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Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics

50 Post author: lukeprog 05 November 2011 11:06AM

Part of the Sequence: The Science of Winning at Life. Co-authored with Minda Myers and Hugh Ristik. Also see: Polyhacking.

When things fell apart between me (Luke) and my first girlfriend, I decided that kind of relationship wasn't ideal for me.

I didn't like the jealous feelings that had arisen within me. I didn't like the desperate, codependent 'madness' that popular love songs celebrate. I had moral objections to the idea of owning somebody else's sexuality, and to the idea of somebody else owning mine. Some of my culture's scripts for what a man-woman relationship should look like didn't fit my own goals very well.

I needed to design romantic relationships that made sense (decision-theoretically) for me, rather than simply falling into whatever relationship model my culture happened to offer. (The ladies of Sex and the City weren't too good with decision theory, but they certainly invested time figuring out which relationship styles worked for them.) For a while, this new approach led me into a series of short-lived flings. After that, I chose 4 months of contented celibacy. After that, polyamory. After that...

Anyway, the results have been wonderful. Rationality and decision theory work for relationships, too!

We humans compartmentalize by default. Brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation, and aren't configured to do so. Cached thoughts and cached selves can remain even after one has applied the lessons of the core sequences to particular parts of one's life. That's why it helps to explicitly examine what happens when you apply rationality to new areas of your life  from disease to goodness to morality. Today, we apply rationality to relationships.

 

Relationships Styles

When Minda had her first relationship with a woman, she found that the cultural scripts for heterosexual relationships didn't work for a homosexual relationship style. For example, in heterosexual dating (in the USA) the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself.

In the queer community, Minda quickly found that if she passively waited for a woman to hit on her, she'd be waiting all night! When she met her first girlfriend, Minda had to ask for the date. Minda writes:

On dates, I didn't know if I should pay for the date or hold the door or what I was supposed to do! Each interaction required thought and negotiation that hadn't been necessary before. And this was really kind of neat. We had the opportunity to create a relationship that worked for us and represented us as unique and individual human beings. And when it came to sexual interactions, I found it easy to ask for and engage in exactly what I wanted. And I have since brought these practices into my relationships with men. 

But you don't need to have an 'alternative' relationship in order to decide you want to set aside some cultural scripts and design a relationship style that works for you. You can choose relationship styles that work for you now.

With regard to which type(s) of romantic partner(s) you want, there are many possibilities.

No partners:

  • Asexuality. Asexuals don't experience sexual attraction. They comprise perhaps 1% of the population,1 and include notables like Paul Erdos, Morrissey, and Janeane Garofalo. There is a network (AVEN) for asexuality awareness and acceptance.
  • Celibacy. Celibates feel sexual attraction, but abstain from sex. Some choose to abstain for medical, financial, psychological, or philosophical reasons. Others choose celibacy so they have more time to achieve other goals, as I (Luke) did for a time. Others are involuntarily celibate; perhaps they can't find or attract suitable mates. This problem can often be solved by learning and practicing social skills.

One partner:

  • Monogamy. Having one sexual partner at a time is a standard cultural script, and may be over-used due to the status quo bias. Long-term monogamy should not be done on the pretense that attraction and arousal for one's partner won't fade. It will.2 Still, there may be many people for whom monogamy is optimal. 

Many partners:

  • Singlehood. Singlehood can be a good way to get to know yourself and experience a variety of short-term partners. About 78% of college students have had at least one 'one-night stand', and most such encounters were preceded by alcohol or drug use.3 Indeed, many young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4
  • Friendship 'with benefits'. Friends are often people you already enjoy and respect, and thus may also make excellent sexual partners. According to one study, 60% of undergraduates have been a 'friend with benefits' for someone at one time.5
  • Polyamory.6 In a polyamorous relationship, partners are clear about their freedom to pursue multiple partners. Couples communicate their boundaries and make agreements about what is and isn't allowed. Polyamory often requires partners to de-program jealousy. In my experience, polyamory is much more common in the rationality community than in the general population.

Hugh points out that your limbic system may not agree (at least initially) with your cognitive choice of a relationship style. Some women say they want a long-term relationship but date 'bad boys' who are unlikely to become long-term mates. Someone may think they want polyamorous relationships but find it impossible to leave jealousy behind.7

 

The Science of Attraction

A key skillset required for having the relationships you want is that of building and maintaining attraction in potential mates.

Guys seeking girls may wonder: Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"? Girls seeking rationalist guys are at an advantage because the gender ratio lies in their favor, but they still might wonder: What can I do to attract the best mates? Those seeking same-sex partners may wonder how attraction can differ from heterosexual norms.

How do you build and maintain attraction in others? A lot can be learned by trying different things and seeing what works. This is often better than polling people, because people's verbal reports about what attracts them don't always match their actual behavior.8

To get you started, the virtues of scholarship and empiricism will serve you well. Social psychology has a wealth of knowledge to offer on successful relationships.9 For example, here are some things that, according to the latest research, will tend to make people more attracted to you:

  • Proximity and familiarity. Study after study shows that we tend to like those who live near us, partly due to availability,10 and partly because repeated exposure to almost anything increases liking.11 A Taiwanese man once demonstrated the power of proximity and repeated exposure when he wrote over 700 letters to his girlfriend, urging her to marry him. She married the mail carrier.12
  • Similarity. We tend to like people who are similar to us.13 We like people with faces similar to our own.14 We are even more likely to marry someone with a similar-sounding name.15 Similarity makes attraction endure longer.16 Also, similar people are more likely to react to events the same way, thus reducing the odds of conflict.17
  • Physical attractiveness. Both men and women prefer good-looking mates.18 Partly, this is because the halo effect: we automatically assume that more attractive people are also healthier, happier, more sensitive, more successful, and more socially skilled (but not necessarily more honest or compassionate).19 Some of these assumptions are correct: Attractive and well-dressed people are more likely to impress employers and succeed occupationally.20 But isn't beauty relative? Some standards of beauty vary from culture to culture, but many are universal.21 Men generally prefer women who exhibit signs of youth and fertility.22 Women generally prefer men who (1) display possession of abundant resources,23 (2) display high social status,24 (3) exhibit a 'manly' face (large jaw, thick eyebrows, visible beard stubble)25 and physique,26 and (4) are tall.27 Both genders generally prefer (1) agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion,28 (2) 'average' and symmetrical faces with features that are neither unusually small or large,29 (2) large smiles,30 (3) pupil dilation,31 and some other things (more on this later).
  • Liking others. Liking someone makes them more attracted to you.32
  • Arousing others. Whether aroused by fright, exercise, stand-up comedy, or erotica, we are more likely to be attracted to an attractive person when we are generally aroused than when we are not generally aroused.33 As David Myers writes, "Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder."34 This may explain why rollercoasters and horror movies are such a popular date night choice.

But this barely scratches the surface of attraction science. In a later post, we'll examine how attraction works in more detail, and draw up a science-supported game plan for building attraction in others.

 

Attractiveness: Mean and Variance

Remember that increasing your average attractiveness (by appealing to more people) may not be an optimal strategy.

Marketers know that it's often better to sacrifice broad appeal in order for a product to have very strong appeal to a niche market. The Appunto doesn't appeal to most men, but it appeals strongly enough to some men that they are willing to pay the outrageous $200 price for it.

Similarly, you may have the best success in dating if you appeal very strongly to some people, even if this makes you less appealing to most people  that is, if you adopt a niche marketing strategy in the dating world.35

As long as you can find those few people who find you very attractive, it won't matter (for dating) that most people aren't attracted to you. And because one can switch between niche appeal and broad appeal using fashion and behavior, you can simply use clothing and behavior with mainstream appeal during the day (to have general appeal in professional environments) and use alternative clothing and behavior when you're socializing (to have strong appeal to a small subset of people whom you've sought out).

To visualize this point, consider two attraction strategies. Both strategies employ phenomena that are (almost) universally attractive, but the blue strategy aims to maximize the frequency of somewhat positive responses while the red strategy aims to maximize the frequency of highly positive responses. The red strategy (e.g. using mainstream fashion) increases one's mean attractiveness, while the blue strategy (e.g. using alternative fashion) increases one's attractiveness variance. Hugh Ristik offers the following chart:

This goth guy and I (Luke) can illustrate this phenomenon. I aim for mainstream appeal; he wears goth clothing when socializing. My mainstream look turns off almost no one, and is attractive to most women, but doesn't get that many strong reactions right away unless I employ other high-variance strategies.36 In contrast, I would bet the goth guy's alternative look turns off many people and is less attractive to most women than my look is, but has a higher frequency of extremely positive reactions in women.

In one's professional life, it may be better to have broad appeal. But in dating, the goal is to find people who find you extremely attractive. The goth guy sacrifices his mean attractiveness to increase his attractiveness variance (and thus the frequency of very positive responses), and this works well for him in the dating scene.

High-variance strategies like this are a good way to filter for people who are strongly attracted to you, and thus avoid wasting your time with potential mates who only feel lukewarm toward you.

 

Up next

In future posts we'll develop an action plan for using the science of attraction to create successful romantic relationships. We'll also explain how rationality helps with relationship maintenance37 and relationship satisfaction.

 

Previous post: The Power of Reinforcement

 

 

Notes

1 Bogaert (2004).

2 About half of romantic relationships of all types end within a few years (Sprecher 1994; Kirkpatrick & Davis 1994; Hill et al 1976), and even relationships that last exhibit diminishing attraction and arousal (Aron et al. 2006; Kurdek 2005; Miller et al. 2007). Note that even if attraction and arousal fades, romantic love can exist in long-term closed monogamy and it is associated with relationship satisfaction (Acevedo & Aron, 2009).

3 Paul et al. (2000); Grello et al. (2006).

4 Bogle (2008).

5 Bisson & Levine (2009).

6 Two introductory books on the theory and practice of polyamory are: Easton & Hardy (2009) and Taormino (2008).

7 See work on 'conditional mating strategies' aka 'strategic pluralism' (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000).

8 Sprecher & Felmlee (2008); Eastwick & Finkel (2008). Likewise, there is a difference between what people publicly report as being the cause of a breakup, what they actually think caused a breakup, and what actually caused a breakup (Powell & Fine, 2009). Also see Inferring Our Desires.

9 For overviews of this research, see: Bradbury & Karney (2010); Miller & Perlman (2008); Vangelisti & Perlman (2006); Sprecher et al. (2008); Weiten et al. (2011), chs. 8-12. For a history of personal relationships research, see Perlman & Duck (2006).

10 Goodfriend (2009).

11 This is called the mere exposure effect. See Le (2009); Moreland & Zajonc (1982); Nuttin (1987); Zajonc (1968, 2001); Moreland & Beach (1992). The limits of this effect are explored in Bornstein (1989, 1999); Swap (1977).

12 Steinberg (1993).

13 Zajonc (1998); Devine (1995); Rosenbaum (1986); Surra et al. (2006); Morry (2007, 2009); Peplau & Fingerhut (2007); Ledbetter et al. (2007); Montoya et al. (2008); Simpson & Harris (1994).

14 DeBruine (2002, 2004); Bailenson et al. (2005).

15 Jones et al. (2004).

16 Byrne (1971); Ireland et al. (2011).

17 Gonzaga (2009). For an overview of the research on self-disclosure, see Greene et al. (2006).

18 Langlois et al. (2000); Walster et al. (1966); Feingold (1990); Woll (1986); Belot & Francesconi (2006); Finkel & Eastwick (2008); Neff (2009); Peretti & Abplanalp (2004); Buss et al. (2001); Fehr (2009); Lee et al. (2008); Reis et al. (1980). This is also true for homosexuals: Peplau & Spalding (2000). Even infants prefer attractive faces: Langlois et al. (1987); Langlois et al. (1990); Slater et al. (1998). Note that women report that the physical attractiveness is less important to their mate preferences than it actually is: Sprecher (1989).

19 Eagly et al. (1991); Feingold (1992a); Hatfield & Sprecher (1986); Smith et al. (1999); Dion et al. (1972).

20 Cash & Janda (1984); Langlois et al. (2000); Solomon (1987).

21 Cunningham et al. (1995); Cross & Cross (1971); Jackson (1992); Jones (1996); Thakerar & Iwawaki (1979).

22 Men certainly prefer youth (Buss 1989a; Kenrick & Keefe 1992; Kenrick et al. 1996; Ben Hamida et al. 1998). Signs of fertility that men prefer include clear and smooth skin (Sugiyama 2005; Singh & Bronstad 1997; Fink & Neave 2005; Fink et al. 2008; Ford & Beach 1951; Symons 1995), facial femininity (Cunningham 2009; Gangestad & Scheyd 2005; Schaefer et al. 2006; Rhodes 2006), long legs (Fielding et al. 2008; Sorokowski & Pawlowski 2008; Bertamini & Bennett 2009; Swami et al. 2006), and a low waist-to-hip ratio (Singh 1993, 2000; Singh & Young 1995; Jasienska et al. 2004; Singh & Randall 2007; Connolly et al 2000; Furnham et al 1997; Franzoi & Herzog 1987; Grabe & Samson 2010). Even men blind from birth prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio (Karremans et al. 2010).

23 Buss et al. (1990); Buss & Schmitt (1993); Khallad (2005); Gottschall et al. (2003); Gottschall et al. (2004); Kenrick et al. (1990); Gustavsson & Johnsson (2008); Wiederman (1993); Badahdah & Tiemann (2005); Marlowe (2004); Fisman et al. (2006); Asendorpf et al. (2010); Bokek-Cohen et al. (2007); Pettay et al. (2007); Goode (1996).

24 Feingold (1990, 1992b).

25 Cunningham (2009); Cunningham et al. (1990).

26 Singh (1995); Martins et al. (2007).

27 Lynn & Shurgot (1984); Ellis (1992); Gregor (1985); Kurzban & Weeden (2005); Swami & Furnham (2008). In contrast, men prefer women who are about 4.5 inches shorter than themselves: Gillis & Avis (1980).

28 Figueredo et al. (2006).

29 Langlois & Roggman (1990); Rhodes et al. (1999); Singh (1995); Thornhill & Gangestad (1994, 1999). We may have evolved to be attracted to symmetrical faces because they predict physical and mental health (Thornhill & Moller, 1997).

30 Cunningham (2009).

31 Cunningham (2009).

32 This is called reciprocal liking. See Curtis & Miller (1986); Aron et al (2006); Berscheid & Walster (1978); Smith & Caprariello (2009); Backman & Secord (1959).

33 Carducci et al. (1978); Dermer & Pszczynski (1978); White & Knight (1984); Dutton & Aron (1974).

34 Myers (2010), p. 710.

35 One example of a high-variance strategy for heterosexual men in the dating context is a bold opening line like "You look familiar. Have we had sex?" Most women will be turned off by such a line, but those who react positively are (by selection and/or by the confidence of the opening line) usually very attracted. 

36 In business, this is often said as "not everyone is your customer": 1, 2, 3.

37 For discussions of relationship maintenance in general, see: Ballard-Reisch & Wiegel (1999); Dinda & Baxter (1987); Haas & Stafford (1998).

 

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Comments (1524)

Comment author: [deleted] 22 November 2011 09:29:58PM 8 points [-]

NOT discussing the moral implications here, but I saw this study and found it relevant. One of the arguments re: PUA is that there have been no scientific studies as to whether it works or not. Apparently, that isnt true. Here is a link to an article about a study that shows that a light non-sexual touch (what the PUA folks would call "kino") ups the chances that a woman will give you her phone number.

The relevant part is #7 "Touch for a Date". Excerpt:

Perhaps more surprisingly women also responded well to a light touch on the arm when being asked for their phone number by a man in the street (Gueguen, 2007). This may be because women associated a light 1 or 2-second touch with greater dominance. (Bear in mind, though, that this research was in France again!)

