OPINION: How lockdown brought out the introverts in us

By Dr Stephanie Cook, Psychology lecturer & member of the Cognition & Neuroscience, Health Psychology, Self & Identity research group 

As with all personality constructs, introversion and extroversion is a spectrum, and people normally tend to be distributed along this spectrum. In other words, most people tend to find themselves somewhere around the middle of the spectrum – maybe slightly more to one side than the other – while very few people are at the extreme ends.  

How introverted or extroverted we are is not fixed, however, and can change depending on our circumstances. With this in mind, it is certainly possible that lockdown has made some of us more introverted than we were before.  

Stephanie Cook
Dr Stephanie Cook

Prior to the global pandemic, people will have already experienced how their personalities can change given situational demands – those who consider themselves to be introverted in social situations, for example, might find that their job requires them to behave in a more extroverted manner, and that they are able to switch their behaviour rapidly and fluidly depending on the situation that they are in.  

We often refer to this distinction as 'trait' versus 'state' characteristics – trait characteristics are those that remain generally stable and unchanged throughout life, while state characteristics are those that can change given the situation. As per the above example, someone might consider themselves to be 'naturally' introverted, but their job requires them to demonstrate tendencies that are more typically associated with extroversion. 

Humans are built to adapt to their surroundings, and it may indeed be the case that people adapted to the lockdown by becoming more introverted. Certainly for those who were furloughed or spending lots more time alone working from home; they may have shifted further towards the introverted end of the spectrum. Life slowed down immensely for many people, allowing them more time to think and reflect – a tendency generally associated with being more introverted.   

On the other hand, people began adapting to new ways of working and socialising, which resulted in them demonstrating more extroverted tendencies in some cases. For example, having to deliver meetings, presentations and teaching via online platforms has been a new experience for a lot of people, meaning they have had to adapt and exhibit their knowledge and skills in ways that may force them to be more 'extrovert' than they were before. As for socialising, we know that the lockdown caused a surge in online social meetings, with families and friendship groups connecting for weekly Zoom quizzes and video calls – perhaps socialising together more than they would have in 'real life' outside of lockdown. In these cases, people have had a taste of becoming more extroverted.   

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

In general, I think it is fair to assume that lockdown suited introverts much more than extroverts. Myself and my fellow introvert friends definitely enjoyed wallowing in the quiet side of life, while the extroverts I know were climbing the walls, desperate to get back to spending time with other people. This evidences the idea that our 'trait' introversion/extroversion remains relatively stable, but in unprecedented situations, such as the nationwide lockdown, we may well shift further towards one end of the spectrum or the other. 

Posted on Tuesday 11th August 2020

  Search news archive