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Love and Rationality: Less Wrongers on OKCupid

17 Post author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 06:35AM

Last month, Will_Newsome started a thread about OKCupid, one of the major players among online dating sites--especially for the young-and-nerdy set, given their mathematical approach to matching. He opened it up for individual profile evaluation, which occurred, but so did a lot of fruitful meta-discussion about attraction in general and online dating mechanisms in particular. This post is a summary of the parts of that thread which specifically address the practical aspect of good profile editing and critique. (It also incorporates some ideas I had previously but hadn't collected yet.) A little of it is specific to OKCupid, but most of it can be applied to any dating site, and some to dating in general. I've cited points which came from single comments (i.e. not suggested by several people); if I missed one of yours, please comment with a link and I'll add the reference.

On OKTrends

"Wait a minute," I hear experienced OKCers cry. "Why reinvent the wheel of profile analysis? OKCupid already has a blog for just that, and it's called OKTrends."

OKTrends has its merits, but it also has one major flaw. Wei_Dai summed it up well by observing that OKTrends does not make "any effort to distinguish between correlation and causation," citing this post as an example. The reason for that is obvious: the first purpose of OKTrends is to bring traffic to OKCupid. It does this with entertaining content about racy subjects, and rigorous analysis comes (optimistically) second. Of course, datadataeverywhere added, that's exactly the Mythbusters formula. They're both junk food science, but it's also the only look at their data we're going to get, so I'll link a few relevant OKTrends posts in the appropriate sections.

How to Write a Good Profile

Okay, you've created your account and answered a few questions. Now it's time to summarize your whole personality, your appeal, and your worldview in ten little text boxes. Where to begin?

The obvious answer is to reply to the ten profile prompts with your answers to them. Don't fall for it! What you write in your profile, along with your picture, will be the whole sense of yourself you convey to other people. Do your favorite media selections and the fact that you need oxygen, water, food, shelter, and two other obvious things to live constitute 20% of your identity?

Concrete Advice #1: Don't just follow the prompts. Think about what you want to say in your profile, and then fit that into the answers.

Or don't even find a way to fit it into the answers. I've seen excellent profiles which literally ignored the questions and just said what they had to say. But fear not, I won't leave you entirely promptless. There are two goals in writing a good profile:

  • Honesty (so as to find people who will actually like you)
  • Attractiveness (so that they will realize, upon reading your profile, that they might like you)

We'll address these one at a time, beginning with honesty.

There's a distinction in anthropology between "ancestral traits," whose genes go back so far that they are common among a huge variety of species, and "derived traits," which evolved recently enough to be an informative descriptor of a group. Pentadactyly is an ancestral trait, and is not specific enough to tell a human from a newt; opposable thumbs are a derived trait, and indicate that you're probably (although not necessarily) looking at a primate. You can speak similarly of traits which are memetic rather than genetic; ancestral traits are shared by almost everyone in the culture, and derived traits by smaller subgroups.

Ancestral: "I like listening to music and hanging out with my friends."

Derived: "I like taking photographs and playing board games."

Concrete Advice #2: Write about your derived traits, not your ancestral ones.

Notice that it's not about specificity. The second set of interests isn't very much more specific than the first one. They're just less common interests. Therefore, they do a better job of identifying where you fit in personspace, and in fewer words. For the convenience of newcomers to online dating, here's a quick laundry list of cliches which are so common as to tell the reader nothing about you:

Concrete Advice #3: Omit all of these: "it's hard to summarize myself" "what should I say here" "I'm contradictory" "I'm nice" "I'm shy until you get to know me" "the first thing people notice is my eyes" "I need [obvious literal things] to live" "if it were private I wouldn't write it here" "you can ask me anything" and explicit suggestions that the reader should date you, even tongue-in-cheek

That said, it is hard to summarize yourself. It's hard to recognize the parts of yourself which matter, and even harder to remember them later when you're staring at a form on a webpage. Furthermore, self-identity is susceptible to environmental pressure, and it's easy to just write up the stereotype of the group you feel you belong to. If you'll pardon me quoting myself:

The first few versions of my profile were geared to show off how geeky and smart I was. This connected me to people who spent a lot of time playing tabletop roleplaying games, reading fantasy novels, and making pop culture references to approved geeky television shows, none of which are things which interest me particularly.

Eventually I realized that I am not actually just popped out of the stereotypical modern geek mold, and it was lazy, inaccurate, and ineffective to act like I was. Since then I've started doing the much harder thing of trying to pin down my specific traits and tastes, instead of taking the party line or applying a genre label that lets people assume the details. In that way, OKC has actually been a big force in driving me to understand who I am, what I want, and what really matters to me.

Concrete Advice #4: Learn what you actually care about. Get into the habit of noticing things in your day-to-day life which excite you, please you, infuriate you, or make you think. That's what belongs in an honest description of you.

That's tough, but it's easier than it sounds. Remember that the reason you're being honest is that you want to attract someone who will actually like you, not just the person you claim to be. Don't worry at this stage about appearing "interesting" enough, or whether the generic average airhead represented by OKTrends would like you. Interpolate put it perfectly:

No one you want to meet would find you boring.

Keep that in mind when you're wondering how to balance the honesty and attractiveness goals. Yvain wondered why some users openly express non-mainstream views about transhumanism in a dating profile; this may be honest, but to a lot of people it won't be attractive. Apprentice was surprised by the number of LWers who talked about outdoorsy interests, which can intimidate geeky homebody types. In both cases, whether the interest warrants a mention depends on how significant that interest is to your personality and lifestyle.

Concrete Advice #5: The more you mention something, the more important it will seem to be to you.

rhollerith_dot_com came at the same point from a different angle, with the specific advice not to go into too much detail about work. What field you're in is interesting; what project has been taking up your work hours lately probably isn't. Unless your job is particularly cool or a big part of your identity, it doesn't deserve more than a sentence or two. The same goes for academic fields and most hobbies. If it would only generate conversation with someone who shares your job, major, or hobby, leave it out (unless those are the only people you're looking for). More generally, keep track of how much you mention a given topic in your profile. Count instances, if you have to. When you sort the list by quantity, what matters most to you should be on top. Right below that on the frequency list ...

Concrete Advice #6: Write about the traits or interests that you want a potential partner to share.

Describing what you want in a partner is about as hard as describing yourself, and for the same reasons, but you can approach it the same way (by paying attention and thinking about it in real-life contexts, not just when working on your profile). There are two reasons to make a point of including those things: It will appeal to people who share those traits with you, which is by definition your target audience; and OKCupid connects people in part based on shared interests listed in their profiles, even the ones that the user didn't choose to highlight. More to the point, the adorable but nonsentient cartoon matching robot does that. Which means:

Concrete Advice #7: Do not mention your dislikes in your profile unless they are otherwise important.

As far as I can tell, once OKC has decided you like something, there's no way to explicitly tell it you don't. Even removing it from your profile doesn't kick in immediately. If someone searches for, say, "scientology," and you put in your profile that "scientology is crap," you will come up on the search. This is not what either of you is trying to accomplish. Besides, that doesn't describe you. If you're an active organizer of major scientology protests and are looking for someone to do that with you, okay, put it in. Short of that, don't give yourself keywords you don't want.

One last thing about searchability before we move on.

Concrete Advice #8: Fill out any applicable sidebar information.

Alicorn's example was religion: If you like the idea of being found by an atheist looking for another atheist, make sure OKCupid knows that you are one. I would go a step further and recommend filling in as much as you can. Single completed fields, or single omitted fields, will look more significant than they probably are--but do leave out any where all possible responses would be misleading. (I've left the "children" field blank, for example, because I don't want them now but might some day, so neither "wants" nor "doesn't want" is correct.) If you want to expound on any of your answers, of course, you can do it in the profile body, as long as it maintains an acceptable importance/frequency ratio and doesn't make your profile unreadably long.

Concrete Advice #9: Write between 50 and 350 words in most of the fields.

I got these numbers by measuring answers which make my eyes glaze over (on the long end) or which made me think "that's it?" (on the short end). This isn't a hard-and-fast rule. The self-summary is justified in being a little bit longer; the six things are justified in being shorter. Your favorites section should be one of your shorter answers, unless media and food happen to be really important to you (in which case, write about why, don't just list them).

Last but not least, here is the most-discussed and hopefully most obvious thing you can do to improve your profile.

Concrete Advice #10: Upload at least one clear, flattering, decent resolution photo of yourself. No excuses.

I'm just going to hand it over to mattnewport for a sec, responding to comments about not being "photogenic."

... the word 'photogenic' should be like a red flag to a rationalist bull ... people who are 'not photogenic' are not made of some different type of material that reacts differently to light than photogenic people.

He goes on to point out that OKTrends did not one but two posts on what makes a good (read: message-attracting) profile picture. The first one is about content (poses, props, situations), and the second one is mostly about camera choice and timing. If you can read those and then turn around and take a good photo of yourself, great. If not, and especially if you're frustrated by the task, enlist the help of an actual photographer. You may know one. One of your friends may know one. A local skilled amateur may be willing to trade prints for practice. Whoever they are, find them. If you claim to be trying to prepare a good profile, and you don't have a picture on it that you're proud of, you're fooling yourself. (Hypocrisy alert: I haven't yet done this. But I just talked myself into it, so I will.)

Yvain defends, quite fairly, that all of his photos are of him out doing interesting things which don't lend themselves to clean sparkling images: backpacking, scuba diving, and so forth. He's right to want to keep those to show off his activities; however, four different people commented that his pictures could be improved. I think it's clear that he would be well-served by adding one more, whose sole purpose is to flatter him physically.

How to Make It a Better Profile

Congratulations! You've written a competent profile. But the only person who's seen it yet is the least objective person in the world with regard to your attractiveness. Time to get a second opinion. The purpose of the profile critique is to verify that you've met your two goals in profile writing: honesty (have you actually depicted your personality?) and attractiveness (does the profile encourage messages?).

The best people to judge your profile's honesty are those who know you well. They're the only ones who can tell whether the words you chose give an impression of you which matches the impression you give in reality. Unfortunately, this means they also have preconceptions about you. Better would be a critique from someone who formed their in-person impression only after reading your profile, but if your profile is working that well it's probably fine. In any case, ask your honesty evaluators if there's anything in your profile which surprises them, or anything they're surprised you omitted.

There are two schools of thought on whom you should ask to judge your profile's attractiveness. One is to ask the sort of person you're trying to attract: members of your preferred gender, and probably of your own culture. They can tell you whether your profile is attractive to them and whether they'd message you based on it ... or at least, whether they think they would. The other school of thought is that the right people to ask are those who share your gender/culture preference, and have been successful attracting such partners. They can tell you what has empirically worked for them and compare notes. Both have potential biases, but anything both types of critic agree on is probably correct. (I didn't see any gay users pipe up in this part of the conversation, but I'd love to know how the overlap between the two sets affects their feedback.)

Of course, a once-over by a relative stranger (e.g. another LWer) can be useful as well. They can tell you what assumptions they make about you, knowing little more than what you've chosen to write. Have your critic read the profile line by line and write down their impressions as they have them; when they finish, they can add the overall gist they got from reading. The idea is to give you a fuller picture of the reader's immediate responses--ideas which could stick in the subconscious even if they're forgotten consciously by the end. These are the details that they're filling in between the lines, and that's what you want to be sure is accurate. In particular, this is good for ensuring that your frequency of mentions actually matches your degree of interest; whpearson noticed such a discrepancy in mine, which I corrected.

It should go without saying that any profile editor should also be encouraged to report problems with the language or flow. Get rid of typos, clean up the grammar. Check for subtler things as well, like unusual words repeated close together, or using the same sentence structure over and over. If a joke isn't funny or a reference doesn't make sense, replace or omit it. All of these errors are distractions from what you're trying to communicate, and produce fleeting impressions of confusion or irritation which are then associated with your profile. Other than that, write in a style which is natural to you. That style is a fair part of your self-description.

Finally, review your profile from time to time. Every few months is a good minimum, give or take any life-altering events. The purpose of this is to ensure that your profile changes as you change, to stay up-to-date on the honesty goal. For the same reason, cycle in a new picture periodically, especially when your appearance has changed. If you really want to be thorough, re-answer old match questions from time to time as well. They're the biggest part of how OKCupid connects you to other people, and updating them keeps it current on your tastes and values. That this requires continuing to think about and adjust your tastes and values as time passes is just a perk.

Comments (329)

Comment author: JenniferRM 10 October 2010 06:34:47AM *  11 points [-]

As far as I can tell, once OKC has decided you like something, there's no way to explicitly tell it you don't. Even removing it from your profile doesn't kick in immediately. If someone searches for, say, "scientology," and you put in your profile that "scientology is crap," you will come up on the search. This is not what either of you is trying to accomplish. Besides, that doesn't describe you. If you're an active organizer of major scientology protests and are looking for someone to do that with you, okay, put it in. Short of that, don't give yourself keywords you don't want.

When I worked on a "search and metrics" team, one of the things we discovered by trying a recommendations engine implementation on a slice of the site's traffic for a bit was that what seemed to matter most for the purposes of the recommendation engine was simply that a user had any reaction at all to a video. It seemed that the vast majority of content space just bores any given person, but "passions predict passions" even when the passions have different valence (hate/love).

Maybe my experiences don't apply here, but it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to imagine that OKCupid's "stupid algorithm" operating on naive behavior could out perform algorithmically aware meta-strategy that "made sense" but hadn't been validated with some sort of field experimentation :-)

Comment author: Desrtopa 10 December 2010 09:44:56PM 1 point [-]

I believe you can get yourself off the list as liking something, but only by selecting "not an interest" when presented with an icebreaker match based on that flag.

I, for instance, am officially off the lists as liking "having fun," the phrase being included in my profile as part of a jab at people who say that they "like having fun."

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 October 2010 12:18:11PM 8 points [-]

More advice: Only date grown-ups. While it's addressed to polyamorists, it seems generally applicable. If you wanted to identify grown-ups (as defined in the link) on OKCupid and/or to present yourself as a grown-up, how would you do it?

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:56:07PM *  5 points [-]

Ha. I have I bad habit of using the word "grown-ups" approximately the way the author of that article does--to refer to people who are mature, capable, and at least somewhat self-aware. I call it a bad habit because it's pretty rude to adults who do not meet that description, and they are not necessarily bad people who deserve to be insulted. But in any case, it made the headline make instant sense to me.

Do I like socializing best one on one or in a group?

!! This was one of the first things on my list of relationship axes (various spectra of traits that are important in a partner). It's good to hear I'm not the only one who thinks so. In general, this list is a great answer to the brainstorm I started in the OKC discussion thread.

That's a great link; thanks. I'm already familiar with a lot of those ideas these days; I wish I had been two years ago.

One way to find grown-ups would be to watch out for red flags which indicate not-grown-up. I dated someone for a while who always talked like his hands were tied by circumstance--lots of "I can't," very little acknowledgement that he had agency. I found it really irritating because it made it seem like he couldn't deal with obstacles in everyday life. That's a non-grown-up trait.

But of course, the same guy was also really good at communicating clearly, expressing needs, and respecting boundaries. (I still remember the obligatory pre-first-sex conversation: "Shall we get the safety talk out of the way?" "Sure. I've been exposed to x but do not have it, was tested y long ago, and have done z since then." "Okay. I've done ..." etc.) In that sense he was really a pleasure to have as a partner, and very much a grown-up.

This reminds me of Havi Brooks's theory of kosher marketing, which goes roughly "anyone who self-markets less than you is too timid, and anyone who self-markets more than you is obnoxious." You can apply it to a lot of things. "Anyone who's tidier than you is a neat freak; anyone who's messier than you is a slob." Including, of course, being a grown-up. "Anyone who's more mature than you is parsimonious (or condescending); anyone who's less mature than you is a child." It's not so much two boxes as a spectrum; perhaps the right goal is just to find someone who's about as mature as you are. That way neither of you is a "child" to the other.

I'm not sure there's a way to determine that before you know someone fairly well, though. You could probably devise a set of questions to evaluate it, but they'd have to be subtle, and still might only tell you what the person aspires to be. But that's not useless information. Good questions, I suspect, would reveal by the person's willingness to discuss them than by the answers--like the sex discussion above. That he maintains safe practices spoke well of him, to be sure, but the really good sign was that he was happy to discuss that openly.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2010 06:54:12PM 6 points [-]

Concrete Advice #3: Omit all of these: "it's hard to summarize myself" "what should I say here" "I'm contradictory" "I'm nice" "I'm shy until you get to know me" "the first thing people notice is my eyes" "I need [obvious literal things] to live" "if it were private I wouldn't write it here" "you can ask me anything" and explicit suggestions that the reader should date you, even tongue-in-cheek

That advice deserves a prominent sidebar on the OkCupid profile editing page. Most profiles have at least one of those.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 12:50:26AM 3 points [-]

Agreed. It was fun to write that list. I asked my OKC-using friends for suggestions, and almost all the responses were duplicates. Yup, that means they're cliches, all right.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2010 07:05:23AM 16 points [-]

I have no problem with Relsqui presenting this sort of advice, but I think (a) such advice requires more acknowledgment of how limited it is in scope, and (b) some of it is wrong. I think attempting to synthesize LW thoughts on online dating is an interesting subject, but drawing prescriptions from this synthesis, along with certain other assumptions, runs into the problems that pwno and Vladimi_M observe.

