Are there any advantages to having a slow personal tempo?
It seems like people have a general level of speed that applies to much of their activity. Some people read, write, walk, talk, think, and wash the dishes slowly. And some do all those things quickly. This sort of general speed is often called “personal tempo” in the relevant literature.
On the face of it, people with a fast personal tempo should have major advantages. All else being equal, they should be able to accomplish more in the same amount of time as people with a slow personal tempo.
But is all else equal? Are there trade-offs with differences in speed? Do people with a slow personal tempo have any advantages over generally fast people? And if so, what would those advantages be?
Where are we so far with this question?[edit | edit source]
We’re still in the literature review stage. There is some empirical research on personal tempo. But most of that work seeks to test if personal tempo exists, with very little attention paid to comparative advantages between fast and slow personal tempo. That work is also mostly quite old. Our research methods have become more rigorous since much of that work was done. That, combined with the fact that there is no unambiguous findings in personal tempo research, leads us to see that body of research as merely suggestive. Maybe they can point to interesting theoretical distinctions or testing methodologies.
There are also many domains that seem plausibly related to personal tempo. We list and summarize a lot of that work below. There is still much more in the way of literature review that we can do here.
We’re starting to contact researchers with relevant domain knowledge to way in on this question.
We’re also starting to consider possible empirical work that could begin to answer our question and connect personal tempo to related domains (like processing speed).
Do people have a personal tempo?[edit | edit source]
Maybe people’s speed in various tasks are largely uncorrelated with each other. Maybe people don’t really have a personal tempo at all. As far as we can find, there hasn’t been definitive empirical work that supports the existence (or non-existence) of personal tempo. The findings on the question are mixed.
See Do people have a general speed? for further exploration of this question.
For the purposes of our question on this page, we are assuming that people do have a personal tempo.
Possibly Related Research[edit | edit source]
[See Scientific Question Template for notes on what should and should not go in this section]
General story about evolution of personality[edit | edit source]
Personal tempo could plausibly be a personality trait like agreeableness or extroversion. If that's the case, then the story about why the population has different personalities may provide a useful context to our question.
There are a few possible ways that evolution could lead to variation in personality traits. Personality traits involve trade-offs. For example, neurotic people are more likely to be mentally and physically ill. If that were the whole story, you'd expect neuroticism to be selected out of the population. But neurotic people may also benefit in certain contexts from being more attuned to potential threats. Given a certain time and place a certain level of neuroticism may be ideal. But because our evolutionary history was complex enough, in some times and places more neurotic people succeeded and in others less neurotic people did better.
And the benefit of having a certain trait may even depend on how many other people have that trait in the population. Take, for example, antisocial behavior. In a population of people who mostly trust each other, and don't seek to take advantage of each other, antisocial behavior can get ahead by taking advantage of that trust. But if there are enough antisocial people in the population, people will start to trust each other less, and perhaps be more harsh on cheaters. So there is probably some sort of equilibrium where there can only be a certain amount of non-trustworthy people in a population. This is the concept of frequency dependent selection.
Often in games there are multiple viable strategies and it doesn’t make sense to look for the "best" strategy in absolute terms. It may be the case that being generally slow and generally fast are two viable strategies, each successful in different sets of circumstances.
On the opposite side, speed could be more like height. People vary widely in their height, but this seems to be largely due to just pure random variation. We need to look more into the relevant literature to figure out what kind of evidence could decide between the trade-off story and the random variation story.
Further reading:[edit | edit source]
Nettle, D. (2006). The evolution of personality variation in humans and other animals. American Psychologist, 61(6), 622–631.
Andrew Sih, Kimberley J. Mathot, María Moirón, Pierre-Olivier Montiglio, Max Wolf, Niels J. Dingemanse, (2015) Animal personality and state–behaviour feedbacks: a review and guide for empiricists, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2014.11.004.
