Study: Being sociable makes you tired — even if you’re extroverted

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New psychology research suggests that extraverted behavior can make you both happy and tired. The study, published in the Journal of Personality, found that being talkative and sociable predicted later fatigue — regardless of your personality.

Study author Sointu Leikas of the University of Helsinki told PsyPost she was interested in the topic for two main reasons.

“First, we do not yet know very much about the everyday life behavioral processes – for instance, how our current behavior relates to what we do next, what kind of behavior predicts fatigue, stress, or positive mood etc,” she explained. “However, such processes are interesting both from the scientific perspective and from the perspective of everyday life.

“For instance, we can ask, does meeting a lot of people make me happy? Or stressed? Does helping others make me feel satisfied? Do these relations depend on our personalities, or do they apply to everybody? The kind of experience sampling methodology we used allows for detecting such processes as they happen from moment to moment.”

“Second, I noticed that the idea according to which social behavior is mentally depleting (for introverts) had become widespread in the popular media, self-help sources, etc,” Leikas continued. “Many people reported that they became exhausted after intensive social interaction, especially at work. However, I noticed that there was no scientific evidence for this claim, nobody had even tried to examine the issue. As a personality researcher, I felt that this was a worthwhile and topical question.”

In the study, the researchers surveyed 48 Finnish university students five times per day for 12 consecutive days. They found that extraverted and conscientious behavior was linked to immediate increases in mood and reduced fatigue. However, it also resulted in higher fatigue after about a 3-hour delay.

“According to our results, behaving in an extraverted way (being sociable, talkative, meeting many people) predicts being more tired 3 hours later (as compared to behaving in an introverted way 3 hours earlier),” Leikas told PsyPost. “In addition, the results were exactly the same for Extraverts and Introverts (and for everyone in between). Introverts did not become more tired than Extraverts.”

“I guess the take home message would be that it’s quite common to become tired from acting sociably, and this does not tell you anything about your personality. Furthermore, behaving in an extraverted way seems to make you happier, and the tiredness effect is weak and short-lived, so you should not restrict your social behavior although it may make you a bit tired.”

The study does have some limitations. The most important being the relatively small sample size. The study also examined only 7 men.

“It is very important to replicate the results in a new, larger sample with more men, before we can confidently claim that extraverted behavior really is related to later fatigue (I am working on this),” Leikas said. “Especially the lack of trait Extraversion effect is unreliable because of low power. Thus, it is possible that Introverts actually become more tired – however, if they do, the difference is likely to be very small. Previous research has shown that Introverts become just as happy as Extraverts when they behave in an extraverted way.”

“Furthermore, our results do not say anything about causality, they are correlational.”

“Extraversion is a broad trait that is considered to encompass many lower-level qualities,” Leikas added. “Most experience-sampling studies, such as ours, have measured extraverted behavior by focusing on the sociability aspect, and asked people whether they were talkative and sociable. Assertiveness and enthusiasm have also been measured. However, it is somewhat unclear how other aspects of extraversion, such as dominance or excitement-seeking relate to mood or fatigue.”

The study, “Happy Now, Tired Later? Extraverted and Conscientious Behavior Are Related to Immediate Mood Gains, but to Later Fatigue“, was also co-authored by Ville-Juhani Ilmarinen.

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