Introverts: Stop Drinking Coffee Before Big Meetings

Cup of coffee

When most people have a big meeting on the radar, they like to make sure they're fully awake, alert, and primed to go--and that usually means downing a cup of coffee (or three). But according to a new book on personality science, introverts may want to take a break from caffeine prior to potentially stressful, stimulating situations.

In Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, psychologist Brian Little explores the ways that caffeine affects introverts and extroverts differently. He writes:

After ingesting about two cups of coffee, extraverts 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.

In an interview with, Little said that introverts and extroverts have different levels of neocortical arousal (which corresponds to environmental alertness) in their brains. Introverts, who are over the optimal level, are more easily stimulated, while extroverts (who are under it) are less so. It follows that a stimulant like caffeine would drive someone who's already stimulation-prone to shoot even further from the baseline, especially in a potentially stressful scenario (like a big presentation).

That's not to say that introverts should never drink coffee. They should just be aware that there are some less-than-ideal times to enjoy it.

"Later in the day would be better," Little told "At any rate, they should try not to have caffeine right before something like an important meeting, as I say in the book."

Maybe stick with a nice cup of non-caffeinated tea instead.
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