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Rationality Lessons Learned from Irrational Adventures in Romance

53 Post author: lukeprog 04 October 2011 02:45AM

Gooey personal details alert! See also: Alicorn's Polyhacking.

Years ago, my first girlfriend (let's call her 'Alice') ran into her ex-boyfriend at a coffee shop. They traded anecdotes, felt connected, a spark of intimacy...

And then she left the coffee shop, quickly.

Later she explained: "You have my heart now, Luke."

I felt proud, but even Luke2005 also felt a twinge of "the universe is suboptimal," because Alice hadn't been able to engage that connection any further. The cultural scripts defining our relationship said that only one man owned her heart. But surely that wasn't optimal for producing utilons?

This is an account of some lessons in rationality that I learned during my journeys in romance.* I haven't been very rational in my relationships until recently, but in retrospect I learned a fair bit about rationality from the failures resulting from my irrationality in past relationships.

Early lessons included realizations like the one above — that I wasn't happy with the standard cultural scripts. I hadn't really noticed the cultural scripts up until that point. I was a victim of cached thoughts and a cached self.

Rationality Lesson: Until you explicitly notice the cached rules for what you're doing, you won't start thinking of them as something to be optimized. Ask yourself: Which parts of romance do you currently think of as subjects of optimization? What else should you be optimizing?

 

Gather data

At the time, I didn't know how to optimize. I decided I needed data. How did relationships work? How did women work? How did attraction work? The value of information was high, so I decided to become a social psychology nerd. I began to spend less time with Alice so I could spend more time studying.

This wasn't easy. She and I had connected in some pretty intimate ways, including a simultaneous deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity. But in the end my studies paid off. Moreover, my studies in personality and relationship styles helped me to realize that I (and therefore she) would have been miserable if I had decided to pursue marriage with her (or anyone at the time). Now that is valuable information to have!

Rationality Lesson: Respond to the value of information. Once you notice you might be running in the wrong direction, don't keep going that way just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in the thoughts or information you've now realized is valuable because it might change your policies, i.e., figuring out which direction to go.

 

Sanity-check yourself

Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. By then I knew I couldn't give her what she wanted: marriage.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty. Now I realize that there's hardly a more damaging way to break up with someone. She asked that I kindly never speak to her again, and I can't blame her.

This gives you some idea of just how incompetent I was, at the time. I had some idea of how incompetent I was, but not enough of one to avoid badly wounding somebody I loved.

Rationality Lesson: Know your fields of incompetence. If you suspect you may be incompetent, sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling. (E.g. "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely", or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.)

 

Study

During the next couple years, I spent no time in (what would have been) sub-par relationships, and instead invested that time optimizing for better relationships in the future. Which meant I was celibate.

Neither Intimate Relationships nor Handbook of Relationship Initiation existed at the time, but I still learned quite a bit from books like The Red Queen and The Moral Animal. I experienced a long series of 'Aha!' moments, like:

  • "Aha! Body language and fashion matter because they communicate large packets of information about me at light speed, and are harder to fake than words."
  • "Aha! Women want men to be better at making them laugh and feel good and get aroused and not be creeped out. They want men to be as purposefully skilled at flirting and social awareness as they are. Many a young woman is tired of running into men whom they could be attracted to except for the fact that he doesn't know how to have a fun conversation, doesn't know how to create arousal in her, and doesn't know how to lead her smoothly from flirting to great sex."
  • "Aha! When women say "Be yourself," they mean "Don't be fake; be uniquely you." But they don't mean "Just keep acting and talking the awkward way you do now because you haven't learned the skills required to be the best man you can be."

Within a few months, I had more dating-relevant head knowledge than any guy I knew.

Lesson: Use scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to gain a certain class of experience points.

 

Just try it / just test yourself

Scholarship was warm and comfy, so I stayed in scholar mode for too long. I hit diminishing returns in what books could teach me. Every book on dating skills told me to go talk to women, but I thought I needed a completed decision tree first: What if she does this? What if she says that? I won't know what to do if I don't have a plan! I should read 10 more books, so I know how to handle every contingency.

The dating books told me I would think that, but I told myself I was unusually analytical, and could actually benefit from completing the decision tree in advance of actually talking to women.

The dating books told me I would think that, too, and that it was just a rationalization. Really, I was just nervous about the blows my ego would receive from newbie mistakes.

Rationality Lesson: Be especially suspicious of rationalizations for not obeying the empiricist rules "try it and see what happens" or "test yourself to see what happens" or "get some concrete experience on the ground". Think of the cost of time happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider the opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now and change course. How many months or years will your life be less awesome as a result? How many opportunities will you miss while you're still (kinda) young?

 

Use science, and maybe drugs

The dating books told me to swallow my fear and talk to women. I couldn't swallow my fear, so I tried swallowing brandy instead. That worked.

So I went out and talked to women, mostly at coffee shops or on the street. I learned all kinds of interesting details I hadn't learned in the books about what makes an interaction fun for most women:

  • Keep up the emotional momentum. Don't stay in the same stage of the conversation (rapport, storytelling, self-disclosure, etc.) for very long.
  • Almost every gesture or line is improved by adding a big smile.
  • "Hi. I've gotta run, but I think you're cute so we should grab a coffee sometime" totally works — as long as the other person is already attracted because my body language, fashion, and other signals have been optimized.

After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy. And a little after that, I had my first one-night stand, which was great because it was exactly what she and I wanted.

But as time passed I was surprised by how much I didn't enjoy casual flings. I didn't feel engaged when I didn't know and didn't have much in common with the girl in my bed. I had gone in thinking all I wanted was sex, but it turned out that I wanted connection to another person. (And sex.)

Rationality Lesson: Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.

 

Self-modify to succeed

By this time my misgivings about the idea of "owning" another's sexuality had led me to adopt a polyamorous mindset for myself. (I saw many other people apparently happy with monogamy, but it wasn't for me.) But if I was going to be polyamorous, I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right?

It turned out to be easier than I had predicted. Tactics that helped me destroy my capacity for sexual jealousy include:

  • Whenever I noticed sexual jealousy in myself, I brought to mind my moral objections to the idea of owning another's sexuality.
  • I thought in terms of sexual abundance, not sexual scarcity. When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular girl.
  • Mentally, I continually associated 'jealousy' with 'immaturity' and 'neediness' and other concepts that have negative affect for me.

This lack of sexual jealousy came in handy when I later dated a polyamorous girl who was already dating two of my friends.

Rationality Lesson: Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion.

 

Finale

There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm much more romantically capable, I'm free to take up relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps, and I can build rapport with almost anyone. My hair looks good and I'm happy.

If you're a nerd-at-heart like me, I highly recommend becoming a nerd about romance, so long as you read the right nerd books and you know the nerd rule about being empirical. Rationality is for winning.

 

 


* My thanks to everyone who commented on earlier drafts of this post. Here are the biggest changes I made:

  • Some said that while it's okay to be analytic about relationships, it would help the tone of the post if it was clear I was interacting with people as people, too. So I added more of that.
  • Some thought I implied that everyone could or should be polyamorous, which is not something I intended or believe. I've made that clearer now.
  • Robert Lumley provided some detailed comments that I updated in response to.
  • I also made use of some suggestions made by HughRistik.

Comments (608)

Comment author: bogdanb 02 October 2011 01:37:37AM 16 points [-]

Luke, I’ve seen you and others mention the fashion stuff positively quite a few times, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything of substance about it.

Is it something that can only be imparted in a bootcamp, or can you convey parts of it in a blog post (not necessarily on LessWrong)? Since most readers won’t go to a bootcamp anytime soon, even if a text is less effective per person the aggregate benefits of such a post are likely higher. Or did I miss a link somewhere?

(I did encounter lots of fashion advice on the net, but I didn’t quite get it; I’m asking you about it because I vaguely remember seeing comments of (at least one) bootcamp participant who mentioned a similar problem but who did benefit from (what I assume were) your lessons.)

Comment author: Jack 04 October 2011 09:25:31AM 4 points [-]

There's plenty of good fashion advice out there. I would be very surprised if lukeprog claimed any rationalist insights into the matter. If you are male r/malefashionadvice is good. If you are female, I'd be shocked that you managed to be raised in western culture without having such advice shoved down your throat. (Seriously, though, google in both cases should suffice).

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:15:04AM 1 point [-]

If you are female, I'd be shocked that you managed to be raised in western culture without having such advice shoved down your throat.

It's extremely unlikely a stranger will offer advice, and if you're introverted / not that social, co-workers are unlikely to comment on anything that isn't a big violation of norms (or if you work in a male-dominated field like programming...) That leaves friends, and if you have friends who know fashion, you'd probably already have thought to ask them :)

The other issue I've run in to is that I absolutely loathe most mainstream fashions, so most people's advice will lead me down dead ends. It's entirely possible to be fashionable without following mainstream trends, but it's definitely harder to get a start on it.

(sadly I solved all of these problems by having a fairly good fashion sense naturally, so I don't have any advice ^^;)

Comment author: lukeprog 02 October 2011 05:29:15PM 4 points [-]

I haven't posted anything substantive about fashion online. It is hard to communicate that stuff even with text and pictures. I would have to write a whole book and clear the rights to hundreds of photos to reproduce what I taught in the minicamp and the longer boot camp, and I definitely don't have time to do that.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 02 October 2011 08:06:33AM *  12 points [-]

Good article, but after comparing it with the drafts, it comes across as a little... weakened?

Politics, religion, math, and programming are basically never the right subject matter when flirting.

I wonder why you ended up removing that line. Granted, I'd say "rarely" or "unlikely to be" rather than "never", but still, it looks like a useful pointer (or at least reminder), especially given the kind of crowd we have here.

If it's an observation based on repeated experiment, you should say it. If knowing this helped you optimise your strategies, you should say it. Or did you end up thinking that it's actually untrue?

Comment author: roland 04 October 2011 07:49:04PM 6 points [-]

Did you ever do a boot camp or infield training with pick up artists or receive any kind of in-person coaching or did you train by yourself?

Which of the seduction community books did you read if any at all? Which do you recommend, besides the ones you have listed in the article?

Comment author: lukeprog 11 October 2011 09:05:41AM 5 points [-]

I trained by myself. I consumed lots of material. I guess I would recommend the first 10 episodes of Pickup Podcast, Savoy's Magic Bullets (the title is ironic), and probably anything by Brad P. I'm not sure there's anything that is particularly thoughtful or scientifically serious while also being compact and immediately useful. Also, people are at different levels of functioning on different dimensions, so what will be most impactful for a particular person is hard to predict.

Alternatively, skip the pickup world and just do Toastmasters and then go to lots of parties and clubs and social gatherings and watch what people with high mating intelligence are doing.

Comment author: [deleted] 05 October 2011 09:52:28PM 2 points [-]

I, too, would be interested in more recommendations. I'm looking to optimize my approach to romance before I begin my freshman year of university in three months. In this interim, the pool of available, attractive women around me is almost non-existent. At least until university starts, I'll have time to commit to some major self-improvement.

The Handbook of Relationship Initiation has certainly been helpful! Though, I also need help on the more practical issues it doesn't delve into such as body-language and fashion. Can anyone point me toward the best resources on those (and related) subjects?

Comment author: roland 05 October 2011 10:27:02PM 9 points [-]

Just one advice from experience. Try to avoid practicing social skills(pick up and related) in environments where people know you(workplace, school, university). Of course it depends on the size of the university but you don't want to be the weird guy who is using the same lines again and again, if you get my idea.

Comment author: Kevin 02 October 2011 12:17:03AM 21 points [-]

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked.

This is probably the single funniest bit in your backstory.

Comment author: lukeprog 02 October 2011 12:55:27AM 17 points [-]

Yeah, that was really, really bad. I'd like to take that one back, for sure.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 02 October 2011 04:48:18AM *  11 points [-]

Was a blackboard involved?

EDIT: By "blackboard," I obviously meant "PowerPoint presentation."

Comment author: lukeprog 02 October 2011 07:01:25AM 20 points [-]

No, it was in a car, and I had written it up in a 20-page document I printed off, but then I recited it from memory anyway. I'm kinda glad I don't have that document anymore.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 04 October 2011 05:04:15AM 32 points [-]

This is the exact reverse, in every way, of Erin collaborating with a friend of hers to write up an elaborate argument tree for the job of persuading me that she ought to be my girlfriend, which she ended up not actually needing to use.

