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Mate selection for the men here

13 Post author: rhollerith 03 June 2009 11:05PM

The following started as a reply to a request for relationship advice (http://lesswrong.com/lw/zj/open_thread_june_2009/rxy) but is expected to be of enough general interest to justify a top-level post.  Sometimes it is beneficial to have older men in the conversation, and this might be one of those times.  (I am in my late 40s.)

I am pretty sure that most straight men strong in rationality are better off learning how the typical woman thinks than holding out for a long-term relationship with a women as strong in rationality as he is. If you hold out for a strong female rationalist, you drastically shrink the pool of women you have to choose from -- and people with a lot of experience with dating and relationships tend to consider that a bad move.  A useful data point here is the fact (http://lesswrong.com/lw/fk/survey_results/cee) that 95%-97% of Less Wrongers are male.  If on the other hand, women currently (*currently* -- not in some extrapolated future after you've sold your company and bought a big house in Woodside) find you extremely attractive or extremely desirable long-term-relationship material, well, then maybe you should hold out for a strong female rationalist if you are a strong male rationalist.

Here is some personal experience in support of the advice above to help you decide whether to follow the advice above.

My information is incomplete because I have never been in a long-term relationship with a really strong rationalist -- or even a scientist, programmer or engineer -- but I have been with a woman who has years of formal education in science (majored in anthropology, later took chem and bio for a nursing credential) and her knowledge of science did not contribute to the relationship in any way that I could tell.  Moreover, that relationship was not any better than the one I am in now, with a woman with no college-level science classes at all.

The woman I have been with for the last 5 years is not particularly knowledgeable about science and is not particularly skilled in the art of rationality.  Although she is curious about most areas of science, she tends to give up and to stop paying attention if a scientific explanation fails to satisfy her curiosity within 2 or 3 minutes.  If there is a strong emotion driving her inquiry, though, she will focus longer.  E.g., she sat still for at least 15 or 20 minutes on the evolutionary biology of zoonoses during the height of the public concern over swine flu about a month ago -- and was glad she did.  (I know she was glad she did because she thanked me for the explanation, and it is not like her to make an insincere expression of gratitude out of, e.g., politeness.)  (The strong emotion driving her inquiry was her fear of swine flu combined with her suspicion that perhaps the authorities were minimizing the severity of the situation to avoid panicking the public.)

Despite her having so much less knowledge of science and the art of rationality than I have, I consider my current relationship a resounding success: it is no exaggeration to say that I am more likely than not vastly better off than I would have been if I had chosen 5 years ago not to pursue this woman to hold out for someone more rational.  She is rational enough to take care of herself and to be the most caring and the most helpful girlfriend I have ever had.  (Moreover, nothing in my ordinary conversations and interactions with her draw my attention to her relative lack of scientific knowledge or her relative lack of advanced rationalist skills in a way that evokes any regret or sadness in me.  Of course, if I had experienced a long-term relationship with a very strong female rationalist in the past, maybe I *would* experience episodes of regret or sadness towards the woman I am with now.)

Here are two more tips on mate selection for the straight men around here.

I have found that it is a very good sign if the woman either (1) assigns high social status to scientific ability or scientific achievement or finds scientific ability appealing in a man or (2) sees science as a positive force in the world.  The woman I am with now clearly and decisively meets criterion (1) but does not meet criterion (2).  Moreover, one of my most successful relationships was with a woman who finds science fiction very inspiring.  (I do not BTW.)  The salient thing about that was that she never revealed it to me, nor the fact that she definitely sees science as a positive force in the world.  (I pieced those two facts together after we broke up.)  The probable reason she never revealed them to me is that she thought they would clue me in to the fact that she found scientific ability appealing in a man, which in turn would have increased the probability that I would try to snow her by pretending to be better at science or more interested in science than I really was.  (She'd probably been snowed that way by a man before she met me: male snowing of prospective female sexual partners is common.)

By posting on a topic of such direct consequence to normal straight adult male self-esteem, I am making myself more vulnerable than I would be if I were posting on, e.g., regulatory policy.  Awareness of my vulnerability might cause someone to refrain from publicly contradicting what I just wrote.  Do not refrain from publicly contradicting what I just wrote!  The successful application of rationality and scientific knowledge to this domain has high expected global utility, and after considering the emotional and reputational risks to myself of having posted on this topic, I have concluded that I do not require any special consideration over and above what I would get if I had posted on regulatory policy.