Since Relsqui is being such a good sport about receiving criticism, and Vladimir_M is being shy on certain subjects, I'm going to break it down myself.

This post is a summary of the parts of that thread which specifically address the practical aspect of good profile editing and critique.

What reasons do we have to believe that the aggregated LW on online dating is any use? Unless we have reasons to believe that it is useful, this aggregation is more interesting as a descriptive anthropological project ("Ooh, lookie at what the cute LWers think about online dating!") than as a normative one. This post presents the aggregated advice as prescriptive without adequate caveat emptors.

Concrete Advice #1 is good except for this part:

Honesty (so as to find people who will actually like you)

What is the evidence that being honest will help you find the people who will actually like you? The fact is that in dating between everyone except extremely nerdy people, the norm is to engage in impression management.

Yes, it's true in a trivial way that the information in your profile must relate to your actual traits to attract someone who is into you once they get to know you. Yet the need for impression management puts a ceiling on the level of honesty that is practical.

The other problem with honesty is that you have to consider the signaling effects of revealing information. If one reveals information that most people would impression-manage away according to current norms, then one signals that either (a) one is deliberately flouting impression management, or (b) one does not understand impression management, and by extension, has low social skills. Revealing too much negative information about oneself just makes one look insecure; revealing too much positive information just looks like boasting.

The next problem with providing too much accurate information is that people are judging you with crude schemas and stereotypes. If you provide information that triggers a stereotype, someone's perception of you can be dominated by those stereotypes, and end up less accurate.

Here's an example: some women judge men based on the "nerd" stereotype. "Geek"/"nerd" is a certain schema by which women associate intelligence and technical interests with low social skills, low social status, and other unattractive qualities.

In my case, I am far more exciting than the average male with my cognitive architecture, but I also have a fair amount of stereotypical "nerdy" interests and personality traits. Since I reject stereotypes about nerds as an accurate heuristic to judge me, and I reject being categorized as boring merely because men other than me with similar personality traits and interests aren't sexually exciting, I deliberately foil this heuristic by having my profile emphasize my social interests, and play down my technical interests.

Jumping straight into the "nerd" trashcan that many women have doesn't do either them or me any favors... even if it's more "honest." When a woman actually starts talking to me or meets me, then she can judge whether I have the mix of qualities that she is looking for. Women are going to find out about my technical vices eventually, but my main profile isn't the correct place to disclose it, either practically or morally. The goal is to hide this information long enough that when I reveal it, it makes me look like an even cooler and multi-faceted person, rather than getting me tossed in the dustbin because it triggers a stereotype that dominates their perception of me.

Once women (in aggregate, which means not you, women of LW) stop treating technical interests and intelligence as horrible curses in men, I'll stop doing this. (And to anyone thinking "if a woman would reject you for being nerdy, you don't want her anyways," don't be the fox non-empirically calling the grapes sour. There are plenty of highly intelligent women, including nerdy women, who prefer intelligent men with high social skills over men who read as nerds at first glance... even if those highly intelligent social guys have nerdy interests.)

continued...

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2010 07:40:27PM 6 points [-]

What reasons do we have to believe that the aggregated LW on online dating is any use?

Very little. In general dating advice serves a purpose other than providing information on how best to go about dating.(along the lines of Hanson's homo hypocritus). This does not seem to be a bias that lesswrong is particularly good at overcoming.

On the positive side if anyone recommends anything particularly self destructive we can rely on HughRistik to correct it.

A lot of the comments here (particularly among those that do not include the word 'should') are good. Unfortunately it is difficult to know which advice is good and which is bad unless you already know what you are doing. There are other environments that are set up specifically for this kind of subject where there are mechanisms in place to ensure the 'sanity waterline' is high.

Unless we have reasons to believe that it is useful, this aggregation is more interesting as a descriptive anthropological project ("Ooh, lookie at what the cute LWers think about online dating!") than as a normative one. This post presents the aggregated advice as prescriptive without adequate caveat emptors.

Cute. I love it.

Comment author: HughRistik 14 October 2010 09:56:55PM *  12 points [-]

There are other environments that are set up specifically for this kind of subject where there are mechanisms in place to ensure the 'sanity waterline' is high.

One of the best examples is, of course, PUA communities.

On the main forum I used to post on, here are some of the norms:

  • In the Techniques forum, you aren't supposed to post any technique until you've tried it a couple times yourself. Furthermore, you aren't even supposed to ask if something might work, instead you are told "go out and try it, then come tell us if it worked." Even talking about an idea that hasn't been tried can privilege the hypothesis too much. Of course, the fact that you've tried something doesn't prove that it works (maybe something else you were doing caused the result instead), or that it generalizes to other people and situations, but it makes the hypothesis worth talking about.

  • Users are discouraged from posting on subjects they aren't experienced about; doing so is called "Keyboard Jockeying" (aka "KJing"). There is some tolerance for speculation as long as you are clear that you are speculating (some guys will preface ideas with "I'm gonna KJ a little here..."), but too much KJing, even admitted KJing, is frowned upon.

  • Building up "street cred" is important. Users are encouraged to describe their experience, skill levels, and results. One way to do some is to relate anecdotes from your own experience, or to write "Field Reports," stories of real life interactions. The purpose of field reports is to get feedback, and also to display experience, so other guys can contextualize why you make the claims you make. FRs are of course biased, hyped, selective, and sometimes false, but even they are much better than knowing nothing about the people making claims. At least, you have an idea of the upper bound of how good they are.

  • It's considered acceptable to challenge people for not knowing what they are talking about. Especially boastful or implausible FRs do get challenged, especially when they are by people trying to sell products. Making bold claims without street cred is frowned on. All the time you will see guys coming on to the forum, writing about how awesome they are, and expounding on some new theories. The more skill they claim without detail, and the more controversy they make, the more likely they are to get a response like, "Dude, what you say sounds cool, but who the hell are you? Post some FRs so that people can know where you're coming from and get back to us."

The "street cred" norms do lead to a lot of ego wars among at least moderately skilled guys, but it helps prevent completely unexperienced guys from thinking they are qualified to argue with guys they should be shutting up and listening to. Could the less experienced guy be right, and the more experienced guy be wrong? Yes, of course. But since knowledge is correlated with success, the advice of the more successful guys gets higher priors.

The weakness of the community is that it's vulnerable to all sorts of biases: availability heuristic, confirmation bias, hasty generalization, bandwagon effects, etc... But it's no more vulnerable to these things than any other practical community that can't do scientific testing. At least with PUAs, you have a better idea of why people think what they think, and it's acceptable and encouraged to challenge people and say, "what's your field experience?". Even though the people who are accepted as having "street cred" have biases, these guys are generally successful, and they are less wrong than the keyboard jockeys on average about what works.

If I discovered some things that contradicted conventional PUA teachings, and talked about it on a PUA forum, I believe I could get people to rethink things if I did so through the appropriate channels. I would write a few field reports, answer some newbie questions, and do so in a way that reveals my skill and experience levels. Once I did so, I would have proved myself epistemically trustworthy to PUAs, and they would be open to unorthodox ideas as long as I backed them up with field experience, and explained them in the context of existing PUA theories. Sometime I will actually perform this experiment, but I am still gathering field experience.

Relative to a scientific community that can perform controlled empirical trials with large samples sizes, the epistemic standards of PUAs are weak. But the epistemic standards of PUAs are much, much better than any other form of dating advice, which is why the community is the gold standard.

Lots of mainstream dating advice "experts" have only have their own experiences to go on. Instead of giving any charismatic person who claims to be a successful dater a book deal and TV time, imagine if you took thousands of successful daters and aggregated their experiences (some PUA forums have tens of thousands of members). Even though this aggregation is biased by ideological bandwagon effects, and by the fact that the community self-selects for successful daters who agree with it, it's still way more epistemically trustworthy (about what works, not necessarily about what is true) than most mainstream dating "experts."

Comment author: wedrifid 15 October 2010 05:08:08AM 6 points [-]

FRs are of course biased, hyped, selective, and sometimes false, but even they are much better than knowing nothing about the people making claims. At least, you have an idea of the upper bound of how good they are.

You can tell a lot about someone even based off which lies they choose to tell.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 October 2010 05:34:10AM 4 points [-]

Lots of mainstream dating advice "experts" have only have their own experiences to go on. Instead of giving any charismatic person who claims to be a successful dater a book deal and TV time,

An illustrative anecdote is that "Mystery" admits that he is actually quite bad at attracting "7s". Sure, that's hyperbole for the purpose of showing off, but there is an element of truth behind it. If he wasn't able to take on board knowledge from people other than himself and extracting the general insights then his advice would be quite limited.

On the other hand there are people like (so called) David DeAngelo who, well, isn't exactly an outlier on the 'charismatic person' scale and is more of a simple 'educator'. He just teaches the sort of classes on human behavior that would be taught in highschool if school was actually about teaching people useful stuff. He comes complete with a table of books on a variety of subjects that are well reputed in mainstream culture that he holds up, describes and recommends. Handing out assignments wouldn't seem out of place and nor would assigning pracs on 'body language and posture'. Come to think of it he does do both of those things without using those terms.

That sort of source (only PUA advice in the broadest possible usage) has a somewhat higher epistemic standard - albeit trading off somewhat on the most specific techniques by playing it safe and keeping it basic.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:31:25AM 4 points [-]

The other problem with honesty is that you have to consider the signaling effects of revealing information. If one reveals information that most people would impression-manage away according to current norms, then one signals that either (a) one is deliberately flouting impression management, or (b) one does not understand impression management, and by extension, has low social skills. Revealing too much negative information about oneself just makes one look insecure; revealing too much positive information just looks like boasting.

This is well said. I addressed the balance of honesty and attraction somewhat but clearly not sufficiently, since a couple of people have remarked on it. However, you're the first person to give a clear description of what could be added. I'm mildly daunted by the task of rearranging the post to lengthen that portion of it, what with all the segues, but if I find the (time*priority) for it I'll see what I can do.

I am far more exciting than the average male with my cognitive architecture,

Ooh, burn.

It sounds like how you present yourself, vis a vis nerdiness, and how I do, are actually quite similar--we just came at it from different directions. In both cases, we're downplaying things which would fit us into that mold, because it doesn't suit us.

Comment author: luminosity 10 October 2010 11:49:53PM 5 points [-]

I disagree with 'fill out the sidebar information.' For instance, one of the pieces of information in the sidebar is star sign. Now, you can say in your answer whether it matters to you, doesn't matter. But it's a straight up warning sign even having answered the question to me. Even if you say it doesn't matter to you, it matters enough that you'd deign to fill it in. I can't take someone who can even semi-believe in star signs seriously.

Similarly, as well as religion, you can fill out your seriousness about it. All the answers look lose/lose to me. I can say I'm serious about athiesm, and come across as one of those boring people who debates religion regularly, I can say I'm not serious about it and perhaps give people the impression that it's not a well established belief of mine. It is, it's just not something I think of as important. I'm athiest just because it's the most sensible state to be in, not because I think there's anything great about it per se.

More information is not always informative. Sometimes it can mislead.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 06:03:45AM 3 points [-]

That's a good point. I meant "fill out as much as you can" as in "anything that's not actively misleading"--which is why, for example, I haven't answered the question about kids. (I might want them, some day, but I don't now, so neither "want" nor "don't want" is correct.) I'll clarify that in the post. Thanks for pointing it out.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 October 2010 12:20:14AM 2 points [-]

Your star sign could let someone know approximately when you were born so they can wish you a happy upcoming birthday.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 02 February 2013 08:06:41AM 1 point [-]

For instance, one of the pieces of information in the sidebar is star sign. Now, you can say in your answer whether it matters to you, doesn't matter. But it's a straight up warning sign even having answered the question to me. Even if you say it doesn't matter to you, it matters enough that you'd deign to fill it in. I can't take someone who can even semi-believe in star signs seriously.

Huh. I filled out sign because I'm an aggressive completionist and when I see a form I fill it out completely by default.

Comment author: army1987 02 February 2013 10:17:37AM 1 point [-]

Me too.

[reads grandparent]

But I did leave the Drugs, Religion, and Pets fields blank, for very similar reasons. Why the difference? The sign question does have an objective, unquestionable answer (depending on what time of the year I was born), but as someone who used to use illicit recreational drugs (what I guess most people would take “drugs” to mean in that context) but no longer does, doesn't give a damn whether any deity exists, and doesn't have pets because can't be bothered to maintain them but doesn't particularly dislike cats or dogs, none of the possible answers to those other questions would feel right.

(And BTW, I do give a non-negligible probability to the month one was born in having a measurable effect in certain situations, but I still answered “but it doesn't matter” because I don't think that's what people will think the question is about, for which we empirically know the answer.)

Comment author: [deleted] 13 October 2010 03:23:10AM 1 point [-]

I agree.

Also, I don't see any point putting your salary (unless it's so high that it's a selling point) or your pet preferences, if pets are not a major issue to you.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 06:38:38AM 4 points [-]

I put my salary so that people have a realistic expectation of the kinds of outings I can participate in. This helps me avoid the situation where I have to turn down, say, a dinner date, because I cannot afford to pay for it.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 October 2010 03:33:19AM 4 points [-]

When people leave the salary field blank, I wonder why. I am suspicious of people who want me to operate with less information, especially in a context where I can't confirm that this is because of their extensive knowledge of human biases.

Comment author: talkinghead68 17 October 2010 12:35:46PM 3 points [-]

I leave the salary field blank because I was told that "$250,000-$500,000" seemed obnoxious, and that I should instead signal my income with the words "comfortably successful" in my profile, with a full reveal later. I'm not sure that that's good advice; what do others think?

Of course, my profile might be obnoxious anyway. You tell me: http://www.okcupid.com/profile/TalkingHead68

Comment author: Alicorn 17 October 2010 12:43:23PM 3 points [-]

Your profile is hilarious. It reminds me of this. Which is to say, it's sort of hard to take seriously. If the only thing you can think of to cut out of there to be less over-the-top is your income, then I guess leave income out, but I think you'd be better off putting income in and pruning a few of the paragraphs/sentences that you feel are less core to your personality from the text.

Comment author: talkinghead68 17 October 2010 01:46:44PM 1 point [-]

Revised.

Comment author: army1987 02 February 2013 10:32:08AM 1 point [-]

Now I'm curious about what it used to be like.

Comment author: cousin_it 13 October 2010 04:27:27AM *  4 points [-]

I don't specify my salary because if a woman bases her decision on my salary, I don't want to be with her.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 October 2010 02:16:04PM 12 points [-]

Your logic is understandable, but it's the same logic people (particularly women) might use to leave off profile pictures - "gosh, if my scintillating personality won't cut it for Guy X, then I guess I don't want Guy X."

Salary (and looks) can be factors without being dealbreakers. Will I refuse to consider a guy because he's too much taller than me, or isn't currently making any money, or if he declares wooly spiritual beliefs, even if he's otherwise hot/responsible/sane? No. Does failing to disclose these items annoy me? Yes.

Comment author: randallsquared 13 October 2010 04:22:44PM 3 points [-]

For most of us males, I think that looks certainly can be a dealbreaker, and someone who wants to find a male for whom it cannot be a dealbreaker is looking for a very unusual man.

Stats on OKCupid are either something about the person that you would enjoy in and of itself, or they're proxies for something about them you'd enjoy. Appearance is, by and large, something you'd enjoy directly, and there's no opprobrium attached to that enjoyment (except possibly in some subcultures I'm not so familiar with, I guess?).

Salary is, at best, a proxy for some other trait you'd enjoy, like intelligence, social competence, discipline, or whatever. However, it's a very loose proxy, and most of the things it's a proxy for have better indicators: a picture showing rock hard abs implies discipline better than a salary of $250K; the profile writing itself implies the intelligence level of the writer better than salary. This means that insisting on salary seems to imply that it's a trait, like appearance, that the person would want to enjoy directly, and our culture has many unflattering things to say about someone who primarily wants to enjoy the wealth of their date or partner. So, even for people who make something near the average of incomes in their cohort may leave off their salary, reducing by a bit the information provided to those like you who see it as a minor factor, while greatly reducing the risk of falling for someone who just wants access to their bank account.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 October 2010 05:25:46PM *  8 points [-]

primarily wants to enjoy the wealth of their date or partner

just wants access to their bank account

The words "primarily" and "just" here seem to me unwarranted. Things can be important without being the only important thing.

