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lukeprog comments on Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge - Less Wrong

138 Post author: lukeprog 20 January 2011 08:44PM

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Comment author: lukeprog 21 January 2011 05:55:43AM *  11 points [-]

A few personal thoughts on that...

I've invested my time studying science and philosophy rather than in mastering attraction methods, but I've hung out with the Art of Charm / Pickup Podcast guys (cool, genuine guys btw), and read enough of the literature to give two humorous speeches based on PUA material: How to Seduce Women with Body Language and How to Seduce Women with Vocal Tonality.

If PUA is what Vladimir_M was writing about, then I mostly agree with his last paragraph. I don't know about "most" successful and effective, but it has certainly transformed the lives of lots of men for the better, including my own. And yet, it is denounced by almost everyone - perhaps because they're only familiar with mechanical, dishonest, The Game-era material? I dunno.

Good thing the PUA guys are figuring this stuff out on their own, because the scientists sure have left us in the dark, excepting very recent stuff by David Buss and, for example, that study about which dance moves attract the most women.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 January 2011 02:51:42PM 29 points [-]

I once had a friend tell me that he could sell me a $3000 vacuum cleaner.

"Really?" I said. "I don't think so. I know vacuum cleaners don't cost that much."

But he was certain of it. He'd sold dozens of these vacuum cleaners. His success rate had been tremendous. He believed they really were worth the money. The evidence really indicated that he could sell anyone a $3000 vacuum cleaner.

At this point... I really don't want him to try to sell me a vacuum cleaner. Or, in fact, to sell me anything. I'm scared he could get me to part with my money way too easily. That could be very bad for me!

Moral of the story: all charisma and salesmanship is, to some degree, a threat. Basically all people will be ok with "How to make a good first impression," but "Subconscious tricks to make everyone want to buy your product" is starting to sound a little sleazy, and "How to tap into neurochemistry to make your product addictive" is probably going to scare people. People get squicked by the thought of how World of Warcraft or McDonald's manipulates their reward circuits.

I think some analogous dynamics hold when the product you're selling is yourself.

Comment author: HughRistik 21 January 2011 08:05:30PM *  21 points [-]

all charisma and salesmanship is, to some degree, a threat

That's true. But when honest discussion of charisma is outlawed, only outlaws will have charisma.

Right now, a large share of male charisma falls into the hands of the "naturals." These men are disproportionately extraverted, oriented to short-term mating, and hyper-masculine / anti-social in personality traits. Of course, not all of these guys are assholes, and most of them probably aren't, but I think it's fair to say that they have a higher rate of assholishness. The only way to stop these men from commanding a disproportionate amount of female interest is to give more charisma to the guys who are more introverted, long-term oriented, sensitive, and prosocial in values.

To paraphrase William Gibson, charisma is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed. The only solution is to try to distribute it more evenly, and educate the public about how it works. In the case of male heterosexual charisma, it means educating the male have-nots, and educating women about what many of them respond to. This same principle applies to female charisma, of course.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 January 2011 03:58:47PM 5 points [-]

I agree with this.

My point was to explain why I think PUA gets a bad rap. Nobody wants to be bamboozled. Most of us who know a little bit about human psychology know we can be influenced and that influence, social skills, and charisma will always be important; only people who are very ill adjusted to the real world have a serious problem with this. It's a matter of degree. It's somewhat disturbing, I've observed, to realize you're being "played" by someone not entirely benevolent -- even more disturbing to realize how very easy it is to be manipulated into doing things that bring you no good and only harm. People are pretty frail vessels. It's understandable that they mistrust things that might take over their brains.

Comment author: SilasBarta 24 January 2011 05:42:07PM 6 points [-]

Think of PUA as makeup/breast implants for men. Does this make it less or more offensive? In what ways does the analogy break down?

Comment author: Nornagest 24 January 2011 08:04:25PM 3 points [-]

Since one of the more common criticisms of the PUA scene is that it perpetuates an oversimplified view of relationships wherein women respond exclusively to deterministic social signals, that analogy's not going to win you much goodwill.

There is a lot of PUA technique that amounts to an artificial means of improving unconscious or semi-conscious social signaling, and that strikes me as fairly inoffensive, but unless I'm one-minding badly here I don't think that part of the culture is a common target of criticism.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 December 2012 01:23:21AM 4 points [-]

There is a lot of PUA technique that amounts to an artificial means of improving unconscious or semi-conscious social signaling, and that strikes me as fairly inoffensive, but unless I'm one-minding badly here I don't think that part of the culture is a common target of criticism.

I think certain critics of the PUA culture don't even notice there are different parts to it, due to the outgroup homogeneity bias -- they just notice that certain PUAs say stuff they don't like, and generalize to PUAs in general. (The same thing happens to feminists.)

Comment author: SilasBarta 24 January 2011 08:59:53PM *  5 points [-]

Since one of the more common criticisms of the PUA scene is that it perpetuates an oversimplified view of relationships wherein women respond exclusively to deterministic social signals, that analogy's not going to win you much goodwill.

No more so than arguments for women using makeup or getting plastic surgery. Do these assume men respond exclusively to a woman's looks? Not really. It just says, do this, and more and better men will want you than before. Maybe other factors matter, maybe they don't, but this works, on top of whatever else might work. To the extent that PUA is offensive for insinuating women only care about a few metrics, so too are beauty products offensive.

There is a lot of PUA technique that amounts to an artificial means of improving unconscious or semi-conscious social signaling, and that strikes me as fairly inoffensive, but unless I'm one-minding badly here I don't think that part of the culture is a common target of criticism.

I'm afraid it is part of the criticism: people have this belief that social interaction should just come naturally and people shouldn't build models of it to understand it better -- so if you're a non-neurotypical, high IQ male, tough, you "deserve what you get", and any scientific approach to social interaction that is helpful to such undeserving males constitutes terrorism.

Comment author: MugaSofer 02 January 2013 11:32:58PM 1 point [-]

No more so than arguments for women using makeup or getting plastic surgery. Do these assume men respond exclusively to a woman's looks? Not really. It just says, do this, and more and better men will want you than before. Maybe other factors matter, maybe they don't, but this works, on top of whatever else might work. To the extent that PUA is offensive for insinuating women only care about a few metrics, so too are beauty products offensive.

Less people are offended by the claim that men care only/disproportionately about physical attractiveness than similar oversimplications of female preferences.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 24 January 2011 04:16:44PM *  2 points [-]

It's somewhat disturbing, I've observed, to realize you're being "played" by someone not entirely benevolent -- even more disturbing to realize how very easy it is to be manipulated into doing things that bring you no good and only harm.

Correspondingly it is somewhat disturbing to realize that you've been unreflectively manipulating someone in a way that is not very benevolent at all, which is also surprisingly easy to do, especially in situations where you have a lot of leverage in shaping someone's personality. I suspect that assholishness is largely unconscious, consciously self-deprecated, and addictive because it consistently yields id-appealing super-ego-unjustified reward. In my experience females tend to be more reflective of and feel more guilty about analagous forms of manipulation (perhaps because of having more opportunities to be manipulative), but this is an anecdotal small sample size.

ETA: I think it's rather aesthetic how there are all these implicit humanistic stories between the lines of the cold analysis... it's like somewhat ambiguous abstract lyrics in music. "Oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before the takeover, the sweeping insensitivity of this still life."

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 03:17:18PM 3 points [-]

These men are disproportionately extraverted, oriented to short-term mating, and hyper-masculine / anti-social in personality traits.

I do not think this can be generalized that way. Naturally charismatic people can be long term oriented as well. And they surely also have their own shortcomings.

it means educating the male have-nots

Did you ever try that? If yes with what results?(My own experience lead to to completely stop trying.)

educating women about what many of them respond to

I would bet against that working. Did you try?

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 01:54:25PM 1 point [-]

I'm thinking prisoner's dilemma here. If we all hold back, wouldn't it be better for all of us? Of course, some people - the naturals, the PUA guys - are already ahead. But knowledge of the outcome should not change our decision (cf. Good and Real - ethics chapter). Or perhaps compared to the huge payoffs of getting laid/love, these marginal efforts into keeping up with the arms race are worthwhile?

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 02:58:30PM 10 points [-]

If we all hold back, wouldn't it be better for all of us?

No. Doing the mating dance well is fun for all concerned. Mutual self sabotage of social skills would leave us all 'settling' for mediocre, ineptly handled relationships.

But knowledge of the outcome should not change our decision (cf. Good and Real - ethics chapter).

I don't think this applies.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 02:22:29PM 5 points [-]

There is this tendency to treat PU as a separate magister. Similar to learning secret but effective magic spell in a world where magic is widely unknown. I think that view is severely mistaken. There are two important things to keep in mind: PU has a wide range of ideas to offer for all kinds of purposes. Sturgeons law still applies. Some of the more useful advice boils down to: 'be freaking normal'. Much of it is copied by observing other successful people. So called 'Naturals'. If you take ideas that are good anyway from the PU container you are not practicing an evil dark art. You are studying applied social science.

I think it is sometimes useful to look at the idea itself, not at its source, or the metaethic that generated it.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 02:45:28PM 1 point [-]

Thanks. So I guess you are saying there is no arms race. Just naturals, and the socially inept?

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 03:09:02PM 6 points [-]

No! There very much is an arms race. (There were studies about how many man of each generation got to procreate.) You have the most beautiful women in relatively poorer countries. You have women in the industrial world complain about the lack of real man, and run to those of other cultures who are perceived as more manly. You have a few males getting most of the sex from active non-married female crowd, and you also have unhappy 40yo virgins.6 You need to be relatively better than those around you. Which leads to interesting results if you act in male dominated fields :-). Naturals are not naturals by birth. They develop and hone their respective skills at some point and get a lot of practice in it. Likewise being inept is not a life time curse. You can learn things later in life too, assuming there is useful material available. But you do not need to become a complete master of any particular domain. Just good enough to get what you happen to want.

The point i tried to make above was another one. If someone is incapable to speak correctly he can go to a doctor and train. If someone wants to improve his vocality he can take acting classes, learn the ways actors use to speak varied and understandable. Which is good. If you are unhappy with your social life you can do very much the same. If a PU book then tells you to take acting classes to learn to speak better it does not suddenly become evil advice. It is the same. Just from a different source.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 03:14:28PM 5 points [-]

Naturals are not naturals by birth. They develop and hone their respective skills at some point and get a lot of practice in it.

This is worth emphasising.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 03:22:51PM 2 points [-]

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

»The key to this mystery is to rephrase the question slightly. Why don't smart kids make themselves popular? If they're so smart, why don't they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests? .... The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties. .... Even if nerds cared as much as other kids about popularity, being popular would be more work for them. The popular kids learned to be popular, and to want to be popular, the same way the nerds learned to be smart, and to want to be smart: from their parents. While the nerds were being trained to get the right answers, the popular kids were being trained to please.«

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 04:29:24PM 2 points [-]

Why don't smart kids make themselves popular?

Anecdotal evidence: I did. Maybe nerds stay nerds because they only profess a desire to be popular and don't actually hold it; maybe group distaste for popularity if it ever was achieved ("I wouldn't want to be popular even if I could be" sour grapes style) is also a factor. Maybe not being popular is a defining part of nerd; certainly I was not considered a nerd despite being smart and interested in all the same areas.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 04:21:50PM 2 points [-]

Agree, but i think it's more peers than parenting, and more genetics than peers. Also I would not praise nerds so highly, the popular kids don't aim exactly to please, and the nerdy kids don't aim exactly to get the right answers.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 22 January 2011 03:34:16PM 1 point [-]

This is a nice explanation but it fails since in many cultures outside the US the popular v. nerd dichotomy doesn't exist or doesn't exist with nearly the same strength. In much of US culture and some other areas in the West there really is a stereotype that smart people are/should be unpopular.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 04:19:10PM 1 point [-]

My point wasn't that PU was somehow unique in its 'evilness'. I would disapprove of speaking or acting classes as well if most of it was simply positional. So no, not attacking solely PU here, just anything that is positional and causes more grief than joy.

I like wedrifid's point of these social games being fun. I somehow managed to forget that. But this needs to be put into perspective of the desired end result here. Most people I'm sure would enjoy the journey of social dancing along the way to the destination of getting laid/love. But most of the utility is derived from the sex/love, not the dancing. Bored lovers might complain that their relationship was getting stale, but they are already much better of than the 40yr old virgins.

Let's not forget that anything 'fun' probably indicates that it is a status game. Which means there will be huge inequalities. If the final result of this instrumental pleasure (which is not to say it is all that matters, just the magnitude of its importance) were getting sex/love or not, then I am certainly willing to compromise some of the social fun for more people getting the sex/love they want.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 04:35:15PM 0 points [-]

I think life is generally not designed as fair. But it is possible to change a part of your position.

But most of the utility is derived from the sex/love, not the dancing.

That can be changed. If sex alone is the goal, there is a trivial way to get it. Especially if your own hourly rate is high enough. But to get love you also have to offer the other person something. You will not get loved for your brain, or your collection of comic books, or your knowledge about human history or any other topic. You get love for a set of properties that can be surprisingly trivial. One thing I am interested in is what these properties are and how to develop them. But you really have to enjoy the trip itself, otherwise there is a high chance you become a very grumpy single. It is more fun to enjoy dates, or what ever social activity you choose to find your partners, than to see it as an annoying step on the way to your terminal goal.

Bored lovers might complain that their relationship was getting stale, but they are already much better of than the 40yr old virgins.

I doubt that for many cases. You find enough married couples where the partners at least seem to be worse off than even the 40yo.

then I am certainly willing to compromise some of the social fun for more people getting the sex/love they want

I do not think I understand the meaning here. Social games are not played consciously. You maybe saw the scene from A beautiful mind, where John Nash tries to do away with the social conventions and get down to business right away. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfS-8X8PNx8

Does not work.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 05:02:48PM 0 points [-]

But to get love you also have to offer the other person something.

It is more fun to enjoy dates, or what ever social activity you choose to find your partners, than to see it as an annoying step on the way to your terminal goal.

You seem to simultaneously claim it is an arms race, yet imply that all the socially inept people need to do was to learn some social skills so that they can offer the other something.

I certainly agree that the horribly socially inept can learn to improve their social skills so that at the very least they get themselves across to the other person more effectively. Dating/flirting certainly does serve a practical purpose of letting us assess our compatibility, which besides being fun in itself, contributes to the relationship.

But if there was an arms race then this simply won't be enough. Past a certain point, the social maneuvering won't contribute to signaling anything relevant to compatibility anymore, and it will all be a zero-sum contest. Fun perhaps, but if so, then for its own sake only.

I doubt that for many cases. You find enough married couples where the partners at least seem to be worse off than even the 40yo.

Quick google search gave me at least this: http://spr.sagepub.com/content/22/5/607.abstract

I do not think I understand the meaning here.

I'd rather we relinquish some of the fun of the more sophisticated zero-sum dating/flirting techniques for more people actually hooking up with each other. (arms races creates inequalities)

Social games are not played consciously.

They don't have to.

You maybe saw the scene from A beautiful mind

That was a disaster. I don't recommend it.

If sex alone is the goal, there is a trivial way to get it.

I'm not sure if sex with prostitutes contribute enough to self-esteem/happiness. Anyone?

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 03:00:01PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks. So I guess you are saying there is no arms race. Just naturals, and the socially inept?

(He certainly didn't say anything remotely like that in the grandparent.)

Comment author: [deleted] 28 December 2012 01:37:14AM *  0 points [-]

If we all hold back, wouldn't it be better for all of us?

How so? The fraction of dating-age straight women who are taken at any given moment is nowhere near close enough to 1 that the competition among straight men is a zero-sum game. That would be the case if there many fewer women than men, but AFAIK the sex ratio is close to 1 among dating-age people. Making all men become more attractive by the same amount might well reduce the overall prevalence of involuntary celibacy.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 January 2011 05:25:35PM *  5 points [-]

When you're selling yourself, there's also an additional dynamic: Robin Hanson has argued that any method to win better mates than you appear to "deserve" genetically will be viewed as "unfair" by the opposite sex. For an example parallel to PUA, men may get squicked by this advice for women, even though they know it works.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 January 2011 05:45:05PM 8 points [-]

Does that advice really work? If a female acted the way that essay describes (especially in regards to keeping dates short and being rarely available) I'd just assume that they weren't interested but didn't have the guts to say so and move on.

