Not even extroverts are immune from the tiring effects of being around other people.
A new study from researchers in Finland published in the Journal of Personality suggests that no matter which personality group you may belong to, interacting with people might make you happy at the moment but leave you tired a few hours later.
The big discovery comes from a study with just 48 people, so the results need to be replicated in future studies, according to study co-author Sointu Leikas of the University of Helsinki.
Nevertheless, Leikas and her team might be on to something. For years, personality researchers have used a questionnaire-based method called experience-sampling, in which they try to look at possible relations between people’s moods and behaviors related to the Big Five personality traits: extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness and neuroticism.
“One of the big results we have gotten from this type of research is that it's shown we use the whole spectrum of the Big Five traits in our daily behavior,” Leikas told The Huffington Post. “Everybody may sometimes act in highly extroverted or highly introverted ways in their daily life, for example, which raises the question: How do certain kinds of behavior affect our mood?”
Leikas and her colleague Ville-Juhani Ilmarinen used the same experience-sampling method and asked people to fill out questionnaires five times a day, via their smartphones, for 12 days. The participants had to answer how they felt and what they had been doing in the past hour.
However, unlike most previous studies that focused on the concurrent relationship between people’s feelings and actions, Leikas and Ilmarinen's study looked at these links over longer time periods.
“We found, as it has been found before, that people tend to be happier when they behave in an extroverted way,” Leikas said. “However, after three hours, if people have behaved in an extroverted way, they are more tired.”
Moreover, the researchers found no evidence that introverts would become more tired than extroverts after behaving in an extroverted way.
So, what's the difference between introverts and extroverts? Are they actually more similar to each other than different?
"We don't know at the moment," Leikas said. It may be that extroverts just behave in an extroverted way more often than introverts. They may seek social situations more than introverts do, tend to have larger number of friends, and take dominant positions more often than their more introvert counterparts, Leikas said.
Again, the study was small and most of the participants were female, so it may be too soon to generalize the findings to the whole population. (Leikas said the gender imbalance was just because mostly female students volunteered for the study, which in her experience seems to be a common problem in the field of personality research.)
But previous studies have indirectly shown that extroverts become tired after socializing and need alone time, Leikas said. For example, one study found that if someone was very socially busy at work, they tended to withdraw from their families in the evening.
The good news is that the fatigue of socializing seems to wear off quickly. "We asked the participants how tough their day had been, and didn't find a difference," Leikas said. "I think these tiring effects tend to fade away and you recover quickly. On the other hand, we know that social interaction is good for many people. OK, it may make you a bit tired, but it doesn't exhaust you in the long run."