Processing speed[edit | edit source]
Processing Speed is essentially the speed at which you can perform simple mental tasks (like pushing a button when seeing a light). The research on processing speed would be relevant to our question if there is a correlation between processing speed and the speed at which you do normal things in life (walking, talking, reading, cooking etc). There is at least some evidence in this direction. Processing speed may play an important role in the association between walking speed and dementia. The slowing of walking speed appears to occur secondary to the slowing of processing speed in the path leading to dementia. There may be more evidence that processing speed is correlated with personal tempo, but we haven't found it yet.
Processing speed changes over our life-time. We start off with very slow processing speed. That speeds up over time and peaks around age 30. Then it gradually slows down as we get older.
Current medical reviews indicate that signaling through the dopamine pathways originating in the ventral tegmental area is strongly positively correlated with improved (shortened) [reaction time]; e.g., dopaminergic pharmaceuticals like amphetamine have been shown to expedite responses during interval timing, while dopamine antagonists (specifically, for D2-type receptors) produce the opposite effect. Similarly, age-related loss of dopamine from the striatum, as measured by SPECT imaging of the dopamine transporter, strongly correlates with slowed RT.
Processing speed seems very likely to be connected to personal tempo. We don’t yet know if there is existing research that makes that connection, or if we’ll have to do more empirical work to test for a connection.
Speed vs Accuracy[edit | edit source]
There is a tradeoff between speed and accuracy in many different domains. Generally speaking, the faster a decision or action is made, the less accurate it becomes. For example, people (and computers) playing chess at a fast time constraint will make more mistakes than with slower time settings. If you had to carry an egg on a spoon, it would be easier if you walked slowly vs running. The tradeoff seems to be rooted in a mathematical principle, sequential sampling, which is why you see it come up in so many different domains. According to a review of the research:
Consider a choice between two competing hypotheses—say, whether or not a batch of product contains sufficient defects to warrant rejection. At the outset, one may already have some prior expectation regarding which hypothesis is more likely. An updated posterior probability can be computed by simply sampling information (e.g., units of product) sequentially. The problem is that information is costly—each sample takes some quanta of time and effort. Therefore, it is in one’s best interest to sample as little as possible to reach some specified compromise between confidence and time spent sampling.
If there is a benefit to being slow, it might be the advantage of being more precise and accurate, vs. being fast and impulsive.
It may be the case that people with slow personal tempo are temperamentally inclined to prefer accuracy over speed. See the section on Cognitive tempo for further discussion.
Further reading:[edit | edit source]
Marco Del Giudice and Bernard J. Crespi, (2018), Basic functional trade-offs in cognition: An integrative framework. The authors situate the speed vs accuracy tradeoff in a general theory of cognitive tradeoffs.
In Linking behavioural syndromes and cognition: a behavioural ecology perspective, the overarching hypothesis of Andrew Sih and Marco Del Giudice “is that the fundamental aspect of cognition that relates closely with individual differences along the bold–aggressive– active–exploratory [behavioral type] axis is individual variation in the speed–accuracy trade-off that underlies, at least in part, individual differences in various aspects of cognition.”
Myelination[edit | edit source]
Myelination increases the speed of signals in neurons. And yet, not all neurons are myelinated. Which begs the question, why not? There must be some tradeoffs that make it optimal for certain neurons to be myelinated and not others.
Children keep 'building' myelin around their axons as they grow. We speculate (and perhaps there is research on this), that this may in part explain why children have slower processing speed than adults. Why would children have less myelination? Could myelination inhibit learning? We’re confident there must be some relevant literature on these types of questions, but haven’t found it yet.
It seems possible that there may be differences in levels or types of myelination in the brains of people with slow vs fast personal tempo. If so, myelination may be relevant to our question.
Intelligence[edit | edit source]
In English (and probably in many other languages), to call someone “slow” is to call them less intelligent. For the purposes of this project, we have tried to write in terms of “people with slow personal tempo” instead of “slow people” to avoid the association with lack of intelligence. But where we do use “slow people” we don’t mean to imply anything about intelligence. It’s just a shorthand for “people with slow personal tempo.”
