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

Instrumental vs. Epistemic -- A Bardic Perspective

61 Post author: MBlume 25 April 2009 07:41AM

(This article expands upon my response to a question posed by pjeby here)

I've seen a few back-and-forths lately debating the instrumental use of epistemic irrationality -- to put the matter in very broad strokes, you'll have one commenter claiming that a particular trick for enhancing your effectiveness, your productivity, your attractiveness, demands that you embrace some belief unsupported by the evidence, while another claims that such a compromise is unacceptable, since a true art should use all available true information. As Eliezer put it:

I find it hard to believe that the optimally motivated individual, the strongest entrepreneur a human being can become, is still wrapped up in a blanket of comforting overconfidence. I think they've probably thrown that blanket out the window and organized their mind a little differently. I find it hard to believe that the happiest we can possibly live, even in the realms of human possibility, involves a tiny awareness lurking in the corner of your mind that it's all a lie.

And with this I agree -- the idea that a fully developed rational art of anything would involving pumping yourself with false data seems absurd.

Still, let us say that I am entering a club, in which I would like to pick up an attractive woman. Many people will tell me that I must believe myself to be the most attractive, interesting, desirable man in the room. An outside-view examination of my life thus far, and my success with women in particular, tells me that I most certainly am not. What shall I do?

Well, the question is, why am I being asked to hold these odd beliefs?  Is it because I'm going to be performing conscious calculations of expected utility, and will be more likely to select the optimal actions if I plug incorrect probabilities into the calculation? Well, no, not exactly. More likely, it's because the blind idiot god has already done the calculation for me.

Evolution's goals are not my own, and neither are evolution's utility calculations. Most saliently, other men are no longer allowed to hit me with mastodon bones if I approach women they might have liked to pursue. The trouble is, evolution has already done the calculation, using this now-faulty assumption, with the result that, if I do not see myself as dominant, my motor cortex directs the movement of my body and the inflection of my voice in a way which clearly signals this fact, thus avoiding a conflict. And, of course, any woman I may be pursuing can read this signal just as clearly. I cannot redo this calculation, any more than I can perform a fourier analysis to decide how I should form my vowels. It seems the best I can do is to fight an error with an error, and imagine that I am an attractive, virile, alpha male.

So the question is, is this self-deception? I think it is not.

In high school, I spent four happy years as a novice initiate of the Bardic Conspiracy. And of all the roles I played, my favorite by far was Iago, from Shakespeare's Othello. We were performing at a competition, and as the day went by, I would look at the people I passed, and tell myself that if I wanted, I could control any of them, that I could find the secrets to their minds, and in just a few words, utterly own any one of them. And as I thought this, completely unbidden, my whole body language changed. My gaze became cold and penetrating, my smile grew thin and predatory, the way I held my body was altered in a thousand tiny ways that I would never have known to order consciously.

And, judging by the reactions, both of my (slightly alarmed) classmates, and of the judges, it worked

But if a researcher with a clipboard had suddenly shown up and asked my honest opinion of my ability as a manipulator of humans, I would have dropped the act, and given a reasonably well-calibrated, modest answer.

Perhaps we could call this soft self-deception. I didn't so much change my explicit conscious beliefs as... rehearse beliefs I knew to be false, and allow them to seep into my unconscious.

In An Actor Prepares, Bardic Master Stanislavski describes this as the use of if:

Take into consideration also that this inner stimulus was brought about without force, and without deception. I did not tell you that there was a madman behind the door. On the contrary, by using the word if I frankly recognized the fact that I was offering you only a supposition. All I wanted to accomplish was to make you say what you would have done if the supposition about the madman were a real fact, leaving you to feel what anybody in the given circumstances must feel. You in turn did not force yourselves, or make yourselves accept the supposition as reality, but only as a supposition.

Is this dangerous? Is this a short step down the path to the dark side?

If so, there must be a parting of ways between the Cartographers and the Bards, and I know not which way I shall go.

Comments (180)

Comment author: JamesAndrix 25 April 2009 04:41:34PM 38 points [-]

Part of this is about how we draw a balloon around what 'you' are. If you are a talking ape, then that ape might be lying to itself. If you are a rationalist trapped in part of the brain of a talking ape, then you are just tricking another part of it's brain, which is entirely rational.

A bounded entrepreneur will keep searching until all likely problems have likely solutions, and he has at least one likely successful plan.It don't know if this would be a cause or an effect of optimism. (and by optimism I mean feeling like things will be ok, independent of your probability estimates of what will happen.) If I had to guess, I'd say you might find solutions in your attempt to rationalize why you're not worried about something that you would not find in an 'unbiased' search.

A pessimist might see problems coming that an optimist wouldn't see, but maybe that's just not enough of a disadvantage in todays economy.

Not really on topic, but very interesting story: Normal people are convinced by role players that they are in a magical universe. http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=91462&cid=7876768

Comment author: TheAtomicMoose 11 August 2009 06:28:45AM *  2 points [-]

Part of this is about how we draw a balloon around what 'you' are. If you are a talking ape, then that ape might be lying to itself. If you are a rationalist trapped in part of the brain of a talking ape, then you are just tricking another part of it's brain, which is entirely rational.

I absolutely love that idea. But I think a clearer way of explaining it is that we are talking apes who have picked up this blunt, rotting bone of rationality and are using it as any other tool to pursue the same old talking ape desires. While the means are rational, the ends aren't even close. Anyway, great point and lovely imagery!

Comment author: MBlume 25 April 2009 05:01:18PM 16 points [-]

Not really on topic, but very interesting story: Normal people are convinced by role players that they are in a magical universe. http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=91462&cid=7876768

That is an excellent story, and I don't think it would be at all out of place in a top-level post.

Comment author: Scottbert 20 June 2012 05:19:02PM 4 points [-]

Did a post ever get made of this?

It is a really cool story, but I too disbelieve it although I'll admit it's possible -- it needs more details. Any LARP I've been to, I'd think the padded-stick swords and calls of "2 [damage]" and the 'monsters' consisting of people in masks would be a giveaway that something's up, even if there was a big stigma against breaking character and the RPers all thought the wedding guests were in on it.

Also if I didn't know about LARPs and somehow became convinced I was in a magical land I'd want to see some magic, and since mages were a PC class there would be some around. I'd become suspicious when they threw beanbags or declared they'd made a force wall that I could walk right through. Maybe the guests had other priorities, though...

Comment author: VAuroch 20 January 2014 07:27:27AM *  0 points [-]

You've probably only been to American LARPs. European ones, particularly in Scandinavia, are much more serious about things, and use minimize the unbelievable aspects. So the people playing skilled warriors are actually skilled warriors, the armor is more or less real armor, and the weapons are real (though unsharpened) weapons.

Even in the US, long-runner LARPs (generally run in periodic several-day sessions, with a consistent cast of characters who persist from session to session) tend to be along those lines as well.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 26 April 2009 08:00:50PM *  12 points [-]

It would be even better if there are links that strengthen the claim that it's true (iff it's true). It's certainly entertaining, but I disbelieve it. For this to hold any water, the people in question should've been really drunk. There also should be a reason for all those magical land people to be consistently good actors.

Comment author: army1987 02 October 2012 06:02:45PM 0 points [-]

I dunno -- there was a programme on the Italian TV a few years ago where people were subjected to pranks, and some of them were made to believe stuff just as absurd. You might be overestimating the strength of non-rationalists.

