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More art, less stink: Taking the PU out of PUA

67 Post author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 12:25AM

Overview:  This is a proposal for a LessWrong Pick Up Artist (PUA)-like sub-community; PUA without the PU (get it?)1. Members would focus on the deliberate practice of social artistry, but with non-mating goals. Origins and intent of the goal are discussed, possible topics for learning are listed, and suggestions for next steps are solicited.

Origins:

The PUA Community began decades ago with men that wanted to learn how to get better at seducing women. As I understand it, they simply began posting their (initially) awkward attempts at love online. Over the years, they appear to have amassed a fairly impressive set of practical knowledge and skills in this domain.

I admire and applaud this effort. However, my ability to meet women is not currently a limiting factor in my life satisfaction. In reading some of the PUA literature, I was struck how often different authors remarked on the unintended side benefits of their training: better relationships at work, better interviewing skills, more effective negotiations, more non-pickup social fun, better male friendships, more confidence, etc. These guys were able to make major strides in areas that I've struggled to improve at all in...  without even bloody intending to! This struck me as an something worth taking very seriously!

I find it alarming that such a valuable resource would be monopolized in pursuit of orgasm; it's rather as if a planet were to burn up its hydrocarbons instead of using them to make useful polymers. PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted. I say that my goals are noble, and as such I should have the opportunity to sharpen my skills to at least the keenness of a PUA master!

Statement of Purpose:

The purpose of this post is to open discussion on how to construct a community of developing social artisans, modeled after the useful components2 of the PUA community. If there is sufficient mass, the next goals are probably sussing out learning methods and logistics.

The mission of the hypothetical community will probably need to be fleshed out more explicitly (and I don't want to be too prescriptive), but pretty much what I was thinking was expressed well by Scott Adams:

...

I think technical people, and engineers in particular, will always have good job prospects. But what if you don't have the aptitude or personality to follow a technical path? How do you prepare for the future?

I'd like to see a college major focusing on the various skills of human persuasion. That's the sort of skillset that the marketplace will always value and the Internet is unlikely to replace. The persuasion coursework might include...

  • Sales methods
  • Psychology of persuasion
  • Human Interface design
  • How to organize information for influence
  • Propaganda
  • Hypnosis
  • Cults
  • Art (specifically design)
  • Debate
  • Public speaking
  • Appearance (hair, makeup, clothes)
  • Negotiations
  • Managing difficult personalities
  • Management theory
  • Voice coaching
  • Networking
  • How to entertain
  • Golf and tennis
  • Conversation


You can imagine a few more classes that would be relevant. The idea is to create people who can enter any room and make it their bitch. [emphasis added]

Colleges are unlikely to offer this sort of major because society is afraid and appalled by anything that can be labeled "manipulation," which isn't even a real thing.

Manipulation isn't real because almost every human social or business activity has as its major or minor objective the influence of others. You can tell yourself that you dress the way you do because it makes you happy, but the real purpose of managing your appearance is to influence how others view you.

Humans actively sell themselves every minute they are interacting with anyone else. Selling yourself, which sounds almost noble, is little more than manipulating other people to do what is good for you but might not be so good for others. All I'm suggesting is that people could learn to be more effective at the things they are already trying to do all day long.

Word! [EDIT: We need not be bound by this exact list. For instance, there is no way I'm going to be doing any golfing.]

I've met people who were shockingly, seemingly preternaturally adept in social settings. Of course this is  not  magic. Like anything else, it can be reduced to a set of constituent steps and learned. We just need to figure out how.

Next steps:

I have a rather long list of ideas ready to go, but they made this post kind of awkward. Plus, Scott Adam's post says much of what I was trying to get at. Let's just start the conversation.

So, what do you think?


1 I have nothing whatsoever against the majority of the PUAers with whom I've had encounters, and the title is just meant to be funny. No offense!

2 The mention of PUA drags along several associations that I want to disavow (think anything obviously "Dark Arts"). I considered omitting the fact that much of the intellectual heritage of this idea is the PUAers to avoid these associations, but I couldn't think of another way to tie it together. This idea owes its genesis to the PUA community, but the product is not intended to be its exact replica. Undesirable elements need not be ported from the old system to the new.

Comments (618)

Comment author: Clippy 13 September 2010 01:41:12AM 12 points [-]

I want to join this so I can learn how to better convince humans to help me.

Comment author: XFrequentist 13 September 2010 01:55:40AM 13 points [-]

Clip Up Artist?

Comment author: wedrifid 13 September 2010 08:47:36AM 6 points [-]

So are we to expect anecdotes of Clippy negging HBs and getting "clip closes"? :P

Comment author: Clippy 13 September 2010 03:00:15PM 9 points [-]

Paperclips shouldn't "close" in the sense of the metal wire forming a closed curve; they should be open curves.

Comment author: thomblake 10 September 2010 09:26:47PM 28 points [-]

Scott's recommendations seem in-line with a lot of the training upper-class sorts used to get as a matter of course, even in schools (as I understand it, 'nobility' and the uber-rich still get it). It seems like it's about time this sort of thing is getting to the masses.

It seems like the discussion taking place on Lw is not out-of-line, as it seems to relate to an important aspect of instrumental rationality, so long as most of the discussion is coming from a solid empirical foundation.

It could fork off Lw if someone wants to provide the hosting. If so, a name like "Less Socially Wrong" or "Less Awkward" seems called-for.

Comment author: orthonormal 10 September 2010 11:53:35PM 18 points [-]

a name like... "Less Awkward" seems called-for.

Nuts! I was going to suggest that one!

Comment author: lukeprog 06 February 2011 06:08:31AM 4 points [-]

Nice.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 September 2010 04:15:05PM 6 points [-]

One of the first things you should learn in a Less Awkward class is that the name "Less Awkward" contains 2 words, both of which have negative associations, and thus is a poor choice of name.

(I like it, though.)

"Overcoming bias" has one negative word in conflict with one very strong positive word. "Less Wrong" is two negative words. But this is not a bad thing - Robin would like everyone to read Overcoming Bias, but I don't know if EY wants everyone to read LW. You could use an emotionally-unattractive name as a filter, to keep out less-rational people.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 September 2010 09:08:06PM 11 points [-]

I've had people say they liked the name "Less Wrong". Your heuristic may be too simple.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 December 2010 05:13:49PM 1 point [-]

The simple explanation seems to be that the two negatives cancel out, similar to "Not Meaningless" or "Without Shame". But maybe the explanation just seems simple/apparent to me because those two examples, and "Less Wrong", are emotionally attractive to me.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 10 September 2010 08:20:28AM *  8 points [-]

Sounds great.

I think the ideal scenario would be if we coordinated with Tricycle so that we could use our existing logins on the new site, but we had fresh karma scores or none at all.

Especially interesting would be a series of "sub-LWs" that one could be subscribed to in a way similar to subreddits. Other potential subLWs: posts that use math; posts on fighting akrasia (e.g. take caffeine pills at 6 AM and you'll wake naturally at 8 AM. That sort of thing.) Maybe even one for software development?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 02:09:40AM 34 points [-]

And so the Noble House of Slytherin begins to take form.

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 07:17:59PM *  12 points [-]

Slytherin 2.0, after its triumphant remake following Draco's enlightenment!

The skills in question have appeal across the Houses:

Draco smiled. "Father has, um, a rather refined sense of humor, but he does understand making friends. He understands it very well. In fact he made me repeat that before I went to bed every night for the last month, 'I will make friends at Hogwarts.' When I explained everything to him and he saw that's what I was doing, he not only apologized to me but bought me an ice-cream."

Harry's jaw dropped. "You managed to spin that into an ice-cream?" Draco nodded, looking every bit as smug as the feat deserved. "Well, father knew what I was doing, of course, but he's the one who taught me how to do it, and if I grin the right way while I'm doing it, that makes it a father-son thing and then he has to buy me an ice-cream or I'll give him this sort of sad look, like I think I must have disappointed him."

Harry eyed Draco calculatingly, sensing the presence of another master. "You've gotten lessons on how to manipulate people?"

"For as far back as I can remember," Draco said proudly. "Father bought me tutors."

"Wow," Harry said. Reading Robert Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice probably didn't stack up very high compared to that (though it was still one heck of a book). "Your dad is almost as awesome as my dad."

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 September 2010 10:41:46AM *  22 points [-]

The problem with a lot of personal development stuff is that people read it but never really change their behavior.

PUA has the advantage of making the way you practice relatively straightforward. You go to a club and approach girls. If you do dozens of approaches per week, sooner or later you will develop skills.

It's not complicated to plan to spent time in deliberate practice. It requires some confidence to overcome approach anxiety but you know what you have to do.

If you don't what to do at some step you can go and read a PUA article that explains a method in detail. It's all about removing barriers that stand in the way of deliberate practice.

When it comes to a skill like being good at job interviews than it's a lot harder to create an environment that allows you to spent hours of deliberate practice per week.

A while ago Socrates made an argument against books. The problem with a book is that it tells the same to everyone.

Today with dynamic websites that doesn't have to true anymore. Dynamic websites can show different people different exercises depending on their previous skills. If something isn't quite clear and the lack of clearness stops the user from taking action than the user can ask for more clarity.

A dynamic website can also allow the user to report results for the exercises. Over time that allows optimization of the exercises. Multivariate tests could be used to optimize exercises.

Exercises that don't work can be kicked out.

Some of the exercises could be two people exercises that can be done via a webcam. The website could connect two users who want to do the exercise and let each of them rate the other afterwards.

It would take skilled people to design the architecture of such a system and program it. If someone would however willing to put in the effort I think the payoff would be a lot higher than by simply using the Reddit software for a new community.

Comment author: mikenny79 10 September 2010 03:51:20PM 7 points [-]

i wrote a little bit about looking at pick up artistry as a model for scientific inquiry here:

http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com/2010/09/pickup-artists-and-prussiangerman.html

A quote:

"Pickup artists and the military men of Weimar Germany, and probably before, in Prussia, both seem half nerdy intellectual, half man of action.

"I could see both communities being a good example of what intellectuals should aim for--they should be trying to be practical, as well as being engaged in theory. I guess I'm saying I think intellectuals should be more pragmatic. They can go for this wild theory, and it's super fun to speculate about things, but it's also super fun to test out your ideas and see how they work out."

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 12:59:05AM 22 points [-]

I'd be in.

You can dismiss the shitstorm associated with the phrase PUA by just calling it social skills or charisma.

Some thoughts and anticipated difficulties:

  1. Should this be a forum, a blog, or a LW-style "community blog"? I think the LW structure might actually be optimal: there are top-level articles (which would contain advice) and long threaded discussions (which would contain personal experiences.)

  2. What do you do about different levels? Some people need what I'd think of as "basic" advice (wear a clean suit to a job interview) and some people want something "advanced" (how can I make people think my ideas are awesome?)

  3. A major challenge, I think, is when you can't tell how you appear to others, or when you get too caught up in the moment to remember to make a good impression. Most social-skills advice is along the lines of "remember to do X, Y, and Z" -- but how do you remember to remember? Someone who has cognitive insights could be very helpful here.

  4. Scott Adams' list is very corporate-focused. We might need to poll people to see how many of us actually need golf, tennis, and management techniques.

  5. Scott Aaronson once began a series of posts called "Geek Self-Help," though unfortunately he never followed up. The idea is that intelligent people have a strong tendency to discount motivational platitudes and self-help books, because those sound (and often are) stupid. But there is such a thing as healthy thinking -- the opposite of self-destructive thinking. It's just that you have to communicate it in a way that sounds insightful instead of lame. If anyone has insights of this kind, this would be a good place to share them.

Comment author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 02:23:10AM *  15 points [-]

I could, but every time I've tried to describe this without mentioning PUA people tell me to go to Toastmaster's or take a leadership class. It's the community + field-tests + feedback + iteration that I want. Shitstorm notwithstanding, I think this gets my intention across best. If the PUA part becomes too much of a distraction I might re-label it.

I have my own list topics/problems/thoughts that I cut from this just before posting. I'll bring these up if no one else does.

  1. I had the same thought: maybe a subreddit-like thing?
  2. Good question. I would look to see how this developed with the PUAs, as I'm sure they encountered the same issue, but I'm not sure.
  3. Yup. I think that there would need to be some kind of in-person component, I don't think mastery is attainable via any online forum.
  4. I agree that Adams' list isn't ideal, but it's close enough that I went with it. If this thing happens, we should pick our own topics. I would indeed be a little dismayed if this went all corporate. And I fucking hate golf, there's no way I'm learning it.
  5. Interesting, I wish he'd followed up. I've had some insights like this while reading PJeby's stuff, this would indeed be a good place to try and find more good stuff.
Comment author: patrissimo 12 September 2010 12:34:02PM 11 points [-]

3 - It better be very focused, with a strong cultural element that says "do this or you are doing nothing", on in-person practice and feedback, otherwise it will just be wankery - "social skills porn" posts that people read and write without ever learning anything. You know, kind of like Less Wrong is rationalist porn :). While I'm sure that lots of people read PUA without practicing it, there is a strong cultural tradition that PUA is all about "the field" and you can't practice it very far without going into "the field". If you don't have that, you are doomed.

I have a long post about this coming up, with a pretty similar viewpoint to yours, just a more general goal, and similar technical requirements, we should talk.

Comment author: XFrequentist 12 September 2010 03:56:55PM *  3 points [-]

Yeah, this could easily turn into really boring porn if it's all talk (though I dispute LW being rationalist porn, I use things I've learned here every single day).

One of the key reasons I decided to risk the PUA fallout is to convey the tradition of getting out in the field that you mention. That's also part of why I hesitate to suggest books. I know that I have a bad habit of preferring reading about doing stuff to actually doing stuff, and I suspect I'm not alone.

Look forward to your post. I'd love to chat, PM me for contact info.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 10 September 2010 01:30:47PM 11 points [-]

The idea is that intelligent people have a strong tendency to discount motivational platitudes and self-help books, because those sound (and often are) stupid.

There's a book, "59 Seconds" by psychologist Richard Wiseman, which examines a lot of common self-help claims by looking at actual studies. He shows how many are wrong or are actively harmful. However, the book also has quick tidbits of actually productive things one can do that are comparatively minor. People interested in these issues should read the book.

Comment author: pjeby 10 September 2010 03:04:20AM 12 points [-]

Intelligent people have a strong tendency to discount motivational platitudes and self-help books, because those sound (and often are) stupid.

Actually, the proportion of "actually stupid" to "just sounds stupid" is very, very low. The problem is that what you might call "action skills" and "satisfaction skills" do not operate using the same parts of the brain that "intelligent" (i.e. analytical) people are accustomed to using.

So, if you evaluate a statement using the machinery you're most accustomed to thinking with, the sayings sound stupid, even when they're not also phrased in new-agey or pseudoscientific ways.

I've found that most of my advances in personal development came after I realized that my intellectual bullshit-detectors were filtering out everything that was useful in the self-help field, simply because it wasn't true.

IOW, if you ignore the truthiness of a piece of advice, and simply attempt to adopt the state of mind and mental/physical behaviors given, you will very often find that the stupidest, most nonsensical theories are shielding you from some incredibly useful practical advice.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 01:08:29PM 18 points [-]

I was once told "Believe in yourself" -- yes, in those words -- by a person I respect.

Knowing him, I know he must mean something genuine by it: there's some kind of behavior that he figured out how to do that he thinks would help me. But how the hell do you "believe in yourself"? That phrase is opaque to me.