Comment author: soreff 23 January 2011 04:30:46AM *  4 points [-]

Interesting question! Back in 1988, I met two women close to simultaneously. The one who made love with me is the one who I married. If the other one intended to be chased - well, she wasn't. "Hard to get" acted simply as a negative.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 January 2011 05:51:05PM *  4 points [-]

Haha, that's what many girls say about PUA techniques. "Wouldn't work on me!" Yet they work. Maybe we should get some girls' opinions about advice from The Rules: have they tried it? How effective was it?

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 12:54:40AM 28 points [-]

Certainly haven't followed it as a matter of conscious intent. I am pretty much only attracted to nerds (one of my personal rules, back when I was on the market, was that I would not date a guy who did not own a d20) and my reaction is that much of this is really horrible advice for the girl trawling the geek pool for a boyfriend.

For instance all the stuff about waiting for him to make the first move, expecting him to take the lead, etc, is just a recipe for two lovelorn nerds staring hopelessly at each other over the miniatures table (and never going any farther than that). I generally found it pretty easy to tell when a guy was into me, and I made some pretty blatant passes just to get the ball rolling.

For instance, with the man who is now my husband, I initiated our relationship by saying (this is a direct quote) "Hey, have you ever thought about you and me dating?" And I continued to take the lead in things like initiating our first kiss and the first time we went to bed together, because I knew I was a lot more experienced in that arena. On the other hand, most girls do like to be courted and I'm no exception, so there definitely was a point when I expected him to start taking the lead. But I didn't expect him to guess where it was. I told him straight up, "hey, I've kind of been the instigator up until now, but we're getting kind of serious and I'm not going to always be the one pushing our relationship to the next level. If we keep at this there are going to be a few milestones coming up--the first time someone says 'I love you' is the next one--and I'm not going to be the one to go first there, so, you know, just keep that in mind." So he was the one to use the "L-word" first, and he proposed marriage, and so forth.

We did end up having a fight on Valentine's Day, when I baked him cupcakes and he got me absolutely nothing, but the lesson I took away from that was not "dump him," it was "use your words." If I expect a present, I need to tell him, in English, that I want a present. Tone of voice does not count and neither does body language. He is not good with hints, even if they seem to me to be really, really obvious hints. He wants to do things that will make me happy, but he cannot be relied upon to guess what those things are. He and I are both much, much happier when I just tell him what I want.

So, "be mysterious" would have been terrible advice for me, and all that stuff about not signaling too much interest I think is counterproductive for "our kind" as well, since nerd guys often have a hard time picking up on it when a girl is flirting with them.

There are a few things in there that I think are useful. The old "never sleep with a guy before the third date" rule is one that I would probably endorse, except I would take out the "never." But in general I think being slow to jump in bed with people is a good, self-protective strategy for women. "Don't try to change him" is just good solid advice, and so is "don't date a married man." But yeah, I think for the gal batting her eyelashes at the company sysadmin, most of those rules are either not really applicable or downright counterproductive.

Which leads me to my objection to PUA stuff. I mean, a lot of it seems like harmless enough "Dumbo's feather" type stuff -- tricks to get shy guys to actually approach and interact with women in a way that signals confidence rather than desperation. I'm fine with all that and I can certainly see how it would be useful. But in the overarching philosophy -- it just seems like an incredibly alienating view of women. I know there's some lip-service to the idea of individual variation, but for the most part the PUA strategies encourage guys to see women almost like androids, all obeying the same script.

And from what I've seen of measurable differences between men and women, they exist as averages over large groups, but they are dwarfed by individual variances. Like, yes, men are on average taller and stronger than women. But Jill Mills could kick your ass. Women are human and as individuals we fall across the whole spectrum of human variance. All women are not alike, not any more than all men are alike.

So yeah, I don't have much trouble believing that PUA "works" in terms of helping guys pick up at singles bars. I'm a lot more skeptical that it "works" across a broader spectrum of experience. I have my doubts about how well it would work on nerd girls (I courted a few of them in my wild youth, too.)

And ultimately I worry about the damage that the PUA mindset does to relations between men and women as human beings--lord knows, reading Roissy's blog doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for the species.

Comment author: LauraABJ 23 January 2011 04:49:33AM 4 points [-]

You are very unusual. I love nerds too, and am currently in an amazing relationship with one, but even I have my limits. He needed to pursue me or I wouldn't have bothered. I was quite explicitly testing, and once he realized the game was one, he exceeded expectations. But yeah, there were a couple of months there when I thought, 'To hell with this! If he's not going to make a move at this point, he can't know what he's doing, and he certainly won't be any good at the business...'

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 05:24:03AM 19 points [-]

You are very unusual. I love nerds too, and am currently in an amazing relationship with one, but even I have my limits. He needed to pursue me or I wouldn't have bothered.

If I hadn't already had good evidence that he was crazy about me, I might have gone for more of that sort of testing, I don't know.

At the time I had this idea that I was going to be San Francisco's real-life superheroine. I would get a cape and a mask and call myself Mistra. I went as far as enrolling in a first-responder course and a Wing Chun class. I told Sam (now my husband, but at the time just a good friend) that he should be my sidekick, Fog Lad. He agreed to this plan. We started throwing around ideas for his costume.

Sometime after this it occurred to me literally in the shower that he must be in love with me, because I'm pretty sure guys don't agree to run around the city in tights calling themselves Fog Lad unless they are desperately in love with some chick.

So I told him I thought we should date, and then everything just went extremely well from there. Sadly, once we fell into bed together, we kind of got distracted and I stopped going to Wing Chun class, and San Francisco never did get its ace crimefighting team.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 07:03:00AM *  6 points [-]

That is just too adorable to be true! Tell me you made it up. If not, you may just have be the inspiration for the first romantic teen comedy superhero flick that is based off a true story!

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 04:57:27PM 6 points [-]

Tell me you made it up.

Nope, it's all true.

Comment author: zaph 25 January 2011 01:16:51PM 2 points [-]

The RomCom version of Kick Ass would probably do very well at the box office.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 January 2011 04:13:35PM 4 points [-]

Awesome.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 05:05:48AM 1 point [-]

But yeah, there were a couple of months there when I thought

A couple of months. Even that is a little unusual. :)

Comment author: LauraABJ 23 January 2011 05:13:53AM 3 points [-]

This is true. We were (and are) in the same social group, so I didn't need to go out of my way for repeated interaction. Had I met him once and he failed to pick up my sigs, then NO, we would NOT be together now... This reminds me of a conversation I had with Silas, in which he asked me, "How many dates until....?" And I stared at him for a moment and said, "What makes you think there would be a second if the first didn't go so well?"

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 05:23:41AM 3 points [-]

"How many dates until....?" And I stared at him for a moment and said, "What makes you think there would be a second if the first didn't go so well?"

By the ellipsis do you mean 'sex', and indicate that lack of it on the first date constitutes a failure? (Good for you if you know what you want!)

Comment author: Blueberry 23 January 2011 02:18:24AM 4 points [-]

Great post. I loved your approach with your husband and think that in general, most people would be better off following it (especially women).

[PUA] just seems like an incredibly alienating view of women. I know there's some lip-service to the idea of individual variation, but for the most part the PUA strategies encourage guys to see women almost like androids, all obeying the same script.

Your objection to PUA stuff is based on a certain view of PUA I don't think is accurate. In fact, one of the most helpful things to me about PUA was the idea that each person has an individual set of "attraction switches" and it's just a matter of finding them. This freed me up a lot.

And from what I've seen of measurable differences between men and women, they exist as averages over large groups, but they are dwarfed by individual variances.

I don't really think this is an issue of the differences between men and women. In fact, I think most of the PUA ideas apply equally well to men and women, because they're observations on human psychology. PUA gets applied mostly to women because it's mostly men who go after women, not because women are so different than men. The relevant distinction here is "friends" vs. "people you are attracted to and want to go after" -- a lot of PUA advice consists of distinguishing behaviors for these two categories -- not men vs. women.

And ultimately I worry about the damage that the PUA mindset does to relations between men and women as human beings--lord knows, reading Roissy's blog doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for the species.

I'm tempted to say "but Roissy is an idiot who has nothing to do with PUA!" However, I'm wary of committing the One True Scotsmen fallacy, and I suppose I have to admit that there is a portion of the PUA blogosphere that is misogynistic. I don't think that his blog is representative of most of the valuable stuff in the PUA community, and in fact his blog has been described as more of a "men going their own way" blog.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 02:45:31AM *  2 points [-]

Your objection to PUA stuff is based on a certain view of PUA I don't think is accurate. In fact, one of the most helpful things to me about PUA was the idea that each person has an individual set of "attraction switches" and it's just a matter of finding them. This freed me up a lot.

Can you point me to a page that espouses that view? I googled for it and found this: http://www.seductionbase.com/seduction/cat/In_the_Middle/EC/218.html -- but it seems the opposite of what you're saying, as it's a list of "attraction switches" that will supposedly work for "most women." Now granted, they're all generically good things ("TRUST" and "CONFIDENCE" and "CHEMISTRY" are all fine things in a relationship, sure) but there's no mention of individual variation or any conception that different women may be looking for different things. Instead, the message is: flip these switches and "she's really going to be into you"! And then at the end the author writes "I'd love to see another list: of the switches to flip for a ONS [One Night Stand] -- the switches that over-ride the social programming and make her crave that adventure and abandon. " Like I said, it's women as androids. Flip the switches, override the programming, badda bing badda boom.

It just seems like a juvenile fantasy--women as sex robots, available to anyone who knows the override code. Not the kind of outlook that's actually going help a lonely guy make a genuine connection with a woman.

Comment author: Blueberry 10 February 2011 04:50:40AM 0 points [-]

Well, this kind of systematizing and abstraction is really helpful when you don't know what to do or how to start a relationship. And it's useful to have some defaults that work pretty well, most of the time, before you get to know someone.

I actually think that seeing women as acting based on a specific pattern, that has reasons behind it and that can be understood with time and practice, rather than a baffling and impenetrable mystery, is exactly what will help a lonely guy make a genuine connection.

Can you point me to a page that espouses that view?

there's no mention of individual variation or any conception that different women may be looking for different things.

I got the insight that everyone has different attraction switches from a conversation with someone, not a web page, and I'm not as familiar with what material is available online. However, HughRistik wrote two comments about this topic with a few links to pages that might be relevant.

Comment deleted 23 January 2011 05:51:27AM *  [-]
Comment deleted 23 January 2011 06:04:24AM [-]
Comment author: rabidchicken 24 January 2011 02:49:31AM 1 point [-]

I really wish your approach was not so unusual... You would be doing humanity (and nerds) a favour if you wrote your own guide to dating for women. I don't think one book would change the insanity of human interaction, but it would probably help.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 January 2011 06:22:54PM *  10 points [-]

I'm atypical, but here's my take:

Some of it is common sense (she who cares least wins; look your best; avoid certain "turn-off" subjects; have standards regarding hygiene and considerateness.)

Some of it sounds distasteful (withholding personal information and intimacy sounds like a bad idea for relationships, but then again I may tend to be too trusting. The focus on "closing the deal" by making sure you marry within two years of meeting someone also seems problematic. I suspect these people do not care as much as I do about intellectual/emotional compatibility.)

Some of it is frankly unrealistic (gifts of flowers are not typical in all social circles. Making the man pay for everything is not always practical.)

From what I've seen of "The Rules" it's structurally different from PUA. PUA has a lot in common with marketing, and also a lot in common with general social skills advice. "Rules"-style dating advice for women is generally not an exercise in teaching social skills to awkward women. It's more about being strategic at dating (an area of life where admittedly too many people refuse to even consider using reasoned strategy.) It's hard to see how you could test whether it works, though. To see if PUA works, just go out and see if you can pick up women. To see if The Rules work, you have to see if you can marry an (implicitly rich) man -- that's a much longer time frame and you don't get as many trials!

Comment author: Jack 21 January 2011 08:11:15PM *  32 points [-]

Someone needs to write a Romantic comedy/tragedy where two people fall in love but they can never get together because the man is following PUA and the woman is following The Rules. They keep rushing to be the one to end phone conversations and both are always pretending to be too busy to go out with each other. The woman won't have sex until she gets flowers and the man won't give flowers until they have sex. Since both methods work they just fall more and more madly in love with each other but can never tell each other for fear of seeming too needy or desperate.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 04:33:14PM 6 points [-]

If they were both following the online dating rules someone linked to earlier, it would all be over very quickly. Neither would reply to an email before at least 3 days have passed, but both ignore anyone who doesn't reply to an email within 3 days.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 January 2011 03:55:39PM 3 points [-]

Not showing too much enthusiasm sounds like a low risk low reward strategy.

Comment author: ata 24 January 2011 12:19:52AM 3 points [-]

Hmm. That sounds like dating is an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. (And PUA, The Rules, etc. are guides to defecting?)

Comment author: wedrifid 24 January 2011 03:44:43AM 1 point [-]

And PUA, The Rules, etc. are guides to defecting?

Well, at least the "delay reply to gain power" gambit is the rest vary. :)

Comment author: Zvi 25 January 2011 10:35:40PM *  2 points [-]

Any dating filter that doesn't filter out itself is clearly not a very good filter!

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 January 2011 08:17:29PM 4 points [-]

A variant of this has been discussed in xkcd. I don't think that Munroe thought about the consequences as you have.

Comment author: Document 21 January 2011 08:34:21PM *  5 points [-]

It would be a bunch of girls playing hard to get, not returning phone calls, and a bunch of guys consequently moving on to other girls.

-- sockthepuppetry

Comment author: rastilin 23 January 2011 05:21:02PM 1 point [-]

That would end pretty quickly. PUA tells you to drop a woman if she seems cagey about going out or you're not making progress by the second date. It's very much a numbers game, there are tens of thousands of unattached women in even the smallest city and on average, 4% are willing to do anything without any PUA skills being applied; if it's not working out just give up and go find someone else.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 December 2012 02:20:22AM 0 points [-]

there are tens of thousands of unattached women in even the smallest city

Depends on what you count as a city vs as a town. A settlement of 60,000 will likely have about 30,000 women, about 12,000 of whom will be post-pubescent but pre-menopausal (and many guys will have stricter age limits than that), about 4000 of whom will be unattached.

Comment author: MartinB 24 January 2011 07:49:06AM 1 point [-]

Someone needs to write a Romantic comedy/tragedy where two people fall in love but....

Romantic comedies assume there is a predestined partner who one ends up with after a series of ups and downs and a big showdown. That is not so in real life where everyone just moves on after a while. The fiction of romantic movies can really hurt the expectations of reality. Maybe someday someone researches the effect of chick flicks on the amount of unhappy involuntary singles due to unrealistic expectations.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 02:15:02PM 1 point [-]

Thankfully, our built-in (if imperfect) deontological-acausal ethics usually prevents that from happening to most of us.

Comment author: shokwave 24 January 2011 01:52:37AM 8 points [-]

The Rules is a filter women can apply to their dating. Being manipulated by, or at least not bothered by, certain things on that list (like double standards with responding), correlates strongly with desired personality traits. Most people will get bored with Rules-girls and move on. The ones that don't are far more likely to be the type desired. Assuming a dating woman knows what she desires, that is - I wager women using the Rules aren't as aware of what they are selecting for as pick-up artists are.

On PUA, the same thing applies: if you think those techniques wouldn't work on you, well, you're not the type pick-up artists are after.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 January 2011 07:19:41PM 1 point [-]

Part of what you label as common sense, avoiding certain "turn-off" subjects is on the list of things I don't understand. Why shouldn't people talk about their exes? Presumably if someone was an SO or close to being an SO then they were, you know, significant. Not talking about them places a substantial limit on what subjects the person is able to talk about. And are guys really so insecure that they feel uncomfortable just being reminded that the person they are dating has had other relationships?

Comment author: HughRistik 21 January 2011 09:22:38PM 4 points [-]

A big reason is that talk about exes can easily turn emotionally negative. Many mainstream people don't seem to be on good terms with their exes.

Comment author: lukeprog 21 January 2011 09:41:42PM 1 point [-]

Lol, I'm curious: What does "mainstream people" mean in this context? People who have romantic relationships that fail in a way that sometimes causes frustration and resentment?

Comment author: HughRistik 21 January 2011 10:06:55PM *  7 points [-]

Most gender-typical people. They have more drama. It's a lot easier for high IQ, gender-atypical nerdy folks with good impulse control to be on good terms with their exes.

Comment author: rastilin 24 January 2011 06:55:43AM 1 point [-]

Aside from the possibility that you had a bad breakup and you end up complaining for several minutes, which isn't a good sign in a date. It raises the question of "What did those people find out about this person that I don't know yet that it caused them to break up with them.".

