Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friends, Longevity, and Walking Revisited

I was talking with someone in his forties, a person who seems quite personable and outgoing. He told me that his wife and he are each others' best friends, and that each of them has about two good friends outside their marriage. It led me to think again about individual differences. I addressed personality and individual differences in my dissertation, so this will not come as a surprise to people who know my intellectual history. One key personality dimension is whether a person is a "reducer" or an "augmenter." Reducers are people who experience physical sensations less intensely than they really are. Augmenters are people who experience physical sensations more intensely than they really aer. Reducers tend to go into sports such as football, because it offers a means to feel they are really bumping up against the real world. Augmenters tend to go into activities that do not involve strong physical contact because it would hurt too much. Augmenters tend to achieve strongly in school, reducers less so. Reducers tend to have many friends, augmenters only a few. That being said, you can see where I am going with this.

It is unlikely that augmenters have a significantly shorter lifespan than do reducers. If you believe the life insurance companies, it may even be the reverse, because at least the last time I checked, they gave better rates for high school graduates who had strong academic records.

So this personality dimension also has to be taken into consideration when thinking about friend networks. The augmenters simply do not need or want as many friends. Reducers tend to have larger friend networks. So the material in my previous post has to be understood with a little more nuance than I first expressed it.

One way to think of it is in terms of augmenters who have relatively strong friend networks for augmenters, and reducers who have relatively strong friend networks for reducers. For each of these the observations might hold relative to those with weaker friend networks in each category. One might also argue that some augmenters do not need many friends, have very small friend networks, and so what! As long as they do not have an accident, they are just fine. But they are probably a pretty small part of the population. There are many more who would be better off for having a network of friends suitable for them.

A great research topic for somebody.

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