “Bowker concludes.