Question & Answer
And so I think that even for folks who are more on the introverted side, the act of finding these social connections will be better than you think because the power of these sort of social connections that we see in terms of health benefits and that sort of thing, those things can cross all these other personality variables. And in fact, that's one of the things we're going to see is that one of the main problems of miswanting is the fact that it's causing us to put time into things that don't actually matter where like how many times in the last month have you prioritized doing something that's related to one of those goals that I keep saying is bad either like something you think is really useful for your job or for your grades or is all that stuff that we had up there versus just enjoying this thing, that Marina Keegan was talking about like this web of people and this fun stuff that those of you who are graduating this year aren't going to have in the same way, sorry, Nick, are going to have the same way after this? It would also light up if you ate something really delicious or you saw attractive pictures of people that you wanted to hook up with or if I give you a bit of cocaine.
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But I will pause for now and answer any questions that you have. I was wondering how the idea of spending more time with others relates to introversion versus extroversion? One of the reasons that Nick Epley talks about doing this work is that he doesn’t like doing this stuff, like he didn’t feel socially connected, right? And so I think that even for folks who are more on the introverted side, the act of finding these social connections will be better than you think because the power of these sort of social connections that we see in terms of health benefits and that sort of thing, those things can cross all these other personality variables. Another thing to think about with introversion and extroversion is kind of how you do that. You might be the kind of person that less seeks out, the kind of weird stranger situations, and more the sorts of kind of acquaintance-y social connections that you could get to know a little bit better but that might not feel as scary. So talk to the dining hall workers, who might not talk to you as much, but give an extra minute to ask them how their day was. Pick social situations and kind of potential for social connections that they feel less like putting yourself out there and those will kind of give you some bang for your buck, too. Yeah. So, I have a family. Just in day to day life, talking to randos always makes things seem better and stuff like that, I’m curious if. you think there a delta between the time spent on very close friends versus people that you don’t know that well? Yeah. And so this is what we’ll get to a little bit next week, which is that for sure, putting time into close relationships is important, too. And in fact, that’s one of the things we’re going to see is that one of the main problems of miswanting is the fact that it’s causing us to put time into things that don’t actually matter where like how many times in the last month have you prioritized doing something that’s related to one of those goals that I keep saying is bad either like something you think is really useful for your job or for your grades or is all that stuff that we had up there versus just enjoying this thing, that Marina Keegan was talking about like this web of people and this fun stuff that those of you who are graduating this year aren’t going to have in the same way, sorry, Nick, are going to have the same way after this? And so it is the case that these rich social connections feel more powerful, these continued ones like close friends and close acquaintances and the way that you can maximize those is to find ways to put time into to kind of make sure that you experience with them. And I think you can do that with those strategies we talked about last week. Having gratitude about your friends is one great way to do it. Mess with reference points, feel what it would be like to not be here for a little bit, and then come back. And then, those of you who were away last semester might have remembered this like you come back, and like, “Oh there’s all these people here. This is great”. The key about this stranger thing though is that, oftentimes, those situations of talking to strangers aren’t cases that’s going to take away from this social connection. Like if I choose to talk to somebody in a coffee shop line, that’s not time I’m not spending with my family or my suite mates, that’s just like free extra social connection that we’re missing out on. And so that was why I focused on that one. It’s a much easier intervention that all of us can do really quickly. I have a question about the acts of kindness. So you said talk to all these people. But implied in your examples is that people reciprocate, which is not always true, right? If you say hi to somebody, some people will ignore you. It’s not the greatest feeling in the world. So is there data on how that affects you? Is that also helping you? Is that an act of kindness? So in Nick Epley’s original paper, he kind of looked at, because people have strong predictions about this. Like, if I start talking to somebody on a bus, they’re either going to not talk back or they’re going to be mad at me. He actually did all these measures of productivity on the bus, like on a train in particular, how much work you get done and so on. Cause you think, this is kind of what I think on the train. It’s like, I could talk to that person, but probably they’re going to their job, they probably have something to do, they don’t want me to talk to them because I’m going to make them less productive or something. What you find is that people mispredict this stuff. Most of the time, when you stop and say hi to people, they’re actually much nicer to you back than you think. And so this is another spot where we’re just mispredicting. Usually people are happier about it than we kind of expect. So there’s not as much work for what happens when people reject you, but that’s important because it doesn’t happen nearly at the same frequency as our mind leads us to believe that active seeking out seems good. But you also raised another interesting question which is this kind of the idea that these random acts of kindness are going to come back to us in kind. This raises this question of why all this kindness feels so good to us. One idea is that we really do have this expectation that like, if I give the $5 chai to someone, in the Dan and Norton study, that I’m going to get a $5 chai back to them. And that seems to happen to a certain extent. But what seems to be even more powerful is that when we do kind acts for people, particularly people in our social circle, what happens is those people believe their relationship to be stronger. Those people believe us to be nicer people and that’s why it has that effect. So it’s not like we’re often getting the money we spend back in kind. It’s just like tightening the ties, and the ties alone are the kind of thing that seems to make us happy. And so that’s kind of where we get - Sometimes the bang for our buck comes back from reciprocation. Sometimes it just comes through the other person liking us more and having a stronger social tie and so on. There’s a final way we kind of get this interesting effect of kind actions. And that’s from a really curious way that our brain processes information, which is that our brain sees the rewards that other people get as our own rewards. So if I were to stick you in FMRI scanner and have you gamble and have you win some money, there would be a part of your brain in your reward center that would light up that would say, “Oh, this is great when I get money”. It would also light up if you ate something really delicious or you saw attractive pictures of people that you wanted to hook up with or if I give you a bit of cocaine. That’s the region that’s like, “Awesome stuff is happening to me”. Right? But interestingly, those same regions will fire, in some cases, in monetary rewards for just as much, in cases where we watch other people get different monetary outcomes, and in particular in cases where we have donated those other monetary outcomes to other people. So it kind of seems like our brains are wired to see other people’s rewards as our own rewards. And so it’s kind of like getting a little click of cocaine every single time you do a nice thing for another person. It’s kind of an accident of the way our social brain is wired up where we really are getting more than we think. The amazing thing again is, in so many cases, we don’t realize our brains are wired up that way. We don’t realize we’re going to love it as much if we give somebody $5 as if we like spend it ourselves. But our brains have all these annoying features that make us not realize what’s going to be awesome for us.
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