Comment author: wedrifid 24 January 2011 08:33:32AM 2 points [-]

And: "If he is bitching about his ex to me then chances are he would bitch about me to others too." Possibly applies even more for boasting.

Comment author: HughRistik 24 January 2011 08:20:27AM 0 points [-]

Yes. Complaining about your breakup allows the other person to locate and privilege various unsavory hypotheses about you which may or may not be fair. Don't let people do this. You aren't being more "honest" by giving people true information that will bias them.

Comment author: Jack 21 January 2011 08:04:56PM *  3 points [-]

31. Don't Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist.

Anyone read the book and can explain what this is about?

Is this like "Don't discuss Heaven's Gate with your family"?

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 21 January 2011 09:43:12PM *  5 points [-]

Sort of. I haven't read the book but was sufficiently amused to look this one up. They give three reasons: your therapist may think The Rules are manipulative and dishonest and dissuade you; your therapist may not realize how clueless and pathetic you are when you fall for a guy, if you don't have The Rules to protect you; you don't want to start debating this topic with your therapist, you'll lose your resolve to stick to The Rules.

Comment author: Zvi 25 January 2011 10:52:39PM 2 points [-]

I think it's more like "Don't discuss Zeus with your Rabbi."

Comment author: TheOtherDave 21 January 2011 05:39:45PM 7 points [-]

I wonder how this translates to the dynamics of communities where sexual attraction isn't constrained to opposite-sex pairings.

Comment author: cousin_it 22 January 2011 08:30:37AM *  2 points [-]

Very good point, I hadn't thought about that. Does there exist effective dating advice for gay people? It might be illuminating.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 22 January 2011 04:31:44PM 4 points [-]

Nothing I know of that's analogously mass-marketed.

Dan Savage is moderately popular in this space, but I suspect that he is to dating advice what talk radio is to political analysis: entertaining, vaguely topical, and mostly non-data-driven. Mostly his advice is to be attractive (exercise, grooming, etc.) and forthright (ask for what you want, walk away from what you don't want), which isn't bad advice as far as it goes.

More generally, there seems to be a sentiment in the gay male community that "playing hard to get" (which a lot of dating advice for het women seems to advise, and a lot of "dating" advice for het men seems to advise ways of neutralizing) is mostly a female thing, and gay guys simply shouldn't bother.

I have no particular reason to believe that this is <i>true</i>, though. In fact, I've seen enough queer men fascinated by the "is he or isn't he?" game with respect to attractive men of unspecified orientation that I rather doubt it. (I don't know if the analogous game is popular among queer women, though I'd be somewhat surprised if it weren't.)

That said, there was so much coyness ineluctably built into the gay dating scene by the fear of punishment for so long that I guess it's unsurprising that deliberate coyness is officially rejected. That rejection will probably fade as it becomes more and more taken for granted, as it seems to be becoming, that gay people can be publicly visible as romantic/sexual beings without risking assault or other forms of "reprisal".

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 04:24:11AM *  3 points [-]

For an example parallel to PUA, men may get squicked by this advice for women, even though they know it works.

That's an interesting list. A lot of those serve as general advice that tends to be given to guys too.

  • Always look great, whatever your income.
  • Never reveal information you don't have to. An enigmatic [man] drives [women] wild.
  • Try and stay in shape and involve some fitness regime at a gym.
  • Never be available when he wants you to be.
  • If he is available Tuesday, you are available Thursday.
  • Ensure you are a good kisser.
  • Never ever talk about previous [girlfriends], particularly their prowess in the bedroom. Your ex-[girlfriends] are your business only.
  • Never assume anything about your date until you choose to know him better. You cannot always tell by looking.
  • Never ever come across as too available or too desperate. [She] will run a mile.
  • If the [girl] in the corner is gorgeous, go get [her] and create the need in [her] for you. Never wait for [women] to come to you because you may watch [her] leave with someone else.
  • If you want a child, don't mention it on the first few dates.
  • Never ever criticize [her] mother unless you want to remain single.

Then there are some tips about evaluation strategies that guys tend to be warned to consider:

  • If any man shows the slightest signs of possessiveness or insecurity, run like the wind. Life is too short for boys.
  • If his shoes or hygiene are a disgrace, dump him.

(Yup. Shoes, and insecurity. Those two are the big ones in fashion and behavioral signalling respectively.)

Then there are others that guys are often suggested strategies for dealing with. (Such strategies vary rather a lot depending on individual identity, what kind of relationship is desired and pure arbitrariness.)

  • Let your man pay. If he is interested, he is interested enough to ensure you eat well and get home safely in a cab.

Often I'll do this as a hat tip to tradition or as a pure matter of convenience. It depends a bit on the girl. Sometimes it will pay for a meal then say, for example, that now she can take me and buy me icecream. With respect to the attitude conveyed in the above tip, if a girl does expect me to pay and conveys that then I expect her to do so from the position that it is a gesture that she appreciates, not her prerogative. I am not paying for her time, the transaction is 'time and company' for 'time and company'. She isn't a hooker!

  • Ensure you receive flowers. If he doesn't know what a florist is, dump him.

I like how the unreasonable tips come with "dump him" instructions. Dumping her would be hard work after all. Flowers are to add flavour of novelty within an established relationship and even then subject to preference.

  • Keep dates brief, but your men interested. Less is always more.

Yawn. Organising dates is a significant overhead. Short is the opposite of interesting to me.

  • Never ever sleep with a guy until he has fallen for you. Sex early in your dating game plan will ruin everything.

I have found sex too early in the relationship to sometimes be a mixed blessing. Primarily because it can sometimes cover over incompatibility or lack of other common interests. But I don't think that is what the tip is getting at (which is defintely squick).

  • Always keep a guy waiting and never turn up early. It is a lady's perogative.

I prefer to arrange meetings where no waiting for either party is required and there is a minimum of inconvenience if someone flakes. Apart from that there are all sorts of ways to handle this and other sorts of power play in a way that eliminates deliberate discourtesy while providing the best experience for both parties. That's where sharing strategies and successes with others who have found ways to handle a situation comes in handy.

  • Weekend shopping trips with girlfriends are sacred and not available for dates.

Sure, whatever. Just assume an approximately constant pool of 'asking out's with two or three potential times given for each ask out. Calibrate availability and acceptance accordingly.

From what I observe of my own behaviour in general, if doing something does not work then I go and do something (or in this case someone) else. Einstein would call that 'not being insane'.

  • Keep your man standing on quicksand by shifting landmarks and goalposts constantly.

I have fond memories of the time back in my teenage years when I realised that in dating, as in the rest of life, the only goalposts I have to worry about are my own. The approval of others is sometimes useful and sometimes it is fun to play other people's games. But other times it is more fun to reverse them or ignore them outright.

  • Never talk too much about your father and how your date measures up in comparison.
  • You may well have all the bodily functions of a man, just try not to demonstrate them early on.

(Whatever.)

  • Always reply to emails at least 3 days after receipt.
  • A man who doesn't reply to your email within 3 days should be ignored.

Now there is some real squick. My biggest peeve is bullshit double standards like that. Fortunately they are self screening once again.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 January 2011 04:41:44AM 4 points [-]

Some of these seem also just designed to cause maximum drama. Consider:

Let your man pay. If he is interested, he is interested enough to ensure you eat well and get home safely in a cab.

Many females I've dated get actively offended if I the guys try to pay rather than splitting the bill. And frankly, they have a right to be offended, giving the historical double standards that are associated with this sort of thing. That someone is trying to get females to insist on this while others use it as a test in the opposite direction? Yeah, this isn't going to lead to problems at all.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 05:03:13AM 12 points [-]

Many females I've dated get actively offended if I the guys try to pay rather than splitting the bill. And frankly, they have a right to be offended

I wouldn't want to deny anyone the right to be offended at anything they please but for my part I would bid them politely goodnight and delete their phone number. Getting actively offended over things that are not a big deal is a huge red flag. It indicates either specific emotional issues or a generally high maintenance personality. I'll leave those girls to you Josh. :)

Some sample sane responses in such circumstances:

  • No, we'll split it.
  • Hey, none of that, Neanderthal! (With a smile and or fake arm slap to indicate lightheartedness. Equivalent to assertiveness with humor.)

Ideal response:

  • Sure, but I've got the next one!

This follows from a general principle that a propensity for taking offence is an unattractive trait and an indicator of immature boundaries. If you want something different ask for it or actively make it happen.

Comment author: anon895 24 January 2011 01:19:11PM 0 points [-]
  • No, we'll split it.

From what I've read, being able to credibly offer a free meal is a critical tool in some men's dating arsenal. Changing it to "well, if you want I'll pay, but I'd be really grateful if you'd chip in too" could leave him substantially weakened. Her making decisions on his behalf and talking about them as a couple after one date also seems like a bad sign.

  • Hey, none of that, Neanderthal! (With a smile and or fake arm slap to indicate lightheartedness. Equivalent to assertiveness with humor.)

"Ha, ha! It's funny because she insulted me and dismissed my sex's relevance as economic agents!"

  • Sure, but I've got the next one!

"So just because I was curious enough to spend some money to get to know her better, suddenly I'm at her beck and call? What kind of spineless plaything does she see me as?"

...and that's one of many reasons I hope I don't need to date.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 02:55:51AM *  6 points [-]

Wow. All those could technically be valid interpretations. That's where things like body language and confidence come in. There is something to be said for interpreting everything in the best possible light. Occasionally (dependent highly on context) even when you know they intended it to be critical. (Although in this case they didn't).

  • Hey, none of that, Neanderthal! (With a smile and or fake arm slap to indicate lightheartedness. Equivalent to assertiveness with humor.)

"Ha, ha! It's funny because she insulted me and dismissed my sex's relevance as economic agents!"

For my part I find the ability to mock tradition and culture without getting personally insulted by it kind of endearing. In this case, again depending rather significantly on cues in the context, I would quite possibly go ahead and be sure to open doors for her and move her to the side of the pavement farthest from the road. Because teasing each other is fun, life isn't meant to be taken seriously and, incidentally, because it would be role playing the masculine stereotype light-heartedly.

Incidentally I don't consider 'Neanderthal' to be an insult. Neanderthals were awesome. ;)

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 04:59:18AM 6 points [-]

Many females I've dated get actively offended if I the guys try to pay rather than splitting the bill. And frankly, they have a right to be offended, giving the historical double standards that are associated with this sort of thing.

I have to admit, when I was dating, I would always offer to pay half the bill -- but I never went on a second date with any guy who took me up on it. I know this goes against the general policy of forthrightness that I otherwise followed, and I can't really defend the practice rationally. It probably was an area where I was following drives I didn't fully understand, maybe something about finding a man who was capable of the old-fashioned, stand-up, protect & provide business.

In any case I would definitely advise men to offer to pay on the first date. I mean, don't insist on it, but showing that you have money, and aren't stingy with it, is generally an attractive thing.

Comment author: Alicorn 23 January 2011 08:12:46PM 3 points [-]

When my date pays for things/establishes a trend of paying for things, it gives me permission not to fuss about money. I am very, very inclined to fuss about money if any of the money involved is mine, so I find it a huge load off my mind. (I go on first dates prepared to pay half if my date seems to prefer this idea when I ask, but preparing to do that before every date with a person I intended to see regularly would be rapidly exhausting for me, so I'd be leery of going on dates-that-could-cost-money with someone who doesn't demonstrate an inclination to pay - though this doesn't preclude 100% of possible second dates.)

Example: I recently dated a guy who took me out to movies (he paid), and we were trying to think of something else to do besides see movies. I proposed snow tubing, but then discovered that the only snow tubing place open in the area which had a device to pull the tubes up the hill was expensive. I dithered to him about this. If he had said something like "don't worry about that, I've got it", we would have gone snow tubing. He did not, so we didn't. (This didn't preclude another movie date after this non-event.)

Comment author: JoshuaZ 24 January 2011 01:02:59AM *  7 points [-]

I think the relevant joke and intended consequences is something like:

  1. I insert an obvious derogatory remark about a tribal group you are very loosely affiliated with.

  2. Since I am closely affiliated with that tribal group, this comment acts as a countersignal and ironically signals affiliation with that group. This also works because the group in question has a history of countersignaling in this fashion and calling it "humor".

  3. Since a disproportionate fraction up LW readers have past or present emotional connections to that tribal group, this raises my status at LW.

  4. (Something else very Hansonian occurs here)

  5. Profit.

ETA: And actually, this post also signals affiliation with nerdy internet people. Now if only I can find a way to simultaneous signal with people concerned about FAI and signal affiliation with paperclip maximizers, then I'm all set.

Comment author: Nornagest 26 January 2011 07:07:45PM 1 point [-]

Voted up for being funny. This probably proves some kind of point, doesn't it?

Comment author: arundelo 24 January 2011 06:10:51AM 5 points [-]

This is a nice example of a division of labor based on relative strengths (at least when your partner does not happen to have a similar aversion). For me, such a division is preferable to the idea that roles in (heterosexual) relationships are determined by the sexes of the respective partners.

Comment author: Alicorn 24 January 2011 12:43:05PM *  1 point [-]

Yeah, I'd have similar preferences if I dated a girl. (I have been in relationships with girls, but never in the "we will go to a place and spend money on food/an activity" style of relationship.)

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 January 2011 08:31:28PM -1 points [-]

When my date pays for things/establishes a trend of paying for things, it gives me permission not to fuss about money. I am very, very inclined to fuss about money if any of the money involved is mine, so I find it a huge load off my mind.

Resisting temptation to make obvious joke about your paternal ancestry...

Comment author: wedrifid 24 January 2011 12:04:58AM 0 points [-]

I've scoured the paragraph for possible allusions to make. None of the jokes I can construct are obvious enough to be particularly funny. Bother.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 24 January 2011 12:35:34AM *  4 points [-]

Alicorn is of Jewish ancestry on the paternal side. The real issue is that the obvious jokes just aren't very funny.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 05:07:33AM *  3 points [-]

<indication of scorn for whoever it was who downvoted the parent for honesty and self awareness/>

Mind you the parent completely reverses the impression given by the earlier comment of "Wow, that's an attitude of the perfect girl for a nerd to be dating!"

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 05:28:56AM 3 points [-]

Mind you the parent completely reverses the impression given by the earlier comment of "Wow, that's an attitude of the perfect girl for a nerd to be dating!"

I know! I wasn't even aware of it as inconsistent at the time.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 January 2011 05:20:17AM 2 points [-]

Mind you the parent completely reverses the impression given by the earlier comment of "Wow, that's an attitude of the perfect girl for a nerd to be dating!"

Well, humans have lots of different behaviors and variation. It is extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be perfect. Moreover, everyone is influenced by cultural norms. As far as I can tell, that sort of thing is evidence more that people should try not to use any single warning sign as an absolute deal-killer unless it is very severe.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 05:43:33AM 1 point [-]

It is extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be perfect.

Naturally. siduri's earlier comment indicated that she was an extreme outlier in terms of preferences and and proactive forthrightness. This additional trait just serves as a regression to the mean.

Comment author: taryneast 24 January 2011 11:42:38AM 2 points [-]

I have never had a guy offer to pay for my dinner. I guess Aussie blokes just don't tend to do that kind of thing. I think that if anyone ever did - I'd be so surprised that I'd accept. I'd certainly be happy to pay for the next meal (or coffee or whatever).

I'm told that, during WWII, the American soldiers that were stationed in Australia cleaned up on the dating scene - because they happened to still use those traditional behaviours. ;)

I totally understand the inclination to get upset if being treated unfairly - but these days, I'm pretty sure that most guys that hold a door open for you are not doing it because they think I'm incapable of doing it myself... so I smile and say thank you, and make sure I pay it forward for somebody else next time I have the opportunity.

Comment author: khafra 25 January 2011 12:01:27AM 3 points [-]

It seems that, steadfast allies as American GIs may have been to the ANZAC forces during combat, on the home front they were ruthless-if unknowing-defectors

Comment author: MartinB 23 January 2011 06:13:17PM 2 points [-]

but I never went on a second date with any guy who took me up on it

I doubt you followed that rule consistently. It looks like to much of a unimportant minimal indicator that should be superseded by the rest of the date.

