Party Animals

It’s been known for a while that extraversion — one of the “Big Five” personality traits — is positively correlated with longevity in humans. (Pessimism, on the other hand, is negatively correlated, so I’ll take this opportunity to say that it’s been nice knowing you, readers.) It now appears, perhaps unsurprisingly, that this extraversion-longevity relation holds true in gorillas as well.

I wonder what mechanism causes this correlation. I suppose there is, in social animals, some basic need for social contact as a kind of “food”; I recall reading somewhere that ants, for example, will quickly die if kept alone (though I’m too lazy right now to go find a citation for that, or to find an ant I can throw in the bing). One could easily imagine why genes that favored extraversion might be selected for, but becoming more prevalent in the population is not the same thing as increasing longevity.

I suppose that we’ll soon be subjected to “extraversion guidelines” from HHS, recommending that we all start telling more jokes at parties, participating in the three-legged race at the company picnic, and so on.

No, scratch that: on further reflection I suppose the very last thing any government healthcare system needs is for us all to be living longer. We’ll probably all be encouraged to stay home on Friday nights reading Poe.

Meanwhile, a contrarian data-point (small, I admit):

Joe Strummer of the Clash was once asked:

If you had to put into 25 words or less what it is you’re trying to say when you get up on stage, what would it be?

His answer:


That’s weapons-grade extraversion, friends. Joe Strummer died at fifty.

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