Comment author: smoofra 26 April 2009 07:37:44PM 1 point [-]

seconded

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 05:05:40PM 5 points [-]

I second the motion. This is the most awesome illustration of conformity that I have ever, ever heard of.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 03:50:59PM 22 points [-]

Excellent post.

Today's interesting background fact: Jeffreyssai has attained some rank in the Bardic Conspiracy by virtue of being a good teacher. Also, in their world, there's absolutely no such idea as "beisutsukai are not allowed to lie" but they consider it stylish to speak only the literal truth while pulling off a complicated plot - the fact that the adversary will be aware of this and watching makes it extremely difficult, which is why it is considered stylish to actually get away with it.

"Acting" in the sense described here wouldn't even be considered a special property of the Bardic Conspiracy, just a matter of day-to-day social machiavellianism. It's only Bardic if you're doing it to tell a story.

But of course I agree with your post: there's a huge difference. Maybe we could call it "self-pretending" instead of "self-deception". The difference is as large as the difference between lying to someone and writing fiction. Yes, there are residual dangers, yes, reading fiction or acting in a play can blend over into your actual belief pool. But to try out an alternative personality, is not to relinquish your art and lose your powers - it's not like trying to tell yourself a single actual lie.

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 08:20:26PM 4 points [-]

Maybe we could call it "self-pretending" instead of "self-deception".

In NLP, it's called "modeling". Other schools speak of "acting as-if".

The key distinction between these concepts and the common conception of self-deception, pretending, or acting, is that when ou are acting-as-if, you are not allowed to signal that you're only pretending.

That is, you must suspend your own disbelief, for others to suspend theirs.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 03:57:56PM *  12 points [-]

Since I doubt anyone present is interested in my opinions on the seduction community, I'll just respond to the theater example. Entertaining an idea or indulging a fantasy that you are a skilled manipulator is wildly different from deceiving yourself into believing it. Thinking about the idea - turning it over in your mind, considering the ramifications and the ways you'd act differently if it were so - can of course affect your behavior.

But this isn't a special feature of entertaining ideas or fantasizing. Priming happens. Read a list of words about old age and Florida and you'll walk slower; think about Iago's machinations and you'll stand and speak in a cold and calculating way. Choosing to prime yourself to achieve a theatrical goal is just a way of self-consciously harnessing that mechanism for your own ends.

Comment author: beoShaffer 16 November 2012 01:35:43AM 2 points [-]

While priming as a whole has not been (completely) discredited severe doubts have been cast on the walking speed study.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 04:52:49PM 5 points [-]

I doubt anyone present is interested in my opinions on the seduction community

I'm interested, but if you say it's not relevant to our main topic, I am entirely willing to trust you on it. (I have an SO and have never tried anything like seductionism. But I've heard more than one male rationalist claim that seductionists are systematizers worth listening to.)

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 06:34:18PM *  5 points [-]

It's their goal, not their means of deriving methods to achieve their goal, that I would be tempted to take issue with if I tried to engage with the topic.

Comment author: divia 29 April 2009 06:11:40AM *  38 points [-]

Just to provide a different female perspective, I'd heard about the seduction community a while back, and a few months ago decided to find out more about it. I read some (admittedly not all) of The Game, watched The Pickup Artist, and read a very substantial amount of material online, including most of the archives of a few blogs, my favorite of which was The Sinns of Attraction.

I take almost no issue with the seduction community, in fact my response is closer to the opposite. Insofar as the techniques advocated work, and I have every reason to believe they do, this seems to me to be, if anything, positive-sum.

Maybe I'm unusual girl, but what I remember thinking when I saw most of the advice was that it would totally work on me, and that that would be a good thing! For example, consider body language when approaching a group of girls. I hadn't given all that much thought in the past to what made me feel creeped out by some guys when they came up to me, but I always knew I didn't like that feeling! If more guys are learning to approach girls in a way that makes them more attractive and less creepy, I'm all for that, because that makes my life better.

To me, guys learning pickup seems analogous to girls putting on makeup or wearing heels, deceptive only in a way that everyone wants to be deceived anyway, since it's usually more fun to be attracted to people than not to be. As a few people have said elsewhere in the thread, learning "game" allows normal guys to have the sort of success with women they would have if they were much better looking. If someone offered to wave a magic wand and make all the guys in the world twice as hot, I wouldn't have a problem with it, so I don't have a problem with the seduction community either.

I think one of the biggest things to remember when talking about attraction is that, at least for most people to a great extent, attraction is not a choice. A girl may logically think a guy is great, and nice, and would probably be wonderful for her in a lot of ways, but not be attracted to him. Can the seduction community train guys to get girls to sleep with them who wouldn't have otherwise? Sure. I think the guys have made themselves more attractive, and girls prefer to sleep with people they are attracted to.

That being said, I acknowledge there may also be some less positive-sum aspects to the seduction community, but this blog post covers them better than I could.

Comment author: lukeprog 30 April 2011 01:27:11PM 5 points [-]

To me, guys learning pickup seems analogous to girls putting on makeup or wearing heels, deceptive only in a way that everyone wants to be deceived anyway, since it's usually more fun to be attracted to people than not to be.

Yes. This is a point I emphasize quickly when discussing pickup with people. Do girls really want to keep being approached by so many men with creepy body language? I think not.

Comment author: steven0461 29 April 2009 03:43:09PM 10 points [-]

To provide yet another different male perspective:

Some part of the success caused by "game" can no doubt be explained as a rationally justifiable taking-into-account of genuinely increased excitingness/attractiveness, but some other part of the extra success is no doubt better explained as a direct influence on the decision mechanism, not on the thing that it makes decisions about. "Game" that's mostly about the former strikes me as being a good thing for the reasons divia mentions; "game" that's mostly about the latter strikes me as being manipulative.

The part that I haven't seen emphasized is that in some cases PUA success shows there are security flaws in female decision-making about mating, and just like it's bad to exploit security flaws, it's bad not to patch them up. When evidence shows my decisions (or the decisions of members of a group I belong to) are not in line with the values I hold on a conscious level, I worry about how I can defend psychologically against the distortions.

Lest I be seen as taking easy potshots across the gender fence, I think the same is true for men and female appearance: being with a better-looking woman will make a man happier, but the degree to which men pursue good-looking women is probably even greater than can be explained by rational projections of their self-interest, and certainly greater than is pro-social. Men should strive from a selfish point of view to be more immune to this sort of short-circuiting, and from a pro-social point of view to de-correlate their tastes from those of other men and to be less attracted to behaviors that, like "game", are a pain in the ass unto the behaver. To the degree that that's even possible, of course.

tl;dr: we should combat within ourselves decision-making distortions such as those uncovered by PUAs, though only insofar as they are distortions.

Comment author: mattnewport 29 April 2009 06:53:07PM 2 points [-]

the degree to which men pursue good-looking women is probably even greater than can be explained by rational projections of their self-interest, and certainly greater than is pro-social.

Could you elaborate on these claims. Neither is obvious to me. Are you suggesting that people should altruistically pursue relationships with people they are not attracted to?

Comment author: steven0461 29 April 2009 07:50:11PM *  3 points [-]

OK, the "certainly" was an overstatement. Probably there are some arguments from evolution you can make about how it's probably installed mechanisms that can work against (at the same time as being valid input to) your rational judgments of future happiness or whatever else you're pursuing. It's my impression that in men visual attraction is more like this than other considerations, but I might be wrong.