I also think you're displaying little imagination about the usefulness of salary as information. For example, OKC has many questions about (and another sidebar slot for) persons' interests in/preexisting status regarding children. There are questions about marriage, etc. - lifestyle stuff. Salary is a factor in what kinds of lifestyles are available! Somebody who is trying the radical experiment of life off the grid by attempting to live off barter and urban farming without the use of filthy money isn't for me, any more than someone who abhors the institution of marriage and never wants children would be for me. Those lifestyles are not compatible with what I want.

Or to be yet more specific: Currently, I live with roommates who don't expect me to pay rent because I cook tasty food and do some cleaning. This is sort of like being a house spouse without the "spouse" part, and you know what? I like it as much as I thought I would! It suits me very well! I'd like to go on with this sort of lifestyle, barring the insistent knock of implausible opportunity, even after I settle into a long-term relationship. But the thing is - this arrangement only works with someone else funding the operation. People who cannot fund that operation (which funding doesn't take pockets with extradimensional space in them, just a steady and livable income) are not offering a lifestyle that is maximally appealing to me. That's a factor, even an important factor, without being a matter of me just wanting to dive into a potential match's wallet.

Comment author: randallsquared 13 October 2010 06:14:03PM 5 points [-]

Understood. You've convinced me to put my salary back on my OKC profile.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 October 2010 01:20:37AM *  2 points [-]

Book you might be interested in: Home Comforts by a woman who takes all aspects of making a good place to live seriously.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 01:26:52AM 1 point [-]

That looks really neat! Wishlisted for later. :)

Comment author: Jordan 14 October 2010 02:20:00AM 1 point [-]

If under salary someone wrote "Enough to comfortably support a family", would that be enough information for you?

Comment author: Alicorn 14 October 2010 02:30:07AM 3 points [-]

OKC doesn't support that in the sidebar, but supposing it did, that would be... peculiar, but considerably better than leaving it blank. I might ask in a message (if the profile otherwise passed muster) why a description was provided in lieu of a number (unless, hypothetically, descriptions rather than numbers were customary), but as descriptions go it would be very promising.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 01:25:02AM 1 point [-]

Just for another data point: As someone who also stated a preference for having that information available, I would find this sufficient. The description would have to be pretty specific, though--the idea is to get a sense of what kind of lifestyle the person's finances permit.

Comment author: cousin_it 14 October 2010 12:50:36AM *  1 point [-]

ETA: disregard this comment, it's completely wrong because of my poor knowledge of English.

I thought some more and don't understand your point about factors vs dealbreakers. There's no distinction. If including salary on my profile will make more women message me, then salary was a dealbreaker for those women. A factor that doesn't make or break any deals has zero importance.

Comment author: Alicorn 14 October 2010 01:13:22AM *  9 points [-]

Let me see if I can rephrase usefully. (I suspect you just aren't using the word "dealbreaker" conventionally.)

Imagine that people who look at your profile are scoring you, with some traits worth points of various amounts (positive or negative). If you've mentioned enough things that earn you points and left out enough things that cost you points, you may get scored high enough that you get a message. Leaving your income off might lose you points, but you could probably make it up in other areas. For instance, I'd estimate that the "point" cost I assign guys on OKC for leaving income blank can be approximately compensated for if they announce that they want to have children someday. The guy who leaves out income but wants kids does about as well with me as the guy who says he makes some modest amount of money and doesn't mention children anywhere.

A dealbreaker is a different thing. It's negative infinity points. It doesn't matter what else you put on there if you also advertise a dealbreaker (there is no corresponding "plus infinity points" here) - it doesn't offset or compensate for positive traits, it renders them irrelevant. For instance, I wouldn't ever date a guy who smoked cigarettes. This doesn't change even if he looks like Sean Maher and has every nice thing to say in the world about marriage and children and we have identical tastes in music and he lives a block away and he's a vegetarian and we're a 99% match according to our questions and every paragraph in his profile is a masterpiece of humor and insight - smoking gets him a big ewwww, and while I'll wince as I close the tab, I will not message him unless it's to tell him that I wish he'd quit.

If more women message you when you start advertising your income, some of them might be doing so because you removed a dealbreaker. I would expect far more of them to be doing so because you've crossed a point threshold.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 01:22:21AM 6 points [-]

Imagine that people who look at your profile are scoring you

I came across a profile once that had a scoring game in the "message me if" field. Specifically, it was a list of traits the author found desireable, numbered by powers of two, and an invitation to send him the sum of the traits which applied to the reader. I was pretty amused by that.

Comment author: mattnewport 15 October 2010 01:26:40AM *  2 points [-]

I wonder how many potential matches know enough maths to realize why he used powers of two?

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 01:32:33AM 3 points [-]

I suspect most of the ones who played the game at all.

Comment author: army1987 02 February 2013 11:01:36AM 1 point [-]

I want to marry that person!

Comment author: cousin_it 14 October 2010 01:27:41AM 1 point [-]

Thanks. Sorry. I shoulda thought a little more before making that comment.

Comment author: mattnewport 14 October 2010 01:00:45AM 4 points [-]

A dealbreaker is something that on its own automatically rules someone out. A factor is something that swings the overall impression positively or negatively but is not on its own a deciding factor independent of other factors.

Comment author: cousin_it 13 October 2010 05:24:36PM *  1 point [-]

Women are welcome to use any sort of logic and accept the consequences, just as I accept the consequences of my own choice. Filtering away many "unsuitable" women at the cost of annoying some "suitable" ones is a tradeoff I'm okay with. Can you argue that including my salary on my profile will make me better off overall, not just with respect to you?

Comment author: Alicorn 13 October 2010 05:30:18PM *  4 points [-]

That probably depends on your salary and the details of the preferences that caused you to leave it off (i.e. who exactly you hope to be filtering out/filtering in).

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 06:45:05AM 2 points [-]

My two cents: I'd rather date someone who makes about as much money as I do than someone who makes a lot of money. It suggests that our means are about the same, which means our lifestyles are more likely to be compatible. (If this makes me unusual because I wouldn't be comfortable having a rich partner pay for me for everything, well, I don't want to be usual.)

I'm curious: Do you also omit other potential references to your financial status in your profile, or just the direct statement of your actual salary?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 10 October 2010 07:04:14AM 4 points [-]

Would you care to take a crack at what I'm thinking of as "manner vs. matter", with manner being how you talk about your subject matter.

Manner would include vocabulary, grammatical complexity, humor, and probably a bunch of factors I haven't thought of.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2010 08:10:53AM *  14 points [-]

Concrete advice #2 and #3 seem uncontroversial to me, but I'm not sure how much they actually matter.

Therefore, they do a better job of identifying where you fit in personspace

I've thought of the personspace concept myself, and it's a great line of thought.

4 sounds like good advice, but we quickly get into trouble again and raise some of my same objections (I'm going to be repeating myself a bit from my last post, but that's to figure out good ways to articulate things):

Remember that the reason you're being honest is that you want to attract someone who will actually like you, not just the person you claim to be. Don't worry at this stage about appearing "interesting" enough, or whether the generic average airhead represented by OKTrends would like you.

First, I want to acknowledge the accurate part about this advice: your goal is not to attract the average person in your target demographic on an online dating website. It's better to have a small group of people crazy about you, rather than having everyone lukewarm about you... as long as that small group contains enough people you want. Sometimes, it's best to pick out a niche. An important topic is how to narrow yourself to a niche where you can have an impact, but not such a narrow niche that you have no options and only go on date every couple years.

Yet even within your niche, you do need to worry about appearing interesting enough.

A profile is like a movie trailer. The purpose of the movie trailer is to hype the reasons why someone might want to see it. Yes, the trailer should be related to the movie, but it should have the highlights of the movie, rather than the boring parts. If you want to get a more complete look at the movie, you can read reviews and ask friends about it. But the purpose of the trailer is hype, not film criticism! Including a critique of the film in trailers would be more "honest," but it would just make trailers bloated and unengaging.

Furthermore, everyone knows that trailers are about hyping movies, just as everyone knows that first impressions are for putting one's best foot forward (except nerdy people who got fooled by the majority of homo hypocriticus).

Your profile should provide enough information to funnel in people you are potentially matched well with, but its purpose is not to give people a 360 degree view of who you are. It's to intrigue them enough to want to get a 360 degree view of you over all the other profiles competing for their attention.

I disagree with this quote:

No one you want to meet would find you boring.

Such ideas should be examined with scrutiny because they are (a) too theoretical, and (b) they fall prey to the bias of the fox calling the grapes he can't reach sour from Aesop's fable.

Actually, there are many guys, particularly nerdy guys, who have artificially-depressed social skills due to getting cut out of the social world at a young age, and who would be a lot more socially-skilled with a more friendly formative development. These guys will be interested in many women who will find them boring due to their lack of social skills and confidence, and these women would especially find online dating profiles of these guys boring.

Of course, those guys don't want to meet women who find them boring, but they would want to meet those women if those women would be interested in them.

Edit:

As Vladimir_M and I have discussed in the past, there is probably a large subset of males who have the traits to be datable for many women, but who just barely aren't exciting enough due to lacking relatively superficial behavioral qualities. These guys will get strictly dominated by men who are smoother on the first impression (such as online dating profiles), but who don't necessarily rank any higher on other aspects of women's preferences, and who might even be worse as long-term mates.

Part of the reason I support widespread study of influence and seduction is that I want to get rid of the big gaps that can exist between people in these areas. I want to see the nerdy guy getting learning how to get his foot in the door, rather than putting his foot in his mouth. I want to see more men meeting women's basic preferences for social skills, so that women aren't forced to immediately exclude them as mates. (Similarly, if more women met men's physical criteria, looks would become less important in how men select women, and men wouldn't have to exclude women as mates so often based on superficial qualities.)

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 08:14:53PM 4 points [-]

Perhaps I made a mistake in addressing honesty and attractiveness separately, because you're not the first person to assume that my advice about honesty precludes attempting to make your profile seem attractive. As I read it, that quote doesn't mean that no one you want to meet would find your profile boring. That's ridiculous! It means no one you want to meet would find you boring, and I agree with that. It's just a roundabout way of saying "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are." I assumed that "show your best side" was understood; clearly it isn't.

they would want to meet those women if those women would be interested in them.

"If" is the point. I'm optimizing for relationships, not dates. Signalling more social skills than you actually have isn't going to work out in the long run (except insofar as being able to signal competently is much of what they are).

I certainly agree with the idea that nerds with no social skills would be well-served to develop those skills. But then the point isn't making them appear more desireable; it's actually making them more desireable, which is beyond the scope of the post.

Comment author: HughRistik 14 October 2010 03:16:25AM 19 points [-]

I'm optimizing for relationships, not dates.

For some people, the main barrier to relationships is trouble getting dates, or trouble doing well on dates. The more dates these people go on, the better they will get at dating, at which point they'll be able to move on to actually attempting relationships.

Signalling more social skills than you actually have isn't going to work out in the long run (except insofar as being able to signal competently is much of what they are).

As you say, being able to signal competently is a big part of social skills.

In my experience in real life, people who try to signal more social skills than they actually have tend to get seen through or make people feel uncomfortable almost immediately, or get believed on a permanent basis. While I think it's possible to hit somewhere in between, where people initially think you're cool and then later decide that you're a loser, doing so is hard, because signaling substantially more social skills than you actually have is hard.

I suspect that most of the time, the amount of social skills that someone can "fake" is about the level of social skills they could attain if they would practice a bit, get some good reactions from people, and believes in themselves. In some cases, merely one or two tries of a new social behavior with such positive results are enough to grant you that social skill.

It might be a bit easier to signal social skills you don't have in an online profile, I admit. But still, people can message with you, talk by instant messengers, or talk on the phone to get a better idea of where your social skills are at. Short of having a friend write for you, it's still hard to fake social skills in your responses.

Let's say that these filters fail, and we end with an originally social unskilled guy who was able to act socially skilled online, on a date in real life with a woman. This scenario could plausibly happen, but I don't consider it very bothersome for several reasons:

  • If the guy has been learning how to signal social skills online, perhaps he's learned something about social skills in real life
  • If the two of them have built up an online connection due to his "internet social skills," then he may be able to approach the real meeting with more confidence, and less nervousness. Under those conditions, he may actually perform with better social skills than usual... perhaps even as good as his internet social skills.
  • The woman may have gotten to know him from online conversation, and won't judge him on social skills so much. He may have been able to create a halo effect for himself online that will make his real life social efforts look better.
  • The guy is displaying ambition and a desire to improve himself, which are attractive traits to many women.
  • The guy will learn social skills from going on the date, which will help him appeal to the woman he is going out with, or to future women

Even if she ends up finding his social skills lacking and decide to not have a second date, the guy was still making an effort to improve himself, so it should be forgivable that his social skills seemed better than they actually are. Although it does waste a small amount of a woman's time to give a "practice date" to a guy who doesn't turn out to have the social chops she originally thought, I think it's even worse for women if socially challenged guys have no way of learning the ropes, because then women's options are limited to men who acquired social skills by default during their socialization (which filters out many guys who are introverted, shy, sensitive, nerdy, short, or who got bullied as children, a category of men that actually would make good long term mates if only they were bit more socially skilled and exciting).

Of course, it's understandable if individual women don't want to be giving dates to guys with a major mismatch in social skills from their first impression, but I think this worse case scenario is rare, because it's simply too hard for men to fake substantially greater social skills in ways that women can't detect, even online. Furthermore, given that women have more stringent personality and behavioral criteria than men, and typically expect the guy to take an unequal share in the burden of initiating, women are just going to deal with the fact that men have a longer learning curve for satisfying women's preferences, just as many men are just going to have to deal with their girlfriends taking longer to get ready.

I certainly agree with the idea that nerds with no social skills would be well-served to develop those skills. But then the point isn't making them appear more desireable; it's actually making them more desireable, which is beyond the scope of the post.

I agree, and I'm not going to hold that against your post. However, it means we shouldn't say stuff like "no one you want to meet would find you boring" when it's not necessarily true, even online.

I contend that a lot of the time, for men at least, it wouldn't be too difficult to figure out a way to present themselves online that would turn off people who would otherwise be good matches for them. This could even be a matter of subtleties like signaling, photo choice, or even the order by which you list your interests/traits. Attraction based on discovering additional qualities about a person is not a commutative operation: order matters. Let's examine a guy who plays guitar and is also a programmer, and reveal these facts in different order. Guitar player + programmer = cool guy with a nerdy side. Programmer + guitar player = nerdy guy trying to be cool. The example may not be that stark (though it certainly could be); the point is that earlier traits revealed have massively higher weight, such that they can even determine whether later traits revealed are seen as positive or negative (in my example, find out that the cool guitar guy also has a nerdy side can actually boost his attractiveness). The significance for online dating is that many traits should be left off the main profile entirely, and saved for later revelations.

Think of it this way: there is a space of the plausible narratives that you could create for yourself, but not all of the points in that narrative-space are equally attractive, even if they are equally factually correct. For males especially, there could be large differences in attractiveness of their different self-narratives, because women are more selective about behavior and personality.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 October 2010 04:37:59AM 14 points [-]

A thousand times yes.

If only the guys who had the fundamentals right (actual brains, competence, kindness, etc.) were better at operating the female hindbrain! Adding social skills to the male population is good for women.

To add my 0.02: from my perspective, a profile that describes technical/scientific interests is not a bad thing. In fact I definitely prefer it. I don't even put that in the "bad social skills" category.

What does seem to make me less likely to communicate with someone: defining yourself by what you're a fan of instead of by what you do, not having a career, too many indications of "softness" in personality, excessive self-deprecation. Even someone who'd be compatible with me on the fundamentals can come across badly.

Comment author: HughRistik 14 October 2010 05:20:03AM 10 points [-]

If only the guys who had the fundamentals right (actual brains, competence, kindness, etc.) were better at operating the female hindbrain! Adding social skills to the male population is good for women.

So, is it your experience that men with the fundamentals right are often lacking at interacting with the female hindbrain? That is consistent with my observations, and I'd be interested to hear you expand on that perception.

Vladimir_M and I ended up concurring in the past that there is excessive polarization between men who appeal to women's hindbrains, and men who have good qualities in other areas (e.g. relating to long-term mate potential). We suggested that the relationship between masculinity/excitement and female attraction is a step function: there's a certain baseline level of those traits required, but adding more of those traits isn't always better.

In your case, your threshold sounds like:

too many indications of "softness" in personality, excessive self-deprecation

Those guys are below your threshold for some dimension (which may be related to masculinity). I would hazard a guess that for you, once it's obvious that a guy isn't too soft, being less soft isn't always better, and that you don't like men who are too far on the other end of that dimension (whatever it is), either.

Unfortunately, large minorities of the male population fail these sorts of thresholds and are consequently undateable, even for women who aren't into hypermasculine men and are into nerdy and intelligent men. This is a bad thing for everyone (except the guys who currently have monopolies on women's hindbrains) , and the sad thing is how easily fixable it is.