But if you poll enough women you will find many such statements that contradict with the ones other women give. Getting angry for paying the bill, getting angry for not paying the bill. Expecting him to hold the door. Getting angry holding doors for her. There is no standard rule set to follow. And i find it ridiculous how women (or anyone) expect others to just know what they want without ever bothering to tell them.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 07:02:46PM 6 points [-]

Another way of thinking about it might be that "paying the bill" or "not holding the door" are indicators of the man's personality, rather than terminal values of the woman. In this case, telling the man "I expect you to pay the bill" is counter-productive. It doesn't actually achieve anything the woman wants -- what she wants (in this hypothetical) is a man that would do this on his own. It merely eliminates "paying the bill" as a useful indicator of personality.

Granted, this strategy doesn't work well on a man who doesn't have an opinion on the matter and just wants to make the woman happy, but it's a plausible explanation.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 07:35:41PM 3 points [-]

I think a lot of women are looking for a man who can create romantic experiences, start to finish, for them. I think that's what the "bill paying" business is really about. (If it were about money you could just ask what he does for a living.) And it's fun once in a while when someone has orchestrated an entire evening for you and taken care of all the details for you. But if you expect that regularly and don't reciprocate... I guess I disapprove of that. It reduces him to "The Guy Who Brings The Fun Stuff."

Comment author: anon895 24 January 2011 12:19:10PM *  2 points [-]

I got a little angry reading that (didn't follow the original link), but I'm feeling too lazy to discard the post I wrote, so:

  • Never ever talk about previous [girlfriends], particularly their prowess in the bedroom. Your ex-[girlfriends] are your business only.

Thereby signalling to her (if she were rational) that she'll be equally a nonentity to you in a year, and/or (if you actively avoid the subject) that you handled your past relationships badly and are likely to do the same for your next.

  • Never assume anything about your date until you choose to know him better. You cannot always tell by looking.

If I had video of every time that was hilariously bad advice for me back when I still expected human statements to necessarily mean things, I expect I could make a substantially better contribution to this thread.

  • If the [girl] in the corner is gorgeous, go get [her] and create the need in [her] for you. Never wait for [women] to come to you because you may watch [her] leave with someone else.

This appears to be a disguised problem statement: "If she perceives you as pursuing her, she'll run a mile, but if you wait for her to pursue you she won't. Therefore, use magic." So glad I'm a lifestyle-aspie where the rule is "if you want something from someone, ask, if you don't think that'll work, offer something in exchange, if you don't have anything to offer, do without".

My imagined "stereotypical advice" version of that sentence is more like "If the girl in the corner is gorgeous, too bad. The girl who actually talks to you and affects an interest in you will be gorgeous too if you let yourself see it, and you don't want to miss out on her just because you're hung up on someone else that you probably didn't have a chance with anyway.

  • Never ever criticize [her] mother unless you want to remain single.

God, I love family-as-applause-light. Just seeing "criticize" and "mother" next to each other looks dirty. Mothers are sweet and upstanding ladies who work hard to take care of their daughters!

  • If his shoes or hygiene are a disgrace, dump him.

The lack of any definition of "disgrace" makes me want to look over the others to see if they fit the pattern of "blank canvas for the reader to project her already existing behavior on".

Often I'll do this as a hat tip to tradition or as a pure matter of convenience. It depends a bit on the girl. Sometimes it will pay for a meal then say, for example, that now she can take me and buy me icecream.

Should "it" be I?

She isn't a hooker!

Also love "hooker" as boo light.

I like how the unreasonable tips come with "dump him" instructions. Dumping her would be hard work after all.

Are you implying that the page is saying that men withhold flowers from women as a less hard alternative to dumping them directly?

Einstein would call that 'not being insane'.

...but probably didn't.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 03:03:02AM *  2 points [-]

I got a little angry reading that (didn't follow the original link)

Just so long as you don't interpret it as avocation from me (except where explicitly indicated). It is, after all, a bunch of dating tips given to women and presented here because it may 'squick' guys. Mind you most of them did not squick me at all and even then it was just a "I wouldn't date her" reaction. But other people not getting offended at something is sometimes itself taken as offensive so I don't mind if you are angry at me too. :)

I know you mentioned that you hope you never have to date. For those that do date an attractive trait tends to be the ability to accept the dating patterns of the desired demographic without discontent. The signalling reason for this is obvious.

Thereby signalling to her (if she were rational) that she'll be equally a nonentity to you in a year, and/or (if you actively avoid the subject) that you handled your past relationships badly and are likely to do the same for your next.

I wouldn't call that rational. A rational girl would assume that I don't have my entire history written down on my sleeve for all to see. I don't speak of all the important things in my life in all conversations. I would call that girl 'paranoid'.

So glad I'm a lifestyle-aspie where the rule is "if you want something from someone, ask

Not a bad approach at all. Not universally effective but the screening/signalling combo would work well for some combinations. :)

My imagined "stereotypical advice" version of that sentence is more like "If the girl in the corner is gorgeous, too bad. The girl who actually talks to you and affects an interest in you will be gorgeous too if you let yourself see it, and you don't want to miss out on her just because you're hung up on someone else that you probably didn't have a chance with anyway.

In that vein the actual sentiment in the tip would translate to actively seeking out those other 'gorgeous', interesting/interested people too, rather than waiting passively.

God, I love family-as-applause-light. Just seeing "criticize" and "mother" next to each other looks dirty. Mothers are sweet and upstanding ladies who work hard to take care of their daughters!

'Applause light' is a little different from 'personal - don't insult'.

Should "it" be I?

No. Just no.

Also love "hooker" as boo light.

Framing, like it or not, is incredibly important when dating. A particularly aggressive framing of "If I do <date/kiss/sleep with> then I am entitled to <X> material resource>" is an indication that a certain kind of relationship will follow and to some extent the type of personality of the girl. Again, it is how it is framed that is important more so than who actually pays for stuff. It also depends what kind of relationship you want.

Some people in some circumstances are looking for a more overtly transactional relationship than a partnership - rich middle aged men having affairs for example. Which is somewhat different to the provider/dominant-partner role that a less aggressive expectation that he will pay may indicate.

Are you implying that the page is saying that men withhold flowers from women as a less hard alternative to dumping them directly?

Almost certainly. It's a male conspiracy. The CIA is probably involved too. And aliens. And if the flowers don't work the Tin Foil Hat will every time.

...but probably didn't.

No, quite probably not. The "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." attribution to Einstein is a cultural myth. But sometimes I humour culture on the little things. :)

Comment author: Zaine 15 April 2013 04:14:20AM *  0 points [-]

I prefer to arrange meetings where no waiting for either party is required and there is a minimum of inconvenience if someone flakes. Apart from that there are all sorts of ways to handle this and other sorts of power play in a way that eliminates deliberate discourtesy while providing the best experience for both parties. That's where sharing strategies and successes with others who have found ways to handle a situation comes in handy.

I had no idea such a thing were possible. Please share your strategies and successes for arranging those situations.

(I'm being purposely non-specific in the hopes of encouraging as much detail as possible; a good strategy for interviews and give-and-take, but for requesting particular information in an asynchronous exchange I'm unsure of its efficacy.)

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2013 04:37:07AM 0 points [-]

I had no idea such a thing were possible. Please share your strategies and successes for arranging those situations.

I presume wedrifid was essentially referring to making dates that were things you wanted to do anyway or meeting points where the waiting party has an alternative thing to be doing.

Comment author: Zaine 15 April 2013 04:51:45AM 0 points [-]

That was what I assumed, but to schedule a meeting where being late would not make the first arrival wait seems impossible to me. Perhaps a fair or festival? Those occur infrequently. A petting zoo? That's... not a bad idea, actually - but petting the animals would hardly be the main activity, and the animals could only entertain one for so long. At cinema one may feel to have been made to wait by seeing other tribes all around, even though the explicit activity is idle viewing. A talk? One may want to save a seat for the tardy party, but besides that a talk appears perfect.

Well, that's one "[meeting] where no waiting for either party is required...." I figured you or wedrifid might have a cache of events that fit that criterion and asked to hedge against figuratively 're-inventing the wheel'.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 April 2013 06:58:49AM 0 points [-]

I recommend sitting down and listing ten things you might do for fun, just because you enjoy them. Then look at that list and circle the ones that don't have a fixed start time (like zoos, fairs, festivals, museums, outdoor walks, amusement parks, beaches, etc. etc. etc.) If you haven't circled anything, repeat the exercise with another ten things you like to do. If the area where you live publishes a directory of local events, that's a useful place to start.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 December 2012 01:54:55AM 1 point [-]

Most of those don't offend me, and most of those that do offend me offend me because they're sexist, so I guess they wouldn't offend a counterfactual version of me who is more sexist. I suspect some of those are intended to be tongue-in-cheek. (But the one about e-mail immediately made me think about what would happen if both partners abode by it.)

Comment author: Will_Sawin 21 January 2011 10:33:54PM 1 point [-]

My reaction was that it's not very nice to intentionally titrate the time one spends interacting with me. It doesn't seem like anything else on the list is deceptive or otherwise squicky.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 03:08:26AM *  0 points [-]

This is, of course, why 'self help' is best performed in communities where other people's agendas are not there to interfere with your progress. Given that success is for most part social and zero sum there will inevitably be epistemic pollution as a result of other people trying to influence your behaviour for their own purposes. Morality, after all, is mostly a tool used by people with (an appropriate kind of social) power to control the behaviour of those most vulnerable to its influence. (Note that sometimes it also serves a useful overall social purpose but it is not there to help you.)

Edit: If nothing else having specialised self help communities prevents every single remotely related conversation from ending up derailed into ethics.

Comment author: HughRistik 22 January 2011 06:51:05AM 6 points [-]

In my view, the problem isn't inherent in discussion of ethics, it's just that many notions of ethics (particularly in social interaction) are just hypocritical and wrong from the start. Basically, people's conventional ideas about "self", "authenticity", and "manipulation" are largely an ephemeral slave morality. (Sorry if I'm giving anyone inferential distance shock, but I've outlined this position in the past here in massively long comments that I'm too lazy to dig up.)

The problem with throwing out the ethical baby with the bathwater is that then it's hard to get help optimizing your self-improvement according to a particular vision of ethics.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 07:02:45AM 1 point [-]

In my view, the problem isn't inherent in discussion of ethics, it's just that many notions of ethics (particularly in social interaction) are just hypocritical and wrong from the start.

I agree with you here and also note that what I am wary of is not environments in which ethical discussions take place but rather environments in which discussions pertaining simple instrumental or epistemic considerations are systematically diverted by ethical discussion or moral proscription. That is, it is what is lost and the implied introduction of bias into what remains that is the problem.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 03:47:53AM 0 points [-]

best performed in communities where other people's agendas are not there to interfere with your progress.

careful you who take advice from.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 04:10:06AM 1 point [-]

careful you who take advice from.

Obviously. But your advice in this particular instance appears, shall we say, ambiguous at best.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 04:41:20AM 2 points [-]

Ambiguious posting is matter of habit for me. In this context: I experienced both growth oriented communities. And others that punish you for looking into improvement. Or people that give bad advice for all kinds of reasons. It was difficult for me to understand that this happens and why.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 04:45:51AM 0 points [-]

Well said.

Comment author: Davorak 24 January 2011 09:27:48PM 3 points [-]

And yet, it is denounced by almost everyone - perhaps because they're only familiar with mechanical, dishonest, The Game-era material? I dunno.

It is a matter of definition for many people including myself. The PUA techniques fall in to the category of manipulation. If a technique is not a form of manipulation then it is not PUA.

Which works great for my personal definition, but it does not line up how people practicing PUA define it right? What percentage of PUA techniques would you consider manipulative. Do you have a better definition for me to use?

Comment author: lukeprog 24 January 2011 09:32:00PM 2 points [-]

Do you consider Art of Charm's methods to be so manipulative that they fall within the category of "PUA" for you? If no, then that's a strange way to categorize the producers of the most popular PUA podcast. If yes, then I wonder what you mean by "manipulative." Art of Charm's methods are manipulative only in the sense that a woman putting on cute clothes and makeup and acting flirty and trying to be her best self is "manipulative."

Comment author: Davorak 24 January 2011 10:48:00PM 1 point [-]

Do you consider Art of Charm's methods to be so manipulative that they fall within the category of "PUA" for you?

I don't know because I do not know what methods they advocate. The video at Art of Charm does not seem to advocate anything manipulative and seemed like it had a positive message but that is the extent of my knowledge of them.

I was not categorizing anything or anyone. I was stating a definition that I and many other people seem to use regarding PUA a probably cause for it to be "denounced by almost everyone." I was offering an explanation. I then asked for your definition since there are many and yours different and currently unknown to me.

I asked what percentage of PUA techniques are manipulative because I wanted to know weather or not you consider manipulative techniques to be part of PUA material; eventually I would also like to know if you consider them valuable and a net positive, but the former is a large topic by itself and would need to be covered before the later could be discussed coherently.

a woman putting on cute clothes and makeup and acting flirty and trying to be her best self is "manipulative."

"makeup", "cute cloths", "acting flirty" do not manipulation make. Those same things can be used in a deception or manipulation though.

Comment author: HughRistik 24 January 2011 09:43:40PM 3 points [-]

It is a matter of definition for many people including myself. The PUA techniques fall in to the category of manipulation. If a technique is not a form of manipulation then it is not PUA.

This statement seems very a priori. What is your definition of "manipulation," and why do you say that PUA techniques fall into it?

Which works great for my personal definition, but it does not line up how people practicing PUA define it right?

I'm ready to taboo the word "manipulation," because it doesn't have a fixed meaning. Some people use it to mean morally-neutral intentional social influence. Other people use it to mean unethical intentional social influence. Others don't require intent in their definitions. The term invites equivocation.

In my view, I would use "manipulation" to mean unethical social influence, in which case calling any technique manipulative first requires that one show it to be unethical.

Comment author: Davorak 24 January 2011 11:03:44PM 2 points [-]

This statement seems very a priori. What is your definition of "manipulation," and why do you say that PUA techniques fall into it?

I did not.

I stated a definition that I am working from, then I would take the existing techniques described by others as PUA and decide weather or not I consider them PUA under my definition.

I did not take all techniques described as PUA by others and classify them as manipulative. This in fact is what causes PUA to be "denounced by almost everyone." I was offering a plausible explanation since lukeprog said he did not understand why people would do this.

Defining manipulation in terms of ethics just moves the problem from the word manipulate to ethics so all the definitions of manipulation in your post are inadequate to me.

How about deceptive or untruthful to obtain something wanted.

Comment author: HughRistik 24 January 2011 11:47:02PM *  4 points [-]

I did not take all techniques described as PUA by others and classify them as manipulative. This in fact is what causes PUA to be "denounced by almost everyone." I was offering a plausible explanation since lukeprog said he did not understand why people would do this.

Oh, I see. I thought you were asserting that position, rather than merely describing it. Thanks for clarifying.

Yes, I agree that one reason people denounce pickup PUAs is due to the non-rigorous folk-concept of "manipulation," whether that means. I'm sure it means something, and that it often does express some sort of valid objection... I'm just trying to find out what that objection is.

Defining manipulation in terms of ethics just moves the problem from the word manipulate to ethics so all the definitions of manipulation in your post are inadequate to me.

I agree with you that my attempted definition merely defers the problem. I would defend that deferral for two reasons:

  • When people say "X is manipulative," of social influence behavior X, they may often mean "X is unethical" (or more cynically: "I have an Ugh Field around X")
  • People might use "ethical" with more humility than "manipulative." People might be less likely to accuse behaviors of being unethical without explanation, while they have no qualms about making accusations of "manipulation" without explanation.

How about deceptive or untruthful to obtain something wanted.

This definition might capture some aspects of what people mean by "manipulation," but not others. For instance, I'll suggest that various forms of coercion would fall under the folk-concept of manipulation, even while being non-deceptive.

Whether that objection applies to PU is another question, of course. I think it's mostly overblown.

Comment author: Davorak 25 January 2011 12:20:07AM 3 points [-]

I'm just trying to find out what that objection is.

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision. That is what I see at the heart of many peoples concerns, even if they are often not able to verbalize it.

Whether that objection applies to PU is another question, of course. I think it's mostly overblown.

You think that the objection that PUA techniques use deception or untruthfulness is overblown? Most men looking toward PUA are looking for something effective, so I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

Comment author: HughRistik 25 January 2011 06:08:42AM *  11 points [-]

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision. That is what I see at the heart of many peoples concerns, even if they are often not able to verbalize it.

I think that's a plausible hypothesis about the "manipulation" objection to pickup. What I'm wondering is how those people are defining "manipulation."

You think that the objection that PUA techniques use deception or untruthfulness is overblown?