Are you suggesting that people should altruistically pursue relationships with people they are not attracted to?

No, that sounds like a terrible idea. Maybe it could tip the balance in close marginal situations; but I was thinking more in terms of altruistically exerting nonzero psychological effort to change what one finds attractive; I agree though that the process is mostly (or wholly?) not under one's conscious control. Probably I should have stuck to self-interest, as it's less minefieldy.

Comment author: mattnewport 29 April 2009 08:36:59PM 2 points [-]

It's my impression that in men visual attraction is more like this than other considerations, but I might be wrong.

It's fairly clear that men already do weigh physical attractiveness against other qualities when judging a mate, and in fact use different weights based on the length and nature of the relationship they are considering entering into. I feel I'd need to see more evidence to back up a claim that they consistently over-weight attractiveness in such a way that it works against their own long term interests before accepting that it is the case though.

I agree though that the process is mostly (or wholly?) not under one's conscious control.

Indeed, 'attraction is not a choice'. I think there might well be scope for some rationally directed self-manipulation to direct attraction towards individuals that you judge to be more suitable than what your natural unguided instincts would guide you towards. I think it would be very interesting to see a movement amongst women to take the lessons learned by the seduction community and use them to redirect their own feelings of attraction towards individuals who they rationally judged to be more desirable partners.

Comment author: badger 29 April 2009 06:26:21AM 11 points [-]

I've thought similar things. As a married man, I've also wondered whether certain aspects of the seduction community could be repurposed to maintain a high level of attraction within a long-term relationship. The misogyny of some PUAs is very troubling like you note, though.

Comment author: patrissimo 29 September 2010 03:04:33PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: jkaufman 03 September 2011 12:53:53AM 5 points [-]

I started reading this some, and it's perspective is jarring. From the introduction:

""" Let’s be real here – maybe you had some good reasons for marrying your wife – but we both know what really counted was you wanting to have sex with her. You might have done that “Pro and Con” thing with a line down the middle of the page, but whatever was on the “Con” column didn’t matter a damn compared to “I get to screw her!” on the “Pro” side of the page.

I also know that apart from your hobbies, pretty much everything else in your life is just a hoop that you have to jump through to get back to having sex with her. """

They present as an authority on what people think, yet they are way far off in explaining my motivations for marriage and work.

Comment author: divia 29 April 2009 06:52:41AM 5 points [-]

Well, some people do write about relationship game, but it's certainly the minority of the material. And some of what I have read I find either a mixed bag or decidedly unappealing.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 25 April 2009 10:42:53PM 10 points [-]

I think (from your comments here and elsewhere) you are putting far too much trust in the good judgment of unimproved human dating. Taking an outside view of various women you have known picking partners the normal way, were they able to reliably make good matches? How many of them ended up pair bonded to a bad match, and had to break up?

I think the truth about dating is that intimacy, companionship etc are what you have to build after you're in a relationship. The process that grabs up a single and whisks them into a pair bond is very non-rational, but it's the prerequisite for all the various advantages of a relationship. What the seductionists are trying to do is bump themselves over that one particular roadblock - for whatever reason.

Comment author: MBlume 25 April 2009 11:23:18PM *  4 points [-]

For the record, I am not myself a member of the seduction community, and in fact got the first draft of this post badly wrong as a result.

My feelings on the question of goals are best stated here.

All that being said: let us say that I am single, and that all I do is sit in my room and write posts on Less Wrong. And let us say that I have a term in my utility function for being in a happy relationship (which I emphatically do). The one would give me excellent advice by telling me to walk outside my bedroom from time to time, rather than writing for an audience which is a) mostly male, and b) geographically far-flung.

So, in this extreme case, we see that there definitely exists non-manipulative romantic optimization. The only question left to ask is how much more optimization we can get before we run into the scuzzy manipulative stuff. I think you and I would agree that that border should be drawn fairly conservatively. Nonetheless, behind that border there probably exists an art well worth learning for those of us who are alone, and wishing we weren't.

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 08:32:32PM 4 points [-]

It's their goal, not their means of deriving methods to achieve their goal, that I would be tempted to take issue with if I tried to engage with the topic.

As another commenter pointed out, "their goal" may not be what you think it is. It's much more accurate to say, "their goals", plural. There are people who want harems, and there are people who want to find a nice girl to settle down with and want to be the best person they possibly can. There are people who find out that a big part of what they really wanted was deeper friendships with -- or more respect from -- other men. Some people just wish they knew how to meet people and talk to them. Quite a lot of people start out thinking they need women to get self-esteem, and then end up realizing they could've had the self-esteem all along, and women have nothing to do with it.

And then, within each of these major goal areas, there are a wide variety of subgoals pursued by different schools, and different worldviews to go with them.

This means that the odds are very likely that, if you speak of "their goal" in the singular, you're speaking about a projection that has very little to do with "them". In a very real way, a significant part of the seduction community is really more like the "men's movement", disguised under a cooler-sounding cover identity, with less drumming and hugging.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 08:41:21PM 6 points [-]

It is possible that my distaste for the subject has led me to be insufficiently familiar with the intricacies of the motivations of pickup artists. What I have seen (I read this blog, and otherwise have only passing knowledge) leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth about the practitioners, their attitude towards my gender, and the revolting dishonesty of the entire genre of interaction.

That having been said, it's possible I'm an outlier. Maybe the fact that I don't generally hang out in bars or attend parties has left me with too high an opinion of the sort of women who can be found in those places. Maybe they're just as bad. I don't know. This is exactly the kind of uninformed, emotional shuddering I suspected no one would be interested in.

Comment author: Yvain 26 April 2009 04:01:05PM *  34 points [-]

When I lived in Asia. I would bow to people, be extremely deferential to my superiors, and avoid saying any original thoughts out loud in any situation where I was not the highest status person. I didn't do this because that's Really Deep Down Who I Am, I did it because I read a book on dealing with Asian people, and that was what you were supposed to do. As a result, I got along with the Asians I knew and had pretty good relationships with most of them. If I'd been completely direct and honest all the time, the Asians wouldn't have "appreciated my honesty". They'd have fired me from my job and stayed away from me.

I don't feel guilty for "manipulating" any Asians. I did what I had to do to be successful in Asia, it made me happy, and it made the Asians who worked with me happy.

I interact every day with two groups of people whose ways I find even stranger than the Asians', those being extroverts and women. I basically coexist with extroverts the same way I coexisted with Asians; I read books about their behavior, I figure out what I need to do to get along with them, and I do it. Do I wish I could win their friendship solely by being myself? Yeah. But that was what I tried for about fifteen years, it ended up with me being unhappy and friendless, and instead of me blaming the extroverts for it I decided to learn techniques to get along with them. I think it makes us all better off.

I have split feelings about the seduction stuff. As a "how to trick stupid girls into sleeping with you so you can dump them later ha ha" sort of thing, it is clearly evil. But when I think of it as a guide to dealing with romance in the same way I've already used guides to dealing with Asians and extroverts, well, I could kind of use something like that.

I guess the difference is that the only thing I consider morally wrong is making other people unhappy. To trick a woman who really doesn't like me into having a one-night stand she'll regret later - that's bad. But if there's a woman whom I think I could have a really good relationship with that would make us both very happy, and the only thing stopping her from going out with me is that my body language is unattractive and I don't know how to ask right, then I wouldn't feel too bad about counteracting the stupid tricks her brain is using to prevent her from going out with me with stupid tricks to make her want to.