With just a minor behavioral makeover, such a guy would stop falling foul of women's screens like yours (except perhaps the job one, which would take more time). Neither fanboyism, softness, or self-deprecation are core parts of anyone's personality. It's possible to fix all those things without being dishonest (unless holding in neurotic self-deprecation is "dishonest"), or changing the guy's values very much (unless "don't change yourself for anyone" or some other silly value like that has been internalized).

Sadly, women who want any excitement and masculinity in men are often forced to go for guys who are "overkill" in those categories. When women say stuff like "I want a badboy with a tender heart," or "I like nice guys, but not weak men," they aren't contradicting themselves: they are looking a complex combination of traits, which is consistent with women's greater behavioral selectivity.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 October 2010 06:20:45AM 11 points [-]

I think you've basically got it right.

I do have the impression that men who have the fundamentals right aren't good with the female hindbrain, for the most part (there are exceptions, and there are compromises.)

My own perspective: I've had experience with guys who don't have the fundamentals, and that's horrible. Someone without human decency is the worst, but someone who isn't too bright also doesn't make for a great relationship. So that sort of thing is primary. Mandatory. I don't appreciate people who argue that women are somehow not serious when they say that they care about intellectual or moral values. I'm entirely serious.

But, on a totally different metric and with a totally different mechanism, masculinity also matters a lot. (I think this is true of most women, but I might be an outlier in just how much it's true for me.) Masculinity will make a bad match look tempting; the lack of it will make a good match look unappealing. I don't think it's necessarily bad that my hindbrain works like this -- on the off chance that I have "chemistry" with a guy who's also a good match, I'll enjoy the relationship much more than if I were Ms. Spock. It adds another dimension. The downside is that there's a chance I'll be attracted to assholes and idiots -- but I believe (somewhat hopefully) that being self-aware will prevent me from making those kinds of mistakes in practice. [Note that I am saying something different from "Women just want sex with assholes."]

I think you're probably also right about behavioral selectivity. Looks matter, but in a pretty coarse-grained way; there's "unappealing," a broad swath of "meh," and a tiny minority of "incredibly good-looking." Everything else is what you do.

Comment author: HughRistik 15 October 2010 04:29:16AM *  8 points [-]

SarahC said:

I don't appreciate people who argue that women are somehow not serious when they say that they care about intellectual or moral values. I'm entirely serious.

What do you think causes the common perception that women are not serious about caring about intellectual or moral values? Are you saying that it's extremely rare for women to say this unseriously, or that you just don't like being judged as non-serious on such a claim merely because a non-trivial percentage of women may make it incorrectly? What level of variation do you think occurs in the female population in this area.

Us guys, we see women saying that they want guys with intellectual and moral values, but then we often seeing women going for men who seem unlikely to exhibit those traits, and we get... confused. Since this kind of subject isn't politically correct to talk about, when a guy sees something like this happening, it will dominate his thinking and lead to hasty generalizations about what all women want (like your example of "women just want sex with assholes").

What do you think about women who are into Rhett Butler, and other "dark heroes" from romance novels? If that example is too fictional, how about, say, rappers?

Here's an interesting passage from feminist author Jackson Katz about the popularity of Eminem with women, and the message it sends to guys:

  1. His popularity with girls sends a dangerous message to boys and men.

Boys and young men have long expressed frustration with the fact that girls and young women say they're attracted to nice guys, but that the most popular girls often end up with the disdainful tough guys who treat them like dirt. We all know that heterosexual young guys are forever struggling to figure out what girls want. What are they supposed to conclude when 53% of the 8 Mile audience on opening weekend was female?

What are men to make of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd when she writes, uncritically, that a "gaggle" of her female Baby Boomer friends are "surreptitiously smitten" with a 30-year-old rapper whose lyrics literally drip with contempt for women? (If you're in denial or simply refuse to believe that his lyrics are degrading to women, do your homework – download his lyrics.) That girls want to be treated with dignity and respect? Or that the quickest route to popularity with them is to be verbally and emotionally cruel, that "bad boy" posturing is a winning strategy to impress naïve (and self-loathing) girls? Surely most of Eminem's female fans would not want to be sending that message to their male peers – but they are.

Boys who have listened carefully to Eminem's actual lyrics -- not just the hit songs or the sanitized movie soundtrack -- know that most self-respecting girls who are conscious about the depths of our culture's sexism are repulsed by Eminem's misogyny and depressed by his popularity. Sadly, many of these girls have been silent, fearing they'll be branded as "uncool" because they "don't get" the artist who is supposedly the voice of their generation.

There are women who like Eminem because (they say) he's complex and not easily knowable; they would argue that it is reductionist to characterize his art as sexist. But the burden is on them to demonstrate how -- in a culture where so many men sexually harass, rape, and batter women -- it is possible to reconcile a concern for women's physical, sexual, and emotional well-being with admiration for a male artist whose lyrics consistently portray women in a contemptuous and sexually degrading manner.

Girls and women, even those who have been coopted into Eminem-worship, want to be treated with respect. They certainly don't want to be physically or sexually assaulted by men. They don't want to be sexually degraded by dismissive and arrogant men. But they can't have it both ways. They can't proclaim their attraction to a man who's gotten rich verbally trashing and metaphorically raping women and yet expect that young men will treat them with dignity.

Moving on...

But, on a totally different metric and with a totally different mechanism, masculinity also matters a lot. (I think this is true of most women, but I might be an outlier in just how much it's true for me.)

I think your preferences for are pretty typical for women with high intelligence: intelligent masculine guys who aren't douchebags.

I don't think it's necessarily bad that my hindbrain works like this -- on the off chance that I have "chemistry" with a guy who's also a good match, I'll enjoy the relationship much more than if I were Ms. Spock. It adds another dimension.

I used to hate the idea of gender dynamics in dating. But then I gave them a try, and found that some of them are actually pretty fun. A lot of it is simply aesthetics on both visual and behavioral levels.

The downside is that there's a chance I'll be attracted to assholes and idiots -- but I believe (somewhat hopefully) that being self-aware will prevent me from making those kinds of mistakes in practice.

Imagine how self-aware you would be with about 30 less IQ points, and how well you'd make decisions about avoiding attractive assholish guys. That's what most women are probably like.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 06:18:46PM 6 points [-]

Us guys, we see women saying that they want guys with intellectual and moral values, but then we often seeing women going for men who seem unlikely to exhibit those traits, and we get... confused.

This confuses me, because it seems to imply that men need to believe that a simple personality heuristic can be applied to all or almost all women. Why is it an unacceptable answer that some women like one thing, and some like another? Or did you mean the same group of women in both cases?

I used to hate the idea of gender dynamics in dating. But then I gave them a try, and found that some of them are actually pretty fun.

By "gender dynamics" in this case do you mean doing the things that you're expected to do because of your gender? If so, yeah, some of them are pretty fun. And some of it is stuff we're hardwired to like; I won't argue with that. The trouble is just when we limit ourselves to broad heuristics about the whole population which gloss over the degree of individual variety, and then try to apply those on the individual scale.

Comment author: HughRistik 17 October 2010 04:02:41AM *  9 points [-]

This confuses me, because it seems to imply that men need to believe that a simple personality heuristic can be applied to all or almost all women. Why is it an unacceptable answer that some women like one thing, and some like another? Or did you mean the same group of women in both cases?

In other cases, it could be that the most common things women in your culture say they want, and the guys who are getting the most attention, don't seem to match. Of course, there's no necessary contradiction, like you say.

In other cases, it's the same women saying one thing, and (seemingly) doing another.

There is a social desirability bias that will encourage women to signal preferences for positive traits like intelligence and values. In contrast, if you're a woman who likes meatheads, you've less likely to talk about it. Furthermore, when people misstate their preferences, it's more likely to be in the direction of positive traits than of negative traits.

For many white middle-class men, it's drummed into their heads from an early age that women universally prefer intelligent men with values such as "respectfulness." So when a guy sees evidence to the contrary, it makes him question anything he is told about what women want, even by women. Since it's not politically correct for either women or men to talk about women going for anything other than intelligence and values in men, when he sees women going for men without those traits, he may freak out and start making hasty generalizations.

That's not the most rational attitude, but it is understandable. The presence of some women misstating their preferences (or dating guys other than what they prefer) lowers the priors for men believing what other women say about their preferences. This is sad, but true.

And yes, it probably sucks for you when you are interacting with a guy, and his priors for how to interact with you are all screwed up by the ways that other women have trained him.

By "gender dynamics" in this case do you mean doing the things that you're expected to do because of your gender? If so, yeah, some of them are pretty fun. And some of it is stuff we're hardwired to like; I won't argue with that.

Basically yeah.

The trouble is just when we limit ourselves to broad heuristics about the whole population which gloss over the degree of individual variety, and then try to apply those on the individual scale.

Sometimes, broad heuristics are all you have, at least to start with. "Women are misstating their preferences until proven otherwise" probably would be too broad and extreme. But a moderate degree of skepticism until proven otherwise might make sense.

Getting better reference classes can improve the heuristics used. For instance, you might know that some groups of women state their preferences more accurately than others. I propose that nerdy women are both more aware of their preferences, actually date guys who fulfill their preferences, and less likely to incorrectly state socially desirable preferences for signaling reasons. These women are also more likely to be into intelligent men with values, so on the question of those preferences, nerdy women's claims about their preferences are more trustworthy.

Gangestad et al. found that 90-95% of women fit into a gender-typical taxon based on their interests and traits, while 5-10% of women are a gender-atypical taxon (which also contains most of the queer women). 90-95% of women are wired one way; 5-10% are wired another way. As a result, there actually probably are many examples where it's reasonable to approach women with one set of heuristics by default unless you have special evidence that they are gender-atypical, which allows you to pull out some different heuristics.

It may be the case that the 5-10% of gender atypical women contain most of the nerdy women, and disproportionately state their preferences accurately.

Comment author: mattnewport 15 October 2010 06:31:18PM 3 points [-]

This confuses me, because it seems to imply that men need to believe that a simple personality heuristic can be applied to all or almost all women. Why is it an unacceptable answer that some women like one thing, and some like another?

The prevalence of different personality types in the population is very relevant here and you seem to be glossing over it. If the number of women attracted to your personality type is relatively low (and especially if it is low relative to the number of other men similar to you) it will still be an obstacle you need to overcome in finding a partner even if you believe that there are women out there who would be attracted to you. Internet dating has probably helped with this a bit by making it easier to find potential matches but it can't overcome seriously unfavourable relative numbers.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 15 October 2010 06:51:04PM *  8 points [-]

I'd compare this with employment. Every now and then, you see a media story about some company with a highly unusual internal culture that uses all sorts of unconventional practices in hiring, organization, and management. Yet unless you luckily stumble onto some such employer and happen to be an exceptionally good candidate by their standards, you would be well-advised to stick to the standard conventional advice on how to look and behave in job interviews and, subsequently, in the workplace. In fact, doing anything else would mean sabotaging your employment and career prospects, and expecting that your unconventional behavior will surely be rewarded with a dream job with an unconventional employer is a delusional pipe-dream.

The main flaw of this analogy, of course, is that the conventional wisdom on seeking and maintaining employment is largely correct, whereas the conventional wisdom on dating has fatal points of disconnect from reality. Also, while conforming to optimal workplace behavior is truly painful for many people, fixing the problems in one's approach to dating and relationships typically doesn't require any such painful and loathsome adjustment. (Even though people often rationalize their unwillingness to do it by convincing themselves in the opposite.)

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 06:48:06PM 2 points [-]

Certainly! If he'd said "women who might like me tend to also like ..." I'd have understood. My confusion was because there was no such qualification, or anything else limiting the population under discussion beyond "women," but the commenter seemed to expect consistency within that population.

The prevalence of different personality types in the population is very relevant here and you seem to be glossing over it.

This is what I thought I was saying. :)

Comment author: pjeby 15 October 2010 01:56:21PM *  4 points [-]

What do you think about women who are into Rhett Butler, and other "dark heroes" from romance novels?

Dark heroes in romance novels generally aren't disrespectful or aggressive towards the heroine, and if they are domineering or deceptive towards the heroine, it's generally motivated by something that the hero at least believes is for the heroine's good, and often at the expense of the hero's own interests.

For example, if a fantasy-romance novel heroine gets put under a curse that makes her terribly lustful under the full moon, the heroine might lock her up to protect her... even if she secretly wants to have sex with him anyway, and he wants her as well. Or in an adventure-romance where the heroine is a trained assassin with genetic superpowers, the hero might trick her into getting left behind when he goes to kill the bad guy, to protect her... even if his powers aren't as powerful as hers, or he has no powers at all besides his secret agent training.

Even if the hero is a bad guy with a past, his actions toward the heroine never turn out to be actually evil or unprincipled, though they may be mistaken and tragic for one or both of them.

(To be fair, romance has a lot of subgenres, and my knowledge is limited to skimming the books my wife has left in the bathroom over the last 20 years or so, and a handful of conversations with her about the emotional and sexual significance of the various tropes in the genres she reads. It's possible that things are different in subgenres she doesn't read, like "contemporary"; she almost entirely prefers ones with fantasy, SF, adventure, and other "non-realistic" themes, since this lets her get two categories worth of entertainment at once. ;-) But I'd be a bit surprised if it's dramatically different.)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 October 2010 02:18:07PM 5 points [-]

I think it's fair to say that a lot of romance fiction is powered by the idea of a frightening man, even if, as you say, he has a good reason. I admit that this conclusion is the result of realizing that I don't like the genre, and I think that's the reason.

The thing I don't understand in all these discussion is I know a fair number of men in long term-- and sometimes happy-- relationships. They aren't high-display of masculinity guys, and yet, somehow they've hooked up with someone. How did they manage it?

Gone with the Wind is a hard thing to argue from. It's an extraordinary book-- very popular, but never duplicated. One of the things that drives it is that Scarlett is much more motivated by survival and status than the average female lead.

I just realized-- it's actually an example of a relatively rare sort of women's fiction. Perfect guy shows up, but the woman is too busy to notice for most of the novel. The other examples I've got (Murder with Peacocks and Good in Bed), she's distracted by a bunch of things going on in her life, but not by being in love with the wrong guy. In a normal novel, she'd realize she's in love with him while he was still in love with her.

Also, it's interesting that I've never heard anyone say that it was implausible for Scarlett to be fixated on Ashley.

Part of what makes these discussions messy is that the fantasies that hook the hindbrain aren't necessarily what people want to live. There are a lot more men who like action movies than who'd like to be in violent fights.

Comment author: HughRistik 16 October 2010 09:06:01PM *  7 points [-]

The thing I don't understand in all these discussion is I know a fair number of men in long term-- and sometimes happy-- relationships. They aren't high-display of masculinity guys, and yet, somehow they've hooked up with someone. How did they manage it?

How old are they? Most people get married eventually. Furthermore, the older people get, the more they switch over to long-term mating strategies.

If you're an average guy, eventually you're going to "get lucky" and run into a woman who is into you. As people get older, more and more women get tired of bad boys and switch over to their long-term mating strategies (and in some cases, are looking for men to support them).

So our average guy will find a mate. The question is, how many years go by while he is only dating sporadically, while women (on average) are off having fun with the more masculine and exciting guys? When he finally does find someone, how much choice does he actually have? What is her level of attractiveness (in various areas) compared to his? Is she the "one" who is "right" for him, or is she simply the one woman who has shown interest in him in the past few years?

It seems that during youth, most people do some combination of short-term mating and attempted-but-aborted serial long-term relationships, until eventually they find a good match. People test-drive each other. According to the model I'm outlining, women concentrate their test driving towards men at the top, while men's test driving of women is more evenly distributed (though of course, still skewed).

As a result, men who aren't flashy rides get disproportionately overlooked or cut out of the developmental test-driving stage, until with time women's average preferences shift and they want something more dependable. I've heard men express frustration with this situation and ask, "if the kitten didn't want me, do I want the cat?"

Sex differences in attraction is also important. For men, looks are relatively more important in attraction, while for women, behavior/personality is relatively more important. If you are a guy dating people you find attractive, they can still turn out to be good long-term mates for you. But for women, the guys you find most attractive during youth may have personality traits that exclude them from making good long-term mates. Of course, there is variation in women on this trait: for some, their ideal short-term mate and ideal long-term mate are the same guy. On average, the people who young women are sexually excited about are less likely to make good long-term mates than the people young men are excited about.

Comment author: pjeby 17 October 2010 07:39:01PM 3 points [-]

I think it's fair to say that a lot of romance fiction is powered by the idea of a frightening man, even if, as you say, he has a good reason. I admit that this conclusion is the result of realizing that I don't like the genre, and I think that's the reason.

