Different people seem to have different strategies, which they use systematically across different parts of their lives, and that we recognize and talk about. For instance people vary on:

  • Spontaneity
  • Inclination toward explicit calculations
  • Tendency to go meta
  • Skepticism
  • Optimism
  • Tendency to look at the big picture vs. the details
  • Expressed confidence
  • Enacted patience

I don’t know of almost anyone experimenting with varying these axes, to see which setting is best for them, or even what different settings are like. Which seems like a natural thing to do in some sense, given the variation in starting positions and lack of consensus on which positions are best.

Possibly it is just very hard to change them, but my impression is that for at least some of them it is not hard to try, or to change them a bit for a short period, with some effort. (I have briefly tried making decisions faster and expressing more confidence.) And my guess is that that is enough to often be interesting. Also that if you effortfully force yourself to be more skeptical and it seems to go really well, you will find that it becomes appealing and thus easier to keep up and then get used to. 

I also haven’t done this much, and it isn’t very clear to me why. Maybe it just doesn’t occur to people that much for some reason. (It also doesn’t occur to people to choose their value of time via experimentation I think, a related suggestion I like, I think from Tyler Cowen a long time ago.) So here, I suggest it. Fun date activity, maybe: randomly reselect one personality trait each, and both try to guess which one the other person is putting on.


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It seems largely true to me that it is not hard to create a temporary change in one of the axes, but I am curious if these can lead to permanently changed settings in the long run. I would be very curious to hear from anyone who's created lasting change through an experiment like this and what axis in particular they changed.

Personally, I've experimented with acting much more extroverted than I typically am in certain social contexts (interviews are a good example) and the new setting feels comfortable or even better at times. Gaining more experiences like this certainly makes the new setting seem more appealing but it does not seem to become easier, and I will always revert back to my default setting once the context changes. Maybe the shyness axis is particularly difficult to change.