(disclaimer: this is all probabilistic. There are a few Asians, extroverts, and women whom I have a much easier time getting along with, but in general I find these categories of people harder to understand.)

Comment author: private_messaging 28 June 2012 08:24:40PM 2 points [-]

Just a note: if what you says about Asians is true, then that is clearly a major cultural impediment to doing anything technological where you have to divide the cognitive load between multiple people. It would also explain some rather bizarre deficiencies in how Japan handled Fukushima which go beyond the incompetence of Soviet Union with Chernobyl.

Comment author: johnlawrenceaspden 28 June 2012 03:37:52PM 4 points [-]

As an extrovert who likes talking to clever people, but often finds that there's a barrier between myself and the shy that needs to be pushed through, I really appreciate the efforts you have made to make it possible for us to genuinely like one another. I feel I ought to reciprocate. Is there a 'guide to getting along with introverts' somewhere? I'd imagine that since I don't know whether I'm doing anything wrong, I'm probably doing lots of wrong things and alienating people that I'd enjoy being friends with.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 June 2012 04:04:15PM 4 points [-]

I don't know of any guides. My own strategies for working with introverts include:
- Explicitly create a space for them to express their ideas, without obliging them to do so. E.g., ask open-ended questions in a diffuse way, rather than either putting them on the spot to express a position on a topic of my choice or counting on them to grab the floor when they have something they want to say
- Explicitly pick up on the stuff they say, refer back to it often as I respond to it. (This is also helpful with extroverts, but for different reasons, and not nearly as necessary.)
- Allow myself to be comfortable with silence... don't feel obligated to fill it.
- Find tasks we can both concentrate on together, rather than concentrating exclusively on one another. (This is also helpful with extroverts, but for different reasons, and not nearly as necessary.)

Comment author: wedrifid 28 June 2012 05:47:39PM 4 points [-]
  • Explicitly pick up on the stuff they say, refer back to it often as I respond to it. (This is also helpful with extroverts, but for different reasons, and not nearly as necessary.)

I find extroverts are also less likely to remember what they have previously said. They are much more likely to get confused when you refer to their own statements.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 June 2012 05:55:53PM 1 point [-]

Huh.
I've never had that thought, but it is entirely consistent with my experience.
*Adds to toolkit *

Comment author: Vaniver 28 June 2012 05:40:16PM 0 points [-]
  • Allow myself to be comfortable with silence... don't feel obligated to fill it.

This is the best place to start, I think- note how it is a foundation for the first and last items on your list.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 June 2012 05:59:18PM 0 points [-]

Sometimes. Sometimes not. Depends on the person and the situation.
But it's one of the easiest things to do on that list, and it's something I can practice even in groups of extraverts. So, yeah, it's often a good place to start.

Comment author: byrnema 26 April 2009 04:44:39PM *  3 points [-]

When I lived in Asia. I would [...] avoid saying any original thoughts out loud in any situation where I was not the highest status person.

That explains a lot about a meeting several months ago in which I was the only Caucasian. I was only trying to signal my willingness to engage on the issue by coming up with a "helpful" idea but there were pained expressions and then the PI "responded" by just repeating exactly what he had just said before my comment.

I would love to spend a few years learning Asian culture. I imagine it would greatly expand your skill-set to understand both Western and Asian paradigms. Or do the memes compete and confuse? I suppose a child raised in both cultures could find the synergy -- but what about a 'typical' adult? What did you find? Do the ideas synergize or broadly need compartmentalization?

In response to komponisto, below: I did mean 'principle investigator', apologies if it was inappropriately assumed common knowledge.

Comment author: komponisto 29 April 2009 12:31:26AM 4 points [-]

there were pained expressions and then the PI "responded" by just repeating exactly what he had just said before my comment.

Sorry to be off-topic, but:

Even after consulting this list, I can't come up with a single meaning of "PI" that would make sense in this sentence. ( "Principal investigator" is perhaps the closest, but that would only be appropriate if you are a research scientist and everyone here knows this, likely because they're research scientists too.)

Comment author: TheAtomicMoose 11 August 2009 06:50:34AM 0 points [-]

Private Investigator? :-O

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 25 April 2009 09:11:11PM *  5 points [-]

An honest question--would you find it as objectionable to similarly discuss other areas of interpersonal communication? e.g., I've seen a very similar tone and style (and even similar tricks suggested!) used in the context of discussing, for a business, how to make sales and retain customers.

That is to say, is it the manipulative social engineering that bothers you? Or is it specifically that it's in the area of dating and romantic relationships?

ETA: I notice after posting that Nominull does indeed find objectionable the entire idea of manipulative social engineering.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 09:32:24PM *  12 points [-]

(Warning: My reactions to this topic have become affected by emotion. This doesn't change my actual opinions, but it is likely to change how I present them.)

I object to all forms of manipulation. I wish businesses, for example, would purely and simply be honest about the features of their product and compete on those alone. Advertisements annoy me unless they have independent entertainment or social value.

However, I think socially manipulative behavior is especially repulsive in dating/romantic relationships and between (ostensible) friends, because these are supposed to be paradigmatic cases of personal closeness and genuine affection. The closeness and affection seem to me much less than genuine if they're wrapped up in layers of showmanship. Whether I think retailers will live up to their ad promises or not, at least I don't operate under the delusion that they value me deeply and individually for my hard-earned personal traits and accomplishments. They want my money.

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 10:09:26PM 7 points [-]

However, I think socially manipulative behavior is especially repulsive in dating/romantic relationships and between (ostensible) friends, because these are supposed to be paradigmatic cases of personal closeness and genuine affection. The closeness and affection seem to me much less than genuine if they're wrapped up in layers of showmanship.

When my wife is upset, she likes me to hug her and tell her that things are going to be okay. Am I being a showman if I do that, regardless of how I actually feel in that moment?

If she's in a funk, and I say something funny or tease her to make her smile, am I being manipulative?

If I go shopping with her, even though I'm not interested in shopping, but because I know if I'm there and I smile and ask questions and be helpful, she'll be happier, does that make me dishonest?

And if, the first four or five times I did these things, I felt awkward and fake because it "wasn't really me", does that make me an evil person?

Comment author: Psychohistorian 27 April 2009 11:26:55PM *  6 points [-]

All of these hypotheticals have the common thread of having her best interests at heart.

The objection Alicorn is making to the seduction community is that much of their technique is both dishonest and against the interests of the target. The goal is to get a woman really interested, sleep with her, then move on to the next woman, even knowing that this has a good chance of causing net suffering on the women involved. At least, that's what I understand her objection to be, and it's something I would also object to.

A comparable (though still imperfect) hypothetical would be that you go shopping with your wife because you know it will make her feel obligated to agree when you propose something that she really doesn't agree with and that imposes substantial cost or sacrifice on her. You're manipulating her with the principle goal of advancing your own interests at her expense. Having a moral objection to this seems quite understandable.

On the other hand, using techniques that have proven effective because it makes you better at breaking the ice, when you have reasonably good intentions, seems morally quite justifiable.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 10:15:52PM 8 points [-]

If you want your wife to be happy, and you do things to make her happy, that's nothing but genuine. If you had to adjust your automatic instruments for happy-making to suit her preferences, as long as it's known that you're doing that, that isn't dishonest.

If she asks you outright if you are interested in shopping... and you tell her you are... then I am pleased not to be your wife.