Given that there are so many subgenres of romance, I suspect we are talking about different ones. In the small sample of my wife's books that I've read, the hero is never described as frightening to the heroine. Typically, he takes the form of an annoying rival who the heroine believes is overconfident or arrogant, someone whose goals are (superficially and initially) at odds with those of the heroine. (It then usually turns out that one or both characters have been operating on the basis of a mistaken impression about the other's goals or character.)

But I have never seen fear described as a heroine's reaction to anything except the villain, or her feelings for the hero. (Or more precisely, her anticipation of the problematic consequences of allowing her feelings for him to develop and be acted upon.)

Fear of the hero himself, or his actions, though? To my recollection, never happens in these genres.

Comment author: topynate 16 October 2010 11:38:53PM *  3 points [-]

The thing I don't understand in all these discussion is I know a fair number of men in long term-- and sometimes happy-- relationships. They aren't high-display of masculinity guys, and yet, somehow they've hooked up with someone. How did they manage it?

From the "Perception Lab" at St Andrews:

Women’s preferences for men’s facial masculinity are especially interesting, as there is great variation in preferences across individuals. These preferences have been demonstrated to vary with age, womens’ own self-rated attractiveness, and across different phases of their menstrual cycle.

Older women tend to prefer more feminine faces. Women in the infertile part of their fertility cycle tend to prefer more feminine faces. Women rating themselves as less attractive tend to prefer more feminine faces.

By the way, I don't mean to imply that your guy friends in particular are in stable relationships because of these tendencies - I can think of many other reasons beyond the differing attractiveness of their faces, or their demeanour.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 October 2010 10:06:25PM 3 points [-]

Part of what makes these discussions messy is that the fantasies that hook the hindbrain aren't necessarily what people want to live. There are a lot more men who like action movies than who'd like to be in violent fights.

This deserves emphasis. Our instincts are not interested in our happiness. There is no reason to presume that those we are most attracted to will be the same as those who will be the most satisfying either in the long or short term. (Although it is certainly strong evidence to be considered as well as a direct contributor to that satisfaction.)

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 16 October 2010 10:08:52PM *  1 point [-]

The thing I don't understand in all these discussion is I know a fair number of men in long term-- and sometimes happy-- relationships. They aren't high-display of masculinity guys, and yet,

Are these mostly older guys or more precisely guys in LTRs with older women?

The increase over the last 4 decades in female personal income has made the "beta good provider" male strategy less successful.

Also, some (e.g., the Man Who Is Thursday) say that the increase in female promiscuity has had a similar effect because (the thinking goes) once a woman has had sex with 1 or 2 extremely exciting men, she is less likely to settle for a LTR with a much less exciting one (and as long as she does not demand any sort of commitment from them, a woman using a "modern" sexual strategy will probably have sex with 1 or 2 extremely exciting men).

Although I have a relatively small circle of friends, even I have a friend of a friend, now in her 60s, who only ever had sex with one man (the father of her kids to which she is still married) and she was quite beautiful, grew up in the proverbial big city (Manhattan) and has and had no notable social handicaps.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 07 August 2012 01:28:58PM 2 points [-]

IIRC, a study a couple of years back that said that the male hero raped the female heroine in about half of a large sample of romance novels they looked at. Can't remember how they chose their sample.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 06:21:03PM 2 points [-]

Dark heroes in romance novels generally aren't disrespectful or aggressive towards the heroine, and if they are domineering or deceptive towards the heroine, it's generally motivated by something that the hero at least believes is for the heroine's good, and often at the expense of the hero's own interests.

That is disrespectful. It's asserting that the hero knows better than the heroine what's good for her, and is entitled to act on her behalf. In my mind that's a much, much more dangerous meme than outright acting maliciously.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 October 2010 12:17:20AM 4 points [-]

That is disrespectful. It's asserting that the hero knows better than the heroine what's good for her, and is entitled to act on her behalf. In my mind that's a much, much more dangerous meme than outright acting maliciously.

The phrase 'dangerous meme' jumped out at me. I agree that it is disrespectful and I personally make an effort to prevent people that try from having any part of my life. I actually have to bite my tongue at times so that I don't point out to young adults "You don't have to take that. You can choose your own boundaries, with consideration of your options and likely outcomes." (That put me in a particularly interesting situation when I was a teacher!)

But going from 'undesirable behavior' to 'dangerous meme', well, strikes me as dangerous. It seems like a move from discussing behavioral preferences to considering the very fact that the behavioural pattern appeals to some people or plays a role in their literature of choice is wrong.

I find the kinds of romance novels in question decidedly unappealing. Not just because they are aimed at women but because they are aimed at a different subset of women than those with whom I most empathise with. But I do know that there people who actually appreciate or are attracted to these same behaviours that I find obnoxious. Judging the very meme just because I personally don't prefer the behaviour would seem presumptive.

Comment author: pjeby 15 October 2010 09:48:10PM *  2 points [-]

That is disrespectful. It's asserting that the hero knows better than the heroine what's good for her, and is entitled to act on her behalf.

You're leaving out the part where I said that the hero's actions could be mistaken and/or tragic: i.e., in actual romance novels it's quite often the case that the hero only thinks he knows better than the heroine, that she fights his actions every step of the way, and/or the actions lead to bad results.

I'm also a bit confused as to how you can say that either of the specific examples I gave qualify as "disrespectful". If somebody throws themselves in front of a bullet for you, is that being disrespectful because they think they know what's better for you?

Comment author: [deleted] 15 October 2010 12:37:04PM 7 points [-]

I think women want guys with values, in principle, and are tempted by guys without values, in practice, because they like "masculine" or "alpha" behavior. It doesn't mean that the desire to date a good person isn't a real desire. If someone desires to get work done, but also procrastinates, would you say she doesn't "really" want to get work done?

I think women would prefer a good person who hits the right masculinity/dominance buttons than a bad person. (Read or watch Gone With The Wind again -- Rhett is actually the male character with the most integrity and smarts.)

I think you're entirely right that men who are pretty awful people can be very attractive to women. But I think that's because they have certain social skills that they've developed and relied on. And anyone can learn social skills. There's not a one-to-one relationship between horribleness and attractiveness to women -- you never hear about women being hot for Jeffrey Dahmer. Rappers swagger, make it obvious that women can't resist them, and they're typically in great shape. They're popular for completely predictable reasons.

You're probably right that some women gravitate to assholish men because they're just not thinking (just like some men gravitate to women who have nothing going for them but their beauty.) But it's unfair for a man to assume that every woman is going to do that, and I'd find it sad if a man compromised his more serious principles just to pick up the less self-aware women. You can make yourself more attractive without becoming a person you'd hate.

Comment author: HughRistik 15 October 2010 05:09:29PM *  8 points [-]

I think women want guys with values, in principle, and are tempted by guys without values, in practice, because they like "masculine" or "alpha" behavior. It doesn't mean that the desire to date a good person isn't a real desire.

I think this hypothesis makes a lot of sense: masculinity is the main cause of attraction, and bad values just tag on along for the ride. This hypothesis is entirely plausible to me, but I have to wonder whether it's the whole story. For some the nastier forms, I'm not sure that masculinity and bad values are always separable; they are intertwined.

There could be several different paths by which different types of women are attracted to assholes; you've certainly named one of them.

If someone desires to get work done, but also procrastinates, would you say she doesn't "really" want to get work done?

Not necessarily, but it could be the case.

(Read or watch Gone With The Wind again -- Rhett is actually the male character with the most integrity and smarts.)

It's one specific scene that I'm thinking of: the quasi-rape scene.

There's not a one-to-one relationship between horribleness and attractiveness to women -- you never hear about women being hot for Jeffrey Dahmer.

You might be surprised! Famous serial killers are very popular with women and have groupies. Female serial killers don't have male groupies. Now, women with these preferences are probably pretty rare; women attracted to shy nerds are probably more common (2% of women are into shyness), but there are a lot more shy nerds than women into them, whereas serial killers are a scarce resource for women who are into them.

More hilariously, I have an article on my hard drive about Western women attracted to Osama bin Laden written after 9/11 (I'll write it up sometime, but it's behind a paywall.)

This behavior might initially seem like some sort of weird fluke, but looking at female attraction to Eminem, who raps about doing some of the things that serial killers are in for, these preferences could be conceptualized along the same continuum: serial killers are hypermasculine ultra-assholes.

See also the Draco In Leather Pants (TVTropes) phenomenon, where fangirls turn villains into objects of desire (there are some hilarious example pages at the bottom).

Fantasy is different from reality, of course. These women may have different desires in real life. Even if they have similar desires, they know better than to try to act them out, consistent with your model. The point is that such psychology seems like a watered-down, fantasy-only version of the psychology of serial killer groupies, who act out these same sorts of desires in reality.

Although there are categorical distinctions between women who lust after Eminem or dress Draco Malfoy up in leather pants, and women who go for serial killers, all these women may be the same continuum on other variables. Serial killer groupies are just at the far right of the bell curve of women attracted to assholes.

Rappers swagger, make it obvious that women can't resist them, and they're typically in great shape.

They swagger, but I'm not sure their swagger is always distinguishable from their misogyny. I hypothesize that being misogynistic in the context of swagger reads as attractive masculinity to some women in some subcultures. I guess the question is what sorts of female fans these rappers would gain or lose if they weren't so misogynistic. I do think your hypothesis explains many or even most cases of female attraction to these guys; I just don't think it's the whole story. There are swaggering masculine guys who aren't misogynistic; why no go for them instead?

But it's unfair for a man to assume that every woman is going to do that, and I'd find it sad if a man compromised his more serious principles just to pick up the less self-aware women.

Agreed.

You can make yourself more attractive without becoming a person you'd hate.

That's the conclusion of my experience. Though part of the way that I do this is by trying to have the same mystique or bad boys and aesthetic appeal, just without actually being an asshole. For instance, the way I dress is partly inspired by villains in movies... though I've stopped short of wearing leather pants.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 October 2010 05:36:37PM 1 point [-]

For instance, the way I dress is partly inspired by villains in movies...

I've had some success while dressed as Darth Sideous... but I've got my suspicions that was despite not because. ;)

Can you give some examples of the sort of villains you are considering here?

Comment author: Vladimir_M 15 October 2010 04:58:33PM *  7 points [-]

SarahC:

There's not a one-to-one relationship between horribleness and attractiveness to women -- you never hear about women being hot for Jeffrey Dahmer.

Not a one-to-one relationship, to be sure, but stories like this strongly suggest some positive statistical relation: "No shortage of women who dream of snaring a husband on Death Row: experts ponder why deadliest criminals get so many proposals." The article references an academic book that dedicates a chapter to the phenomenon.

Jeffrey Dahmer might have been a bit too creepy even for the serial killer groupie population, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got an occasional love letter too.

Comment author: HughRistik 15 October 2010 05:49:23PM 2 points [-]

Dammit, V_M, you ninja'd me by posting that article before I could post my analysis.

Comment author: mattnewport 15 October 2010 04:07:01PM 3 points [-]

I think there's a bit more to it than just women overlooking a lack of values because of other attractive factors like confidence. There's some evidence that men with the 'dark triad' personality traits are more successful with women.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 15 October 2010 05:03:14PM 4 points [-]

mattnewport:

There's some evidence that men with the 'dark triad' personality traits are more successful with women.

Here's the research paper on which the article you link was based:
http://www.mysmu.edu/faculty/normanli/JonasonLiWebsterSchmitt2009.pdf

Comment author: whpearson 15 October 2010 01:34:52PM 2 points [-]

There's not a one-to-one relationship between horribleness and attractiveness to women -- you never hear about women being hot for Jeffrey Dahmer.

I had to google him, I also googled his name and sexy and found this. :(

He gets 28,800 hits for jeffrey dahmer sexy. Out of 275000 hits. So a sexy ratio of 0.1. I'm not sure if this is high or low for a public male figure, a lot of it will be incidental mentions.

Steve Buscemi gets a ratio of 0.03, brad pitt get 0.13. Harold shipman (another serial killer but not so handsome or gruesome) gets 0.06.

I'm not sure of my methodology, I suspect that I might do better looking for the phrase in quotes.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 15 October 2010 01:53:45PM 14 points [-]

I'm not sure of my methodology

Dead elephant gets a ratio of 0.59.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 October 2010 12:54:35PM 5 points [-]

But it's unfair for a man to assume that every woman is going to do that, and I'd find it sad if a man compromised his more serious principles just to pick up the less self-aware women.

A lot of parents find it sad when their kids find out that santa claus isn't real.

Comment author: whpearson 14 October 2010 12:32:03PM 2 points [-]

I do have the impression that men who have the fundamentals right aren't good with the female hindbrain, for the most part (there are exceptions, and there are compromises.)

I wonder how much this is due to the American Jock vs Geek mentality. Geeks see masculine behaviour as out group so eschew it? The conflict isn't so bad in Europe (it doesn't carry on into University in the same way). That is not to say that European geeks are naturally intensely masculine, simply that it might be easier for them to adopt masculine behaviours, because they aren't having to act like the enemy.

This dichotomy doesn't seem prevalent in all American culture, entrepreneurs seem quite happy with to straddle the line. How much of your experience is with people inside academia?

Comment author: [deleted] 14 October 2010 01:04:20PM *  4 points [-]

My experience is either inside academia or way the hell outside (people who didn't go to college.) I never met an entrepreneur.

My experience with meeting Europeans is that smart people do have less of a geeky self-image than they do in the US (I've known Italian women mathematicians who look and carry themselves like movie stars) but that just about everyone in Europe is less into gorilla-type masculinity than men in the US. So I think your point is probably more relevant on the female end -- European female geeks are more conventionally feminine because they don't see a dichotomy. (I've also noticed that about Asian female geeks -- that is, raised in Asian countries, not Asian-American.)

Comment author: Vladimir_M 14 October 2010 07:12:48PM *  6 points [-]

SarahC:

[In Europe] smart people do have less of a geeky self-image than they do in the US (I've known Italian women mathematicians who look and carry themselves like movie stars)

That is true, for the most part. Where I come from, the electrical engineering students' club at the local university is a popular location for nightlife and rock concerts that attracts masses of people as a party hangout. Something like that is practically unimaginable in North America, but it's not at all unusual in Europe.

Comment author: thomblake 14 October 2010 08:59:18PM 4 points [-]

Something like that is practically unimaginable in North America

That's a mighty strong assertion to make about an entire contient that contains countries as different as, say, Canada and Nicaragua, or Alabama and San Francisco.

Comment author: HughRistik 15 October 2010 12:48:28AM 3 points [-]

Whoa.

I've also heard that in China, self-effacing and conscientious students can be the most popular. For the US, that's unimaginable.

These pieces of data suggest that the polarization of men towards "geek / nice guy" and "masculine bad boy" in the US is at least partly cultural, and it could be fought by other cultural forces.

That is the argument that David Anderegg makes in Nerds. While I disagree with Anderegg in some cases (e.g. dismissing the notion of Asperger's Syndrome), he has some excellent literary analysis of some of the tropes in American literature that influence how we think about masculinity.

Anderegg argues that in the 19th century, a dichotomy developed between "men of action" and "men of reflection" in American thought. This dualism presented the man of action as positive and masculine, while the "man of reflection" was the "effete intellectual" or clergyman, associated with femininity and homosexuality. He argues that our modern concept of "nerd" is the descendant of the "man of reflection" and "effete intellectual" stereotypes. Read that entire chapter I linked to. Here are some of Anderegg's examples:

  • Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving's story was a classic example of "nerd vs jock," where the nerd is portrayed in many negative and stereotypical ways

  • Superman becoming incognito and undatable to Lois merely by being mild-mannered and wearing glasses

  • He argues that ancient Greeks didn't have such a dichotomy between brain vs. brawn/looks: heroes were typically intelligent, good-looking, and capable, while villains tended to be both ugly and stupid.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson's notion of the American scholar

Emerson's speech is fascinating and complex, but it definitely sets up the dichotomy between men of action and men of reflection. Here are some troubling excerpts (emphases mine):

There goes in the world a notion, that the scholar should be a recluse, a valetudinarian, — as unfit for any handiwork or public labor, as a penknife for an axe. The so-called `practical men' sneer at speculative men, as if, because they speculate or see, they could do nothing. I have heard it said that the clergy, — who are always, more universally than any other class, the scholars of their day, — are addressed as women; that the rough, spontaneous conversation of men they do not hear, but only a mincing and diluted speech. They are often virtually disfranchised; and, indeed, there are advocates for their celibacy. As far as this is true of the studious classes, it is not just and wise. Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind.

[...]

Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary.

[...]

Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. Must that needs be evil? We, it seems, are critical; we are embarrassed with second thoughts; we cannot enjoy any thing for hankering to know whereof the pleasure consists; we are lined with eyes; we see with our feet; the time is infected with Hamlet's unhappiness,

"Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."