I can't access the full text of the actual study, but maybe some of the university students here can read and summarize.

Comment author: Zeb 02 November 2011 11:35:20PM *  7 points [-]

"Indeed, most young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4"

Can you provide more back up on the "most" here? I tried to find more information, and while I could only locate reviews of the Bogle book online, none of them even mentioned any numbers. However they did make it sound like Bogle did not get a representative sample of "young people today." If there is not sufficient empirical back up to say " most," you might instead say "many" or "a growing portion."

Comment author: lukeprog 03 November 2011 12:09:12AM 3 points [-]

Changed to 'many'.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 02 November 2011 01:50:43AM *  6 points [-]

We humans compartmentalize by default, because brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation.

Belief propagation is an exact computation that brains can't be expected to perform (or even represent a problem statement for). Pointing to (absence of) it as an explanation for compartmentalization feels rather arbitrary (similarly with the reference to decision theory).

Comment author: MixedNuts 02 November 2011 02:13:24AM 16 points [-]

Asexuals don't experience sexual or romantic attraction.

What?! Most asexuals experience romantic attraction. Some asexuals are aromantic, but that's not the same thing.

Comment author: lukeprog 02 November 2011 04:31:58AM 8 points [-]

Oops fixed thanks.

I should just have my own shortcut for that. OFT or something. :)

Comment author: EphemeralNight 22 August 2012 06:32:20AM 5 points [-]

Others are involuntarily celibate; perhaps they can't find or attract suitable mates. This problem can often be solved by learning and practicing social skills.

What ought one do when the problem is not solved by social skills?

I seem to have a tendency to feel extremely inadequate about any skill at which i am not noticeably better than everyone I know about. Due to this quirk of my psychology, I spent a significant portion of my life believing myself to have horrendous social skills. And, for a long time, I attributed my social and sexual failings to that perceived lack of social skill, despite a gradually growing mass of evidence in favor of my social skills being adequate.

(relatively) Recent evidence and experience has now finished falsifying the premise that my social skills are not viable.

Unfortunately, having (a lack of) social skills ruled out as a cause of the problem leaves me, seemingly, without any more low-hanging fruit to pursue. And when even the woman who literally wrote the sequence on self-awareness tells me that she doesn't know why her interest in dating me suddenly evaporated, I begin to... worry, and that feeling of helplessness starts showing up.

(And this doesn't even touch the non-trivial problem of meeting suitable mates, which is obviously a prerequisite to attracting anyone.)

Comment author: Sarokrae 22 August 2012 09:07:47AM 6 points [-]

Have you tried reading PUA-Game material (and then selectively applying the ethical parts of it)? I could /feel/ my attraction to my OH increasing just by getting him to Game me.

It turns out that making friends and attracting mates requires different sorts of social behaviour. For example, women seeking mates tend to be very status-aware, but you can get on with friends perfectly well without any ability to signal high status. If you felt inadequate very often, that itself could mean you were projecting low status and driving off mates.

Comment author: EphemeralNight 22 August 2012 01:36:17PM *  3 points [-]

Have you tried reading PUA-Game material (and then selectively applying the ethical parts of it)?

I might, if I had any idea where to find said material (rather that just people talking about the material), or how to identify the optimal starting point within the material. (Or anyone to apply it to.)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 25 August 2012 08:01:16PM *  3 points [-]

It depends on what data you need. My general recommendation would be:

  • "The Blueprint Decoded" -- a video about pickup and social skills in general that gives you a greater context, instead of just throwing thousand random details at you. (Buy, or find a torrent.)

  • Married Man Sex Life -- a blog about maintaining attraction in marriage. I recommend reading the older articles (before he published a book) because they seem to have much better signal:noise ratio.

From all the PUA stuff I have seen, these two seem highest-quality to me. The first one is like "the best of PUA". The second one contains additional information about human chemistry; the author is a nurse. Both of them seem to me ethically OK, but because different people have different degrees of OK-ness, let me add a data point: The author of the second one has a wife who is also reading the blog and commenting on it; and they seem to have a very good relationship. This is also an evidence that the advice is long-term-relationship compatible.

Comment author: DaFranker 23 August 2012 05:27:29PM *  4 points [-]

(And this doesn't even touch the non-trivial problem of meeting suitable mates, which is obviously a prerequisite to attracting anyone.)

This is my primary problem. "Meeting people that I can interact well with, regardless of the mate-suitability criterion" is a fairly/relatively trivial (and different) problem, but all my approaches to meeting people generate massive amounts of noise-results, such that finding a combo-match of (person-I-could-find-suitable) + (person-that-could-find-me-suitable) + (meeting-said-person) + (sufficient-common-knowledge-barrier) statistically becomes very hard. For each of the above "suitable mate met" events, I would have to generate tens of thousands of "person met" events.

Considering the amount of time required to generate these events, and the relative resulting chance of a payoff, it becomes trivially obvious that my time is better spent otherwise (such as reducing the noise through learning better event-generation behaviors) since it computes to rather low expected value.

Comment author: army1987 24 August 2012 12:49:42AM 4 points [-]

If p(X would be a suitable mate|you met X) is actually around 10^-4, then maybe trying to lower your standards (if you can manage to do that) might help.

Comment author: DaFranker 24 August 2012 03:50:10AM 3 points [-]

Well, widening / loosening the "margin" or distribution of suitability criteria is indeed one of the valid approaches, but one this is still only part of the equation for the problem AFAICT.

Yes, currently, to my model, that P() really is in that ballpark. I'm currently hitting (with P>.98) way off my current "sweet spot in personspace", with few hits ever getting closer to it and forming a cloud around a completely different area, so my best WAG pretty much give those numbers when trying to project how many I'd have to meet to expect at least one statistical outlier to hit the margin. Making said sweet spot larger is something that would indeed help a lot, but doing so without reducing the total expected payoff of this whole calculation is also non-trivial, for reasons I hope are obvious.

I strongly suspect that my current noise is in no small part due to my current approaches / general behaviors. There's at bare flat minimum 1 in 50 people (assuming IQ stats are any indication) with sufficient reasoning ability for me to find them very interesting, of those at least 1 in 3 is using that ability in a way that I probably wouldn't perceive as noise (so I'd probably notice quickly enough), my preferences / personspace "sweet spot" check would eliminate around (WAG: intuitions from personspace stuff) 80-95% of those remaining.

Which means that, by those numbers and assumptions, around 1 in 750 to 1 in 3000 would be a valid match if I were meeting persons according to a uniform personspace probability distribution and breaking the sufficient-common-knowledge barrier in a proportionally uniform manner over persons met. The clear difference indicates that I'm probably doing something wrong, so the most efficient way I know of solving the problem is to find what I'm doing wrong and fix it first, not just meeting more people.

IMO, 1 in 750 is not a particularly constraining margin, especially if you consider that under ideal circumstances you should do the reverse of what I'm doing and actually be concentrating your hits around your sweet spot, not some other place far away from it.

Also, I dislike the term "lowering your standards". The imagery puts person on a scale basically equivalent to transforming personspace into a Me.perceivedValue(X) function that outputs the scalar distance between Me.perceivedPSLoc(X) and Me.sweetSpotCenter. It gives exactly zero information about the other components of the equation. It also gives very little information on the measurement unit of the scalar.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 August 2012 10:00:47AM *  3 points [-]

I seem to have a tendency to feel extremely inadequate about any skill at which i am not noticeably better than everyone I know about.

I believe that this is a serious problem in itself. It's probably undercutting your quality of life in many ways,

In particular, it's probably on your mind when you're in relationships, distracting you from what's actually going on between you and the other person.

Cognitive behavioral therapy might help. It goes into detail about undercutting that sort of belief.

More generally, I believe that the crucial thing is to believe that it's safe to be on your own side. Getting to that belief can be amazingly difficult (believing that you shouldn't be on your own side is probably the result of gut-level fear from repeated attacks), but it's worth the trouble.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 22 August 2012 06:49:29AM *  3 points [-]

Ask someone who knows you and has seen you interacting with women to give you honest feedback. Such feedback will help you spot the actual causes of your inability to attract suitable mates more than anything anyone could tell you here.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 August 2012 11:21:00AM 2 points [-]

What ought one do when the problem is not solved by social skills?

You look at:

  • "I seem to have a tendency to feel extremely inadequate"
  • " I begin to... worry, and that feeling of helplessness starts showing up."

The "social skills" referred to when considering mating potential are somewhat specific and include particular emphasis on displaying confidence, particularly sexual confidence. Google "dating inner game" and you'll have an overabundance of resources explaining what signals you need to send and giving tips on how to change yourself so that you are the kind of person who sends those signals more.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 August 2012 07:30:55AM *  3 points [-]

And when even the woman who literally wrote the sequence on self-awareness tells me that she doesn't know why her interest in dating me suddenly evaporated

I did not say that. I looked at the chatlog to be sure, and I did not say that.

Comment author: lionhearted 06 November 2011 01:11:10AM 12 points [-]

This comment might not be popular on a quick knee-jerk level, but it's worth getting out there for accuracy.

Under "Many partners" you've got Singlehood, Friendship 'with benefits', Polyamory.

You're missing one of the most common historical kinds of relationships - monogamous commitment from woman to man, man taking care of multiple households in a committed way.

The first Tokugawa Shogun, for instance -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokugawa_Ieyasu#Ieyasu_as_a_person

16 children with 11 wives and concubines.

King Ts'ao Ts'ao of Wei -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cao_Cao#Family

Muhammad -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad#Wives_and_children

It's not a Western tradition. The West has a strong romantic/platonic love ideal, that moves into monogamy under Christianity, and some non-monogamy later built on some mix of liberalism, enlightenment values, and humanism.

But still, it's been a very common family/dating/relationship through history. It still persists, though it doesn't get much media coverage.

Current Sheik of Dubai -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammed_bin_Rashid_Al_Maktoum#Personal_life_and_education

Current Prime Minister of Italy -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Berlusconi#Sexual_scandals

Comment author: JoachimSchipper 08 November 2011 09:15:33AM 6 points [-]

Honest question: has this ever been common? All the cases you list are "king" of their time and place.

I thought you were going to point out that adultery was the classical way of having multiple partners...

Comment author: lix 08 November 2011 04:47:17PM 4 points [-]

I am told this relationship style (polygynous with multiple households) is common in Latin America, and I do know several males there who have engaged in it. These males are middle-class - doctors and the like. Polygyny also occurs in other Western cultures, although more covertly, in the form of the prestigious man and his "bit on the side" (who is usually non-reproductive, monogamous and hoping to oust the current alpha female - in the absence of contraception this would probably end up with multiple households). So I'm inclined to think it happens whenever there are massive power inequalities both between males (such that a woman is better off with a fraction of the resources of a wealthy man than with all the resources of a poor man) - and between males and females (such that wealthy men are better off "collecting" multiple poor women than marrying one wealthy one).

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 13 November 2011 01:21:02PM 8 points [-]

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/?single_page=true

Indeed, Siberia today is suffering such an acute “man shortage” (due in part to massive rates of alcoholism) that both men and women have lobbied the Russian parliament to legalize polygamy. In 2009, The Guardian cited Russian politicians’ claims that polygamy would provide husbands for “10 million lonely women.” In endorsing polygamy, these women, particularly those in remote rural areas without running water, may be less concerned with loneliness than with something more pragmatic: help with the chores. Caroline Humphrey, a Cambridge University anthropologist who has studied the region, said women supporters believed the legalization of polygamy would be a “godsend,” giving them “rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”

Comment author: army1987 13 November 2011 07:48:24PM 3 points [-]

Well, there is woman shortage in China, so...

Comment author: Paradrop 08 November 2011 10:15:45AM *  3 points [-]

It's probably hard to answer that accurately. I've read arguments about how commonplace polygamy and harems were and they usually go like this:

a) Old sources rarely take interest in the lives of common men, but we know that society tolerated multiple wifes and households in extraordinary people.

b) Household requires wealth. More households require more wealth.

c) Common men could support one household at most, if any.

d) Monogamy was de-facto standard (for economic reasons).

Hope this helps.

Comment author: dbaupp 06 November 2011 01:45:23AM *  5 points [-]

man taking care of multiple households in a committed way.

I don't think "taking care" is always the best description, especially in the case of Berlusconi, for example.

Comment author: CronoDAS 25 November 2011 03:06:40AM *  11 points [-]

I would like to propose that any post immediately become locked once its number of comments reaches 1337.

Having read every single one of the 1337 comments, I have concluded that there is nothing to be gained from any further comments that might be added, and that the above solution should be applied immediately so as not to waste anyone else's time or karma.

Comment author: lukeprog 30 December 2011 04:39:49AM 7 points [-]

On December 7th, your prediction was falsified.

Comment author: CronoDAS 30 December 2011 07:47:56AM 2 points [-]

Wow.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 12 November 2011 05:23:49PM *  4 points [-]

Meta comment

There are more than a thousand comments on this thread now (is that an LW record?). This makes it very difficult for newcomers to navigate the threads and arguments. As such it might be worth summarising some of the discussions and splitting them into separate discussion threads.

Comment author: wedrifid 12 November 2011 06:11:02PM 47 points [-]

As such it might be worth summarising some of the discussions and splitting them into separate discussion threads.

Why did you not mention PUA? This sucks. No, PUA sucks. This post is almost ok because it is mostly gender neutral. No, it does suck because it is censored. Why is the word 'rational used?' Boo! Ethics! Morals! You're a bunch of one-dimensional stereotypes! Women like jerks - or not. Nice guys are grossly obese and smelly girls - or not. Utilitarianism! I deny Bayes theorem! No, Bayes is awesome, even better than science. You are a rapist. No I'm not. You forgot polygynous relationships under the polyamoury category. Ooh, ooh meta, let's discuss whether this was good or bad, with polls!

On second thoughts let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 November 2011 08:40:58PM 10 points [-]

I figure this comment was mostly intended as a joke but it is honestly a useful summary (and a useful overview of some LW memes, especially ones relating to relationships).

Comment author: wedrifid 12 November 2011 09:55:27PM 7 points [-]

I figure this comment was mostly intended as a joke but it is honestly a useful summary

My favorite humor tends to be flippantly sincere. :)

Comment author: Jack 12 November 2011 08:48:01PM 6 points [-]

This just saved me so much time.

Comment author: lessdazed 12 November 2011 06:31:52PM *  3 points [-]

As such it might be worth summarising some of the discussions and splitting them into separate discussion threads.

Why did you not mention PUA? This sucks. No, PUA sucks. This post is almost ok because it is mostly gender neutral. No, it does suck because it is censored. Why is the word '[elided]' used? Boo! Ethics! Morals! You're a bunch of one-dimensional stereotypes! Women like jerks - or not. Nice guys are grossly obese and smelly girls - or not. Utilitarianism! I deny Bayes theorem! No, Bayes is awesome, even better than science. You are a rapist. No I'm not. You forgot polygynous relationships under the polyamoury category. Ooh, ooh meta, let's discuss whether this was good or bad, with polls!

Followed by: this thread is lame, everything's lame.

("Followed by followed by" coming soon?)

In any case, sing it with me: I respect women when I'm on a date/I take them to the park/or maybe a museum...

(Upvoted)

Comment author: lessdazed 13 November 2011 12:16:33AM *  5 points [-]

You are a rapist.

Do the dangling variable dance! It goes something like this:

I'm a conservative! Dangle dangle dangle dangle!
Abortion is murder! Dangle dangle dangle dangle!
I'm a libertarian! Dangle dangle dangle dangle!
Taxation is slavery! Dangle dangle dangle dangle!
I'm a liberal! Dangle dangle dangle dangle!
Acting confident and suppressing nervousness is rape! Dangle dangle dangle dangle!