And of course if you have advice to give about mate selection for the straight men around here, here is your chance.

(EDITED to avoid implying that all men are heterosexual.)

Comments (111)

Comment author: RobinHanson 04 June 2009 02:28:22AM 14 points [-]

Now there is no necessary connection between rationality and a sci-tech association, and the correlation in the world probably isn't that strong, but I'll believe most readers here are strongly sci-tech. And this post is surely right that as a man you'll get far more mileage out of the social status that goes with sci-tech, at least in many female eyes, than you will from your rationality. Rationality, after all, has pretty much zero, if not negative, social status in our society.

Comment author: u020614 26 February 2012 02:38:07PM 4 points [-]

As a female, who is dating a man who is rationalist, I don't necessarily think that Science plays a large role in how well we work together. I think that the fact I know his decision making processes are based on rationalism, and I am willing to understand why he has made decisions (even if I would not have made them using that logic) does ensure that we resolve things easily, or that I accept them. Essentially, I think that if you are a rationalist man then you need to date a woman who is willing to understand this part of you, and make some effort not to take decisions made on a rationalist basis as markers of you not caring about her or not having any emotional involvement (though emotion doesn't often factor in decisions). Once I fully understand the method behind a decision that he makes I can come to terms with it, or challenge it, but without understanding why he has handled a situation I am left flummoxed and confused. I am often told by mutual friends that they are amazed at how well I am able to handle his behaviour, because to other people he seems quite unpredictable or irrational, whereas I have come to understand that actually he is almost always making rational decisions and I therefore don't see them as a surprise (or get upset or offended by them). It is perhaps, in reality, a level of open-mindedness which is required in a relationship between a rationalist and non-rationalist, but I think you also need someone who thinks about situations before acting. I can be quite impulsive and often make snap decisions or judgements, but dating a rationalist has taught me to stop and consider whether a situation is actually how I immediately perceive it to be or not. I don't think I am (or ever will be) a rationalist, I think I am aware of rationalism and can understand why someone else has used it to make decisions. Being willing to think, discuss and consider alternative views or paths (a marker in many ways of general intelligence), is the real reason why I can date a rationalist, but many of my female friends never could. I would add, however, that this is not an easy thing to achieve and it has taken a long time for me to build up this level of understanding and tolerance. Knowing that when you are upset or emotional about something and will be faced with cold rationalism as a resolution, is sometimes very difficult to handle (though I'm sure facing irrational emotion from me is equally difficult for him and he has had to learn what my decision making processes are, though they are much more illogical). I have had to accept that I cannot win arguments simply by drawing on emotional responses (as I have done very successfully for my whole life), but that I must use hard evidence and logic. This has been a difficult task, and one I continue to work on, but I have always found it intellectually stimulating. The fact that I am dating someone who challenges me, and requires me to think, is fundamentally why I enjoy his company and will find it very hard to date someone who is not a rationalist in future.

Comment author: Alicorn 04 June 2009 12:24:31AM 19 points [-]

I, speaking from whatever position of expertise you care to suspect of me based on my gender, have the following input:

While not all women find intelligence an appealing trait, the ones who do (and these are probably the ones people here should be pursuing) tend to avoid (or break up with) adequately smart guys not because they aren't smart enough, but because they are lacking in some other dimension (niceness, attentiveness, ideological conflict, and lack of indefinable romantic spark are some of the ones I've heard). There seems to be a general tendency to suspect that if a girl likes that her boyfriend is intelligent, and then the relationship cools, the solution is for him to try to become smarter/more knowledgeable (or signal smartness/knowledge more strongly). I have never seen this work.

It is my suspicion that the audience of Less Wrong is near-universally already smart enough to meet the minimum intelligence standards of anyone who finds intelligence appealing and isn't aiming outrageously high. While becoming smarter is a great thing to do for other reasons, if the idea is to locate a girlfriend, your time as a single male rationalist might be better spent concentrating on not being a jerk, preserving and consolidating spare time to spend on a girlfriend, and looking through the available females in your area to find one who is basically agreeable and spark-y with you in particular.