That's sort of what I'm getting at. It's not that I'm a condescending asshole who always thinks advice-givers are stupid. In fact, I know this particular guy is very bright. It's just that you'd need to phrase it some other way before I'd understand "Oh! That's what he means! I'll just do that now!"

Comment author: pjeby 10 September 2010 06:44:47PM 18 points [-]

But how the hell do you "believe in yourself"?

Morendil's given one meaning that's useful; another one is, "assume that you'll be able to handle the (likely) worst-case results of your actions, so that your decision making isn't paralyzed by implicit fears."

Btw, I used to think that doing these sorts of translations were all that was needed for self-help to be usable by geeks, but that's not actually the case: being able to understand a piece of advice (like this one or Morendil's variant) is not at all the same as being able to implement it.

In practical terms, the advice I've just given usually requires one to let go of many existing beliefs or fears, while the one Morendil gave is a skill that requires practice, and may also require letting go of the same beliefs or fears. In neither case is the mere understanding remotely sufficient to accomplish anything except a feeling of having insight. ;-)

(Btw, in general, when self-help advice says to "believe" in something, it actually means refraining from disbelief, i.e., you do not have to convince yourself of something that isn't true, but merely refrain from questioning it, just like one doesn't question the premise of a movie while enjoying it. Or, another way of looking at it, is that "belief" consists of thinking and acting "as if" that thing were true, i.e, "What would I anticipate and/or do, if I assumed that this were true?" Most other meanings of "believe" are irrelevant to implementing the advice.)

Comment author: Morendil 10 September 2010 01:41:16PM 35 points [-]

But how the hell do you "believe in yourself"? That phrase is opaque to me.

I take it to mean something like "The time for a lucid appraisal of your own abilities is prior to action, not in the middle of it. Once you find yourself engaged in real-time application of some skill or other, act as if your mastery of that skill isn't at issue at all, rather than let yourself be distracted by assessments of the likelihood of failure, because they are likely to be self-fulfilling prophecies."

You can see why people prefer the short version.

Comment author: Scott78704 10 September 2010 04:35:23PM 4 points [-]

Loehr talks about Real Self and Performer Self, that the goal in performance state is high positive energy, whereas in recovery mode one should, for example, acknowledge hunger and eat, acknowledge thirst and sleep, acknowledge exhaustion and nap....

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 10 September 2010 10:14:48PM *  3 points [-]

I like this. It's true that performing (not just socially; also music or sports) usually involves an unsustainable level of effort - reserves are tapped.

Also,

  • hunger : eat
  • exhaustion : nap
  • thirst : ?

:)

Comment author: Sniffnoy 10 September 2010 05:23:05AM 9 points [-]

...which means what someone really needs to write is something that presents all the true/useful parts without a bullshit theory behind them? Even if that means just saying "I have no idea why this works but it does"?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 10 September 2010 08:14:37AM *  9 points [-]
Comment author: Sniffnoy 10 September 2010 02:23:28AM 3 points [-]

Scott Aaronson once began a series of posts called "Geek Self-Help," though unfortunately he never followed up.

For reference: http://scottaaronson.com/blog/?cat=33

Comment author: HughRistik 10 September 2010 04:41:55AM 31 points [-]

I've studied pickup for many years, and I can confirm that in areas of life aside from mating. I have skills in about half the items in Scott Adams' list that I wouldn't have if I hadn't studied pickup.

PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted.

Many PUAs are already applying the pickup framework to be successful in other areas of their life; as you observe, PUAs talk about this all the time. Yet while I think it's useful to take the mating component out of pickup, the mating component may actually a big part of how PUAs develop skills in non-mating areas.

If you are a beginning PUA, then you have a lot of areas that you need improvement in. You will probably need to work on your voice, fix your body language, get over shyness, become a lot more confident, and improve your fashion sense. Most normal self-improvement focuses on any one of those areas as its entire goal.

It may be that a big part of what makes pickup work for self development is that you are focusing on improvement in so many areas at the same time that tie together and mutually reinforce each other, and you do it all in service of a greater superordinate goal of mating.

Many people struggle with a goal like getting over shyness or insecurity on its own. But when you have an even bigger superordinate goal that depends on those goals, they seem comparatively less hairy, and you can't afford to fail at them.

I'm not sure whether having mating as a superordinate goal is special, or whether any other big superordinate goal will do.

I really like the idea of your project, but I'd like you to talk a bit more about the ideas in the seduction community that you think will be most relevant (I have some ideas, which I will share at some point).

I'm not sold on the idea of explicitly associating what you are doing with pickup, and least not in the title. Actually, I'm not sold on calling pickup itself "pickup." I see contemporary pickup as merely the systemization and extrapolation of what socially and sexually successful men are already doing.

Comment author: cousin_it 10 September 2010 08:32:38AM *  18 points [-]

Right on. To summarize: PUAs succeed because they have something to protect (or rather conquer). The same reason Eliezer succeeded in inventing something new in the Sequences - he had a big external goal (AI) that was more important than intellectual pleasure. (Incidentally, the same goal motivated many people to create many wonderful things, e.g. Lisp.) Here's a quote from his post that could just as well have come from a creepy lonely man setting out to invent PUA:

...beginning with a desperate need to succeed. No one masters the Way until more than their life is at stake. More than their comfort, more even than their pride.

Comment author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 07:10:30PM *  13 points [-]

Well said!

I like how you phrase the "superordinate goals" bit. It captures two potential problems that I had considered:

  1. PUA's have outcomes ("closes"), which makes it possible to do tests and measure success. What are our outcomes?

  2. Motivational power of sex might be necessary and irreplaceable.

I'm still not sure if these are surmountable, but I think it's worth trying.

I really like the idea of your project, but I'd like you to talk a bit more about the ideas in the seduction community that you think will be most relevant (I have some ideas, which I will share at some point).

I'll share my thoughts soon, but someone like you probably has more insight. I have far from comprehensive knowledge of the seduction community's efforts.

Looking forward to hearing more, I'm really encouraged by the quality of the comments so far!

Comment author: ewbrownv 13 September 2010 04:35:22PM 7 points [-]

An interesting proposal, but you've got an important obstacle to overcome if you want (PUA-PU) to amount to more than anecdotes and philosophizing. Sales, marketing and PUA all share the unusual characteristic of being amenable to the experimental method, because you can try them repeatedly on large numbers of people and get clear feedback about what doesn’t work. Most of the other areas you mentioned are either too fuzzy for an easy evaluation of success, or too slow/rare to allow much testing.

If you want to establish a reliable body of knowledge about topics like ‘projecting charisma’ or ‘having better relationships’, the key step is going to be finding some way to apply the same experimental approach. A community that can easily run experiments to test its theories can make discoveries and build expertise with surprising speed, but one that can’t is going to find the biases of its members overwhelming any weak signal you might get from more ambiguous forms of data.

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 10 September 2010 09:51:15PM 7 points [-]

Count me in. This sounds as though it would help both with people skills and with general efficacy, energy and developing "doing" as opposed to merely "thinking".

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 September 2010 07:08:42PM *  19 points [-]

I myself would like to be part of such a community. But I wouldn't like colleges to offer courses in it, because it seems to be a negative-sum game. What would the world look like now if we had a million graduates of such a curricula in the US? I suspect most people taking the courses would do so in order to go into marketing or politics, and thus reduce the signal-to-noise ratio when choosing products or politicians even more.

How can you disavow Dark Arts? This is the Dark Arts.

Comment author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 08:27:53PM *  15 points [-]

I acknowledge that this appears to be on the Dark Side of the Arts Spectrum, but I'd like to keep it as light a gray as possible.

I just want to be effective at something that is important to achieving my goals. I'll do good with my powers, honest!

Comment author: orthonormal 10 September 2010 11:57:37PM 15 points [-]

This wins the award for "comment I'd think was Clippy's if I had the anti-kibitzer turned on".

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 12:05:21AM 3 points [-]

Thank you.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 11 September 2010 10:06:47AM 10 points [-]

Sure, on average it's negative sum. But I have to guess that society as a whole suffers greatly from having many (most?) of its technically skilled citizens at the low end of the social-ability spectrum. The question would be whether you could design a set of institutions in this area which could have a net positive benefit on society. (Probably not something I'll solve on a Saturday afternoon...)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 September 2010 06:28:58AM 9 points [-]

How can you disavow Dark Arts? This is the Dark Arts.

I think two ideas from the field of security are relevant here.

1) In order to design good security, one must be willing and able to think like a criminal.

2) Security through obscurity generally doesn't work.

Applied to the current discussion this suggests that:

  • in order to be able to successfully defend against the Dark Arts one must be able to think like a Dark Artist.
  • Attempting to reduce the use of the Dark Arts by attempting to quarantine knowledge about them isn't going to work.

Also, maybe if more people understood the methods by which politicians and marketers manipulated them, they'd be less taken in by them.

Comment author: DanArmak 10 September 2010 08:51:21PM 7 points [-]

How can you disavow Dark Arts? This is the Dark Arts.

Influencing other humans is hugely beneficial to almost any goals a human can have. I don't think the techniques of effectively influencing people are Dark Arts. If you use them to make people believe falsehoods, or act against their own interests, that would be Dark. Otherwise, it's just Arts.

Your claim that most people who studied these Arts would use them in Dark ways seems likely to me. But, if I expect to master these Arts myself, I will still support their research by default. I don't know how to truly calculate the net utility here; I'm very interested in learning. What do you think?

Comment author: patrissimo 12 September 2010 12:41:33PM 12 points [-]

I am skeptical that we can win without the Dark Arts.

There are lots of people out there with bad goals and wrong beliefs and powerful skills at persuading and manipulating people to take on those beliefs and help those goals. Like marketers and politicians. If we want resources for our goals, and to spread our beliefs, we need to learn the techniques of persuasion and memetics.

This isn't a video game, the world doesn't care about Light and Dark, and it isn't set up so that the good guys can win. Those who employ the best techniques for achieving their goals are more likely to achieve their goals. In a world where good people refuse to learn how to persuade others and gain power, the world will be ruled by bad people. That's how it is now, and I'm sick of it.

I'm Gray and proud of it. Shades of gray matter - a lot - but White is for losers.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 September 2010 04:21:58PM *  12 points [-]

Sure; but you're not addressing the question, which is: Would teaching a whole lot of randomly-chosen people how to manipulate other people be good on balance? Especially considering the selection bias: What sort of people are more likely to sign up for the course?

Comment author: rabidchicken 01 December 2010 06:25:05AM 3 points [-]

I would rather have EVERYONE know the dark arts, instead of only the people who want to learn it now in order to gain political power and sell merchandise. Sine you cannot teach everyone right now, you have to start somewhere, and the people who I don't want to know these tricks already seem to have a good handle on the ones they need for their profession anyway. Imagine how much harder it would be to persuade someone to join a fanatical cult, buy the more expensive of two identical products based purely on advertising, or put unreasonable trust into a charismatic politician if they actually understood enough about human psychology to see every single manipulative tactic which was being used.

Comment author: HughRistik 12 September 2010 10:04:47PM 8 points [-]

In a world where good people refuse to learn how to persuade others and gain power, the world will be ruled by bad people. That's how it is now, and I'm sick of it.

I'm Gray and proud of it. Shades of gray matter - a lot - but White is for losers.

Very well said. I'd take it one step further and say that when the only practical options are shades of Gray, then Gray is the new White.

Options that aren't practically viable should never end up in the moral calculus to begin with. Morality should be the thing we use to select between the practical options.

Comment author: Zvi 12 September 2010 02:14:09AM 4 points [-]

I disagree. This is Magic, perhaps, but at most a subset of this is the Dark Arts.

Taking the list as a starting point, seperate it into the first seven and then the remaining twelve. I would claim that the remaining twelve are all positive sum and I would prefer a world in which more people had those skills, although I wish we could move off of the golf equilibrium. I can also personally vouch for hypnosis.

The top part of the list is more troubling, no doubt, especially cults and propaganda which are clearly Dark. You can go too far. But it's a poor art that can't be turned Dark.

Comment author: XFrequentist 12 September 2010 02:40:23AM *  4 points [-]

Adams' list is a jump-off point, and was included for illustrative purposes only. Cults and propaganda won't make the cut. I wouldn't think hypnosis would either (although I'd be interested hearing your anecdote).

"Dark Arts" on LessWrong has a specific meaning. The accusation has merit; this program intends to influence others based on factors other than rationality. However, I (and others) have argued that learning this type of material is:

  1. a good exercise in instrumental rationality.
  2. necessary to accomplish things in the real world.
  3. possibly a requirement to get people to consider the merit of your ideas at all.
Comment author: wedrifid 12 September 2010 12:27:36PM 3 points [-]

It is also a good exercise in epistemic rationality. Neglecting or corrupting whole swathes of your map not epistemically rational, even if you suspect that part of the territory contains dragons.

Comment author: XFrequentist 12 September 2010 03:37:32PM 2 points [-]

Humanity: Thar be dragons!

Comment author: eggman 21 October 2011 05:11:41AM 2 points [-]

Hello XFrequentist,

If you missed my comment above, to summarize: Through networks like freethinker or atheist clubs, and OKCupid, I am more likely to find people who win at life and share my values. But I don't think I'm good enough at talking to them. I want to learn this material so I can do these things: http://lesswrong.com/lw/4ul/less_wrong_nyc_case_study_of_a_successful/ http://lesswrong.com/lw/818/how_to_understand_people_better/ and make friends better.

I couldn't find a formal discussion group, like one has been suggested on these threads, but I think it would help me a lot. Can you point me in the direction of one?

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 10 September 2010 08:54:55PM *  3 points [-]

This is a good point. To the extent that social competency is zero-sum, we want to learn an exclusive, secret art (I am sure it is not, taken as a whole, for the same reason that trade and cooperation aren't only zero-sum, but individual skills as actually employed may be).

The desire for powerful secrets biases us - for example, toward accepting nonsense from a cult leader. I'd rather instead include all the available similarly-minded smart people (who may occasional offer fresh insights), even though they would also be my most effective competition.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 10 September 2010 10:00:31PM 5 points [-]

Then perhaps the focus should simply be on the skills that aren't zero sum? I doubt the majority of non-malicious social skills are zero sum, so...

Comment author: juliawise 02 December 2011 08:37:18PM 2 points [-]

It's negative-sum if it results in lots of people, say, obtaining sex by deception and creating lots of annoyed or hurt partners. But if it makes people more attractive and gives them better social skills? Sounds good to me.

Comment author: snarles 11 September 2010 12:54:45AM 3 points [-]

Sure, an increased scientific understanding of our weaknesses could be used for negative purposes, but it could just as easily lead to societal improvements designed to prevent manipulation (i.e. laws banning the use of certain manipulative techniques in advertisements).

Comment author: patrissimo 12 September 2010 12:44:33PM 5 points [-]

This reminds me of: Art Of Charm, I met the guys at a conference earlier this year: http://theartofcharm.com/. Basically PUA for business/social success, as a professional coaching business: "The Art of Charm is a team of lifestyle coaches and social dynamics instructors. We teach the skills to become successful in both business and life, with an emphasis on social interactions."

Comment author: XFrequentist 13 September 2010 03:51:09PM 6 points [-]

Pretty close indeed, although their website still seems to emphasize meeting women (I'd assume because that's where the money is).

We’re AJ & Jordan Harbinger, founders of The Art of Charm. In our early twenties, we decided it was time to take our lives to the next level, especially in the realm of women and relationships. We learned from the best dating coaches, attraction experts, fashion and image consultants from around the world and created a program unlike anything available anywhere.