She also doesn't have that document any more. I so wanted to see it...

Comment author: Jolly 20 October 2011 02:54:09AM 9 points [-]

grin that was fun, and incidentally how I first found out about you (Eliezer). I don't remember actually formally writing said document though, so much as just reasoning out the pro/cons of various approaches.

I'm glad it worked out though! :)

Comment author: Solvent 12 October 2011 09:50:02AM 1 point [-]

How the hell do people lose these things? I keep all these documents so I can publicly distribute them after say a one year time period, to the general amusement and enlightenment of all. Ask her to write it again.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 October 2011 08:17:26AM 17 points [-]

Wow! A 20 page essay on "why I'm breaking up with you"? That's just... brutal!

Comment author: Alejandro1 02 October 2011 02:47:03PM 33 points [-]

I'm picturing it with an impressive array of references at the end, and side remarks on The Neglected Virtue of Scholarsip.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 04 October 2011 02:11:17AM *  18 points [-]

Wow! A 20 page essay on "why I'm breaking up with you"? That's just... brutal!

And obviously the title should have been:

"In Which I Explain How Natural Selection Has Built Me To Be Attracted To Certain Features That You Lack"

:D

Comment author: lukeprog 03 October 2011 01:26:24AM *  5 points [-]

I take no responsibility for anything Luke-2007 did. Different guy. :)

Comment author: JenniferRM 04 October 2011 02:14:41AM 30 points [-]

Out of curiosity, do you expect Luke-2015 to take responsibility for anything Luke-2011 does?

Comment author: wedrifid 04 October 2011 02:20:19AM 10 points [-]

Only the good stuff! :)

Comment author: tristanhaze 29 January 2012 04:45:27AM 3 points [-]

I wonder if this principle works in the case of a murder which rapidly changes the murderer. (Later that day, they may bear no responsibility.)

Comment author: gwern 02 October 2011 01:57:43AM 10 points [-]

Why? Did subsequent evo-psych research disprove the selection for those features?

Comment author: lukeprog 02 October 2011 02:37:06AM 11 points [-]

No, because "Alice" was not operating by Crocker's Rules.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 05 October 2011 03:24:30PM 6 points [-]

No-one ever really is. Well, no-one I've met.

Comment author: antigonus 02 October 2011 04:45:10AM 15 points [-]

People who get dumped want to know their partners' reasons for breaking up, not the biological etiology of those reasons. They are very likely to take lengthy discourses into the latter as insensitive, obfuscatory deflections (and probably correctly so).

Comment author: wedrifid 02 October 2011 07:51:23AM *  12 points [-]

They are very likely to take lengthy discourses into the latter as insensitive, obfuscatory deflections (and probably correctly so).

I would call the 'real reasons' typically given to be obfuscatory deflections. People seldom know the actual reasons for why they want to break up. More often they are explicitly aware of one of the downstream effects of the actual reason.

Which is not to say that descriptions of the biological eitology are not also obfuscatory deflections. Most answers to this question will be! In fact, answers to this question will usually be obfuscatory deflections because not to do so will necessarily be 'insensitive'.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 October 2011 01:24:36PM 15 points [-]

Another reason for not giving the real reasons is that sorting that kind of thing out is work and telling the truth about oneself is an offer of intimacy. If you're breaking up with someone, you may not want to do either one.

Comment author: antigonus 02 October 2011 08:03:06AM *  8 points [-]

I would call the 'real reasons' typically given to be obfuscatory deflections. People seldom know the actual reasons for why they want to break up. More often they are explicitly aware of one of the downstream effects of the actual reason.

I'm sure that's the case. But my point was that if the real reason for the break-up was "I want to be with someone who possesses quality X that you lack," then tacking on "...because evolution made me that way" does not render the reason more real or add an additional, separate reason; it just renders the one reason better explained in a mostly irrelevant way.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 02 October 2011 01:07:50PM 31 points [-]

It makes the reason much more of an attack-- it's not just "I find [feature] unattractive", it's "people in general are likely to find [feature] unattractive, and this is to the advantage of the human race".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 04 October 2011 11:03:24AM 3 points [-]

In spite of this, piling up the karma on this comment makes me feel better about LW. When no one else had made this point on the original post, and then the points were slow to show up on this comment, I was beginning to wonder about the cluefulness level.

I haven't felt this way about any of my other comments.

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't) is a book about women and shame, with a little about men. I'd been wondering why such a high proportion of insults (to both men and women) are about sexual attractiveness, but the book points out that the most stinging insults are about failure to fulfill gender expectations. At the time, I hadn't thought about men being accused of homosexuality, but that fits the pattern from the book.

If I were to get evolutionary about this, cutting down one's rivals' mating potential would make sense as a fundamental attack.

On the other hand, I don't think the author was collecting cross cultural material, so I don't know what insults/shame looks like in cultures where religious prejudice is a larger factor.

None of this is intended as an attack on lukeprog (2007)-- it's clear he had no idea what he was doing. My guess is that he was trying to be less insulting by making the breakup less personal.

Comment author: Nornagest 06 October 2011 07:02:35PM 4 points [-]

On the other hand, I don't think the author was collecting cross cultural material, so I don't know what insults/shame looks like in cultures where religious prejudice is a larger factor.

I'm not an expert on this by any means, but insult content varies quite a bit across cultures. Dutch profanity is largely medical, for example; kankerlijer ("cancer-sufferer") is very strong. I've heard speculation that this is due to the largely urban landscape that Dutch evolved in, where being a vector of infection (never mind that most causes of cancer aren't infectious) meant being a clear danger to the community.

So religious insults seem plausible in any culture that takes religion especially seriously. Spanish profanity has retained a lot of religious content; I don't know much about its evolution, but it could plausibly be related to Spanish-speaking culture's historically strong Catholicism.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 October 2011 03:50:20AM 1 point [-]

Thanks-- the Dutch sickness insults are amazing by American standards.

If it was just about fear of infection, then all urban cultures would have that sort of insult.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 October 2011 08:12:18AM *  7 points [-]

I'm sure that's the case. But my point was that if the real reason for the break-up was "I want to be with someone who possesses quality X that you lack," then tacking on "...because evolution made me that way" does not render the reason more real or add an additional, separate reason; it just renders the one reason better explained in a mostly irrelevant way.

It is rather irrelevant. Even crockers rules doesn't take you as far as giving evolutionary psychology explanations. So saying "because you have small breasts" is grossly insensitive and saying "because you have small breasts and I am biologically ... signalling ... etc" is grossly insensitive and also irrelevant, nerdy and kind of awkward.

Comment author: antigonus 02 October 2011 08:39:46AM 6 points [-]

If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree. There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood. But there is no way of sensitively taking your devastated ex aside and handing him/her a Tooby and Cosmides paper to read for homework.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 October 2011 08:52:14AM *  5 points [-]

If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree.

It could go either way. Digression into a bunch of theory and science impersonalizes things as well as focussing on 'me' instead of 'you' The main problem with getting into a big speel on science is that it increases the total time spent dwelling on the painfully negative topic. The fact that it is talking about the science isn't the insulting part.

There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood.

Talking about 'lack of physical chemistry' is less insulting by virtue of being a vague pre-packaged euphemism rather than brutally personal criticism of highly status-sensitive personal features. It seems to be an entirely different kind of difference to whether you mention evolutionary psychology or not.

Comment author: antigonus 02 October 2011 09:24:27AM *  8 points [-]

Digression into a bunch of theory and science impersonalizes things as well as focussing on 'me' instead of 'you'

Not really. Any evolutionary explanation of why I am repulsed by your physical appearance is going to spend a lot of time dwelling on your physical appearance. And I think the impersonalization bit is the key - it is a ridiculously impersonal digression at a moment of extreme emotional vulnerability on the other person's part. Most people will interpret impersonal explanations of this sort of emotionally impactful decision as an extremely cold-hearted way of excusing oneself. "I'm sorry I've just hurt your feelings. But allow me to explain how this is all just the work of the forces of sexual selection in our ancestral environment..."

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 04 October 2011 05:18:35AM 28 points [-]

Agreed that the ev-psych was bad. But...

If your true and actual reason for breaking up with someone is that her breasts are too small, consider that (a) saying "It was because you were too clingy" may cause them to try and mess with an aspect of their personality that doesn't even need fixing, and (b) total silence, which you may fondly imagine to be mercy, may result in her frantically imagining dozens of possible flaws all of which she tries desperately to correct, just on the off-chance it was that one. As opposed to, say, looking for a guy who's into smaller breasts next time.

Maybe I'm just being inordinately naive, but telling someone honestly, softly, and believably, your true reason for rejecting them, seems like it really should have certain advantages for them, if not for you. I mean, compared to either silence or lying. Calling it "grossly insensitive" is too quick a rejection of the possibility of telling a truth.

Comment author: Swimmy 05 October 2011 04:00:28AM 11 points [-]

I think you're assuming too rational a partner.

If you're honest and say, "Your breasts are too small," the person in question might seek a guy who likes smaller breasts next time. Or she might fall into a deep self-loathing in which she believes that her body is imperfect and nobody could be attracted to her, thus sabotaging her own future potential relationships. Or she could run out and get breast implants, even though she doesn't really want them, in hopes that you / other future guys will find her more attractive--which is much more expensive and possibly less rewarding than simply finding people who like small breasts.

In my view it's better to keep it vague. Guessing over dozens of possible flaws is likely to be less harmful than obsessing over one particular flaw, since it's difficult to figure out / change whatever possible flaw you think may exist.

(Disclosure: I have been dumped once and did the dumping once. The dumper kept it vague; I kept it specific but lied. I can't judge how keeping it specific while lying worked, since the person in question was bipolar and therefore not at all a normal test subject. I can judge how keeping it vague went: I obsessed over dozens of flaws for a while, until I found other people who were interested, at which point I decided it was probably just a bad match and nothing really to do with absolute flaws at all. I do not know how a completely honest dumping pans out.)

Comment author: wedrifid 05 October 2011 06:18:37AM 4 points [-]

If you're honest and say, "Your breasts are too small," the person in question might seek a guy who likes smaller breasts next time. Or she might fall into a deep self-loathing in which she believes that her body is imperfect and nobody could be attracted to her, thus sabotaging her own future potential relationships.

In which case the honest answer would clearly have in fact been "you are too psychologically unstable, needy and difficult to communicate with honestly".

Comment author: lessdazed 04 October 2011 05:57:53AM *  7 points [-]

true reason for rejecting them

This usually makes little sense, particularly for someone one was attracted to for a while.

It's almost never true that for someone whose breasts one once found sufficient, her breasts would be a deal breaker, and no woman would be attractive with similar breasts regardless of her personality, face, legs, etc.

The problem is that the character sheet was filled out with mostly low die rolls, not that stat X is too low.

ETA: asking what the "true reason" for a breakup was is like asking what the "true reason" for a war, such as the Iraq War, was. Was it possible WMD? Past links to Al-Qaida? Possible future links to Al-Qaida? Past human rights abuses such as mass torture and murder? Aquiring influence over oil? Creating a pro-western regime? Creating a democratic regime? Perceived divine guidance during Bush's praying?

The first test to figure out if someone is more rationalist than emotional about the Iraq war to ask them what the "true reason" for the invasion was and see if they right that wrong question. It's just as much the wrong question in this context as that one.

Calling it "grossly insensitive" is too quick a rejection of the possibility of telling a truth.

I agree.

Comment author: wedrifid 04 October 2011 06:02:41AM 5 points [-]

It's almost never true that for someone whose breasts one once found sufficient, her breasts would be a deal breaker

It is more or less true of people who gain a significant amount of status without a commensurate improvement in the status of their partner. Standards change.

Sure, it isn't going to be the only reason but it can certainly be significant enough to single out.

Comment author: jhuffman 04 October 2011 04:46:55PM 3 points [-]

It would depend on the broader social context - in particular, will you still share a social context - but if you do it seems likely you could get your name dragged through the mud in that example,and she still might not believe you and so suffer b) anyway.

Comment author: wedrifid 04 October 2011 06:27:05AM 4 points [-]

A complementary position is that just because something is 'grossly insensitive' doesn't mean it isn't both a kindness and exactly the right thing to do. Humans learn from unpleasant things. Especially targeted unpleasant things. So 'got to be cruel to be kind' often applies.