Is it so bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied. Would we be blind? Do we fear lest we should outsee nature and God, and drink truth dry? I look upon the discontent of the literary class, as a mere announcement of the fact, that they find themselves not in the state of mind of their fathers, and regret the coming state as untried; as a boy dreads the water before he has learned that he can swim.

[...]

We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame. Public and private avarice make the air we breathe thick and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant.

Emerson makes a lot of good points, such as about avoiding past orthodoxies. But as Anderegg points out, his attitude is very close to "throw away books from the past, and write your own," which is anti-intellectual and fails to reflect how thinkers can stand on the shoulders of giants. There is no dichotomy between studying works of the past, and original thinking.

He displays a great ambivalence towards scholars of his time. He romanticizes "Man Thinking," but links scholars to Europe, femininity, homosexuality (via the word "mincing"), religion, unoriginality, laziness, timidity, and disease (e.g. "infected with Hamlet's unhappiness"). No doubt there were and are many scholars who deserve those labels, but his dichotomy is much too stark:

  • Non-scholars are much more lacking in original thought than scholars
  • Non-scholars are plenty lazy, too
  • What about men of action who are temperamentally timid?
  • He speaks disdainfully of scholars having "second thoughts," but wasn't he criticizing them earlier for being too credulous? Can't men of action who are engaging their subject matter hands-on have second thoughts?
  • Why can't you both read books, and carve out your heroic path in your field?
  • In domains with low-hanging empirical fruit, I'll buy his argument that scholars should get more hands-on. In other domains, it's best to read the book, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • Why are the intellectual errors Emerson criticizes associated with women or homosexuality? Why can't we have feminine or homosexual men of action? Would Alan Turing fit into Emerson's notion of the "American scholar"?
Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 October 2010 03:24:34AM *  1 point [-]

This is important, not just for the specifics, but to remember that some pattern of behavior which seems absolutely innate may actually be culturally localized.

So, are there geeky people in Europe? If so, what are they doing instead of science and engineering?

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 01:04:18AM 4 points [-]

gorilla-type masculinity

I love this phrase. It reminds me of this exchange, which happened out loud:

"You drive like a guerilla." "... what?" "Not the ape. The kind with a beret."

Comment author: whpearson 14 October 2010 01:56:08PM *  4 points [-]

everyone in Europe is less into gorilla-type masculinity than men in the US

This is true. Gorilla-type masculinity is not what I had in mind when talking about masculinity (being European and all). I was thinking about being into sports/cars/heavy metal (going back to your nice/anti-nice dichotomy) or just generally being confident and self-assured.

If that is what you want, then I can see why it conflicts with some of the fundamentals (kindness, competence). Gorilla masculinity seems to be about getting what you want through physical intimidation. If that is the hammer that you have used the most through your life, then everything will look like a nail.

If you typically try to convince people with competent argument or being kind, then you are less likely to reach for the physical intimidation toolkit of gorilla masculinity.

ETA: I wonder why there is a difference in masculinity in Europe. I'd make up some just-so-story about the more physically aggressive men having been killed in the two world wars, unless it is purely memetic.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2010 03:14:12PM 3 points [-]

If you typically try to convince people with competent argument or being kind, then you are less likely to reach for the physical intimidation toolkit of gorilla masculinity.

I consider competent argument to be far more representative of gorilla masculinity than whatever the other category is. Viewing conversations in certain communities (for example, MENSA mailing lists) I've seen patterns that look remarkably like what I would expect from gorrilas - guys trying to dominate each other with verbal sparring while girls are competing via asserting moral control and creating social alliances with other women and undermining the status of targets. Depending on your physical self confidence the physical forms of intimidation can seem gentle and benign in comparison.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 October 2010 02:20:57PM *  2 points [-]

Right, there's something to that.

And I don't like people who intimidate people by force. If there's a direct conflict, I'm going to go with the person who's kind and competent.

(Also, I'm starting to hate my "nice/anti-nice" dichotomy -- in retrospect that post made no sense.)

Comment author: Vladimir_M 14 October 2010 06:55:25PM *  8 points [-]

SarahC:

just about everyone in Europe is less into gorilla-type masculinity than men in the US.

That's a mighty strong assertion to make about an entire continent that contains countries as different as, say, Sweden and Albania, or Moldova and Switzerland. Also, I'm certain that the sample of Europeans you've seen is unrepresentative in all sorts of relevant ways even of their own countries, let alone the entire continent.

Of course, if by this you mean the specific patterns of behavior characteristic of certain sorts of American men, then the claim is trivially true.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2010 07:12:46PM 3 points [-]

Those guys are below your threshold for some dimension (which may be related to masculinity). I would hazard a guess that for you, once it's obvious that a guy isn't too soft, being less soft isn't always better, and that you don't like men who are too far on the other end of that dimension (whatever it is), either.

I would also hazard to guess that the degree of hardness (err... make that not-softness) that appeals varies on a 28 day cycle. ('Guess' in as much as studies and my own observations of the general population may of course not apply to individual cases. Indeed, there are some obvious potential reasons why they wouldn't.)

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 01:00:47AM 6 points [-]

Good guess. They've done this study, and you're 100% right. We watched a bit of a film discussing it in my anthro class. (I didn't note whose study it was, but the film is called "Why Sex?" and you could probably find out from there.)

They used a program where you could slide smoothly between a very feminine face and a very masculine one, and asked women to find someone along that scale who looked ideal for a short-term fling, and someone else for a long-term relationship. The difference between the two follows the pattern that you'd expect--more masculine and virile-looking for the short term, softer and more kind-looking for the long term--but both answers slid further towards the masculine end of the scale when the subject was currently ovulating.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 October 2010 12:22:09PM 9 points [-]

I've heard about people who find talking extremely anxiety-provoking, while communicating by writing is easy and comfortable for them. I expect someone like that would have the sort of social skills mismatch you're describing. They aren't faking the skills on-line, they have a disability making it hard to use them in person.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 October 2010 01:02:20PM 8 points [-]

I have a (fading, but still present) hang-up about phone conversations. They're harder for me than either in-person communication or text. You don't have the time to think things through that you do on IM, but you also don't get facial cues to help you. So my phone conversations are almost always short, and of the form "Hi, I'm at the train station."

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2010 07:03:43PM 5 points [-]

I'll agree and add that as well as anxiety another limiting factor for in person socialisation is time. Processing in real time, and particularly in real time in a group context, is the hardest part of the socialising task. They can make the perfect response, just 5 seconds too late.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 12:55:31AM *  4 points [-]

I've noticed that I'm like this in some situations but not others. Specifically, I feel like I have plenty of time in social situations to work through potential word choices and optimize for my specific listener, but trying to think of arguments in a debate feels like walking through molasses.

Realizing that gave me a lot more sympathy for people who can rule an intellectual conversation but are terrible at predicting how their listeners will interpret what they say in social contexts. I hadn't quite internalized the idea that it might just be really hard.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 October 2010 05:00:28AM *  9 points [-]

I've noticed that I'm like this in some situations but not others. Specifically, I feel like I have plenty of time in social situations to work through potential word choices and optimize for my specific listener, but trying to think of arguments in a debate feels like walking through molasses.

That's a good point. By contrast arguments (or at least rational reasoning - rhetoric fits a different category) come seemingly pre-formed from my intuition for free. Social political reasoning takes actual effort. That isn't to say I can't do it in real time, just that I like to make sure ahead of time that I am in a good state for socialising in order to get the most from it. In the ideal case that means I have spent an hour in the gym earlier in the day, are reasonably well rested and possibly consumed some aniracetam, modafinil or at least caffeine. I find those all raise the level of social ability that comes free from my intuition without (potentially time-delaying) effort.

One way I like to look at differences in abilities in general is not so much the absolute level of competencies but in which order they decay under negative influence such as sleep deprivation, stress or chemical interference. In my case it seems to be:

"Everything else" -> consciousness -> rational argument -> life itself.

Although I haven't tested the last one. I apologize ahead of time if after I die zombie-wedrifid reanimates and starts explaining why it is rational to "let him eat your brains".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 October 2010 04:52:36PM 6 points [-]

Voted up because degradation under adverse circumstances is an important concept.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2010 11:49:52PM *  12 points [-]

Perhaps I made a mistake in addressing honesty and attractiveness separately, because you're not the first person to assume that my advice about honesty precludes attempting to make your profile seem attractive.

To be fair, you did talk about a balance between attractiveness and honesty. But when you put so much more of an emphasis on honesty over impression management, I couldn't tell how you thought that people should find that balance, and I felt motivated to add some caveats.

It's just a roundabout way of saying "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are." I assumed that "show your best side" was understood; clearly it isn't.

Ah... but who are you?

A lot of conventional advice on dating references notions of identity and selfhood, such as the famous "just be yourself." The problem with such advice is that identity is itself a hard problem. As a result, for many people figuring out their identities (and who isn't?), identity isn't a very useful concept for figuring out how to behave socially. Actually, that notion may be backwards: learning social behavior is far more useful for figuring out one's identity.

These conventional notions of self are a lot more simplistic and static than how contemporary philosophy and psychology think about the self.

In The Self as a center of narrative gravity, Daniel Dennet argues:

The chief fictional character at the center of that autobiography is one's self. And if you still want to know what the self really is, you're making a category mistake.

[...]

I propose that this imagined exercise with Updike, getting him to write more novels on demand to answer our questions, is actually a familiar exercise. That is the way we treat each other; that is the way we are. We cannot undo those parts of our pasts that are determinate, but our selves are constantly being made more determinate as we go along in response to the way the world impinges on us. Of course it is also possible for a person to engage in auto-hermeneutics, interpretation of one's self, and in particular to go back and think about one's past, and one's memories, and to rethink them and rewrite them. This process does change the "fictional" character, the character that you are, in much the way that Rabbit Angstrom, after Updike writes the second novel about him as a young man, comes to be a rather different fictional character, determinate in ways he was never determinate before. This would be an utterly mysterious and magical prospect (and hence something no one should take seriously) if the self were anything but an abstractum.

By Dennett's account, the self is simply the average of one's current narratives (i.e. "narrative center of gravity"), and those narratives can change. It's difficult to see how Dennett's concept of the self could be prescriptive. "Don't present yourself as someone other than who you are" would then reduce to "don't present a narrative of yourself that is something other than your current narrative center of gravity."

But why not? As Dennett shows, sometimes you can reconceptualize a narrative of yourself to be substantially different from a previous narrative, yet there is no basis to say that either of those narratives are "untrue." Even by conceptualizing a new narrative of yourself, you shift your narrative center of gravity. If you think about your identity differently, you change your identity. I would hazard a guess that at least a large minority of statements people would make about their identities are true only in virtue of being believed (e.g. "I'm not the kind of person who goes to parties"), and that people could just as easily abandon such self-fulfilling prophecies without disrupting the rest of their narratives (e.g. "I'm a person who is learning to enjoy parties, even though I historically haven't enjoyed them").

If you mean something like "don't present a narrative of yourself that is completely disjoint from your previous narratives, or that factually contradicts the available evidence," I would agree, but such advice would allow for a lot more freedom than what I think people in our culture will understand from "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are."

People's notions of selfhood are far too biased by cultural and gender socialization, in addition to self-esteem issues and fear of leaving one's comfort zone; I generally see notions of "self" playing a function similar to "caste," and keeping low status people from attempting to raise their status.

Because narrative allows so much freedom when it's unfettered by limiting beliefs, it's just not a very good guide to action. Just as there are multiple directions that a work of fiction could go in at any point, there are multiple directions your action and narrative of your action could go. A concept of a character influences the future of the character, yes, but that concept isn't enough to determine the character's future; you need additional criteria for where you want the story to go. Same thing with identity and self-characterization.

If you got rid of the philosophy of self and said "present yourself in way such that people who get to know you will still want you", I would also agree, but that is critically different from "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are." The former is testable; the latter is philosophical. Furthermore, the former only requires that you behave in a way that is consistent within each interaction with one person, rather than you must behave in a way that is consistent with some philosophical concept you haven't figured out yet.

Maybe that's what you were trying to say in the first place, but I need to nitpick because I don't consider the language of selfhood to be very useful for personal development. Your traits? Yes. Preferences (of you, or of other people)? Yes.

Even with traits, things can get complex. While human psychological traits show some degree of stability, many also show some degree of malleability, or depend on the situation.

I suggest that people stop trying to constrain their social behavior by notions of identity, and it may even be a good idea to try to push the limits of your traits. Your actual traits, capabilities, and values are a sufficient constraint. The resulting pattern of behavior you show will give people all they need to decide if/how to interact with you. Let other people decide what kind of person you are; stop trying to decide for them.

Comment author: CronoDAS 15 October 2010 02:11:37AM 2 points [-]

Ah... but who are you?

The Vorlon Question!

Comment author: William 22 October 2010 01:41:44AM 3 points [-]

Of course, in a dating context, it's at least as important to know the answer to the Shadow Question: "What do you want?"

Comment author: AdShea 22 October 2010 02:09:01AM 2 points [-]

Depending on your philosophy on dating the Shadow Question could be more important. Lorien's First Question "Why are you here" would also be a good thing to know in reference to the dating site itself.

Comment author: erratio 15 October 2010 02:21:47AM 2 points [-]

You don't look like a Vorlon question ;)

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 October 2010 02:46:18AM 3 points [-]

Just wait until he takes off his encounter suit.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 October 2010 11:35:56PM *  1 point [-]

(Similarly, if more women met men's physical criteria, looks would become less important in how men select women, and men wouldn't have to exclude women as mates so often based on superficial qualities.)

I suspect that people will still find something to trigger their Flaw-O-Matic.

A little bit off-topic here: The "unattainability" of the female beauty ideal seems to be a feature, not a bug, because it lets men make finer distinctions. If everyone were a perfect 10, how would we know who to reject? ;) (And you do have to reject someone.)

Comment author: [deleted] 13 October 2010 03:35:14AM 8 points [-]

This post, like my emotional nihilism post, was about a non-technical topic. Like mine, it involved general life advice, described without statistical evidence, because such evidence isn't obviously available. Like my post, it was a compilation of the results of a discussion -- so it isn't one person's opinions, but an aggregation of many people's personal experiences. Both our posts were attempts to summarize and build a LessWrong consensus on an issue in personal life.

If this type of a post is unrepresentative -- if it doesn't reflect a real LessWrong consensus -- then the problem is that the people who disagree with the compilation didn't participate in the earlier discussion.

I don't think this is a bad style of post. I think advice-giving on personal life issues is normal. I'd like us to do more of it here. I'm starting to be very puzzled by the scruples LW people have about ordinary actions.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 October 2010 04:05:56AM 4 points [-]

I'm not sure what the problem is, but the link to the OKCupid post doesn't work-- I had to use google to reread the comments.

Unless I missed something, there were more favorable comments than not, and from more people. the post has positive karma, too.

As I understand it, there are a number of men on LW who found that a lot of the advice they'd been given by women about dating didn't work for them, and they're touchy about the subject.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:18:07AM 1 point [-]

I'm not sure what the problem is, but the link to the OKCupid post doesn't work-- I had to use google to reread the comments.

Do you mean the link in the original post to the earlier thread? It worked for me just now. What problem did you have?

Unless I missed something, there were more favorable comments than not, and from more people.

Most of the active discussion I've seen has been about why this is hogwash and shouldn't be posted here (so I appreciate hearing another view). But I only get alerted to comments for threads I'm alread in, so my view is pretty biased.

there are a number of men on LW who found that a lot of the advice they'd been given by women about dating didn't work for them

I'm new here; did you get this impression from previous discussion, individual comments over time, or something else? If it's true, I wonder how similar the women-being-asked and women-being-pursued were (e.g. if they were discussing it with their nerdy female friends and then trying to pick women up at clubs, or vice versa). I confess that I take on a charitable view of peoples' goals in romantic pursuit, and also that my idea of "charitable" is pretty close to "assuming it agrees with me." (As it should! Would you trust someone who behaved in ways they didn't recommend?)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 October 2010 09:47:53AM 1 point [-]

If I click on the rightmost link while I'm in Recent Comments, I get http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/2tw/draft_rational_dating_less_wrongers_on_okcupid/

which just says in red, "This post doesn't exist".

I tried one other post from this discussion in Recent Comments, and got the same result.

On the one hand, I do think the majority response was in favor of the post. On the other, there was a strong minority which was a good bit nastier than I'd say is usual for LW.

I got that impression from discussion here. And I've just realized that while I've seen a lot about bad dating advice from women to men, I've never seen a clear description of what that advice is. Guys?

Comment author: whpearson 13 October 2010 10:19:59AM *  3 points [-]

I believe that this is a representative article on the view of bad advice.

Although contrary to that I've had discussions with female friends where they admit that they like cocky men... but then that women wasn't trying to portray a "nice girl" attitude.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:04:59PM 5 points [-]

Honestly I think this is the smartest sentence in there:

When women discuss what they want in a man, remember that they might not be fully aware of what really turns them on.