The material's probably similar, but I want a leaderless mob of brilliant geeks out doing experiments instead of cool people selling a product. What can I say, I'm a sucker for self-organization!

Comment author: snarles 11 September 2010 12:57:32AM *  5 points [-]

It is an interesting question why the psychological or sociological research community has not yet paid any serious attention (as far as I know) to the pick-up community.

Comment author: HughRistik 11 September 2010 02:18:57AM *  14 points [-]

I've been asking this question myself for, like, 5 years. If anyone wants to do some research, I'm happy to help.

The most attention I think it's gotten is by psychologist Paul Dobransky, and undergraduate feminist Elana Clift's honors thesis. Both are reasonably well-written, but I think they underestimate the interest of PUAs in relationships.

Dobransky portrays himself as a Moses-like figure bringing mature masculinity to the seduction community, yet many experienced guys in the community already hold the ideas about masculinity that he advocates. His piece has some good observations, but I also find it a bit condescending.

While there is a lot of support for men in the seduction community interested in one-night stands and short-term dating, and there are cynical ideas about relationships, there still is a lot of support for relationships (every large pickup forum has a relationships board).

Lots of guys in the seduction community have had either very little success with women, or are coming out of a bad relationships. Since the community is probably growing, the largest segments are probably newbies. Once these guys start getting women to notice them consistently, I think it's understandable that they want to date around a bit and feel that they are desirable and have options. Is it really the most mature thing for a beginning PUA to jump into a relationship with the first girl who is nice to him?

In my experience, once a PUA has a couple years experience and some success under his belt, then he is a lot more likely to be interested in relationships. It's the same process that other people go through, they just do it earlier in their social development, while the PUA was sitting on the sidelines.

Of the 10 or so guys with pickup experience I know well in real life (counting myself), here is the breakdown of how they are doing in relationships:

  • 2 want to be in relationships specifically, but aren't yet very successful with women

  • 5 have been going in and out of relationships that haven't worked out. They do casual dating or sometimes one-night stands in between finding people they like.

  • 2 had fun with a bunch of women, and are now in long-term monogamous relationships.

  • 1 slept with a few women once he found pickup, then met a woman he really liked, dated her for a year or so, then got married. Unfortunately, they aren't very happy, but I think that's mainly because they are both very busy, and they have different attachment and communication styles.

Of the pickup instructors that I've encountered, most of them do relationships.

Of course, my sample isn't representative, and I deliberately hang out with guys who I think are more mature. That's exactly why we need some empirical research on this subject.

Comment author: MarcTheEngineer 10 September 2010 03:00:39PM 5 points [-]

Count me in as well - I've gained a great deal of useful knowledge from the PUA community despite having found it while in a fine, and still ongoing, long term relationship.

For a smart person it is relatively easy to take PUA advice and gain utility for non pick-up activities.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 08:08:52PM 2 points [-]

Same here.

Also are there any existing google study or self improvement groups from Less Wrong? I would be really interested in joining those.

Comment author: Spurlock 10 September 2010 03:43:12AM 13 points [-]

You've got my support.

Sorry to continue the unfortunate trend of the comments so far to focus on labeling, but I just thought I'd throw this out there: You want to capture the framework and emphasis on testable results from PUA, but lose the sex and focus on social adeptness. Many aspects of which we refer to as "clicking" with people.

I hesitate to suggest this, since if someone else did I dunno if I'd laugh or cover my face in shame, but what about "Click Up Artist"?

Comment author: snarles 11 September 2010 01:01:46AM 4 points [-]

I'm in support of this idea under the condition that all of its output be freely accessible to the public.

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 01:56:48AM 3 points [-]

Deal.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 September 2010 04:08:51PM *  1 point [-]

I'm in support of this idea under the condition that all of its output not be freely accessible to the public. (Or at least, not easy to find, or most-easily found through certain channels that we choose.)

Comment author: Spurlock 13 September 2010 07:16:09PM 3 points [-]

Can you elaborate? Making this a closed, secret community throws a lot of red flags to me for "potentially evil". It seems like we'd only want to keep it secret if we had a specific agenda (e.g. brainwash and enslave the masses).

I can see why if we accidentally did develop a method to brainwash and enslave people, we wouldn't want it to get out, but that's not the goal and doesn't seem like a likely outcome. What's so wrong with an open-source program to help people become "Less Awkward"?

Comment author: cabalamat 15 September 2010 12:32:05PM 2 points [-]

What's so wrong with an open-source program to help people become "Less Awkward"?

Learning new stuff often involves making mistakes until one gets it right. I imagine that if this community was created, many posts would be of the form "I did X recently and it went wrong; what could I have done better?"

Making mistakes in social situations is something that many find embarrassing, so they might want any such field reports not to become public knowledge. Hence, confidentiality may be necessary for people to talk openly.

Comment author: Morendil 10 September 2010 07:25:26AM *  4 points [-]

there is no way I'm going to be doing any golfing

Any particular reason, or just a limiting belief you happen to have?

Offhand I can think of several reasons golfing is a good idea: you're outside breathing big air; the walking and the exercise are good for you; it makes for a relaxed setting in which to have conversations with like-minded people.

The main reason people like me don't golf is... that people who golf typically don't golf with people like me. But that's precisely the kind of reason which wouldn't stand, any longer, if this discussion leads somewhere useful.

ETA: count me in, and upvoted. My first recommendation is a book, "Why should extroverts make all the money: networking made easy for the introvert".

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 02:16:55AM 4 points [-]

I'd be in.

Among other things, I'm interested in how social skills can be used to get people to genuinely consider new ideas.

Comment author: HughRistik 10 September 2010 03:41:32AM 2 points [-]

I have some preliminary thoughts on that subject here. I discovered Cialdini through pickup.

Comment author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 02:28:02AM 2 points [-]

I would argue that much of the time it's actually impossible to get people to consider your ideas without some social slickness. Not here, of course.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 13 September 2010 06:17:24PM 10 points [-]

I have a contribution to this topic, and I have a comment.

First, the contribution. I lurk on PUA and similar forums. I am interested in it as an application of Neurolinguistic Programming, which I sometimes see mentioned. The wikipedia page on Seduction Community does correctly describe the modern edition of these activities as beginning with the NLP trainer Ross Jeffries. I have never seen it mentioned anywhere on the internet that Jeffries was not a successful NLP trainer. Everybody in the NLP community I have discussed him with (who expressed an opinion) said that Jeffries was not only an unsuccessful NLP trainer, but he was a crappy one.

I have written up a very short beginner's how-to for NLP on my blog if anybody is interested.

Second, I have a comment more specific to this post. I see a reductio ad absurdum here, which I have not seen mentioned in the thread yet. Robin Hanson has mentioned it on Overcoming Bias. To join a PUA group is to signal to people that you are not yet getting the sex satisfaction you want, which is a signal of low status. I may have other reasons for refusing to publicly associate with these guys, but that reason alone is sufficient for me. I would extend that to participation with anyone trying to apply PUA skills in different contexts. To me it is taboo in public. It is not a Winner's Script.

Scott Adams may be a great comic writer, but he is not a Psychologist, Social Psychologist, or Sociologist. His list is interesting, but I cannot give it any weight. I have never seen a man who could make any room he enters his bitch. I have known a couple who thought they could, and it was mostly tedious to see them succeed and always hilarious to see them fail.

I recently did some research on this topic. The best source I found was in the context of Social Network Theory, by the Sociologist Nan Lin. He and a bunch of his graduate students have documented dozens of man years of research on quantifying social capital and breaking down what it is made up of. Some of it is similar to the items in this thread--things like playing golf, &c. One thing that surprised me is this: for people with technical jobs--programmers, engineers, research scientists--very few of these things matter at all. You only need two things to possess social capital in technical fields: first you need to be aware of current political and business news (like look at the Google News front page and business page daily); and second you need to know at least three good restaurants to eat at in your neighborhood and at least three good restaurants to eat at in your office's neighborhood. And that is all.

There are some other related topics to this which I found in my Social Network Theory research earlier this year which I summarized on my blog here, which some may find useful or interesting.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 September 2010 07:18:12PM 6 points [-]

One thing that surprised me is this: for people with technical jobs--programmers, engineers, research scientists--very few of these things matter at all. You only need two things to possess social capital in technical fields: first you need to be aware of current political and business news (like look at the Google News front page and business page daily); and second you need to know at least three good restaurants to eat at in your neighborhood and at least three good restaurants to eat at in your office's neighborhood. And that is all.

You mean, of the things they looked at, that is all. If you want to succeed in engineering management (instead of as a low-level grunt engineer), you need to read Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat. This book is vitally important for anyone hoping to understand the social dynamics of large organizations.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 13 September 2010 09:11:45PM 6 points [-]

If you want to succeed in engineering management

This is a different topic. I am talking about social capital for low-level grunt engineers. Low-level grunt engineer is not chopped liver. Many of us make good dough.

Lin and his co-workers put around forty man-years into their research project. I have not seen anything else quite like it. The Dilbert principles and the Peter principle and Putt's law are more anecdotal than data and statistics driven. The Sociologists who do Social Network Theory do measurements and calculations whenever possible.

Comment author: XFrequentist 14 September 2010 01:08:09AM *  4 points [-]

Not being an engineer or particularly concerned with low-status-by-association on a semi-anonymous forum, and having witnessed several rooms being made people's bitches, I'm going to try anyway. I promise not to mistake any comic writers for domain experts in the process.

[Edit: That reads as snarkier than I intended. You make some good points.]

Comment author: FrankAdamek 11 September 2010 07:15:25PM 8 points [-]

I'm very interested in this, and for some time have been working to improve social skills without a strong desire for sex. I almost wish I had more desire, because it seems to be a great motivator, and also provides tangible results, or tangible lack thereof.

IMO, Real Social Dynamics has some very good material for this kind of thing, especially their most recent video program, The Blueprint Decoded. Every time I've gone through even a fraction of my notes, I experience significant and immediate gains to confidence and social skill. (I still have a ways to go to fully incorporate all the material.) It's basically very general information and unifying theory to the majority of social interactions, distilled from their prior experience in the area. It's great for pick up as well, but the main ideas are very general. It's still sold as pick up material rather than general self-improvement because only as pickup material can they ask $600 for it. To say a little more about it, I can't recall any notably deceptive tactics, it's mostly about how to be confident, fun, and socially dominant (without needing to put anybody down). This isn't so much the appearance of what people are looking for as the substance of it. Also, Alicorn and AnnaSalamon have seen a little of it and thought it was good material for both genders. I suggest watching disc 5 first for the best idea of the type of material it is.

Comment author: pnrjulius 22 April 2012 03:32:48AM 3 points [-]

That's absurdly expensive for a product with no guarantee of value. Admittedly I'd pay more than that for a college course... but in a college course I know that the content is already validated and socially approved of. Whereas if I tell people that I've ordered these $600 social-skills videos, looks askance are inevitable.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 10 September 2010 07:16:29PM *  7 points [-]

I am quite fond of this idea.

I discovered pickup ten years ago and also found that it can have a considerable positive impact on one's life. I'd love to see a rational, generalized approach to socialization skills.

Echoing SarahC and KristianKI's comments, here are some thoughts:

Name: I also think this should have a better name than "Pick-Up Arts" - some possibilities: Charismatic Arts, Socialization Arts.

Focus: I agree with your core idea about moving the focus away from orgasm and dating, but I suspect this may be more difficult than anticipated. For most people, success in romantic relationships is the principle ends of success itself, and many of the positive side-effects stem directly from having more romantic success. If you over-generalize you just get Dale Carnegie. Perhaps the key is to focus on the means over the ends. The PUA community is overly and specifically focused on the particular ends of sexual conquest.

Behavioral Learning: The real fundamental difficulty of developing charismatic skills is their inherent non-intellectual nature. You can not develop charisma by reading about it anymore than you can become a master guitarist by reading about guitars.

As ChristianK said:

The problem with a lot of personal development stuff is that people read it but never really change their behavior.

Part of the difficulty is the skills that you need must be integrated into the deep subconscious level, and that simply requires massive practice. However I suspect it is even considerably worse than that, because of the deep connection to mood and social regulators.

Perhaps the most important ingredient in PUA success or charisma is what they call "inner-game", a change in mood and inner psychology which comes only after initial successes initiate a snowballing chain of reinforcements.

I think that focusing more on changing inner game or psychology would better suit a means-focused charismatic skills program. This would probably include sifting through ideas from the self-help movement for gems that actually work, and applying a rationalist approach to modifying subconscious behaviors.

Community: The PUA communities I have participated in (such as the forums on mASF) leave much to be desired. There is often a general air of testosterone laden competitiveness which i find detrimental to the whole endeavor. The LW rationalist community already has a leg up in this respect. The LW structure would work well - top level posts about theory and techniques, threaded discussions for personal feedback, and so on.

Time Commitment: One of the big problems I've had with PUA is the apparent high time commitment. I'd love to see some way this could be improved, perhaps along the lines of refining and distilling the most successful techniques into a condensed and focused program. Perhaps it could even include some elements from the world of gaming and fun theory to help overcome akrasia.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 10 September 2010 08:50:07PM *  3 points [-]

snowballing chain of reinforcements

This study points out that if you think about (or have) just a single episode of past success or failure, that it has the opposite effect you'd expect on future performance (i.e. what works in the direction you would expect is to reflect on a pattern of experience of failure or success, then you will have summarized/abstracted from the individual events and expect them to serve as the rule, not the exception).

That is, remembering a single failure made people perform better (I assume because they were able to avoid some of the mistakes, or simply try harder, without feeling completely helpless and likely to fail).

Comment author: jacob_cannell 10 September 2010 09:02:48PM 4 points [-]

I haven't read the whole thing yet, but from the abstract it appears they compared general vs specific episodic memory, and do not reach the conclusion you claim.

The particular quote:

As expected, it was found that general memories of failure and specific memories of success resulted in worse performance than general memories of success and specific memories of failure

The study just shows that general memories have a more pronounced effect than specific memories - it doesn't show the effect of a specific memory alone.

The takeaway is that recalling a specific example of success is not a powerful self-hypnosis strategy. That is why you need the snowball effect - you need enough past successes to change your subconscious evaluations.

Comment author: Firionel 11 September 2010 12:02:25PM 3 points [-]

I'm sorry if somebody else remarked upon that, but wouldn't the obviuos area of study for people on lw not be how to influence others (supposedly without their knowing), but how to avoid such influences or recognize the associated techniques?

I'll readily admit there is a certain overlap, but still.

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 07:27:30PM 7 points [-]

It's a fair point. We could consider the less savory elements as "Defense against the Dark Arts" class.

However, unless you're a super-genius working on an universe-changing technology in your basement, you might well need to know how to use this stuff to get big things accomplished.

To each their own. I'm not here to preach ethics, but I'm assuming this crowd has enough of a moral compass not to turn into a pack of used car salesmen.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2010 05:48:33PM 6 points [-]

I'm sorry if somebody else remarked upon that, but wouldn't the obviuos area of study for people on lw not be how to influence others (supposedly without their knowing), but how to avoid such influences or recognize the associated techniques?

The first thing that popped into my mind here was the old joke "How can you tell when a politician is lying?" But then it occurred to me that that I'd be making all sorts of type II errors with that approach...

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 10 September 2010 08:18:55AM *  3 points [-]

Mating is important to most people.

