Asociality refers to the lack of a strong motivation to engage in social interaction and/or the preference for solitary activities. Developmental psychologists use the synonyms “nonsocial,” “unsocial,” and “social disinterest”. Asocial is distinct from antisocial as the latter implies an active dislike or antagonism toward other people or the general social order. The condition is often confused with misanthropy.
Asociality is seen as a desirable trait in certain monastic traditions, notably in Catholicism, Buddhism and Sufism. It is lauded both as a tool of alienation from secular life and of enabling a lifestyle of uninterrupted contemplation.
A degree of asociality is routinely observed in introverts, while extreme asociality is observed in schizophrenia patients. It is characterised by an inability to ‘empathise‘, to feel intimacy with, or to form close relationships with others (Davidson & Neale 1994).
Asociality is not necessarily perceived as a totally negative trait by society, since expressing asociality has been used as a way to express independence of the mind from prevailing ideas (dissent). Expressing asociality can also be used as a form of humour to indicate an issue (e.g. used for pointing out the exaggerations of social network services (Kahney 2004)).
Individuals in Nazi concentration camps who were deemed “asocial” were forced to wear badges with black triangles. The included the mentally disabled, the mentally ill, homeless people, alcoholics, the habitually “work-shy,” prostitutes, draft dodgers and pacifists.