Solitude is Linked to Creativity
Everyone has their “me alone” moment and some just love the wonder of solitude. Old notions linked this kind of social withdrawal to negative psychosocial effects and considered unhealthy. However, one psychologist from University at Buffalo has found a different positive outcome of social withdrawal. In fact, spending too much time alone is associated positively to creativity. Social withdrawal, referred to as unsociability, or the non-fearful withdrawal is unrelated to negative outcomes.
This new finding is confirmed Julie Bowker, an associate professor in UB’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study.
Bowker said, “Although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial. They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers. Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that 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.”
Bowker’s study is the first to link unsociability to a positive outcome, which is creativity.
Motivation as Underlying Reason
Bowker highlighted that there are varied reasons why teens withdraw from and avoid peers, and that the risk associated with withdrawal depends on the underlying reason or motivation.
Bowker said, “Motivation matters. We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits.”
Some people withdraw out of fear or anxiety, which is associated with shyness. Others appear to withdraw because they dislike social interaction. They are considered socially avoidant.
But some people withdraw due to non-fearful preferences for solitude. These individuals enjoy spending time alone, reading or working on their computers. They are unsociable. Unlike shyness and avoidance, the research consistently shows that unsociability is unrelated to negative outcomes.
The researchers invited 295 participants to be respondents of the study. These respondents reported on their different motivations for social withdrawal. Other self-report measures assessed creativity, anxiety sensitivity, depressive symptoms, aggression, and the behavioral approach system (BAS), which regulates approach behaviors and desires, and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS), which regulates avoidant behaviors and desires.
Here are the results!
The research discovered that not only was unsociability related positively to creativity, but the study findings also showed other unique associations, such as a positive link between shyness and anxiety sensitivity.
Bowker said, “Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal. But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”
However, the researchers found that shyness and avoidance were related negatively to creativity. Bowker thinks that “shy and avoidant individuals may be unable to use their solitude time happily and productively, maybe because they are distracted by their negative cognitions and fears.”