However, I agree that there is an art of encouraging people to respect you and enjoy your company, which just so happens to be useful in attracting a romantic partner. It might be best to discuss it (or develop it) while denying that such a use is the primary motivation (as it likely will be for many people). But if people are avoiding talking or thinking about the concrete goal they have that motivates their efforts, or aren't practicing their ideas in a way that gives very clear success/failure feedback, then you can expect them to "learn" a lot of nonsense. That's the only reason I would hesitate to avoid talking about mating.

If it's just a question of branding and stated-purpose, but there is no actual taboo, then I support an explicitly application-independent group.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 10 September 2010 07:33:45PM 13 points [-]

directly pursuing mating is low status, let us disguise it....

Comment author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 08:30:28PM 9 points [-]

I'm engaged to a very nice lady, thanks.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 September 2010 04:19:40PM 4 points [-]

That's a nice try, but you're overdoing it, XF.

Comment author: XFrequentist 14 September 2010 12:31:40AM 4 points [-]

Dude... DHTP; HTG.

Comment author: Alicorn 14 September 2010 01:15:37AM 5 points [-]

What does that mean?

Comment author: mattnewport 14 September 2010 01:18:02AM 6 points [-]

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Comment author: ianshakil 23 November 2010 06:45:17PM 2 points [-]

So this thread kind of went dormant. What are the next steps? Any movement for a meetup?

Comment author: Will_Newsome 10 September 2010 06:22:53AM 2 points [-]

I accidentally pronounced the 'PU' in the title as 'poo' and surprisingly it made even more sense.

Comment author: KrisC 10 September 2010 06:08:58AM *  3 points [-]

Intriguing.

I do believe that the discussion should take place off LW. The LW karma system creates biases and would be muddied by the pursuit of a different goal.

Comment author: zero_call 10 September 2010 04:34:11PM *  3 points [-]

Mating is good. I am somewhat baffled as to why the "PUA" discussion has had a strong negative connotation. As you say, there's a ton of benefits for everyone involved, and it serves as a successful, easy-to-test model for many related skill sets. Personally I think the hesitancy to talk about mating and mating development is likely no more than a sort of vestigial organ of society's ancient associations with religion. It still seems "improper" in ordinary society to talk about how to get into someone's pants. But I see no reason why the sort of thing like "pick-up-artistry" must be unethical or wrong.

Comment author: mattnewport 10 September 2010 05:55:54PM 14 points [-]

I am somewhat baffled as to why the "PUA" discussion has had a strong negative connotation. As you say, there's a ton of benefits for everyone involved

There's at least two groups of people who potentially stand to lose from widespread discussion of PUA: women, who may fear that they will be duped into choosing low quality mates by males emulating the behaviours they use to identify high quality mates and men who are already successful with women who may fear increased competition.

These sources of antipathy to PUA are rarely consciously expressed but given how crucial mate selection has been to reproductive success throughout evolutionary history you might expect strong negative reactions from those who sense a threat to their interests. Much of the strong reaction to PUA seems to me to stem from this.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 06:42:07PM 8 points [-]

PUA is hardly ever defined and explained as being in women's best interest. It's more likely to appear alongside evo-psych stories that play up the zero-sum aspects of mating. Taking PUA writers at their word, their methods are bad for women -- and by design. So of course women wouldn't like it.

I actually think that it would be a net gain for straight women if social skills and sexiness improved across the male population. It gives us a broader pool of appealing people to choose from. But that's looking at benign behaviors; I wouldn't be so cheerful about behaviors designed to put women at a disadvantage.

Comment author: mattnewport 10 September 2010 07:05:55PM *  8 points [-]

Taking PUA writers at their word, their methods are bad for women -- and by design.

This is not really true. There's obviously a spectrum of writers and they don't all agree but generally they are advocating emulating the behaviours and traits that women use to identify high value mates. 'Fake it until you make it' is a common idea in self help and it is often claimed that emulating the signals associated with certain desirable traits can ultimately help to make those underlying traits real. To the extent that desirable traits are genuinely developed rather than falsely signaled these methods need not be bad for women.

There are also traits that women find attractive which may not be in their own considered best interests in a mate. The classic 'bad-boy' or 'dark triad' personality traits for example. If it is possible to emulate the attractive behaviours associated with these traits without developing the underlying traits 'for real' you could argue that this is actually good for women.

Comment author: pjeby 10 September 2010 07:02:00PM 6 points [-]

Taking PUA writers at their word, their methods are bad for women -- and by design.

Not all such writers; for example, on this page, scroll down to "Here's What Women Have to Say About AMP".

Of course, the AMP people don't talk evo-psych at all in their sales materials or training; the closest thing to zero-sum logic I've heard them use was when they commented on the idea that a man feels most loved when his woman can give him the freedom to be with other women... and that she in turn feels most loved if he doesn't feel the need to actually use that freedom.

(Even there, though, they were talking about it from the perspective of transcending the zero-sum aspect, so as to get both people's needs met, rather than taking it for granted that it means somebody has to "lose" for the other to "win.)

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 09:21:32PM 6 points [-]

Thanks for the link to AMP -- I'd definitely only seen the darker side of the spectrum. (Stuff disturbing enough that I don't want to name or link it.) But this seems perfectly fine. Making yourself into a person that women like better -- not acting like a creep, dweeb, or dull nice guy -- is good for women as well. I didn't know there were actually programs that helped you do this, straightforwardly, and it actually sounds great. I almost wish there were a women's or unisex version.

My attitude to PUA comes from reading things that I actually have good reason to dislike. Planning to wrest back domination of the West from ugly feminazis is... not really in women's best interests. Neither is encouraging guys not to talk to women unless they plan to fuck them, to consider women over the age of 23 damaged goods, to keep their wives and girlfriends subservient, to resent women's right to vote, etc.

Comment author: HughRistik 11 September 2010 02:35:40AM *  4 points [-]

Ah, you've run into Roissy, or people inspired by him, haven't you? No wonder you have such a low opinion of the motives of PUAs.

Roissy started a network of blogs combining pickup with conservative (and often misogynistic) gender politics (for instance, he seems to condone slapping women). Although Roissy has succeeded in repackaging common pickup advice for mass consumption, he is not an important figure in the seduction community. While there is enough pickup theory in his writing that I can't say that he isn't a pickup artist, he and the community around him are not representative of PUAs in general. I'm not going to say that you won't easily find misogynistic beliefs among PUAs, but it's just not typical for PUAs to resent women's right to vote, for instance. There are plenty of liberal-leaning PUAs.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 08:47:03AM *  1 point [-]

Roissy insn't really conservative. Social conservatives often cast him as a dangerous, hedonistic nihilist. Which he will be the first to admit he is.

He is a odd and quite honestly interesting if for many people scary new breed of reactionary who doesn't take his tips from a old geezer in the sky but from good old allegorical god of biomechanics (http://roissy.wordpress.com/category/biomechanics-is-god/). This goes for everything from gender all the way to class and even race relations.

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 09:23:58PM 2 points [-]

I took a couple classes in biomechanics, and what I think of as "biomechanics" is not at all relevant to these articles.

Is there a meaning of this term that neither I nor wikipedia is aware of?

Comment author: topynate 12 September 2010 07:20:47PM 1 point [-]

Probably it's a reference to Blade Runner, i.e. the "god of biomechanics".

Comment author: [deleted] 13 September 2010 06:37:23PM *  1 point [-]

I think you are correct.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK7DBo9Ye6Y

Replace "sciency" with "popculture reference" in my previous post then. The way he uses it however I think does still mesh with what I wrote. He often emphasises how our "monkey brains" sometimes go off the rails exposed to evolutionary new situations.

Comment author: XFrequentist 10 September 2010 07:27:57PM 4 points [-]

Yup. Robin Hanson wrote something to this effect about why no one sympathizes with beta males.

I agree, the negative connotation is generally unfair. As long as the PUA in question likes women and relationships, I'm a fan. Plus in general the more (safe, sober) sex people have the better.

I was definitely cheering for Neil Strauss by the end of "The Game"!

Comment author: jacob_cannell 10 September 2010 11:12:50PM *  9 points [-]

There are multiple levels of duping.

Now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak and the PUA game is well known, I've found that many women are actually surprisingly interested in it. To the extent that PUA skills increase unconscious signals that women find attractive, it may have a net benefit for women by upping the typical attractiveness of the dating pool, as Sarah points out. It could have an effect like tasty but safe artificial sweeteners, or widespread effective invisible makeup and cosmetic surgery.

That level of false signaling is probably harmless and even net benefit for women, but the aspect that many women rightly dislike or hate is the darker side to PUA which focuses solely on manipulating women into one night stands using whatever techniques work - which mainly includes alot of bullshit and dishonesty.

So it depends on what exactly is being faked and to what extent. As we all know men have less risk with casual sex, have higher net demand for it than women, and thus women have to be more choosy in finding mates. PUA 'dark art' persuasion techniques thus give women legitimate reasons for concern. (and reasons to be familiar with PUA game in general).

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2010 04:18:09AM 4 points [-]

My reaction to this is positive-- my reaction to matthewnewport's fairly similar

There's at least two groups of people who potentially stand to lose from widespread discussion of PUA: women, who may fear that they will be duped into choosing low quality mates by males emulating the behaviours they use to identify high quality mates and men who are already successful with women who may fear increased competition.

is negative.

I think the difference is that matthew implies that there's one scale all women use for judging men, and it isn't at all about how men treat them.

Comment author: mattnewport 11 September 2010 07:49:38AM 2 points [-]

matthew implies

Please, just Matt. Only my grandma calls me Matthew.

Comment author: AndyCossyleon 12 September 2010 06:03:03PM 4 points [-]

mattnewport -> mattnew port -> matthew port

Comment author: HughRistik 11 September 2010 07:24:50AM *  11 points [-]

To the extent that PUA skills increase unconscious signals that women find attractive, it may have a net benefit for women by upping the typical attractiveness of the dating pool, as Sarah points out.

Yes, excellent point. But the reason is not, as you think, because PUAs are duping women. The reason that PUAs provide a net benefit for women is that over time, they actually grow into men who fulfills women's criteria. Although beginners start out with "fake it 'til you make it," experienced PUAs eventually do come to hold the qualities that large segments of women find attractive.

That level of false signaling

Wait a sec, what exactly is "false" signaling? And what's an example of it in pickup?

As I've argued in the past, you can't judge social reality by the standards of epistemic reality. In social reality, if you can get yourself and a bunch of other people to believe an assessment of yourself, and that assessment isn't based on blatant factual errors, then it becomes true.

PUAs indeed present themselves in a self-enhancing way, but they are late to that party. Everyone, except for perhaps some geeky people or non-neurotypical people, already does tons of signaling to make themselves look better. In fact, it has a name in psychology: impression management. Many PUAs are geeky guys who never got the memo that they were allowed to manage their impressions on others.

Of course, nobody likes to believe that they are engaging in impression management, and geeks think its stupid or dishonest. So when PUAs try to verbalize and systematize what socially-successful people are already doing unconsciously, they suddenly sound like cynical, manipulative con-artists to both normally social people, and to geeky people.

So it depends on what exactly is being faked and to what extent.

In your view, what exactly are PUAs faking, and to what extent? What is the "bullshit and dishonesty" that they employ? Are we talking about canned routines about one's imaginary friend to makes oneself look cooler, or what?

PUA 'dark art' persuasion techniques thus give women legitimate reasons for concern.

And what exactly are those reasons for concern?

I don't see PUAs as being any worse choices for women to date than non-PUAs of the same level of attractiveness. Yes, many PUAs are only looking for casual sex (at least at this point in their lives)... but so are many non-PUAs. Yes, many women might find it challenging to date PUAs and start relationships with them, but that's mainly because skilled PUAs are very attractive to women and have a lot of choice... just like attractive non-PUA males. If you are a woman who likes exciting badboys, or masculine and high socially-skilled men, you are a in for a challenge whether you are dating PUAs or non-PUAs.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 12:01:25PM 12 points [-]

I'm with you, Hugh.

If more geeks could come across as "exciting badboys, or masculine and high socially-skilled" then women who are subconsciously attracted to that type could actually wind up with someone intelligent and decent, instead of the usual jerks. You're raising the average quality level of the socially successful man.

The one thing I still have a problem with is self-help courses that guarantee you success with women. Nothing can guarantee you that. You can do things that can make you statistically more likely to succeed, but in the end, when you have consensual social interactions, the other person could always rebuff you. It can get creepy when men think they're entitled to a quota of women, and that it's unfair when they get turned down. I worry about that driving men to violence. You can get better at attracting women, and that's great, but women are free to reject you.

Comment author: HughRistik 11 September 2010 10:41:41PM *  11 points [-]

If more geeks could come across as "exciting badboys, or masculine and high socially-skilled" then women who are subconsciously attracted to that type could actually wind up with someone intelligent and decent, instead of the usual jerks. You're raising the average quality level of the socially successful man.

That's exactly what I was trying to get at.

You can get better at attracting women, and that's great, but women are free to reject you.

Aside from hyperbolic marketing materials, what would make us think that PUAs believe that they are "guaranteed" success with women? What makes us think that they resist the notion that women are free to reject them?

Actually, by joining the seduction community, PUAs demonstrate a recognition that success with women is not guaranteed, and that they will only achieve it with a lot of work figuring out how to satisfy women's criteria.

PUAs call getting obsessed about any one particular woman "one-itis," which is one of the cardinal sins of pickup.

To understand the attitude that PUAs have towards rejection and towards the validity of women's preferences, let's take a look, not at the words of PUAs, but at the words of a man criticizing PUAs:

The seduction community has two major flaws: The first flaw is that it teaches you the very contradictory message that you have to learn to be masculine and be your own man while catering to women and their actions. So no matter what she does, it's up to you to calibrate it for best effect. If she wants cocky and funny you better be cocky and funny. If she wants an asshole you better be that too. If she wants entertainment and you aren't entertaining then she will move on to the next guy who is.

The second flaw is that the seduction community never or rarely addresses those things that women are doing wrong. It's like a child who throws a tantrum and instead of disciplining him or her you take the position that you have to find out what it is they want and give it to them. There's this intense fear that if you call out women on their misbehaviour you are a chump or weak or unable to take it like a man. So rather than do that many guys prefer to just take the "spoil the child" approach to getting laid. Game is basically a coping strategy for women's rotten behaviour. If a woman has attitude and is unresponsive god forbid you tell her to open up. It's your job to figure out what buttons to push.

[...]

• A woman can't take responsibility for her actions and flakes on you — The PUA interpretation: You didn't do enough to attract her.

• A woman is with friends who regularly cockblock — The PUA interpretation: You have to win the friends over (never mind what she thinks). So learn group theory.

• A woman loses interest soon after talking to you — The PUA interpretation: You didn't stimulate her enough.

Basically, this writer recognizes and bashes PUAs for having an attitude towards women that "the customer is always right." Whenever you get rejected, you go back to the drawing board and try to figure out what you could have done differently. This attitude can be grueling on oneself... but it wins.

There are a few particular tactics in the seduction community that I do worry about pressuring women sexually. PUAs will sometimes persist through some forms of ambiguous resistance, or "token" resistance. For example, if a woman and a PUA are making out, and she says "we should stop soon" while continuing to vigorously make out, then the PUA will probably keep going until he gets a less ambiguous rejection. Similarly, if a woman says "we shouldn't do this" and then starts unbuttoning his shirt, the PUA will listen to her hands, not her words. If a woman does give an obvious "no," then the PUA might try initiating the same activity later if he has reason to believe she may have changed her mind.