Still, it’s an open empirical question whether there may be a relationship between personal tempo and intelligence. We don't know of any work done on that question.
There does seem to be some connection between processing speed and intelligence. Faster processing speed is correlated with higher IQ but only moderately (anywhere between .0 - .6, depending on the source and the way they measure these things). We’d guess that this mild statistical trend may explain why in many languages the word “slow”, when applied to people, has connotations of low intelligence.
As this is only a moderate correlation, there must be plenty of high IQ people who have slow processing speed.
Because we don't yet know the relationship between personal tempo and processing speed, we don't know how relevant the processing speed/IQ correlation is to our present question. But even if people with slow personal tempo have on average a lower general intelligence than people with fast personal tempo, that my not tell you much about any given slow person. See the examples of slow peoplefor people who are clearly smart and high achieving, but slow.
If two people had the same level of general intelligence, and one person was faster than the other, you’d expect to find the faster person to be able to outperform the slower one in many tasks. So one way to phrase our question might be “controlling for general intelligence, do slow people have any advantages over fast people?”
Age Related Slowing[edit | edit source]
It’s an often observed phenomenon that people get slower as they get older. We haven’t yet reviewed the large body of literature on this topic, but we have reason to expect it would be fruitful. It may shed light on the mechanisms and symptoms of slow personal tempo.
[todo: add sources and summarize the relevant literature]
Life History Theory[edit | edit source]
Life history theory (LHT) is a framework for explaining differences between and within species and individuals, regarding their life histories. An organism's life history is the order and timing of the various stages of their life—age of maturity, when and how often they reproduce, the size of the offspring and the time of the gestation, life span etc. Initially life history theory was closely tied to r/K selection theory.
According to life history theory, different animals have different life history strategies. One of the main axes of life history strategies is the slow-fast continuum—species and individuals are placed on this continuum depending on how fast or slow their development is, how early or late in life they reach sexual maturity, etc. Marco Del Giudice gives an excellent overview of life history theory and how it may (or may not) related to individual human differences in Rethinking the fast-slow continuum of individual differences. He writes:
The term “fast-slow continuum” was coined by Sæther (1987), but the empirical pattern it describes had been noted much earlier (e.g., Pianka, 1970; Tinkle, Wilbur, & Tilley, 1970), and initially explained with species differences in r- versus K-selection (favoring the evolution of faster vs. slower life histories, respectively; see Section 2.2). Species at the fast end of the continuum have high mortality and short lifespans; they mature and start reproduction early, produce small offspring at a fast rate, and show high fertility (at least in mammals and birds; see below for more discussion). Species at the slow end take long to mature and start reproduction, enjoy low mortality rates and long lifespans, and tend to produce few, large offspring at a slow rate. While faster species tend to be smaller and slower species tend to be larger, controlling for body size does not make the continuum disappear, and the overall pattern typically remains very similar (e.g., Del Giudice, 2014b; Stearns, 1983; see below). Fast-slow continua have been documented in mammals (including primates), birds, fish, reptiles, insects, and other animals (e.g., Bakewell, Davis, Freckleton, Isaac, & Mayhew, 2020; Healy et al., 2019; Jeschke & Kokko, 2009; Oli, 2004; Promislow & Harvey, 1990; Ross, 1988; Stearns, 1983); recent comparative studies have found a similar pattern in plants (Rüger et al., 2018; SalgueroGómez, 2017; Salguero-Gómez et al., 2016).
LHT and its specific traits can be associated with further physiological and behavioral traits (pace-of-life syndromes), such as risk taking, body size, future or present-orientation, sensations seeking, goal-oriented personality and others.
These are some of the personality traits that are often related to life history strategies in humans:
Slow life history strategy indicators include restricted sociosexuality, relationship stability, risk aversion, and prosocial behavior and these appear to be associated with such personality traits as conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability (the reverse of neuroticism).
