Introverts get all the credit for being thoughtful types — because, well, many of them are — but some new research reminds us not to count extroverts out when it comes to solitary problem-solving. As BPS Research Digest reports, certain types of extroverts may be especially motivated to see a weird, frustrating task through.
In this study, the researchers asked their volunteers to solve a puzzle-style game called Towers of Hanoi, in which there are three pegs layered with discs of varying sizes; the instructions are to move the discs from the first peg to the third, using the second as a kind of resting point. The catch, however, is that you are only allowed to place a disc on top of a bigger one when you move it. (You can play the game here, if you want.)
Cognitive scientists often use the Towers of Hanoi as a way to measure problem-solving skills, but these researchers — Vidya Athota of the University of Notre Dame in Australia and Richard Roberts of the Center for Innovative Assessments in New York — were curious whether personality made a difference. Their results, published in the journal Psychological Studies, suggest that extroverts were better at the task than the more introverted participants — but only the extroverts who were especially interested in excitement and pleasure-seeking, according to the surveys they filled out.
So although the ability to sit quietly, and alone, with a task until it’s done may seem like something an extrovert wouldn’t be especially good at, this suggests the opposite. The thrill of excitement from solving a difficult puzzle may be enough of a motivator for some extroverts, the researchers argue. A lot of attention in recent years has been devoted to undoing the stereotype of the introvert as a shy wallflower, and it’s worth remembering that extroverts, too, are capable of more than their stereotype would suggest.