If your true and actual reason for breaking up with someone is that her breasts are too small, consider that (a) saying "It was because you were too clingy" may cause them to try and mess with an aspect of their personality that doesn't even need fixing, and (b) total silence, which you may fondly imagine to be mercy, may result in her frantically imagining dozens of possible flaws all of which she tries desperately to correct, just on the off-chance it was that one. As opposed to, say, looking for a guy who's into smaller breasts next time.

Tangent: The tricky thing is that often "because you were too clingy" will technically be the real reason, just not the most useful part of the causal chain to select. If she had bigger breasts that will change both how 'clingy' any given behavior seems and how much attraction to her you exhibit which in turn influences how clingy she is likely to be. So sometimes even 'real' reasons can be a cop-out!

Maybe I'm just being inordinately naive, but telling someone honestly, softly, and believably, your true reason for rejecting them, seems like it really should have certain advantages for them, if not for you.

That certainly seems likely for most cases.

Even bigger tangent: I can't think of many better ways to be broken up with than this! Seriously. It's (counter-intuitively) one of the least personally insulting break ups I've seen. Because pussy-footying around being 'sensitive' is in its own way just another kind of insult.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 05 October 2011 02:58:53PM -1 points [-]

WOW! I'd call this the most credible surprising argument for truthfulness I have seen in a long time. Figures it's from Eliezer. Score in our years long argument over the strength of the prior for truthfulness.
Note though, that to be a good idea this would have to be done very sensitively. Also, the girl would have to be awfully rationalistic. I'd default to the position that any girl who isn't already poly is fairly unlikely to be a good candidate for this sort of argument, accompanied by a firm assertion that rationalist guys should not restrict themselves to poly girls.

Comment author: Desrtopa 05 October 2011 03:07:13PM 5 points [-]

I'm not convinced there's a significant correlation between being poly and being rational. In general, polyamory seems to be a mostly unchosen state of preference, and I've neither noticed nor would I particularly anticipate polyamorous people having a pronounced tendency to be more rational.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 27 December 2011 11:03:53AM 1 point [-]

Based on the above considerations it's still probably better to claim unnatural attraction to large breasts then saying something is wrong with her. It's easier on the girl, plus possibly better to have reputation of a perv than a shmuck. Not sure what the score is now.

Comment author: Prismattic 04 October 2011 05:02:56AM 15 points [-]

Examining what Lukeprog wrote...

Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. By then I knew I couldn't give her what she wanted: marriage.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty.....

...his stated reason doesn't appear to match the paragraph that preceded it all (I realize that we are probably gettting a very condensed version of the conversation, but hopefully it didn't elide something this important).

Were I in the lady's position, I'd wonder why I only became physically unsuitable after I started seeking a legally recognized commitment. Unless the feature Lukeprog found unattractive was "wants committed pair-bonding," the explanation does not appear to fit the circumstances at all. This doesn't seem like a case of someone unable to deal with "radical honesty;" it seems like a case of someone being pissed off at what comes across as dishonesty.

Comment author: RobertLumley 02 October 2011 02:56:07PM *  9 points [-]

The real harm, in my eyes, is because she will likely generalize that because evolution made you that way it made all men that way, which is likely not true. Actually it's patently untrue for any example I can think of.

Comment author: Clarica 03 October 2011 03:27:56PM 1 point [-]

I don't see any evidence that suggests that she would draw any conclusion about evolution from a breakup like that. Is that in the text or your own conclusion?

(and I must add that though I didn't write a 20 page document for my first breakup, I arguably did no better.)

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2011 06:46:07PM *  4 points [-]

Humans have emotions and don't think rationally by default. Most people do not like to feel inadequate, though how they respond to that feeling varies a great deal. Most people in a relationship also don't like to feel they were rejected sexually over some perceived inadequacy.

So when a mate gives them a 20-page lecture on their failures to hold their attraction and concludes by rejecting them as a sex partner, it's probably not vanishingly far from the null hypothesis that the person is going to get upset...

Comment author: RobertLumley 03 October 2011 03:35:18PM 2 points [-]

Well it's almost definitional. If evolutionary selection pressures were extreme enough to actually make lukeprog that way, then all men are that way. If evolution did it to him, then it did it to everyone. Evolution doesn't discriminate. What's more likely is that evolution didn't actually make him that way, but societal pressures did.

But that's setting aside the fact that most people tend to wildly anthropomorphize evolution...

Comment author: JoshuaZ 03 October 2011 03:49:09PM *  7 points [-]

Well it's almost definitional. If evolutionary selection pressures were extreme enough to actually make lukeprog that way, then all men are that way.

This does not follow. There are many species where different members have evolved different mating strategies. For a really neat example see this lizard. Males have evolved three different strategies that are in a rock-paper-scissors relationship to each other.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 October 2011 06:12:47PM 8 points [-]

I wouldn't expect lukeprog to bring up evolution in that context unless he believed that most men were like him.

Comment author: Clarica 03 October 2011 08:32:19PM *  2 points [-]

Can you clarify what the harm is, in her thinking 'just like a man'

Or what her thinking would actually be, if that is not what you're suggesting?

And for the record, I killed that first relationship by telling my BF that I wasn't sure I loved him anymore, but that I didn't actually want to break up. Which was totally true, and had predictable results. I turned a normal healthy and cute math-classics major/computer science nerd into a clingy and demanding person, because I didn't understand why I wasn't happier with myself. He had no recourse to any pat generalizations, like 'just like a woman'.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 04 October 2011 10:17:52AM *  12 points [-]

I find it a bit amusing that for all the theorizing about why this was taken so badly, nobody seems to have mentioned the most obvious one. That is, while most people do want to know why you're breaking up with them, very few will appreciate somebody rambling on for 20 pages worth about all the things that are wrong with you. This would be true even if there had been no ev-psych content at all. ("Here are all the things about you that annoy me. First, you have small breasts. Second, you pick your nose. Third, you prefer Star Trek: Deep Space Nine above Star Trek: The Next Generation...)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 October 2011 03:55:09AM 6 points [-]

I'm willing to bet a small amount that it wasn't an hour's worth of listing different reasons for why lukeprog was breaking up with her.

It was one or a small number of reasons for the breakup, and the rest was explaining about evolutionary psychology and possibly some time spent on footnotes.

Comment author: pwno 09 October 2011 09:44:05AM *  7 points [-]

Explaining her flaws in such a scientific, matter-of-fact way shows how emotionally distant he was. She probably felt like the guy she loved just dropped off an eviction notice.

Comment author: Multiheaded 28 December 2011 10:00:38PM 0 points [-]

And this too.

Comment author: shokwave 07 October 2011 05:02:17AM 1 point [-]

and possibly some time spent on footnotes.

Bwahahahaha

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2011 06:42:02PM 2 points [-]

It would be waaaaay too hard to make that sound smart. People having emotions is irrational and irrelevant to a discussion of rationality and romance!

Comment author: FiftyTwo 09 October 2011 11:29:18PM 2 points [-]

I find this incident hard to square with the general impression I get of you as possessing average-high social skills and awareness. Could you say how you had expected her to react? Did you have a coherent mental model of how the conversation would go?

Comment author: lukeprog 10 October 2011 04:20:52AM 5 points [-]

I did not have average-high social skills and awareness at the time. I'll say no more.

Comment author: jhuffman 04 October 2011 04:35:04PM *  2 points [-]

I'd like to take that one back, for sure.

I don't know, you've made a lot of people laugh with this and you'll be able to use this story for several more decades. You might make tens of thousands of people laugh which could be net positive utilons.

Comment author: tristanhaze 29 January 2012 04:38:14AM 9 points [-]

If only lukeprog had thought to tell Alice that at the time!

Comment author: Solvent 29 January 2012 04:45:39AM 6 points [-]

"Sure I'm being a jerk, but telling people about this in the future will be hysterical, so it's overall a good thing for me to do!"

Yeah, I bet that would have gone down well. :)

Comment author: RobertLumley 02 October 2011 02:53:38PM 1 point [-]

Have you since tried to apologize to her?

Comment author: lukeprog 02 October 2011 05:26:54PM 4 points [-]

Yes.

Comment author: RobertLumley 02 October 2011 05:40:04PM 1 point [-]

Do you not care to elaborate? I'd be interested to know how she took it. But if you'd rather not share, that's of course within your rights.

Comment author: lukeprog 02 October 2011 09:06:46PM 15 points [-]

I'm pretty sure she would prefer I not elaborate.

Comment author: MartinB 02 October 2011 01:38:45PM 20 points [-]

No.

It reads like a scene from The Big Bang Theory, and it is difficult to imagine that anyone would ever actually do that - till I remember doing similarly bad+stupid things.

Comment author: listic 06 October 2011 10:17:00PM 2 points [-]

I would really like to know a girl that would be ok with that.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:16:37AM 8 points [-]

I'd expect that people who are okay with breakups are fairly rare, regardless of the method...

Comment author: p4wnc6 04 October 2011 03:52:25AM 6 points [-]

It is interesting to me that I feel almost horrified by nearly all of the relationship advice in this post. I think I am fairly rational, but by no means an expert and I am sure I have many areas of incompetency, but I haven't considered relationships to be one of them. I have had successful, reasonably happy experiences with dating even though I have also been through painful breakups. I have not had any desire to get married or to have children and this was a preference I became aware of around age 18 or 19. At the same time, though, I feel much happier with a monogamous relationship and my sex drive has been much lower than what I perceive to be the cultural norm for men. Even the physical act of having sex does not bring much physical pleasure for me and I've never felt that a sexual connection was of any particular importance for me. At the same time, I realize it is not likely that a compatible female will feel this way, so I just try to focus on doing things to satisfy the women I am in relationships with because I care about them. I doubt I am a great lover, and I most assuredly prefer to just 'be myself' and to patently reject any idea that I need to conform to some socially acceptable level of skill in the ability to carry a flirtacious sequence into good sex. Flirting has always left me feeling cold and I would be very unhappy to change that.

I am wondering if my relationship views are similar to the idea of shock levels or if the modern ideas of being polygamous, avoiding commitment, etc., are just themselves worse than some of the traditional values. For example, I feel proud if I am able to control sexual desire towards a female I am not committed to (when I am committed to someone else). The opportunity cost of losing the chance to have sex with her does not strike me as worrisome in any sense. Perhaps my personal sex drive is just many standard deviations lower.

I find similar feelings when it comes to being a vegetarian. I have never had an intrinsic desire to eat meat, despite the fact that I was raised on a farm in Indiana and my parents fed me lots of meat throughout my childhood. As soon as I decided it was unethical to eat meat (and especially later when I discovered how unhealthy it can be), it was a very easy decision that I have never been seriously tempted to change. It's the same with monogamy and commitment for me as well.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:00:41AM 5 points [-]

I'd think polyamory would work well for you. Any woman you date with a higher sex drive can just have sex with people that aren't you, and then you're not pressured to meet a need that you have no interest in...

Comment author: pedanterrific 07 October 2011 01:19:08AM 2 points [-]

I doubt I am a great lover, and I most assuredly prefer to just 'be myself' and to patently reject any idea that I need to conform to some socially acceptable level of skill in the ability to carry a flirtacious sequence into good sex. Flirting has always left me feeling cold and I would be very unhappy to change that.

Maybe I'm misreading you. Are you saying that you would be unhappy if you began to enjoy flirting? If so... why? (Or is this too personal?)

Comment author: p4wnc6 07 October 2011 01:33:41AM *  3 points [-]

The current prospect of my current self undergoing a transformation into a future self that enjoyed flirting causes me current displeasure. To make an exaggerated example, if someone told me that in 10 years the world would be more or less the same as it is now but that I would come to enjoy cannibalism or self-flagellation, that would upset me because my current mental configuration would see it as a bad thing for me to come into that later mental configuration. On a much much much smaller scale, I feel the same about flirting. You could exchange flirting with "become a fan of the TV show Friends" and I would feel about the same way about it.

Comment author: pedanterrific 07 October 2011 01:59:36AM 4 points [-]

I understand the basic concept - I think the usual analogy is offering Ghandi a pill that would make him want to murder people, or something like that - but in most examples I could think of, there's an element of (and I don't mean this as bad as it sounds) moral judgement about it. Like, there's some things I don't enjoy that I wouldn't mind enjoying - the taste of tea or coffee, for example - and some things that I don't enjoy and would consider it immoral to begin to enjoy - cannibalism, kicking puppies, etc. This model is pretty clearly flawed by failing to account for your stated preferences not to enjoy Friends et al. (unless you consider that immoral somehow?).

