The concepts of introversion and individualism are not causational. Introverts are simply people who restore emotional energy by being alone. Individualistic societies highlight independence.
The East and West think in very different ways. Their opposing ways of life can be explained by philosophies that prevailed in each region. In an article in the New York Times, Nisbett states, “Western philosophers emphasized freedom and independence, whereas Eastern traditions tended to focus on concepts of unity.”
This brings about the idea of individualism versus collectivism, something that has gained a lot of traction in recent years.
There have been countless studies that set out to provide evidence for how Western cultures value individualism and how East Asian cultures prefer collectivism.
These studies have taken the shape of eye-tracking tests, germ theories, and even finding correlations between the local agriculture of the region and their thinking orientation.
But what does this all have to do with introverts? Well, what thinking orientation would you fit yourself into? The truth is, introverts are found all around the world, not just in specific regions. Introverts exist in societies both individualistic and collectivist.
Here are five ways individualistic culture impacts introverts, followed by five ways collectivism impacts introverts.
Individualism emphasizes individual goals. Individualistic societies are made up of people who are motivated by their personal rewards and benefits. It’s the concept that people are referring to when they talk about “every-man-for-himself” thinking.
It can get to the point where the help of being dependent on others is seen as shameful. It follows the idea that if you fail, you are to blame, but if you succeed you reap all the benefits to yourself.
Individualism prevails in Western countries, especially in the USA, Germanic Europe, and Nordic Europe.
Since individualism is often misconstrued as simply meaning “alone,” people can assume that introverts are more likely to be individualistic. However, the two concepts are not causational. Introverts are simply people who restore emotional energy by being alone. Individualistic societies highlight independence. Introverts can benefit but also suffer in individualistic societies.
Individualists are self-reliant so they often complete and carry out tasks alone, because it is their task: not a shared task. On one hand, this could be ideal for introverts because they will be recharged while carrying out tasks and goals.
But if living in an individualistic society 24/7, an introvert would not be “forced” out of their comfort zone and to talk to people.
The introvert might not go out of their way to do so, so often introverts might rely on their work-life to get their social interaction.
If every part of their life is now lead independently, this could lead to loneliness. Introverts don’t hate the company of others; it just drains them. When they have energy, introverts could enjoy their time in a community that might not be offered in individualistic societies.
One of the subjective downsides to introversion might be social anxiety, or general anxiety, that comes with social interactions, or just feeling as though you might not be interacting enough.
One of the characteristics of individualists is independence, which goes hand-in-hand with self-assurance.
Individualists are more certain of their goals and their paths, which would benefit an introverts’ way of thinking.
3. Fundamental attribution error
This is a psychological concept that refers to the idea that people can make an error in judgement when attributing someone’s actions to something based on limited information.
Individualistic cultures have a strong bias towards attributing behaviour to the person’s characteristics rather than the situation.
Since we already live in a world that favours extroverts, introverts may already be misjudged for being anti-social, and an individualistic society would heighten this misjudgment.
Along with self-assurance and independence, individualistic societies can also produce people that are spontaneous and impulsive. This is because people act of their own volition, for their own goals, and are in charge of their own actions.
Introverts are fully capable of being spontaneous, however, they are less likely to be due to their social battery.
Spontaneity and impulsivity often require social interaction and stepping out of their comfort zone, which would drain an introvert’s emotional energy.
This could, again, lead to introverts not quite fitting into the individualistic society and being seen as black sheep.
5. Do you fit the “good person” stereotype?
Of course the idea of a “good person” is completely subjective, and at the end of the day, everyone only has to live up to their own definitions of what they think a good person is. However, an individualistic society likely describes a “good person” in terms of good qualities to possess: assertive, strong, and other qualities that help in competing.
Assertive and competitive qualities are not common in introverts. Introverts are trustworthy, good listeners, and in touch with their emotions.
However, introverts are often independent, so depending on the exact type of introvert you are, you might fit into an individualistic society.
Collectivism, on the other hand, emphasizes group goals. Collectivists are willing to sacrifice individual benefits and rewards if it means well for the group’s success.
Coming from Pakistan, I think I resonate more with the collectivist approach. Whenever I encounter a problem, the discussion for the solution goes as “so what should we do about this.” I never feel as though I need to face anything alone.
In collectivist cultures, it can be considered shameful to get individual acknowledgment or appreciation.
Collectivism approaches prevail in regions in East/South-East Asia, Latin America, Arab countries, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
This may be interesting as people generally assume those regions have higher populations of introverted people which falls under the wrong assumption that introverted people can’t share collectivist values. As shown for individualism, introverts can also thrive or suffer in collectivist societies.
1. Fear of rejection
Due to carrying out actions to complete goals as a team, people in collectivist societies are not familiar with being in charge of their own consequences. This could be why they have a very strong fear of rejection.
They are used to carrying equal responsibility for problems and solutions, whether the consequences are positive or negative.
Individualistic societies are more impulsive and self-assured – more acquainted with rejection. But collectivist societies still have rejection anxiety.
Introverts are independent, so may actually deal better with rejection than other members of collectivist societies.
2. Less conflict
Collectivist societies thrive off of harmony within the group. If everything is approached from a team stance, then a requirement of this type of society would be for the team to all be working towards the same goal.
If working towards the same goal, and working with people, individuals will avoid direct conflict so as not to upset the harmony of the group.
This works well with the introvert’s mindset, as conflict means negative social interactions which are an introvert’s least favourite thing.
3. No individual autonomy
As mentioned, collectivist societies work towards a common goal. But what happens if the individuals within the society have different goals? The problem with collectivist society is that they take the individualism out of society. Societies are seen holistically instead of different elements building up to one.
Introverts spend time alone to recharge, in which they have their own thoughts, their own ideologies, and their own ideas. If these go against the overall group harmony, this presents a problem.
The introvert will try to avoid conflict, but should also not fall into goals they do not believe in. This is a conflict of interest.
4. Less competition
Collectivist culture is when people work with each other and build each other up, instead of competing with each other and trying to tear the other down.
In the case that competition leads to conflict, introverts would like to avoid that. Therefore, if collectivist societies present less conflict, this may seem ideal to an introvert.
5. Do you fit the “good person” stereotype?
Like the individualistic society, the collectivist society also has specific traits that fit the “good person” stereotype. These traits are trustworthiness, honesty, generosity, and sensitivity, among others.
These traits overlap more with the characteristics of an introvert in which the introvert would fit in more with a collectivist society.
However, these are all just general stereotypes of all the different groups described. Each person is an individual, and despite their introversion, they can thrive in both types of societies.
Hi everyone! I’m Iman, a dramatic writing student at New York University, currently studying abroad in Berlin. I’m an INFJ-T and a storyteller. I love traveling and exploring, and finding out other people’s stories. I also have a passion for psychology because I’m super interested in how people think and what makes them tick.