Comment author: adamisom 02 November 2011 03:50:33AM 10 points [-]

.... (wall of references at the end).... I am mystified by this. How the how the heck do you even skim all of that? I think it's awesome to have all these references, but can somebody enlighten me as to how one can do this?

Comment author: Nominull 02 November 2011 03:52:56AM 6 points [-]

Some people read faster than others, and there's a skill to reading academic writing that can improve your speed on that particular genre.

Comment author: BenLowell 02 November 2011 06:53:57AM *  2 points [-]

Luke also has the advantage of that this is his job.

It is not uncommon for research articles to have 50+ references, and review articles often have over 300 references.

Edit: Luke's articles do have way more than the usual number of references. This article has approximately 120 sentences, with 37 notes and about 150 references, which doesn't make sense the way that I am familiar with. I am used to references referring to cited sources, and am not sure how Luke is using it. If it is a list of works consulted that makes sense.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 03 November 2011 07:07:49AM *  13 points [-]

I would presume that most papers will include a number of references to sources that the authors have only briefly skimmed, only read the abstract, or not actually read at all.

I saw an article somewhere (I wish I'd remembere where) about a widely-read paper making a mistake when it cited one of its sources, claiming that the source said something which it didn't. A number of later papers by other authors then repeated this mistaken claim, presumably because their authors didn't bother checking whether the prestigious paper was correct in its cite.

I'm about .90 confident that Luke hasn't actually read all of his cites in entirety.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 November 2011 11:41:02AM *  5 points [-]

I think it is not rare for errors in citing to be repeated because no-one bothers to go back to the original source.

Not reading the paper at all can be dangerous. I once read a paper in which the authors had unwittingly rediscovered, but in inferior form, mathematical results that were already proved in one of the papers they cited. Fortunately for the authors, I was refereeing their paper, and had read the paper they cited, so I was able to save them the embarrassment of publication.

Comment author: lukeprog 03 November 2011 07:51:37AM 12 points [-]

I'm about .90 confident that Luke hasn't actually read all of his cites in entirety.

Correct. You win some Bayes points.

Comment author: Plasmon 03 November 2011 07:21:08AM 4 points [-]

"source X claims/proves statement Y" - the author should have read source X carefully

"For general background information on subject A, see e.g. source B" - the author tries to make the paper more accessible to people from other fields by providing some context, but they do not need to have read source B in detail. Not reading all of your sources is not necessarily evil

Comment author: lukeprog 02 November 2011 07:13:51AM 4 points [-]

Luke also has the advantage of that this is his job.

Though, this particular post was actually written before I was hired by SIAI at the beginning of September.

Comment author: Konkvistador 04 November 2011 10:17:57AM *  14 points [-]

So basically this series will try to do this but systematically avoid any PUA references and trying to find ways to find some relevance to a few extra groups of people (besides heterosexual males) in order to avoid mind killing?

Comment author: fburnaby 05 November 2011 03:44:20PM 2 points [-]

Your comment sounds like a complaint. Is it?

Comment author: Konkvistador 05 November 2011 06:39:42PM *  15 points [-]

Partially yes. Some PUA concepts are really neatly formulated, a fraction of LWers are familiar with them and at the end of the day the original synthesis was done by the PUA community, having a bottom line partially written by X, then searching for academic papers to help write up stuff to fill the void once X is cut out is an easy way to stumble rationality-wise once or twice along the way, and thus is bad practice, but mostly I was just curious.

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

It was mean more in a "oh I see what you did there, am I right?" way.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 05 November 2011 09:42:23PM *  35 points [-]

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

I think your comment was quite appropriate. Even under the best imaginable scenario, these articles and their follow-up discussions will suffer from at least two problems.

First, there is the conspicuous omission of any references to the PUA elephant in the room. The body of insight developed by this particular sort of people, whatever its faults, is of supreme practical importance for anyone who wants to formulate practical advice in this area. Without referencing it explicitly, one can either ignore it altogether and thus inevitably talk nonsense, or pretend to speak based solely on official academic literature, which is disingenuous and unfair in its failure to attribute credit (and also misleading for those who would like to pursue their own research in the matter). It's as if someone wanted to talk about electronics but insisted that the only legitimate references should be from pure academic quantum theory, and the nuts-and-bolts work of tech entrepreneurs and industry engineers is forbidden and unmentionable.

Second, really good practical advice in this area simply cannot be inoffensive. To take a clear and obvious example, one absolutely essential sort of knowledge is what kinds of people are likely to lead to various sorts of trouble if you entangle yourself with them. In principle, this is an exercise in assigning conditional probabilities that should be greatly attractive to the LW folks fond of Bayesianism. Yet since in our culture the discussion (let alone practical use) of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people is considered immoral, discussing these things while remaining within the contemporary inoffensive bounds is as if one wanted to discuss sexual techniques while respecting the prudery norms of 17th century puritanism. (Also, on a more mundane level, LW is still far from the standards of rationality that would make people who recognize themselves in some of these conditional probabilities refrain from destroying the discourse by crying offense, and various others not to try boosting their staus by joining them in solidarity, or even complaining preemptively on their behalf.) There are of course many other important aspects of the topic where one faces similar problems.

On the whole, the article is based on the premise that an accurate and no-nonsense analysis of the topic will result in something that sounds not just inoffensive, but actually strongly in line with various fashionable and high-status norms and ideals of the broader society. This premise however is flawed, and those who believe that this has in fact been accomplished should apply the powerful debiasing heuristic that says that when a seemingly rational discussion of some deeply problematic and controversial topic sounds pleasant and reassuring, there's probably something fishy going on. There is simply no way to approach this topic without ending up with something that's either offensive to the mainstream sensibilities and apt to upset certain sorts of people, or disingenuous and inaccurate to a significant degree.

Comment author: Konkvistador 05 November 2011 10:32:47PM *  18 points [-]

Yet since in our culture the discussion (let alone practical use) of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people is considered immoral, discussing these things while remaining within the contemporary inoffensive bounds is as if one wanted to discuss sexual techniques while respecting the prudery norms of 17th century puritanism.

And this was the reason why, I didn't expect a direct response to the original question, from any of the authors. But as well as your opinions stated here resonate with my own, I feel I do need to play the devil's (who is a thoroughly socialized chap) advocate:

People still realized when sex was talked about. And some information was distributed in this way.

While obviously this is not necessarily a stable situation, besides the euphemism treadmill people do eventually shorten the useful inference gaps. Indeed I would argue that cycles form around these sorts of things, perhaps 19th century Victorian society with its anomalous attitude to discussing sexuality is an example of such a spiral and I think in the 20th century there are also to be found potential examples of such spirals in some places.

This premise however is flawed, and those who believe that this has in fact been accomplished should apply the powerful debiasing heuristic that says that when a seemingly rational discussion of some deeply problematic and controversial topic sounds pleasant and reassuring, there's probably something fishy going on. There is simply no way to approach this topic without ending up with something that's either offensive to the mainstream sensibilities and apt to upset certain sorts of people, or disingenuous and inaccurate to a significant degree.

Generally some information is better than no information and I would say that for all intents and purposes mainstream advice on dating and relations between the sexes is more or less no information. Now I would say that what would be welcomed is a clear acknowledgement of what occurred and what the situation is. While it would be scandalous for a Victorian gentleman or lady to write up a article offering advice on sexuality, and commenting that the original was modified to preserve decency, it would not be scandalous to note that certain things can not be discussed due to decency.

I maintain that to write up such a series of articles and have a discussion such as it is here, would be a net gain and even would not mislead greatly as long as it was clearly and transparently acknowledged that certain things can not be said due to "decency". Obviously anyone interested in additional this could simply check the archives, or discreetly PM the author of the article for "indecent" advice.

We even have a passable candidate that could serve as the euphemism for the word or rather phrase that is the modern equivalent of the indecent: mindkilling.

But to not clearly acknowledge the situation will lead only to a false consensus emerging, and arguably to a certain extent it already has! That this be addressed is especially important because of the constant stream of new arrivals, who often have no experience whatsoever in thinking critically of such matters. I would argue that if that is the only kind of debate possible we should rather taboo the subject as a whole for a period of twelve months or more, not speaking of it rather than risking increasing irrationality on LessWrong. Before people flinch away from such a situation, this obviously goes for all the "sides" involved, please consider that we basically have exactly this kind of situation when it comes to politics!

Not only is sex and its associated status games as important to our monkey brains as politics, arguably in modern Western society sex is politics.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 06 November 2011 02:15:39AM *  20 points [-]

Generally some information is better than no information and I would say that for all intents and purposes mainstream advice on dating and relations between the sexes is more or less no information.

Actually, I'd say there's a whole lot of strongly misleading information, and the situation is much worse than in most other areas of life. For example, in the conventional wisdom about job hunting there is certainly a lot of trite and suboptimal information, and truly great advice is always a matter of insider information to which few people are privy -- but there is nothing like, say, the respectable opinion telling you that it's best to show up for the job interview drunk and puke on the interviewer's desk. Whereas in dating and inter-sex relations in general, a lot of the respectable opinion, if taken at face value, advises equivalently bad acts of self-sabotage.

Now, a body of advice whose quality is a mixed bag may be on the net either good or bad. If you're given ten tips about driving, nine of which will make you a somewhat better driver but one of which will vastly increase your probability of getting killed in an accident, we'd probably agree that the "some information is better than no information" conclusion doesn't apply. However, if the tenth one merely increases your parking fines slightly, it may well be the case.

So, what about the quality of advice that will be produced by a LW discussion on these topics operating under such constraints of respectability, where disreputable sources of accurate information are tabooed, a pretense must be maintained that the discourse is grounded in officially accredited scholarship and other high-status sources of information, and -- most important of all -- the entire discourse and its bottom line must produce a narrative that is in line with the respectable, high-status views of humanity and society? I am not at all optimistic, especially having seen what has been produced so far!

Now I would say that what would be welcomed is a clear acknowledgement of what occurred and what the situation is. [...] But to not clearly acknowledge the situation will lead only to a false consensus emerging, and arguably to a certain extent it already has!

Yes, I think this is an important issue even aside from the question of the quality of the generated advice. The whole tone of these supposedly successful LW discussions about dating, relationships, and related topics assumes that the relevant high-status ideological views and official scholarship are a product of genuine free-thinking and rationality, so that a truly rational debate about these matters simply cannot lead to anything that respectable and accredited people would frown on. (And, by extension, that people who purportedly try to break the happy death spirals and draw the discourse closer to reality must be dishonest and delusional, and are thus obnoxiously stirring up bad blood without good reason.) This represents delusional wishful thinking of a sort that would be seen as unacceptable on LW if practiced about many other topics.

Comment author: lessdazed 06 November 2011 02:59:05AM 7 points [-]

certain things can not be said due to "decency".

The reason that convention is difficult to use here is that the taking of offense all goes one way. If one says "Because it is mind-killing, I will not speak of the temporal order, quantity, and relative amount of coercion involved in all property dispossessions in the Middle East since 1800," one does not thereby share much about one's opinion.

If one says "Because it is mind killing, I will not discuss the relationship between sexual attractiveness and time for men and women," it may be that one believes that they are the same, or that there isn't a steep fall for anyone, or whatever, and merely doesn't want to provoke people into speaking of a counterargument. But usually not.

Only one side takes offense regarding this issue, so to say that one's opinions are offensive, and especially the degree to which they are, is to reveal them. People are neither motivated to, nor good at, using the same language for "I will not share my opinion because people will take offense," and "I will not share my opinion because the way some people discuss the topic is offensive." In both cases, people take the opportunity to signal and communicate rather than maintain an ambiguous neutral convention to end conversations.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 November 2011 12:57:07AM *  6 points [-]

I maintain that to write up such a series of articles and have a discussion such as it is here, would be a net gain and even would not mislead greatly as long as it was clearly and transparently acknowledged that certain things can not be said due to "decency". Obviously anyone interested in additional this could simply check the archives, or discreetly PM the author of the article for "indecent" advice.

We even have a passable candidate that could serve as the euphemism for the word or rather phrase that is the modern equivalent of the indecent: mindkilling.

"Mindkilling" refers to the idea that it is particularly hard (although not impossible) for humans to discuss politically or ideologically controversial subjects without succumbing to bias. The implicit prohibition on "mindkilling" political discussion seems to have worked well here in creating a very civilised discussion forum.

On the other hand, you would redefine mindkilling as dissent from the ideological mainstream. This is unwise, because this merely priviliges a certain view of things at the expense of truth-seeking - it enshrines bias, since the ideological mainstream (American?) view of all things cannot be considered true or rational by definition.

To merely acknowledge that "indecency" (dissent) is forbidden, so caveat lector does little to counteract the inherent bias of the arrangement, since people are still going to read articles on a rationality forum expecting them to be essentially accurate, which they will not be to the extent that the dissenting view of things is the only fully accurate view. In other words this acknowledgement is hardly going to cancel out the persuasive force of a biased article unless the caveat is written in massive bold letters at the top of every such article "This Is Not True", which is clearly unsatisfactory.

In other words the choices are:

1) Allow no discussion of ideologically controversial matters (to minimise mindkilling, but limit the scope of the forum)

2) Your solution, i.e. permit only the mainstream view (also minimising the possibility of mindkilling arguments, but legitimising bias)

3) Anything goes (possibly degrading the civility and in the long term the rationality of the forum)

Since the prohibitions are in fact only implicit, luckily there is no need to actually make a choice and some kind of uneasy equilibrium between 2 and 3 can exist (in which dissent is allowed, but is only encouraged in small and perhaps euphemistic doses). But I think this clarifies the point Vladimir_M is making.

Comment author: Konkvistador 06 November 2011 09:06:24AM *  6 points [-]

2) Your solution, i.e. permit only the mainstream view (also minimising the possibility of mindkilling arguments, but legitimising bias)

An acknowledgement that something can't be said because of decency implies that practical and true things could be said in the absence of decency.

To merely acknowledge that "indecency" (dissent) is forbidden, so caveat lector does little to counteract the inherent bias of the arrangement, since people are still going to read articles on a rationality forum expecting them to be essentially accurate, which they will not be to the extent that the dissenting view of things is the only fully accurate view. In other words this acknowledgement is hardly going to cancel out the persuasive force of a biased article unless the caveat is written in massive bold letters at the top of every such article "This Is Not True", which is clearly unsatisfactory.

This is indeed a real concern. But I would say that a sentence like :

"A truly rational approach to this subject would differ from the given advice in many respects, but this is the closest I can go without touching mindkillers. If anyone wishes to discuss them in private PM me."

Would have a positive effect on Lesswrong.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 November 2011 12:42:44PM 21 points [-]

this is the closest I can go without touching mindkillers

The point I was making is that "mindkillers", under its original definition, refers to political content in general. If someone writes about male-female relations and excludes "politically offensive" material, this does not mean that their article has no political content. It just means that it is the mainstream political line!

In the Soviet Union, Mendelism might have been considered indecent. On the Soviet rationalist forum, Lysenkoist articles might have a caveat attached that political indecency is omitted. Nonetheless it is hardly fair to say that the Mendelism is a mindkiller and Lysenkoism is not in this context - the label "mindkilling" properly applies to the subject of heredity in general, given that it is politically controversial in this scenario.

Likewise if there is political sensitivity involved in the subject of male-female relations, then the subject in general is a mindkiller. The mainstream line is no less "mindkilling" than the dissenting position - it just happens to enjoy hegemony.

