by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition
Until I read Roxanne Roberts’ article about introverts dreading the return to “noise, crowds and small talk of normal life,” I had no reason to remember a paper I co-authored years ago . The paper examined whether introverts and extroverts responded differently physiologically when warned by a loud horn that their responses to requests to press a lever were too slow. No differences were found. Now, many years later, Roberts has asked her readers to think about how differently introverts and extroverts feel about returning to a more ‘normal world” which not only includes greater interaction with other people, dining-in restaurants, and travel but also noisier open offices and loud crowds.
According to Roberts, social scientists had correctly predicted that introverts would do better during a lockdown because the lockdown provided them with “more time alone, more peace and less of the personal and professional pressures they find so draining. They enjoyed that life had slowed down.
Now, introverts, like extroverts, would be returning to a faster paced existence. Apparently, the brains of introverts and extroverts differ in that introverts require less dopamine, the “feel good” chemical that affects the pleasure center, to be happy, and too much of this chemical exhausts them.
According to psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, the pandemic provided people with an opportunity to alter their perceptions and even their personalities. Before the pandemic, she states, extroverts and introverts sought out people who were similar to them; thus, reinforcing their own patterns of behavior. With the pandemic giving both extroverts and introverts the opportunity to gain greater self-awareness, they may come out of the pandemic with a better understanding of who they are and possibly better mental health. Self-awareness may enable extroverts to better understand introverts. They may also value quieter moments and fewer loud ones.
This article tended to support the views of introverts that they are fine as they are and that it was okay to “cut out anything loud, crowded or busy.” It also suggested that extroverts might have learned to value quieter, calmer times. As a researcher, I would take the “wait and see” attitude and interview some introverts and extroverts a year later on their views of quiet and noise. It might be, as I learned in my own study cited above, introverts and extroverts may be similar in that, in this case, both may value greater quiet in their lives.