Sunday, November 13, 2011

On the measurement of energy

Steve Sailer says, "It's unfortunate that social scientists don't seem to have a reliable quick test of energy the way they have tests of intelligence, since it's obvious that energy differs widely among individuals and is important in influencing life outcomes."

The GSS has asked participants the following: "How much of the time during the past 4 weeks did you have a lot of energy?" Turns out, the answers are roughly normally distributed (sample size = 1,409):

Percent having a lot of energy over the past month

All the time 10.4
Most of the time 34.5
A good bit of time 22.6
Some of the time 18.4
A little biit of the time 9.5
None of the time  4.6

And here are the correlations with several variables:

Age -.18
Education .12
Income .15
Occupational prestige .05

As expected, energy decreases with age, and is associated with more education and income. (The correlation with occupational prestige is trivial).

These findings provide evidence that this single item is not an invalid measure of energy. The correlations are small, but I would expect just that, given that we are measuring a trait at one moment in time that has exerted its influence over a lifetime.  Add to that the fact that energy level is probably not as stable over time as, say, IQ.

Like Steve, I see energy making a big difference. I would be a much more accomplished person if I had the energy. Reading my blog, you might think I have a preference for brevity. Truth is, I'm too lazy to write more. I'd like to do the research to find out how to boost my drive, but it makes me tired even to contemplate it. I'll lie down and let the impulse pass.


NicholasHoltman said...

Any correlation between energy and ambition? Both are probably involved in accomplishment, and I'd appreciate the insight into their relationship.

Jehu said...

The problem with energy, and frankly a lot of other things that are associated with success that one might like to be able to screen for is that tests of it are extremely gameable. Thus you will find that you can't attach them to anything where the stakes are high.

Anonymous said...


Jason Malloy said...

Energy all of the time:

male: 13.4%
female: 7.9%

Protestant: 7.5%
Catholic: 14.6%
Jewish: 10.2%
none: 12.7%

21-30: 10.9%
31-40: 12.6%
41-50: 8.4%
51-60: 10.0%

White: 10.6%
Black: 8.6%
Native Am: 7.3%

English: 7.8%
Irish: 9.1%
German: 9.1%
Italian: 4.2%
Mexican: 18.5%

The m/f difference is large, and Catholics appear to have a lot more energy than Protestants, despite a similar average age. Mexicans seem to have unusually high energy, but this is not the reason Catholics have such high energy. The religious difference is even larger when I limited the sample to 25 European ethnic groups:

Protestant: 4.9% (n=405)
Catholic: 13.2% (n=217)

Jason Malloy said...

Forgot an important one:

wordsum IQ
0-2: 11.6%
3-4: 14.8%
5-6: 10.2%
7-8: 8.7%
9-10: 5.0%

Intelligence and energy have an inverse relationship! Smarter people feel a lot more drained.

Anonymous said...

How about energy by income level?

agnostic said...

That energy questions shows a decent male advantage and a HUGE Mexican advantage, so I think it's measuring how ADD a person is. How much they felt like they couldn't sit still and just had to get up and move around.

It could be measuring restlessness more than how full of energy you are (non-ADD people could have lots of energy and not have to run around like crazy Mexican kids in the supermarket).