The distinction is that mindkilling argument can be avoided if dissent from the mainstream line is taboo; but this does not imply that dissent is mindkilling and mainstream views are not - mindkilling is a property of ideologically controversial subjects in general.

You may wonder why I am arguing about definitions: there is a taboo against mindkilling arguments, and a rational recommendation that politics is the mindkiller and therefore something to be regarded warily. If mindkilling is subtly redefined to mean dissent, people might grow to believe that it is dissent that is the mindkiller, not subjects of political controversy in general, and they should therefore steer clear of it. That is Orwellian (although I don't mean to suggest that your intentions are bad).

Comment author: Konkvistador 06 November 2011 01:27:51PM *  11 points [-]

mindkilling is a property of ideologically controversial subjects in general.

Ah I finally clearly see your objection now. I misused the term "mindkiller" in a way that suggested that the "indecent" explanation was the mindkilling one rather than the field or subject itself.

If mindkilling is subtly redefined to mean dissent, people might grow to believe that it is dissent that is the mindkiller, not subjects of political controversy in general, and they should therefore steer clear of it.

Indeed something like this could happen if people where not careful with the usage.

Yes you are right, a different formulation needs to be found otherwise my arguments for why such a situation might be better than pure taboo is mostly invalid in the long run.

I wanted something like: "This is as far as I will go in this contribution on the subject on LessWrong for the sake of the community, but it is by no means the full rationalist approach, if anyone wants to discuss this in private or research it on their own and I would in fact encourage this/there is nothing wrong with that. This subject is pretty mindkilling and so these precautions are needed."

Comment author: Prismattic 06 November 2011 01:04:26AM 40 points [-]

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful. The former leaves the dissident view just amorphous enough to be impossible to subject to scrutiny. Given that, even in cases where the mainstream view is wrong, the implied dissident view may also be wrong in some important regard, the obscurantism is highly suboptimal.

I haven't been downvoting for this phenomenon so far, but I'm going to start doing so if it keeps happening.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 November 2011 01:43:01AM *  5 points [-]

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful.

What is obscurantist exactly? What I said is perfectly clear, if you look at the context of the two preceding posts.

No particular claim about male-female relations was intended (although if you want to know I endorse Roissy's view of male-female relations, if not his value-set); I was objecting to the idea that "mindkilling" should be redefined as "saying things likely to offend mainstream sensibilities". Mindkilling refers to the effect of political content on human reasoning powers in general, and the suggested redefinition struck me as Orwellian.

Comment author: Prismattic 06 November 2011 02:02:42AM 2 points [-]

It is not your post that I think is obscurantist. I was commenting on the undesirability of posts that presuppose option 2 has been selected and proceed to imply that the mainstream view is false without actually making explict what alternative is being proposed.

I think the alpha-beta classification is excessively reductive. I would say that I am fairly physically intimidating to a majority of other males, but this doesn't translate into automatic adoration by nearby females.

Comment author: steven0461 06 November 2011 08:42:49PM *  12 points [-]

To whoever is upvoting this, it seems like you must be taking one of the following positions:

  1. It is safe to post any view on LessWrong. Doing so will not get you in trouble, or cause blowups.
  2. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, but if you hold such a view, you are morally obliged to argue for it and suffer the punishment (possibly at the hands of me or my allies).
  3. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, and you are allowed not to argue for them, but you are not allowed to suggest that this unsafety has any sort of distorting effect on the resulting discussion.

Could you guys clarify?

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 07 November 2011 12:13:21AM 31 points [-]

I upvoted Prismatic, and I'm taking this position: 4. It may or may not be safe to post certain views on Less Wrong, but whatever they are, I precommit that I will not be part of a blowup over them. If your views are justified, I will update on them, and if they are not, I will calmly state my objections, but I will not punish you for dissent. If other people punish you unfairly for dissent, I will punish them. I would rather you post your dissenting views than hide them, and I will support you for doing so.

If enough of Less Wrong takes this position, eventually position 1. will be correct. I hope to bring about this state of affairs.

Comment author: Prismattic 07 November 2011 02:33:55AM 7 points [-]

I always appreciate when someone else comes along and explains my position better than I did, so thanks.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 07 November 2011 12:04:52AM 6 points [-]

Why not publish the "unsafe" arguments under a pseudonym (or an alternate pseudonym if your main identity is already a pseudonym)?

Comment author: steven0461 07 November 2011 01:33:19AM 7 points [-]

To do so consistently and stay safe, you'd need to take the unusual or otherwise identifiable parts of your set of concepts, favorite examples, verbal quirks, patterns of reasoning, and so on, and split everything into two: one part for use under your true identity, and one part for pseudonymous use. Even then, each of your novel ideas could taint each of your other novel ideas. There would also still be the harm to LessWrong's reputation as a whole. And what would it accomplish? It's notoriously hard to get people to change their minds on these topics, even here, and if you do there's no clear causal path from that to better long-term future outcomes. I'd rather just collectively give up.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 06 November 2011 10:52:52PM 6 points [-]

I second this question.

Comment author: Airedale 07 November 2011 10:30:36PM 9 points [-]

Isn't is possible that Prismattic's comment could be receiving so many upvotes because other people also find comments of the sort described irritating and are embracing the opportunity to signal that irritation? Like Prismattic, I don't generally downvote comments on this basis alone. But I'm definitely tired of seeing the types of comments described, especially in those instances when, at least to my eyes, the commenters seem to be affecting a certain world-weary sorrow and wisdom while hinting at the profound truths that could be freely discussed but for -alas!- the terrible tyranny of modern social norms. But because the commenters are hiding the exact substance of their own views, there's no basis on which to judge whether these views are, as Prismattic suggests, actually more correct than the mainstream view, or perhaps equally or even more wrong in some different direction.

Comment author: steven0461 08 November 2011 06:26:02PM 4 points [-]

If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore I win the debate", I agree that's unreasonable. If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore no real debate has taken place", I think that's far more reasonable.

Comment author: Konkvistador 07 November 2011 09:57:17AM 2 points [-]

I am also interested in a clarification.

Comment author: dlthomas 07 November 2011 10:48:02PM 5 points [-]

Trying to put words to my own intuitions on the matter, I would stipulate a modified 3:

It may be unsafe (in terms of image/status/etc - I would certainly expect and hope not physically) to express certain views, particularly those sufficiently far from both societal mainstream and LW mainstream, and particularly those that touch too heavily on mind-killing topics.

It is reasonably within norms to acknowledge this, particularly with an eye to reducing its effect.

What is decidedly a violation of norms, I think, is to do so in a self-serving manner.

"Norms forbid honest discussion of my pet issue X, therefor X" is obviously flawed.

"Norms forbid discussion of my pet issue X, and I have strong evidence for X but can't share it because of those norms, so just trust me that X" amounts to the same thing, in terms of what kinds of discussions are possible. It is also, to some degree, inconsistent - it is unlikely that we forbid evidence for a proposition while allowing discussion otherwise implying/assuming it.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 06 November 2011 02:31:28AM *  6 points [-]

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful. The former leaves the dissident view just amorphous enough to be impossible to subject to scrutiny. Given that, even in cases where the mainstream view is wrong, the implied dissident view may also be wrong in some important regard, the obscurantism is highly suboptimal.

So you prefer the situation in which a dubious mainstream view remains entirely unchallenged to a situation where a doubter, instead of remaining silent, states that it is likely wrong but that spelling out an explicit argument why it is so would violate social norms? As far as I see, the information made available in the second case is a proper superset of the information available in the former. So how can this constitute "obscurantism" in any reasonable sense of the term?

Comment author: Prismattic 06 November 2011 02:36:08AM *  10 points [-]

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

ETA: I also see the widespread use on Lesswrong of "politically correct" as an attribution that prima facie proves something is wrong to be problematic. Society functions on polite fictions, but that does not mean that everything that is polite is inherently false.

Comment author: Vaniver 06 November 2011 06:00:04PM 9 points [-]

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

Do you upvote people that do?

I have mostly grown tired of making comments where I mention a contrarian position. I get asked to explain myself; it sometimes leads to an argument, and I put a lot of work into comments that often end up at negative karma. I suspect those threads add to LW, but the feedback I'm getting is that they don't.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 06 November 2011 02:45:48AM 7 points [-]

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

This does not answer my question. You claim that a situation in which information X and Y is made available constitutes "obscurantism" relative to the situation where only information X is provided. Now you say that you would prefer that not just X and Y, but also information Z be provided. That's fair enough, but it doesn't explain why (X and Y) is worse than just (X), if (X and Y and Z) is better than just (X and Y). What is this definition of "obscurantism," according to which the level of obscurantism can rise with the amount of information about one's beliefs that one makes available?

Comment author: steven0461 06 November 2011 02:45:33AM 7 points [-]

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

It sounds, then, as though you should be talking to the people punishing norm violations, not to the people responding rationally to such punishment.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 07 November 2011 09:51:56AM 4 points [-]

Your question rests on an assumption that obscurantism must decrease information, but I see that assumption as incorrect. In fact, under this assumption I should never regard anything said to me as obscurantist, as it should never decrease the amount of information available to me.

Wikipedia defines "obscurantism" as "the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known", and it seems to fit the bill. Of course, it may be useful or beneficial species of obscurantism, though I agree with Prismatic that it is not.

The situation as you describe it seems pre-biased by postulating that the mainstream view is dubious. This may be obvious to you, but to me, the person who's faced with the "hints" as described, it is not - if it were, I shouldn't need the hints to begin with. I think it's incorrect to condition on the dubiousness of the mainstream view. If I am to decide on how to best to take into account hints of that nature, the possibility that the mainstream view is correct after all, and the hint entirely specious, should not be disregarded. In fact, in real-life situations where such hints are offered, this may be the more frequent scenario.

The hint that says "this view is incorrect, but I will not explain why, for doing that will violate a social norm" is annoying and distracting; it engages my attention, bringing no real evidence for its claims. Because it posits a mystery, I'm likely to err on the side of giving it more attention than it deserves. The benefit is that it may cause me to investigate the view more thoroughly than I would otherwise have, and realize it is incorrect. If I precommit to ignoring such signals, I will miss some chances of that, and I will also avoid giving my attention, and more closely investigating, all those views that are correct after all, and where the signal was specious. The bargain may well be worth it.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 08 November 2011 02:03:59AM *  4 points [-]

Your question rests on an assumption that obscurantism must decrease information, but I see that assumption as incorrect. In fact, under this assumption I should never regard anything said to me as obscurantist, as it should never decrease the amount of information available to me.

What makes obscurantism a relevant category is that certain ways of withholding information and intentional abstruseness can be very effective for misleading people and producing convictions without evidence. In LW parlance, it is a particular kind of Dark Arts. Now, of course, it makes no sense to debate definitions when there is a true disagreement about them, but I think it shouldn't be controversial to insist that the normal meaning of "obscurantism" involves this Dark Arts element. In other words, it involves withholding information with the intent to mislead and produce mistaken or unsubstantiated beliefs, and it cannot be applied to every act of withholding information intentionally.

I do think the Wikipedia definition you quoted is unreasonably overbroad, considering the standard usage of the word. It would cover all sorts of completely honest, reasonable, and non-misleading acts of communication where one chooses to limit the amount of information given -- for example, saying that you got a new job but not disclosing the salary, or writing blog comments under a pseudonym.

If I am to decide on how to best to take into account hints of that nature, the possibility that the mainstream view is correct after all, and the hint entirely specious, should not be disregarded. [...] The hint that says "this view is incorrect, but I will not explain why, for doing that will violate a social norm" is annoying and distracting; it engages my attention, bringing no real evidence for its claims.

It is not true that it brings no significant evidence, if the source of the hint is someone about whom you have other information -- and information about the intellectual abilities, knowledge, and likely biases of frequent commenters is easy to get in a forum like this one (if you don't in fact have it already). And you can always simply ignore such hits if you believe you have insufficient information, or you don't feel like looking for it, the way you presumably ignore any other comments that are not of interest to you.

Also, I note that your complaint here doesn't state that these hits are misleading and apt to trigger biases leading to incorrect beliefs, so you must indeed be working with the broadest possible (and I would say overbroad) definition of "obscurantism."

If I precommit to ignoring such signals, I will miss some chances of that, and I will also avoid giving my attention, and more closely investigating, all those views that are correct after all, and where the signal was specious. The bargain may well be worth it.

It may indeed -- but why precommit unconditionally, without considering the source of these signals?

Comment author: Konkvistador 06 November 2011 09:11:17AM *  5 points [-]

Yes, why should the heretic have the right to remain silent! If he speaks truth the good doctors of the holy mother church will surely update their theological arguments accordingly and if not, well why is he risking his immortal soul by relying only on his feeble and fallible mind?

Comment author: sam0345 06 November 2011 02:02:26AM *  5 points [-]

While it would be scandalous for a Victorian gentleman, or Woman to write up a article offering advice on sexuality, and commenting that the original was modified to preserve decency, it would not be scandalous to note that certain things can not be discussed due to decency

Many modern PC beliefs about women first showed up in Victorian times, which beliefs were I to mention them would be get me as down voted now as much as they would get a Victorian gentlemen in trouble.

Before Victorian times, pretty much everyone agreed with the position taken by Chateau Heartiste - that the alarmingly powerful, reckless, irresponsible, and immoral sexual urges of women, unless restrained, would destroy civilization.

Comment author: Konkvistador 08 November 2011 11:33:40AM *  18 points [-]

Many modern PC beliefs about women first showed up in Victorian times, which beliefs were I to mention them would be get me as down voted now as much as they would get a Victorian gentlemen in trouble.

Women's motives are generally purer than men's. Women are much more often good mothers than men are good fathers. Women are nearly always more interested in committed relationships than just sex with the most attractive male. Women should be held much less accountable for their criminal and unscrupulous actions than men. Women are always the victims never the abusers. Women do not lie about rape. Women are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to virtuous men (noticeable echo's of Calvinism in this). A woman's complaints and grievances are generally reasonable, while a man's are generally not. Women's sexual instincts are benign to society while men's sexual instincts are malign. Women are more altruistic and fair than men. ect.

Most of this is obviously bunk and most of this is also obviously implicitly accepted though it may be denied.

And Sam, I don't think I will get down voted for stating this.

Comment author: Konkvistador 08 November 2011 11:57:02AM *  6 points [-]

In practice however if I wasn't very careful when challenging a argument that implicitly rested on two or more of the above as an axiom I might get down voted on LW (but less so than many other places).

Comment author: RomanDavis 06 November 2011 03:18:27AM 4 points [-]

A solution might be to make a sort of subforum for mindkilling topics, and associating them with some karma cost. Doesn't eliminate the mindkilling aspect, but hopefully makes it so that people with low karmas are kept out, which is hopefully correlated with some minimal rational ability.

Or maybe not. Holding off on that sort of thing is sometimes a good idea.

Comment author: taryneast 03 November 2011 11:29:14PM *  13 points [-]

I quite liked the post, I only have one niggle:

"For example, in heterosexual dating the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself."

this is an extremely US-centric view of dating culture.

In Aus, women do not expect men to pay for dates, and while the bias is still weighted towards the men being more likely to ask woman out or to initiate sexual advancement... it's not the expectation.

It's only one data point, but most of my BFs I pursued, rather than the other way around - and most of my girl-friends have similar stories.

Comment author: lukeprog 05 November 2011 07:18:25AM 3 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 November 2011 04:57:41AM 22 points [-]

Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"?

I find that claim bewildering because the partnered men I know aren't jerks. It could be that I'm filtering for non-jerkness, but my tentative alternate theory is that the maybe the most conspicuously attractive women prefer jerks, and the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women. Or possibly a preference for jerks really is common in "girls"-- not children, but women below some level of maturity (age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?), and some men are imprinted on what they saw in high school.