Yes.

I would speculate that the three main worries about deceptiveness and pickup are that (a) PUAs will lie about their relationship interest in order to trick women into sex, (b) PUAs will lie about their accomplishments, profession, and experiences, and (c) PUAs will be "putting on an act" socially and "acting like someone they are not." Do you think there are any other components to that objection?

(a) is probably just false, because PUAs don't advocate lying about relationship interest. Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more. There are various game-theoretic reasons why that can be a strong strategy, and I will make them more explicit if necessary.

(b) is false, except for white lies in routine-based pickup. Routines are hardly universal in the seduction community, and they are widely hated, even though some methods use them as training wheels. I discussed the ethics of white lies in routines in this post, where I argued:

Ok, then could you give me a specific example, other than one I've already stipulated (e.g. telling anecdotes about friends who don't exist during the first 10 minutes of conversation)? No, there isn't really a fight outside, and no, you don't really have a friend who is buying his girlfriend a cashmere sweater. But can't we excuse such white lies in helping people learn to socialize? Once a guy gets some social experience under his belt, then he will have entertaining anecdotes about friends that are actually true, and he will be as cool as those canned stories make him seem. [...]

I think that PUAs engaging in impression management, or even using scripts as a temporary measure to learn social skills, are not in the same moral category as substantive deception (lying about accomplishments, career, and income) or the same moral category as deception on a permanent basis (makeup, push-up bras). I think women should recognize that the intention of PUAs is not to deceive women about how they measure in qualities that women use to evaluate them, but to actually develop those qualities over the long term.

Although I'm personally not a fan of canned routines that contain factual untruths, I think such white lies (e.g. stories about imaginary friends within the first hour of conversation) could be justified on utilitarian grounds. The benefit of the user is high, because it keeps him in conversations that will allow him to learn social skills. The cost to people he interacts with is low. Furthermore, there is a benefit to women when he eventually learns social skills and discards routines, expanding the pool of datable men.

(c) is technically true, in that PUAs certainly do things that many people would call "putting on an act." In the past, I've argued that this judgment is unfair, because it presupposes a static notion of self and an overly restrictive and hierarchical notion of self-development. "Fake it 'til you make it" is a valid way of learning just about anything, and it gets unfairly hated on when applied to personal development. From the linked comment:

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.

Predicting how you would act if you were more socially skilled than you actually are, and pulling it off, is almost as paradoxical a notion as predicting what you would think if you were more intelligent than you actually are. To predict what the more intelligent / socially-skilled version of you would do, then you would need that level of intelligence / social skills!

Social reality doesn't work by the same rules as physical reality. Any notion of deception presupposes that there is some sort of truth being hidden, but often in the exterior social world and the interior world of self, it's hard to say what is true. You can partially change yourself merely by changing your self-narrative (to use Daniel Dennett's terminology).

Sorry to throw so much stuff at you all at once, but I hope the reasoning I've presenting in this post, and the linked posts, starts to show why I believe that the "deception" criticism of pickup is overblown. Let me know if you have any objections, or if there is anything that still bothers you (or might bother other people).

In my mind, the real problem with pickup is that some particular techniques and mindsets are toxic. Some techniques have a negative expected value. Some attitudes result in morally-neutral techniques being applied in negative ways.

Comment author: Jack 25 January 2011 06:43:22AM *  14 points [-]

Something I think a lot of people don't understand- particularly the type that stay in on a Saturday night to write critiques of PU- is that your average urban bar scene isn't anything like the real world. It's night time. Everyone is dressed and made up to look about as good as they will ever look. Everyone is drinking. In other words, nearly everyone is in costume and on drugs! The preferences people have in such circumstances only vaguely resemble the preferences they have during daytime hours. The whole affair is perhaps best described as a collective game of make believe where we all pretend to be sexy and cool and fun for four hours. It is theatre.

Of course viewing this near-mode orgy of cool and constant stream of negotiations to fulfill base desires is going to look perverted under the cool gaze of far-mode ethics. The denouncement of PUA deception under these circumstances feels a bit like denouncing self-awareness. Everyone sometimes pretends to be someone a little bit sexier and cooler than they really are- PUAs seem unique in that they do so systematically and self-consciously.

Now of yes, there are those who criticize the entirety of nightlife culture- often calling it 'rape culture'. And indeed, we should have well-embedded mental constraints on our hedonism to avoid doing things that are actually harmful. In this regard though, the sub-surface self-awareness that distinguishes the pick-up artist from the natural would likely be a boon.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 25 January 2011 12:55:20PM 7 points [-]

I've never heard "rape culture" applied specifically to bar culture. I've always heard it applied to the whole culture-- the implication is that there are pervasive ways of thinking which facilitate rape.

Comment author: Jack 25 January 2011 11:57:33PM 2 points [-]

Usually when I see criticisms of bar/party culture it is done under the umbrella of a rape culture critique. But yeah the term is very broad.

Comment author: HughRistik 25 January 2011 07:25:32AM *  7 points [-]

Something I think a lot of people don't understand- particularly the type that stay in on a Saturday night to write critiques of PU- is that your average urban bar scene isn't anything like the real world.

Right. And the people who regularly hang out in bar scenes are a different phenotype than people who don't. I tried to get this point across in discussion of pickup on a feminist blog, without much success. I ran into the silliest sorts of sophistry:

The big problem here, Hugh, is that PUAs don’t disproportionately meet women of any characteristic because people are not interchangeable.

I answered:

Of course PUAs meet women of particular characteristics more often! PUAs don’t meet women randomly. Do you really think that women who PUAs run into at clubs are psychometrically identical to women who stay home and read books?

and got this response:

I do. Most women enjoy both. We aren’t divided into the neat little category boxes PUAs like to put us in.

Statistical thinking fail.

Back to you:

In other words, nearly everyone is in costume and on drugs!

Yup. It's not only people with the most extraverted and primal phenotypes, it's those folks at their most extraverted and primal.

Now of yes, there are those who criticize the entirety of nightlife culture- often calling it 'rape culture'.

Could changing certain cultural norms around consent be a good thing? Yes. But I don't agree with scapegoating PUA in particular merely for copying prevalent norms, just because they were the poor fools to expose how the system works and how to operate within it.

Comment author: Jack 25 January 2011 11:59:54PM 2 points [-]

Could changing certain cultural norms around consent be a good thing? Yes. But I don't agree with scapegoating PUA in particular merely for copying prevalent norms, just because they were the poor fools to expose how the system works and how to operate within it.

In case it wasn't clear before: I agree and actually think the fact that that PU makes existing norms explicit is a really essential first step.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2011 12:02:28PM *  16 points [-]

Actually, “pretending to be sexy,” aka projecting confidence, social dominance, good looks, etc., doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I know a lot of PUA focuses on stuff like that, and I think that’s great; I’ve seen it have a positive influence on friends of mine, and vastly improve their lives, without compromising their ethics. I think this sort of training falls under "self-improvement," and I think it's an unalloyed good thing, and from what I can tell, this is exactly what you've been teaching and promoting.

I’m bothered by what I think of as “compliance tricks,” which I’ve also seen recommended in a PUA context.

That is, when you get someone to do things that she doesn’t want or like, using commitment effects and manipulating her own guilt, awkwardness, and desire to please. Or playing on her insecurities so she doesn't feel she deserves to refuse. I’ve been on the receiving end of a mild version of this: it’s possible to make me do things that are bad for me just by being “dominating” and making me feel too awkward to refuse a favor. This is similar to the Milgram Experiment. People can be remarkably unwilling to say “No” to someone who expects to be obeyed, and people can be willing to harm others or themselves just to avoid a reprimand, a stern look, or social awkwardness.

A man who understands this can get sex just by using compliance tricks (especially if he uses them on an especially timid or docile woman.) He doesn’t necessarily have to be cool or charming – he can be unattractive and creepy – but he can make a woman feel bad about saying “No” very effectively if he’s good at psychology, and he can make her life worse. I think this is why there’s a lot of feminist talk about “No means no” and consent and so on – because women are socialized to try to please people and go along with others’ desires, and can be put in harmful situations by people who take advantage of their reluctance to give a direct “No.”

Maybe that in itself isn’t a crime; maybe unfulfilling, not-quite-desired sex isn’t the worst thing in the world; but as a general rule, I think compliance tricks are pretty disturbing. People have permitted genocide and tyranny -- and, less dramatically, ruined their own lives -- because they were too awkward or meek to say “No,” and someone took advantage of their meekness. The victim of a compliance trick bears responsibility for his/her weakness, but the instigator of a compliance trick is still doing wrong, in my opinion.

Comment author: Abisashi 25 January 2011 08:37:57PM *  4 points [-]

I think the term feminists use that you are looking for is "enthusiastic consent"; for the reasons you describe, "no means no" may be too limited of a standard at times for ensuring ethical sex.

Comment author: Tesseract 25 January 2011 08:46:32PM 3 points [-]

Minor error: judging from context, I think you mean the Milgram Experiment, which focuses on obedience to authority, and not the Stanford Prison Experiment, which is about how social roles affect personalities.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2011 08:55:32AM 0 points [-]

fixed.

Comment author: HughRistik 31 January 2011 08:33:00AM *  4 points [-]

Continued from previous post...

I'm raising lots of questions, and I don't necessarily expect answers... most of them are rhetorical, because I know there isn't an easy answer. In ethics, it's easy to prohibit things, but it's hard to show the distinctions between what's prohibited and what's permitted.

People have permitted genocide and tyranny -- and, less dramatically, ruined their own lives -- because they were too awkward or meek to say “No,” and someone took advantage of their meekness.

It's correct that it's costly to someone if you destroy their ability to say "no." It's also costly to them if you destroy their ability to say "yes." Those costs aren't symmetrical, though the latter cost needs to be considered when calculating the expected value of advances. "Choice" doesn't just mean the ability to say "no," it also means the ability to say "yes."

The victim of a compliance trick bears responsibility for his/her weakness, but the instigator of a compliance trick is still doing wrong, in my opinion.

Lots of mainstream mating behavior by both genders has elements of compliance (e.g. "call me") that people are not always aware of. What if the initiator is genuinely unaware that their behavior might induce unenthusiastic (or unwanted) compliance? Check out this body language TV program where the expert remarks that women's accepting and rejecting behavior sometimes looks the same due to politeness.

How ethical responsibility should be divided is a good question. Clearly there is a responsibility that an initiating partner consider the other person's boundaries and ability to assert them, but there is also a responsibility of the receptive partner to assert their boundaries, since initiators don't have perfect knowledge of the other person's boundaries. The division of responsibility would depend on the sort of activity, and the context.

Given that women's boundaries and preferences have wide variation and conflicts, while men are expected to initiate under conditions of uncertainty, there's only so much that men can do to ensure that they initiate in a way that is both attractive and easy to say "no" to. This is not a system that we opted-into. Nobody came and said "please check this box if you would like to date a population of people who have a high rate or trouble saying 'yes,' and a high rate of trouble saying 'no'... and who typically expect you to initiate."

Men can be cautious, or attempt to read women's minds, and it's a good thing if they do. It's quite feasible to avoid running over women's boundaries... if you treat women like frail porcelain statues. Yet what percentage of women actually finds such behavior attractive? Does the possibility of a woman complying with an unwanted advance, without the guy knowing, mean that men need to treat women like frail porcelain statues by default?

At what point does men's caution turn into infantilization towards women, and at what point do we ask them to help with cultural change? At what point do we hold women responsible to assert their boundaries (particularly for advances that aren't aggressive, and where the guy might never know that she was just going along with it out of people-pleasing)? If less women had trouble saying "no," then men wouldn't have to initiate so conservatively. If less women had trouble saying "yes," then men could initiate cautiously without worry of being rejected because their advance was considered "wimpy" or otherwise unattractive.

Comment author: [deleted] 31 January 2011 01:22:58PM 7 points [-]

I hadn't realized that the fear of harming women could actually be that paralyzing in real life that it actually scares men away from getting dates at all. There's no reason men should have to bear that whole cost as some kind of precautionary principle. There are some ways in which the deck really is stacked against men, and I agree that it's unfair.

You have to understand, like Robert Hand "I have come up from a lower world and I am filled with astonishment when I find that people have any redeeming virtue at all." I'm used to my male friends talking about bedding unconscious girls and planning to screw my teenage little sister. The idea that someone could be so scrupulous that it hurts his dating prospects simply didn't occur to me.

And definitely I believe in putting more pressure on adult women to be more straightforward: say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. That takes character, though, and character takes time, and most women who hear something about "assertiveness" never really grok that this means "Yes, you should self-modify!" I'm in the process of trying to be more assertive -- and the trouble is, I get positive reinforcement every time I'm meek and deferent! Even people who verbally encourage assertiveness respond positively to self-effacing, timid people. So even this is a two-way street. If women want respect for our boundaries, we have to be more assertive. If it would be good for women to be more assertive, then everyone has to actually behave as though they prefer to be around assertive people.

It's hard to figure out where to draw the line ethically, when it comes to the compliance stuff. The David X tactic doesn't seem obviously immoral to me; I'm not sure I would mind if my male friends tried it on a woman; I can imagine some women falling for it and feeling really shitty in the morning, though. Is a man doing wrong if he makes a woman feel really shitty? I'm not sure -- it's just feelings, after all.

One way of looking at it: if a sleazy come-on is followed by a healthy relationship, who wouldn't forgive the sleazy come-on? If a man just does sleaze, all the time, and there's never any underlying goodwill, then I'm afraid I'm going to judge him negatively. Such people exist; you are obviously not one of them; but yes, they exist, and even despite the unfair structure of society, I'm going to judge them.

Comment author: Oligopsony 31 January 2011 12:08:48PM 2 points [-]

I think these are all worthy questions, but I can't agree with the implication that this lessens (if that is the implication - my apologies if I have misread you) our concerns over compliance tricks. In particular I think the metaphor of "dividing ethical responsibility" is very bad framing: it allows discussions like these to turn into cheering or booing various possibly responsible groups, and moreover it doesn't even make sense outside of a punitive or compensatory context. What one should do is identify what's normative for every actor in the situation.

Removing someone's ability to say "yes" is bad; I don't think anyone disputes this. And one of the great ethical advances of the past half-century has been to increase people's, especially women's, ability to say "yes" in the sexual field. But I don't see any respect in which curtailing compliance tricks will seriously compromise anyone's ability to say yes. (I'm sure one could come up with particular side examples.) I'm not sure if this would be reading you correctly, but you might be saying that by respecting boundaries men make themselves unsexy, which curtails women's ability to say yes. I think that if this is what you're saying it's deeply incorrect; if men are making themselves unsexy, for whatever reason, that results in lost opportunities, but it's not actually curtailing anyone's ability to say yes that in fact wants to.

It's also true that compliance tricks are used unconsciously. If this is the case (which it is) we should critically examine our "autopilot" modes of interaction to see where we are in fact using confidence tricks, so we can eliminate them where possible and appropriate. (It may not always be appropriate: society depends on a great deal of soft coercion. Sexuality is one of the few areas I'd be a total absolutist about freedom, but that may be a question of terminal values.) Of course the fact that (at least some elements of) PUA openly rather than subconsciously use compliance tricks means the first half of the battle is won, and we just have to move on to making them (more) socially unacceptable (than they already are.)

If the choice really is between treating women as porcelain statues and accidentally raping someone, how could anyone treat this as a serious dilemma? As you note, forgoing a yes and forgoing a no have highly asymmetric costs. But SarahC is correct to say that confidence is not the same thing as manipulation. A confident, high-affect, charismatic &c. person can sedulously respect boundaries. Perhaps we're running into a purely semantic confusion and what I label "respecting boundaries" is not actually the same thing as what you label "treating women like porcelain statues" - perhaps you could operationalize the latter?

I agree that continuing the secular increase in women's (and for that matter, men's) ability to say yes or no, as is their wont, is an important social goal that will continue to benefit all parties (other than date rapists.) How to ensure that is a sometimes very complicated and sometimes very simple (don't engage in slut-shaming, don't use compliance tricks, &c) question, but one that's been addressed at length elsewhere.

Comment author: HughRistik 31 January 2011 07:55:12AM *  5 points [-]

SarahC:

Actually, “pretending to be sexy,” aka projecting confidence, social dominance, good looks, etc., doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I know a lot of PUA focuses on stuff like that, and I think that’s great; I’ve seen it have a positive influence on friends of mine, and vastly improve their lives, without compromising their ethics. I think this sort of training falls under "self-improvement," and I think it's an unalloyed good thing, and from what I can tell, this is exactly what you've been teaching and promoting.

