Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

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

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

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (493)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

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: Jack 25 January 2011 12:17:52AM *  4 points [-]

I have a great cure for the flu. Take some Muscovy Duck offal and dilute it to 1 part in 100^200 with water.

Comment author: MartinB 25 January 2011 12:21:11AM 1 point [-]

Did it work on the one guy you tried it on?

Comment author: Jack 25 January 2011 06:09:00AM 6 points [-]

Yup! Only took like 3 days with bed rest!

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: Jack 26 January 2011 12:05:47AM 1 point [-]

You don't think every professional pick-up artist/dating coach would say their material works better than placebo?

I realize of course we're not talking about formal science but we still need to be aware of the limitations of personal anecdotes versus controlled studies. Who cares if it is fair?