But this is me. As I have said, I could easily be an outlier. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who hates being lied to enough to really want this kind of honesty.

Comment author: Z_M_Davis 25 April 2009 10:55:05PM 5 points [-]

Maybe I'm the only person in the world who hates being lied to enough to really want this kind of honesty.

You are not alone!

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 10:43:26PM 2 points [-]

If you want your wife to be happy, and you do things to make her happy, that's nothing but genuine. If you had to adjust your automatic instruments for happy-making to suit her preferences, as long as it's known that you're doing that, that isn't dishonest.

Why does it have to be known that I'm doing that?

(Btw, all three things are things I learned about from the seduction community -- specifically, the importance of doing them whether I think they're "honest" or not.)

Comment author: mattnewport 25 April 2009 10:21:13PM 1 point [-]

Radical Honesty is a movement of its own. Interestingly one of the selling points seems to be success with women...

Comment author: Cyan 25 April 2009 09:52:06PM 4 points [-]

I recommend Elana Clift's honors thesis on the subject.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 09:54:23PM 1 point [-]

Before I download a PDF, could you say a bit about what is in the thesis and why you recommend it?

Comment author: gwern 25 April 2009 11:57:11PM 3 points [-]

Here, let me do you the inestimable service of pasting from the intro...

"In attempting to deconstruct the American cultural climate that has produced the Seduction Community, I examine a few concrete factors: the continuously shifting aspects of men’s culture, the collapse of elaborate courtship rituals, the impact of feminist ideals on popular thought, and the proliferation of the Internet. Although these distinct elements can be identified as causes for the community’s existence, they are also intertwined in a complicated web. By recognizing these distinct aspects, however, I distinguish the motivations behind the formation and explosion of the Seduction Community. I determine that the community is composed of many elements that are borrowed from America’s cultural past, making it more reflective than revolutionary. I propose that what is unique, however, is the distinct manner in which these various elements have coalesced to form a community of men, bonding through shared experiences and acting together to accomplish similar goals."

Long story short: the author's brother couldn't get a girl, so he joined them; this is her account of the motivation of such people, tied in with an attempt at a comprehensive account (as she notes, the best general overview of the seduction community seems to be Wikipedia!).

Comment author: Nominull 25 April 2009 09:09:48PM 5 points [-]

I appreciate your honesty.

Personally, I have to say that I get uncomfortable when I read or hear people discussing any sort of mind control techniques, whether they be the art of the pickup or the art of the sale, or even the art of the job interview. Why can't we just exchange information like cold mechanical robots and then make decisions only on the facts presented? Anything else strikes me as fraud.

But I appreciate that this is a personal flaw of mine, that this wish is impossible, and that I would not want it granted even if it could be. What makes human interaction interesting is our attempts to control each other's minds, and I don't see how you can eliminate salesmanship without eliminating those things we value about human relationships. We would be left in something along the lines of Eliezer's catgirl dystopia, where you would never need to fear someone else's influence because everyone else who was real had been safely sequestered where the two of you would never meet.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 09:21:52PM 9 points [-]

What makes human interaction interesting is our attempts to control each other's minds, and I don't see how you can eliminate salesmanship without eliminating those things we value about human relationships.

I disagree vehemently with this statement. I don't want other people to approve of me for my salesmanship. I'm working on systematically eradicating dishonesty, secrecy, manipulation, and other forms of "salesmanship" from my personal relationships. I'm quite sure that this is going to result in me having fewer personal relationships over time, but they seem to be of higher quality. Since I started this project, I have not lost any friends to whom I was already close and someone has fallen in love with me. I have not turned into a "cold mechanical robot". Among the things I am honest about are my emotions.

Another, purely pragmatic, trouble with personal salesmanship is that it confuses feedback. If you are being duplicitous in this way and someone disapproves of you, it could reflect either on your salesmanship or your actual characteristics and you don't know what to change if approval is your goal - and changing your sales pitch won't actually improve you for the better, which ought to be the real function of feedback. If I am honest and garner disapproval, I have the facts about what the disapproval was about and I can decide whether I value the disapproved characteristic over the potential approval or not.

Comment author: Nominull 25 April 2009 09:35:23PM *  2 points [-]

If you are such a wonderful person that people will fall in love with you on their own accord, without being persuaded, then more power to you. Most human beings, myself definitely included, are not that lovable.

It's not hard to see why this should be the case, either. The world is full of people optimizing their relationships for being loved. A person who optimizes his relationships working under the constraint that he cannot influence his target's decision processes is at a severe disadvantage, and will need serious natural advantages to remain competitive.

I used to be a hopeless romantic. I credit/blame Eliezer's writing for changing that.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 09:42:10PM 6 points [-]

It's just the one person, and I'm not discounting the luck factor. But if no one would fall in love with me "of their own accord", I should not lie, cheat, and steal to get them to do it anyway. That not only isn't the kind of love I'm interested in achieving, it bears no resemblance to the kind of love I'm interested in achieving.

I am not an unusually wonderful person. I have a mixed bag of traits, and I happened on someone who isn't unduly bothered by my flaws and is remarkably enthralled with my positive characteristics - "honesty" among the latter. That is the way it's supposed to work; and if someone has so many flaws or so few positive traits that they can't find anyone who'll put up with them, the last thing they should do is add "manipulative liar" to the "flaw" column.

Comment author: mattnewport 26 April 2009 07:57:32AM 13 points [-]

I am not an unusually wonderful person. I have a mixed bag of traits, and I happened on someone who isn't unduly bothered by my flaws

I think part of the reason women have a problem with the seduction community is because they have literally no idea what it is like to be a heterosexual male. Any girl within about 2 standard deviations of the mean of physical attractiveness will have been approached on numerous occasions by men who will introduce themselves and suggest further meetings. This tends to reinforce the belief that if you just 'be yourself' then someone out there will recognize you as a unique and special flower and fall for you. The truth is however that a guy who takes that attitude will never meet a woman, unless he's Brad Pitt or a rock star. The life experience of your average man and woman means that they will have great difficulty understanding each other since they literally live in different worlds.

Comment author: Nominull 25 April 2009 10:09:05PM 5 points [-]

That not only isn't the kind of love I'm interested in achieving, it bears no resemblance to the kind of love I'm interested in achieving.

I bet if you squint a little, they would look a lot alike, actually.

Why do you think you're special? Why are you taking the inside view? Do you think humans in general don't want people to fall in love with them if they have to work on them to bring it about? This talk of "the way it is supposed to work" strikes me as irrational; you are looking at what "ought" to be, what you want to be, and ignoring what actually is.

Comment author: Sirducer 25 April 2009 10:57:31PM 1 point [-]

last thing they should do is add "manipulative liar" to the "flaw" column.

Again, if you want to obtain the result of getting sex, learning how to manipulate people and not being afraid to lie in social interactions is a great way to get that result.

Comment author: Sirducer 25 April 2009 10:54:35PM -3 points [-]

I'm working on systematically eradicating dishonesty, secrecy, manipulation, and other forms of "salesmanship" from my personal relationships. I'm quite sure that this is going to result in me having fewer personal relationships over time, but they seem to be of higher quality. Since I started this project, I have not lost any friends to whom I was already close and someone has fallen in love with me

This is a decent strategy for a woman. But for a man .... it sucks! I know, I tried it!