Glad to see that we are on the same page on this point.

I’m bothered by what I think of as “compliance tricks,” which I’ve also seen recommended in a PUA context.

PUAs indeed use some compliance techniques. Here are a few hypotheses why:

  • PUAs use compliance techniques because (whether PUAs realize or not) they induce vulnerable women to go along with sexual activity that they are unenthusiastic about, or outight do not want
  • Certain behavior that induce compliance are attractive to some women (e.g. dominance and status behaviors, giving minor orders)
  • For some women, a side effect of behavior that attracts them is that is also induces compliance. Therefore, you can test attraction by testing compliance as a proxy. Hence compliance tests like "give me your hand for a sec...", which could also be called "attraction tests."

I suspect that all these factors underlie the use of compliance in pickup.

That is, when you get someone to do things that she doesn’t want or like, using commitment effects and manipulating her own guilt, awkwardness, and desire to please.

We recently had a similar conversation on Clarisse Thorn's blog, discussing the case of the PUA David X, described in The Game p. 146:

His philosophy was to never lie to a female. He prided himself on bedding women by trapping them with their own words. For example, on meeting a girl at a bar, he'd get her to say that she was spontaneous and didn't have any rules; then, if she was reluctant to leave the bar with him, he'd say, "I thought you were spontaneous. I thought you did what you wanted."

Do I like this tactic? No. Can I imagine a woman find this manipulative? Yes. Can I imagine a woman going along with him out of "manipulation"? Maybe. Yet his "trap" is so transparent that it lacks the underhanded component many people associate with "manipulation." It's a lot easier to imagine a woman perceiving his approach as assholish. I can even imagine some women perceiving it as flirtatious.

I think this is why there’s a lot of feminist talk about “No means no” and consent and so on – because women are socialized to try to please people and go along with others’ desires, and can be put in harmful situations by people who take advantage of their reluctance to give a direct “No.”

As someone who has had to work a lot on my assertiveness, and who still sometimes has trouble saying "no," I sympathize. I've run into enough men with similar challenges that I am not convinced that "people-pleasing" behavior is heavily gendered. The difference is that men tend to end up in the role of sexual initiator, making the people-pleasing behavior of women more pivotal in sexuality.

The difficulty that some women have saying "no" needs to be taken seriously. Yet what exactly are its ethical implications? How do we define ethical disjunctions that don't prohibit any sort of initiating?

Unfortunately, it's quite possible that there is a nontrivial overlap between (a) male behaviors that some women find attractive, and (b) male behaviors that some women go along with out of vulnerability, difficulty saying "no," pressure, or people-pleasing. Some women have trouble saying "no," and other women have trouble saying "yes" (and of course, some women probably have trouble saying either). Some women prefer advances that other women have trouble saying "no" to. Some women prefer advances that other women have trouble saying "yes" to.

Imagine being a guy thinking about these possibilities... then try to go out on a date and make a move.

Women don't come with manuals describing exactly what sort of advances they find sexy, and what sort they comply with in order to people-please... so men have to guess. It's possible to make better guesses about women's sexual psychology, but that takes practice and experience.

For every male advance, we could invent a hypothetical woman who would have trouble refusing it. Make an assertive advance? Some women might feel pressured. Make an extremely polite and hesitant advance (even asking permission)? Some women might go along with it (without wanting it) merely because she doesn't want to make you feel bad.

This guessing requirement could cause a screwed up incentive structure. Imagine that 40% of women strongly prefer a type of advance that 10% of women have trouble saying "no" to. Ethics aside, the dominant strategy in conditions of uncertainty is to use that advance, which would be harmful to 10% of women. You could be a good person and not use it... but then you throw out 40% of women as dating options. Meanwhile, you sit and watch the guys who play the dominant strategy make out like bandits and surpass you in experience with women. Now imagine another type of advance, except that 75% of women strongly prefer it, and 5% have trouble saying "no." Then another advance, there 90% of women strongly prefer it, and 1% have trouble saying "no" to it. Or how about an advance that 99.9% prefer, and 0.1% have trouble saying "no" to; do men need to relinquish this one, too?

At what point are men allowed to get off that train of ethical thought before it reaches its destination of saintly celibacy? What's the cutoff point where a man has sufficiently minimized the probability of inducing a woman to comply with him sexually out of people-pleasing or difficulty saying "no"?

Reflecting on the massive diversity of female preferences and assertiveness about their boundaries can be frightening to many men. To my high school version, the thought of a woman having trouble saying "no" was so compelling that I never asked anyone out, at all (some people on LW might consider this idea a "basilisk").

Maybe that in itself isn’t a crime; maybe unfulfilling, not-quite-desired sex isn’t the worst thing in the world; but as a general rule, I think compliance tricks are pretty disturbing.

Some behavior under the label "compliance tricks" is disturbing. Yet it can be difficult to define where compliance tactics end, and normal social interaction begins. Furthermore, whether behavior is a "compliance tactic" isn't always an objective feature of the behavior: for many behaviors, it depends on the other person, and on context. As discussed above, women vary vastly in what behaviors compel them.

Is David X's "I thought you were adventurous?" a compliance tactic, or is it him being an obvious asshole, or is it flirting? Is "sit on my lap?" a "compliance tactic"? How about "call me tomorrow around 6"? Any type of request can induce compliance in someone with sufficiently low boundaries. How do we distinguish between unethical "compliance tactics", and ethical sorts of advances and requests?

continued...

Comment author: katydee 31 January 2011 08:23:42AM *  1 point [-]

I'm pretty sure that if you think the idea that people don't always have the same romantic ideas is a basilisk-level idea, you don't know what a basilisk-level idea is.

Comment author: MartinB 31 January 2011 11:05:13AM 1 point [-]

To my high school version, the thought of a woman having trouble saying "no" was so compelling that I never asked anyone out, at all

Related to the old problem of avoiding to asked women out that are in relationships, leading to the awkward »do you have a boyfriend« question. And all kinds of hang-ups when the girl mentions hers only late in the conversation or not at all.

Comment author: Zaine 15 April 2013 04:05:04AM 0 points [-]

This conversation on manipulation I have great interest in. Of course, since the word carries a lot of confused meaning for you, let us replace it with and discuss solely the following sentiment:

  • Making another think and or act in a fashion that directly results from an intentional behaviour or action of the Initiating Party. The Initiating Party (IP) accurately predicts that their initiating behaviour or action will effect a certain predicted fashion of thoughts or actions on the part of the Changed Party (CP). The IP continues to knowingly control the CP's: perception of the IP; thought patterns; and or actions and behaviour. The IP does not inform the CP that they are being controlled by the IP.

My main objection to the above is its dishonesty. Why do I value honesty? Honesty enables two parties to come closer to actually understanding each other - which is already impossible enough a task. I value these interactions (as they make me happy), and thus I value honesty.

Assume one enters an interaction wishing solely for company with another (hopefully interesting) human being - which, again, is the valued result.

In an honest interaction, Alice sends a signal (of any sort - though radio waves would probably not be received) to Bob, Bob responds, and Alice has interacted with Bob.

In a dishonest interaction between Alice and Bob, Alice sends a contrived signal to Bob, having predicted Bob's response, either receives a confirmation of their prediction or does not. In the former case, they have not interacted, but experimented. In the former case, Bob has interacted with Alice-attempting-to-subversively-control-Bob (henceforth false-Alice). If Alice desires an interaction with Bob, and Bob can only reach false-Alice, then Alice's goals are not being met.

Indeed, if Alice acts as false-Alice enough Alice may very well become false-Alice. However, Alice values interpersonal interactions. As false-Alice's interactions are either not interactions at all but rather experiments, or failed attempts to control another party, Alice does not wish to become false-Alice.

Why should Alice wish to act like IP?

Comment author: CCC 15 April 2013 08:59:53AM 1 point [-]

Why should Alice wish to act like IP?

Normally, manipulation has some sort of external goal. Alice does not manipulate Bob merely for the joy of manipulating Bob; rather, Alice manipulates Bob because she wants Bob to help her accomplish some sort of goal.

This is incompatible with entering an interaction wishing solely for company. If Alice acts like IP, therefore, this implies that she is either inconsistant, or that she has some other wish (for example, she may wish for the appearance of company).

Comment author: Davorak 25 January 2011 08:10:25AM *  0 points [-]

You are right there is too much to reply to at once, if possible lets keep the conversation a little more narrow from this point on or we are less likely to get any where.

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

So this seems to fall under the category of deceptive. The PUA undertakes actions to make the other person hold a false belief for the PUA's benefit.

Comment author: wedrifid 26 January 2011 12:10:40AM *  5 points [-]

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

So this seems to fall under the category of deceptive. The PUA undertakes actions to make the other person hold a false belief for the PUA's benefit.

Ha! You expected me to be only interested in a one night stand because I didn't act like an adoring little puppy on the first date. Now, since the sex was so great and we have awesome physical chemistry and emotional rapport I will call you up another time and see if you want to date again and maybe you will have to say no. You have fallen right into my trap. Mwaha. Mwahahaha!

Comment author: HughRistik 25 January 2011 10:47:36PM *  4 points [-]

I said:

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

Davorak replied:

So this seems to fall under the category of deceptive. The PUA undertakes actions to make the other person hold a false belief for the PUA's benefit.

I guess you could call it deceptive (maybe). If so, it's an entirely justified and healthy sort of deception, so I have trouble labeling it "manipulation" due to the negative connotations of that word.

Many people hide their full romantic interest early in dating, because they don't want to reveal it until they think the other person has a good chance of reciprocating. Otherwise, they risk looking emotionally needy and clingy. PUAs aren't the only ones to worry about looking "clingy"; lots of heterosexual women have that exact same worry.

The fact is, early in dating, the other person does not have the right to expect you spontaneously reveal your full romantic interest when they haven't asked. People who are dating often develop feelings on a different time-table. If there was some sort of moral obligation to immediately reveal the full extent of your feelings, it would be too easy to prematurely ruin many potential relationships by forcing the DTR talk too soon (DTR = Defining The Relationship).

The counter-intuitive result is that even if you do have relationship interest, sometimes the best way to get into a relationship is to wait to show it. The dominant strategy is to limit the amount of romantic interest shown early in dating. Showing too little can be easier to recover from than showing too much too soon.

So is hiding relationship interest a "lie of omission"? The omission is only a lie if it would deceive someone of truth. Hiding relationship interest only deceives someone if they assume that displayed level of interest is your true level of interest. But if they don't make that assumption in the first place, then they won't be deceived. And many experienced daters will know that people they are dating might have good reasons to try and avoid signaling clinginess.

Broadcasting false romantic interest is much more likely to be harmful than failing to display true romantic interest. If you broadcast too much, the other person will often get uncomfortable and flat out dump you (especially women with men, in my view). If you broadcast too little, then the other person isn't forced to dump you. They can show their own romantic interest, at which point it becomes safe for you to reciprocate. Or they can just come out and ask your feelings via a DTR, giving you an opportunity to articulate your true level of romantic interest.

Yes, hiding romantic interest has the potential to deceive someone who isn't savvy about the game-theoretic incentives on you to avoid showing it. Directing lying to someone who asks by saying that you don't have romantic interest that you actually do have would definitely be deceptive (but even then, there might be a justification if you feel that the DTR is the wrong place to reveal your romantic interest). If someone directly discloses that they don't have romantic interest, and doesn't want to hook up with someone who does, and you hide your romantic interest while hooking up with them, that would be deceptive.

Yet outside these cases, limiting display of "true" romantic feelings is simply a commonplace and healthy relationship strategy for people of both genders. It benefits PUA who are looking for relationships, yes (PUAs who aren't would have no need to use it), but it also potentially benefits women who end up wanting relationships with them. I don't think avoidance of the appearance of clinginess early in dating deserves to be called "manipulation," nor need it be deceptive, and I don't think it's what people are thinking of who accuse PUAs of being manipulative.

Comment author: wedrifid 26 January 2011 12:33:24AM *  4 points [-]

Yes, hiding romantic interest has the potential to deceive someone who isn't savvy about the game-theoretic incentives on you to avoid showing it. Directing lying to someone who asks by saying that you don't have romantic interest that you actually do have would definitely be deceptive (but even then, there might be a justification if you feel that the DTR is the wrong place to reveal your romantic interest).

And in such cases directly lying tends to be a dominated strategy. A simple "I don't do Defining The Relationships on a second date." shows stronger personal boundaries, self awareness and a sense for the appropriate time for self disclosure.

An exception (a game where non-disclosure does not dominate explicitly lying about relationship preference) is possibly with particularly high status and gender typical women who operate at a level where verbal symbols used for purposes that are more or less divorced from application to mundane reality. In that case a "I'm not interested in a relationship" or "we're not going to have sex" can prompt an instinctive contrariness and an inclination to challenge your declaration.

Interpreting that level of signalling as 'deception' would be as absurd as interpreting a metaphor literally and dismissing a poem as a lie. It just isn't supposed to be a correct factual description.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 07:33:57AM 0 points [-]

false, accept for white

Except.

Comment author: HughRistik 25 January 2011 06:47:17AM *  2 points [-]

Replying to your other point:

Most men looking toward PUA are looking for something effective, so I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

Yes, PUAs are looking for something effective, but that doesn't mean that they will use deception. There are two main barriers to deception:

  • It's not as effective as people think for becoming successful with women in general
  • PUAs have consciences and don't all believe that the ends justify the means

While we might initially think that there is benefit to males making substantive lies in dating and sexual success (e.g. lies about career, accomplishments, commitment, romantic interest), there are several significant pitfalls:

  • Even if she doesn't know, you do
  • If she finds out, there will be drama, which can be costly (both emotionally, or because it hurts your status in your social circle if others find out)
  • Lying isn't easy for everyone
  • Lying takes away from building self-esteem and self-confidence, while gaining sexual interest based on the truth about you builds confidence. Even if lying might help you with one woman, it will be an impediment to building self-confidence with women over the long-term which is an important component of sexual success.

Lying is an awesome strategy if you are a massive asshole with a high level of antisocial personality traits. But if you have species-typical levels of empathy, it's not so useful. Some people may stereotype PUAs as being highly antisocial con men, which might make lying a plausible worry. Yet the vast majority of PUAs don't fit that description (though I've met a few). PUAs with prosocial personality traits who attempt lying are probably hurting themselves far more than they are hurting women.

For people with prosocial traits, if they are in a situation where lying would be beneficial, there is a much better way to save the day: self-deception! That way, you get all the benefits of the lie, without the pangs of conscience, and you can defuse drama if the shit hits the fan. I don't think I've ever done this. But if I had, would I know? (Wow, the baby basilisks are really out tonight.)

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 07:31:54AM 8 points [-]

For people with prosocial traits, if they are in a situation where lying would be beneficial, there is a much better way to save the day: self-deception! That way, you get all the benefits of the lie, without the pangs of conscience, and you can defuse drama if the shit hits the fan. I don't think I've ever done this. But if I had, would I know? (Wow, the baby basilisks are really out tonight.)

The Hanson Basilisk.

On a related note I hold in contempt rules or systems of normative judgement under which an individual becomes penalised for becoming self aware or epistemologically rational. For example, when using an approach explicitly because you know that is how humans work is condemned as 'manipulative' while doing the same thing while lying to yourself about your intent is treated entirely differently.

Comment author: MartinB 25 January 2011 08:58:45AM 3 points [-]

There is a bias against learning some skills consciously. (While with others it is considered bad to have just inherited them.) Charisma and Money belong in one of those categories.

I see a few misconceptions coming up time and again in this discussion, and I do not see how to bridge the inferential distance towards them. The picture is all messed up with media, or mistaken samples.

I personally like being truthful. (For people who consider flirty behavior and various ways of joking lying I would need to go into a deeper explanation.) There is a lot of lying being done in monogamous relationships by both men and female. The PUA has his stack of books and exercises that allow the pursuit of a wide range of goals. Lying is not particularly necessary, and more complication than necessary. It is stressful and weak. Also one should keep in mind how many people are naturally successful in their social lives. Their numbers will out-weight the learned PUA people for many years to come. I see a greater problem in naturally charismatic people who treat their partners badly, than in a learned charismatic person who treats people well.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 11:33:22AM 4 points [-]

Also one should keep in mind how many people are naturally successful in their social lives.

Where by 'natural' we of course mean "have developed skills, prestige and a social network through concerted effort during most of their waking hours from the day they were born". :)

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 11:42:30AM 0 points [-]

I see a few misconceptions coming up time and again in this discussion, and I do not see how to bridge the inferential distance towards them.

