The benefits of social withdrawal

Artists and scientists are less interested in socializing than other people are, according to Gregory Feist, who studies the psychology of creativity at California’s San Jose State University. In this BBC article, Feist offers two reasons why this is so:

One reason for this is that such people are likely to spend sustained time alone working on their craft. Plus, Feist says, many artists “are trying to make sense of their internal world and a lot of internal personal experiences that they’re trying to give expression to and meaning to through their art.” Solitude allows for the reflection and observation necessary for that creative process.

The BBC article also cites social withdrawal research by University at Buffalo psychologist Julie Bowker. She found that a certain kind of social withdrawal, called unsociability (a preference for solitude), is linked to creativity:

A recent vindication of these ideas came from University at Buffalo psychologist Julie Bowker, who researches social withdrawal. Social withdrawal usually is categorised into three types: shyness caused by fear or anxiety; avoidance, from a dislike of socialising; and unsociability, from a preference for solitude.

A paper by Bowker and her colleagues was the first to show that a type of social withdrawal could have a positive effect – they found that creativity was linked specifically to unsociability. They also found that unsociability had no correlation with aggression (shyness and avoidance did).

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