Fast life history strategy indicators include such personality factors as extraversion, openness to experience, and neuroticism (i.e., low emotional stability) correlate to various degrees with unrestricted sociosexuality, short-term mating, relationship instability, and risk taking, as well as aggressive, disruptive, and antisocial behavior.
Relevance to personal tempo[edit | edit source]
Although the literature in this domain talks about "slow" strategies and "fast" strategies, these are not necessarily in reference to the personal tempo of the individuals with those strategies. We haven't yet found any unambiguous connections between the fast-slow continuum in life history theory and personal tempo. Still there are a few reasons why we think they may be connected.
- There is evidence that autism is a type of slow slow life history strategy—and there is also evidence that there is a correlation between autism and a slower processing speed.
- It's plausible that individuals (humans or non-human animals) with a slow personal tempo would take longer to reach certain life milestones (indicating a slow life history strategy). Personal tempo is more about smaller scale behaviors, but it would seem strange that doing every-day activities slowly would be entirely uncorrelated with a slow life history strategy.
- Extraversion seems to be both connected to faster life history strategies and to faster processing speed [todo: add sources]
- Also, it’s plausible that animals/people with slower metabolism might have a slower personal tempo and slow metabolism seems to correspond to a slow life history strategy [todo: needs source].
Warning[edit | edit source]
The literature on life history theory, especially as applied to humans, is very messy. We shouldn't lean to heavily on anything in here as it's difficult to find anything that's on solid ground. Especially as a non-expert.
- Life History Theory as applied to inter-individual variation(video of a discussion between researchers in the field)
- here are two good reviews of the literature:
- Willem E. Frankenhuis and Daniel Nettle (2020), Current debates in human life history research
- Marco Del Giudice (2020), Rethinking the fast-slow continuum of individual differences [todo: it may be useful to read this carefully and take notes on what may be relevant to the question of personal tempo]
- Scott Alexander's review of Marco Del Giudice's book Evolution of Psychopathology (2018): BOOK REVIEW: EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
- (2020) Using sequence analysis to test if human life histories are coherent strategies
- "Results provide little evidence that humans follow coherent life-history strategies." It would be interesting to know what Del Giudice thinks of this.
Mental clock and time perception[edit | edit source]
Humans (and probably other animals) have the ability to estimate time intervals without using external time keeping signals (like a watch). This suggests we have some general purpose biological system for keeping track of time. We don't yet know how exactly this is done. But one idea is that there is some sort of metronome in the brain that pulses at regular intervals. This, combined with some mechanism that could count the pulses, and some memory of how many pulses correspond to some time interval (say a minute), could allow us to estimate time intervals.
The clock speed of this internal "metronome" differs between people, and seems to speed up with stimulants. Older people perceive time as passing more quickly than younger people.
This internal clock speed may be related to personal tempo. Maybe people with a slower personal tempo have a slower internal clock speed. If so, maybe the research on mental clocks and time perception would be relevant to our question.
There is evidence that speed of movement influences time perception.  We haven’t found research that would show that the opposite is true.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Melissa J Allman, Sundeep Teki (2013) Timothy D Griffiths, Warren H Meck Properties of the internal clock: first- and second-order principles of subjective time
- Marco Walg, Gerhard Hapfelmeier, Daniel El-Wahsch & Helmut Prior (2017) The faster internal clock in ADHD is related to lower processing speed: WISC-IV profile analyses and time estimation tasks facilitate the distinction between real ADHD and pseudo-ADHD
- Emma Allingham, David Hammerschmidt , Clemens Wöllner, (2020) Time perception in human movement: Effects of speed and agency on duration estimation
Speed and Personality[edit | edit source]
Extraversion[edit | edit source]
Extraverts on average have faster processing speed. This lines up well with the evidence that extraversion is related to more efficient dopamine systems, and that increases in dopamine increase processing speed.
This also fits well with the life history theory stuff. Extraversion seems to be associated with a fast life history strategy (see that section on this page).
If extraverts on average have a faster personal tempo than introverts, we may be able to use the literature on the advantages of introversion to answer the question on this page.