Comment author: HughRistik 04 June 2009 04:54:55AM 10 points [-]

While becoming smarter is a great thing to do for other reasons, if the idea is to locate a girlfriend, your time as a single male rationalist might be better spent concentrating on not being a jerk,

Agreed, but "trying not to be a jerk" might not be the most productive approach for those who need that advice the most, if the problem is that they don't understand why they are being considered a jerk. What they would really need is a better model of the other person's responses, which would lead them to understand why they would be seen as a jerk in the first place.

I'll also observe the opposite problem: being perceived as overly submissive may be a turnoff for some women, too.

preserving and consolidating spare time to spend on a girlfriend,

Agreed.

and looking through the available females in your area to find one who is basically agreeable and spark-y with you in particular.

Looking at the women available in reality is indeed the best heuristic, rather than trying to define in advance the prototype of the ideal woman and then try to approximate her as best as possible in real life, or try to turn real life women into that image. That approach is problematic because it is too theoretical and not empirical enough: it may lead to disappointment when reality doesn't hold up to a poorly conceived, unnecessary, or just flat out wrong ideal. A better approach is to actually interact with women and to discover through experience what qualities to look for, and because you might find compatibility with someone when you didn't expect it.

Of course, as Silas observes, this advice only applies for men who actually have choices among the women around.

Comment author: Alicorn 04 June 2009 05:01:58AM 2 points [-]

I'll also observe the opposite problem: being perceived as overly submissive may be a turnoff for some women, too.

"Some" is an important word here. Some women like their boyfriends to come pre-domesticated, especially for long-term-relationship purposes. If one can pull off "domesticated" without it turning into "spineless loser", that can be made to work.

Comment author: SilasBarta 04 June 2009 02:45:00AM 24 points [-]

I notice all advice on finding a girlfriend glosses over the actual nuts-and-bolts of it. In Alicorn's post here, the assumption seems to be that there's an immense pool of women receptive enough to me (e.g. by common acquaintances, organizations, etc.) and I can just roll the dice until I find one, and all the supposed problems for rationalists worth getting advice on, arise ... er, sometime later.

Where am I supposed to find this pool of bachelorettes? And if it's common interest organizations, which should it be, since we've ruled out those related to rationality? And isn't it strongly advised not to show romantic interest soon upon joining such an organization? In which case, how does your advice differ from "Join a random group ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait"?

FWIW I recently joined a group (actually a subgroup of a larger group which is not held in high regard here) and did click with one of the women there, and asked her out, but we only went out for a few days before she lost interest. And then I found out there's a taboo against dating within the subgroup (though I don't think that had anything to do with her calling it off), which puts me right back to square one in terms of being expected to start relationships with near-complete strangers.

With apologies, it gets a bit annoying constantly getting dating advice that assumes away the most critical problems, and I can't be the only one in this position.

Comment author: Jack 04 June 2009 04:14:26AM 6 points [-]

I imagine having those problems would be trouble, and I'm sorry. In fairness though, your problems don't sound like they stem from your being a rationalist. I guess it is too bad one of your interests is something that doesn't lead to meeting a lot of women... but straight men interested in sports, cars, bbq etc. all have that problem. So there are probably better forums to ask these questions. The advice thats being given here is advice for rationalists qua rationalists. If your problem is just meeting women google it, get on match.com, go to a bar, whatever. If your problem is that the women you do date lose interest in you after a few days– how do you know it isn't because of one of the problems alicorn suggested? I'm sure there are answers out there, you can't fault a rationalist community for not being a relationship/pick up community.

Comment author: Alicorn 04 June 2009 04:16:32AM *  6 points [-]

If you do not know any women, something is wrong. It either means that (1) you don't know anyone at all, in which case you should take care of that before "find a girlfriend" reaches the top of your list of priorities, or it means that (2) none of the men you know have introduced you to any of the women they know, which probably means something needs to be addressed on your end too, or it means that (3) the men you know themselves do not know any women, in which case something is wrong with them and you need to look into your choice of friends and associates. We comprise more than half of the population. We are not hard to find. Some of us are probably related to you.

If you know some women, but all the women you know are all taken or for some reason unacceptable, the odds are good that they know women who are neither taken nor unacceptable. Behave in a decent manner to these women and they are likely to introduce you to these friends of theirs. If you can sincerely do so, it may help alert your acquaintances that you are looking if you express a vague interest in having kids someday, or you could express general opinions about long term relationships/weddings/romantic customs in your local culture/what you look for in a woman/child-rearing strategies. Tick off enough boxes on a friend of a friend's checklist and, assuming the intermediate friend is well-informed and cooperative, he or she may provide an introduction. If you're antisocial and have no friends, relatives are an alternative route.

