Is there a happiness cost to being too patient?

We find that excessive patience is costly for individual well-being. This result is consistent across nine different measures of subjective well-being. Our measure of patience varies from a minimum of -1.31 to a maximum of 2.76 (this measure has standardized mean of zero and standard deviation of 1). For one of the main well-being indices, the life evaluation index, the level of patience that maximizes happiness is equal to 1.56, a numerical value similar to the one obtained using other well-being indicators.


…moving from a level of patience of 1.40 corresponding to the peak in the positive experience index to the 99thpercentile in patience reduces the positive experienced index by 1.07, equivalent to 26% of the difference in happiness between those who completed college (7.16) and those with a high school diploma (3.12).

Contrary to how the language of the authors might be interpreted, this is a correlation rather than an established relationship.

The 13 pp. paper by Paola Giuliano and Paola Sapienza is too short, but interesting nonetheless.  I also would like to see a study on how the patience of parents affects the happiness of their children and grandchildren.


Is it possible to describe the patience index in real world terms? Like proceeding thru yellow lights ?

"the difference in happiness between those who completed college (7.16) and those with a high school diploma (3.12)."

Credentialism has not run amok apparently contra the other blog post.

Patience without a context is a meaningless term. My mom and sisters are seamstresses, and waiting for them while they shopped for fabric made my happiness index drop.

But one of the most enjoyable experiences is finding a talus slope at altitude, hearing the meep of a Pika, finding a spot where I can sit comfortably and wait patiently for them to poke their head up, figure out that I'm not a threat and watch them carry on with their activities. It takes about an hour usually. About the same length of time for my sister to select fabric, but far more satisfying.

Before looking at the article I thought the researchers might be using a limited notion of patience, that might be applicable only to certain situations whereas the same person might show impatience in other situations -- to use Tyler's example, maybe some people are patient with children but impatient in other situations.

That critique might still be applicable, but they have a reasonably well-recognized general purpose measure of patience.

The measure of happiness though looks as flimsy as a marshmallow. Totally subjective and self-reported. Maybe highly patient people are more likely to self-report lower levels of happiness (perhaps because they're forward-looking and can foresee high levels of possible happiness for themselves in the future). And of course the correlation vs causation issue that Tyler pointed out.

Well, being happy, feeling happy, are not very different are they. Thinking you're happy but not being happy, that's a problematic notion. It's true that people vary in how willing they are to report being happy, or how often they feel happy, and this varies culturally (Japanese are reluctant to report being/feeling happy, relative to Americans, for example, but then being/feeling happy is not something that Japanese believe or are taught to concentrate too much on. It's like it's selfish, too childish, too focused on what you personally feel, rather than what other people feel, or even more so, what is "really" happening or what is really important (such as executing your duties faithfully and sincerely).
Positive psychology assumes that people know what, or how, they feel in general (at least among the most common emotions) and are willing to truthfully state it (there are numerous methods for identifying fake and other non-veridical responding).
There may be better ways to study subjectivity. We're all waiting to hear the plan, as John Lennon said. (Very over-rated of course, I can write better songs, easily, but I'm too busy.)

The song quote is "We'd all love to see the plan"

And I hope you were kidding about being able to write better songs.

I don't believe that guy above can write better songs than John Lennon. If he could do it, why hasn't he done it yet? The world needs good songs. He was probably mocking the trolls who try to provoke reactions by saying the Beatles are over-rated.

We find that excessive patience is costly for individual well-being.
We do not like waiting in line. That one concept is enough to define almost all of what we think in economics. Being bottle necked causes psychic trauma.To minimize the waits in line is to be maximizing entropy, removing redundancy. It is all abstract tree, it is the Walmart checkout manager setting 'items per basket' so neither clerks nor customers become bogged at the checkout.

>Being bottle necked causes psychic trauma.

That's so 2005.

This problem was solved long ago by the smartphone.

I thought it was solved by power posing.

One's patience is a function of one's time horizon. To some, a four or five year degree program is an eternity. To others (those who complete the program), not so much. Is it worth the wait? My dog has no patience when I signal it's time to eat or go for a walk, but can patiently wait all day for the signal. Signaling: is it what we are waiting for?

Are you patient if you do not internally fight the inclination to yell, swore or skip the line? Don't you need to feel the internal impulses to act impatiently for being patient? if so, there is no such a thing as effortless/costless patience. Patience, whether moderate or excessive, is inherently (essentially) costly.

Real men don't practice patience. They take what is theirs. Real men don't care about happiness. Especially the happiness of others.

Patience is a virtue. That homily was accepted, perhaps for many generations. "Johnny, you can't open your presents until Christmas and that's not for two more days. Get away from that tree."

That idea has disappeared in the post-modern West because time has become commodified. Any length of time, regardless of whether it can be put to productive use or not, is considered to have an economic and and psychic value. It's so ingrained into the culture that people seldom reflect on it anymore. It's as though a few minutes "saved" in a short trip to the liquor store could be put in a time piggy bank to be spent lengthening a vacation in Cabo San Lucas next winter.

A major factor in the normalization of haste is the competitive nature of business and von Mises' ideas about time preference. Ceteris paribus an individual prefers that his wants be satisfied sooner rather than later. Companies advertise quicker delivery of products and services to differentiate themselves from other, less time-oriented firms. The industrial revolution and advanced, integrated transportation and communication technology have actually changed Western culture in ways most visible on the highways. Eighteenth century Americans would be astounded at the pace of today's society. There's no real proof that this transformation has actually been beneficial to humans, especially since the trend seems to be growing.

....there's no real proof the evolution of our large brains and coming down from the trees has been beneficial to humans either. Kurt Vonnegut made this claim often, especially in his novel "Galapagos"

This illumines things wondrously.

In the thirteenth disclosure of his First Prospectus to the Bank of Corinth, then, Paul may just have well written: "Love is patient, at least when it has attained a level of 1.40 corresponding to the peak in the positive experience index".

The world can hardly wait to see the rest of the translation, the metrics offer a decided improvement upon prior translation attempts. (This NBER paper was translated FROM Greek or has it yet been translated INTO Greek?)

Surely the paper has a simple definition of what it means by "patient" and perhaps just how they measure it for the analysis. Could that be added to the post?

My guess is that identifying the role of grandparent patience per se vs. the inherited traits that promote patience is what will be difficult.

I also would like to see a study on how the patience of parents affects the happiness of their children and grandchildren.

In general I suspect that impatience increases one's own happiness while decreasing that of others with whom one interacts. (Whether children, grandchildren, or waitstaff).

The optimal amount of patience probably represents some sort of equilibrium between happiness as a function of immediate gratification, and happiness as a function of maintaining relationships with other people.

Instant gratification is the province of children or adults that remain child-like. It's impossible to refute the proposition that in the US childhood can extend into the third decade of life. Twenty-year olds can longer decide if they wish to become addicted to nicotine. Twenty-six year olds can remain on their parents' health plan. Thirty-five year olds are still attending college, in an uninterrupted 29 years or more of education. People that consider themselves adults become extremely testy if their burger and fries don't appear in short order.

The "in a hurry" folks aren't simply trying to save time, however. Their haste indicates to those around them that they are important, that they have to go places, that it's critical to others that the mission be completed asap. They suffer from a personality defect that involves self-aggrandizement.

On the other hand, excessive patience lets those self-aggrandizing people impose their priorities upon you, so some degree of impatience with others is maybe a self-defense mechanism.

For some in the shop Vidmate being on the top of the life.

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