So, you go up to an attractive woman you see and like the look of, and say "I think you're cute. Can I go on a date with you?", she ain't gonna fall in love with you. You won't get a girlfriend like that. Well, not unless you're extremely good looking or rich or famous or something.

And, surprisingly, men don't always want relationships. Sometimes we just want sex. To get sex with no strings attached, you have to lie and manipulate, or be extremely high-value for some reason. (e.g. by being a rock-star)

If you just go up to a girl and ask her for sex "Please have sex with me, I'm kind of desperate", you really really won't get laid. On the other hand, if you go up to her and ask her "who lies more, men or women?", turn your back when she answers, tease her, casually drop in a mention of your many exes, take her back to your place on an excuse, promise her nothing will happen, and then repeatedly feel her up like a horny cave-man, well, you're in with a chance.

It is indeed a shame that you have to behave like this to get laid. But it is fun in its own way.

Comment author: ciphergoth 26 April 2009 11:30:20AM *  20 points [-]

The behaviour you advocate here is totally unethical.

To get sex with no strings attached, you have to lie and manipulate, or be extremely high-value for some reason. (e.g. by being a rock-star)

This is, as I often say here, entirely counter to my experience. Lots of women are attracted to no-strings sex; you just have to be a good person to have no-strings sex with. I think in large part people sleep with me because I accurately communicate a happy, positive, fun-loving attitude to sex from which people correctly infer that I'll be fun to sleep with and I won't be trouble afterwards.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 11:16:21PM 8 points [-]

Maybe it doesn't work for the kinds of women you happen to be interested in, which I think says something about your taste.

Honesty doesn't have to mean, though, saying to random women "please have sex with me, I'm kind of desperate". As I said in another comment, the "radical honesty" movement conflates honesty with tactlessness and that's decidedly unnecessary.

Comment author: Sirducer 26 April 2009 09:36:17AM *  1 point [-]

Maybe it doesn't work for the kinds of women you happen to be interested in,

I've tried it on >20 women, with poor results in every case. Women want to be chased, and an honest exchange of information doesn't give them a chase.

which I think says something about your taste.

What about if you just want sex quickly with an attractive woman irrespective of what kind of person she is? Is there something wrong with this?

As I said in another comment, the "radical honesty" movement conflates honesty with tactlessness and that's decidedly unnecessary.

But where do you draw the line between tact and lying? For example, you approach a girl and ask her out on a date or tell her you think she's cute straight away. Tactless? Ok, but what other honest approach can you do?

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 25 April 2009 11:09:55PM 8 points [-]

It is indeed a shame that you have to behave like this to get laid. But it is fun in its own way.

This is an honest question, but I am curious. Do you consider this type of behavior ethical? Or would you agree that you value getting laid more than being an ethical person?

Comment author: Sirducer 26 April 2009 09:27:50AM *  1 point [-]

This is an honest question, but I am curious. Do you consider this type of behavior ethical? Or would you agree that you value getting laid more than being an ethical person?

A lot of girls expect men to lie to them, and actually want you to. It's a social game which is tacitly acknowledged and sanctioned by most women and the 10% or so of men who are really good with women.

An example: you take a girl back to your place from a nightclub. She'll say something like "we're not going to have sex" or "I'm just coming in for a coffee". If you respond honestly "actually I do want to have sex with you", she won't come back with you. If you say "sure", take her back and then escalate anyway, she'll put up more resistance but eventually give in and have sex with you.

Why? She wants sex, but she doesn't want to feel like a "slut", so she has to make it look like you persuaded her and she resisted. This is known as token resistance

So in this case by lying, you did the girl a favor. Lying is the ethical thing to do.

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 11:08:00PM 3 points [-]

It is indeed a shame that you have to behave like this to get laid.

You don't. That particular application of those principles is only required under a certain set of circumstances, for a certain set of people.

Compare, e.g. the "Johnny Soporno" philosophy of being "the man who doesn't count". Before I got married, I was a "man who didn't count" for a few women, and there was absolutely no lying involved on my part. I didn't learn that approach from J.S. -- I came by it naturally. Nonetheless, I heartily approve of the portion of his philosophy that I've heard: i.e., honest liberation for men and women.

I am also under the impression that JS is far from the only person who advocates strict honesty about one's intentions... indeed, it's a common enough concept that there's an acronym for it (SOI, for "Statement of Intent"), and one guy wrote an entire book on it, called "Mode One".

To get sex with no strings attached, you have to lie and manipulate, or be extremely high-value for some reason. (e.g. by being a rock-star)

Thing is, having confident SOI or being "mode one" makes you a high-value person in a lot of women's eyes, by virtue of your confidence and honesty. In my single days, this and a certain amount of social proof (I had a lot of female friends) were the only "game" I needed.

Comment author: Sirducer 25 April 2009 11:12:29PM *  3 points [-]

Thing is, having confident SOI or being "mode one" makes you a high-value

Once you're already experienced, yes. But get a newbie to SOI a girl and he'll either bottle out or completely screw up. To get to the stage where you have the confidence in your ability to get laid that is required for direct game to work, you need indirect game, AKA lying and manipulation.

"Direct game" - being relatively honest about your intentions still isn't full honesty. For example, you'll still have to deal with LMR, the girl will still want to be chased, she'll shit-test you etc, etc.

honest liberation for men and women.

honest and "sexual interaction" don't mix very well. The honesty of direct game is a limited kind of honesty: "I'll screw you but only if your body language sub-communicates alpha male to me". "Honest" and "Loving, committed long term relationship" work, though.

Comment author: mattnewport 25 April 2009 10:12:27PM 0 points [-]

This is exactly the kind of uninformed, emotional shuddering I suspected no one would be interested in.

Are you interested in becoming more informed or is it just a topic you prefer not to touch? Both are valid positions but in the latter case the discussion is probably best ended here.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 10:54:52PM 0 points [-]

The blog I linked to in another comment is my dose-controlled information drip. If you want to offer a substitute that you think is more representative, I'd be interested in that. I don't care to spend a large block of time investigating the art of pickup.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 06:58:19PM 1 point [-]

Understandable. And yeah, that's probably not strictly on-topic, just the degree to which they are good or bad systematizers.

(Just so that I don't sound too much like a prude here, I do agree with Michael Vassar, Robin Hanson, and Tyler Cowen that there is an unexplained shortage of sex.)

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 07:28:42PM 2 points [-]

The shortage is only unexplained if you look at sex as a physical act taking place in a complete vacuum, competing with taking a nap or watching TV.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 07:58:33PM 5 points [-]

There are micro-baby-booms nine months after long power outages. Sex apparently does compete directly with watching TV. Sex is also more pleasurable than TV, so why does sex (presumably) go back down when you turn the electricity back on again? (Not sure we should go into this, but I do still agree with Vassar/Cowen/Hanson - albeit I might phrase it, "There is an unjustifiable shortage of sex", not "There is an inexplicable shortage of sex". Of course I can think of possible explanations too. But none of them imply that people are having too much sex, and it's unlikely that people are having exactly the right amount of sex, so...)

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 08:07:01PM *  9 points [-]

Snopes says otherwise. Even if Snopes is mistaken, that kind of fluctuation could result from a power outage interfering with the responsible use of birth control. Can't find your pills in the dark? Don't want to go out when all the streetlights are off to run to the drugstore for condoms? Meh, don't let that stop you.

I think that individuals are probably very likely to have the wrong amount of sex, but it is my suspicion that on average we're doing okay.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 09:05:41PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the correction. (Though I still disagree about the average part, but for this just see Vassar, Cowen et. al.)

