Why introverts can't always tell who likes them: multitasking and nonverbal decoding

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Feb;80(2):294-310. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.80.2.294.


Despite personality theories suggesting that extraversion correlates with social skill, most studies have not found a positive correlation between extraversion and nonverbal decoding. The authors propose that introverts are less able to multitask and thus are poorer at nonverbal decoding, but only when it is a secondary task. Prior research has uniformly extracted the nonverbal decoding from its multitasking context and, consequently, never tested this hypothesis. In Studies 1-3, introverts exhibited a nonverbal decoding deficit, relative to extraverts, but only when decoding was a secondary rather than a primary task within a multitasking context. In Study 4, extraversion was found to correlate with central executive efficiency (r = .42) but not with storage capacity (r = .04). These results are discussed in terms of arousal theories of extraversion and the role of catecholamines (dopamine and norepinephrine) in prefrontal function.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arousal*
  • Attention
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Introversion, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neurochemistry
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Perception*
  • Tape Recording
  • Verbal Behavior


  • Catecholamines