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Are Introverts More Creative?

Creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi declared creative people, based on his extensive studies, are “Both extroverted and introverted, needing people and solitude equally.”

[From my earlier post The Complexity of the Creative Personality.]

I’m not so sure how widely that applies.

As an introvert myself, I don’t experience much urge to be extroverted.

And, I have been drawn to read and quote from the interviews of actors and other artists who say they are introverted, but they don’t generally indicate they are also extroverted.

But many actors, for example, say they are introverted or shy or sensitive – or these qualities are ascribed to them by reporters – and it isn’t clear how much of a distinction they are making between these traits.

In her post Time Magazine: “The Power of (Shyness)” and High Sensitivity, Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. refers to a post of hers on sensitivity and introversion for an explanation of how they differ.

[Also see my post Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?]

Dr. Aron comments in her post that a Time article (The Upside Of Being An Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated), by Bryan Walsh) was prompted by Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, which Dr. Aron says “is actually more about HSPs (highly sensitive people) than social introverts.”

She thinks it is “an enormously entertaining book, even though it, and thus the Time article, do blur the lines. Her discussion of ‘introversion’ throughout is almost identical to what has become the standard definition of high sensitivity—deep thinkers, preferring to process slowly, sensitive to stimuli, emotionally reactive, needing time alone, and so forth, all as described in the first scientific paper specifically on sensitivity, published in 1997, where it was systematically distinguished from the most common scientific definitions of introversion, which emphasize the social side.”

Aron adds that she is “very sorry” that the 30% of HSPs who are social extraverts were left out of the discussion. Maybe Csikszentmihalyi, for whatever reason, studied a number of people who are both sensitive and extraverted.

More creative?

The photo shows Efren Ramirez as Pedro, left, and Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite, in the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004).

In her book The Happy Introvert, Elizabeth Wagele exclaims that Napoleon Dynamite is “an exemplary introvert. He’s not only talented and sweet, but strong and virtuous – a loyal friend, and indeed a hero.”

In her Psychology Today post Are Introverts More Creative than Extraverts?, writer, cartoonist and musician Wagele writes about how this key personality dimension may relate to creative expression.

“Are liking solitude and focusing inward creative gifts?,” she asks. “My café friends and I, mostly introverts, were discussing where our various kinds of creativity came from recently. Our DNA is probably mostly responsible, but we each pointed to going inside at a young age to get away from a family situation.

“One man had an abusive father who would ground him for weeks at a time-he would draw when under house arrest and eventually became a successful artist.

“Another became an attorney and historian-his interest began when interacting with family members became so intense he would lose himself reading newspapers. Another turned to photography for similar reasons. Not only did I love the magic of music almost from birth, but a relationship with the piano took the place of a wished for playmate.”

She adds, “Extraverts are quick, don’t spend much time processing information, and tend to mesh with American society, which is 70-75% extraverted and 25-30% introverted. They can be as creative as introverts but since they’re not as fond of solitude, they don’t lean toward introspection or focusing in depth as naturally as introverts do.”

Jonathan Rauch, a correspondent for The Atlantic, and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, would probably agree, and wrote in his essay in The Atlantic (“Caring for Your Introvert”): “For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.”

From my post Unsociable, bored at parties, inner-directed, creative personality type.

Do you consider yourself introverted? Do you think it is more common trait for creative people?


Are Introverts More Creative?

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2013). Are Introverts More Creative?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2013
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