I'm not quite sold on some of the ways that PUAs initiate with women who are conflicted about sex, yet even in these cases, PUAs will keep going not because they feel "entitled," but because they believe that the women involved will want them to keep going.

Just like everywhere else, PUAs are trying to fulfill what they perceive as the majority preferences of women, which may end marginalizing women with less-typical preferences. Unfortunately, it's a society-wide problem that many mainstream straight women seem to have trouble engaging in explicit verbal communication about sexuality and consent, which creates an incentive on men to make guesses, guesses which are sometimes wrong. More on that here.

While the attitude towards consent in the seduction community does leave some things to be desired, I don't think it's actually very far from the attitudes toward consent in the general culture, held by both men and women. It's another case where we bash the seduction community for merely verbalizing and copying what everyone else is already doing.

The rationality of negotiation over consent would be a great subject for discussion sometime.

For the most part, PUAs believe that they are fulfilling women's preferences, even though their measurement of women's preferences may sometimes be incorrect or biased (such as when assessing women who are experiencing conflict over their preferences). For the most part, PUAs butt out when they believe they have received an unambiguous rejection, and then try to examine where they "messed up."

Comment author: wedrifid 15 September 2011 11:32:39AM 1 point [-]

Viliam's response brought my attention to this quote-of-a-quote. It struck me as massively ill-conceived.

The second flaw is that the seduction community never or rarely addresses those things that women are doing wrong. It's like a child who throws a tantrum and instead of disciplining him or her you take the position that you have to find out what it is they want and give it to them.

This is just entirely backwards. The lessons on discipline - both academic and practical - that I learned during my training and brief career as a teacher have significant overlap with those of PUA. Taking actions in response to those of others that make it clear what behaviours they can get away with with you is an instrumental necessity with people in general.

Is the critic's complaint that the interaction is framed as 'pressing buttons that have a desired influence on future behaviour' rather than 'make a moral judgement and punish those whose behavior does not match your ideals'?

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 07:01:13PM *  5 points [-]

Only by an extremely strict definition of "guarantee" could this be construed as contravening any individual lady's autonomy.

You actually hint at this:

You can do things that can make you statistically more likely to succeed, but in the end, when you have consensual social interactions, the other person could always rebuff you.

Sure, but the guarantee was never about individuals in the first place!

Consider each interaction a Bernoulli trial. If (pre-self help), the poor dude always strikes out [P(success) ~ 0], he will never have a successful interaction (however that's defined) unless he performs an enormous number of trials, which his poor self esteem won't allow. Say we raise his probability of success (through hypnotherapy and positive self-talk coaching), to 0.01. If our gentleman is so revved up that he then goes out and talks to 1000 women (performs 1000 trials), there's a >99.99% chance he'll have at least one success.

If this situation is typical, it would seem like an unreasonably restrictive use of language to balk the word "guarantee". Individuals always have unique characteristics, but that doesn't mean we can't make statements about averages.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 07:15:51PM 10 points [-]

Of course.

My point was about literal guarantees, and men who believe them. There are very stupid people in this world. It's easy to assume them away, but they do actually exist. George Sodini, I suspect, was a stupid man -- or, at least, deeply unrealistic. He had the Charles Guiteau attitude: fiercely convinced that he was owed something that would never have been likely. Being that unrealistic is dangerous to oneself and others.

I would guess that LW doesn't harbor so much of that, but I feel obligated to make these kinds of disclaimers because I do see people here who don't take social conventions for granted and who don't pick up cues very naturally.

To get back to the main issue, I think it's basically good to get better at picking up women, and even more generally good to build social/networking/charisma ability. I'm just inclined to be very careful about handing too much of an ideology to people who are high-risk for doing bad things with it.

Comment author: michaelsullivan 09 December 2011 06:09:47PM 3 points [-]

The biggest problem with what I've seen of PUA and PUA converts is that it is very hard to distinguish these two affects.

Your typical shy guy poor dude, doesn't actually approach women with an actual trial very often. Sometimes it almost never happens.

Suppose the successful PUA can pickup 2-3% of intentional targets. They are probably targeting people everytime they are in a social situation that involves meeting new people. Perhaps this involves dozens of contacts a week, or even hundreds if they are the sort who is looking for a constant stream of one-nighters.

On the other hand, your typical poor dude may only make 1-2 intentional targets a month, if that. I was never a PUA. I developed enough social skills on my own to make a marked difference in my outlook a few years before Lewis Depayne showed up on usenet pushing Ross Jeffries stuff, which was laughable.

But I was definitely a poor dude before then. I attended a college for two years with 70% women, that a friend of mine described in retrospect as a "pussy paradise" without ever having any kind of romantic or sexual relationship. In retrospect, some of the rare targets of my attention were begging me to make a move in ways that I failed to notice. But in two years, I probably made actual attempts to hookup or date at most 9-10 women/girls, and in none of those cases did I ever make a move that demanded either rejection or acceptance. Because I was so, so sure that I would be rejected that I couldn't face the prospect. Is it any surprise that my success rate was 0%?

Even after my awakening, I maintained a relatively low frequency of attempts, but my ratio of hookups to serious attempts is far better than 3%, more like 50-60%.

My going hypothesis is that the mere act of getting guys to specifically attempt to approach women they are attracted to, and then attempt to seduce those who inspire their further interest and verify their success is enough to turn the average loser into someone who will be reasonably successful with women.

I didn't actually need any dark arts to go from a big 'loser' to somebody who, in the right social context (not a typical bar scene), has around a 50/50 shot to hook up with almost anybody who is looking and interests me. I just had to realize that sex is not something women have and men want to take from them, and that I am not hideous and unattractive.

Now, I've come to realize that I'm probably more attractive than average, naturally, and it was my combination of weak social skills and brutal social experience of growing up that warped my mental map about this until I was in my mid-20s. I don't actually believe that most guys would have the results that I do. But I'm hardly some kind of Super-Adonis. I'm fat, and don't pay a whole lot of attention to my appearance beyond being clean (tend to wear non-descript preppy business casual nearly everywhere I go because it's comfortable). I'm pretty sure I'd get negative numbers on Roissy's stupid SMV test.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 11 September 2010 07:50:21PM *  1 point [-]

Say we raise his probability of success, to 0.01. If our gentleman is so revved up that he then goes out and talks to 1000 women (performs 1000 trials), there's a >99.99% chance he'll have at least one success.

The (fatal) flaw in your argument is that you multiplied probabilities without checking your model of reality for any obvious reasons to believe that the probabilities might be significantly dependent on each other.

In other words, if all we know about a man is that he is trying to mate, is the probability that he will succeed with woman #900 given that he struck out with #1 through #899 really the same as the probability that he will succeed with woman #1?

Comment author: Will_Sawin 11 September 2010 08:19:45PM 3 points [-]

The general point still holds. P(at least one success) can be very large even if P(nth attempt succeeds) is small, for all n.

Comment author: pjeby 11 September 2010 02:32:58PM 5 points [-]

when you have consensual social interactions, the other person could always rebuff you

I don't have a link handy, but ISTR that one of AMP's promotional materials was a thing that showed several ways that inadvertently create "captured audience syndrome" via body language, conversation monopolizing, or other behaviors make a woman feel threatened or like she doesn't have the option of leaving.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2010 02:55:56PM 4 points [-]

If you happen to find it, I hope you post the link.

Comment author: MC_Escherichia 11 September 2010 03:05:22PM 13 points [-]

To rephrase komponisto's reply to this in a simpler manner, and minus the controversial bit:

I wish everyone would extend to the unattractive people of the world, of either sex, our right to feel bitter. This does not make us rapists. Thank you for your attention.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2010 03:51:45PM 6 points [-]

That's a good point.

It seems to be too easy to go from "Some bitter people are dangerous" to "Bitter people are dangerous"-- people make that sort of mistake anyway, and it's easier when there's some fear added.

Comment author: Perplexed 11 September 2010 11:15:10PM *  3 points [-]

Upvoted. But the right to feel bitter does not automatically imply the right to express bitterness. And even if you posit the right to express bitterness, expressing bitterness may still not be a rational response to the situation.

ETA: This probably-volatile comic-strip link suggests one reason why bitterness over one's own unattractiveness is often the result of a deficiency in epistemic rationality.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 12 September 2010 04:07:19AM 3 points [-]

It can get creepy when men think they're entitled... I worry about that driving men to violence.

That sounds psychologically unrealistic to me. Rapists tend to have more sex and more partners than average. Maybe violence comes from a sense of desert, but that sense was not connected to "following the rules."

Similarly, I have heard lots of anecdotes of students becoming violent for being denied degrees, but have not been able to substantiate any of them.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 01:51:25PM *  14 points [-]

If I may say so, there is something troubling about your third paragraph (edited, with emphasis added):

The one thing I still have a problem with is self-help courses that guarantee you success with women. Nothing can guarantee you that...[W]hen you have consensual social interactions, the other person could always rebuff you. It can get creepy when men think...that it's unfair when they get turned down. I worry about that driving men to violence.... [W]omen are free to reject you.

Try to imagine substituting other forms of consensual social interaction here, and seeing if the tone feels right. For example, right now the economy is bad in many places, and many people are unemployed. I can easily imagine that there are numerous self-help courses that teach people how to make themselves more attractive to employers, by teaching them how to behave during interviews, etc. Now obviously no such program can guarantee anyone a job. Imagine, however, that some poor soul -- let's make her a woman -- goes through these courses, does everything she can to improve her prospects, but still can't manage to secure a job. Presumably, a person in that position would naturally feel a sense of frustration; they may even feel that they are the victim of unfairness. Can you imagine applying a word like creepy to this -- general, unspecified, hypothetical -- woman's distress? ("Creepy" is about the strongest form of social condemnation that exists in near mode -- i.e. when we're not talking about distant political villains.) Would you feel the need to point out -- in a rather defensive-sounding way -- that employers are in fact free to reject those whom they regard as less-than-qualified candidates? It's unlikely you would worry too much about such a person turning to violence -- and to the extent you did, it would probably be in the standard sympathetic way in which thoughtful, liberal people usually discuss the relationship between poverty and crime.

I don't mean to single you out personally and question your motives, so please don't take what follows that way; but it seems to me that underlying remarks like these -- which I have seen and heard from many people in many places over the years -- is a fundamentally inadequate level of sympathy for "unattractive" men. I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion that women in modern society are excessively conservative when it comes to granting sexual favors. There is apparently no greater female nightmare scenario than mating with a less-than-optimally-attractive male. The Darwinian reasons why this should be the case are too obvious to be worth stating; but it should be equally obvious that such behavior is less than rational in our modern era of contraception: sex simply doesn't have the same dangers that it did in the ancestral environment.

(I would guess that the analogously irrational male behavior is probably sexual jealousy.)

Comment author: whpearson 11 September 2010 07:48:19PM *  13 points [-]

but it should be equally obvious that such behavior is less than rational in our modern era of contraception: sex simply doesn't have the same dangers that it did in the ancestral environment.

Is getting pregnant really the only danger? Sex can cause the release of mind altering drug that can cause you to pair bond (women more so than men). This can have a dramatic effect on your life if it is with the wrong person.

Comment author: randallsquared 12 September 2010 06:03:12PM 2 points [-]

This seems like an excellent reason for men to object to PUA: it focuses mainly on one night stands and short term relationships, which may reduce the ease and likelihood of pair bonding for the woman, later in life. PUA statistically works against the success rate of long term relationships.

Comment author: whpearson 12 September 2010 10:56:39PM *  4 points [-]

This seems like an excellent reason for men to object to PUA: it focuses mainly on one night stands and short term relationships, which may reduce the ease and likelihood of pair bonding for the woman, later in life

I'd like more research on the nature of pair bonding, but it sounds plausible. Specifically whether men who've had lots of sexual partners are more likely to be leave women than those who have had few. If so women are likely to be more wary.

This seems like an excellent reason for men to object to PUA:

Ideally the PUA scheme would be replaced by something as well though. Advice on how to gain experience with women and what they really want, without short term dating and without getting into bad long term relationships.

I'm imagining something like the following, it roughly mirrors my development, although it was unconscious. Although it would probably be hard to follow for very sexually frustrated men.

1) Find women that you enjoy spending time with in a non-sexual way, either at work or a shared hobby/interest. Do not try to befriend them specifically, but befriend the group. On-line interaction might work, but you will do better if you see people in the flesh.

2) Do not focus on a specific woman. Do not think you want to have sex with them. That is friendzone them to borrow PUA terminology. If you are interested in long term monogamy this is an important skill to have*!

3) Casually watch their interactions with their boyfriends/husbands and the sorts of conversations they have. Do not try them out on your female friends, unless you are very sure they are interested in you. But knowing what behaviours are appropriate/attractive for the sort of women that you can get on with is important.

What they react to is probably a more accurate picture of what they want, than what they say they want though.

4) Improve some of the things that PUA people talk about, appearance, posture, demeanour etc

5) Some of your female friends may flirt with you, especially when drunk. This may be entirely innocent, and is likely to be if they are in a relationship. Practice and have fun but don't take it too seriously. If they do flirt, take it as a compliment and it means you are ready for dating. You should have a good idea of what sort of woman you get on with as well.

6) Try dating. Ask your female friends to suggest friends, try on-line dating.

However I'm pretty sure I learnt a lot about relationships from watching my Mum and Dad (and Aunts and Uncles, all in long term AFAIK monogamous relationships) interact as I was growing up as well, so I wasn't starting from no knowledge.

I haven't done much of 6 myself. Because people, in general, tend to drive me up the wall if I'm around them a lot. There are rare exceptions, though. And that isn't even taking into consideration other compatibility issues.

*Not friendzoning your partner, but your partners friends.

Comment author: HughRistik 12 September 2010 11:10:22PM 9 points [-]

This seems like an excellent reason for men to object to PUA: it focuses mainly on one night stands and short term relationships,

I've posted some thoughts on the orientation of PUAs to relationships. Although many PUAs do focus on short term relationships, most of what they are doing would be the same even for long-term relationships.

As far as I can tell, limiting factor of most PUAs in attracting women for either short-term or long-term relationships is that they are insufficiently masculine, high-status, and exciting. At least, with young women, who may well be skewed towards short-term mating (contra the stereotypical assumption that women always want relationships).

Young men are often accused of being "led by their dicks" when choosing mates. I think there is something analogous going on with young women. Even though in the abstract they may want relationships, they also want highly sexually attractive guys. And the most sexually attractive guy out there for many women isn't necessarily the guy who would make a good long-term relationship partner.

So if you are a young guy and you want a relationship with a young woman, you have to deal with competition from guys running a flashy short-term mating strategy. For a woman to notice you and be interested in getting to know you well enough to even think of you as a long-term mate, you have to outshine the local badboys. If you try to present yourself as stable, romantic, long-term mate from the start, you will be consistently overlooked.

Of course, not all women are following this type of mating strategy where most of their attention goes to the flashiest males, who they then try to "convert" into long-term mates. In fact, I'm willing to bet that there is at least a reasonable minority of women who only go for long-term mates. But it's common enough that men need to be aware of it. It pays for young men to have the kind of flashy presentation that PUAs teach, regardless of whether they are looking for short-term or long-term relationships.

which may reduce the ease and likelihood of pair bonding for the woman, later in life

I've seen this idea before, but I wonder if we actually have any empirical evidence that it is true that short-term mating reduces the likelihood of pair bonding for women later in life. My gut reaction is that this may be true for some female phenotypes, but not for others.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 13 September 2010 02:52:22AM 13 points [-]

HughRistik:

I've seen this idea before, but I wonder if we actually have any empirical evidence that it is true that short-term mating reduces the likelihood of pair bonding for women later in life. My gut reaction is that this may be true for some female phenotypes, but not for others.