Comment author: mattnewport 25 April 2009 08:27:34PM 0 points [-]

I think you're mistaken if you believe there is a single shared goal. I've seen examples of many different goals that can all be furthered by some common techniques. I can certainly understand why someone might object to some of the goals of some members of the community but the implication that there is one common goal is inaccurate.

Comment author: pwno 25 April 2009 07:27:51PM 0 points [-]

That is more applicable to the "structured" school of thought. With natural game, you have internal goals too, like "having fun."

Comment author: Annoyance 25 April 2009 04:11:56PM 3 points [-]

"Entertaining an idea or indulging a fantasy that you are a skilled manipulator is wildly different from deceiving yourself into believing it. "

Distinguishable, yes - but as far as much of our minds are concerned, there is no difference. They tend to treat an imagined or hypothetical scenario as though it were actual data and actual conclusions - and the more clearly the situation is envisioned, the more strongly the pseudobeliefs are held, the more powerfully they'll respond.

People tend to become what they pretend to be. The longer and more intensively the pretense is maintained, the more likely they'll come to believe it themselves.

Remember, too, that we derive our ideas about ourselves by observing our own actions and then making up stories to account for them. If you can induce people to act as though they believed something, they'll tend to conclude that they believe it, and act accordingly in the future.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 April 2009 04:54:11PM 5 points [-]

Distinguishable, yes - but as far as much of our minds are concerned, there is no difference. They tend to treat an imagined or hypothetical scenario as though it were actual data and actual conclusions - and the more clearly the situation is envisioned, the more strongly the pseudobeliefs are held, the more powerfully they'll respond.

Exaggeration. There is a difference. There is a major difference. It's just that there's also major overlap left over.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 April 2009 04:15:13PM 2 points [-]

Cognitive dissonance works as a sort of an inference to the best explanation when people behave in ways they don't understand. An actor on stage understands exactly why he acted the way he did: he's an actor, pretending to be someone else. There's no reason for cognitive dissonance to come into play.

Comment author: Annoyance 25 April 2009 04:25:59PM 5 points [-]

The higher functions of the actor's mind know that, yes. Do all of the lower functions?

We know that putting our faces into the expressive configurations associated with emotional states induces those feelings in ourselves, even though people know that the expressions are completely artificial and that they have no reason to feel that way.

I suspect you're trying to create a sophisticated explanation for the behavior of some very unsophisticated cognitive modules.

Comment author: Technologos 25 April 2009 05:04:33PM 5 points [-]

Isn't this rather like the Bayesians v. Barbarians concept--that rational goals may sometimes require sub-parts of the entity reaching for those goals to simply fall in line?

The Game then becomes both a systematic way to override some evolutionary hangups while activating others more strongly, both of which help the person doing them to achieve deliberately chosen goals.

I see a useful analogy between the mind's control of its various sub-parts and a general's control of his brigades/troops.

Comment deleted 25 April 2009 09:34:17PM *  [-]
Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 26 April 2009 01:12:23PM 1 point [-]

Seems relevant here: Hand vs. Fingers, Angry Atoms.

Comment author: Alexandros 25 April 2009 12:13:09PM *  7 points [-]

When we need to enlist the help of our subconscious, it seems there is a need for useful deceptions... The reason this seems counterintuitive may be that we consider ourselves to be operating directly on physical and social reality, but we are not. We are going through a convoluted stack of legacy hardware that is antiquated but powerful. To make things worse, the abstractions it uses are broken. So if a parameter is 'Current Status In Tribe', this makes no sense today, for one thing, there is no tribe. However we know that inserting the value 'high' in that slot produces roughly desirable outcomes.

In that sense, the thought 'I am dominant' is not one that is directed to the conscious. We don't use it to calibrate our model of reality. It is directed towards the legacy stack. In that sense it may be thought to be a meaningless parameter of purely instrumental use. However the legacy junk is a bit smarter than that, you need to believe it to some degree. Wait... does this mean doublethink can be a useful tool?

I think I see where you are going with the dark side reference.

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 08:35:45PM -3 points [-]

Wait... does this mean doublethink can be a useful tool?

It's not doublethink... it's refraining from doubt. In other words, it's single-think. If you're doublethinking, you're doing it wrong.

Comment author: roland 25 April 2009 01:59:48PM *  5 points [-]

Still, let us say that I am entering a club, in which I would like to pick up an attractive woman. A reading of The Game will tell me that I must believe myself to be the most attractive, interesting, desirable man in the room.

Sorry, but I have extensive knowledge of the seduction community and this assertion is wrong, even though it may be written in "The Game". Btw, can you quote where exactly it is written?

Mystery one of the greatest teachers in the community has coined the phrase: "Competence over confidence". The key is to have a skillset not develop some conceited self-image. Of course it may be helpful to project this image of self-confidence outwards but it is not a problem if you know that you are just playing a role. After all, it's called the game for a reason.

Comment author: pjeby 25 April 2009 08:42:03PM 3 points [-]

Mystery one of the greatest teachers in the community has coined the phrase: "Competence over confidence". The key is to have a skillset not develop some conceited self-image.

But that's just his personal road to confidence, and one that's suitable for people who need to believe that they're skilled in order to feel confident -- as opposed to people who prefer "natural" or "inner game" schools. What kind of competence is being displayed by the use of random openings like, "I like salad"? What kind of competence is a natural -- who's never heard of Mystery's A1 and C3 and such -- displaying?

(Btw, I agree that MBlume needn't consider himself the most attractive, etc. man in the room.)

Comment author: MBlume 25 April 2009 04:43:25PM 5 points [-]

Mea Culpa -- I should've know better than to round to the nearest stereotype.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 25 April 2009 12:38:36PM 4 points [-]

This is only dangerous if one supposes that the Cartographer's map is irrevocably damaged by hiding it with the bard's illusions. To the extent that one can select an appropriate mask, wear it for a while, and remove it to be none the worse for wear--what is the harm?

In fact, given the potential uses in optimizing the cartographer's interpersonal communication skills, there's an argument to be made that learning some of the secrets of the Bardic Conspiracy ought to be de rigeur for the aspiring cartographer.

Comment author: MrShaggy 25 April 2009 05:00:46PM 2 points [-]

"In fact, given the potential uses in optimizing the cartographer's interpersonal communication skills, there's an argument to be made that learning some of the secrets of the Bardic Conspiracy ought to be de rigeur for the aspiring cartographer."

I agree with this. There may be some dangers from knowingly rehearsing false beliefs but there are also dangers from not being able to do so effectively. To me, it seems there is strong evidence that interpersonal skills increase with 'acting'-like abilities and only weak evidence that acting, etc. involve significant distortion of belief system.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 25 April 2009 09:35:13AM *  6 points [-]

It seems like you've already worked out the answer with good epistemology (you must act dominant) but you can't apply it unless you put yourself in a less epistemically correct state.

But were you in an epistemically correct state to begin with? Your thoughts were. Your executing adaptations weren't; they were shaped around an assumed bone-wielding alpha male.

Isn't what you've done really more like "moving the untruth around"?

Comment author: ciphergoth 25 April 2009 09:16:10AM *  6 points [-]

As a consumer of rather than a participant in drama, I would call it suspension of disbelief - ie the thing that allows us to feel fear when the hero is in peril, even though we know rationally that the gun is a prop held by an actor.