Also, to illustrate how one man's exaggeration is another man's Tuesday: I do not currently, but would not particularly mind beginning to, enjoy self-flagellation. Masochists pretty much have it made, in my opinion - it's so easy to inflict pain.

Comment author: p4wnc6 07 October 2011 02:13:01AM 5 points [-]

I agree with you. It probably is a certain amount of moral judgement. The way I experience a distaste in flirting is that it seems annoying and counterproductive to beat around the bush. I don't personally derive enjoyment from it. If I did, or wanted to, I might feel differently about it. Flirting would by no means be the worst thing to end up having as a preference. But I still think some self-hacking would have to happen before I would want to enjoy flirting.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2011 01:09:55AM 5 points [-]

The way I experience a distaste in flirting is that it seems annoying and counterproductive to beat around the bush.

I see flirting somewhat differently. Flirting gives an opportunity for both partners to showcase their social skills and gain information about what they each respond to sexually, and what sort of relationship they might have if they were to embark on one. It's like a mutual interview. Flirting will help your potential female partners determine what kind of guy you are, and if they are into you.

Flirting can often be direct, even though it is implicit rather than explicit. Yet many people find beating around the bush to be useful, because they want more time to assess their potential partner before making a commitment of interest. Personally, I am totally fine with giving a potential partner social information to help her assess her interest in me, rather than trying to get her to make a snap decision before she has sufficient information.

You still might not find flirting enjoyable, but perhaps you can see that it does serve some useful purposes.

Comment author: p4wnc6 13 October 2011 03:38:12AM 3 points [-]

I agree there can be useful information conveyed through flirting, but my experience is that flirting does not usually correlate with the factors that I want to gain information about prior to making a dating decision. On the other hand, if I were interested only in brief sexual encounters, then flirting might communicate information about whether I will enjoy a person's company in the short term. I don't usually seek that, but can see how it would be useful for people who do.

Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2011 06:13:24AM 3 points [-]

It might be possible that flirting is more useful for negotiating short term sexual encounters, but I think there are still applications for long term relationships. For example, flirting can help determine whether your senses of humor are compatible, which could important for a long-term relationship.

Although you might not care much about the information conveyed through flirting, your prospective partners very much might. Flirting will give them a lot of information about your character and social experiences, which they could find useful for determining their desire for a relationship of any length.

All long-term relationships start off being short-term.

Comment author: p4wnc6 13 October 2011 03:12:03PM *  3 points [-]

I haven't noticed a correlation between flirting and the kind of humor that is compatible to my own sense of humor, but again, it might be there. For me, however, one of the issues I actually actively look for when meeting a new person and considering a relationship with them is whether or not they are inclined to flirt. If someone flirts with me, it is generally a detractor and both she and I are probably better off not pursuing anything further, again except possibly for short term sexual interests. If someone else cares a lot about flirting (perhaps legitimately) that is usually a signal that I am not a good match for them. It would be the same if our first conversations focused heavily on NASCAR or high-end fashion... these are signs of a mismatch with my own personality and flirting is among them (though of course not the most telling or severe sign).

Comment author: pedanterrific 07 October 2011 02:17:37AM 5 points [-]

it seems annoying and counterproductive to beat around the bush

Now I get it! Okay, that makes perfect sense to me.

Comment author: Emile 04 October 2011 08:32:06AM 2 points [-]

Even the physical act of having sex does not bring much physical pleasure for me and I've never felt that a sexual connection was of any particular importance for me. At the same time, I realize it is not likely that a compatible female will feel this way

The impression I get is that when a couple disagrees about the frequency of sex, in the majority of cases it's the man that wants more and the woman that wants less - so even if you're at the low end of the distribution of sexual appetite for men, chances are there'll be more women around that level.

Comment author: Logos01 04 October 2011 11:05:38AM 8 points [-]

The problem with this sort of thinking is that women may not express a desire for sexual contact, but they still are strongly influenced by oxytocin / emotional intimacy from love-making.

Also, as an anhedonic (complication of autism) -- I would note that there really aren't many women 'down in my level' as it were. I personally have suspicions that in this category, as in so many other, the bell-curve distribution of motivation/interest/promiscuity is far denser towards the mean in women than it is in men. Same rough average, but fewer outliers.

Comment author: Zeb 02 October 2011 11:11:26PM 12 points [-]

Instead of saying "Women want..." and "Women mean..." would it not be more accurate to say "Some women want.../mean..., and those are the kind of women I wanted to seek, so this knowledge was useful to me."? Also, did your studying convincingly impart that these general desires were gender specific, or would it be more accurate to say "Some people want.../mean"?

Comment author: Logos01 04 October 2011 11:09:50AM 14 points [-]

Instead of saying "Women want..." and "Women mean..." would it not be more accurate to say "Some women want.../mean...,

I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory.

Some forms of accuracy are simply wastes of space; how many digits of Pi does rational!Harry know, as compared to rational!Hermione?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 04 October 2011 12:38:12PM *  13 points [-]

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want", and don't understand that these aren't just statistical trends. And I'm pretty sure that this ends up causing considerable damage. We should whatever we can to avoid strenghtening such views.

And while you may be right that the average commenter will recognize the difference even without it being explicitly stated, I wouldn't be so sure about the average reader. Note that lukeprog has stated that the article is also aimed towards people who don't usually read LW. A random person who gets the link to this article from his Facebook feed is a lot more likely to take such claims literally than someone who has read through every post on LW.

Also, I do feel like there are tendencies towards such over-generalization even among active LW commenters. For instance, there was one case of a commenter acting condescendingly towards people he thought were carrying out preferences that were suboptimal for their sex. (Or so my memory claims: when I went to look up the details, I noticed that the relevant comments had been deleted, so I can only link to my rebuttal.)

Comment author: lessdazed 04 October 2011 04:17:41PM *  2 points [-]

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"

Do you mean "The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men all want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"? Because people who interpret the author as saying something stupid are interpolating in an unwritten determiner to do that just as much as those interpolate "generally" by reading him charitably and correctly figuring out what is meant from context.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 04 October 2011 04:34:44PM 1 point [-]

Do you mean "The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men all want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"?

Yes.

Because people who interpret the author as saying something stupid are interpolating in an unwritten determiner to do that just as much as those interpolate "generally" by reading him charitably and correctly figuring out what is meant from context.

I'm having difficulty parsing this sentence.

Comment author: lessdazed 04 October 2011 04:46:45PM *  10 points [-]

The conscious or subconscious decision to read "women/men want" as "women/men all want" rather than "women/men generally want" is a mental step, just as the conscious or subconscious decision to read "women/men want" as "women/men generally want" rather than "women/men all want" is a step.

It's not obviously the default to read "women/men want" as "women/men all want".

In this context, to do so is a) obviously wrong to me, b) actually wrong according to the intent of the author and c) would result in the author saying something stupid rather than arguably true.

A critical reading skill is to read charitably such that the author is not saying something stupid, and I have trouble sympathizing with what I see as an abandonment of that duty by readers or commenters excusing and/or justifying that.

If I say in passing "men are taller than women", I hope I don't get assailed by people pointing out that at maturity, many women are taller than many men, or that men start as babies less than a foot or so tall, at which point almost every female is taller than they are*.

*And when I say "almost every female is taller than they are," I mean female human, as most females are of smaller species and our babies are taller than they are**.

**And when I say "most females are of smaller species and are babies are taller than they are" I mean of species so far discovered***.

***And when I say "of species so far discovered" I mean "discovered by humans," for other species may have discovered many more large species than we have discovered small species.****

****And when I say "discovered by humans," I mean as far as I know.*****

*****And when I say "as far as I know," I mean as far as I knew when typing this.

I hope that's enough disclaimers to protect from those determined to misread my words.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 04 October 2011 06:25:12PM 9 points [-]

But this presumes that the reader does already realize that a claim of the type "all men want x" (or even "the overwhelming majority of men want x") is stupid, while my point was that for many people, "all men want x" is a perfectly reasonable claim.

Comment author: lessdazed 04 October 2011 10:29:42PM 2 points [-]

Do you have examples of people agreeing with what they believe to be a claim of the type "all men want x"?

So far I've only seen people a) disagreeing with what they interpret as such claims on the grounds they are unreasonable and b) saying that others will mistakenly agree with the unreasonable interpretation and find it reasonable.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2011 06:32:40PM *  3 points [-]

You can demonstrate an absurd case, but check this out:

"On average, men are taller than women."

Note the utter dearth of twisted, tortured forced phrasing and the way it totally requires no linguistic effort to generate that context if you just stop to think before you speak. If someone disputes that, they're either clearly wrong or have an interesting study to look at (and probably debunk).

I'm a woman and I'm 6'5'' (taller than 99.9999% of women last time I checked), but I can't see what's wrong with stating it that way. Your reply is kind of a straw example of what's being asked.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 October 2011 02:18:46PM 20 points [-]

This was a good example, but I think you probably missed a part of the message. Or maybe I am imagining a part that did not exist.

Generally, people are speaking imprecisely. To state one's opinion with a mathematical precision as you did, is rare. (For example, writing this paragraph I would have a problem to precisely define what "generally" and "rare" mean in this context.) And when normally speaking, people tolerate this. ...uhm, usually.

Asking people to be precise is also a signal of something. We usually don't demand perfect clarity for every sentence we ever read or hear, even on LW. I suppose we usually demand it when we disagree with one's opinion.

Placing a burden of preciseness on some people or some opinions, provides their opponents cheap counter-attacks, when they don't have to discuss the argument, only point out the impreciseness.

Now, carefully crafting one's comments into precise sentences is possible, but has a non-zero cost. So by selectively asking people, whose opinion we don't like, to be more precise than usual, we make them pay for their dissent. All while pretending that we only care about the truth, without taking sides.

Of course, people learn that they are asked for higher precision only when expressing certain opinions, so if they want to avoid the costs of such speech, they avoid the sensitive topics. But that's the point, isn't it? By increasing standards of speech for certain opinion, we gradually make it disappear.

I think that people often feel when this is done to them, but it's kind of difficult for them to express what is happening, without seeming kind of paranoid. Also it's kind of difficult to express your feelings in a situation when an extra dose of preciseness is required.

Summary: It is possible to selectively use demands for precision as a form of censorship.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 October 2011 04:00:03PM *  4 points [-]

Asking people to be precise is also a signal of something. We usually don't demand perfect clarity for every sentence we ever read or hear, even on LW. I suppose we usually demand it when we disagree with one's opinion.

I don't want "perfect clarity* from people, I want for the people on this site who make declarative statements about groups of people they're not in (especially when the implications shape their behavior toward members of that group) to be factually-accurate and not misleading in their implications. This is not a complex or censorious idea.

I don't want "politically correct", I want actually correct. Do you see the difference? What I want to see is people not committing the ecological fallacy (Population X is statistically Y on average, ergo more members than not will be Y) and nobody pointing it out just because the conclusions are agreeable to a majority on this site.

I do not have the power, let alone the desire, to censor you or any other poster on this site (other than by means of downvoting a comment, and I only get the one downvote).

Comment author: Konkvistador 08 October 2011 05:09:28PM 7 points [-]

I want for the people on this site who make declarative statements about groups of people they're not in (especially when the implications shape their behavior toward members of that group)

If this was applied consistently for all low status groups I wouldn't mind it.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 October 2011 05:05:38PM 9 points [-]

Precision is a way of fighting availability bias-- if all you see is "women are shorter than men" because most women are in fact shorter than most men, then it can be hard to remember that there are women who are taller than most men.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 October 2011 05:27:02PM *  6 points [-]

I don't want "politically correct", I want actually correct.

My point was that I suspect that a presence of "politically incorrect" ideas increases our desire for actual correctness, while an absence of such ideas makes us relax.

Perhaps this bias already has a name; I don't remember it. It means requiring stronger evidence to ideas you disagree with; and not being aware of it.

If you require the same level of proof for both "politically correct" and "politically incorrect" comments, then it is OK. But it seems to me that in many discussions the level of proof rises up at the moment that "politically incorrect" opinions are introduced.

EDIT: Of course, even if my hypothesis is true, this is not an evidence for "politically incorrect" ideas (that would just be trying to reverse stupidity).