Let Hugh explain them. That seems to be the easiest way. ;)

I have to say, however, that as far as misconceptions and general nonsense this has probably been the most sane conversation that I've ever seen on lesswrong. More importantly what little insanity there has been has been cognitive more than political. Altogether promising.

Comment author: MartinB 25 January 2011 09:08:54AM 1 point [-]

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision.

What is your mental model on how people find partners, love, sex and what is your explanation of the data observed in other people - particularly hook-ups without extensive getting-to-know beforehand.

I am not asking in a rhetorical or socratic way, I really want to know. For my own mental model I tracked the development to some degree, and then tried to identify generalizable errors in my thinking, recently I started again to collect those of others.

Comment author: Davorak 25 January 2011 05:18:10PM 1 point [-]

I hesitate to enter into this conversation at this juncture because I do not see how it forwards the current conversation and I do not know why you want to know. Are you looking to compare your own models and improve them, or do you think you see a sign(in what I have written) that there is a flaw in my model that you understand because you once had it as well?

Comment author: MartinB 25 January 2011 05:51:13PM 2 points [-]

Both. I think you have a flawed model. But I concede that mine might be mistaken as well. However I am reasonably well convinced I have some correct views, otherwise I would not have them.

The statement above showed a view that I do not share, but had at some point, so I am curious in where it comes from for you.

As a general habit I try to get away from surface discussions and see which base convictions lead someone to have his respective opinions. That was probably described here somewhere.

Since this whole discussion is about social items, there is a lack of information on what experience each participee has. HughRisk has shared his background, but everyone else can be from any point of the possible experiences-cluster. I would guess we have some experienced people in here who draw from what there see, but there will probably be also some who draw from pure intellectualized models of how an interaction should happen without real world data to back it up.

Comment author: Davorak 25 January 2011 06:54:59PM 1 point [-]

I think you have a flawed model.

Since there has been essentially zero discussion of my models your confidence that you understand my model should not be much higher then a random individual.

The statement above showed a view that I do not share, but had at some point, so I am curious in where it comes from for you.

Are you talking about the following?

... so I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

This statement is the equivalent of saying:

Most people looking toward business are looking for something effective, so I would imagine that what are considered business techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

Some business practices are deceptive that does not make all business people deceptive. Some PUA practices are deceptive that does not make all PUAs deceptive.

Am I correct in assuming that you had jumped to conclusions and believed I held a stronger view point then you now infer with the above these additional comments?

Comment author: wedrifid 26 January 2011 12:37:51AM *  0 points [-]

I would guess we have some experienced people in here who draw from what there see, but there will probably be also some who draw from pure intellectualized models of how an interaction should happen without real world data to back it up.

I'll add particular emphasis on and deprecation of the should when divorced from any appropriateness in the real world.

Comment author: shokwave 25 January 2011 09:59:35AM 0 points [-]

You think that the objection that PUA techniques use deception or untruthfulness is overblown?

I recall being surprised about how much of PUA is actually "be the kind of guy that girls want to sleep with straight away". Assuming PUA is deceptive seems like a common flaw in many peoples' approaches to condemning PUA; people are pretty good at spotting deception in the dating/pickup scene; without a further study of common or popular techniques I would be wary of assigning an equal prior:

I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective

Comment author: Davorak 25 January 2011 05:13:22PM 1 point [-]

To be clear I have not been trying to condem PUA.

I just starting examine a technique with HughRistik, do you categorize it as deceptive?

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

Here

My response.

Comment author: shokwave 21 January 2011 02:34:35PM *  2 points [-]

And yet, it is denounced by almost everyone - perhaps because they're only familiar with mechanical, dishonest, The Game-era material? I dunno.

Denunciation is a social act. The social framework is an evolutionary fitness mating arena. Kill the status of anyone more successful than you.

This principle is strong enough for me to treat denunciation of PUA as weak evidence that it works.

Comment author: Oligopsony 21 January 2011 04:28:28PM 3 points [-]

I've seen much more mockery of PUA than denunciation, mostly with the sort of attitude one sees displayed towards, say, furries (who are a prototypically unthreatening group.) But perhaps this depends on the corner of the internet you're from.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 22 January 2011 06:48:25AM 3 points [-]

Mockery is mostly for attack. I'm not sure how the mode of attack matters.

It's true that most people don't seem genuinely disturbed by the existence of furries, though. And it must be true that some people mock PUA without feeling threatened, or even without intending to raise their status or lower PUAers'. And in particular cases, for we do love to laugh at those who overreach (are more confident of their status than we think they can justify).

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 07:39:49AM 1 point [-]

that some people mock PUA without feeling threatened, or even without intending to raise their status or lower PUAers'.

Mockery of another group without intending to raise one's own status? That only seems possible if we include lack of self awareness in evaluating 'intent'. Isn't that just Human Behavior 101?

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 23 January 2011 03:56:13AM 1 point [-]

You're right. I was so struck by that, I almost deleted the clause entirely, instead of weakening it with "intending to".

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 21 January 2011 05:02:40PM 6 points [-]

This is a terrible argument:

  • it affirms the consequent;
  • the assumption that all social activity reduces to fitness strategies is in sharp contrast with reality and lacks evidence;
  • even allowing for the unreasonable assumption and overlooking the fallacy, the problem remains that apart from some anecdotal evidence, nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works, including people who denounce it. The most that could be concluded, even under the manifestly unreasonable assumptions, is that people who denounce PUA believe that it works, or have anecdotal evidence that it works. However, since it's reasonably common for people to both denounce PUA and believe that it's practiced by pathetic unsuccessful creeps, this conclusion is wrong, too.
Comment author: Vladimir_M 21 January 2011 07:29:12PM 8 points [-]

[the above argument] affirms the consequent;

To be fair, the above commenter only said that this constitutes "weak evidence" in favor of the hypothesis, and deducing mere evidence (as opposed to certainty) by affirming the consequent is correct reasoning. (How strong evidence should be deduced, of course, is another question that depends on the concrete case. But "shokwave" did say "weak.")

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 21 January 2011 07:58:09PM *  0 points [-]

I think that with no further information but only an affirmed consequent, treating it as nontrivial evidence, even "weak"[1], is wrong; you need to say something about alternative hypotheses, even if it's hand-wavy and vague[2]. This is somewhat of a gray area, to be sure, because the "something about alternative hypothesis" part is often taken to be implicitly understood[3]. But I don't think it's implicitly understood in this case that there aren't other, non-evo-psycho, reasonable explanations of peeps hatin' on PUA.

[1] I think that "weak" in normal usage implies "nontrivial", even though theoretically it could be trivial or zero.

[2] "If my theory is correct, the sun will rise tomorrow".

[3] If a physicist says informally "my theory predicted value X, and measurement confirms", they might take it as understood and not say that other competing theories predict a different value. But a paper will make it explicit unless it's already obvious.

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 07:45:54AM 2 points [-]

I don't see how it affirms the consequent; could you spell it out logically for me?

My reason for thinking it doesn't is that I didn't give a consequent. I gave three premises, all of which I strongly believe are true, and the consequent derived from these (you can find it in lukeprog's post) is a prediction that pick-up artists will suffer social attacks such as denunciation.

It's an abductive explanation of the state of the world, to be sure, but it depends on many other premises (evolutionary psychology is an accurate description of the world, other hypotheses are unlikely, etc). At some point you risk rejecting arguments for theories of gravity because they look like affirming the consequent; that is, your theory predicted that the object would fall at a certain rate (9.8 m/s, say) and then the object fell at a certain rate (9.81~ m/s). P therefore Q, Q, P.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 22 January 2011 09:27:50PM 2 points [-]

I don't see how it affirms the consequent; could you spell it out logically for me?

Your P->Q is "if PUA works, people will try to denounce PUA". You affirm Q and deduce P. As I replied to Vladimir_M, this is fallacious unless you invest at least some effort into refuting alternative hypotheses that explain Q. You note it yourself:

(evolutionary psychology is an accurate description of the world, other hypotheses are unlikely, etc)

Now, your astonishingly reductive claim that all social acts are fitness strategies (this claim is not, in fact, part of evolutionary psychology, whose claims are far-ranging but more modest than that) is on the face of it simply wrong; and several other reasons why people might want to denounce PUA are ready at hand. You have your work cut out for you if you wish to give some convincing evidence for the claim, and against the alternative hypotheses; but before either is done at least to some degree your argument, it seems to me, is wholly unsubstantiated.

P.S. And all this doesn't take into account my third objection above, which would be true even if you were able to support deducing P from Q in your case.

P.P.S. Thank you for the phrase "abductive reasoning", I didn't know that name, or that it was well-studied.

Comment author: shokwave 23 January 2011 06:20:47AM 0 points [-]

Your P->Q is "if PUA works, people will try to denounce PUA". You affirm Q and deduce P.

Ah, okay. Yes to that, although of course I prefer to call it abductive reasoning. I got the impression you were saying something like "kill the status of anyone more successful" was being affirmed.

Now, your astonishingly reductive claim that all social acts are fitness strategies

Never claimed all, but I didn't make it clear enough. The social framework can be used for evolutionary fitness; in this sense, it is an arena for mating struggles. And it is used in this way, and regularly.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 06:52:25AM *  2 points [-]

the assumption that all social activity reduces to fitness strategies is in sharp contrast with reality and lacks evidence;

"Lacks evidence" is a handy accusation, isn't it? So is tu quoque.

(I don't believe the accusation of 'lacks evidence' in this context means much more than 'I disapprove of your belief".)

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 22 January 2011 09:43:20PM 4 points [-]

I'd like to think that this accusation also carries a hint that this is quite an extraordinary claim, and therefore requires extraordinary evidence. At least, that's the idea I was trying to get across without spelling it out, so as not to appear uncivil.

It really is quite an extraordinarily strong claim, and I'm still using milder language and not saying what I really think about it. It's much like saying that all social acts are really attempts to sleep with one's parent of the opposite sex, or that all social acts are actually attempts to get control of the means of production.

There are so many social acts, they are so different in different societies, and so many of them are so obviously shaped by culture and non-universal, that I have never seen any evo-psych theorist try to seriously claim that any and all of them are mating fitness strategies. Typically even the most far-reaching varieties of evo-psych claim that about a wide swath of supposedly universal social behaviors, not all social acts.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 10:38:01PM *  3 points [-]

I'd like to think that this accusation also carries a hint that this is quite an extraordinary claim, and therefore requires extraordinary evidence.

The hint was overwhelmingly clear. You were saying that your opponent was the one that needed lots of evidence while trying to present your own position as the default.

With respect to this particular premise your claim of 'extraordinary' struck me as incredibly naive. That social behaviours reduce to fitness maximising strategies is trivially obvious (and not all that interesting). There are of course going to be exceptions to the rule, humans being far from completely optimised but this claim:

the assumption that all social activity reduces to fitness strategies is in sharp contrast with reality and lacks evidence

... combined with things like:

the problem remains that apart from some anecdotal evidence, nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works

... suggests to me that the 'reality' you are appealing to is a purely social reality, not one that is determined by interaction with the world. "Nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works"? What the...? Anyone who has lived among humans with a modicum of introspection would have more than a 'clue' that it would work. "Bloody obvious social skills development combined with lots of practice and trial and error' doesn't stop being effective just because it gets a TLA applied.

I'm frankly amazed that your refutation wasn't downvoted to oblivion. It completely misuses the fallacy of 'affirming the consequent' and implies a lack of understanding of how Bayesian reasoning works.

Note that I don't even agree with shockwave's claim as he specifies it. Your reply is just completely confused and made all the worse by opening with 'This is a terrible argument'. When you lead with that sort of denunciation (and presumption) the bar gets raised and you really need to follow up with particularly solid reasoning.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 22 January 2011 11:42:09PM 2 points [-]

You were saying that your opponent was the one that needed lots of evidence while trying to present your own position as the default.

No, I didn't offer any position on how much of human social behavior is fitness strategy and thus didn't present anything as the default. I pointed out, correctly, that the claim that all social acts are fitness strategies is an extraordinarily strong claim.

There are of course going to be exceptions to the rule

Since my opponent's argument explicitly deduced that PUA-denunciation is a fitness strategy directly from its being a social act, and nothing else, it brooks no exceptions to the rule. If the rule is not universal, the argument falls through.

"Nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works"? What the...?

It'd be interesting to see a reference to a study, a survey, anything other than anecdotal evidence. Something like this, for example.

"Bloody obvious social skills development combined with lots of practice and trial and error"

Oh, I see. Well, you're welcome to your definition of PUA, I'm not interested in debating it. If you have any data, do share.

Comment author: jimrandomh 23 January 2011 12:39:26AM 9 points [-]

Since my opponent's argument...

Be very wary when you start thinking of a participant in a conversation as an "opponent". Discussions are not battles, and the goal is not to win; it is to acquire correct beliefs. And/or to make yourself look good. But if you think of it as a battle, you are more likely to reject true some true statements that seem like evidence against your beliefs, and to accept false ones that seem like evidence for them. The consequences of that may be farther reaching than just the conversation they came up in.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 23 January 2011 12:44:55AM 0 points [-]

Be very wary when you start thinking of a participant in a conversation as an "opponent".

I kind of picked up the term from the comment I was replying to; but you are right, I shouldn't have. Thanks.

Comment author: HughRistik 23 January 2011 06:08:48AM 4 points [-]

It'd be interesting to see a reference to a study, a survey, anything other than anecdotal evidence.

I've been emailing a few researchers a year trying to develop some interest in studies of the effectiveness of pickup. Unfortunately, until science gets off its ass, we can't get that particular proof.

Until that time, however, I don't think it's correct to say that "nobody has a clue" as to whether pickup works. While wedrifid is being a bit prickly, I think he's basically correct. It's a bit strange that on the subject of pickup, the burden of proof suddenly rises, and people suddenly throw out types of evidence that they normally find valuable.

There isn't scientific evidence for the effectiveness of many teachings, yet these teaching are widely regarded as effective. I doubt that your cooking behavior is informed by the ground-breaking study "The Effect of Hot Stoves on Fingers." There isn't scientific evidence that, say... waltz lessons are effective, either. Yet I bet that if you wanted to learn to waltz, you would go around the corner to a dance studio. If you doubt the instructors, you may be able to watch them do demos or performances, or see video footage.

We have evidence of a similar sort for the effectiveness of pickup.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 07:35:54AM *  2 points [-]

I've been emailing a few researchers a year trying to develop some interest in studies of the effectiveness of pickup. Unfortunately, until science gets off its ass, we can't get that particular proof.

As soon as someone finds a way to put it inside a pill and tack on a patent and there will all sorts of research on the subject. It is a shame that will quite possibly lower the quality of evidence.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 29 January 2011 06:28:54AM 1 point [-]

A problematic complication is that many pickup instructors suddenly start making huge sums of money by teaching pickup, in a way no waltz instructor ever did. Dishonest charlatans are likely to displace good instructors when the money is good (e.g., Tom Brown Jr.'s wild popularity in primitive skills). If there were good pickup instructors once, they may be gone now.

Comment author: HughRistik 30 January 2011 01:19:29AM *  2 points [-]

NOTE: I made a mistake in this analysis due to a brain fart. I fixed it and reposted it.

That's correct. I'm not particularly interested in defending any particular method, just the notion that pickup in general can be lead many guys to greater success.

I agree that there is plenty of dishonesty in workshops, based on reviews I've heard. I'm not so confident that the money is good. Let's do a little accounting (based on eyeballing a few well-known programs):

  • Typical price of weekend bootcamp: $2000
  • Student teacher ratio: 2-3 students to 1 teacher
  • Time: 8 hours per day, total: 24 hours. 8 hours field instruction and demonstration, and the rest would be seminars

Assuming a 3:1 student teacher ratio, each instructor would pull in $6000 for the bootcamp. $6000 / 24 hours work = $250/hour. Except we need to count the plane flight. ($6000 - $200 ticket) / (24 + 4 hour flight) = $207/hr.

That might seem like a good wage, but remember that PUAs can only run bootcamps on weekends. $207/hr * 50 weekends a year = $10,350/year. Even if you jack up the bootcamp rates to $3k (which some companies do), that's still just $15k a year per instructor.

