Loner or Party Animal

Understanding the variety of human temperaments can help you understand yourself and others. Sociability is one such temperament trait. Where do you lay on the spectrum between Party Animal and Loner?  Take the poll.

It is known that the orbital prefrontal cortex (OPC) is associated with emotion and reward. University of Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar showed that:

  1. People with a larger social networks had larger OPCs
  2. People with larger OPCs were more capable at envisioning another person’s thoughts (“empathy”, “theory of mind”)

So, some questions:

  • Does enlarging your social network grow your brain or is the brain size what determines your social reach? Maybe both. We don’t know yet.
  • Does blogging count as socializing?
  • Does the size of a person’s orbital pre-frontal cortex predispose them to certain types of worldviews?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

11 responses to “Loner or Party Animal

  1. Magenta

    Is this like Introvert vs Extrovert because apparently I’m exactly in the middle…I get to be a lone party animal lol

  2. Does enlarging your social network grow your brain or is the brain size what determines your social reach?
    Probably a little of both, but there is likely some level of diminishing marginal utility; that is, there probably isn’t as much difference for someone who goes from 90 to 100 friends as there is for someone to go from 10 to 20 friends.

    Does blogging count as socializing?
    To an extent, it can, particularly when there is interaction spawned from the blogging, and you have “regulars” who do so.

    Does the size of a person’s orbital pre-frontal cortex predispose them to certain types of worldviews?
    Probably so, but not strongly. There are the memes of the depressed party animals, and the happy hermits.

  3. Christine

    Sometimes a capacity for “envisioning another person’s thoughts” can make you want to be more of a loner. While on the one hand it can halp you to understand views and behaviours you would never hold, it can also expose the underlying nastiness or desparation of otherwise normal-seeming people…

    It comes in phases, too, I think. Certain experiences can just make you temporarily more or less tolerant of other people (empathy or no empathy). There tend to be few people who survive the waxing and waning – making up the close friend(s) in the loner phases.

  4. CRL

    Speaking of labels…

    Actually, I hold too closely to the label of introvert/loner, even though it fails to acknowledge that I only act like one among people I don’t find particularly nice or interesting.

  5. Christine

    To your questions:

    1. Probably both – but if your network later shrinks you probably keep the enlarged brain part.

    2. I hope so, or I’m in a real loner phase right now! 🙂 No, seriously, it makes up any perceived gaps in the “real” world and sometimes quite effectively. I’d say yes, but I agree that a dynamic of “regulars” determine the shift from reading to scoializing.

    3. If it is what contributes to greater empathy, than hell yes. They’d be moderates more than extremists, for starters (of any variety). More interested in social programs, foreign development aid, child care even if they don’t have kids, old age security even when they’re young… On everything from taxes to war, empathy should have a huge impact.


  6. DaCheese

    That’s interesting, in that I’m fairly introverted yet I find myself thinking about what other people are feeling all the time. Of course maybe that’s an over-compensation for my temperament, or maybe I’m confusing introversion and social anxiety (I definitely have both)?

  7. 24 hours into this poll and >2/3 of readers have only a few friends. I wonder if that says something about bloggers or it is true for the general populations too.

    @ Magenta :
    I imagine there must be some overlap with introvert-extrovert. But in this experiment, people actually count their friends, so it is perhaps a bit more concrete.

    @ The Wise Fool :
    Yeah, if you jump from 1 friend to 2 friends, the rush must be huge. (kidding)
    By the way people talk at each other on blogs, it seems to me they use very little of their sympathy neurons.

    @ Christine:
    Good points.

    @ CRL :
    Interesting, I never thought of folks liking the label “loner”.

    @ Da Cheese :
    Blogging must be a safe and fun playground for socially anxious introverts ! 🙂

  8. darrenwong1859

    I do think we need to define what’s meant by introversion/extroversion. I believe there’s a difference between preferring not to socialize and incapable of socializing.

    Regardless, here ar my answers:
    1. Don’t know that much about neuroscience, but I’ve read a couple of essays written by neuroscientists that the brain is quite malleable, and can certainly be influenced by environmental factors. So it may go both ways after all.2. By definition, yes, but there’s a big differene between online interactions and real life interactions. For instance, I have a relatively small group of friends… *weeps in a corner*

  9. darrenwong1859

    3. It’s certainly possible. Our personalities are the products of our brains, after all.

  10. Interesting. I enjoyed seeing the poll results. I guess my “few close friends” status isn’t so unusual. At least for readers of this blog. For readers of “Party Animal USA” . . . the results may differ.
    One point I would make is that there are likely many elements that go into the introvert-extrovert designation. It’s a bit of a broad-brush label, at least for those NOT at the extremes. Some sub-traits, if you will, that may be involved are risk aversion and novelty seeking, inhibition and impulsivity . . . to say nothing of more social elements, such as what type of social stimulation individuals are drawn to. Me, I hate loud-music type parties, but love dinner parties, providing the conversation is at least semi-intelligent. Attend a rock concert? Maybe not. Attend a lecture? What’s the topic?
    Lastly, when I taught general and developmental psychology, an illustration I employed to discuss the differences in behavior between introverts and extroverts goes this way: Imagine each person is born with a radio in their heads. The radio plays whatever signals it receives from the outside world. The difference between and introvert and an extrovert is the default volume setting they are born with (though it can be nudged in one direction or another through the years). For the introvert the setting is actually “high,” so their behavior often reflects a desire to “turn things down,” to move their arousal level in the lesser direction. The extrovert, on the other hand, seeks to “crank things up.” And so he or she seeks out the excitement of being with others. Human beings find interaction with other human beings to be exciting, sometimes too exciting.
    Of course, that’s just an analogy, but it certainly helps me explain why a dog barking in the night from half mile away will disturb me more than it does my more extroverted wife. 🙂

  11. @ Andrew
    Fun analogy!
    BTW, I have more than one “Andrew” commentor — if you have an ordinary handle, it would be nice if you added last names.
    Seems I am pretty extroverted compared to many visitors. (But I suspected that)

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