I have my own pet theory about this, extrapolated from real-life observations and a number of other clues, which are not very strong individually, but seem to add up to a pretty strong web of evidence.

To put it as succinctly as possible, the problem stems from two not very pretty, but nevertheless real facts. First, the attractiveness of individual men to women has an extremely high statistical dispersion, even more so than vice versa. (In other words, the difference between men from different percentiles in women's eyes will be significantly greater than the difference between women in analogous percentiles in men's eyes.) Second, and more important, for a typical woman, the attractiveness of men she can get for non-serious temporary relationships is significantly higher than the attractiveness of her realistic options for permanent commitment. (This also holds far more so than the reverse.) It follows that when a woman with a variegated relationship history finally settles down, it will likely be with a man whose attractiveness is significantly lower than those she's been involved with in the past. It's not hard to see why this is a recipe for trouble, and clearly the implications are somewhat reactionary in nature.

On the other hand, if a woman settles down with a man who outclasses all those she'd been involved with earlier, her ability to bond with him probably won't be compromised. Trouble is, this is obviously increasingly unlikely as their number is greater.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 September 2010 05:31:41PM 11 points [-]

I wonder if the women who go for "flashier" males make up a disproportionate portion of the dating pool, because women who tend to choose those types of males who are inclined to become long-term mates end up with long-term mates and stop dating?

It's sort of like how, according to my Econ 101 textbook, most people who are unemployed experience short-term unemployment, but most of the people unemployed at any given moment are experiencing long-term unemployment. For example, during one year, you'd have three people who are unemployed all year, and twelve people who are unemployed for only a month. If you look at who's employed at any given moment, you'll see the five long-term unemployed people and only one short-term unemployed, but the person who's short-term unemployed keeps changing while the long-term unemployed people are always the same ones.

(I think I said that awkwardly...)

Comment author: Vladimir_M 16 September 2010 04:51:17PM *  6 points [-]

HughRistik:

I've seen this idea before, but I wonder if we actually have any empirical evidence that it is true that short-term mating reduces the likelihood of pair bonding for women later in life.

I just ran into an interesting link that's highly pertinent for this topic. Slumlord discusses a paper that provides for a very strong case that the answer is yes:
http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2010/09/sexual-partner-divorce-risk.html

(H/t Thursday via OB.) I haven't had the time to read the paper in detail, but on a casual look, it seems quite convincing.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 21 September 2010 03:25:22AM *  1 point [-]

I agree that men form lasting emotional bonds partly as a result of (more often than a cause of) physical intimacy. But this usually does not exclude desire for sex with other women. If a man immediately settles down with the first woman who will touch him, it just means he really hates looking for such women (perhaps irrationally so). In this case, his even finding one is (excluding abusive psychopaths) an improvement.

Comment author: Perplexed 12 September 2010 09:18:03PM 6 points [-]

I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion that women in modern society are excessively conservative when it comes to granting sexual favors.

Ok, you have put the suggestion out there, it was indeed controversial, you received some criticism, but apparently no hit to your karma for suggesting it. Isn't it time now for you to flesh out just what it is you mean? "Excessively conservative" by what standard, and who or what makes that kind of standard? The phrase "granting sexual favors". Was that phrase just a convenient euphemism, or do you think that "granting favors" is the right framework for this discussion? (Surely, after all, the world might be a better place if we all did more favors for each other, but it seemed as if you were calling for one small segment of humanity - young, attractive single women to provide the favors, presumably for the benefit of a different small segment. You didn't mention any favors flowing in any other direction. Perhaps now might be the time to mention them.)

Also, you might clarify that bit about:

There is apparently no greater female nightmare scenario than mating with a less-than-optimally-attractive male.

You see, I notice unattractive men getting married every day, and then going on to have children. Their wives don't seem to be having nightmares about it. That is the kind of thing you meant by "mating", isn't it? Or, if you are using "mating" to refer to some other behavior, and you want to continue to use that word to exclude the kind of mating I mentioned, please explain why your usage is the correct one.

Comment author: komponisto 12 September 2010 09:42:42PM *  0 points [-]

I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion

Ok, you have put the suggestion out there, it was indeed controversial, you received some criticism, but apparently no hit to your karma for suggesting it. Isn't it time now for you to flesh out just what it is you mean?

As I indicated here (final paragraph), I do not currently feel that my further discussion of this topic would be worthwhile.

In other words, I wondered if it was time to make that suggestion, and the answer came back: no.

Comment author: Perplexed 12 September 2010 10:18:08PM 2 points [-]

Ok, your call, of course.

Just to throw in my own two cents as to when it might be time:

Social norms change all the time, but they do so slowly, on a time scale of generations. I am unsure what causes such changes but it seems unlikely to me that a change in female sexual mores could be triggered by a discussion on a male-dominated rational discussion group. Furthermore, regardless of what triggers the change, the actual mechanism by which this kind of change becomes widespread is that some adventuresome soul tries it and comes back to report to her peers that it was safe, it was pleasant, it was actually kind of fun.

In other words, to promote the kind of change you are seeking, you need to talk to men, not women.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2010 02:52:03PM 7 points [-]

A job applicant who seems likely to resent being turned down will appear creepy to potential employers.

There is apparently no greater female nightmare scenario than mating with a less-than-optimally-attractive male. The Darwinian reasons why this should be the case are too obvious to be worth stating; but it should be equally obvious that such behavior is less than rational in our modern era of contraception: sex simply doesn't have the same dangers that it did in the ancestral environment.

Men do the same sort of thing. Really. Hunt around a little for examples of fat-bashing.

The only gender difference I can see is that a significant proportion of men [1] are apt to verbally attack unattractive women just for existing, while women are more apt to wait for a pass to be made by an unattractive man.

Is there anything in PUA about what sets off the "creepy guy-- I don't want to be anywhere near him" response as distinct from mere "not sexually interested"? I'm not talking about "less than optimally attractive", and your phrasing it that way strikes me as dishonest arguing. The vast majority of women have children with less than optimally attractive men.

[1] It may well be under 5% of men who do that sort of thing-- it's still apt to be quite a buzz-kill for women on the receiving end of it.

Comment author: mattnewport 11 September 2010 04:36:27PM 10 points [-]

Men do the same sort of thing. Really. Hunt around a little for examples of fat-bashing.

I think this is actually an example of the sort of double standard that komponisto is talking about.

It's a pretty mainstream view that the fact that men find overweight women unattractive is either a problem with individual men's judgement (excessive focus on physical appearance over other attributes, unrealistic expectations for a partner's physical appearance etc.) or some kind of wider problem with society focusing on unrealistic or unrepresentative examples of physical beauty ('anorexic' models and actresses etc.).

While probably not a majority view, it seems to me that it is far more common to see this view expressed and this issue discussed in the media than the view that men who are generally perceived as unattractive by women are victims of either a problem with the judgement of individual women or a problem with the ideals of male attractiveness promoted by society or the media.

The only gender difference I can see is that a significant proportion of men [1] are apt to verbally attack unattractive women just for existing, while women are more apt to wait for a pass to be made by an unattractive man.

This sounds like over-generalizing from personal experience to me. My memories of school are of the most hurtful verbal attacks coming from girls but without some statistical data I'm going to assume that both of us are biased by the salience of particular instances of verbal abuse we have observed.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 September 2010 11:48:52AM 7 points [-]

My personal experience is of harassment at school by girls, to a large extent for being short and for having feet that turned out. Later, I've been subject to some street harassment, but not a lot as such things go. And not enough to generally affect my experience of being out of doors. Weirdly, the worst was from a neighbor kid who looked like she was about five.

I've had more harassment about my weight from my mother than from the general public.

My take on what fat women in general have to put up with is from reading a lot of fat-acceptance material.

My impression is that mean girls at school are much more likely to go after other girls than boys, but I could well be mistaken.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 12 September 2010 07:29:33AM *  5 points [-]

NancyLebovitz:

The only gender difference I can see is that a significant proportion of men [1] are apt to verbally attack unattractive women just for existing, while women are more apt to wait for a pass to be made by an unattractive man.

This is true if you judge people's speech and reactions by the usual standards of discourse in polite society, but not if you take into account their actual hurtfulness and the actual level of repugnance and scorn being manifested.

Men are indeed apt to appraise women's attractiveness explicitly in crude and vulgar terms, much more so than vice versa. However, the ways in which women talk about unattractive men might sound gentler and far more polite, but it's naive to think that unattractive men don't get the message, and that they don't get hurt just as much as unattractive women who get called by various explicit bad names. Moreover, whenever I hear girls damning some unattractive guy with faint praise, I always feel like it would be more honest if they just scorned and trashed him explicitly, considering the status they assign to him for all practical purposes.

Another thing is that even when stated in the most explicit and crude terms, men's usual complaints and negative appraisals about women tend to sound harsher and more vulgar than the other way around. It just happens that the words typically involved in the former have a much more politically incorrect and inflammatory impact, even though the latter are not any less harsh and damning by any reasonable standard.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2010 05:30:12PM 1 point [-]

Is there anything in PUA about what sets off the "creepy guy-- I don't want to be anywhere near him" response as distinct from mere "not sexually interested"?

Extremely short answer: Degree to which the unattractive male appears to submit to the social reality as she sees it.

Comment author: Violet 12 September 2010 07:52:04AM *  4 points [-]

Many "alpha" behaviours can be creepy.

Someone being submissive is not creepy.

This as a personal note, not as a general truth.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 12 September 2010 08:50:14AM *  8 points [-]

Violet:

Many "alpha" behaviours can be creepy.

Some of the very pinnacles of creepiness are achieved by men who attempt to pull off difficult and daring high-status behaviors but fall short of doing it successfully. I don't know if this is what you had in mind with the scare quotes, but with this interpretation, your comment is very accurate.

I remember there was an old post at Overcoming Bias discussing this sort of situation, where a man's failed attempt at a high-status display backfires and raises an awful red flag that he's a clueless sort of guy who doesn't know his proper place and will probably self-destruct for that reason. Unfortunately, I can't remember the title and I don't have the link archived.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 04:36:39PM 1 point [-]

I'm not talking about "less than optimally attractive", and your phrasing it that way strikes me as dishonest arguing. The vast majority of women have children with less than optimally attractive men.

It was rhetorical understatement, perhaps -- not quite the same thing as dishonest arguing. But note that what is meant here is "less than optimally attractive among their own options".

As for men and fat-bashing, etc., yes, that's also quite bad. However, I was under the impression that criticizing this was already far from taboo in elite circles

In any event, I don't want to deny any symmetry that may exist, and I don't think it would be fair to impute such a denial to me on the grounds that I specifically discussed only one side of the coin.

(And it's interesting how so far no one has noticed the parenthetical sentence at the end of my comment.)

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2010 04:51:39PM 4 points [-]

(And it's interesting how so far no one has noticed the parenthetical sentence at the end of my comment.)

The one about sexual jealousy? I thought it was foolish, but not in a way directly relevant to the part I was most motivated to critique, so I let it be. Women experience sexual jealousy too; implying that it's the special province of men has the weird consequence of implying that women would all rather be some flavor of poly, which is false.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 04:54:34PM *  2 points [-]

Women experience sexual jealousy too; implying that it's the special province of men

It didn't imply that, any more than the earlier part implied that men never reject women.

The proposal was that male sexual jealously is analogous to female mate selectivity in the specific way I was discussing.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 05:02:11PM 0 points [-]

The one about sexual jealousy? I thought it was foolish

Also, really, I think "foolish" is unnecessarily hostile language. Wouldn't "incorrect" suffice?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 02:48:12PM 5 points [-]

It's a good point, but I stand by what I said.

I've heard anecdotes of disgruntled graduate students attacking their schools because they weren't given their degrees. (The example that comes to mind is of a woman who set explosives in a lab.) I definitely consider that creepy. I would start worrying about safety if an obviously unqualified student kept ranting about how she deserved her degree.

Charles Guiteau, who assassinated James Garfield, was chronically unemployed but convinced that the government owed him a high office (he wanted to be an ambassador.) I would consider his obsession with "deserving" a position far out of his reach was a warning sign for criminal behavior.

So it's not just about sex. "Creepiness" is something I associate with being convinced you deserve something that it's totally unreasonable (socially) for you to be granted. Most unemployed workers are disappointed, sure, but that's not the same thing.

Comment author: jimrandomh 11 September 2010 03:58:59PM *  8 points [-]

Reading this thread has inspired an interesting definition. Creepiness is an approximate estimate of how far someone would have to be pushed in order to do something evil. A history of criminal behavior is extremely creepy, because it's strong evidence of bad character. Physical deformity is creepy because it correlates well with mental illness, but it stops being creepy once it's understood well enough to rule out that possibility. Violating social norms can be creepy, or not, depending on what's known about why it was violated and the nature of the norm. And horror movie villains, of course, peg the creepiness scale, merely by being in that role, regardless of what other features they have.

By this definition, refusing to accept a disappointment that won't go away is very creepy, because the only real options for dealing with disappointment are to accept it, to work harder towards fixing the source of the disappointment, or to escalate. Escalating would be bad, and working harder has a limit that, in the case of the disgruntled student, has probably already been reached or nearly reached.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2010 04:10:12PM 7 points [-]

Not really-- there's a sort of creepiness which is about distaste at least as much as fear.

And I don't think creepiness is a reliable signal of dangerousness-- there are people who are very dangerous who aren't creepy, and it's my impression that there are a great many creepy people who don't do anything awful.

I will tentatively suggest that that some kinds of creepiness are some sort of off-key or out-of-sync body language (not necessarily on the Asberger's spectrum).

A story from one of John Malloy's Dress for Success books: He realized that one of his subordinates had done some very good work for him, and took the chance of offering the subordinate (who had disastrous body language) some consultations.

The subordinate looked distressed, and Malloy was worried that he'd said the wrong thing, but then the subordinate explained that some of his sons had the same body language and were running into similar social problems.

Comment author: jimrandomh 11 September 2010 04:49:23PM 4 points [-]

Not really-- there's a sort of creepiness which is about distaste at least as much as fear.

These seem like importantly different categories that merely happen to share some mental machinery.

And I don't think creepiness is a reliable signal of dangerousness-- there are people who are very dangerous who aren't creepy, and it's my impression that there are a great many creepy people who don't do anything awful.

True, but I suspect that's just because many things that used to be useful signals, aren't anymore. Strange body language, for example, may be a signal of distant origin (to the extent that body language differs from place to place).

Comment author: MC_Escherichia 11 September 2010 08:20:43PM 7 points [-]

being convinced you deserve something that it's totally unreasonable (socially) for you to be granted

There's some sort of ambiguity in the word "deserve". I would say that every harmless person deserves to be loved, or deserves an enjoyable job, but that doesn't mean anyone owes anyone anything. The world is the way it is.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 03:40:29PM *  3 points [-]

This is certainly a fair reply. I take it, then, that you wouldn't consider the mere expression -- much less the mere feeling -- of disappointment to be creepy?