Comment author: MrShaggy 25 April 2009 08:17:38AM 1 point [-]

I like your description of how your body language changed. As to whether it's dangerous, I'd say the question is a little broad.

Let's take the earlier example from The Game. I would argue that the false belief version you present (most attractive, etc.) can be a useful counter to Bruce-programming (self-defeating behavior), but that it is not necessary or even optimal to have a false belief of one's status (except perhaps as a training stage) to exhibit attractive body language. But maybe that's beside the point, because I would not be surprised if some aspects of our lives that are outside our direct conscious control (like our overall body language) could be optimized in some situations by having, or as you put it, rehearsing false beliefs. But I doubt those situations require more acceptance of the false beliefs than acting does. So it wouldn't be a "tiny awareness" recognizing that it's a lie. I'm not sure how to characterize it--a different self, a sort of meta-lie, but that kind of "mind hacking" doesn't seem like a path to the dark side inherently. In rehearing a false belief for acting, one is basically required to recognize it as a false belief, but one could imagine someone stumbling upon a false belief (say, that they're the most attractive person on earth) unconsciously (i.e. not by reading the Game or being fully self-aware that they're adopting such a belief, esp. say in the teen years) and then they get positive feedback socially and then when called on the false belief later, have trouble stepping back and being objective. But again, that's a different situation than rehearsing a false belief in a self-aware way. This doesn't rule out such rehearsing, as in acting, could have negative effects. Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for immersing himself in his characters--such methods should show negative effects if there were some. Do actors who use such methods show long term tendencies toward irrationality or some such that actors who don't do such immersion don't? I doubt it but don't have the data to say one way or another.

Comment author: byrnema 26 April 2009 07:09:25AM 1 point [-]

The only example I can think of where self-pretension would be best is if you are trying to fully empathize with another person, Daniel-Day Lewis style, perhaps as a way to predict what they'll do next (or behave exactly like them in a play) . I would like to ask the following question: If you incorporate their beliefs, to what extent is this self-pretension or just an attempt to incorporate them in your brain? (I.e., dedicating some subset of your brain neurons to simulating them?)

Comment author: MrShaggy 27 April 2009 11:39:12AM 1 point [-]

"If you incorporate their beliefs, to what extent is this self-pretension or just an attempt to incorporate them in your brain?"

I don't think we know enough neuroscience to know. Either way it is some set of neurons 'adopting' those beliefs. The question I guess is whether that set can become part of your system of beliefs that influence your day to day actions subsonsciously and consciously? I can't make the question clear which I think is because we don't understand the architecture well enough to do so.

Comment author: MBlume 25 April 2009 08:39:04AM *  0 points [-]

Do actors who use such methods show long term tendencies toward irrationality or some such that actors who don't do such immersion don't?

Excellent question. I have heard claims connecting Heath Ledger's death with the intensity of his performance as The Joker, but I am in no position to know the truth of the matter.

Comment author: MrShaggy 25 April 2009 05:02:13PM 2 points [-]

"Excellent question. I have heard claims connecting Heath Ledger's death with the intensity of his performance as The Joker, but I am in no position to know the truth of the matter."

I didn't look into it systematically, but I did briefly, and it looked like one of those claims people like to say (and that helps sell papers). I can't rule it out, but without actual evidence, I think it's worth ignoring.

Comment author: Artaudin2 13 September 2010 08:27:08PM 0 points [-]

Wouldn't the lie you tell yourself in the situation be the best summary of useful behavior, or a utility function, AS a statement of fact? The best way to act is not in any way a statement of fact; but to represent to ourselves a situation and our best course of action in it, we must frequently encode the information as a set of facts. As you say, a full game-theoretical expose of how I should ACT is not possible. Therefore, I represent to myself some useful idea of what the situation IS, not based on its accuracy, but on its utility. This is an AS IF argument.

Comment author: byrnema 26 April 2009 06:59:05AM *  0 points [-]

Interesting post. Is self-pretension ever the most rational course?

All that would be required to convince me is a single example where self-delusion yields a win where the complete truth does not. However, I’m not convinced. It is my intuition (I recently asserted exactly this in a post draft and worried over how to defend it) that the complete truth will always be enough.

Consider the example in this post: it seems to me that if you believe in the notion of “alpha-males”, then you're already deep in illusion before your self-pretension that you are an alpha male.

[Take the outside view: Any girl who is not an alpha-female will be evolutionarily conditioned to settle for less than the alpha-male by, perhaps, convincing herself that you're an alpha male even if you're not. In other words, you're still in the game even if you didn't think so.]

Consider, in more detail, the example this post was originally a response to. Here, a hot iron is approaching your face, but if you flinch, you will be shot.

While this is a horrible dilemma, I think it presents a clear case in which the complete truth is enough. The complete truth is that you have only two choices: the hot iron or the bullet. You realize with certainty that the iron is the better choice. So, next, instead of pretending that the iron is cool (which will only backfire when the iron approaches) you actively choose the iron: you will yourself to desire the burn of the iron. Your thoughts would be: 'I want to feel the iron’s heat', 'I want to feel the pain of the iron', and that will be the truth. When the iron meets your cheek, you will feel a sense of elation, because your desire for pain was met. Rationally, you’re happy because it wasn’t the bullet.

There are two obstacles that I can think of in this dilemma. The first would be psychological: distracting yourself and diminishing your desire for the iron by wishing that you didn’t have to suffer it. However, wishing that an unchangeable situation is different is embracing a non-truth. Second, it may be physiologically impossible to not flinch, regardless of your thoughts. In which case, there’s no win either way.

Comment author: MBlume 26 April 2009 07:30:08AM 2 points [-]

Your thoughts would be: I want to feel the iron’s heat, I want to feel the pain of the iron, and that will be the truth. When the iron meets your cheek, you will feel a sense of elation, because your desire for pain was met. Rationally, you’re happy because it wasn’t the bullet.

This sounded extremely odd to me, until I reread it and realized that I'd already come close to using it. I did West Side Story my junior year. The whole score to the show is structured around the half-octave (also called the tritone, or the Devil's Interval -- basically the most dissonant interval in all of music). There'd be roaring finishes to songs where we'd be on these incredibly dissonant intervals, and the only way I could find to keep my voice from rounding to the nearest pleasant interval -- a major fourth or fifth -- was to push myself into a state of sheer bloodymindedness, where I wanted the dissonance, loved it, wanted to put as much of it into the world as I could, absolutely gloried in the ugliness of those notes together.

It was a lot of fun, and I was on pitch, so I can't help but wonder if the same would work in the iron/bullet scenario. I also can't help but wonder whether my "find your happy place" method would stand a chance.

Comment author: byrnema 26 April 2009 02:05:21PM *  0 points [-]

I also can't help but wonder whether my "find your happy place" method would stand a chance.

Definitely, it would be effective. But does handling reality by escaping it count as self-deception? (assuming here we wish to avoid self-deception, if possible)

I think not necessarily. I can think of one set of examples where it seems more truthful to 'find the happy place', and this example set suggests some criteria for measuring the integrity of escaping. However, I have a tendency to build too much from the first example I think of, and would like to hear other thoughts on this.

By the way: I loved your vivid description of embracing dissonance in music. I wonder if this is also how/why the audience enjoys the piece.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 25 April 2009 01:19:21PM 0 points [-]

Bravo!

Comment author: CannibalSmith 25 April 2009 08:44:54AM *  0 points [-]

If being irrational is rational then it's rational.