Personality and metabolic rate[edit | edit source]
A recent study in humans attempts to find a correlation between metabolic rate, preferred walking speed and the Big-5 personality traits. Extraversion was the only trait where there were significant results. It appeared to be negatively related to resting metabolic rate. Since extraversion is thought to be related to a fast life history strategy, this is the opposite result than one would expect. One explanation was that in order to sustain a high expenditure of energy in everyday life, humans with a fast strategy will have a lower resting metabolic rate (as a way to save on energy). None of the traits showed any correlation to Preferred Walking Speed.
Personality and walking speed[edit | edit source]
One meta-analysis found that higher neuroticism was associated with slower gait speed, whereas higher extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness were related to faster speed over time
Cognitive tempo[edit | edit source]
Cognitive tempo (a term of cognitive psychology, also known as reflectivity/impulsivity) is a type of cognitive style defined as the extent to which an individual differs in terms of their ability to respond carefully and slowly, as opposed to quickly and with errors. This seems directly related to the speed vs accuracy tradeoff mentioned above, with reflective individuals differentially preferring the accuracy side, and impulsive individuals preferring the speed side of the tradeoff.
If people with slow personal tempo were in general more reflective and fast people more impulsive, then this area of research may be relevant to our question.
Sluggish cognitive tempo and ADHD inattentive type[edit | edit source]
ADHD is divided into 3 subtypes. One of which one which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder predominantly inattentive. From the wiki page:
The 'predominantly inattentive subtype' is similar to the other presentations of ADHD except that it is characterized primarily by problems with inattention or a deficit of sustained attention, such as procrastination, hesitation, and forgetfulness. It differs in having fewer or no typical symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsiveness. Lethargy and fatigue are sometimes reported, but ADHD-PI is a separate condition from the proposed cluster of symptoms known as sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT).
The concept of sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) began as the ADHD inattentive type, but some people argue that it should be considered a separate disorder. Either way, it is similar to ADHD-I and there is a large comorbidity. Its characteristics appear to be daydreaming, reduced alertness, slowed behavior/thinking, mental fogginess/confusion.
Despite the similar term, SCT doesn’t seem to be directly related to “cognitive tempo” as defined above.
By definition sluggish cognitive tempo is at least one way in which a person could have a generally slow personal tempo because it has as part of it's diagnostic criteria "slowed behavior and/or thinking."
Hypokinesia/Bradyphrenia[edit | edit source]
from the wikipedia page:
"Hypokinesia is one of the classifications of movement disorders, and refers to decreased bodily movement. Hypokinesia is characterized by a partial or complete loss of muscle movement due to a disruption in the basal ganglia. Hypokinesia is a symptom of Parkinson's disease shown as muscle rigidity and an inability to produce movement. It is also associated with mental health disorders and prolonged inactivity due to illness, amongst other diseases."
One type of hypokinesia is bradyphrenia. From the wikipidia page:
"Bradyphrenia is the slowness of thought common to many disorders of the brain. Disorders characterized by bradyphrenia include Parkinson's disease and forms of schizophrenia consequently causing a delayed response and fatigue. Patients with bradyphrenia may describe or may manifest slowed thought processes, evidenced by increased latency of response and also involve severe memory impairment and poor motor control. The word 'bradyphrenia' originates from the ancient Greek meaning 'slow mind.'"
These conditions are largely found in people with extreme neurological disorders. It's difficult to imagine how it could in any way be an advantage to have bradyphrenia. But maybe the literature in this domain could still be relevant to our question. For example, these types of pathological slowness may be an extreme version of a more every day type of slow personal tempo we are interested in. So maybe the underlying mechanisms could be similar. There seems to be something strange going on with dopamine, for example, as it plays a role in Hypokinesia and processing speed (see the wikipedia pages on both of those).