As a practical matter, I suspect we agree a fair amount on the sorts of actual behaviors that should be considered alarming -- whether in the case of sex or anything else. Rather than disagreeing on what is or isn't bad behavior, my aim was just to point out the problem of amorous disappointment (in the specific case of males, as I have the impression -- which should be corrected if false -- that there tend to be differences in the basic causes of rejection between the sexes).

On reflection, though I do tend to think this aspect isn't discussed enough (edit: what I mean here is that the taboo level is too high), it probably wasn't especially useful for me to add my voice to this particular controversy. Perhaps I should indeed leave this kind of thing for the Robin Hansons of the world.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 03:56:02PM 4 points [-]

Sure, no, I don't have a problem with disappointment.

It does seem that men have more of a problem with amorous disappointment than women do. That definitely is "something wrong" and I'm not on board with women who basically think that men are in the wrong whenever they express desire.

Comment author: CronoDAS 11 September 2010 09:57:29PM *  4 points [-]

It does seem that men have more of a problem with amorous disappointment than women do.

TvTropes does have plenty of examples of women who don't handle it well, so at least it's something that exists in the popular imagination.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 12 September 2010 08:28:46AM *  8 points [-]

SarahC:

It does seem that men have more of a problem with amorous disappointment than women do.

I disagree. I've been in situations where girls were determined to seduce me, and I kept rejecting their increasingly overt and desperate advances. They'd typically end up getting visibly annoyed, and there were also some ugly scenes of frustrated anger on their part. Similar things also happened sometimes when I would (mostly unintentionally) give a false hope to girls who were below my standards, though admittedly with much less overt drama compared to the former sort of situations.

Of course, such situations are less common than the inverse, and even more importantly, since women are typically physically weaker, men won't feel intimidated and threatened by their flipping out. These were just amusing youthful adventures for me, but I can easily imagine inverse scenarios being awfully scary for women. However, the idea that women somehow handle it more calmly and rationally when they're faced with the terrible feeling of being put down by a disappointing rejection is completely false.

That said, there are some significant differences in practice. Men are expected to take a more proactive role in approaching and initiating things, so by sheer necessity, they more often end up plunging into defeats based on unjustified expectations. Moreover, men and women tend to react very differently towards various kinds of signals of aloofness and disinterestedness in the early phases of meeting and dating. However, discussing these issues fully would mean getting too deep into technicalities -- the important point is that it's unjustified to present men as somehow worse overall in this regard.

Comment author: pjeby 11 September 2010 02:27:58PM *  7 points [-]

I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion that women in modern society are excessively conservative when it comes to granting sexual favors.

That's as silly as suggesting that men should be more conservative in granting those favors.

I rather liked the rest of your comment (even though I likely would find your hypothetical job seeker a bit creepy), but this part struck me as nonsensical... why suggest that any group of people modify their tastes to suit some other group of people? (I suppose racism and sexism might be exceptions, but even so... it still seems the appropriate solution to such things is just to find people with better taste!)

OTOH, if what you really meant was, "people (of either gender) should be more sympathetic/less judgmental to the plight of the unattractive (of either gender)", then sure, that makes sense.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2010 02:42:26PM 13 points [-]

Sexual relationships are far more personal, and decided on far more idiosyncratic criteria, than employment relationships. There are fairly explicit and well-defined understandings of what constitutes qualification for a job that do not depend strongly on the personality of the hiring manager. If Human Resources is looking for a new shelf stocker or a new receptionist or a new medical transcriptionist and turn down our heroine as you describe, and they can be shown to be doing it for certain prohibited reasons, they are breaking the law.

Sex is qualitatively different from everything else. Pretend I repeated that a couple dozen times, because I think this concept might be the barrier to understanding in conversations like these.

Would you feel the need to point out -- in a rather defensive-sounding way -- that employers are in fact free to reject those whom they regard as less-than-qualified candidates? It's unlikely you would worry too much about such a person turning to violence

You realize that it's not just made up that sometimes desire for sex turns into violence, right? Let's hear your priors on how likely it is for there to be a victim of sexual harrassment or assault reading this thread, and how likely it is for there to be someone who was stalked or attacked by a rejected job applicant reading this thread. I am concerned about sexual violence because I have friends who were raped or molested. I am concerned about sexual violence because I have a history providing me with direct empirical evidence that it exists. I am concerned about sexual violence because I live in a society that takes care to remind me, constantly, that I am not safe, that if certain things happen to me it will be because I wasn't careful enough, that it is eminently reasonable for me to draw the design of my life within circumscribed lines to protect myself from such danger and the stigma of victimization.

I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion that women in modern society are excessively conservative when it comes to granting sexual favors. There is apparently no greater female nightmare scenario than mating with a less-than-optimally-attractive male.

I have met you. I know that you are not an awful (or even creepy) person. I still can't read this charitably. I'm hoping you've just been primed by reading too much Hanson or something. Dude: People are not entitled to get things for free from people who don't want to give them, even if you think their reasons for not wanting to give are dumb. It is not acceptable to criticize women for inadequate generosity because they are not as promiscuous as would be convenient for straight men.

To the extent that sex is like a gift, you have to be in a relationship with someone that warrants the exchange of such gifts. I don't expect birthday presents from people who aren't in a birthday-present-exchanging relationship with me. To the extent that sex is like a commodity, guess what - it's for sale! No, you can't buy it from every person who might have it to offer, but not everybody who bakes cupcakes sells them either - you have to go to a cupcake store. If you want homemade cupcakes, you'll have to make friends with somebody who bakes.

but it should be equally obvious that such behavior is less than rational in our modern era of contraception: sex simply doesn't have the same dangers that it did in the ancestral environment.

It should also be obvious that eating large quantities of sugar is less rational in our era of processed food. Do you consume sweets? It should also be obvious that avoiding unnecessary physical activity is less rational in our era of labor-saving devices. Do you go to the gym as often as studies indicate you should? Women art godshatter too.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2010 03:46:51PM 18 points [-]

Some things I didn't get around to posting earlier-- Hanson is somewhat on my shit list because he's posted more than once about how the world would be a better place if women would have sex when they don't want to. He's a geek economist, so he gets to speculate about such things, but oddly enough, he doesn't consider the costs to women in such scenarios.


Consent and fear and all that: There was a previous discussion here about women giving out fake phone numbers, and there seemed to be no grasp of why a woman might do that instead of giving a straightforward refusal.

Imagine a world where all the socially acceptable partners for you are bigger, stronger, and probably more aggressive. You may prefer such yourself, but it's certainly the case that you'll take a status hit if you chose otherwise.

Furthermore, you've had niceness training-- it's hard work to directly contradict what someone else wants. Doing that amount of work is a gift which might not be bestowed on a spammer.

And you're not supposed to make the first move, for values of "not supposed to" which range from being blamed if you're raped to putting off potential partners if you do. I realize both of those vary according to who you happen to be around, and both may have faded somewhat in recent decades, but people do respond to potential risks.

None of this means that giving fake phone numbers is a wonderful thing, but there are actual human motivations for doing so which aren't just spite-- sometimes spite is involved, but the story isn't nearly that simple.


This is raw stuff, on all sides. I've been decently treated here, but some of the theorizing about women is enough to be a partial explanation for why this place is very high majority male.

Comment author: lmnop 11 September 2010 08:22:32PM *  5 points [-]

I think a big component of sex dynamics is, as you said, physical strength. Since women are physically weaker than men, they can't rely on that to protect them from overly aggressive or hostile potential partners. The only thing keeping those overly aggressive or hostile potential partners in line are social norms against rape and abuse, which are already weak enough that, for example, rape apologism for famous athletes and victim blaming are common. Any talk that can potentially weaken those social norms then becomes a legitimate threat... unless the talk includes ways of subverting other social norms that balance its effect. For example, I think we could solve some problems by giving men "niceness training" instead of women.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 September 2010 03:43:38AM 9 points [-]

A sidetrack: I think men's physical strength is a minor factor compared to their ability to organize for violence. If the organizational ability were reversed-- if men who seriously displeased women were mobbed by 4 or 5 armed and organized women and didn't have male back-up, the world would be very different.

This doesn't mean I want that world, but I find it interesting that males seem to almost reflexively organize for violence, and females pretty much never do. Information about girl gangs appreciated if I'm missing something.


"Niceness training" has some real problems-- it's being afraid to express strong desires which might be in conflict with other people's.

Kindness training-- encouraging people to actually treat each other well and having some skills for doing so-- would be a whole different thing, and a world where it was common is hard for me to imagine. It would be a world with little or no status enforcement.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 11 September 2010 06:09:56PM 7 points [-]

To the extent that sex is like a commodity, guess what - it's for sale! No, you can't buy it from every person who might have it to offer, but not everybody who bakes cupcakes sells them either - you have to go to a cupcake store. If you want homemade cupcakes, you'll have to make friends with somebody who bakes.

Well said. You nailed the point and gave me a good belly laugh.

I think people familiar with ev psych tend to over-estimate the actual differences between the sexes. They certainly exist, but cultural conditioning and supply and demand effects magnify them into gender roles.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 04:06:02PM *  9 points [-]

Sex is qualitatively different from everything else.

Well...yes, as an empirical matter, that was the thesis of my comment! Wasn't it clear that I was questioning, as a normative matter, whether that ought to be the case?

I have met you. I know that you are not an awful (or even creepy) person. I still can't read this charitably

Just what is your uncharitable interpretation, such that you would feel the need to make this kind of disclaimer?

I'm hoping you've just been primed by reading too much Hanson or something

Probably. I can't claim to have thought about this kind of thing much before Hanson brought it up.

Dude: People are not entitled to get things for free from people who don't want to give them, even if you think their reasons for not wanting to give are dumb. It is not acceptable to criticize women for inadequate generosity because they are not as promiscuous as would be convenient for straight men.

First of all, the phrase "it is not acceptable to criticize..." is kind of an alarm bell. Secondly, yes, the issue is precisely at the level of "wanting". Obviously, given that someone already doesn't want to give something, then their giving it would be bad, all else being equal. The question is, what to do about this problem of their not wanting, since their lack of wanting causes pain for others.

It should also be obvious that eating large quantities of sugar is less rational in our era of processed food. Do you consume sweets?

(Some, but not very many, as it happens.) Yes, indeed, it is less rational to consume as much sugar as possible nowadays: it leads to bad health consequences.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 12 September 2010 10:55:51PM 6 points [-]

First of all, the phrase "it is not acceptable to criticize..." is kind of an alarm bell.

How about "it is hurtful and offensive to criticize..."? I realize that being hurtful and offensive is not a reason not to criticize something (see also: religion), but please recognize that I consider my freedom not to have sex with someone I don't want to have sex with sacrosanct, even above other freedoms that I also consider sacrosanct.

I took your original suggestion to mean that my preferences in that area should be up for debate. Since I am completely unwilling to debate whether or not I should be so reluctant to offer up "sexual favors", that makes me hurt and afraid.

If you had suggested that I might be happier if I was more willing to have sex with people, I might have bristled a little, but I would at least recognize ways in which that could be a defensible position. However, your initial suggestion came off as "the world would be better if women were altered so that they would be more easily convinced to have sex". Since you failed to mention any specific benefit to the women so altered, it sounds like coercion and is extremely offensive.

Comment author: komponisto 13 September 2010 12:04:10AM 3 points [-]

Given that this is your point of view, it is not possible for me to discuss this topic with you.

I cannot psychologically afford to have a bunch of people here calling me "extremely offensive". That isn't how I see myself. I'm not one of those people. A comment such as yours is already very distressing to me. Yet, it is now clear to me that if I were to honestly express myself, this is exactly what I would have to expect: more of this.

I stand to gain almost nothing from wading further into this minefield, and on the other hand risk losing almost everything. Except as incidental to other matters, on the topic of sex and gender on LW, I am officially finished.

Now, as they say, off to buy some strychnine....

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2010 04:26:12PM 6 points [-]

Well...yes, as an empirical matter, that was the thesis of my comment! Wasn't it clear that I was questioning, as a normative matter, whether that ought to be the case?

Because it now is the case that sex is qualitatively different from everything else, attempts to make it be not so or create a norm that it be not so now impinge on the current, existent feelings of people (esp. women) who think about sex as how it now is.

In other words: Sexuality's differences from other things, if respected, are self-supporting. It opposes these features to try to alter them. Failing to respect sexual rules in these, among other, ways is Very Bad.

First of all, the phrase "it is not acceptable to criticize..." is kind of an alarm bell.

How about "it makes me afraid when people criticize"? Or is that irrelevant?

The question is, what to do about this problem of their not wanting, since their lack of wanting causes pain for others.

I am very good at getting people to give me presents. This ability is only targetable to a certain point, but it is partly under my control. Supposing, probably inaccurately, that I could scale up this capacity indefinitely - not stealing things I wanted, but just acting in such a way that encouraged people to give them to me significantly more than they'd otherwise be inclined - there are things it would be unethical for me to try to get in this way. I shouldn't encourage people to spend beyond their means, for example. I shouldn't encourage them to give me things that they need for themselves. I shouldn't encourage them to give me things that I only want a little bit that they have much stronger interests in. Even if their means are limited by choice, or their need for the needed object is evitable, or their reason for strongly valuing the prized possession is really stupid. If I find myself tempted to seek gifts of such things, the correct place to solve the "problem" is in my excessive interest in owning stuff that belongs to others.

Comment author: komponisto 11 September 2010 05:16:16PM 11 points [-]

In other words: Sexuality's differences from other things, if respected, are self-supporting. It opposes these features to try to alter them. Failing to respect sexual rules in these, among other, ways is Very Bad.

This sounds suspicious to me -- a bit too Fully General. It seems that you could similarly Engrave In Stone For All Time any set of currently existing norms this way.

I'll have to think about this more to determine the extent to which I agree.

How about "it makes me afraid when people criticize"?

That's certainly better and more specific -- and would naturally prompt the followup: "afraid of what?"

Comment author: mattnewport 11 September 2010 05:06:00PM 6 points [-]

To the extent that sex is like a commodity, guess what - it's for sale!

Why is it then that the most vocal critics of pornography and prostitution are generally women? Women seem to treat porn stars and prostitutes (and to some extent 'sluts') as scabs. Ongoing efforts are made to make pornography and prostitution illegal for the same underlying reasons that any cartel attempts to use the government to increase individual members' profits by reducing competition.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2010 05:14:15PM 13 points [-]

I agree -- but also take note that it seems that a large portion of those advocating for sex workers' rights are women.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2010 05:11:39PM 6 points [-]

Why is it then that the most vocal critics of pornography and prostitution are generally women?

Because both industries are full of abuse that is mostly directed at women, which fact has been turned into general condemnation of sex work instead of specific address of the factors that directly precipitate said abuse. "Horn effect" (opposite of halo effect) probably bears some responsibility for the extension of this criticism to harmless subtypes of porn/sex work, such as animated pornography which plausibly never leads to abuse of its (voice) actors.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 11 September 2010 06:15:56PM 8 points [-]

Because both industries are full of abuse that is mostly directed at women

What exactly do you mean by "full of abuse" and how do you quantify it?

I have some friends who worked in that industry, and it has more gender equality than most others - such as almost any of the high tech sectors. Female actresses are paid far more on average and women are fairly heavily involved in the business side now as well. It's not all peaches and roses of course. But I suspect that most of the image of 'women being abused' is based on some hard preconceptions one brings in - namely that pornography is inherently wrong in the first place. If you start with that assumption, it will only be reinforced.

Comment author: mattnewport 11 September 2010 05:23:15PM 5 points [-]

Because both industries are full of abuse that is mostly directed at women, which fact has been turned into general condemnation of sex work instead of specific address of the factors that directly precipitate said abuse.