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean? What proportion of women are you talking about? Is there academic research to back this up? What have you seen in your social circle?

Comment author: Zeb 03 November 2011 02:45:51PM *  29 points [-]

Unfortunately I can't provide sources at the moment (Luke probably can), but I have seen research both sociological and anthropological showing that women and female higher primates in general have a tendency to try to mate with multiple dominate highly masculine males, sometimes secretly, while they tend to have long term pairings with less dominate, less masculine males. The theory is that the genes of the more masculine men lead to more fecund offspring, while the parenting of the less masculine men leads to higher offspring survival. In society this works out to women dating more masculine men (and testosterone is of course linked to the aggressiveness and risk taking we associate with "bad boys") prior to marriage, and then marrying less masculine men (nice guys). And if they cheat, they tend to cheat with "bad boys" and have their "nice guys" raise those kids.

EDIT: For pure anecdote, I am a nice guy (I think) who always complained about the "bad boy" thing, and now I am raising a step-daughter from my wife's youthful short term relationship with a guy everyone would still call a "bad boy." My wife is winning at natural selection! As is that jerk :(

Comment author: Konkvistador 04 November 2011 10:06:34AM *  16 points [-]

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection (no offence intended to any LWer with many children or your wife).

Comment author: Desrtopa 07 November 2011 03:14:50AM 9 points [-]

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 November 2011 03:34:49AM 11 points [-]

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

Suffering is often ameliorated somewhat by knowing you are not alone in your situation.

Comment author: JQuinton 18 November 2011 08:45:26PM 9 points [-]
Comment author: DoubleReed 07 November 2011 08:59:02PM 7 points [-]

That reminds me of that game that girls sometimes play "Given three choices of guys, which would you sleep with, date, or marry?"

Comment author: Insert_Idionym_Here 07 November 2011 09:11:43PM 7 points [-]

Guys play it too.

Comment author: pedanterrific 07 November 2011 09:15:56PM 4 points [-]

The criteria are a little different, though.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 14 November 2011 06:04:22PM 2 points [-]

I've played it in mixed groups, its generally about perceived personality features rather than subjective attractiveness.

Comment author: pedanterrific 14 November 2011 06:27:32PM 7 points [-]

mixed groups

I wouldn't expect this to be a recipe for honesty.

Comment author: Yvain 03 November 2011 11:22:05PM *  101 points [-]

This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it. Now let me join in.

The research on this topic is split into "completely useless" and "mostly useless". In the former category we have studies that, with a straight face, purport to show that women like nice guys by asking women to self-report on their preferences. To illuminate just how silly this is, consider the mirror case of asking men "So, do you like witty charming girls with good personalities, or supermodels with big breasts?" When this was actually done, men rated "physical attractiveness" only their 22nd most important criterion for a mate - number one was "sincerity", and number nineteen was "good manners". And yet there are no websites where you can spend $9.95 per month to stream videos of well-mannered girls asking men to please pass the salad fork, and there are no spinster apartments full of broken-hearted supermodels who just didn't have enough sincerity. So self-reports are right out.

Other-reports may be slightly less silly. Herold and Milhausen, 1999, found that 56% of university women believed that women in general were more likely to date jerks than nice guys. But although women may have less emotional investment in the issue than men, their opinions are still just opinions.

The few studies that earn the coveted accolade of "only mostly useless" are those that try to analyze actual behavior. Bogart and Fisher typify a group of studies that show that good predictors of a man's number of sexual partners include disinhibitedness, high testosterone levels, "hypermasculinity", "sensation seeking", antisocial personality, and extraversion. Meston et al typify a separate group of studies on sex and the Big Five traits when she says that "agreeableness was the most consistent predictor of behavior...disagreeable men and women were more likely to have had sexual intercourse and with a greater number of partners than agreeable men and women. Nonvirgins of both sexes were more likely to be calculating, stubborn, and arrogant in their interpersonal behavior than virgins. Neuroticism predicted sexual experience in males only; timid, unassertive men were less sexually experienced than emotionally stable men...the above findings were all statistically significant at p<.01"

These studies certainly show that jerkishness is associated with high number of sexual partners, but they're not quite a victory for the "nice guys finish last" camp for a couple of reasons. First, men seem to come off almost as bad as women do. Second, there's no reason to think that any particular "nice" woman will like jerks; many of the findings could be explained by disagreeable men hooking up with disagreeable women, disagreeing with them about things (as they do) and then breaking up and hooking up with other disagreeable women, while the agreeable people form stable pair bonds. Boom - disagreeable people showing more sexual partners than agreeable people.

I find more interesting the literature about intelligence and sexual partners. In high-schoolers, each extra IQ point increases chance of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% by females. 87% of 19-year old US college students have had sex, yet only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex. There's conflicting research about whether this reflects lower sex drive in these people or less sexual success; it's probably a combination of both. See linked article for more information.

The basic summary of the research seems to be that smart, agreeable people complaining that they have less sex than their stupid, disagreeable counterparts are probably right, and that this phenomenon occurs both in men and women but is a little more common in men.

Moving from research to my own observations, I do think there are a lot of really kind, decent, shy, nerdy men who can't find anyone who will love them because they radiate submissiveness and non-assertiveness, and women don't find this attractive. Most women do find dominant, high-testosterone people attractive, and dominance and testosterone are risk factors for jerkishness, but not at all the same thing and women can't be blamed for liking people with these admittedly attractive characteristics.

There are also a lot of really kind, decent, shy, nerdy women who can't find anyone who will love them because they're not very pretty. Men can't be blamed for liking people they find attractive either, but this is also sad.

But although these two situations are both sad, at the risk of being preachy I will say one thing. When a girl is charming and kind but not so conventionally attractive, and men avoid her, and this makes her sad...well, imagine telling her that only ugly people would think that, and since she's ugly she doesn't deserve a man, and she probably just wants to use him for his money anyway because of course ugly women can't genuinely want love in the same way anyone else would (...that would be unfair!) This would be somewhere between bullying and full on emotional abuse, the sort of thing that would earn you a special place in Hell.

Whereas when men make the same complaint, that they are nice and compassionate but not so good at projecting dominance, there is a very large contingent of people, getting quite a lot of respect and validation from the parts of society that should know better, who immediately leap out to do their best to make them feel miserable - to tell that they don't deserve a relationship, that they're probably creeps who are only in it for the sex and that if they were a real man they'd stop whining about being "entitled to sex".

EDIT: But see qualification here

Comment author: gwern 04 November 2011 12:44:21AM 12 points [-]

Relevant: the Dark Triad and short-term mating.

Comment author: Yvain 08 November 2011 07:07:36PM *  20 points [-]

After talking to a couple of people about this, I should qualify/partially-retract the original comment.

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

I would find this person annoying, and although I hope I would be kind enough not to lash out against her in quite the terms I mentioned above, I would understand the motivations of someone who did, instead of having to classify him as having some sort of weird Martian brain design that makes him a moral monster.

The obesity metaphor is especially relevant. Since there are people out there who think becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food", I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident".

For people who honestly believe those things, and there seem to be a lot of them, the obese woman and the socially awkward man would reduce to the case of the woman who never showered but constantly complained about how superficial men were to reject her over her smell - annoying and without any redeeming value.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 November 2011 08:56:16AM 22 points [-]

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

That would seem to apply better if at least some (but not all) of the significant elements of gross obesity and bad hygiene were rewarded with approval and reinforced with verbal exhortations for a significant proportion of the woman's lives. So basically the metaphor is a crock. Mind you the insult would quite possibly do the recipient good to hear anyway unless they happen to be the kind of person who will reject advice that is clearly wrong without first reconstructing what the advice should have been, minus the part that is obviously nonsense.

Comment author: Oligopsony 11 November 2011 04:48:40PM 9 points [-]

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

People are really bad at measuring their own levels of altruism, which is hardly surprising. Those in this cluster of peoplespace are worse than average at reading social cues and others' assessments of them, and are apt to interpret "nice" and its congnates as "particularly kind and proscial," instead of what it usually means, which is "boring, but not actively offensive enough to merit an explicitly negative description." (Consider what it usually means when you describe your mother's watercolors or the like as "nice," sans any emphatic phrasing.) Likewise, we halo bad predicates onto those whom we resent - "jerk" is the male equivalent of "slut," in this sense.

What's creepy about this group is precisely the entitled attitude on display - that they deserve to enjoy sexual relations with those on whom they crush merely for being around them and not actively offending, or indeed in some cases for doing what in other contexts would be rightly considered kind and prosocial. This transactional model of sex is, well, creepy, and quite evident if you're specifically doing {actions that would otherwise be kind and prosocial} for unrequited loves and not people in general. The complaint is accurate in that yes, their being inoffensive and helpful isn't getting them laid, but the conclusion - that if they were jerks they would get laid - reveals a fundamental confusion. (I also think the PUA types are 100% right when they say displaying confidence is key, but that it's a bit confused to treat it as relating to dominance or women's preferences specifically - if you think you suck, others will assume you're right; this is the key to all sales work, and I've known a number of decent-looking women and gay men who aren't getting laid due to a lack of self-confidence as well.)

I have sympathy for these young men in that having poor native social skills and low self-confidence sucks, and, hey, I've been there. But they're not getting any approval for this, except when they meet up for affective death-spirals.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 November 2011 10:28:04AM *  7 points [-]

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

I used to believe this, but after doing some research, and further experience, I changed my mind.

First, the available research doesn't show a disadvantage of altruism, agreeableness, and prosocial tendencies for men.

I used to experience agreeableness and altruism as disadvantages. Now I experience agreeableness as sometimes a big advantage, and sometimes a moderate disadvantage. Altruism is neutral, as long as I can suppress it to normal population levels (I have excessive altruistic tendencies).

Hypotheses that reconcile this data and anecdata:

  • Prosocial tendencies are orthogonal to attractiveness
  • Prosocial tendencies have a non-linear relationships to attractiveness (e.g. it's good to be average, or maybe even a bit above average, but any higher or lower is a disadvantage
  • The relationship between prosocial tendencies and attractiveness is moderated by another variable. For instance, perhaps prosocial tendencies are an advantage for extraverted men, but a disadvantage for introverts

What's creepy about this group is precisely the entitled attitude on display - that they deserve to enjoy sexual relations with those on whom they crush merely for being around them and not actively offending, or indeed in some cases for doing what in other contexts would be rightly considered kind and prosocial.

While some people who believe they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial have this attitude of entitlement, ascribing an entitlement mentality to that entire class of people is a hasty generalization. It is likely that people who believe they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial with a genuine entitlement attitude are very visible (far more visible than people in that class without that attitude), and this visibility may distort estimates of their prevalence due to the availability heuristic.

Furthermore, in this context perhaps you would agree that "entitlement" is political buzzword that has not been appropriately operationalized. In some hands, it is used as expansively and unrigorously as "nice" and "jerk."

Comment author: John_D 11 October 2013 03:26:15PM 2 points [-]

I suspect that while dark triad traits are desirable to women, they aren't the only desirable traits. As you said, research shows that agreeableness and altruism also tend to be attractive, and conscientious and agreeable men tend to be better dancers, and thus more attractive. (quick google search) I suspect that there are multiple types of attractive men, or you can still possess all these traits.

Then again, it is important to know how the dark triad is measured to begin with. I am not sure if this is the actual test, but it looks legitimate. While saying disagree to all or most of the questions that measured lying and callousness, I still managed to score high on Machiavellianism and above average in Narcissism. (low on psychopathy) This also calls into question how "dark" some of these traits are, since outside of psychopathy, the other questions were related to self-esteem and a desire for influence, which isn't inherently evil, and can still coincide with agreeable and prosocial personalities.
http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-dark-triad-test-1

Comment author: lessdazed 13 November 2011 10:39:44AM *  2 points [-]

Now I experience agreeableness as sometimes a big advantage, and sometimes a moderate disadvantage...

Hypotheses that reconcile this data and anecdata:

...The relationship between prosocial tendencies and attractiveness is moderated by another variable.

I said, which was given some implicit endorsement (I think):

That deeper truth is that it is behaviors indicating high status that are attractive. Usually these are "selfish and aggressive", not showing concern with others' standards, but conspicuous vulnerability/non high-status behavior also shows high status by ignoring opportunities to display high status with selfishness and aggression. See e.g. John Mayer.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 November 2011 06:15:37PM *  3 points [-]

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

It is doing no such thing. Make no mistake - I don't conflate altruism with approval seeking niceness and I recommend "quit being a pussy" as a far more practical bite of self talk for people in the category you describe to use than the "women only like jerks" message; I'm clearly not rejecting the analogy because I'm supporting a sob story. No, what I am doing is rejecting one soldier that happens to be on the opposite extreme to the one above. Because it is a false analogy.

But they're not getting any approval for this

I don't give any approval for this either, but I don't do it out of judgement or blame. I don't give approval or sympathy because that would be counterproductive to their own goals.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 November 2011 08:46:34AM 5 points [-]

I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident.

And it is that easy. Just like becoming an engineer is as easy as "getting a degree and being better at math".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 November 2011 08:50:42PM 8 points [-]

For what it's worth, my reflex before reading a bunch of stuff here was closer to hearing "socially awkward man who can't manage to attract women" was closer to thinking of various annoying men who have hung around me, who I find unattractive (sometimes at the skin-crawling level [1]), but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

After reading these discussions, I conclude that my preconception was a case of availability bias (possibly amplified by a desire to not know how painful things are), and so I use a more abstract category.

[1] To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid. If I were, I'd be handling things differently. It also turned out to my surprise, that at least some men have never had the experience of that sort of revulsion. It seems to me that it's not quite the same as not wanting to be around someone who just about everyone would think was overtly ugly, though women frequently agree (independently, I think) about some men being uncomfortable to be around.

It wouldn't surprise me if there are specific elements of body language or facial expression which cause that sort of revulsion, but I don't know what they are.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 November 2011 09:01:37PM 7 points [-]

but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

The obvious conclusion from these premises: If you had the belief that "This could go on for years and is no fun" is a valid justification for telling someone to go away then your life would contain less 'no fun'.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 November 2011 09:08:01PM 15 points [-]

To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid.

My understanding is that it is an instinct intended to protect you from threats to your reproductive success, not threats to your survival. ie. I expect it to tend to encourage behaviors that will prevent pregnancy to losers more so than behaviors that prevent losers from killing you.

Comment author: cousin_it 08 November 2011 09:19:35PM 2 points [-]

Thanks a lot! Your comment made something click for me.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 09 November 2011 06:08:46AM 4 points [-]

I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident".

There's a community of men how are in fact to find effective ways to be socially assertive in a way that's attractive to women, it's called PUA.

Comment author: Konkvistador 04 November 2011 09:57:30AM *  7 points [-]

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean? What proportion of women are you talking about? Is there academic research to back this up? What have you seen in your social circle?

From what I understand Dark triad traits have been shown to be sexually attractive.

Edit: Damn you gwern! :)

Comment author: thomblake 03 November 2011 04:08:20PM 24 points [-]

the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women

Seems most plausible to me.

I have had several friends who went to bars to meet women, and then were disappointed that the only women they met were the ones who enjoyed going to bars.

People think/do strange things.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 03 November 2011 12:24:47PM 19 points [-]

A few bullet-points on what I see as the likely contributing factors to the "women prefer jerks" meme:

  • Romantic relationships often expose you to the worst of what people are capable of, and often end in unpleasant circumstances. If you ask someone about their most recent ex, they'll probably have more nasty stories than nice ones to tell about them.

  • If the competition for the object of my affections is charming and confident, I'm going to say he's manipulative and arrogant.