EDIT2: I would like to taboo the term "politically incorrect" in this comment, but I can't find a short enough substitute with the same expressive power. I would like to make it more group-dependent, not outside-world-dependent. It is supposed to mean: something that a decent member of this group would hesitate to say, because the morality keepers of this group will obviously disagree.

Comment author: lessdazed 08 October 2011 09:38:19PM *  3 points [-]

not misleading

Misleading-ness isn't a property of a statement, but of a statement-interpreter pair.

So if people claim statements are misleading because some other minds will misinterpret it to the detriment of their in-group, when there is no sign such misinterpreters exist in significant number, that seems like a power grab (independent of the question of whether or not that group should have more power) at the expense of the principle of charity.

Thus wouldn't be the case if people were leaving comments arguing against what they thought were authors' beliefs with them wrong about the author's beliefs, or agreeing with what they thought were the authors' beliefs with them wrong about the author's beliefs.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 08 October 2011 05:16:59PM *  2 points [-]

Summary: It is possible to selectively use demands for precision as a form of censorship.

Now now, insight like that might slow the evaporative cooling that has been happening on Lesswrong when it comes to gender and sexuality (and to a much lesser extent on all unPC matters). Thinkers here used to be much less burdened by this, makes even a fool hard pressed to chuckle.

Comment author: Tesseract 02 February 2012 06:59:01AM 1 point [-]

This comment is shockingly insightful and I would like to thank you for it.

Comment author: Logos01 04 October 2011 05:12:08PM 0 points [-]

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want", and don't understand that these aren't just statistical trends.

I would tend to be one of them. But no woman or man is a 'women'/'men'. What the group -- as a second-order simulacrum -- wants isn't necessarily what an individual instantiation of the group wants.

Also, I do feel like there are tendencies towards such over-generalization even among active LW commenters.

Given that all I have to work with is your quoting him as saying "a certain behavior" is suboptimal (in a manner so vague I haven't a clue what position either of you were staking out) -- I cannot begin to make any informed statements on that topic.

Just to play devil's-advocate here -- have you considered the possibility that your feeling here represents an over-generalization about LW'ers over-generalizing?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 04 October 2011 06:26:34PM 3 points [-]

Just to play devil's-advocate here -- have you considered the possibility that your feeling here represents an over-generalization about LW'ers over-generalizing?

Maybe. But I didn't make any claims about exactly how common this attitude is among LW'ers, only that it seems to exist.

Comment author: Logos01 05 October 2011 02:49:04AM 3 points [-]

I can't help but feel that this seems like something of a retraction of what I would refer to as "the informational meaningfulness" of your positional stance. It reduces an interesting statement to a trivial one.

Comment author: Erebus 04 October 2011 03:36:00PM 11 points [-]

I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory.

Understanding signaling in communication is almost as basic as understanding the difference between the map and the territory.

A choice of words always contains an element of signaling. Generalizing statements are not always made in order to describe the territory with a simpler map, they are also made in order to signal that the exceptions from the general case are not worth mentioning. This element of signaling is also present, even if the generalization is made out of a simple desire to not "waste space" - indeed the exceptional cases were not mentioned! Thus a sweeping generalization is evidence for the proposition that the speaker doesn't consider the exceptions to the stated general rule worth much (an upper bound is the trouble of mentioning them). And when dealing with matters of personal identity, not all explanations for the small worth of the set of exceptional people are as charitable as a supposedly small size of the set.

Comment author: Logos01 04 October 2011 05:07:38PM 3 points [-]

And when dealing with matters of personal identity, not all explanations for the small worth of the set of exceptional people are as charitable as a supposedly small size of the set.

Certainly.

However, the simple truth is that communication becomes positively impossible if 'sweeping generalizations' at some level are not made. Is this a trade-off? Sure. But I for one do not find it exceedingly difficult to treat all broad-category generalizations as simulacra representing the whole body. Just like how there's probably not a single person in politics who agrees with the entirety of the DNC or the GOP's platforms, discussing those platforms is still relevant for a reason.

And political identity is arguably one of the most flame-susceptible category of that available for discourse nowadays. So that's saying something significant here.

Comment author: GilPanama 06 October 2011 04:53:01AM *  5 points [-]

A statement like "Women want {thing}" leaves it unclear what the map is even supposed to be, barring clear context cues. This can lead to either fake disagreements or fake agreements.

Fake disagreements ("You said that Republicans are against gun control, but I know some who aren't!") are not too dangerous, I think. X makes the generalization, Y points out the exception, X says that it was a broad generalization, Y asks for more clarity in the future, X says Y was not being sufficiently charitable, and so on. Annoying to watch, but not likely to generate bad ideas.

Fake agreements can lead to deeper confusion. If X seriously believes that 99% of women have some property, and Y believes that only 80% of women have some property, then they may both agree with the generalization even if they have completely different ideas about what a charitable reading would be!

It costs next to nothing to say "With very few exceptions, women...", "A strong majority of women...." or "Most women...." The three statements mean different things, and establishing the meaning does not make communication next-to-impossible; it makes communication clearer. This isn't about charity, but clarity.

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 07:40:01AM *  0 points [-]

This isn't about charity, but clarity.

I in another subthread referenced the "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" 'fanfic' written by Eliezer, when he mentioned how many fewer digits of Pi rational!Harry knew as compared to rational!Hermione.

The point is that I'm concerned not with charity nor with clarity, but rather with sufficiency to the current medium. Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

Are you familiar at all with how errors propagate in measurements? Each time you introduce new provisos, those statements affect the "informational value" of each dependent statement in its nest. This creates an analogous situation to the concept of significant digits in discourse.

For a topic like lukeprog's, in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance. Eliminating it altogether (until such time as it becomes significant) is an important and valuable practice in communication.

Failure to effectively exercise that practice will result in needless 'clarifications' distracting from the intended message, hampering dialogs with unnecessary cognitive burden resultant from additional nesting of "informational quanta." In other words; if you add too many provisos to a statement, an otherwise meaningful and useful one will become trivially useless. An example of this in action can be found in another subthread of this conversation where someone stated he felt that there is a 'trend among frequent LessWrongers to over-generalize". This has informational meaning. He later added a 'clarification' that he hadn't intended the statement as an indication of population size, which totally reversed the informational value of his statement from an interesting one to a statement so utterly trivial that it is effectively without meaning or usefulness.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 06 October 2011 08:55:14AM 9 points [-]

The point is that I'm concerned not with charity nor with clarity, but rather with sufficiency to the current medium. Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

Not adding those statements also has a cost.

in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance.

Honestly, you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post seemingly making unchallenged sweeping generalizations about women, and decide that these so-called rationalists are just a group of bigoted idiots that are less rational than your average person-in-the-street.

It's okay for someone to to say that pi is "3.14" if the other person knows that you know in reality it has more digits than that, and you're just being sufficient for your purposes. In short if there's actual transparency, not a double illusion of such.

But if they don't know that, if every post of yours may be perceived as an indication of complete positions (not hasty approximations thereof), it costs less to do things like say "most women" instead of "women" (or add a general disclaimer at the beginning) rather than not do it.

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 01:59:30PM 0 points [-]

Not adding those statements also has a cost.

This is trivially true. What does adding them add to a conversation to which they are not relevant or significant?

Honestly, you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post seemingly making unchallenged sweeping generalizations about women, and decide that these so-called rationalists are just a group of bigoted idiots that are less rational than your average person-in-the-street.

This is uncontestably true. But the opposite is also true; you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post filled with provisos and details and, upon discovering a massive gulf of an inferential gap, give up on even attempting to understand.

[Re: Pi "is" 3.14] In short if there's actual transparency, not a double illusion of such.

Certainly.

But if they don't know that, if every post of yours may be perceived as an indication of complete positions (not hasty approximations thereof)

This is a gross misrepresentation of my statements, to the point of being nothing remotely like what I advocate. I have repeatedly advocated not the elimination of precision but the application of only the relevant degree of precision to the nature of the discourse at hand.

it costs less to do things like say "most women" instead of "women" (or add a general disclaimer at the beginning) rather than not do it.

My point is not restricted to '''"most women" instead of "women"'''. It is a generalized principle which happens to apply here. For any given conversation there are thousands of such details we must choose to parse for relevance to a conversation. Demanding unerring accuracy beyond relevance is simply damaging to dialogue.

Comment author: GilPanama 06 October 2011 09:07:14AM 2 points [-]

Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

The cost of omitting them isn't clear initially, either.

Are you familiar at all with how errors propagate in measurements? Each time you introduce new provisos, those statements affect the "informational value" of each dependent statement in its nest. This creates an analogous situation to the concept of significant digits in discourse.

I was generally taught to carry significant figures further than strictly necessary to avoid introducing rounding errors. If my final answer would have 3 significant digits, using a few buffer digits seemed wise. They're cheap.

Propagation of uncertainty is not a reason to drop qualifiers. It's a reason to use them. When reading an argument based on a generalization, I want to know the exceptions BEFORE the argument begins, not afterwards. That way, I can have a sense of how the uncertainties in each step affect the final conclusion.

For a topic like lukeprog's, in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance. Eliminating it altogether (until such time as it becomes significant) is an important and valuable practice in communication.

If I want an answer to three significant figures, I do not begin my reasoning by rounding to two sigfigs, then trying to add in the last sigfig later.

If one person thinks that an argument depends on an assumption that fails in 1 in 100 cases, and someone else thinks the assumption fails in 1 in 5 cases, and they don't even know that they disagree, and pointing out this disagreement is regarded as some kind of map-territory error, they will have trouble even noticing when the disagreement has become significant.

Failure to effectively exercise that practice will result in needless 'clarifications' distracting from the intended message, hampering dialogs with unnecessary cognitive burden resultant from additional nesting of "informational quanta." In other words; if you add too many provisos to a statement, an otherwise meaningful and useful one will become trivially useless.

This tends to happen to bad generalizations, yes. Once you consider all of the cases in which they are wrong, suddenly they seem to only be true in the trivial cases!

Good generalizations are still useful even after you have noted places where they are less likely to hold. Adding any number of true provisos will not make them trivial.

As for the cognitive load, why not state assumptions at the beginning of an essay where possible, rather than adding them to each individual statement? If the reader shares the assumptions, they'll just nod and move on. If the reader does NOT share the assumptions, then relieving them of the cognitive burden of being aware of disagreement is not a service.

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 10:00:40PM 3 points [-]

As for the cognitive load, why not state assumptions at the beginning of an essay where possible,

I just now caught this, and... this is, I believe, where we have our fundamental disconnect.

By restricting the dialogue to essays the overwhelming majority of the meaningfulness of what I'm trying to say is entirely eliminated: my statements have been aimed at discussing the heuristic of measuring the cognitive burden per "unit" of information when communicating. The fact is that in a pre-planned document of basically any type one can safely assume a vastly greater available "pool of cognition" in his audience than in, say, a one-off comment in response to it, a youtube video comment, or something said over beers on a Friday night with your drinking-buddies.

I am struck by the thought that this metaphorically very similar to how Newton's classical mechanics equations manifest themselves from quantum mechanics after you introduce enough systems, or how the general relativity equations become effectively conventional at "non-relativistic" speeds: when you change the terms of the equations the apparent behaviors become significantly different. Just like how there's no need to bother considering your own relativistic mass when deciding whether or not to go on a diet, the heuristic I'm trying to discuss is vanishingly irrelevant to anything that one should expect from a thought-out-in advance, unrestricted-in-length, document.

Comment author: GilPanama 09 October 2011 03:20:32AM 2 points [-]

Upvoted for clear communication.

I'm sort of puzzled, though, as to how I could have possibly interpreted your statements as applying to anything but the post and the comments on it; I saw no context clues suggesting that you meant "in everyday conversation." Did I miss these?

That said, if one of us had added just three or four words of proviso earlier, limiting our generalizations explicitly, we could have figured the disconnect out more quickly. I could have said that my generalizations apply best to essays and edited posts. You could have said that your generalizations apply best to situations where the added cost of qualifiers carries a higher burden.

Because we did not explicitly qualify our generalizations, but instead relied on context, we fell prey to a fake disagreement. However, any vindication I feel at seeing my point supported is nullified by the realization that I, personally, failed to apply the communication strategy that I was promoting.

Oops.