Old Masters and Young Geniuses[edit | edit source]
David Galenson studied painters (and later other artists like poets and novelists). He tried to quantify the "value" of an artists paintings to see how old they were when they produced their most valuable work. He assessed value by looking at the selling price of paintings and by counting mentions in art history text books. He found two clusters, those who produced their best work early, and those who produced their best work later. And he found that the artists in these two clusters tended to have different characteristics. The first were conceptualists, who make radical innovations in their field at a very early age; and experimentalists, whose innovations develop slowly over a long period of experimentation and refinement.
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they're going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there's going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don't know how many branches it's going to have, they find out as it grows. And I'm much more a gardener than an architect.”
We thought that maybe this work would be related to fast and slow people, with slow people being more likely to be experimentalists and fast people being conceptualists. There are a few considerations that suggest this may be the case. For one thing, a few prominent experimentalists are clearly slow people (George RR Martin, Darwin, Mark Twain). Experimentalists also tend to "mature" (that is, do their best work) later in life than conceptualists. This loosely fits with a slow/fast pace of life story which may be related to personal tempo.
But the experimentalist vs conceptualist distinction seems more properly to fit with how much you prefer to plan things vs improvise. And it seems like you could be a slow planner just as easily as a slow improviser. And indeed there seem to be fast improvisers (Steven King writes extremely quickly and seems to line up with Galenson’s experimentalists). So maybe there's nothing here after all. It may be worth reaching out to Galenson and seeing what he thinks about the matter.
Relevant questions[edit | edit source]
Are fast people architects/conceptualists and slow people gardeners/experimentalists?
Is this distinction related to slow and fast life history?
Thinking Fast and Slow[edit | edit source]
In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman outlines two modes of thought: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.
While there are many tradeoffs between the two systems, it's not clear if his work is related to our question here. These two modes of thought are present in everyone. People with fast personal tempo and slow personal tempo will use both types of thinking. And even if people with different personal tempos use system 1 and system 2 to the same degree, it's plausible that the faster people have a faster system 2 (and maybe system 1) than slower people.
Still, it is possible that people with slow personal tempo rely on system 2 thinking more than people with fast personal tempo. If so, than Kahneman's work would be relevant to the question on this page.
Left to be determined:
- Do people who have a slow personal tempo use System 2 more often?
- Does everyone use the two systems to the same degree, and the slower people just have a slower system 2 (and even system 1) than the faster people?
Spontaneous Motor Tempo[edit | edit source]
"Spontaneous motor tempo (SMT) can be observed in many daily activities such as walking, hand clapping, or swimming. It describes the tempo of self-paced regular and repeated movements and corresponds to the preferred and natural pace to carry out isochronous motor actions, hence SMT is also called internal tempo (Boltz, 1994; Vanneste et al., 2001)."
Much of the early work on personal tempo assumed that it could be measured by measuring rhythmic activity, in other words, spontaneous motor tempo. It is clear that SMT was taken to indicate a more general speed in early studies. But in later studies that connection was lost. Although research on personal tempo has largely stopped, the use of finger tapping as a measurement has continued. And this seems to be the biggest legacy of that early personal tempo work. It's not entirely clear if SMT accurately measures personal tempo, but it seems plausible that it would.
People's SMT starts out fast as a kid and gets slower through-out the lifespan. Because kids have slower processing speed but faster SMT, SMT must not just be a measure of processing speed (though they still may be related).
Some people hypothesize that SMT could measure the rate of our mental clock.
The relevance of SMT to our current question seems to be primarily as a potential way of measuring personal tempo. There may also be more relevant information in the SMT literature. We need to read more on this topic.
Existing Discussion[edit | edit source]
These discussions are largely based on anecdote. As such, they may be useful starting points or inspiration for hypothesizing, but shouldn't be taken as strong evidence for any particular claim about personal tempo.
Discussion on this wiki[edit | edit source]
Here are some slow people anecdotes posted to this wiki (feel free to add to these).
Here's a google doc were we discuss possible updates to this page.
