We Become More Introverted With Age, Science Claims
Stephen Hawking used to say that “quiet people have the loudest minds.” It’s true that the more introverted of us tend to experience deeper thoughts and are, perhaps, more imaginative. However, not all of us are either completely introverts or extroverts.
Indeed, although we all have our own personalities and ways of behaving, we frequently show nuances of both extremes at certain times. In effect, we’re on a spectrum and often find ourselves hovering at certain intermediate points in which we manifest characteristics of both introverts and extroverts, depending on the circumstances. This is perfectly normal.
Today, science and experts in this field, such as psychologist Susan Cain, suggest that as we mature, the factors associated with introversion remain with us. Cain calls this phenomenon intrinsic maturation. Let’s see what it consists of.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.”
Why do we become more introverted with age?
We could say that it’s an almost general perception. As birthdays go by, certain aspects of ourselves change. Nuances are smoothed out, impulsiveness is reduced, we become more reflective, and we even stop constantly worrying about appearances. In fact, what happens on the inside and in our most intimate social spheres becomes more important.
After all, youth, whether we’re introverts or not, is almost always built on socializing, building relationships, and accumulating experiences. However, introverts aren’t shy or asocial. They also enjoy moments of exuberance and connection with others.
During our first decades, we tend to let in all kinds of people in our lives. But, as we grow and mature, we become more selective in who we choose to let in. In effect, we return to our solitary states and discover that they’re really gratifying spaces.
“High levels of extroversion probably help with mating, which is why most of us are at our most sociable during our teenage and young adult years.”
Emotional stability and intrinsic maturation
Susan Cain is a well-known writer and speaker. She popularized what’s known as the quiet revolution. Her book, The Power of Introverts, highlights the value of this personality in the midst of a society that, traditionally, has always valued the extrovert character more.
A few years ago, she published an article explaining why we become more introverted with age. She stated that, as a rule, getting older allows us to gain emotional stability. We no longer need doses of dopamine and adrenaline to ‘feel alive’. We stop being dependent on those emotional shots and start appreciating more calm and serenity.
This fact was also highlighted in an investigation conducted by the National Institute on Aging, in Baltimore (USA). It claimed that reaching middle age brings us closer to intrinsic maturation. In effect, our levels of kindness, awareness, balance, and introspection rise. In fact, many of the more impulsive tendencies dissolve to make way for temperance.
Introversion in later life makes evolutionary sense
As humans, we’re not invariable entities. Science has demonstrated that we can change and that certain elements of our personalities can give way to new ones and thus evolve. That said, this doesn’t happen to all of us and not everyone reaches intrinsic maturity. Some remain in the immature and often dysfunctional phase.
Dr. Susan Cain suggests that becoming introverted with age has an evolutionary meaning. It helps us achieve meaning in our lives. While, in the first halves of our lives, we’re like explorers in search of experiences and learning, maturity encourages us to carry out other behaviors.
For instance, we no longer feel the almost constant desire to attend social events. We have a far greater need to be at home, with our children and partners (if we have them). Moreover, our impulsivity reduces to give way to introspection with which we find deeper vital meanings. This favors a more satisfactory maturity and aging.
“If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you’ve been.”
Personality can change, but temperament can’t
It’s true that most of us become more introverted with age. If we were already introverted, those nuances crystallize, establishing our ways of seeing the world and directing our energies, and relating and adapting to our environment. On the other hand, if we were already extroverts, we don’t change, in essence, but certain nuances are added that, like new ingredients, enrich our lives.
This is so because, although personalities may vary, temperaments don’t. Temperament is a congenital emotional predisposition that orchestrates our moods and feelings of motivation. Therefore, the extroverted profile will continue to be really sociable and extremely skilled in their interactions with the environment.
Therefore, as you grow older, you’ll gradually notice you longer have so much interest in meeting new people. You’ll delight in your moments of solitude and will no longer be so focused on the outside world but on the most intimate spaces of yourself and the people who are part of your life. It’s an extremely interesting process, and not without certain benefits for your mental health.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Harris MA, Brett CE, Johnson W, Deary IJ. Personality stability from age 14 to age 77 years. Psychol Aging. 2016 Dec;31(8):862-874. doi: 10.1037/pag0000133. PMID: 27929341; PMCID: PMC5144810.
- Roberts BW, Mroczek D. Personality Trait Change in Adulthood. Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2008 Feb 1;17(1):31-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00543.x. PMID: 19756219; PMCID: PMC2743415.