Nonlinear effect of social interaction quantity on psychological well-being: Diminishing returns or inverted U?

Dongning Ren*, Olga Stavrova, Wen Wei Loh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
176 Downloads (Pure)


Social contact is an important ingredient of a happy and satisfying life. But is more social contact necessarily better? Although it is well-established that increasing the quantity of social interactions on the low end of its spectrum promotes psychological well-being, the effect of interaction quantity on the high end remains largely unexplored. We propose that the effect of interaction quantity is nonlinear; specifically, at high levels of interaction quantity, its positive effects may be reduced (Diminishing Returns Hypothesis) or even reversed (Inverted U Hypothesis). To test these two competing hypotheses, we conducted a series of six studies involving a total of 161,836 participants using experimental (Study 1), cross-sectional (Studies 2 and 3), daily diary (Study 4), experience sampling (Study 5), and longitudinal survey designs (Study 6). Consistent evidence emerged across the studies supporting the Diminishing Returns Hypothesis. On the low end of the interaction quantity spectrum, increasing interaction quantity enhanced well-being as expected; whereas on the high end of the spectrum, the effect of interaction quantity was reduced or became nearly negligible, but did not turn negative. Taken together, the present research provides compelling evidence that the well-being benefits of social interactions are nearly negligible after moderate quantities of interactions are achieved

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1056-1074
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • LIFE
  • NEED
  • SELF
  • happiness
  • inverted-U
  • life satisfaction
  • social interactions
  • well-being


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