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JoshuaZ 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: 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: LauraABJ 23 January 2011 05:26:44AM 3 points [-]

Yes.

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: cousin_it 23 January 2011 06:07:48AM *  2 points [-]

Sorry. My comment wasn't very thought out, so I deleted it immediately after posting. I'd rather not be having this argument here and now.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 January 2011 06:25:43AM 7 points [-]

No problem. I deleted my reply to it as well.

I also just want to remark that, the first time I saw this happen on Less Wrong -- where two people were getting into a discussion of escalating snarkiness, until one of them apologized and retracted a remark -- I just about fell out of my chair. I mean, people don't do that on the Internet! It actually clinched my interest in this forum and the material here.

Comment author: taryneast 24 January 2011 11:20:44AM 1 point [-]

Awesome. There is hope :)

This bodes well for the intended purpose of this site.

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: wnoise 24 January 2011 08:35:17AM 3 points [-]

Especially if their exes are also high IQ, gender-atypical nerdy folks with good impulse control.

Comment author: HughRistik 24 January 2011 06:35:07PM 1 point [-]

Exactly.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 02:28:24PM 0 points [-]

One might think this is due to a lack of supply.

I see the emotional ups and downs of many people with more and more amazement of why anyone would want to life like that.

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."