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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics - Less Wrong

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

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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: 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: DanielVarga 06 November 2011 04:55:08PM 1 point [-]

Obviously, I agree. But let me ask: for what values of X would you choose X$ with 15% chance instead of 1,000,000,000$ with 100% chance?

A quite extreme, but still somewhat defensible theoretical assumption is that utility is logarithmic in money. I once heard Bernoulli already worked with this assumption, many hundred years before Neumann-Morgenstern, and it is probably not so silly to assume this near the power-law tail of the wealth distribution. Not that I think it means anything, but from this admittedly extreme starting point, we get that lg(500) = 2.7 is three times as useful as 0.15*lg(1000000) = 0.9.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 06 November 2011 08:02:17PM *  7 points [-]

That assumes someone who initially has $1, and in that case it's certainly true. If on the other hand you initially have, say, $10k...

log(10.5k) - log(10k) ≈ 0.02

0.15 * (log(1.01M) - log(10k)) ≈ 0.3

The crossover point based on this system is $191. Less than that, and you do better with $500. More than that, and you'd try for the million.

Comment author: jimmy 07 November 2011 07:14:00PM *  1 point [-]

That's not quite right in practice either. Even if you took all my money, I'd still take the 15% chance at $1M and maybe sell a 15% chance of $5k for $500.

Or if that is somehow not allowed, then I'd run into a bit of debt until my next pay check. Even if I really was spending all the money I make and averaging $0, $500 is a mere blip in the noise, not a factor of infinity more money.

It makes more sense to look at the total money in over whatever time scale you plan for.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 08 November 2011 02:27:01PM *  0 points [-]

Yeah, the prospect of other incomes makes a big difference. I neglected to include a requirement that the initial amount, whichever value it takes, is as much as you can come up with before you'll be needing money again.

Comment author: Michael_Sullivan 27 November 2011 04:37:34AM 0 points [-]

The present value of my expected future income stream from normal labor, plus my current estimated net worth is what I use when I do these calculations for myself as a business owner considering highly risky investments.

For most people with decent social capital (almost anyone middle class in a rich country), the minimum base number in typical situations should be something >200kUS$ even for those near bankruptcy.

Obviously, this does not cover non-typical situations involving extremely important time-sensitive opportunities requiring more cash than you can raise on short notice (such as the classic life-saving medical treatment required).

Comment author: DanielVarga 06 November 2011 09:24:41PM 0 points [-]

Very true, thanks, I missed that. Obviously I am not an economist. Maybe Eliezer has only ever asked the question from people having less than 191 dollars.

Comment author: HughRistik 10 November 2011 01:41:19AM *  2 points [-]

Many people are in debt. If you are, then your net worth is less than $191.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 November 2011 12:26:09PM *  0 points [-]

Why would people downvote this? Isn't it both correct and obvious? It also has fairly significant implication as to the extent of the applicability of the simplified model.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 08 November 2011 02:29:46PM 0 points [-]

The math works out that he's in contact with people with more than $191 - and that makes sense.

Comment author: DanielVarga 08 November 2011 10:09:07PM 0 points [-]

I meant the "random women" he was talking about.

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: [deleted] 03 November 2011 08:43:27PM 2 points [-]

Was this downvoted because someone is just downvoting every single comment on this subthread because they don't like the idea of this topic being discussed here? Because I can't see anything wrong in Desrtopa's comment.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2011 08:34:22PM *  1 point [-]

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.

Well, that doesn't surprise me but I don't think it's got that much to do with personality: I'd think that a person struggling to make ends meet would be a lot more likely to choose the sure $500 than a reasonably wealthy person, and I don't think there are many of the former kind among people who have enough spare time to read LessWrong, whereas there are lots of them among random people in the streets (at least in 2011 -- there probably were fewer in the 1980s, and more in the 1930s).

Comment author: lessdazed 05 November 2011 02:57:29AM *  6 points [-]

As a substantial portion of the population doesn't play the game of thought experiments very well, it would be worthwhile to ask a second, unrelated thought-experiment question. Anyone who says something like "But a fat man wouldn't weigh enough to stop a trolley!" or "You can't keep a violinist alive by connecting them to a person!" and also doesn't ask something like "Can I have investors bet on whether or not I will receive the $1M?" is just stupid.

Comment author: [deleted] 05 November 2011 11:04:05AM *  2 points [-]

Well, it just didn't occur to me that I could make such a bet.

(Or even, I might sell the lottery ticket with an auction: someone richer than me (who would assign roughly the same utility as me to $1M but much less utility than me to smaller amounts such as $500) might buy it for a lot more money.)

Comment author: lessdazed 05 November 2011 01:25:32PM 4 points [-]

If it wouldn't have seemed to you like a decisive refutation that a fat man might not be able stop a trolley, then you're not stupid, and didn't immediately think of auctioning off the ticket because you understand how these things are supposed to work.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 November 2011 06:17:36PM 3 points [-]

Well, I sometimes do think about non-LPCW answers to hypothetical dilemmas (though I don't say them aloud), but in this case I didn't even think of it. (I feel like my inclination to come up with non-LPCW answers is a function of the scenario's plausibility, but not a monotonic one.)

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 December 2011 11:13:33AM -1 points [-]

I have a suspicion that this "effect" is exaggerated by the stickiness of abusive relationships - once a woman, by ill luck or trickery, does fall into a relationship with a jerk, she may find it difficult, even difficult in the sense of "serious physical danger", to shake permanently loose of it. The emotional reaction of "why would a woman go with that guy? he's such a jerk" is ignorance of how abuse works and "because she likes jerks" is a hypothesis being privileged because it reduces the feeling of dissonance.

Comment author: CronoDAS 11 November 2011 12:48:19AM 0 points [-]

For what it's worth, I can name one. She was a not-too-bright high school student, but her on again, off again boyfriend had definite sociopathic tendencies...