Of course they aren't. Most people don't think much about what they really want, just like they don't think much about who they really are. It's possible that het men and het women are so different that the men aren't also clueless in this regard, but I doubt it. And each set treats the other like its members are stupid about relationships at best, and deliberately conniving at worst. No wonder we get this ridiculous, overblown sense of adversary about dating. : \

This woman thinks the reason men get bad advice is that they're not asking the right questions. I don't agree with everything in that article, but overall I think it's on the right track.

Comment author: whpearson 13 October 2010 08:12:17PM 3 points [-]

We have to be careful here. We need to qualify the difference between sexually attractive and attractive qualities in a partner. That is the difference between what may make us horny and what we would actually want to live with.

I think most het men know quite well what is sexually attractive to them. We have a very simple function to work out (young and shapely). See any top100 girls fhm list in all its monotony. Compare it to the mixture of age ranges/body types you get in this list .

The attractive qualities in a partner are more complex and men are probably equally bad at knowing this.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 October 2010 11:16:48PM 4 points [-]

We have to be careful here. We need to qualify the difference between sexually attractive and attractive qualities in a partner. That is the difference between what may make us horny and what we would actually want to live with.

I think that's important to note. It's my impression that, regardless of what gender you are, the kind of person you'd be most eager to have a one-night stand with isn't the kind of person you'd be most eager to marry. The "virgin/whore dichotomy" doesn't apply to just women.

I think most het men know quite well what is sexually attractive to them. We have a very simple function to work out (young and shapely). See any top100 girls fhm list in all its monotony. Compare it to the mixture of age ranges/body types you get in this list .

I suspect that male attraction is actually more complicated than conventional wisdom would hold, and that attraction to other factors gets attributed to physical appearance. For example, Tina Fey wasn't "hot" until after she became famous and successful.

The attractive qualities in a partner are more complex and men are probably equally bad at knowing this.

Definitely.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 09:06:19PM 1 point [-]

Indeed. So I suppose we could say that identifying attractive personality traits is just as difficult on both sides, and how hard it is for a given person depends on that person's priority mix of physical and personal attractiveness.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 October 2010 07:19:47PM 3 points [-]

I like that link.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:28:44PM 3 points [-]

Me too. But we're just women, what would we know about how women work. ; )

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 October 2010 11:56:15PM 4 points [-]

How much does the average customer know about how to be a successful salesman?

Comment author: Relsqui 14 October 2010 01:30:08AM 1 point [-]

They know whether they're getting good customer service. But I don't particularly agree with the analogy. Men and women should be working with each other, not against each other. I don't tolerate potential partners who treat me otherwise, and I don't have much sympathy for people who do.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 08:00:26PM 1 point [-]

I just looked a little closer at the URL you're getting---seems I've confused the system by moving the post from the discussion section and/or changing the title. Hmm. Someone should probably know about that, but I don't know who or how to alert them.

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 06:29:29AM 7 points [-]

Why didn't you mention any advice on status signaling?

Comment author: Clippy 11 October 2010 04:04:45PM 18 points [-]

User:Relsqui probably didn't mention it because it's such an easy issue to handle. Just add this to your profile:

I am slightly more committed to this group’s welfare, particularly to that of its weakest members, than most of its members are. If you suffer a serious loss of status/well-being I will still help you in order to display affiliation to this group even though you will no longer be in a position to help me.

I am substantially more kind and helpful to the people I like and substantially more vindictive and aggressive towards those I dislike. I am generally stable in who I like.

I am much more capable and popular than most members of this group, demand appropriate consideration, and grant appropriate consideration to those more capable than myself.

I adhere to simple taboos so that my reputation and health are secure and so that I am unlikely to contaminate the reputations or health of my friends.

I currently like you and dislike your enemies but I am somewhat inclined towards ambivalence on regarding whether I like you right now so the pay-off would be very great for you if you were to expend resources pleasing me and get me into the stable 'liking you' region of my possible attitudinal space. Once there, I am likely to make a strong commitment to a friendly attitude towards you rather than wasting cognitive resources checking a predictable parameter among my set of derivative preferences.

Then, use a standard protocol to make it credible. What's the problem?

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 05:33:27PM *  3 points [-]

The main reason is that we didn't really talk about it in the thread I based the post on. Other reasons include that I find a lot of the commonly advised signals personally repugnant. I don't mean that I know better than the person doing the advising--quite the contrary, I think that reaction probably disqualifies me from giving good advice about it. But there are some points which are worth adding (e.g. don't talk about your worst bits in your first impression), and those I merely didn't think of. I'll see if I can find a place to work that in.

Consider stopping by the discussion section some time; it would have been nice to have this conversation about an earlier draft over there.

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 06:09:42PM 7 points [-]

This post is good advice for a dating site where all the users are approximately equal in physical attractiveness and status level. Otherwise, most the information becomes irrelevant once your profile readers determine your desirability levels are unmatched. For instance, men wouldn't even read your profile if they think they can get a better looking woman. And I've seen women go through profiles only paying attention to job, pictures and height.

More important information for these profiles is status and physical attractiveness orienting information. Finding a match at this level is enough for most people (I'd guess 90%) to message the other person.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 06:22:24PM 1 point [-]

If that were true, what's the purpose of having a profile? Why not just post your photo, height, and salary and be done with it?

Finding a match at this level is enough for most people (I'd guess 90%) to message the other person.

I would expect that to vary significantly based on the number of users available who fit one's age/sex/preference requirements. But regardless of what the percentage is, it seems to me that people who fall into it have no need of this post.

Comment author: Perplexed 15 October 2010 05:28:09AM 3 points [-]

I tried "Your best face": the rating service that tells me just how bad my profile pictures really are. The results were amusing, to say the least.

I definitely need to take and post some better pictures.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 05:35:15PM *  1 point [-]

I had the problem that my top result on Best Face is a) out of date, and visibly different from my current appearance, and b) a picture which I personally don't like, although friends have told me that they do. (It's the one with the brown scarf.) So I go back and forth on whether to use it or not.

ETA: Huh. As I look back through my reports, I notice that all my pictures other than that one also rate higher with women than with men--and the ratings of that picture vary significantly between one report and the other. (Also, I imagine the conference bike picture would have rated higher among geeks if they recognized the other people on the conference bike.)

By the way, I'm sure you know this already, but don't rely on being able to keep the painting up as your photo, as it violates site policy.

Comment author: mattnewport 11 October 2010 10:59:16PM 3 points [-]

I've left the "children" field blank, for example, because I don't want them now but might some day, so neither "wants" nor "doesn't want" is correct.

I think this might be a mistake. I usually specify "Doesn't have children" when I do a match search and I'd guess this is fairly common. If you leave this question blank I believe you won't show up for people who are filtering on that search criteria.

Comment author: Relsqui 12 October 2010 02:39:51AM *  1 point [-]

I would agree 100% if that were one of the choices. The options are "has 1 child," "has children," "likes children," "dislikes children," and "doesn't want children." The first two are certainly wrong, I don't have a strong enough opinion about children to choose either of the next two, and I haven't made up my mind about the last one yet.

(Hmph--I tried several times to make that a bulleted list, using as far as I can tell the syntax in the help, but it didn't work and eventually I gave up.)

Comment author: mattnewport 12 October 2010 03:51:15AM 2 points [-]

I agree the choices aren't ideal but I think "likes children", "dislikes children" and "doesn't want children" all match a search for "Doesn't have children" whereas leaving the question blank or answering that you have children means you won't show up in a search that specifies "Doesn't have children". It's a bit confusing and not a very logical setup but I think that's how it works.

Comment author: Relsqui 12 October 2010 04:25:57AM 1 point [-]

I think you're probably right. That gives me a good reason to answer to it, but I'm still a bit uncomfortable with all the answers. "Don't want" is closest, though.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2010 07:09:57AM *  6 points [-]

Continued from here

As my previous analysis suggests, there are also gender differences in the types of honesty that can be displayed. It's well known that women place relatively more importance on personality traits than men do.

Botwin and Buss (1997) found that:

Across both samples of couples, women expressed more extreme preferences for the personality characteristics of their ideal mate.

When lesbian journalist Norah Vincent dressed up as a man for a book (I harvest some revealing quotes from her here, she had a negative experience with women judging her personality traits when out dating:

On dates with men I felt physically appraised in a way that I never did by women, and, while this made me more sympathetic to the suspicions women were bringing to their dates with Ned, it had the opposite effect, too. Somehow men's seeming imposition of a superficial standard of beauty felt less intrusive, less harsh, than the character appraisals of women.

Since women are more selective about behavior and personality than men, women have somewhat more behavioral latitude than men, similar to how men have more latitude in their appearance (and no, this doesn't mean that women have infinite behavioral latitude). As a result, women have more freedom to display personality traits and interests honestly; women are less likely to get rejected due to crude personality heuristics like the "nerd" one that is applied to men.

For men, higher impression management and tighter signaling is both more necessary and more expected. People, especially men, are justified in putting their best feet forward in the first round of auditions. Otherwise, you just lose out to people who aren't necessarily better matches, but who are better at impression management; that doesn't do anyone any favors... except the people who make the best impressions. I say to men that if you can make a good first impression with your profile, do so, and sort out the finer points of compatibility over messaging or coffee.

Due to the asymmetry in importance of behavioral/personality traits and the expectation on men to initiate, I have a suspicion that content in profiles plays a completely different role for men vs. women. The primary role of the content of men's profiles is to attract women who's criteria they fulfill; the primary role of the content of women's profiles is to signal their criteria so that the right men come calling.

To be continued... I've only gotten through one of your points...

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:48:15AM 4 points [-]

Given how much you have to say about it, have you considered just writing your own post as a followup? It would be easier to keep track of. :)

I've heard about the male/female difference in prioritization of looks/personality, but I hadn't made the connection to the relative importance of different profile content. That's definitely worth noting.

I'm wary of a common trap here, though. Broad heuristics are extremely valuable, if and only if no more specific heuristics are available. So, yes, it's nice to have statistical data about all women everywhere ... but if you can find out more about the kind of woman you personally want to date, that's going to be more useful. People who are inclined towards precision and rationality are very rightly inclined to use information from well-analyzed studies over anecdotes of individuals. However, when the anecdote can give very specific information and the study cannot, the tradeoff may not be so simple.

To take a trivial example: If you know that Chez X is the most popular and highest-rated restaurant in your city, but a mutual friend tells you that your would-be date really wants to try Cafe Y, which are you going to suggest for the evening out? Okay, now what if a nationwide study concludes that most women like to see movies on dates, but all the women you know in your town prefer going dancing? As the breadth of the study subjects and the breadth of the anecdotal subjects converge, the study will have better data. Somewhere between there and the trivial example, there's a line, and on the trivial example's side of that line, you're better off trusting your friend.

Perhaps one of the errors in my post was assuming that people on LW are seeking partners more like the sort of person who posts out on LW, and less like the average OKCupid member sampled on OKTrends.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 10 October 2010 10:40:14PM 4 points [-]

This is quite good. You inspired me to rewrite a couple parts of my profile. Your remark about scientology is dead on and to me it is a bug in their system. In my profile I say "I love the outdoors but I do not like camping", which I consider very informative for the reader. About once a month I get a message in my box along the lines of "You and User X both like camping!"

It was very kind of you to offer edits on my Spanish. That paragraph was edited by a native Spanish speaker (from Colombia). Spanish is not one language! I will definitely insert the accents and tildes one of these days.

Comment author: cousin_it 11 October 2010 02:39:39PM *  5 points [-]

What Vladimir_M and pwno said. Does your advice work? How would you know?

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 05:35:51PM 2 points [-]

I do okay, but I'm of course only the one data point. I am assuming that the people in the thread who gave relevant advice believed it, but can't vouch for their reasons to. In the bits discussed by OKT, their data/rationale is in their posts.

Comment author: cousin_it 11 October 2010 05:58:05PM *  5 points [-]

If LW had a list of capital crimes or deadly sins, inferring causation from correlation based on one friggin' sample would definitely belong there. I'm thin and I live in Russia, therefore, everybody come to Russia to get thin!

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 06:04:42PM *  4 points [-]

That it works for me is not why I think it's good advice. That it works for the people whose profiles I'm attracted to is closer, with a bit of "it follows logically from my stated goals" mixed in.

I'm happy to remove the post back to the discussion section if it's deemed valueless to the LW community at large. But I'm curious why advice for profile-writing calls for statistical evidence, whereas advice for mood improvement and advice to get out more apparently do not. What's the rule which defines topics to which we must apply rigor?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 11 October 2010 07:00:27PM *  4 points [-]

What's the rule which defines topics to which we must apply rigor?

Rigor is not the issue. If you state something that readers already accept, then you don't need to argue, and statements that further describe the situation are not arguments, but further elements of the picture that readers already accept as well (but maybe didn't know to pay attention to themselves, or to arrange in the whole quite the same way).

On the other hand, if you present a statement which isn't evidently correct, then you have to argue its correctness. Statements that were properly part of further description in the first case are now expected to be arguments, something readers can agree with, and not further doubtful assertions. Thus, expected reasonable agreement, not rigor, is what's required.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 07:32:19PM 5 points [-]

That's a very sensible answer, and I'll accept it. The discrepancy, then, is that the contents of this post seem about as self-evident to me as the emotional nihilism advice does; I'm quite surprised to find that it's more controversial. Is there some common knowledge I'm contradicting?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 11 October 2010 07:35:41PM *  3 points [-]

I dislike presentation of emotional nihilism post for the same reason. No contradictions, just prior expectation that mere sensible advice often doesn't work in complicated social context, and empirical evidence is necessary to distinguish things that actually work from things that seem reasonable but don't.

Comment author: Perplexed 13 October 2010 04:33:13AM 1 point [-]

if you present a statement which isn't evidently correct, then you have to argue its correctness.

I'm not sure that is the case. Sometimes people brainstorm; sometimes they suggest hypotheses; sometimes they share ideas. Any of these can look grammatically like a declarative statement, but they are not assertions. They are more like conjectures. They justify their presence in a conversation by being interesting and provocative, not by being supported by evidence and argument.

Very little of human communication transfers information about the external world. The bulk of it either transfers information about the speaker's mental state or is intended to focus the listener's attention on some thing, event, or idea.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 13 October 2010 08:30:33AM 1 point [-]

When you argue correctness of a statement with which the interlocutor doesn't originally agree, and use a proof-like strategy for doing so, you don't transfer information about environment either, instead you focus their attention on a sequence of statements already accepted, that surprisingly leads to the originally unexpected conclusion.

When you brainstorm, then the observations you seek are exactly the ideas produced by intuition, so you are not asserting anything about something else, instead you are producing the basic observations. When you voice your opinion, assuming you are trustworthy, you communicate your state of knowledge, and your interlocutor believes that your state of knowledge is indeed as you state it.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 October 2010 06:50:00PM *  1 point [-]

Relsqui:

What's the rule which defines topics to which we must apply rigor?

Rigor? In this case, it's not about rigor, but about failing elementary sanity checks. The idea that something that works for you in this area should apply to people of other sexes and preferences is simply out of touch with reality. It's as if a cook made a checklist useful for his daily work, and then got the idea that this exact same checklist should be useful to policemen, mathematicians, or welders.

Please pardon my harsh-sounding tone, but that is simply what the facts are, and I don't see how to put them differently.

Comment author: thomblake 11 October 2010 07:12:03PM 4 points [-]

The idea that something that works for you in this area should apply to people of other sexes and preferences is simply out of touch with reality.

I, for one, do not find this obvious.

It's as if a cook made a checklist useful for his daily work, and then got the idea that this exact same checklist should be useful to policemen, mathematicians, or welders.

It seems to me rather more analogous to a cook who made a checklist for making pancakes, which he expected would apply to other cooks making pancakes whilst wearing differently-colored hats. But there's no point in playing analogy-tennis.

that is simply what the facts are

You've managed to shift the burden of proof back to yourself with this comment. Where's your evidence, now?

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 October 2010 07:26:57PM *  2 points [-]

thomblake:

It seems to me rather more analogous to a cook who made a checklist for making pancakes, which he expected would apply to other cooks making pancakes whilst wearing differently-colored hats.

Your analogy assumes that between people of different sexes and sexual preferences, there are no relevant differences that would have any significant bearing on their dating strategies. Frankly, I find this assumption so remote from reality, including all my experience with human life and all that is known about it both informally and scientifically, that if you really hold this opinion, it would be extremely hard for us to establish a common reference point from which to even begin a constructive discussion. So, it would probably be better if we could just agree to disagree at this point.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 07:35:47PM 3 points [-]

Your analogy assumes that between people of different sexes and sexual preferences, there are no relevant differences that would have any significant bearing on their dating strategies.

