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ata 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: ata 21 January 2011 06:01:17AM *  24 points [-]

I think there are other important reasons for the comparative success and effectiveness of PUA; the lack of concern for sugar-coating and political correctness is probably part of it, but that may be more of a consequence of what drives it, rather than a necessary precondition for it.

  1. They have something to protect. Not a Great Cause, certainly, but a thing-to-protect nonetheless. PUA may not immediately sound like it matches "more than one's own life has to be at stake, before someone becomes desperate enough to override comfortable intuitions", but consider why the prospect of having commitment-free sex with lots of beautiful women may indeed seem higher stakes than life itself, for many heterosexual men...

    (I'm reminded of the words of Philip J. Fry: "So you have to choose between life without sex and a hideous, gruesome death? . . . Tough call.")

  2. They're playing to win, not just to convince themselves that they tried. I expect that PUA communities don't reward trying nearly as much as they reward winning (if they reward trying at all). (And, of course, male brains themselves reward winning (at this particular thing) much more than they reward trying. As do many male social hierarchies.)

  3. They have a natural drive to become stronger. I'm guessing that, for many of the guys who'd be into PUA in the first place, the prospect of even more and/or better sex would never fail to be compelling (or would at least have a very high ceiling), no matter how successful they already are.

  4. Although rationality (including instrumental rationality, including most of what we'd call "self-help") is a common interest of many causes, focused communities develop stronger and more precise arts. And I can't think of a more single-mindedly focused instrumental-rationality community than PUA. Probably one big problem with self-help is that it aims to help all kinds of people with all kinds of problems achieve all kinds of goals; there's too much ground to cover. Whereas PUA aims to help a few kinds of people with a few kinds of problems achieve essentially one goal. Its target demographic is large enough to produce successful communities, but specific enough to produce finely-targeted advice.

(Disclaimer: This comment shall not be taken as an endorsement of PUA. Overall I'm not a fan of it. But that should be separate from whether we can discuss it in the context of understanding the generalizable aspects of its instrumental success.)

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 06:56:31AM 7 points [-]

Today's SMBC strikes me as relevant, not to mention amusing (particularly the hover over text on the red button).