It seems to me that when people advocate further criminalizing sex work on this basis they are either dissembling (in the way advocates for professional licensing dissemble that it is about 'protecting consumers' because it is more effective than admitting they are trying to protect their own interests) or simply horribly misguided in how best to address the (genuine) problems you describe.

Comment author: simplicio 12 September 2010 06:39:20AM 3 points [-]

Women art godshatter too.

I'm sympathetic, but I wonder if you're jumping to the "godshatter" conclusion too quickly in re: promiscuity.

"Godshatter" is a fairly strong claim to make about a piece of psychology; for one thing, it would seem to require human universality. But there are cultures with much more promiscuous female sexuality than the anglosphere.

Comment author: Alicorn 12 September 2010 12:41:27PM 4 points [-]

"Godshatter" is a fairly strong claim to make about a piece of psychology; for one thing, it would seem to require human universality.

I've met people who don't like candy. Does that mean that taste for sweets isn't a manifestation of the adaptation execution for seeking high-energy food?

Comment author: simplicio 12 September 2010 09:16:47PM *  8 points [-]

I've met people who don't like candy. Does that mean that taste for sweets isn't a manifestation of the adaptation execution for seeking high-energy food?

Ever met somebody who doesn't like sugar at all?

More seriously,

(1) Claiming that the preferences of female westerners living circa 2010 about sex, are all or mostly innate, is a huge claim - and probably false.

(2) Even if true, it's not clear that innate preferences are automatically ethically unquestionable (more technically, two terminal values may conflict). For example, as someone who has a wonderful relationship with their stepfather, I'm very glad he isn't hung up on the fact that we're genetically unrelated. Most humans care a lot about that.

(3) You still leave yourself open to a nice symmetrical reductio where I mention some nasty male preference about sex, and then play my "godshatter" trump card. I agree with kompo that that argument is way too Fully General.

I will also agree with you that criticizing the preferences of a gender or of an individual, has political & social consequences that are potentially ugly. I suggest that this means we need to work harder conversationally, not ban or severely circumscribe the topic.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2010 07:18:43PM 2 points [-]

Have you met a culture that doesn't like candy?

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 September 2010 04:32:17PM *  3 points [-]

Very well said. I made similar points in two posts I made a while back.

Excerpt from #1

if you knew about someone having trouble selling a good product, and you took pity on them, one way you would probably not react is by approaching a group of such people and lecturing them in detail about all the unethical practices they shouldn't do, most of which only apply long after a sale, and many of which are commonly used by successful salespeople in a way that satisfies their customers.

Excerpt from #2:

one should anticipate that if I'm following the real female wants and expectations, and am an eligible, attractive male by conventional measures, that it should lead to some non-trivial fraction of these women developing interest. When none of them do, and when women flock in droves, full of desire, to the very same men who steamroll right over the rules I learned, and who appear to be extremely disrespectful toward women ... well, that's very strong evidence that I was not correctly taught what women do and don't want.

(These were acts of terrorism back then, too.)

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 09:24:44PM -1 points [-]

It's remarkable that you keep harping on this like you're being oppressed here, and the comments of yours that you linked to are highly upvoted, and the comment of Alicorn's that you link to is highly downvoted.

It's also remarkable to me that you can consistently come across as a complete asshole and still require an explanation as to why you don't have success in interpersonal relationships. If I ever do find myself in the unlikely position of publishing a formal list of rules for success in dating, I'll be sure to include "1. Don't be Silas" so there's no further confusion.

Comment author: SilasBarta 16 September 2010 09:49:23PM -2 points [-]

Where do I come across as an asshole, and what corresponding assholish actions do you infer I do in my interpersonal relationships, including dating, based on them?

Are you really claiming that Alicorn doesn't get too much support for her unreasonable request that I not post any comment nested under hers?

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 10:25:18PM 3 points [-]

Are you really claiming that Alicorn doesn't get too much support for her unreasonable request that I not post any comment nested under hers?

No, I was not claiming that. I was implying that Alicorn's comment complaining about your behavior being downvoted and your comments being upvoted are evidence that you won that particular status contest here.

But I'll also go ahead and claim that Alicorn doesn't get too much support for her request that you not post any comment nested under hers. Votes, again, are some evidence there.

And I will further claim that the request was not unreasonable. You are a very distressing person to receive communcations from, and I would not think anyone was being untoward for requesting anything up to and including you not communicating with anyone ever. Obviously, it might behoove you to decline such a request, as is your right.

Where do I come across as an asshole, and what corresponding assholish actions do you infer I do in my interpersonal relationships, including dating, based on them?

As for the first, you've received a great deal of advice on this matter in the past, and I've not the energy to spell it out at the moment in great detail. But in the above comment, here is one example:

(These were acts of terrorism back then, too.)

"acts of terrorism" is uncharitable at best; you're specifically referring to the attitudes people have towards your comments, using what I hope is supposed to be extreme hyperbole (I don't think, for instance, anyone actually called the Department of Homeland Security about you).

"too" implies that there are readers who are currently taking these things to be "acts of terrorism".

And you're linking multiple times to a discussion that was specifically unpleasant for many of the people involved (and you frequently do so).

For the second, I'm not even sure what you mean... I take you being an asshole in interpersonal relationships (communicating with people on blogs and via youtube videos) to be evidence that you are the sort of person who will be an asshole in interpersonal relationships - I don't see the need to infer any further actions, as that is sufficient for me to prefer you not interact with myself or let you near my friends or my stuff, and imagine any sane person you were attempting to date would feel similarly.

Of course, I'm hardly a paragon of niceitude in this particular subthread.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 September 2010 04:46:10PM 0 points [-]

How many hours a week of mercy fucks would you say that women owe to the world?

I don't think you should necessarily avoid talking about changing preferences. I do think you should consider that people only change their preferences for reasons that make sense to them, and that contextless statements that the world would be better if only people would make themselves more convenient for someone else (who coincidentally is more like you than they are) are not likely to go over well, and why.

I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion that women in modern society are excessively conservative when it comes to granting sexual favors.

When you said it was bound to be controversial, did you have any specific controversies in mind?

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 21 September 2010 03:22:07AM 3 points [-]

The obligation should be no stronger than the obligation to welcome a homeless person into your dwelling for a night's sleep, or to donate a large portion of one's savings+income to feed the starving - that is, nonexistent.

The typical person would not necessarily offer sex to all comers on a pro bono basis, but could fund professionals who choose such a line of work.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 September 2010 08:10:50AM *  2 points [-]

If it had been phrased as you put it, I don't think things would have blown up.

Correction: If it had been conceived as you put it, things wouldn't have blown up.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2010 05:13:50PM 0 points [-]

Well said, I noticed that same bias cropping up. I suppressed the impulse to reply in this case because on this one extinction seems to be more effective. Well, that and because I didn't want to confess to caring about unsexy men - it's one of those things that is not always correctly identified as a counter-signal.

Comment author: kodos96 10 September 2010 08:04:13PM 3 points [-]

There's at least two groups of people who potentially stand to lose from widespread discussion of PUA

I can assure you that there are plenty of reasons to find PUA objectionable that don't fall into either of these two categories. In general, just the arms race, negative-sum-gameness of it. Also, there's the fact that a lot of what is passed off as PUA wisdom is just plain wrong, which is certainly good reason to dislike it on purely that-which-can-be-destroyed-by-the-truth grounds.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2010 08:11:32PM *  4 points [-]

Its more than religion. It has components of gender and class memetic warfare not to mention just plain old signaling.

Comment author: roland 10 September 2010 10:05:24PM 2 points [-]

I find it alarming that such a valuable resource would be monopolized in pursuit of orgasm;

I think that's a too simplistic view of it, if all you want is an orgasm the fastest route would be using your hands.

I say that my goals are noble

Are you implying that a PUA who is just looking for sex has less noble goals?

PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted.

Again you seem to be judging others here.

Unfortunately it seems that you are operating under the assumption that "men who are just looking for sex or superficial relationships are wrong/primitive/whatever". Men have this craving in them, I don't see anything wrong with them using science/intelligence in order to achieve their goals, that's what PU is all about.

It's fine if you want to improve other areas in your life aside from skills with women but why do you need to bash those who paved the road for you?

Comment author: XFrequentist 11 September 2010 01:30:12AM *  3 points [-]

I was trying to preempt the fact that people were likely to impute their own assumptions about what I meant by "PUA-like". I may have gone too far in the opposite direction and come off as PUA-hating. Hope not, it would be a real foul up if I alienated the people I hope to emulate! For the record, I'm generally a fan of PUAs.

The comments you quote were meant to point out that I think the skills could have more important uses. I don't think that PUA goals are ignoble/wrong/primitive, but I do think that they're of trivial importance relative to many other goals (particularly the goals of this crowd).

I may have gone overboard with phrasing; one of many weaknesses in my writing. I'm working on it.

Comment author: Violet 10 September 2010 05:58:27AM 1 point [-]

Maybe consider an another term, PUA as a term can drag many shitstorms and divide community even if you are trying to avoid dark arts.

The whole "happiness limited by shyness/social awkwardness which results in no dates" stereotype does not apply to many people here.

e.g. I consider job interviews much more terrifying than finding new people (which seems mostly limited by the amount of free time).

Comment author: orangecat 12 September 2010 01:49:34AM *  3 points [-]

The whole "happiness limited by shyness/social awkwardness which results in no dates" stereotype does not apply to many people here.

It does to at least one.

I'm all for this. I've gotten sort of lucky by wandering into a path where I can be professionally and financially successful without needing social skills beyond not saying blatantly inappropriate things. But developing those skills would provide many more options, and give me a much better shot at making an actual impact on the world.

And yes, being involuntarily single for years is neither enjoyable nor conducive to productivity.

Comment author: zero_call 10 September 2010 04:15:56PM 2 points [-]

The whole "happiness limited by shyness/social awkwardness which results in no dates" stereotype does not apply to many people here.

How's that?

Comment author: Violet 11 September 2010 06:29:17AM 3 points [-]

Because some people are in happy long term relationships, where picking new people up or dating new people are not very important.

Comment author: pnrjulius 22 April 2012 03:29:16AM -1 points [-]

There clearly IS a moral difference between influencing people and manipulating them.

I think the difference ultimately comes down to the question, "Is this in THEIR best interest?" It's obviously in YOUR interest (or you think it is), or you wouldn't do it. But when it's not in THEIR best interest, you are literally acting like a psychopath.

There are trickier cases where it has huge benefits for you at a minor cost to others, or where it's fair competition (which is normally zero-sum but morally not that problematic)... but in general, I think what really turns me off about the Pick-Up Artist community is precisely their failure to recognize the difference between influencing and manipulating. So don't make the same mistake, or you'll never get my support.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 23 February 2013 12:41:02AM 1 point [-]

Their best interest as judged by whom? If you mean their best interest as judged by them, does changing someone's opinion of what their best interest is count as influencing or manipulating them?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 February 2013 03:14:06AM 1 point [-]

If I infer that pnrjulius means that it's influence if I cause someone to behave in their own best interest, and manipulation if I cause them to behave in ways not in their best interest, and we assume (as you say) it's best interest as judged by them, then presumably if someone intervenes so as to change my judgment of my best interests, that's influence if the judgment-change is in my best interests as I judged them at the time of the intervention, and manipulation otherwise.

I'm not really sure why any of this matters, though.

Comment author: aletheianink 30 November 2013 05:19:14AM 1 point [-]

I find it disappointing that there aren't any more recent comments than halfway through this year - I'll scan the comments to see if the discussion was ported elsewhere, but usually that's flagged in the post so I doubt it ...

Comment author: eggman 21 October 2011 05:00:54AM *  1 point [-]

Reading all these comments to glean the knowledge within is not adverse to my goals, I'd just prefer to read a guide or the results of a formal discussion group if it exists. I couldn't find one. So, @XFrequentist: Is there a discussion group? If not, can we please start one?

If anyone else knows of relevant articles on LW, or another website or in a book, please link me stuff like this: http://lesswrong.com/lw/818/how_to_understand_people_better

My Goal: To start building one of these: http://lesswrong.com/lw/4ul/less_wrong_nyc_case_study_of_a_successful in Vanocuver, Canada.

That is to say, whether formal or informal, a community of rationalists and like-minded folk that is dynamic, diverse, proactive, and sex-balanced (the last quality is desired, but not as vital as the others).

Or, at least, getting to be friends with people who win at life and with whom I share values.

A friend and I realized that through networks like OKCupid (http://lesswrong.com/lw/2tw/love_and_rationality_less_wrongers_on_okcupid) or the Freethinkers Club at my university, we had access to more preferable samples of the population. The abilities to a) pick out these individuals and b) build effective social connections fuel my confidence and optimism that my plan might work.

However, I lack the skills. I can hold up a conversation, but I want to get better at making new friends quicker. I have never practiced PUA, NLP, social engineering, whatever. I don't believe this plan will involve much invoking of the Dark Arts. This letter is directed at those who wish to guide or learn along with me, or those who otherwise care. Feel free to leave any suggestions.

Comment author: XFrequentist 21 October 2011 01:55:21PM *  1 point [-]

Since I wrote this, LW has moved much more towards emphasizing social skills as a part of the general awesomeness toolkit (much more to do with lukeprog's articles than anything I wrote). This has been a great help to me personally, and has decreased my motivation to start a group like the one I proposed in this article.

I still like the idea of doing this in a group setting, and am very open to the conversation. We've started an Ottawa LW meetup, and I would love to brainstorm ways to make it more fun. We have broached topics like the above, but they don't seem to be a strong common interest.

Anyway, here are some references that might be helpful:

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Social Skills Picture Book

Succeed Socially

Influence

48 Laws of Power

(BTW, the @ tag doesn't work on LW, I only saw this when you replied to one of my comments)

Comment author: rabidchicken 01 December 2010 06:06:27AM *  1 point [-]

I have to agree that taking the concepts which make it easier to get dates, and applying them to the rest of life seems worth exploring to me.

I met all of my closest friends because they were gamers / programmers / interested in rationality, essentially the people who I felt comfortable having a long conversation with and who it felt easy to get along with before I knew much about them. When it comes to talking with an average teenager who is interested in sports, fashion, getting drunk, or their career, I just do not know what to talk about or what they typically do with their friends in their free time. However, it seems like a majority of people do not need to think about how to interact with people they have less in common with. Since the topics I am interested in only appeal to a minority of adolescent males, and even fewer adolescent females (if my anecdotal evidence is correct) being able to study what exactly it is that typically allows social interaction between varied human personalities would be helpful.

I am not really sure what I would do if I suddenly learned the secrets of human manipulation, because I have very little interest in hanging out with people who have nothing in common with me. However there is the possibility that there are many people out there with compatible personalities who I have never met due to limited social skills, so knowing how to mimic a more standardized communication protocol can only help. On a related note, is anyone else on LW under the age of eighteen? I would be interested to see how age typically affects someone’s interest in these kinds of topics.

Comment author: Unnamed 01 December 2010 06:21:45AM *  1 point [-]

On a related note, is anyone else on LW under the age of eighteen?

http://lesswrong.com/lw/ap/of_gender_and_rationality/7wa?c=1

Comment author: [deleted] 30 September 2010 06:11:59PM 1 point [-]

For people who are not in a dense urban area, something like chatroulette might be useful for interacting with a large number of people quickly and allow for more extensive testing of techniques.