Comment author: Logos01 10 October 2011 02:38:46AM *  1 point [-]

I saw no context clues suggesting that you meant "in everyday conversation." Did I miss these?

My language throughout was highly generalized. Consider my opening statement: "I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory."

And then also consider the fact that I used the term "discourse".

I didn't mean "everyday communication" specifically -- it simply is the venue where such a heuristic is most overtly valuable and noticeable. I did not qualify my generalizations because there were no qualifications to make: I was meaning the general sense.

You could have said that your generalizations apply best to situations where the added cost of qualifiers carries a higher burden.

Quite frankly, I did. That would be a modifying element to the "threshold of significance". (I.e.; "Is the cost of adding item X to this conversation greater than the value item X provides to the depth or breadth of information I am attempting to convey? If yes, do not add it. If no, do.") Because I was discussing so highly generalized a principle / heuristic, the fact that situations where added cost of qualifiers cost a higher burden is simply an inexorable conclusion from the assertion.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 07 October 2011 12:09:34AM *  1 point [-]

a thought-out-in advance, unrestricted-in-length, document.

For a moderately loose definition of 'thought out in advance', this describes most text-based, internet-based communication, and certainly the types of communication that can happen on LW.

Comment author: Logos01 07 October 2011 04:18:14PM 2 points [-]

I disagree with the usage of the term "moderately" here. I do not find it applicable. How many hours do you spend on each comment you make?

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 02:05:25PM 1 point [-]

I was generally taught to carry significant figures further than strictly necessary to avoid introducing rounding errors.

Which is why I also discussed error propagation, which compounds.

Propagation of uncertainty is not a reason to drop qualifiers. It's a reason to use them.

I can only say that you are reading the metaphor too literally given the examples I've given thus far.

If I want an answer to three significant figures, I do not begin my reasoning by rounding to two sigfigs, then trying to add in the last sigfig later.

Of course!!! This isn't applicable to dialogue, however, as it has the opposite problem: the degree of cognitive burden to retain the informational value of a statement increases with the increased complexity. There is a limit on how much of this can be done in a given conversation.

Increasing complexity of statements to increase their accuracy can cause the ability to comprehend a statement to be reduced.

If the reader does NOT share the assumptions, then relieving them of the cognitive burden of being aware of disagreement is not a service.

This statement carries a specific assumption of depth of dialogue which may or may not be valid.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 06 October 2011 08:24:59AM 1 point [-]

And yet, we still say that p(Christianity is correct) is epsilon, rather than zero - and this seems to cause few-to-no problems, even.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2011 05:07:34AM 4 points [-]

However, the simple truth is that communication becomes positively impossible if 'sweeping generalizations' at some > level are not made.

True but misleading. One should seek to avoid eliminating relevant meaning in the process of making those generalizations.

If you say "Men are sexually attracted to women" and your intended meaning is "this is true enough often enough to serve as a reliable guide to male behavior", then when someone points out that homosexual men and asexual men exist, the fact that those groups are minorities doesn't change the fact that you were imprecise in misleading ways, even if you didn't explicitly say "always". In addition, the unspoken implications you take out of the the statement (which could be nearly anything depending on what you're talking about) may be apparent but not agreeable to the listener, which is quite relevant if you're depending upon those to support your argument downstream.

So yes, make generalizations, but make good, accurate generalizations with appropriate scope limitations. And try to make the implications you perceive explicit.

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 07:57:07AM 2 points [-]

True but misleading. One should seek to avoid eliminating relevant meaning in the process of making those generalizations.

(Formatting tip: you need to add two spaces at the end of the previous line to get lesswrong's commenting markup language to "<br>"/"\n". Two newlines will "<p>".)

I follow the convention of thinking that provisos are somwhere betwee standard deviation or significant digits. When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation.

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other", then the fact that some men/women don't marry, or the fact that intersex people aren't necessarily men or women, or the fact that GLBT people who marry are also likely to do so because of love, or the fact that some marriages are loveless is only a distraction to the conversation at hand.

While this seems like a trivial item for a single statement, the thing about this is that such provisos propagate across all dependent statements, meaning that the informational value of all dependent statements is reduced by each such proviso made.

Consider the difference in meaning between "Men and women marry each other because they love each other" and "Men/women/intersex individuals and other men/women/intersex individuals may or may not marry one another in groups as small as two with no upper bound for reasons that can vary depending on the situation."

This is, granted, an extreme example (reductio absurdum) but I make it to demonstrate the value of keeping in mind your threshold of significance when making a statement. Sometimes, as counterintuitively as it may seem, less accurate statements are less misleading.

Comment author: GilPanama 06 October 2011 09:36:08AM 8 points [-]

When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation.

No, they are pointing out that in order to apply to a case they are interested in, the conversation must be made more precise.

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other", then the fact that some men/women don't marry, or the fact that intersex people aren't necessarily men or women, or the fact that GLBT people who marry are also likely to do so because of love, or the fact that some marriages are loveless is only a distraction to the conversation at hand.

The last one isn't a distraction, it's a counterexample. If you want to meaningfully say that men and women marry out of love, you must implicitly claim that loveless marriages are a small minority. If someone says, "A significant number of of marriages are loveless," they aren't trying to get you to add a trivializing proviso. They're saying that your generalization is false.

Consider the difference in meaning between "Men and women marry each other because they love each other" and "Men/women/intersex individuals and other men/women/intersex individuals may or may not marry one another in groups as small as two with no upper bound for reasons that can vary depending on the situation."

This isn't a reductio, it's a strawman. When you add provisos to a statement that is really nontrivial, you do not turn "generally" into "may or may not." You turn "always" into "generally", or "generally" into "in the majority of cases".

In any case, what about "People who marry generally do so out of love?" This retains the substance of the original statement while incorporating the provisos. All that is gained is real clarity. All that is lost is fake clarity. (And if enough people are found who marry for other reasons, it is false.)

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2011 12:49:54PM 7 points [-]

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other",

Oooh, perfect example! Because this is probably still not true for a plurality, if not majority of humanity, and it used to be little more than a perk if it occurred in a marriage. For most of human history and for much of humanity today, marriage is more like a business relationship, corporate merger, pragmatic economic decision...

If you confine your statement to Westerners, and especially middle-to-upper class ones, and those who live in societies strongly modelled on the same pattern (urban Chinese often yes; rural Chinese often no) then you are dealing with an acceptable level of accurate to be relatively unobjectionable.

Do you want to try again?

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 01:51:30PM 1 point [-]

Oooh, perfect example! Because this is probably still not true for a plurality, if not majority of humanity,

[...]

Do you want to try again?

My statement wasn't ever meant to be representative of the whole. That should have been obvious. If I'd said "only for love" then that'd be a valid objection. As it stands, I have no such problem. Generalizations that are useful for a context need not be without exception or even universally comprehensive.

People in the past or in other cultures are irrelevant to me when discussing social habits I am familiar with.

So, no. My statement is fine as is. Did I leave out a great heaping swath of precisions, provisos, and details? Absolutely!! -- but that was the point from the outset.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2011 06:26:48PM 5 points [-]

So, no. My statement is fine as is. Did I leave out a great heaping swath of precisions, provisos, and details? > Absolutely!! -- but that was the point from the outset.

And you wouldn't hear a peep out of me if it wasn't depressingly common to see people couch advice, theories and other mental-model-of-the-world stuff in such terms, giving no obvious sign that they've thought about the distinction between "speaking to a specific audience" and just speaking with the assumption that the listeners fit their relatively vague preconception of who they talk to, rather than about.

It's far from clear when an Anglophonic Western man says "Men and women marry each other for romantic love" that he is cognizant of the distinction. After all, that's his default context, other possibilities are barely even mentioned in his expected cultural background (let alone presented as normal), and unless he has much overt contact with people for whom that's not the case, the odds are pretty good it's a thing-over-there, done by some outgroup about whom he knows rather little.

It may not be terribly important if he's just talking among a peer group of like folks, but when he's got access to a wide and relatively unknown audience (it could be anyone reading), and he's trying to frame it in terms of general information about "how people work", it's usually a safe bet he just didn't think about how his own norms influence his advice, and hence how applicable it might be to even, say, an English-speaking, technically-trained man in India (where arranged marriages for purposes other than romantic love are still pretty standard).

Sometimes people on this site even take norms like that and try to infer over all of human evolution. So yeah -- this is not an unreasonable thing to question.

Comment author: Logos01 06 October 2011 09:43:14PM 3 points [-]

the assumption that the listeners fit their relatively vague preconception of who they talk to, rather than about.

Can you rephrase this for me? It's not parsing my language-interpreter.

It's far from clear when an Anglophonic Western man says "Men and women marry each other for romantic love" that he is cognizant of the distinction.

Certainly. Arguably, for the majority of cases it's not even relevant whether he is or isn't. In all likelihood whoever he is talking to also shares that set -- as you said, it's his "default context". Now, yes, absolutely failing to recognize that one's default context is not the sole available context can be a significant problem. But that really isn't relevant to the topic of my assertions about cognitive burden per statement of equivalent informational value and the relevance of said burden to knowing when generalizing trivial elements of a statement is a net gain rather than net loss.

an English-speaking, technically-trained man in India (where arranged marriages for purposes other than romantic love are still pretty standard).

You know, after years of making daily calls to workers in India (I do corporate sysadmin work, for a number of various corporations) -- I still have absolutely no clue beyond the vaguest notions gleaned from the "idiot box" (TV, but at least I mean PBS-ish) about the cultural contexts of a modern urban Indian person. I really do feel like I understand more about the unspoken assumptions of Amazonian tribesmen than I do about Indian people.

I do, however, find it both insulting when my offshores co-workers think they can slip insults by me through such expedients as telling me to "do the needful" in a particular tone, but I digress.

Sometimes people on this site even take norms like that and try to infer over all of human evolution.

Absolutely not an unreasonable thing to question, since any norm not empirically validated to exist in other monkeys (I am of the belief that all modern primates qualify monocladistically as monkeys) is simply not viable material for Evo-Psych theories without significant and rigorous documentation.


By the way, I just made an inaccurate statement for the purposes of making the statement less misleading, as I previously asserted. It has to do with my use of the term "empirically" -- I follow the thinking of Poplerian falsificationism which, while similar to empiricism, does not suffer from the problem of induction. While this one instance is trivial -- keeping up that level of technicality quickly turns casual conversation into cited, researched, thesis papers. And it's just plain impossible to always communicate at that level; ergo, devoting actual thought and consideration to building a rational heuristic for when generalization / inaccuracy is acceptable is a necessary part of the toolkit. Which is what I was saying from the outset.

Comment author: Alexei 03 October 2011 12:57:48AM 7 points [-]

Yes, that whole paragraph rubbed me the wrong way too. It seems Luke expects that every male should take charge of the relationship/dating/sex. That's not always how it works. It's not necessarily bad if a man can't lead, but it does become bad if he can't also follow. I.e., every person needs social skills regardless of gender.

Comment author: Rubix 05 October 2011 04:02:25AM *  4 points [-]

Luke was working from the perspective of a man trying to improve his social skills in order to be contributing more equally to a potential relationship. The implication was not that women do not also need social skills, rather, for him to attract the attention of a woman (who has already caught his attention, presumably, with her social skills, body language, pheromones etc.,) he must have better social skills.

From personal experience, I feel that most of the pronouns in that paragraph could easily be reversed. There are women with poor body language and poor social skills; if anything, this essay proves that, because he's not thinking about how to attract those women.

Comment author: lessdazed 03 October 2011 12:19:58AM *  -3 points [-]

Does the name of this dog breed (the Pointer) strike you as outlandishly inappropriate?

Comment author: Zeb 03 October 2011 12:26:08AM 9 points [-]

Just say what you mean. Making a point obliquely in a way that requires readers to click a link is not very helpful.

Comment author: lessdazed 03 October 2011 04:38:32PM 3 points [-]

This is good advice.

Comment author: lessdazed 03 October 2011 12:48:44AM *  4 points [-]

"Pointer" dogs are not the only dogs that point, many others do or can be trained to. What's more, not every dog of that breed will grow up to be a hunting dog or ever point! Even those that hunt frequently will spend a very, very small portion of their lives pointing. They will spend far more time eating, sleeping, having four legs (most anyway, some will have accidents or birth defects) and most time of all having warm blood.

