Exported: Personal Model of Social Energy

(Exported: Copying posts out from Lesserwrong, since I have totally lost confidence in it.)

Epistemic Status: This is a model I have derived from my own experience, with a fair amount of very noisy data to back it up. It may not generalize to anyone else. However, it seems like a framework that might be useful, so I’m sharing it here.

The excessively simple model of social energy is the introvert/extravert dichotomy. Introverts lose energy from social situations, extraverts gain energy. This is then elaborated into the I/E scale, where the sign of your energy change in social situations is mapped to an integer. This is clearly more descriptive of reality, but as many have pointed out, still imperfect.

I find that for me there are separate sets of factors that determine energy gain and energy loss.

For energy gain, it is a positive-slope, negative-curvature function of the number of people present. There is energy in a room, and I do pick up some of it. (Something like sqrt(n), or possibly 10-10/n

For energy loss, it is a function of how much I trust the person in the room I trust least; f(min(trust(p) for p in room)). This grows much faster than the number of people present. Trust also seems to be a function of my pre-existing mood (that part I expect won’t generalize).

Naively, I would have expected this to be a weighted average of my trust of people in the room, where five people I trust very much and one I trust very little would feel very different from five I trust somewhat and one I trust very little. I have difficulty arranging that test, but preliminary data suggests that expectation was wrong; one person who I cannot relax around spoils things thoroughly. (‘Trust’, here, is very much a System 1 thing; feeling safe/open around someone, rather than feeling/thinking that they are trustworthy/upstanding/honest.)

The predictions made by this model are that you should choose your social gatherings carefully, even if extroverted, as the benefits of size can be wiped out by one or two poorly-chosen guests.

More broadly, I think that considering gain and loss separately will clarify the feelings toward socializing of many self-identified introverts. Since it seems quite plausible that ‘true introverts’ who never get energy from social interaction are not actually a thing, I expect this would help improve the day to day lives of many.

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