Hans Eysenck and the Introvert Comfort Zone

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Who was Hans Eysenck and what did he study? How did his research explain the comfort zone each person has based on their temperament?

Hans Eysenck was a psychologist who studied the effects of environmental stimulation on introverts and extroverts. He found that working in a zone of comfortable stimulation levels led to better performance.

Read more about Hans Eysenck, his research, and how to apply it.

Hans Eysenck: Introvert Comfort Zone

Even though you can stretch your temperament, you can often be more effective by working within your comfort zone as much as possible.

Your comfort level in any environment depends on the level of stimulation you receive. Stimulation is the amount of input you receive from the world around you. If you’re an extrovert you thrive on a lot of stimulation, while if you’re an introvert you want much less. 

In the 1960s, research psychologist Hans Eysenck identified this difference between introverts and extroverts. In one experiment, he placed lemon juice on people’s tongues and found that introverts salivated more—they reacted more strongly to the sensory stimulation. Another study in which people were asked to play a word game while wearing noise-emitting headphones found that more noise (a form of stimulation) hindered the introverts’ performance, while too little noise had the same effect on the extroverts’ performance.

Eysenck theorized that we all seek a level of stimulation that’s “just right” for us, neither too much nor too little. Thus, introverts comfort zone is delving into projects alone—they find mental activity stimulating, while feeling distracted by external stimulation like noise and interruptions by colleagues. On the other hand, extroverts seek interaction through group activities and meetings.

Once you understand your preference levels for stimulation, you can seek out environments that work best for you or try to tailor your environment—in other words, look for your “sweet spot” where you’re optimally stimulated.

People already do this to an extent in their personal lives. For instance, an introvert may spend much of a weekend at home reading, then realize she’s starting to feel understimulated and call a friend to go out for lunch. However, that experience can turn to overstimulation if other friends join them.

You can manage your stimulation level so you spend as much time as possible in your sweet spot by the way you organize your home life, relationships, hobbies, and social life. This can apply to your professional life as well.

For example, a tax lawyer named Esther was an introvert who enjoyed solitary legal research, however her legal group periodically had to give public presentations. Extroverted colleagues were comfortable “winging it” and expected Esther to do the same. However, she wasn’t effective at speaking off the cuff. Her solution was to insist on advance notice from her colleagues, which gave her time to prepare for her speeches, allowing her to deliver them from within her introvert comfort zone.

Hans Eysenck and the Introvert Comfort Zone

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  • How society overvalues extroverts
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  • How extroversion caused the fall of Enron

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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