Comment author: HughRistik 04 June 2009 07:01:04AM *  45 points [-]

If you do not know any women, something is wrong.

This isn't quite Silas' complaint. Clearly, he does know some women. What he is looking for is women who are receptive to his attempts to date them. This means he needs to know them in a context where he can actually make advances, and he needs to know how to actually make advances (which are appropriate to that context). His other complaint was that he was getting a date, but then it fizzled because she lost interest.

I won't speak of Silas' specific situation, but I will emphasize that there are many men who are decent guys from the standpoint of society, and who don't have anything major wrong with them psychologically, physically or financially, but who don't have significant options with women. This isn't because they don't know women, but because the women they know aren't available to them because the women don't find them attractive enough (since women are more selective, the average women is going after men with above average attractiveness, not after her average male friends), and/or because they are insufficiently knowledgeable of all the societal rituals around dating. Those rituals place a higher burden on the male for initiating things, and men don't have that stuff encoded in their DNA. It's something that the cooler kids learned in adolescence, and the less cool ones didn't.

The result is that by high school, it's common for males with certain personality traits such as introversion and systemizing (i.e. personality traits typical of males who identify as rationalists) to be so far behind socially that their ability to get something going romantic with the women around them is limited, even to the extent of being practically locked out. Women with similar personality traits will also experience difficulties, but not to the same magnitude since they aren't typically expected to be the initiators, and because personality traits like confidence (that can easily be damaged during adolescence) aren't so important for their attractiveness. This is not to say that women don't experience challenges and difficulties in relationships; they do, but their primary challenges occur at different points (e.g. once some sort of dating has actually started, not so much difficulty getting any kind of date) and are a totally different subjects (e.g. being seen only sexually).

It is possible for a man to be surrounded by women, yet be walled off from them. As someone who experienced this years ago, I can say that it was no fun. And meeting friends of friends isn't any use if you can't capitalize on it, not to mention that it's a slow and unreliable way of meeting people. And even if you can get a date, there are a million more ways for the male to bungle than for the female to bungle it (again, women are more selective, and male behavior is a larger factor in female attraction than female behavior is in male attraction... just think about the ways women use words like "weird" or "creepy" in describing potential suitors), which enforces a steep learning curve that is difficult to climb when you don't know what you are doing.

You might say that there is a problem these guys have, which "needs to be addressed on their end," and you would be absolutely right. But that is exactly Silas' complaint. What is the nuts and bolts of what these men need to address such that they can successfully date the women all around them, and who is going to show them how to do it? Who is going to teach them all the dating rituals that they missed during adolescence, and give them back the self-confidence that they lost? Society isn't.

Comment author: glenra 05 June 2009 10:21:20PM *  16 points [-]

Who is going to teach them all the dating rituals that they missed during adolescence, and give them back the self-confidence that they lost? Society isn't.

Society used to teach some of this explicitly in the form of cotillion classes. One modern analogue for adults is PUA workshops. I took The Art of Attraction class from Pickup101 a few years ago and found it extremely worthwhile. My favorite part of the class was learning how to improve my body language in various ways. Confidence is a lot about physical behaviour - how to stand, how to walk, how to look at people... The most interesting and persistently useful part was learning how to touch someone one doesn't know well and have this come across as friendly rather than creepy or awkward. Some people are naturally physically demonstrative - they find it easy to give a reassuring pat on the shoulder or the wrist or the back, or a hug. Most women have this ability; many men don't. But being able to touch people in an appropriately friendly and comforting way is a physical skill which can be acquired with training and practice. Now that I have had this training, I even find it easier to touch or hug my own parents than before I took the class.

Another option is dance classes - you can learn Salsa at any age. Anything that gives you lots of practice comfortably standing and moving in close physical proximity to members of the opposite gender can't help but help.

Comment author: komponisto 05 June 2009 07:21:51PM *  8 points [-]

I feel the need to say that this is a superb comment -- perhaps the best I have seen on this topic.

I particularly appreciated the following passages:

Those rituals place a higher burden on the male for initiating things, and men don't have that stuff encoded in their DNA. It's something that the cooler kids learned in adolescence, and the less cool ones didn't.