  • Making poor decisions about people you're attracted to, and systematically overlooking your partner's negative qualities, are well-established behaviour patterns in both sexes.

  • Romantic underdogs feel like they bend over backwards to be noticed by women, whereas romantically successful men seem by comparison to put in relatively little work to achieve the same goal. This perceived effort is conflated with caring or worthiness.

It strikes me that the nice-guy/jerk idiom has an analogue in the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. I was going to comment on how I'd never seen mention of this in any of the numerous feminist treatments of "nice guy syndrome" I've seen, but a cursory Google suggests it's not a new idea.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 05 November 2011 10:37:34PM *  20 points [-]

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean?

An accurate analysis of this issue would require unpacking the cluster of traits implied by the word "jerk," and then dividing them into several categories:

  • Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

  • Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

  • Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

This is further complicated by the fact that behaviors and attitudes seemingly identical to a side-observer (especially a male one) can in fact be perceived radically differently depending on subtle details, or even just on the context. This makes it easy to answer accurate observations with jeering and purported reductio ad absurdum in a rhetorically effective way.

What proportion of women are you talking about?

This question further complicates the issue. Different types of above listed traits can elicit different reactions from various categories of women. However, even just to outline these categories clearly and explicitly, one must trample on various sensibilities one is expected to respect in polite society nowadays.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 November 2011 11:03:42AM *  14 points [-]

and then dividing them into several categories:

Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

Here's a couple more:

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people in their mating interaction during one-on-one interaction with a potential partner (e.g. initiation or receptiveness).

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people compete with others of their same gender

In sexual selection, there is a difference between intersexual choice, and intrasexual competition. "Women go for jerks" or "nice guys finish last" might not be a primarily a claim about the traits that women are attracted to; rather, it could be a claim about the traits necessary to initiate with women and compete with other men. All this stuff partially overlaps, but there are differences.

For example, pushing past competition on a crowded dance floor, dealing with competitors interrupting you, or making a physical advance on a potential mate may require a slightly different balance of traits (e.g. more assertiveness or even aggression) than what is necessary to attract mates.

Specifically, I would suggest that the male initiator script along with male-male competition jacks up the necessary amount of "jerk" traits beyond what women are actually attracted to. This hypothesis could help explain why people have trouble seeing eye-to-eye on this issue.

Comment author: army1987 13 November 2011 08:14:41PM 5 points [-]

IOW the reason jerks are more successful might be that they cockblock other guys. It makes perfect sense to me and, in retrospect, I'm surprised that it took so long for someone to hypothesise this.

Comment author: RomanDavis 06 November 2011 05:05:10AM 14 points [-]

I wish you'd just spit out whatever unPC stuff you thinks going on, even if it was rot13'd or only PM'd to people who volunteered to read it out of curiosity.

Comment author: Prismattic 08 November 2011 02:42:47AM 10 points [-]

(Caveats: Small N, college-age subjects, and WEIRD) Believe it or not, someone actually tried to test the jerk theory empirically and found support for it

Hat tip: Eric Barker.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 November 2011 07:36:42AM 13 points [-]

Another caveat is surrogate behavior-- what's tested is which photographs women chose, not which men.

It's occurring to me that part of what annoys me about the "women prefer jerks" meme is the implication that women are distinctively irrational. There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

Just on the notion level, but I've wondered whether some women (especially young women) choose bad news men for the same reason that some men (especially young men) ride motorcycles-- risk and excitement. From what I've heard, one of the reasons women chose difficult men is the hope of being able to change them.

Another possibility is availability bias-- the stereotype is the woman who spends years complaining about the awful men in her life to a patient male friend who's wondering why she never chooses him. Women who are happy with their relationships aren't going to do as nearly as much complaining about them, and probably aren't going to be talking in comparable detail about how good the relationship is.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 10 November 2011 11:18:03AM *  13 points [-]

There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

There, now you have. According to the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, it is currently ranked #560 overall in the Books category, #1 in Dating , #2 in Mate Seeking, and #4 in Love & Romance. Surely the idea isn't unheard of.

Comment author: shokwave 08 November 2011 09:01:31AM 7 points [-]

I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches"

Partially this is because men are less often the one whose preference is at the center of the relationship (the standard cultural trope is a man pursues a woman, attempting to make her prefer him) and so there is less scrutiny of men's preference by both parties, and much more scrutiny of women's preference by men (in order to understand better how to make a woman prefer him).

Partially this is also because male attraction is determined less strongly by personality, and the "bitch/jerk" adjective is about personality.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 November 2011 11:11:30AM 5 points [-]

There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

I think the hypothesis would be that women choose men who are "jerks" partly because they are jerks, while men choose women who are "jerks" because they just don't care so much about personality traits, and/or despite those women being jerks.

Examining this hypothesis would require an operationalization of "jerk."

Comment author: wedrifid 08 November 2011 08:08:44AM *  5 points [-]

but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

Really? That belief isn't all that uncommon, and for reasons somewhat similar to the 'jerk' idea. Mind you the (overwhelmingly justified) belief that men are less picky than women when it comes to their mate selection makes such beliefs less emphasised.

Comment author: MixedNuts 08 November 2011 08:05:30AM 6 points [-]

Isn't there a stereotype whereby men prefer women who play by The Rules, which apparently consist of guidelines for emotional manipulation? That counts as bitchy in my book.

Also, can someone explain the "patient male friend" part of stereotype? I think it's one of these cases:

  • Nice Guy never expresses interest; Woman assumes he's happy with friendship, including his role as confidant. He wonders why she never chooses him... because he assumes telepathy on her part?
  • Nice Guy hits on Woman repeatedly despite constant rejections on her part. She keeps having him as a friend and telling him about her relationships... because she can't get a male friend who's genuinely happy with that?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He genuinely wants the friendship but doesn't ask "please don't tell me about your relationships while I'm carrying a torch for you"... because he doesn't know how to do that without sinking the friendship as well?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He won't be satisfied with the friendship but doesn't walk away... because he hopes Woman will magically change her mind?
Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 November 2011 04:32:31PM 3 points [-]

It occurs to me that a common factor might be that the two of them are both highly pessimistic about relationships-- neither of them is looking for someone they can be happy with.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 04 November 2011 09:46:39AM *  14 points [-]

(age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?),

Whatever age it takes to get past peak attractiveness and fertility.

Comment author: Konkvistador 04 November 2011 10:14:52AM 5 points [-]
Comment author: MixedNuts 08 November 2011 01:15:00PM 11 points [-]

I remember as an high school kid PUA seemed sensible. (I had a nerdy straight male friend into it, and no personal interest since if I wanted to get laid I could use boobies.) I mostly took home "People, especially women, dig confidence, and will chase rather than be chased. 'Bitches ain't shit' is therefore a desirable mindset.".

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious. Not because I'm supposed to want sex with hot women and nothing else, but because their idea of "hot women" isn't hot at all. Why would I ever want that?

I get that liking androgyny and brains and being neutral to fat and small breasts are rather idiosyncratic traits. But what kind of guy wants a girl just old enough to legally consent who never swears, dresses sexy and fashionable without actually caring about it, same for sports, and has the exact three kinds of sex they show in cookie-cutter porn? That's not a person. That's what you get if you ask RealDoll's research department for a toy that reconciles your horror of sluts with your hatred of prudes.

...also, the hot photo is supposed to be the one on the left, right?

Comment author: pjeby 11 November 2011 01:14:30AM 9 points [-]

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious.

That's because it's a "blue line" test. At the beginning, it explicitly points out it's orienting on averages, and defining market value in terms of breadth of appeal. It doesn't mean lots of people will like a high scorer, it means lots of people won't rule out the high scorer.

In other words, the person who scores perfectly on this test will probably not be hideously offensive to anyone -- which means they don't get ruled out early in the selection process. But a low score just means they're more likely to need a "red line" strategy, aiming at strong appeal to a narrower audience, at the cost of turning more people off. (i.e., emphasizing one's supposed "defects" would attract people who like those qualities, while turning away more of those who don't)

(Ugh. I can't believe I'm defending that misogynist a*hole, but I don't see anything wrong with the test itself, just the conclusions/connotations being drawn from it.)

Comment author: Barry_Cotter 11 November 2011 12:40:15AM 3 points [-]

what kind of guy wants a girl just old enough to legally consent who never swears, dresses sexy and fashionable without actually caring about it, same for sports, and has the exact three kinds of sex they show in cookie-cutter porn?

An exaggeration of a real , very common type. The better the description fits the less common the type. Practically no one who reads this site would fall in that category (I think/hope) if only because boring people are boring.

Comment author: Konkvistador 08 November 2011 01:17:25PM 2 points [-]

...also, the hot photo is supposed to be the one on the left, right?

Yes.

Comment author: Paradrop 08 November 2011 12:44:11PM 7 points [-]

I will respect properly written articles on almost any subject. Not these.

One thing I demand from authors claiming to be supported by "science" is that they won't make me stop thinking in mid read. The articles behind these links do not respect the reader's opinion. Instead of making you think, they seek to shock, trump and convince. I've seen this style and these patterns before in articles about climate denial, xenophobia and religious fundamentalists. (Seriously, a lifestyle article is not a valid citation.)

I'm not saying the author has not done his fair share of reading. I'm saying he should stop waving the "this is science"-sign with one hand and be clubbing down his readers with the other.

Comment author: taryneast 05 November 2011 09:39:31AM 5 points [-]

While it's definitely interesting to point out the correlation between egg-bank and attractiveness, I have to say that my god but that site is chauvanistic! Apparently, after "hitting the wall" a woman is "sexually worthless" o_O I do not agree.

Comment author: taryneast 06 November 2011 11:58:37AM 5 points [-]

Hmmm - my comment has been quite severely downvoted. Quite interesting. I'd like to know why.

perhaps I should point out the obvious mind projection fallacy inherent in the "sexually worthless" comment, instead of leaving it as an exercise to the reader... ?

After all, he didn't say "Due to my own personal predilections, i find that a woman over the age of 40 is no longer at all sexually attractive for me", but instead made his value judgment and considers it to be some kind of inherent value of the woman (ie value == 0) completely oblivious to the fact that other men (and possibly women) may have a different value-judgment of that woman.

I disagree with his assessment because her worth is not 0... just his own personal map-value for that woman.

Comment author: Konkvistador 06 November 2011 12:14:26PM *  9 points [-]

I don't take Roissy all that seriously but have read quite a bit of his stuff. I've never understood him as comparing women's value as people, but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

The sexual value is something determined by "the sexual marketplace". Sure some people like the less likeable, but they are pretty rare and thus on average the person with these traits will need to be less picky, since she/he runs into those interested in them less often.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 November 2011 10:42:02AM 4 points [-]

While mean sexual value is an important concept, as lukeprog points out with my graph, sometimes it is not relevant. The relevant metric of success in attracting people is something like "being over a cutoff of attractiveness for a subset of the population that you desire and that you can find, and where you don't face a punishing gender ratio in that niche."

For instance, regardless of your average attractiveness, you could be doing great even if 0.1% of the population is attracted to you, as long as (a) you know how to find them, (b) they fit your criteria, and (c) there isn't an oversaturation of people like you that you're competing with.

Comment author: taryneast 06 November 2011 06:19:54PM 11 points [-]

but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

Yep, I can understand that. though his phraseology is very clearly as though it is an inherent value of her worth as a (sexual) person... which is what I found so unappetising.

I also disagree with his valuation. I know from... well knowing 40 YO women (and older), that they do indeed suffer from diminished sexual appeal - but certainly nowhere near zero. 40YOlds get it on all the time... therefore his valuation is wrong. It is limited by his own personal perspective - and that of the average young-ish man who is himself high up on the "sexual appeal" rating.

I can definitely understand that for a man who can "get anybody" - that they would try almost exclusively for younger women, and that therefore an older woman would hold no sex appeal for them... but for anybody not an alpha male... (especially 40-50YO average men), a 40YO woman would still hold some interest.

Her "value" on the marketplace is not zero.

Comment author: lessdazed 06 November 2011 05:47:10PM 2 points [-]

perhaps I should point out the obvious mind projection fallacy inherent in the "sexually worthless" comment, instead of leaving it as an exercise to the reader... ?

It depends. Was the context marketplace value or value to the individual who most values that person sexually? Ifthe latter, it was the MPF. If the former (which it implicitly probably was there), then I don't think marketplace valuations necessarily fail in that way.

They can still be wrong valuations.

Comment author: taryneast 06 November 2011 06:29:46PM 4 points [-]

I got the sense that he was actually using his personal valuation, and passing it off as a marketplace-valuation. His references to studies felt like he was trying to find facts to fit his own valuations. However - I'll freely admit that I have not read his stuff widely. This is one of those websites where I decided it would not be a good idea for me to keep going as it simply continued to fuel my anger. It was more rational simply to stop reading.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 03 November 2011 07:42:57PM 14 points [-]

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

Perhaps this behavior is less common among women who would rather have a 15% chance of $1,000,000 than a certainty of $500 (because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.)

Or maybe "jerk" is being used in some sense other than what I associate it with, i.e., wearing motorcycle jackets, rather than not caring about who else you hurt.

Comment author: lionhearted 06 November 2011 12:58:16AM 7 points [-]

Perhaps this behavior is less common among women who would rather have a 15% chance of $1,000,000 than a certainty of $500 (because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.)

Whoa. A majority of people choose $500 in EV instead of $150,000?

That's scary. Have you written about this before? If not, care to give us rough numbers of how many people you've talked to about it? That blows my mind that a majority of people wouldn't get it when it's so far apart.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 08 November 2011 06:10:37PM 5 points [-]

Have you written about this before? If not, care to give us rough numbers of how many people you've talked to about it?

Consider item g in the first chart on page 10 of "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making" by Shane Fredrick. In this study, 31% of subjects with low scores on a "cognitive reflection test" took the 15% chance of the million dollars, whereas 60% of high-scoring subjects did. The p-value was less than 0.0001.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 06 November 2011 04:38:37AM 9 points [-]

Keep in mind that utility isn't linear in money.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 06 November 2011 04:46:48AM *  15 points [-]

No, but I doubt it's so non-linear for most people that it remotely justifies such a choice.

If someone e.g. urgently needs a life-saving surgery that requires 500$, then they may be justified to choose a certainty of $500 over a 15% probability of a million dollars. But outside such made-up scenarios, I very seriously doubt it.

Comment author: dbaupp 06 November 2011 01:22:03AM 3 points [-]

I would suggest that it is very easy to concentrate on the 85% chance of getting nothing, and so ignore the difference in EV.

Comment author: lionhearted 06 November 2011 01:42:29AM 3 points [-]

Indeed yeah. But we're not talking $500 vs. $900, we're talking orders of magnitude...

Comment author: Desrtopa 03 November 2011 07:56:19PM 12 points [-]

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

I could name a fair number (in the "doesn't care about hurting others" sense, not the "wears motorcycle jackets" sense,) but none of them have been girls or women I would want to date me instead.

I suspect that the perceived trend owes a lot to a horns effect that guys build up around other guys who're dating girls they want to be dating.

Comment author: army1987 03 November 2011 10:51:48AM *  9 points [-]

Does Chapter “You Just Ask Them” in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman count as academic research? :-)

Comment author: VNKKET 07 November 2011 02:08:38AM 2 points [-]

You got me reading that chapter.

Comment author: adamisom 04 November 2011 04:15:35AM *  4 points [-]

To quote another user, Scott H Young, "superficial would be the right word to describe most aphorisms, as being merely pointers to a more nuanced set of beliefs". So I'm sure it just has to do with the fact that of the bundle of qualities aggregately known as "jerks", some of those qualities are attractive. Check out the blog Hooking Up Smart for more nuanced stuff on the idea of nice men vs jerks.

