Should You Grab that Cuppa?
For so many of us, a morning cup of coffee is not just a ritual — it’s a necessity. We treat coffee like water, a vital source of energy to power us through a hectic day. We’ve all heard the warnings about our beloved pick-me-up beverage: dependency, withdrawal, afternoon caffeine crashes, insomnia, indigestion, and even dehydration.
Is drinking it a good idea? Well, it depends on your personality type.
There is a new warning for coffee drinkers from Cambridge psychologist and author Brian Little. In his book Me, Myself, and Us, the Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, Little suggests that there is another layer to The Great Coffee Debate. Little hypothesizes that there is no absolute when it comes to the “goodness” or the “badness” of coffee. Instead, he writes, the positive and negative effects of coffee are determined by personality type.
Introverts May Want to Rethink Their Premeeting Latte
Little’s research has led him to the conclusion that introverts and extroverts have distinctly different reactions to caffeine. He writes:
After ingesting about two cups of coffee, extraverts[sic] carry out tasks more efficiently, whereas introverts perform less well. This deficit is magnified if the task they are engaging in is quantitative and if it is done under time pressure.
For an introvert, an innocent couple cups of coffee before a meeting may prove challenging, particularly if the purpose of the meeting is a rapid-fire discussion of budget projections, data analysis, or similar quantitative concerns. In the same meeting, an extraverted colleague is likely to benefit from a caffeine kick.
New York Magazine Science of Us interviewed Little upon the release of his book. In that Q&A session, he explained that his conclusions are based upon Hans Eysenck’s theory of extroversion and research by William Revelle of Northwestern University.
According to Eysenck’s theory:
- Introverts are naturally more aware of their environment than extroverts.
- Introverts naturally operate above the optimal level of alertness.
So, Little suggests that caffeine can actually impede performance for these individuals, especially in stressful situations where the introvert already feels overwhelmed.
That’s not to say that introverts should avoid coffee altogether. When it comes to caffeine, timing may be everything. Little suggests that introverts may respond better to an early-afternoon cup of Joe rather than a morning cup, but he cautions that introverts should avoid caffeine before stepping into an important meeting.
The Science of Timing a Caffeinated Pick-Me-Up
Little is not the first scientist to suggest that timing matters when it comes to consuming caffeine. Our circadian rhythms — the natural cycle of hormones that tell our body when it’s time to power up for the day and power down for the night — may have an impact on our response to caffeine.
According to Steven Miller, Ph.D, cortisol significantly influences the ways in which caffeine affects the body. Cortisol is the hormone that helps the body feel awake and alert. The production of cortisol peaks in the morning and then lessens throughout the day. Consuming caffeine when it’s not needed means the body will build up a tolerance to caffeine, and the “buzz” it gives will diminish over time.
You don’t have to eliminate coffee from your daily routine, you just might want to push it back to mid-morning or mid-afternoon in order to truly achieve a pick-me-up.
Coffee-loving introverts who just can’t imagine cutting out their morning cup of coffee should consider switching their morning beverage to uncaffeinated tea, decaf coffee, or even hot chocolate. Consuming a decaf hot beverage in the morning can help ease the transition — allowing for the morning ritual of a hot drink, without the potential negative effects of coffee.
And if you’re a true extrovert? Enjoy your morning cup of coffee, as it may just help you get ahead in the long run.
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