We do not call the breed "warm-bloods" because this would not go far in distinguishing them among animals. We latch onto this tiny difference of action, which they spend a tiny portion of their lives doing, which is an even tinier amount more than other dogs do it, and name them by what they distinctly do. It's fine to discuss differences without spending every sentence on similarities. The similarities are the background assumption.

It's entirely appropriate for Luke to speak in generalities with his group as a base case for comparison, and to in writing ignore exceptions and outliers as we know there are always some. He doesn't just mean "some women want", one could construct many, many different true sentences about what "some women want" and it would not be at all useful.

We know men and women are of the same species and are similar. We are interested in differences, it is these differences that the males will fail to correctly model when they mentally model females' minds using their own, as if those minds were like exactly their own.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 03 October 2011 12:51:25AM *  4 points [-]

If Zeb had requested that he use the word "many" rather than "some" would you consider his point to be more valid?

Comment author: lessdazed 03 October 2011 12:55:18AM 2 points [-]

Less invalid, but Luke did a fine Gricean job saying that the mean and mode and median woman differs from her counterpart man in the described ways.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 04 October 2011 03:34:41AM *  4 points [-]

I think you missed Zeb's point. E wasn't claiming that Luke was saying that no men do X; e was claiming that Luke was saying that all women do X, or at least that a large enough portion of women do X that the rest are a minority small enough to be safely ignored.

That kind of statement is particularly annoying, above and beyond considerations of its truth value, because it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me? Even if that's not the intention, enough messages like that tend to build up in the form of cached thoughts that can be very frustrating to deal with.

Comment author: lessdazed 04 October 2011 04:10:18AM 2 points [-]

at least that a large enough portion of women do X that the rest are a minority small enough to be safely ignored

I interpret Luke's claim as being about what women do more than men. It's an aid to model other minds that, along several axes, tend to systematically differ. I disagree with "ignored", I think that's inserting a charged intention into Luke's essay that is obviously not intended.

it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me?

Women (generally) want to have children more than men do (I think, which is sufficient for the example). I personally very much want to have children one day. I don't think that makes me "not a real man" or anything like that.

Even if that's not the intention

It's obviously not.

cached thoughts that can be very frustrating to deal with.

Fair enough.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 04 October 2011 04:32:32AM *  5 points [-]

I disagree with "ignored", I think that's inserting a charged intention into Luke's essay that is obviously not intended.

Would you agree that Luke communicated that it's fairly safe to assume that all women X? That's a more diplomatic way of putting it, but to my way of thinking boils down to essentially the same message.

Women (generally) want to have children more than men do (I think, which is sufficient for the example). I personally very much want to have children one day. I don't think that makes me "not a real man" or anything like that.

This seems to miss the bulk of my point. If one leaves out the 'generally', and just says "women want to have children more than men do", a man who is very interested in having children can think that women want children even more. He'll probably be incorrect, but he can think that, without it being a source of immediate stress or drama. But a woman who has no desire to have children is in a different situation - there's no plausible way that the average degree of wanting-children in men is lower than that, so it's immediately obvious that she doesn't fit the speaker's definition of 'women', which can be quite stressful. The case where men aren't referred to at all is similar, except that the man seeing the message is likely to come to a conclusion that's a bit closer to correct.

(Also, does it change your perception of this conversation at all if I point out that 1) I'm in a particularly a-gendered phase of genderfluidity right now and don't identify as female at the moment, and 2) my most recent priming for having this kind of argument actually came from a male-focused gender-egalitarianism blog? These things do run both ways, even if the example at hand is female-focused.)

Edit: Downvote of parent comment: Not me.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 04 October 2011 04:42:58AM 0 points [-]

So I upvoted this comment and then saw when I looked at it again that it was now at zero. I'm deeply curious what in it someone thought deserved a downvote.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 04 October 2011 04:51:02AM 1 point [-]

It's quite likely that I'm being downvoted for having a conversation about gender at all, given that those have a bit of a habit of exploding when they happen here.

Comment author: Jack 04 October 2011 08:48:38AM 0 points [-]

Has anyone else noticed considerably more downvotes than usual in the past week- in particular for comments which are well above what we expect here in terms of writing, manner, education and rationality? (I may have just spent too much time in threads that got political.)

Comment author: [deleted] 04 October 2011 03:45:06AM 2 points [-]

That kind of statement is particularly annoying, above and beyond considerations of its truth value, because it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me?

Yah; it comes across all too often like a retroactive attempt to patch an idea that might be compromised by bias. Especially because those minority of cases may be the real salient test of the idea -- if your theory is predicated on the idea that all X are Y, and along comes an X purporting to be a Z but not a Y, then conditional on the truth of this statement your theory is wrong. It's one thing to look at the failures of your original formulation and go, hmmm, clearly I missed something and need to patch or reject my theory; but in a context like this it's usually more, well, a rationalization -- "your counterexample doesn't apply because my factual error can be retconned as a previous, weak definition of the scope of my statement!"

Comment author: Zeb 03 October 2011 03:26:28AM *  1 point [-]

It seems to me what is important about Luke's statement is the assertion that the kind of women he wants to [blank] are likely to respond appropriately to the behaviors he has learned. Sure, if he just want to [blank] any woman, then it is useful to know what behaviors most women will respond appropriately to. Otherwise it hardly matters what portion (few, many, most...) of women Luke is accurately describing. It only matters that he is describing the ones he is interested in. By failing to qualify the subset of women (and "some...which are the ones I want" would be the most general way to qualify them), Luke is potentially misleading the people who want to [blank] other women, and he is contributing to the general gender stereotyping of women. Furthermore I think it would be very interesting and relevant to know if everything Luke says applies equally or significantly to men. The construction "women want..." does not denote that "men do not want..." but it perhaps accidentally connotes it.

Comment author: zaogao 03 October 2011 11:01:46AM 4 points [-]

+1 for last comment making me imagine lukeprog as Charlie Sheen.

Comment author: tenshiko 01 October 2011 11:03:37PM 19 points [-]

I think that the picture detracts from the article. It's a deviation from most other LW pages, heteronormatizes the content, and in addition since the in-picture and out-of-picture background is white, the people look like cutouts in this really awkward way.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 October 2011 12:07:03AM 22 points [-]

Yes. The image also makes the post look like some random "science finds: X!" journalism, and that's not a good thing.

Comment author: jhuffman 04 October 2011 04:28:01PM 4 points [-]

Some of those pages get obscene numbers of page views. Even heavily discounting the "conversion rate" here I think its possible for a net gain, if one objective is to provide novel rational insights to people.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 02 October 2011 09:15:33PM 16 points [-]

heteronormatizes the content

Seems to reflect the content reasonably well actually, since it's a man reflecting on his experience with women...

Comment author: tenshiko 02 October 2011 10:36:22PM 1 point [-]

...true. But as I say here, I'd like to think that Luke intends the material to be more possible to generalize than merely about how men should deal with women, though the concrete examples his personal experience and pursued knowledge provide are relevant to the experience of a man in pursuit of women. In other words, these are "Rationality Lessons Learned from Irrational Adventures in Romance", not "How to Become Vir Sapientior and Get the Girl of Your Dreams".

Comment author: lukeprog 03 October 2011 01:23:59AM 10 points [-]

As Kevin said,

You aren't the target audience for the stock photo, it's a random person seeing Less Wrong for the first time. People like pictures.

As for the picture heteronormatizing the content... it's an explicitly hetero story, because it's my story. Don't you think it'd be weird to have a homosexual couple in the lead photo for my story?

Comment author: Jack 04 October 2011 09:11:13AM 23 points [-]

People indeed like pictures- but stock photos on articles about romance and relationships pattern match to really awful websites.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 03 October 2011 01:26:03AM 5 points [-]

I presume that tenshiko isn't suggesting a photo of a gay couple. Tenshiko is suggesting no picture. Kevin's point does still seem relevant in that context however.

Comment author: tenshiko 03 October 2011 03:19:20AM 4 points [-]

You predict my opinion correctly - as I've said elsewhere I have other aesthetic concerns due to the picture itself. At the very least I think it'd look much better with a colored background, because of the cutout effect I mention.

Comment author: Clarica 03 October 2011 08:39:25PM 1 point [-]

I like the photo, but the deviation point is a good one, which you did not address. Was that purposeful?

Comment author: lukeprog 03 October 2011 08:49:00PM 5 points [-]

Yes. I deviate because people like pictures, and LW is not adequately taking advantage of this fact.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:21:43AM 6 points [-]

Do LW readers like pictures? It seems like the feedback has primarily been negative. Know your audience...

Comment author: shokwave 07 October 2011 02:17:46AM *  3 points [-]

Lukeprog said people like pictures. The feedback has been primarily negative because pictures are not the status quo and people, including LW readers, have a mild preference for cultural norms to be preserved, not challenged.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 05:52:44PM 2 points [-]

So you're saying pictures add so little value that "aiee, this is a change" overwhelms it? Can we remove them and be done with it, then?

Comment author: Raemon 18 October 2011 10:36:41PM 2 points [-]

Crowds typically react negatively to change no matter what postive effects it brings. Wizards of the Coast has a track record of making decisions that were necessary and beneficial to the long term health of their games, each of which brought in new players and which old players eventually adapted to, and every single one of them produced an uproar.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 07 October 2011 02:30:27AM 1 point [-]

I like pictures, though not necessarily these particular pictures. Still, I like seeing at a glance a picture that has some connection to the topic of the article.

Comment author: pedanterrific 03 October 2011 08:56:14PM 3 points [-]

Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is a change.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:21:05AM -2 points [-]

it's an explicitly hetero story, because it's my story

No. It's an explicitly hetero story because you wrote it that way.

You also entirely ignore the options of not having a picture. If you can't find any inspiration for a picture which isn't tied to sexual orientation, maybe that would be the best option?

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 07 October 2011 02:36:03AM *  5 points [-]

It's an explicitly hetero story because you wrote it that way

Are you requesting that he omit the genders of the participants in his life, including his romantic life?

If so, are you prepared to support with evidence an argument that hetero romance and the hetero dating scene is completely identical in all aspects to gay romance and the gay dating scene, and therefore knowing the genders and the sexual orientation of the participants isn't at all necessary to be communicated?

Comment author: JoshuaZ 07 October 2011 02:40:48AM 3 points [-]

If so, are you prepared to support with evidence an argument that hetero romance and the hetero dating scene is completely identical in all aspects to gay romance and the gay dating scene,

In context I agree with your general point, but this seems like a strong demand for particular proof. To establish the point handoflixue would not need to establish that they are 'completely identical in all aspects' but rather that they have enough similarities for the genders and orientations to not be relevant in this context.

(Incidentally, I'm a het male who agrees that there's been a serious problem of focusing on advice for het males here. The most obvious solution is for the people who aren't in this set to write more general pieces. Or volunteer to work with someone like luke to coauthor a piece that is more broad. There's not some magic rule that luke and a few other people have to write all the posts on this subject.)

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 05:51:26PM 0 points [-]

If so, are you prepared to support with evidence an argument that hetero romance and the hetero dating scene is completely identical in all aspects to gay romance and the gay dating scene, and therefore knowing the genders and the sexual orientation of the participants isn't at all necessary to be communicated?

Um, if the "heterosexual male romance" angle is essential to this story, then it's heterosexual dating advice, and LessWrong is not a dating advice site. So lukeprog should stop posting about it. Rationality (y'know, core focus of this site?) does not, to my knowledge, care whether I am a heterosexual male.

I will also point out that Alicorn managed a relatively gender-free story, by focusing on the rationality and internal aspects, rather than on dating advice and "how to get a girl".

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 07 October 2011 09:21:48PM *  5 points [-]

Um. if the "heterosexual male romance" angle is essential to this story, then it's heterosexual dating advice, and LessWrong is not a dating advice site. So lukeprog should stop posting about it.

How does this follow? Why is it okay for lukeprog to post dating advice which are independent of gender-orientation-independent, but it's not okay to post advice which are dependent on gender-orientation? You may argue that the former interests more people, but that's just a difference in the number of people that may be interested, not a qualitative difference.

I doubt you believe that all rationalists must be by necessity bisexuals.

Rationality (y'know, core focus of this site?) does not, to my knowledge, care whether I am a heterosexual male

First of all, is this sentence supposed to actually mean something? What would it mean for "Rationality" to "care" about your orientation, as opposed to "rationality" not caring about it?

