Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol 9): Are Introverts Dangerous?

I get a fair number of hits from people searching "are introverts dangerous?" and landing on this post, in which I described pitfalls of being an introvert. That doesn't answer their question, though. I assume they're not looking for personal struggles of introverts, but want to know how to spot the next shooter before it happens. Should introverts be viewed with suspicion?

To answer this, it is useful to know some psych definitions. For starters, what is an introvert? An introvert is someone who recharges by attending to his or her "inner world." An introvert enjoys time alone to daydream, plan, analyze life, and assess his own well-being. Introverts enjoy socializing, too, but this requires use of energy. Attending a party is sort of like playing an energetic game of basketball - fun, but tiring if it goes too long or happens too often.

An extrovert, on the other hand, thrives on interpersonal relationships. He recharges by engaging in dialogue, sharing ideas, debating issues, and collaborating on meaningful projects. Extroverts enjoy solitude, too, but in moderation. While they can enjoy a lull in activity, they are anticipating the next event. (My extroverted husband says too much solitude is like your game getting rained out. Video games are fun, but you wanted to play baseball.)

So how do we distinguish between an introvert and a sociopath? An extreme introvert (like me!) may be described as asocial. To be asocial is to reject social interaction or, in some cases, be incapable of it. When I'm stressed, the last thing I want is to go out and talk with people. I just want to be alone. Unfortunately, in layman's terms this has been equated with being antisocial.

To be antisocial, from a psychological perspective, is to be a sociopath. Antisocial behavior includes total disregard for the rights of others, destruction of people and property, deceit and manipulation. Tied in with all these behaviors is a lack of remorse for one's actions. There is nothing in the definition of antisocial personality disorder about being introverted.

Why do we associate loners with killers? I suspect (and this is just my opinion) that it makes us feel better. We remember the cases where neighbors said, "We always knew something was wrong with him. He wouldn't come out for days, never talked to anyone." When the killer's friends and family say, "I don't understand. I never would have suspected him of this," it makes us uneasy. If no one saw it coming, does this mean one of my friends could do something like that?

So, are introverts dangerous? The short answer is no. Next time your friend opts to stay home instead of hit the bars, you don't need to watch for her face on the evening news.


  1. This explains my recent general lack of contentment. I definitely THRIVE on human interaction and the last place I want to be is a lone with myself. :) It also explains greatly the difference between Peter and Gabriel... as if the picture of Gabriel's hug at the zoo wasn't enough.

    And I never thought of you as sociopathic, BTW. :)

    1. That hug picture is awesome.

      And thanks! Glad I don't give off the creepy vibe. :-)