Dance instructions can make $40k/year in metropolitan areas working multiple days a week. Accomplished dance instructors can run pricey workshops. While probably not as expensive as pickup workshops, they can have a higher student:teacher ratio. Based on a dance workshop I found in my area, guessing at a student:teacher ratio, gives the following:

$200 per person * 8:1 student:teacher ratio / 12 hours over two days = $133/hr... and the instructors don't have to travel. With a 10:1 student:teacher ratio, it's about $166/hr.

Pickup instructors obviously can't make much from bootcamps. Bootcamps just aren't scalable. You can only work on the weekend, and you have to be doing marketing and lead generation during the week. PUA gurus must make most of their money from ebooks and DVDs, unless they can do some pricier form of coaching. (Of course, dance instructors who are entrepreneurially minded will have instructional DVDs, too.) Or PUA instructors have day jobs during the week, which burns time for building their pickup business.

Running pickup workshops is clearly not a very profitable business. For teaching students live, it's not obvious by how much pickup instructors out-earn instructors in the performing arts... if at all. Doing in-field instruction is also extremely grueling, and live demonstrations are high pressure. Pickup instructors must demonstrate the techniques every weekend even when jetlagged, sick, or hoarse from shouting. On top of that, their work is stigmatized.

If anything, lack of quality of pickup instruction is more likely because PUA gurus are poorly compensated, rather than because they are well-compensated.

So... you wanna be a pickup guru?

Comment author: wedrifid 23 January 2011 12:08:17AM *  0 points [-]

Since my opponent's argument explicitly deduced that PUA-denunciation is a fitness strategy directly from its being a social act, and nothing else, it brooks no exceptions to the rule. If the rule is not universal, the argument falls through.

This claim is false. You do not understand how correct reasoning works.

It'd be interesting to see a reference to a study, a survey

So would I. This does not make your claim that "Nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works" a sane claim to make. You do not understand how evidence works and are also conflating the claim "there have not been scientific studies about" with "nobody has a clue about".

Oh, I see. Well, you're welcome to your definition of PUA, I'm not interested in debating it. If you have any data, do share.

Was not a definition. It was a reference to several commonly included aspects of the behaviour and declared strategies of actual real world communities. Not something you can use the 'dismiss as semantics' tactic on.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 23 January 2011 03:56:59AM 6 points [-]

This claim is false. You do not understand how correct reasoning works.

Not helpful.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 02:39:52PM 0 points [-]

nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works

I think that is a mistake. There are at least 10.000s of people who ran through all kinds of programs or self studied. Some report and increased success rate, some do not. Some do worse. How is that just mere anecdotal evidence?

You may not get the specific evidence you ask for. But you get some.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 02:41:41PM 2 points [-]

Oh I should add, that it does not mean that the people who achieve success know how they do it. Just that.

I noticed how in many cases successful people not only have a hard time explaining how the are successful, but honestly have a mistaken view about it. Unconscious competence.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 22 January 2011 09:04:54PM *  5 points [-]

How is that not anecdotal evidence? You don't have any clear data. First of all, you don't have any aggregate statistics on those 10.000s of people - you can only ask a few for their personal opinions. Any self-reporting will be naturally biased towards success. Any information put out by a program will be naturally biased towards success. And you have absolutely no idea how many people studied PUA, tried it, didn't work for them, went on to try something else. You have no data to work with.

Just think about diets. Every time you think you may have good evidence about PUA working or not working, think about diets. Many millions of people try them every year. You have mountains of people swearing by this diet or the other. Dozens of studies and research programs are being run all the time (and they dutifully report that almost all the fans of this diet or the other gain their weight back). And they still have no clue if low-carbs is better than low-calories, or maybe they're both good, or maybe one is better for some people and the other for the others, or whatever. Or maybe they have too many clues all going in the different directions. Do diets work?

Comment author: MartinB 23 January 2011 06:25:04PM 4 points [-]

And you have absolutely no idea how many people studied PUA, tried it, didn't work for them, went on to try something else. You have no data to work with

And you have absolutely no idea how many people studied math, tried it, didn't work for them, went on to try something else. You have no data to work with.

The usefulness of math is not measured by the amount of people who learn it, or the amount of people who fail to grasp its usefulness, but by the results that those who master it get.

It is not that interesting how many people try it and fail, but if it works, when done right.

I find statistical exploration of social issues rather hard. But that might just be my own ignorance on the tool set real scientists have.

But I see that someone who is sucessfull in one area might not be able to actually explain how he does it. He might have mistaken models, or ignore important factors he is not aware of. But at least he shows something is there.

Comment deleted 23 January 2011 07:41:11PM [-]
Comment author: HughRistik 24 January 2011 08:00:55AM *  14 points [-]

Here is my best attempt to catalog the success rate of the guys with pickup background I've known in real life. Of course, in some cases I have imperfect information and don't know how they are doing, in which case I will guess, and my guess will be conservative (e.g. I will assume that they are the same way I last saw them, rather than improving since then). This sample isn't representative at all, so take it with it a grain of salt, but it will help other people understand some of my priors about the success of pickup.

  • Me: Started out with social anxiety disorder. 6 months: substantial social skills improvement. 8 months: lost virginity. Next few years: Stuck on a plateau of getting numbers and kisses, but social skills slowly improving. Since then: going in and out of flings and relationships; currently in a relationship. I could give several other success metrics, but it would sound like I'm bragging.

  • 4 other guys: Began with severe social deficits. Now they have no problem dating and go in and out of flings and relationships. One of them started out as 300 lbs and massively insecure, but lost weight, applied himself, and is now massively popular with women, to the point of sometimes refusing sex because he is looking for relationships.

  • 1: Had one relationship before pickup and was struggling after. Hooked up with several women for a year, met one he liked, dated her for a couple years, and married her.

  • 1: Started out with severe social problems and alienation, along with depression. Lost his virginity, but then struggled for multiple years without a single date. However, in the last year, he greatly improved his fashion sense and started going out multiple times a week. He is now quite socially popular, and several women in our social circle are really into him, though he isn't attracted to them. Women come up to him in clubs and compliment him. He went out with this one girl who was really into him, but he wasn't interested in a relationship, so he ended things and they are just friends. He recently had a fling with a girl who was in town.

  • 1: I give him a brush of pickup knowledge around the same time he was getting into kink subculture. Butch dominant women started looking at him like a piece of tasty meat, and were lining up to beat him. He said that the pickup stuff helped him keep up conversations when women approached him, even though he was still having trouble approaching. He is in a relationship now.

  • 1: He had pickup background improve his fashion sense and social skills, but he still has difficulties interacting with women. He is mega-cool around guys, but still feels very awkward talking to women he is interested in. He says that pickup is part of what caused the awkwardness (inverse of the previous guy). He isn't really applying himself to pickup nowadays, and working on his career.

  • 1: Similar story, except he managed to end up in a long-term relationship, which is now over.

  • 1: Similar story, except he isn't awkward around women, and gets phone numbers. He is very socially popular, but still has difficulties expressing sexuality with women.

  • 4: Guys with some exposure to pickup, mostly through me. They are still struggling and having minimal success, as far as I know. Their difficulties are easily explained within the pickup paradigm, such as fashion issues, posture (the classic computer slouch), and women reading them as extremely "nerdy" and/or emotionally inexpressive. One of them may have Asperger's syndrome. Some of these guys have gone on some online dates. These guys all have < 1 year experience with pickup.

Here are some interesting results, out of these 15 guys:

  • 5 (33%): Massive sexual success
  • 7 (47%): At least one relationship
  • 5 (33%): Still significant lack of success at sexual contact or dates
  • 6 (40%): Still lack of consistent success at sexual contact or dates currently, but has had some success in those areas after studying pickup
  • 2 (13%): Lack of consistent success, even though they have at least average fashion sense and social skills
  • 15 (100%): Minor social skills improvement
  • 11 (73%): Major social skills improvement
  • 1 (7%): Married

The main variables that appear to correlate with success (order of causation unclear):

  • Fashion sense, particularly non-nerdy presentation. I doubt this variable fully explains success, but it may gate improvement in other areas.
  • Social skills and self-confidence
  • Years of experience (all of the highly successful guys have multiple years of experience, and some had plateaus where they struggled)

For a sample of almost all nerdy guys with social deficits, this distribution of outcomes is probably pretty impressive, relative to the alternative (it's quite possible that by now, I would have been on a couple dates with a few women and still be a virgin). Only one guy reports pickup exacerbating his struggles.

My limited empirical evidence does suggest that success with women as a function of attractiveness is a step function. There can be periods of rapid improvement, and plateaus of little progress. There is very much a feeling of "leveling up" as things come together.

For instance, whenever I've seen a guy hit both above average fashion sense, and above average social skills, the attention he gets from women suddenly jumps. It's as if female attention is a multiplicative factor of different components of attraction.

The plateaus can be tough, especially if you start out on one. However, improvements in social skills during those times can keep you motivated.

Comment author: Jack 24 January 2011 11:41:39PM *  4 points [-]

Of course, one of the issues with estimating the effects of pickup knowledge is that none of this is placebo tested. Since PU itself teaches that self-confidence is crucial having a method for meeting women that you believe works should by itself produce positive results- especially for people who were previously too anxious to walk up to a stranger and say hello.

Also, those correlates your reporting are pretty general and 101-level. I'd be a little more suspicious of the efficacy of the more 'advanced' routines and techniques in the PUA literature.

(Though as usual I pretty much agree with you)

Comment author: MartinB 25 January 2011 12:13:13AM 4 points [-]

You know, I have this great cure for scurvy. But I cannot tell you about it, since it has not been properly double blind tested yet.

Comment author: HonoreDB 25 January 2011 12:16:29AM 1 point [-]

Placebo testing would be hilarious. Isn't that a standard comedy plot? A shy man asks for pickup and courting tips, gets terrible ones, and implements them with disastrous results?

Not safe for work.

Comment author: shokwave 25 January 2011 10:52:18AM 0 points [-]

none of this is placebo tested.

Medicine holds itself to the standard "do better than placebo". I am not sure if it is fair to hold PUA to the same standard.

Comment author: rastilin 24 January 2011 06:29:33AM 3 points [-]

You might be interested to know that Style says roughly one out of twenty people who start to learn PUA reach a high level of skill.

I personally agree with Martin however; especially in relation to diets. Diets DO work, they are just difficult to implement, changing your lifestyle often is; that applies to exercise, studying a new language or anything that requires a large time investment before you see payoffs. The math comparison is especially appropriate. In this way PUA is no different from any other self improvement course that you might decide to undertake.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 January 2011 03:47:39PM 4 points [-]

Diets DO work

That depends on what you mean by "work". If your intent is to improve your life through achieving some goal, but the side effects of a strategy cause a net cost in quality of life even if the intermediate goal is achieved, then I'd say that the method doesn't work.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 25 January 2011 03:22:11AM 1 point [-]

That's two ways beside the point. They work by the most reasonable and common definition, and often do so without causing a net cost in quality of life. Even if diets don't suit a majority of people, they work, unlike reciting the alphabet backwards before you go to sleep.

Furthermore, if a procedure, perfectly applied, yield no significant results with 99% of the population, but clearly is effective upon the remaining 1%, it's not a sham. It might not be the most efficient procedure if you can't distinguish who it will work with beforehand, but it still works. Even if diet's aren't in such a category, the point that something can be should be accepted, and your argument should be focused on the strongest possible case.

Comment author: rastilin 25 January 2011 12:05:49AM 0 points [-]

What if your intent is to lose weight? You're pre-defining "work" for the benefit of your argument.

Comment author: MartinB 24 January 2011 07:29:46AM 2 points [-]

A good place to deconstruct my own argument.

The math comparison lacks in one important piece: Math is clearly defined, and has standard textbooks. If you ask around for recommendations on how to learn math you get similar responses, and will end up learning similar things - up to a certain degree. There is only one type of math! In general people agree on what math is, and what not.

PU as well as PD is a very broad, not clearly defined subject, that contains a mash-up of many other topics. It is contradictory. Done by amateurs who generally do not care about scientific results. You get advice that goes against those transported by the mainstream (which we on LW are somewhat used to in other contexts.) But you also find the statement that the subjects of your interest will generally give you bad advice and do not even know what works for them. As will your peers, your family, potential natural friends, the media, and anyone else who you could possibly ask. That makes for a very bad heuristic in regards to its truthfulness.

And then there is the annoying property of PD advice, that it is not only difficult to actually get, but that it also hurts. Sometimes we carry gaping holes that really hurt our social life, and no one has the guts to tell us, since they are afraid of a bad reaction.

One easy to understand example is trying to tell a colleague or friend that he needs to do something about his smell.

I am not aware of a safe way to navigate this. It would be interesting to see real scientists, or science minded people undertake this exploration. But there are way to many possibilities to have it go wrong.

PU does contain basilisks. So handle with care. And do not believe any one particular source completely.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 January 2011 05:20:40AM *  4 points [-]

There is only one type of math! In general people agree on what math is, and what not.

The second sentence here is true, but the first one is false. There is mainstream math, and then there are alternatives. Of course, there are insane crackpot ideas, but there are also alternative forms of mathematics that are studied by serious researchers who earn tenure for it and prove valid theorems. Buzzwords to search for include "intuitionism", "constructive mathematics", "predicatvism", "finitism", and "nonclassical mathematics" generally.

This mostly only affects things from after the 19th century, however, so nothing significant about the mathematics that most people learn in school. Even going on to more advanced material, there is a very definite mainstream to follow, so this doesn't really affect your point; this is just a hobby horse of mine.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 January 2011 07:59:10AM 3 points [-]

PU does contain basilisks.

Oooh, PU basilisks. Where? Show me!

Comment author: PhilGoetz 29 January 2011 06:22:55AM *  1 point [-]

The usefulness of math is not measured by the amount of people who learn it, or the amount of people who fail to grasp its usefulness, but by the results that those who master it get.

Where "those who master it" is defined by "the intersection of people who tried it, and people who get good results".

Anatoly's observations are spot on, whereas MartinB's ignore the problems with self-selection bias, and could also be used as a defense of psychotherapy, ouija boards, and picking lottery numbers from fortune cookies.

More importantly, we don't even have evidence that pickup artist techniques work for anyone! All we have are testimonials from people highly-incentivized to make them. Is there any factual evidence that David DeAngelo, Neil Strauss, or any of these PUAs actually have slept with many beautiful women?

It would be hard to provide such evidence - but that doesn't mean we can just trust them.

Comment author: Davidmanheim 21 January 2011 04:04:41PM 1 point [-]

I have to disagree with the principle, even if the conclusion is correct. I could argue similarly that atheists denounce god because it's a successful paradigm, and therefore threatening, and so it must be true.

Comment author: shokwave 21 January 2011 04:10:07PM *  1 point [-]

God paradigms are not related to evolutionary fitness the way pick-up artistry is. Atheists do not denounce God because it is a successful paradigm (they denounce it because it's wrong, its popularity or success only determines the scale or intensity of denouncement). "And so it must be true" is not a correct paraphrase of "weak evidence that it works".

You could argue it. You couldn't win the argument.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 21 January 2011 04:50:53PM 6 points [-]

I have to side with davidmanheim here.

You asserted your prior belief that denunciation is a social act of reducing the status of things viewed as more successful, and therefore concluded that people's denunciation of PUA is "weak evidence" that it works.

As I can tell the implicit reasoning goes "People denounce things they see as successful; people denounce X; therefore people probably see X as successful; things people see as successful probably work; therefore X probably works."

The same line of reasoning can apply to any X that people denounce. Davidmanheim applied it to religion, which is denounced by atheists.

Your reply was that religion is different, because religion also belongs to the class of wrong beliefs. But that doesn't mean your earlier argument doesn't apply, it merely means that other arguments apply as well. If your argument is evidence for PUA, it's evidence for any denounced X.

As you said initially, it's weak evidence. I agree. In fact, I'd say it's negligible evidence, in both cases.

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 07:19:40AM 1 point [-]

"People denounce things they see as successful"

This was not part of my reasoning. It was specifically an evo-psych-style argument; people denounce things they see as increasing the evolutionary fitness of an opponent. The principle in question is Kill the status of anyone more successful than you, which is also why creationists trying to make science look bad (instead of finding evidence for their beliefs) is weak evidence that science more successful at explaining the world, and in full generality it is the principle behind ad hominem attacks.

Comment author: Will_Sawin 29 January 2011 10:51:59PM 0 points [-]

Many females denounce PUA. One can EvPsych explain this, but with a different explanation.

Comment author: shokwave 30 January 2011 06:16:59AM 0 points [-]

It ain't evo-psych, but SarahC's comment is basically the explanation for why women react badly to PUA.