A new research reveals that not all kinds of social withdrawal have negative effects. As it turns out, being unsociable is positively linked with creativity.
Social Withdrawal: The Bad And The Good
Over the years, many research studies have stated that social isolation or a lack of social contact with peers has detrimental effects on mental and even physical health. In fact, more than 42.2 people over the age of 40 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, adding to what is being called the "loneliness epidemic."
However, researchers found that not all kinds of social withdrawal have negative effects as they found that unsociability is actually positively associated with creativity. Individuals who are considered unsociable tend to enjoy their time alone and are able to use it productively.
Shyness, Avoidance, Unsociability
Researchers conducted a study on 295 participants who reported on their personal motivations for social withdrawal. They also filled in self-report measures on creativity, depressive symptoms, anxiety sensitivity, and aggression.
In the study, researchers focused on the three subtypes of social withdrawal: shyness, which is social withdrawal out of fear; avoidance, which pertains to avoidance because they do not particularly like social interaction; and unsociability, which is a non-fearful form of social withdrawal. People who are unsociable simply prefer solitude.
What they found was that while some showed overlaps in their social withdrawal type, the three subtypes yielded different outcomes. Perhaps most striking of all is that while shyness and avoidance were negatively associated with creativity, unsociability was positively associated with it.
Unsociability And Creativity
Researchers surmise that while shy and avoidant people do not particularly enjoy their solitude and are unable to use the time productively, unsociable people are able to enjoy it and use the time productively and creatively.
Compared to shy and avoidant individuals, unsociable people simply spend more time alone than with others but do not particularly avoid being with peers. That said, they get just the right amount of socialization that they need while also enjoying their solitude.
"They're able to think creatively and develop new ideas - like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office," said Julie Bowker of the University of Buffalo, lead author of the study.
Motivation For Social Withdrawal
The common view of social withdrawal is one that is surrounded by loneliness and negative consequences. However, researchers believe that in order to understand the potential risks and benefits of social isolation on a particular individual, it's important to understand their motivation for seeking isolation. In recent studies, unsociability is consistently shown as unrelated to the negative outcomes related to shyness and avoidance, something that results of the new research concur with.
"The new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal," said Bowker.
The study is published in Personality and Individual Differences.