Malcom Gladwell[edit | edit source]
Malcome Gladwell seems to be pretty interested in this general area. He has two podcast episodes (here, and here) where he argues that the LSAT favors "hares" over "tortoises" because of its timed nature. He thinks this is inappropriate as the practice of law sometimes seems more suited to tortoises. Gladwell discusses his ideas with Adam Grant (notes). Here and here are decent responses to Gladwell (though most of their responses/critiques may not be relevant here).
Gladwell mentions in his podcast this article where William D. Henderson argues that the timed LSAT is favoring fast people.
Discussions in forums etc.[edit | edit source]
There is some online discussion related to our question on whether slow people have any advantages on Derek Sivers's blog, Hacker News, Reddit, Quora, and Stackexchange.
Examples of Slow People[edit | edit source]
- Mark Twain:
- "I have seen slower people than I am -- and more deliberate people than I am -- and even quieter, and more listless, and lazier people than I am. But they were dead."
- He took about 20 years to write On the Origin of Species.
- He writes "I have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so remarkable in some clever men, for instance, Huxley. I am therefore a poor critic: a paper or book, when first read, generally excites my admiration, and it is only after considerable reflection that I perceive the weak points."
- and "At no time am I quick thinker or writer; whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience & industry."
- There is some evidence that Einstein was considered 'slow' when he was a child. Though it's unclear if they meant 'slow' as in 'not smart' or just slow moving. Left to be determined: is there any evidence that the trait persisted in his adulthood?
- Maryam Mirzakhani (Fields Medalist)
- Pierre Curie
In Popular Culture[edit | edit source]
- Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare. And there are many similar race stories: The Tortoise and the Hare and other races between unequal contestants
Possible Experiments/Studies[edit | edit source]
It may be useful to first determine if people did have a personal tempo (see Do people have a general speed? for proposed work in that direction).
Exploratory work[edit | edit source]
As this seems to be a question that hasn't yet been studied, we may want to do a decent amount of exploratory work first.
- We could interview people who self identify as having a fast or slow personal tempo and see how they describe themselves and what the they feel are the (dis)advantages of being fast or slow.
- We could also interview people who know these self identified fast and slow people to see if they would agree with the self assessment.
- There is some anecdotal evidence that people doing finish work (work that's visible in the finished product) in construction have a slower personal tempo than people doing rough work (work that's not visible in the finished product). This would be predicted by the speed vs accuracy tradeoff. To test this sort of thing, it would be nice to interview the two types of construction workers and see if they seem to have different personal tempos, if they would describe themselves as fast or slow etc.
- There may be hints in language about personal tempo. For example, when calling a person "slow" we normally are implying that they aren't smart. (see the discussion about IQ above). But there are also some negative correlations to calling someone "fast". Maybe we could do a more thorough analysis of connotations of calling someone "fast" or "slow" in different countries/languages. These things might be difficult to find in normal dictionaries, especially as a non-native speaker. Urban dictionaries may be more useful, and contacting people who live in those different countries.
TODO[edit | edit source]
Related Questions[edit | edit source]
- Personal tempo
- Do people actually have a general speed?
- What advantages do fast people have (besides being able to do more things in less time)?
- Why, from an evolutionary standpoint, do we have fast and slow people?
- How can we measure personal tempo?
- Do city people have a faster personal tempo than country people?
- If so, why?
- What are the advantages of being introverted?
- What are the advantages of being extraverted?
- What is the biological difference between extraverts and introverts?
- Which animals are slow?
- What are the commonalities between slower moving animals?
- Is spontaneous motor tempo a good measure of personal tempo?
- What behavioral characteristics have been associated with differences in SMT?
- What is the relationship between spontaneous motor tempo and processing speed?
- Is there a relationship between extraversion and SMT?
- Life history
- Do human's show stable individual differences in life history strategies?
- What is the relationship between personal tempo and the fast-slow spectrum in life history theory?
- Processing speed
- Is there any research on the potential benefits of having slower processing speed?
- What is the relationship between processing speed and personal tempo?
- Cognitive tempo
- What is the relationship between reflective/impulsive cognitive style and personal tempo?