Secondly, if anything, rationality means that you care about the elements that are relevant, and you don't care about the elements that aren't relevant. You've still not argued that sexual-orientation wasn't actually relevant to Lukeprog's story. Don't you think it would affect, for starters, whether he would seriously break up with someone and argue it's because they lacked evolution-promoted fitness markers?

I will also point out that Alicorn managed a relatively gender-free story, by focusing on the rationality and internal aspects, rather than on dating advice and "how to get a girl".

And I will point out that Alicorn is bisexual, so gender would be less relevant to her criteria than to lukeprog's. But hopefully not everyone needs be bisexual, for their existence and experiences to matter.

Um, [...] y'know, core focus of this site?)

I can recognize verbal signals of implicit condescension, so do be a bit careful over those.

Comment author: dlthomas 07 October 2011 09:53:35PM 5 points [-]

"X doesn't care about Y" is often used idiomatically to mean "Y does not change X". This is clearly a true statement when it comes to rationality and gender/orientation; there are not separate versions of Bayes' theorem for various preferences.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 10:30:25PM 0 points [-]

Bingo :)

Comment author: dlthomas 07 October 2011 11:31:12PM 2 points [-]

I will try to clarify points when I see them missed. This should not be interpreted as me siding with you in the debate, necessarily.

This was not one of my favorite posts on the site, but I did find it interesting - and, more particularly, I think there is space nearby for more interesting things. I think where I most strongly disagree with you is your classification (mentioned a few places) of this as dating advice at all. I see it as more of a case study in the exercise of rationality.

That rationality itself doesn't care about sexuality, therefor, cuts both ways. If we are going to examine Luke's rationality, we look at the evidence he has acquired and how he has turned that into conclusions. The conclusions are therefor material, but are not themselves the point of the post. In this case, it is a feature of that evidence that it was drawn from a skewed sample; it would not necessarily be better for Luke to generalize to cases excluded from sampling. While there are certainly other ways in which the sampling was nonuniform, this was a big, clear, intentional one and it makes sense to note it.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 11:02:58PM -1 points [-]

Seriously? I'm being down voted for confirming that somebody else had the correct interpretation of what I said? o.o

Comment author: shokwave 07 October 2011 11:22:24PM 0 points [-]

This kind of moral outrage is a bad reaction to have to voting.

Comment author: paper-machine 02 October 2011 09:06:23AM 1 point [-]

Color me marginalized.

Comment author: tenshiko 02 October 2011 06:05:50PM 4 points [-]

Exactly! Instead of this being a generic discussion of how maybe you can get the romantic utilons you want from more than one person, suddenly it's about the conflict between the educated man's logical evolutionarily dictated interest being directed towards multiple concubines, and the irrational woman's investment in marriage, imposed upon her by society. The shot's composition itself supports this, with the man clearly on top by virtue of more than just being naturally taller.

Is all this Luke's intent? Well, I'd like to think not, especially given his comments about trying to reduce the perception of misogynistic tones in the piece. But as he is a heterosexual man (yes? as far as I've been able to tell Luke's not bisexual or at least didn't present that way during the time period of these stories, please correct me if I'm wrong) Luke's story doesn't deviate from these norms, and the picture is definitely reinforcement.

Comment author: Nisan 04 October 2011 12:42:22AM 3 points [-]

Would an actual photo of Luke and Alice be better?

Comment author: wedrifid 04 October 2011 01:15:21AM 19 points [-]

Would an actual photo of Luke and Alice be better?

Now I'm imagining a picture of Luke with a redacted silhouette of a woman entitled "woman I am not attracted to any more". There are arrows pointing to various lacking physical attributes lacking from an evolutionary psychology perspective, complete with sketches of what they should look like... Perhaps with a supplemental craziness vs hotness chart or two.

Comment author: tenshiko 04 October 2011 01:31:33AM 2 points [-]

Okay, this would actually be really epic and I would support it assuming it didn't have the whole fracking white background creating cutouts thing going on.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 04 October 2011 03:12:11AM 5 points [-]

I think this could easily lead to an outside observer interpreting this very negatively. I believe the relevant vague catch-all term is "objectifying". The entire approach of a silhouette for the female and an actual picture for the male could easily send very negative signals to a lot of people.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:23:12AM 2 points [-]

Agreed, but the idea still made me laugh :)

Comment author: RobertLumley 01 October 2011 08:10:57PM *  6 points [-]

Tremendously improved from your first draft, well done. Almost all of the misogyny vibes I got were removed/fixed.

The only real thing that bothered me was the italicization of "totally works". But we've bantered back and forth about this post enough. :-)

Comment author: lukeprog 01 October 2011 08:14:15PM *  3 points [-]

Wow, thanks!

Comment author: Raemon 01 October 2011 08:01:52PM 4 points [-]

This post has definitely improved a lot.

Comment author: lukeprog 01 October 2011 08:10:29PM *  7 points [-]

Thanks! I'm pretty sure it will still hit a lot of people's buttons, though. And unfortunately, everybody has different buttons. Some people really like X while others think X is morally objectionable and irritating, but these people don't mind Y even though the first group of people find Y to be obvious and boring. Still others just don't like "applied rationality" posts at all, and especially posts about rationality and romance, and will downvote so as to decrease the odds that others will be able to read such posts in the future, too. Still others will find this comment right here to be victimhood-seeking, with some justification.

Comment author: Raemon 01 October 2011 08:23:56PM 4 points [-]

I'm amused that this comment was already downvoted.

Comment author: lukeprog 01 October 2011 08:24:51PM 1 point [-]

I was kinda asking for it. :)

Comment author: lukeprog 01 October 2011 09:05:46PM *  4 points [-]

Will those downvoting this comment name the sentence they disagree with?

Comment author: wedrifid 03 October 2011 02:10:52AM 2 points [-]

Will those downvoting this comment name the sentence they disagree with?

It's a sex thread. Your comment touches on the topic of justifying posts on that subject and speculates on the reasoning of those who may object. Or, at least, it is close enough to be pattern matched to that kind of comment. Comments of that type which are reasonably expressed I expect to be initially downvoted but then end up significantly positive after a while. Naming the cause for that observed tendency would mostly amount to providing a just so story.

Comment author: lessdazed 03 October 2011 05:42:19AM 1 point [-]

Because of the last sentence, I didn't think it deserved to be rated as highly as it is. It does not deserve to be downvoted to negative numbers.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 01:30:31AM 0 points [-]

Still others just don't like "applied rationality" posts at all, and especially posts about rationality and romance

Could you provide evidence that "people dislike relationship threads" is a more common objection than "you're writing something that's only useful if you're a heterosexual male and could you please make it a bit more widely applicable"? My primary objection is that you keep assuming that "I dislike relationship posts" is the more common objection, whereas the comments on this post seem to tell the opposite story.

For that matter, showing some sign that you actually understand the latter objection, and actually care to correct it would be wonderful...

Comment author: lukeprog 07 October 2011 06:45:23AM 10 points [-]

Here are the lessons illustrated by my story, which happens to be a heterosexual story because I'm heterosexual:

Until you explicitly notice the cached rules for what you're doing, you won't start thinking of them as something to be optimized. Ask yourself: Which parts of romance do you currently think of as subjects of optimization? What else should you be optimizing?

Respond to the value of information. Once you notice you might be running in the wrong direction, don't keep going that way just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in the thoughts or information you've now realized is valuable because it might change your policies, i.e., figuring out which direction to go.

Know your fields of incompetence. If you suspect you may be incompetent, sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling. (E.g. "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely", or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.)

Use scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to gain a certain class of experience points.

Be especially suspicious of rationalizations for not obeying the empiricist rules "try it and see what happens" or "test yourself to see what happens" or "get some concrete experience on the ground". Think of the cost of time happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider the opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now and change course. How many months or years will your life be less awesome as a result? How many opportunities will you miss while you're still (kinda) young?

Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.

Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion.

So... I notice I'm confused. How are these lessons "only useful if you're a heterosexual male"?

It is as though I just told a story about an Arabian prince that illustrated a few very general lessons about how to succeed in business, and then somebody objected, "But I'm not an Arabian prince! This isn't useful to me!"

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 05:59:12PM -3 points [-]

Aha! Women want men to be better at making them laugh

"Aha! When women say "Be yourself," they mean "Don't be fake; be uniquely you."

When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date,

After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy.

If none of this was actually important to your point, might I suggest cutting it?

Comment author: lukeprog 07 October 2011 09:02:04PM *  8 points [-]

Oh. Those are important examples and events in my own story; not surprisingly, they are heterosexually framed because I'm heterosexual. But four examples/events being heterosexually framed amidst the 7 labeled rationality lessons that are neutral to gender orientation does not make the post "only useful if you're a heterosexual male," I don't think.

So I'm still confused about what you seem to be reacting against. When I read a book and some small section of it doesn't apply to me, I don't write the author to complain that there was a section of what they wrote that didn't apply to me. I just skim past that part and note that it didn't apply to me, and then get back to the parts that do apply to me, if I'm finding the book useful at all - and if I'm not, I just don't read the book.

So, I'd love to be "showing some sign" of understanding the "some of your post doesn't apply to me" objection, but I'll need to have you help me understand it first, I'm afraid. :)

Comment author: bootypower 08 October 2011 04:11:22AM 2 points [-]

What exactly is the problem with the cited portion? Methinks you are reading things into Luke's comments that are not really there. This is sadly common when dealing with 'touchy' issues (sexuality, race, gender, etc.). Sometimes a person reveals their overly sensitive nature about things rather than true points in such instances.

Also, before one insists upon edits one ought to justify why such things are necessary. If you a really intent on upping a person's rationality you need to provide an argument that justifies your suggestion.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 October 2011 09:50:02PM *  4 points [-]

Compare these considerations: (1) I believe it's better to not have posts like this, (2) it's just better to change posts like this in a way that makes them more widely useful. Of these, (2) can't bring about an improvement by a large margin, since heterosexual males form a sizeable portion of the readership, possibly more than half (given the gender imbalance), so its relevance seems more likely to come from either urge to rationalize (1) without admitting it as an actual reason (perhaps subconsciously), or from expecting people who don't benefit from the post to dislike its presence, which is again a special case of (1).

Comment author: handoflixue 07 October 2011 11:02:13PM -1 points [-]

I believe it's better not to have posts like this, because it has a lot of irrelevant fluff that could be cut - it's an article that mixes rationality and dating advice. I want the article which is just the rationality, without the dating advice. I'm not sure which box that falls under. Alicorn's post was ostensibly on the same subject, and struck me as well written and unobjectionable, so it's clearly not just an objection to mentions of romantic life.

Also, if the audience is "possibly more than half", that implies that (2) could double the usefulness of the post... I'm not sure how a suggestion to double the usefulness of a post is "not a large margin of improvement".

Comment author: wedrifid 03 October 2011 02:18:35AM *  1 point [-]

Still others will find this comment right here to be victimhood-seeking, with some justification.

The content of your comment certainly has 'victimhood-seeking' potential. But you (or, more precisely, the lukeprog_2011 persona with whom we are engaging) do not have it in you to be whiny. So your tone doesn't convey either the martyred sulkiness or the sanctimonious bitchiness that the two major 'victimhood-seeking' modes seem to employ. It is easy to imagine some changes to your wording that convey a completely different picture. Or at least that's my reading.

Comment author: Iabalka 02 October 2011 10:40:00AM *  3 points [-]

My rationality thoughts on certain aspects of relationships:

• Your first time (hug, kiss, etc...) with a new partner

Be aware that you have built some expectations. Thus if your expectations were high(low) you are likely to be disappointed(overexcited). Then your second time will be perceived as better(worse) due to the regression towards the mean phenomena. So draw a representative sample before judging and start optimizing.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 04 October 2011 01:57:18AM 1 point [-]

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked.

LOL

(Just couldn't resist posting my reaction, even though there's already an essentially identical comment.)

It seems that this was made a lot more amusing by you apparently having great social skills these days.

(And makes me all the more glad I've never broken up with anyone, even though this requirement made it kinda hard to get into a relationship in the first place.)

Comment author: furiouslysleepy 04 October 2011 09:05:42AM -1 points [-]

Maybe I've just been corrupted by reading too much feminism, but like someone said, this seems to be rather heteronormative. While I appreciate that you are a straight male, it would be excellent to see a similar writeup from a female, or even one that doesn't simply assume that the 'desired class' is 'female'.