Introverts vs extroverts

Greta Garbo may have been one of the more attractive ones, but Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein arguably had more impact while modern-day equivalents Larry Page (Google), Steve Wozniak (Apple) are doing their best to make a ding in the universe. What they all have in common: introversion. It’s a tag that dogged Garbo to the end, although she disowns the line that came to define her. “I never said, ‘I want to be alone’,” the actress is quoted as saying. “I only said, ‘I want to be let alone’. There is a world of difference.” Introverts have surged back into the headlines with the publication of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Drawing the most fire is author Susan Cain’s attack on collaboration as “groupthink” and her claim about the strong link between introverts and creativity. “Introverts are comfortable working alone,” Cain writes, “and solitude is a catalyst to innovation.” Scientist Keith Sawyer was among those to respond publicly. While allowing that there’s a “grain of truth” to Cain’s assertions on the role of solitude in the creative process, Sawyer accuses her of playing loose with the facts.  “Exceptional creativity involves a lot of hard work, and that often happens in solitude,” says Sawyer, the author of Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. “But Cain misses the big picture. Researchers have found that breakthrough ideas are largely due to exchange and interaction, and that’s because breakthrough ideas always involve combinations of very different ideas.” Sawyer’s criticisms are largely supported by other research into creativity, including that by social scientist Katherine Giuffre. Giuffre studied the lives of three famously isolated creators, Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin and Charlotte Brontë, and found deliberate use of social networks at particular times to aid the creative process. “Based on the different network properties, we can conjecture that it was not when the artists were alone, linking wildly different ideological worlds, that they were most creative,” Giuffre argues, “but when they were attached to others in a more moderate way and when those others were close to each other, although, again, not so close as to form one cohesive group.”

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