- What is the relationship between reflective/impulsive cognitive style and processing speed?
- What is the relationship between reflective/impulsive cognitive style and extraversion?
- Speed vs accuracy tradeoff
- Do construction workers who do finish work have a slower personal tempo than those that do rough work?
- What are the exceptions to the speed vs accuracy tradeoff?
- Where does the speed vs accuracy tradeoff show up in human behavior?
- How does the speed vs accuracy tradeoff show up in animal personality?
- Why do people get slower as they get older?
- Do people get less extraverted as they get older?
- Are people with a slow personal tempo more likely to get Parkinson's when they age?
- Do people with autism on average have a slower personal tempo?
- And what about when controlling for extraversion?
- Do people with autism have a slower spontaneous motor tempo?
- Do people with autism on average have a slower personal tempo?
- Is there a connection between metabolism and personal tempo?
- Did Einstein have a slow personal tempo?
- Do distance runners and sprinters have different personalities?
- Do people who have a slow personal tempo use System 2 more often?
- Does everyone use the two systems to the same degree, and the slower people just have a slower system 2 (and even system 1) than the faster people?
- What is the relationship between Galenson's experimentalists/conceptualists and personal tempo?
References[edit | edit source]
- Yannick Stephan, Angelina R. Sutin , Gabriel Bovier-Lapierre, and Antonio Terracciano, (2018) Personality and Walking Speed Across Adulthood: Prospective Evidence From Five Samples
- Sinead Rocha, Victoria Southgate, Denis Mareschal, (2020) Infant Spontaneous Motor Tempo "It has been widely reported that both adult SMT and adult walking cadence lie in the range of 600 ms IOI, or around 120 beats per minute (Fraisse, 1982). One possibility is that this relationship is causal, with walking cadence being the origin of our preferred tempo at which to move, and perhaps even to listen. Studies revealing correlations between anthropometrics (measures of body size) and SMT have been used to argue for this possibility, following the logic that body size may be used as a proxy for walking cadence, as rate of locomotion should be set by the mechanics of the human body (see Repp, 2007; Todd & Lee, 2007, for debate on this subject). Studies of adults suggest larger bodies prefer slower rhythms. Spontaneous Motor Tempo is often measured as the inter‐onset interval (IOI) between a person's self‐paced finger taps (Fraisse, 1982). Adult SMT is highly stable, showing little intra‐individual variability across testing sessions spanning several days (Vanneste, Pouthas, & Wearden, 2001). However, across the lifespan, SMT is known to change. Children's SMT is faster than adults, who are in turn faster than older people, with a cubic relationship suggesting that SMT slows with age during childhood and late adulthood, but remains consistent through mid‐adulthood (aged 18–38 years, M = 630 ms IOI; McAuley, Jones, Holub, Johnston, & Miller, 2006)."
- David Hammerschmidt, Klaus Frieler, and Clemens Wöllner, (2021) Spontaneous Motor Tempo: Investigating Psychological, Chronobiological, and Demographic Factors in a Large-Scale Online Tapping Experiment "SMT is a central feature in the psychophysics of time perception and plays a crucial role for timing and time processes. According to McAuley and Jones (2003), prevalent models of time experiences can be classified into interval-based and entrainment-based mechanisms. Interval models assume an “internal clock,” which is described in terms of a pacemaker producing periodic pulses (Treisman, 1963; Grondin, 2010; Allman et al., 2014). Entrainment models like the dynamic attending theory, on the other hand, propose self-sustaining oscillations as the underlying mechanism of time perception, with attentional pulses reflecting attending energy at a given point of time (Jones and Boltz, 1989; Large and Jones, 1999). Both classes of models (i.e., interval-based and entrainment-based) share the assumption of an intrinsic timekeeper, that is the pacemaker in interval models and the oscillator in entrainment models. SMT can be seen as an estimate of this intrinsic timekeeper, reflecting the pacemaker's preferred pulse rate or the oscillator's preferred period, respectively."