Comment author: Deleet 07 December 2011 10:44:34PM 5 points [-]

Way too many coments to reed, but..

"We are even more likely to marry someone with a similar-sounding name.15"

Perhaps not. I googled it and found this: http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/workshops/marketing/archive/sp10/Spurious20100424.pdf

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2011 06:39:37AM 10 points [-]

I have purposefully stayed out of the PUA discussion so far, but as it is still going on and no one seems to have taken a macro view, I am going to just this once give some of my opinion on it:

I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a general egalitarianism between the sexes. I’m not saying that I think men and women are completely equal in all ways, but rather that I think that women making 80 cents to the dollar is bad. Males growing up being taught to be ashamed to talk about feelings (especially in cases like PTSD or suicide) is bad. All the hidden messages society teaches our children about what they can’t do because of their gender is bad.

Rationalize it however you want. Call it utilitarianism or values ethics or whatever. But I for one want to live in a society where the children I care for don’t have their choices limited (directly or indirectly) by their gender. I am willing to bet that the majority of people on this site, both male and female, agree with me. If I am wrong about that, well then I wouldn’t want to be on this site anyway. But how does that apply to PUA?

Parts of PUA may work. Parts may be moral. Parts may be immoral. I will definitely say that I think SOME of it is misogynist. I will also agree that there is stuff out there that is completely OK. But all of that is irrelevant to the point I want to make now, which is that PUA is bad for gender equality in the macro view.

Don’t focus on the ethics of ONE guy seducing ONE girl, who may or may not want to be seduced. Think about the affect of MANY guys thinking of women as “things to be seduced”, and countless young girls stumbling upon PUA on the internet or on the tv, and consequently thinking of THEMSELVES as things to be seduced.

In other words, my problem with PUA is that it precipitates a CULTURE that is not conducive to gender equality. Of course, PUA isn’t the only problem, nor is it even the main problem. For example, I think this is a WAY more important fight than PUA.

That being said, I do not think all PUA stuff is bad. I myself am, for all intents and purposes, a professional PUA, and when I looked it up on the internet (after reading so much about it here), I actually thought it was pretty amazing that they had terms for the stuff I learned through trial and error. So I definitely don’t want to bash everything that PUA can teach on an individual basis.

What then to do about men who lack the confidence and social skills to obtain relationships? Firstly, I would like to say that I think this is another way that gender inequality raises its head. Females are socialized from childhood to have high social skills. Men are not. Therefore they have trouble interacting with the generally much higher social skills of women. (Guys, think of a person you know with the lowest level of social skills. Imagine having a conversation with them. Get the picture?)

I would be totally ok, if certain aspects of PUA were taught instead as general social skills. Not “how to seduce women”, but rather “how to strike up conversations with random people and have them like you”. I would even be ok if there were UNDER THE GENERAL RULES some specific exceptions for how to interact with women, and how to interact with men. However the very one-sided way it is right now (with some small exception to girl game) is NOT helpful to humanity overall, regardless of whether it actually works or not. And regardless of whether it is moral on a case-by-case basis or not.

Comment author: lessdazed 17 November 2011 02:16:40PM 5 points [-]

I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a general egalitarianism between the sexes.

That phrase doesn't mean just one thing. I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a fair system of college admissions. That just means the label "fair", like "general egalitarianism" points inward at the speaker towards the speaker's values. "General" backs away from meaning anything too specific, and its use provides the opportunity for readers to insert their own idea of reasonableness.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 August 2012 10:17:48AM *  3 points [-]

You'd probably be interested in Clarisse Thorn's Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. She spent quite a bit of time researching PUA, both in theory and in practice.

Short version: There are a lot of kinds of PUA, ranging from types which are generally benevolent through types which are iffy to flat out misogyny. PUA is probably better for men who learn some skills, then leave the subculture(s).

Having a strong habit of maintaining "strategic ambiguity" (I think this is Thorn's phrase) can lead to loneliness, no matter how many people it attracts.

Note: there's a section about Thorn's relationship with a PUA which isn't terribly interesting. You may want to skip to the end which gets back to good stuff. She's aware of the problem with the section, but no one could agree on what needed to be cut.

She says that feminists have been working on explicit verbal consent, and PUAs have been working on understanding non-verbal consent, and the two groups have useful things to learn from each other.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 24 November 2011 12:06:52AM 5 points [-]

Upvoted for:

I would be totally ok, if certain aspects of PUA were taught instead as general social skills. Not “how to seduce women”, but rather “how to strike up conversations with random people and have them like you”.

Comment author: paper-machine 24 November 2011 12:30:18AM *  6 points [-]

I can talk to anyone, you're engaging, he's a creepy PUA?

Comment author: army1987 25 August 2012 11:45:29PM 2 points [-]

I would be totally ok, if certain aspects of PUA were taught instead as general social skills. Not “how to seduce women”, but rather “how to strike up conversations with random people and have them like you”.

That's already been proposed.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 27 March 2012 12:12:59PM *  2 points [-]

After reading your comment, my thoughts are somewhat confused. The first half seemed like a censorship by association: "some people feel that X is related to Y, we agree that Y is bad, therefore we should never tolerate a discussion about X".

Then, the last paragraph seemed very reasonable, which makes me wonder whether the rest of the comment was just one huge disclaimer necessary to remove the guilt of speaking about X (which as we know is associated with Y, which is bad).

Now on the topic -- Teaching about general social skills, with some gender-specific sidenotes, seems to me like a great idea. But I feel that this version somehow removes the most motivating part for some people. The "you should learn this because it can make your life awesome!!!" motivation turns into rather anemic "you should learn this because we told you so".

Is this a necessary cost? It is even allowed to discuss things that seem awesome to a typical guy but not to a typical girl, or does any such discussion automatically deepen gender inequality? Seems to me that focusing too much on inequality leads to a zero-sum worldview. Generally, creating a positive utility for some people and zero utility for other people seems like a net improvement; but if it happens to statistically deepen some inequality, should we percieve it as bad and try to avoid it? So even things that highly motivate men to learn social skills should be replaced by their less attractive alternatives, simply because men are already having it too awesome today.

Comment author: Strange7 25 August 2012 03:25:02AM 3 points [-]

If people are willing to learn calculus, so that they can learn physics, so that they can go out and actually do engineering, I think it would be feasible to have entry-level training in general etiquette and ethics as a prerequisite before someone can learn rigorously scientific flirting.

Comment author: jacoblyles 05 February 2012 09:23:54AM 4 points [-]

"Long-term monogamy should not be done on the pretense that attraction and arousal for one's partner won't fade. It will."

This is precisely the point of monogamy. Polyamory/sleeping around is a young man's game. Long-term monogamy is meant to maintain strong social units throughout life, long after the thrill is gone.

Comment author: Solvent 02 November 2011 07:52:00AM 4 points [-]

This is fantastic. Well researched, fairly well written.

I have a niggling general complaint about how LW seems to use rationality as just a general good word. It just, icks me a bit. I suspect that it might really turn off new readers.

Seriously, my one complaint is that when reading this on an iPad it took me too long to scroll past all the references.

I can't wait to read more of this.

Comment author: army1987 03 November 2011 10:54:29AM 5 points [-]

Yeah, there should be a "skip to comments" link before the bibliography, or a show/hide button or something.

Comment author: dbaupp 03 November 2011 12:38:02PM 2 points [-]

I agree that it would be nice for articles with long bibliographies to have a show/hide options (starting hidden). I am unsure how this would be possible at the moment, so a "skip to end" link might have to do.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 November 2011 05:32:02PM 2 points [-]

In my experience dressing differently, not necessarily trying to abide to specific subculture dress code often attract a lot, maybe not (always) because you appeal to some special preference but rather you highlight yourself, thus increasing the total number responses (good and bad).

Comment author: MrMind 02 November 2011 05:14:30PM 2 points [-]

Great post Luke, I liked the wealth of informations provided and that you're trying to make the topic respectable to LW readers: relationship is an area of our life that is too important to let it in the grasp of superstition and old unfulfilling social scripts.

What I would like to see in the next post is something about partner selection: inside every mode of relationship there's a wide variance of experiences possible depending on the partner... I think a rational approach to romantic life should investigate the topic of selection on this level of granularity too.

I'm seeing this model inside your post: "learn how to use attractiveness as a currency to obtain the kind of relation that you like". Is this correct?

To increase attractiveness, I see that the adjustable parameters are basically physical aspect (what you can modify in the gym or with haircut/makeup/etc.), fashion, proximity and behaviour. Is this also correct?

Comment author: lukeprog 02 November 2011 01:59:30AM 5 points [-]

BTW, given the usual reaction to posts about relationships, I expect this post to get a fair number of downvotes. But I would genuinely like to hear from downvoters about why they're downvoting. Previous explanations were useful.

Comment author: Oligopsony 02 November 2011 02:31:37AM *  30 points [-]

Individually very minor, petty reasons, befitting a very minor, petty action:

1) It bored me.

2) Your research skills are very impressive and I'd rather them be directed towards CEV or the like.

3) Ugh field concerning this site and sex/dating questions.

4) There's no puzzle to it; you're not illustrating any broader methodological point or coming to any new conclusions, just acting as a clearinghouse for dating advice.

5) "A Rational Approach to..."

Comment author: quentin 02 November 2011 06:51:23PM *  6 points [-]

Just to agree with the above, and expand my feelings:

I don't see a lot of new ideas here. It would surprise me if an average less wrong reader hadn't spent a little time researching this topic, and all of this is fairly mainstream information.

I have a very strong ugh field set up around instrumentally pursuing females. After a bad break up, I spent about 6 months learning PUA, I had quite good success (my physical appearance is not lacking), but found the whole thing to be so pathetically empty compared to previous "organic" relationship that I felt defeated even though I wasn't.

I realize that this can probably be accounted for, and note that it is one area that the PUA community seems to be lacking in. Lots of emotionally unfulfilling sex isn't optimal by a long shot, though it may be beneficial for a certain subset of individuals.

Anyways, one of the most important things I learned was to try and avoid too much theory, and break it down into individual actionable items. Given that with this topic especially, readers will likely come from all over the spectrum of possible skill levels, that might be a hard thing to do. But perhaps behavioral exercises... links to resources and specific suggestions for conversation, fashion, body language.

Comment author: RomanDavis 04 November 2011 03:38:47AM *  4 points [-]

On #5, part of me wants to agree, because we're not a sciencer about.com, but another part of me really wants there to be more lesswrong members becoming more instrumentally rational. Maybe even, as an exercise, asking members to find there own ugh field, use the value of scholarship, compile useful material into a quality post (along the same lines as Luke does), apply it in real life, and then report on it, either in a discussion thrsad or in an offshoot of the main post. This seems like a really basic thing that a rationalist gym should/ would do.

Comment author: knb 08 November 2011 11:27:26AM 12 points [-]

I downvoted for several reasons.

  1. The post is long, yet there isn't much of value here, just a lot of things that are obvious (e.g. goth dress might help success with goths, here is a graph to demonstrate that already totally intuitive bit of info). People on LW like to see obvious things restated in formal ways, with graphs and footnotes. This feels like accessing secret knowledge via x-rationalist super powers. But it isn't. It isn't even standard learning. I see this kind of thing a lot on LW.
  2. Relationship advice is outside of the LW comparative advantage (and I suspect absolute advantage as well).
  3. I get the feeling this is about to turn into a commercial for polyamory, and I don't want that to happen. There have now been several posts devoted to advocating polyamory as a "rational" relationship style. To me this feels a lot like hearing people talking about creating "rationally-planned" utopian communes. (It's no coincidence that polyamory and utopian socialism have so often been found together, from the early Christian Adamites, to the Radical Swedenborgians, to the counterculture hippies in the 1970s.) It's depressing and non-productive to see people falling into the same traps over and over.
Comment author: Nominull 02 November 2011 02:09:49AM 23 points [-]

In general I'm concerned with the way the community is headed - I joined for the philosophy, I'm less interested in reading about analytic people's approaches to basic social interaction. Some days I feel like this site has gone from Less Wrong to Wrong Planet.

So I guess I'm downvoting as a political stance, rather than anything to do with the quality of your writing. Sorry, I'm afraid that's not helpful.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 November 2011 02:50:17AM *  15 points [-]

I second this position. Despite the fact that I will probably benefit from these self-help kinds of posts, I'm nonetheless more interested in posts about creating new rationality skills and dissolving philosophical dilemmas.

Also, affixing the word "rational" to everything is mildly grating.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 03 November 2011 09:24:27AM *  4 points [-]

In general I'm concerned with the way the community is headed - I joined for the philosophy, I'm less interested in reading about analytic people's approaches to basic social interaction. Some days I feel like this site has gone from Less Wrong to Wrong Planet.

I joined for the same reason, but since I maintain a Stoic stance I'm actually very comfortable with my philosophy impinging on my practical considerations. Philosophy need not be impractical (although I agree that some things, like "rational gift buying for persons 8 or under", are too disconnected from the philosophy espoused here that it would be best we didn't encourage those kinds of posts).

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 02 November 2011 12:10:38PM *  23 points [-]

I'd be concerned if the community failed to explore these sort of topics.

Mere "philosophy" would be kind of empty. Once the idea of instrumental rationality was held up, the idea that rationalists should win, then it's either start trying to apply it to real problems, or concede that we didn't really mean it and that we just want to talk about stuff that makes us sound intelligent and sophisticated. That "applied rationality" features prominently here adds enormously to the credibility of LW and especially of the authors who have something to say about it, at least in my eyes.

Perhaps the problem is whether this generates the perception of "self-help" as opposed to "becoming awesome". The former kinda smacks of low status and might turn some people off, while impressive success is obviously not a problem. Perhaps it's a presentation issue (I suck at PR so I can't judge), or perhaps we just haven't amassed a sufficient wealth of evidence of awesomeness to overcome the negative connotations.

Comment author: Emile 04 November 2011 08:11:26PM 9 points [-]

I would also prefer more quality philosophy like the original sequences, but I prefer quality posts about relationships to low-quality posts about philosophy that present rambling thoughts or stuff that's already been covered to death.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 November 2011 10:03:18PM *  5 points [-]

I didn't downvote, but I didn't upvote, and I'd actually be a bit embarrassed if it were the first thing that a friend of mine saw on Less Wrong. This is mostly due to a few lingering phrases that, although I know you don't intend them that way, have widely known sexist connotations. For instance:

Girls seeking rationalist guys are at an advantage because the gender ratio lies in their favor

I know you mean to say "the current community of self-identified rationalists contains many more men than women", but you can easily imagine what connotations someone else might imbue it with. I got an 'ugh' reaction upon first reading it, even though I know you meant better.

Some women say they want a long-term relationship but date 'bad boys' who are unlikely to become long-term mates.

Similarly, for reasons of connotation/signaling I'd prefer it if you avoided examples that fit the "nice guy's lament" genre, or at least put a citation to them rather than treating them as too obvious to bother backing up.

ETA: I should mention that I hold the language of Main-level posts to a much higher standard than I do Discussion posts or comments. If you're making something public, then you have the burden of proper communication.

Comment author: grouchymusicologist 03 November 2011 04:49:54AM 4 points [-]

You might recall that (befitting my very nature) I was extremely grouchy about a previous foray of yours into this territory. I'm not downvoting the current post because I think you've more-or-less successfully avoided the worst of the problems I foresaw if you went down the previously outlined path.