I think the relevance of the difference depends on the specificity of the advice. If I were telling people to show off their brains and their sense of humor, or to make a point of talking or not talking about sex, or to be sure to mention their pets, then yes, it would be ridiculous of me to claim that these are generally applicable. But the post is mostly discussing how to ensure that your profile depicts you accurately. Do you think that there is a group for which that's not a concern?

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 October 2010 08:09:06PM *  3 points [-]

To be clear, there are two fundamental problems with your post.

First, even when it comes to just you personally, you don't seem to present any coherent method for differentiating between things that you simply like as a matter of personal taste, and things that have practical relevance (to whatever effect). In your post, you appear to have a completely cavalier attitude towards this immensely difficult problem.

Second, in this area, the relevant guidelines for self-presentation are indeed so strongly sex-and-preference-specific that anything not completely trivial or irrelevant is almost certain to be impossible to express in a manner applicable to all groups. In other words, everything that can be expressed in such manner will be either obvious, or irrelevant, or false and misleading for at least some of these groups.

These simple observations, to which I referred as "sanity checks" in my above not very well received comment, are in my opinion sufficient to invalidate your approach altogether, and to conclude that by any practical criteria, your advice is likely to be just noise.

As for your specific question:

But the post is mostly discussing how to ensure that your profile depicts you accurately. Do you think that there is a group for which that's not a concern?

In order for your advice to make sense, you have to be able to point out the expected practical consequences of the concrete pieces of advice you give, and to explain why you believe that they will result from following your advice. Your approach completely fails to satisfy these criteria, both when it comes to "depicting oneself accurately" (which I'm not even sure is a coherently defined objective) and everything else.

(Not to mention that your post does contain specific advice about improving the attractiveness of one's profile, which I've already criticized.)

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 08:23:18PM 2 points [-]

I see. Just to make sure I've understood correctly, my impression from this:

sufficient to invalidate your approach altogether, and to conclude that by any practical criteria, your advice is likely to be just noise

is that you do not believe the post is salvageable, because it's built on a foundation which is flawed for the reasons you give. These are useful flaws to be aware of when composing future posts, and I will try to remember them.

If it is indeed unsalvageable, though, I don't see what productive action I can take about it now, short of performing a rigorous study and rewriting the post from scratch based on the results (which is farther than my interest and resources extend). I could delete it, but that seems a bit dishonest (in that it dodges the karma hit for a bad post) and also robs me of productive feedback. So my intent is to let it stand.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 October 2010 08:22:12AM *  9 points [-]

Frankly, I think that all this advice is simply irrelevant for all practical purposes. The goal of a dating site profile is to elicit interest and attraction from people who would in turn be attractive to you. However, what this post presents are just instructions for satisfying the author's entirely abstract vision for what a nice profile should look like. They are not guaranteed, or even likely, to improve your chances for eliciting attraction even from the author, let alone anyone else. Ultimately, the listed advice ends up being pure noise at best. The fact that a post like this one is getting a significant number of upvotes should serve as a strong warning signal to lots of people here that they greatly overestimate the level of "rationality" that they supposedly apply to all issues.

One basic problem is that the author starts with an impossible goal, namely providing fully general advice that will apply to people of all sexes and sexual preferences with unchanged wording. While such an approach resonates well with the modern popular forms of idealism, it is far too detached from reality to allow for any sensible results.

Another part that struck me as completely detached from reality is:

There are two schools of thought on whom you should ask to judge your profile's attractiveness. One is to ask the sort of person you're trying to attract: members of your preferred gender, and probably of your own culture.[...] The other school of thought is that the right people to ask are those who share your gender/culture preference, and have been successful attracting such partners. [...] Both have potential biases, but anything both types of critic agree on is probably correct.

That's about as realistic as saying that there are two schools of thought on what to do when the low fuel light in your car lights up: one is to to keep driving and pray to God that he might keep your car running no matter what happens, and the other is to pull over at the next gas station and fill the tank. If you're a man looking for women, the idea of asking women for advice in love and dating, versus getting advice from men who are successful with women, stand in about the same relation when it comes to the expected practical success. This is entirely uncontroversial among people who have any real knowledge of these matters.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 October 2010 01:20:49PM 6 points [-]

Steve Barnes asked the woman he knew who most resembled the woman he was looking for what she wanted, and made changes in himself to be more like that. It worked for him-- he's happily married.

On the other hand, this isn't the same as asking for general advice.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 07:22:23AM 2 points [-]

Steve Barnes asked the woman he knew who most resembled the woman he was looking for what she wanted, and made changes in himself to be more like that.

Interesting. I wonder what you do when "what your ideal partner wants" and "what you want to be" conflict. I guess you figure out which one's more important to you.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 05:27:51PM 5 points [-]

As noted, the post was a summary of the thoughts given in the OKC thread; some people were seeking advice from their preferred gender, and some from people who shared their preference. So I am reporting that, among LWers who use OKCupid, there are indeed two beliefs.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 06:32:36PM 3 points [-]

They are not guaranteed, or even likely, to improve your chances for eliciting attraction even from the author, let alone anyone else.

The only thing that "guarantees" eliciting attraction--from me or anyone else--is being attractive. If you write honestly about how you are a person whose interests and values do not intersect with mine, and present it well, I still will not message you. This is not a failure of your writing; it has saved us both some wasted time.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2010 08:07:42PM 2 points [-]

The only thing that "guarantees" eliciting attraction--from me or anyone else--is being attractive.

Where 'being attractive' to a significant degree means 'doing things that elicit attraction'.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 October 2010 07:10:20PM *  2 points [-]

Relsqui:

The only thing that "guarantees" eliciting attraction--from me or anyone else--is being attractive.

I have no particular comment on what you write here, but I would like to point out that this makes my above comment sound much cruder than it really was. The phrases "guarantee to improve one's chances for eliciting attraction" and "guarantee eliciting attraction" do not mean the exact same thing.

Comment author: thomblake 11 October 2010 06:18:00PM 6 points [-]

Your criticisms of this post seem valid, but could likely be equally well-applied to (for example) most of what Eliezer and Yvain have written. To test this for yourself, go to a random post from (for example) the Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions sequence and see how much empiricism stands behinds its claims.

Posts like this are fine, though they should be followed up by empirical study if anyone cares.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 October 2010 06:58:48PM *  2 points [-]

thomblake:

Your criticisms of this post seem valid, but could likely be equally well-applied to (for example) most of what Eliezer and Yvain have written. To test this for yourself, go to a random post from (for example) the Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions sequence and see how much empiricism stands behinds its claims.

I disagree. While I certainly have disagreements with these posts you mention, their approach is still fundamentally sound. They don't, at least in the great majority of cases, provide unsubstantiated practical advice in this vein, and they rarely, if ever, fail elementary sanity checks like these ones I mentioned.

Comment author: Apprentice 11 October 2010 01:51:28PM 4 points [-]

Well if you're so sure what it ain't, how about telling us what it am?

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 05:50:31PM 2 points [-]

Not to sound arrogant, but as a man successful with women, I can offer my advice to other men here.

Feel free to reply to this comment or PM me with questions.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 07:42:35PM 5 points [-]

I don't doubt that you're as successful as you claim, but given that neither of us has presented any proof, what makes your single data point more valuable than mine?

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 08:04:33PM 1 point [-]

What evidence would you expect me to be able to provide online?

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 08:09:28PM 4 points [-]

I'm not asking for evidence. I'm asking why it's okay for you to offer advice based on the strength of your own personal experience, when it apparently isn't okay for me to do so. Or do you disagree with the people claiming the latter?

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 09:30:49PM 2 points [-]

Wrote my comment in light of this:

If you're a man looking for women, the idea of asking women for advice in love and dating, versus getting advice from men who are successful with women, stand in about the same relation when it comes to the expected practical success.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 09:35:14PM 2 points [-]

Understood. However, a couple of people elsewhere in this thread are claiming that I have no business giving advice about online dating without being able to give some evidence that my advice works. Do you disagree with them? Or do you think that it's inappropriate for me to do so, but appropriate for you to? Or neither?

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 09:59:09PM *  3 points [-]

Depends what you mean by "have no business giving advice."

Not all advice without evidence is bad advice. There are heuristics we use to figure out which unsupported advice is better than others. Based on some people's heuristics, like Vladamir_M's, my unsupported advice would more likely lead to better results (assuming all else equal).

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 10:12:24PM 2 points [-]

What's the relevant difference between your advice without evidence and mine? Is it that he already expects advice from men about seeking women to be sound, and more general advice not to be?

I don't know that there's any way to pursue ths question without sounding defensive, which is not my intent. I just want to make sure I understand the objections to my post.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 11 October 2010 08:16:00PM 2 points [-]

I'm asking why it's okay for you to offer advice based on the strength of your own personal experience, when it apparently isn't okay for me to do so.

It's a factual question whether positive personal experience backs up usefulness of principles one follows, not some kind of social norm, where you can make egalitarian appeals.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 08:36:04PM *  4 points [-]

It's not an appeal, it's an honest question. Aren't we both claiming that our personal experience backs up our principles? If you're saying that there's a difference between the two cases, can you explain what that difference is? I'm genuinely trying to understand.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 11 October 2010 08:45:29PM 5 points [-]

Agreed, interpreted this way it's a good argument. I answered the literal and perhaps unintended interpretation.

Comment author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 08:48:08PM 2 points [-]

I'm relieved that we're back on the same page. I do try to avoid the kind of implication you were responding to, for exactly this reason; it's difficult, but I'll continue trying.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2010 02:47:29AM *  4 points [-]

Part of the difference is that you are a different gender from pwno. Your experience may support your advice for women, but it doesn't give much evidence of its effectiveness for men.

Another difference is that pwno seems like he hangs out with more mainstream and gender-typical people, while your profile suggests that you hang out with alternative and gender-atypical people (based on your comments about disliking gender stereotypes). Your experiences in the minority gender-atypical taxon of 10-15% of the population may not generalize well to the majority taxon of gender-typical people. Anecdotal evidence from pwno and Vladimir_M may generalize better.

Comment author: Relsqui 13 October 2010 06:32:32AM 2 points [-]

Assuming that you're using info from my OKC profile to place me in that taxon, it bears noting that a lot of women who place near me on the Kinsey scale probably identify as straight. I don't think I'm quite as unusual as you think I am, but the point is still valid.

Comment author: thomblake 11 October 2010 08:48:31PM 3 points [-]

It's a factual question whether positive personal experience backs up usefulness of principles one follows, not some kind of social norm, where you can make egalitarian appeals.

Most of this post's discussion has revolved around what sorts of things are okay for Relsqui to post on this site. That is exactly a question of social norms. How your factual question turns out is only relevant in that it has some bearing on the question of whether the things in this post should have been posted here.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 11 October 2010 09:20:20PM *  3 points [-]

The social norm is not to post things that are not expected to be factually correct based on usual LW background and arguments given in the post itself. It's more general than not posting things containing any specific error, and so it's incorrect to say that there is a social norm against any given specific pattern, that is currently considered in error.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 11 October 2010 08:09:50PM *  3 points [-]

Not talking about evidence of the personal anecdote being accurate, but about the evidence of the advice being useful, which accurate account of successful personal anecdotes is not.

Comment author: cousin_it 11 October 2010 10:34:48PM *  7 points [-]

Hey, I'd like some advice.

When I hang out in nightclubs, I seem to have two discrete states with a very abrupt transition between them: an "off" state where I'm almost invisible to girls, and an "on" state where they suddenly hang on me in twos and threes. But the "on" state happens rarely (once or twice a month for several hours, max) and I'm still not sure how to trigger it, even though I've spent months on experimenting. I've established that it doesn't depend on clothing, haircut, posture or the other obvious controllable factors - it must be some aspect of "inner game" that I sometimes achieve spontaneously but can't put a finger on. I also know that it's easier to reach the "on" state after a random girl smiles at me: it becomes a little easier to make the next random girl smile at me, and (with luck) it escalates like runaway AI. Does this match your experience? What is this thing, and do you know any tricks for "switching"?

Comment author: pjeby 11 October 2010 11:55:44PM *  11 points [-]

When I hang out in nightclubs, I seem to have two discrete states with a very abrupt transition between them: an "off" state where I'm almost invisible to girls, and an "on" state where they suddenly hang on me in twos and threes.

In PUA lingo, this state is referred to as simply "state", since it's of course the state that PUAs want to be in. ;-)

PUA theorists vary as to what this "state" consists of, but they do say a few things in common about it and about how to produce it. Many have commented on this aspect you describe:

I also know that it's easier to reach the "on" state after a random girl smiles at me: it becomes a little easier to make the next random girl smile at me, and (with luck) it escalates like runaway AI

Some thinking goes along the lines that the key elements are "nonreactivity" (ie., not being concerned about what other people think of you) and "self-amusement" (i.e. doing things for your own enjoyment and amusement, rather than to achieve some particular outcome).

At the same time, the comments of many gurus suggest that they themselves do not have total or absolute control over this state: they sometimes talk about the need to get early good responses in order to get more later, just like you... but they have rituals and processes both to prime the pump in the first place, or to recover their state when it falters.

Usually, these rituals are both silly and masculine: chest thumping, jumping up and down and whooping, marching through a club with friends while chanting something nonsensical (aka "lording the club"), offering strangers high-fives, opening with ridiculous, but self-amusing lines in a deliberate attempt to invite rejection, etc.

The stated purpose of these rituals is to aid a transition to the desired state, rather than for the direct purposes of a display of confidence, but it's possible that part of the point is to convince one's self that the current environment is a safe one for confident self-expression and masculine display... in which case the smiles of females might function similarly.

I've tried a couple of these things to improve general outgoingness and sociability (or to get psyched up for writing or speaking performances), with some limited usefulness. But I have not tested any of them as a way to attract women, so your mileage may vary.

Comment author: cousin_it 12 October 2010 12:18:09AM *  3 points [-]

Wow, I should have known that you would show up :-) Thanks for the info! Your advice seems to be along the same lines as pwno's, so I'm reasonably sure that it's worth trying.

Comment author: khafra 13 October 2010 10:57:41AM *  1 point [-]

Is the nonconscious, adroit performance of well-practiced behavior which is often referred to by ahtletes as "flow" identical to "state," a component of "state," or completely unrelated?

Comment author: pjeby 13 October 2010 01:54:05PM 4 points [-]

Is the nonconscious, adroit performance of well-practiced behavior which is often referred to by ahtletes as "flow" identical to "state," a component of "state," or completely unrelated?

Well, the ways that PUAs "pump state" and the athletes "psych up" certainly have some things in common. Chest bumping, high-fiving, rhythmic group chants and exhalations, or strutting and other displays of confidence, status, or masculine attributes.

Comment author: pwno 11 October 2010 11:40:05PM 7 points [-]

Many people have the same experience. You've landed the right mindset for a brief time and your outer game improved.

I believe the mindset is mostly a function of personal expectations about your interactions with women. When you expect the interactions to go towards your desired direction, you're more likely to hit the mindset. Problem is, you can't make yourself expect positive results just like you can't make yourself expect coldness when you touch fire.

The most straightforward technique to "switching" this mindset on is to prove to yourself, on a conscious and subconscious level, that you should expect positive results. Gather your evidence, by achieving easier, related goals. For example, if you're in a nightclub and not in you preferred mindset, try achieving the following:

  • Ask 5 people for a piece of gum or the time.
  • Introduce yourself to other men or women you're not interested in
  • Ask a good looking female friend to join you
  • Call up a female friend and have a chat
  • Make and hold eye contact with 5 girls (without approaching)

You can probably come up with small goals yourself too.

Comment author: cousin_it 11 October 2010 11:53:12PM 2 points [-]

Thanks! Sounds plausible, I'll test this.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 12 October 2010 01:11:37AM *  5 points [-]

How do you know that this apparent state difference isn't due to confirmation bias and standard tendencies for humans to see clustering where it doesn't exist?

Comment author: cousin_it 12 October 2010 01:35:20AM *  2 points [-]

Good question, made me think. At any given moment, except the short period of ramp-up, I can tell whether I'm "on" or "off" - from the inside it feels like it's binary. But it's true that on the outside my success varies on a continuous scale, because when I'm "off" I still have some tricks up my sleeve. But these tricks require a lot of willpower to use. When I'm "on", everybody likes me and willpower becomes irrelevant. Maybe it's about dynamics: when I'm close to "on", I gravitate toward "on" as I get more validation from others, but when I'm close to "off", I slide toward "off" for the same reason.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 October 2010 10:36:49PM *  2 points [-]

I wonder... is this a "social proof" a.k.a. Magnetic Girlfriend effect? (If you have one girl hanging on you, others become interested?)

Edit: Rephrased to fix ambiguity.

Comment author: cousin_it 14 October 2010 12:14:53AM *  3 points [-]

Definitely not. If I shake myself free and go to another room alone, it works just as strongly.

Comment author: RobinZ 14 October 2010 01:39:04AM 4 points [-]

Warning: "Magnetic Girlfriend" is a TV Tropes link.