I also haven't upvoted the current post. First, I endorse Nominull and Tetronian's comments above, with respect to this kind of topic not really being central to the LW mission (but that's okay as long as community members find it valuable and it doesn't do any harm). However, following on those, I think it is much more important that LW remain a welcoming and inclusive place than that this topic be discussed. By that I mean that I would very strongly encourage you to keep these posts gender- and orientation-neutral -- not just nominally so, but really at the level of substance. This post certainly succeeds in that, which is encouraging. (The co-authors are indispensable here, I think.)

And I hope you will be open to simply shutting this series of posts down if the comments on them can't maintain a similar level of decorum and inclusivity. (I can hardly imagine new women joining this community if PUA and "seduction" are routinely discussed in comments.)

Comment author: steven0461 12 November 2011 12:52:34AM *  6 points [-]

Now that this thread has gathered around a thousand comments, and with presumably two more such threads ahead of us, let's have a poll to help us figure out whether deciding to discuss such subjects as gender and politics was a good idea.

All things considered, has this comment thread made LessWrong more or less valuable to you? (ETA: This is excluding Luke's original post, and relative to what you would have expected the site to be like if the comment thread had not taken place, not relative to what it would be like if the comment thread disappeared now.)

See the child comments for the poll options. If neither applies, don't vote.

Comment author: wedrifid 12 November 2011 08:16:14AM 13 points [-]

All things considered, has this comment thread made LessWrong more or less valuable to you? (ETA: This is excluding Luke's original post, and relative to what you would have expected the site to be like if the comment thread had not taken place, not relative to what it would be like if the comment thread disappeared now.)

Less. A bunch of bickering about ethics with almost no actual practical content describing the world. Basically it is embarrassing to be associated with.

Comment author: achiral 13 November 2011 03:06:31PM 2 points [-]

I agree that this whole thread, while admittedly I have been following it myself, is a net negative for LW.

It's my contention that (1) some people will be attracted to PUA tenets with a largely negative outlook regarding women, (2) some people will be attracted to PUA tenets with a largely positive outlook regarding women (3) some people will just organically figure it out without any significant use of literature and (4) people that enjoy reading/writing/debating about this will continue to do that and may or may not actually pursue relationships.

I don't think lukeprog's writing is going to substantially change anyone's inclinations or abilities in this area because relationships and dating are something one learns by doing and becoming, not talking and thinking.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 November 2011 07:33:56AM *  9 points [-]

Thank you for this poll!

I would like to endorse an idea that there should be a separate PUA discussion post. It's acceptable if LW-ers want to discuss PUA at length, but the main disutility I get from it, is that it seems to constantly rear its head in posts that aren't explicitly about PUA (such as this one.)

I would have loved to have been involved in a discussion on the original post topic, and do not at all think that the subjects of gender and relationships should be discouraged. I just think it would make more sense if there were a separate thread for PUA-related discussion, and any time someone tried to bring up PUA in a non-PUA post they were referred to the PUA post.

I would post it myself, but I doubt I have the karma to handle the inevitable downvoting that would ensue without going deep into the negatives.

EDITED: see below

Comment author: RomanDavis 12 November 2011 08:03:55AM 7 points [-]

I got to agree here. having a single discussion thread with PUA would let out some steam, and if some people feel wierded out/ threatened by it, they can just not read the thread. As it is, avoiding the topic seems very hard, since it comes up almost every time relationships, polyamory. dark arts, or rational social skills are mentioned. This makes the tabooing of PUA pretty moot.

I'm pretty okay with modding posts with PUA outside of the designated area, though, if only because it's so damn mindkilling.

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 November 2011 05:43:18PM *  12 points [-]

got to agree here. having a single discussion thread with PUA would let out some steam, and if some people feel wierded out/ threatened by it, they can just not read the thread. As it is, avoiding the topic seems very hard, since it comes up almost every time relationships, polyamory. dark arts, or rational social skills are mentioned. This makes the tabooing of PUA pretty moot.

Indeed PUA discussion has proven impossible to avoid without tabooing relationship/romance to the same extent as politics (which is something I advocated should be done in a different comment here).

I like this suggestion. One thread where the beliefs, practice and theory of PUA can be discussed. Actually to make any progress whatsoever, I think we need to go further, lets make that thread explicitly devoid of any ethical recommendations implied or explicit.

A thread that just discusses the theories, practices and beliefs of the PUA community. First establish what they are, then how well they map to reality.

Only after this is done open a separate thread where we discuss ethical implications and recommendations related to PUA. It has been demonstrated time and time again since at least 2008, that LW/OB blow up when this is discussed. "Is" is constantly interpreted as should and vice versa. I am convinced that quarantining and breaking up the debate in two such threads would drastically improve the signal to noise ratio on the comment sections of all romance and relationships discussions and might even eventually allow us to begin making progress on something we have systematically failed on as a community for years.

Comment author: pjeby 15 November 2011 06:24:02PM 5 points [-]

First establish what they are, then how well they map to reality. ... Only after this is done open a separate thread where we discuss ethical implications and recommendations related to PUA

I'd almost as soon we just banned the ethical discussion entirely; as that's the part that's actually mindkilling. People with "PUA=bad" or "PUA=good" labels basically trash the place over that argument, and neither are particularly interested in listening to the "PUA=lots of different stuff with varying levels of good, bad, and effective-ness" folks.

All in all, we might get rid of some of the need for the "PUA=evil misogynist manipulation" rants by banning the "PUA=good, righteous savior of downtrodden oppressed men" ones (and vice versa). There are plenty enough people here who've shown themselves capable of avoiding either trap; we just need someone who can be trusted to swing the banhammer hard on comments that are more about signaling who they're for and against, than they are about informing or problem-solving.

Actually, I suppose it's not really a problem of ethics discussion per se, just that ethics is a useful wedge topic for partisans on either side to get their foot in the door.

Hm. Maybe we'd be better off just not answering partisan posts. I suspect that (counter to my intention), trying to moderate partisans on either side just prolongs the amount of ranting the forum is subjected to. If I'd just downvoted people (instead of trying to educate them), it might've been better for all concerned.

Comment author: army1987 12 November 2011 01:13:21AM 7 points [-]

Meh. It's not like anyone forced me to read the whole thread (which I haven't done).

Comment author: steven0461 12 November 2011 12:53:19AM 22 points [-]

Vote this comment up if this comment thread has made LessWrong less valuable to you.

Comment author: kpreid 16 November 2011 10:01:55PM 3 points [-]

I dislike the loud and bad-feelings-producing retread of old topics that the comment thread appears (I have skimmed and sampled only) to have become, but I specifically wish that posts like this one are not prohibited/avoided in the future.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 12 November 2011 01:45:09AM 3 points [-]

If you're going to conduct such a poll, I'd recommend asking a similar question about some other thread on some other topic (or possibly several) to act as a control group. (I would also recommend these be staggered in time in the hopes of simulating independent measurement, and the results reported as ratios to the number of posts in the thread.)

Comment author: steven0461 12 November 2011 12:52:59AM 6 points [-]

Vote this comment up if this comment thread has made LessWrong more valuable to you.

Comment author: Dorikka 12 November 2011 07:57:36AM 2 points [-]

Apologies for cluttering up the poll area, but it seems like relevant information that I haven't read much of the comment thread at all because I don't think it'll be valuable to me. If I had to break it down, I'd say that I don't expect it to be particularly useful or interesting to me.

Comment author: lessdazed 12 November 2011 07:55:28AM 2 points [-]

More valuable because it's the weekend and I will read most but not all of it, but bad for signal/noise ratio overall.

Comment author: potato 07 November 2011 05:44:58PM 3 points [-]

I really liked this post because 1: I like picking up women for the obvious reasons, and 2: I love people who are into LW style rationality and I think the best way for it to spread is to demonstrate its applicability to a diverse range of standard human endeavors.

But I have to say that the method of marketing to a specialized group can be taken way too far. And it isn't too hard to do this. I for instance, have long unkempt dreads down to my ass. I get compliments on this at least three times a day (no exaggeration). But all in all, I think I would likely be more successful in picking up women if I had short well kept hair. If your style is so eccentric that only 1/100000 women will find it attractive (though they'll find it insanely attractive), and you live an area where you meet 1 or 2 new women a day, you might need to de-eccentiric-ize a bit to be effective.

Comment author: Meni_Rosenfeld 06 November 2011 10:55:09AM *  3 points [-]

but the blue strategy aims to maximize the frequency of somewhat positive responses while the red strategy aims to maximize the frequency of highly positive responses.

It's the other way around.

Comment author: Swimmer963 02 November 2011 09:43:41AM 3 points [-]

Interesting article, and I enjoyed reading it, although I'm not sure how much new material you cover. A lot of this looks familiar, but I'm not sure whether it's from your other articles or from random reading. Could be just from random reading, actually. I've read a lot in this area because relationships and sexuality are so generally mystifying to me. And real-world 'just go out and do it' experience is what seems to help the most, but 'the virtue of scholarship' helps too, so your articles are useful to me.

Comment author: lukeprog 03 November 2011 12:17:32AM 12 points [-]

I'm not sure how much new material you cover.

New to Less Wrong? Almost all of it.

New to the scientific community? Almost none of it.

Those are the kinds of posts I generally try to write.

Comment author: Psychohistorian 03 November 2011 11:17:38PM 4 points [-]

The whole goth guy/ alternative look point misses a significant part of the appeal. People (particularly men) who prominently display membership in a subculture often have a strong sense of self. This kind of self-confidence is generally attractive to women, so those who aren't immediately put off by his group identity are likely attracted to that confidence and the charisma that goes with it.

Practically, this means that alternative styles only tend to work when they're genuine and you're comfortable with them. Someone who feels most natural in more conservative clothing may actually hurt themselves by trying niche appeal, because they need to belong to that niche.

Comment author: Konkvistador 04 November 2011 10:32:55AM *  2 points [-]

Someone who feels most natural in more conservative clothing may actually hurt themselves by trying niche appeal, because they need to belong to that niche.

In other words it comes of as incongruent.

Comment author: usedToPost 08 November 2011 03:51:30PM *  6 points [-]

Lukeprog, you have produced exactly that which we have been warned against: an article and a paradigm which has all the appearances and dressings of rationality (lots of citations, links to articles on decision theory, rationalist lingo), but which spectacularly fails to actually pursue the truth.

Vladimir_M puts it better than I could:

First, there is the conspicuous omission of any references to the PUA elephant in the room. The body of insight developed by this particular sort of people, whatever its faults, is of supreme practical importance for anyone who wants to formulate practical advice in this area. Without referencing it explicitly, one can either ignore it altogether and thus inevitably talk nonsense, or pretend to speak based solely on official academic literature, which is disingenuous and unfair in its failure to attribute credit and also misleading for those who would like to pursue their own research in the matter.....

he continues:

On the whole, the article is based on the premise that an accurate and no-nonsense analysis of the topic will result in something that sounds not just inoffensive, but actually strongly in line with various fashionable and high-status norms and ideals of the broader society. This premise however is flawed, and those who believe that this has in fact been accomplished should apply the powerful debiasing heuristic that says that when a seemingly rational discussion of some deeply problematic and controversial topic sounds pleasant and reassuring, there's probably something fishy going on

And finally:

So, what about the quality of advice that will be produced by a LW discussion on these topics operating under such constraints of respectability, where disreputable sources of accurate information are tabooed, a pretense must be maintained that the discourse is grounded in officially accredited scholarship and other high-status sources of information, and -- most important of all -- the entire discourse and its bottom line must produce a narrative that is in line with the respectable, high-status views of humanity and society? I am not at all optimistic, especially having seen what has been produced so far!

Yvain is also on point:

shy, nerdy men who can't find anyone who will love them because they radiate submissiveness and non-assertiveness, and women don't find this attractive. Most women do find dominant, high-testosterone people attractive

In three worlds collide, we were introduced to the "Order of Silent Confessors", which is "charged with guarding sanity, not morality". In this post especially, I feel that sanity is lying beaten and abused on the floor. I think we need the "Order of Silent Confessors" now.

As a start, Lukeprog, I think you should include the exerpts by vladimir_M and Yvain above in your article.

Comment author: Yvain 08 November 2011 06:50:54PM 11 points [-]

Thank you for the positive mention, but I'm afraid I disagree with your model of me. Luke is a far braver man than I to even enter this minefield; I won't condemn him for not dancing a merry jig on top of it too.

Luke originally tried to write an article referring to PUA. People told him this was controversial, not just among ignorant people but among long-time readers of this site, that it had always led to unpleasant flame wars in the past, and that it was making us look bad "abroad".

Now he seems to be writing more or less the same thing, but communicating it in a less offensive way. I don't fault him for leaving anything out yet because it's only been one post in a series. I don't think anything he wrote is actually false (well, I have issues with the 'Mean and Variance' section, but he retracted the meat of that). And I think he made the right decision in trying to pitch it to a wider audience.

Comment author: steven0461 08 November 2011 06:59:06PM 13 points [-]

Luke is a far braver man than I to even enter this minefield; I won't condemn him for not dancing a merry jig on top of it too.

He's not entering a minefield so much as dragging it back to his village.

Comment author: PhilosophyTutor 09 November 2011 01:22:07PM 4 points [-]

I should disclose immediately that I am one of the people who find the PUA community distasteful on a variety of levels, intellectual and ethical, and this may colour my viewpoint.

The PUA community may present themselves, and think of themselves, as a "disreputable source of accurate information" but in the absence of controlled trials I don't think the claim to accuracy is well-founded. Sticking strictly to the scientific literature is not so much ignoring the elephant in the room as suspending judgment as to whether the elephant exists until we can turn the lights on.

If it's been said already I apologise, but it seems obvious to me that an ethical rationalist's goals in relationship-seeking should be to seek a relationship that creates maximal utility for both parties, and that scientific evidence about how to find suitable partners and behave in the relationship so as to maximise utility for both partners is a great potential source of human happiness. It's obvious from even the briefest perusal of PUA texts that the PUA community are concerned very much with maximising their own utility and talking down the status of male outgroup members and women in general, but not with honestly seeking means to maximise the utility of all stakeholders.

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning and their attitudes incompatible with maximising global utility for all sentient stakeholders, I think it's quite correct to leave their claims out of a LW analysis of human sexual relationships.

Comment author: Vaniver 09 November 2011 02:00:50PM 4 points [-]

it seems obvious to me that an ethical rationalist's goals in relationship-seeking should be to seek a relationship that creates maximal utility for both parties

It is not clear to me that utilities can be easily compared. What tradeoff between my satisfaction and my partner's satisfaction should I be willing to accept? I can see how to elicit my preferences (for things like partner happiness, relationship duration, and so on) and try to predict how the consequences of my actions will impact my preferences, but I don't quite see how to add utilities, or compare the amount of satisfaction I could provide to multiple potential partners.

It's obvious from even the briefest perusal of PUA texts that the PUA community are concerned very much with maximising their own utility and talking down the status of male outgroup members and women in general, but not with honestly seeking means to maximise the utility of all stakeholders.

It's not clear that they want to talk down the status of women in general. Men becoming more attractive and less annoying to women seems to be better for women, and there's quite a bit in the PUA literature of how to keep a long-term relationship going, if that's what you want to do.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 November 2011 02:47:05PM 7 points [-]

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning

Not something you have shown (or something that appears remotely credible).

and their attitudes incompatible with maximising global utility for all sentient stakeholders,

Not much better and also not a particularly good reason to exclude an information source from an analysis. (An example of a good reason would be "people say a bunch of prejudicial nonsense for all sorts of reasons and everybody concerned ends up finding it really, really annoying").

Comment author: usedToPost 09 November 2011 09:07:49PM 9 points [-]

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning

They write stuff on their version of ArXiv (called pick-up forums) then they go out and try it, and if it works repeatably it is incorporated into PU-lore.

What definition of science did you have in mind that this doesn't fit?