(...)

there are a million more ways for the male to bungle than for the female to bungle it (again, women are more selective, and male behavior is a larger factor in female attraction than female behavior is in male attraction... just think about the ways women use words like "weird" or "creepy" in describing potential suitors),

(...)

Who is going to teach them all the dating rituals that they missed during adolescence, and give them back the self-confidence that they lost? Society isn't.

I would just add that this is one of those subjects on which people are particularly prone to other-optimizing.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 07:26:21AM 7 points [-]

(since women are more selective, the average women is going after men with above average attractiveness, not after her average male friends),

You sort of touch on this later, but I think it's important to point out that the word "attractiveness" does not mean the same thing to men and women, which means that a lot of people reading the above are going to think you're talking about appearance. I.e., I just want to highlight what you said later:

male behavior is a larger factor in female attraction than female behavior is in male attraction

...and add that it's also a larger factor in female attraction than physical appearance is, once you control for factors that a man can control about his appearance (i.e. grooming and other social signals of appearance) which can thus be reduced to "behavior", anyway. It's just behavior that's done before the meeting occurs, rather than after.

Comment author: wuwei 08 June 2009 09:33:50PM 11 points [-]

"The correlation between liking of the date and evaluation of the date's physical attractiveness is .78 for male subjects and .69 for female subjects. . . Sheer physical attractiveness appears to be the overriding determinant of liking."

Also interesting: "The correlation between how much the man says he likes his partner and how much she likes him is virtually zero: r = .03."

"Male's MSAT scores correlate .04 with both the woman's liking for him and her desire to date him." (For females the equivalent figure was around -.06.)

"Importance of Physical Attractiveness in Dating Behavior", Elaine Walster, et al., p. 514-515 http://www2.hawaii.edu/~elaineh/13.pdf

I trust this data more than folk psychology or self-reports, but I would be interested if anyone knows of any subsequent studies confirming or disconfirming these types of figures, or assessing its generalizability from 18 year olds on blind dates.

Comment author: pjeby 08 June 2009 10:00:02PM 15 points [-]

"The correlation between liking of the date and evaluation of the date's physical attractiveness is .78 for male subjects and .69 for female subjects. . . Sheer physical attractiveness appears to be the overriding determinant of liking."

You left out a really important factor, mentioned in the paragraph before this. These were the participants' ratings of their partners' physical attractiveness, and were not taken independently. The correlations were only half as good with an independent rating of physical attractiveness, made by four raters who were not going to be dating any of the subjects, and didn't interact with them for more than a few seconds.

In other words, the data of the study actually support a hypothesis that people find people they like more physically attractive, rather than the other way around... and it supports that hypothesis for both men and women, though more so for women than for men.

Comment author: wuwei 08 June 2009 10:25:33PM 3 points [-]

The correlations with independent ratings of attractiveness were still .44 and .39. Compared to .04 and -.06 for intelligence, that still supports the conclusion that "sheer physical attractiveness appears to be the overriding determinant of liking."

They also used various personality measures assessing such things as social skills, maturity, masculinity/femininity, introversion/extroversion and self-acceptance. They found predominantly negative correlations (from -.18 to -.08) and only two comparatively small positive correlations .14 and .03.

Comment author: pjeby 08 June 2009 10:53:13PM 9 points [-]

The correlations with independent ratings of attractiveness were still .44 and .39. Compared to .04 and -.06 for intelligence, that still supports the conclusion that "sheer physical attractiveness appears to be the overriding determinant of liking."

Speaking from a hypothetical PUA's point of view, there are still some uncontrolled-for factors:

  • Degree of a male's control over his rating of physical attractiveness (via choice of clothes, grooming, posture, voice tone, etc.)

  • Male's ability to display desirable characteristics through attitude, touch, story, listening, and other ways of creating mood, chemistry, or attraction.

  • Degree of interest shown in a male by other females (note that other studies have found that women are much more likely to perceive men to be attractive if it appears that other women are attracted to them)

These are just a few of the qualities that PUAs use to influence attraction, none of which were measured or controlled for by the study.

So, your summary is an overstatement: at .69 individual correlation, this means that even by a woman's own judgment of physical attractiveness is not an absolute factor. You can still come out ahead (or screw it up) by what else you have/do.

What's more, at .39 independent rating correlation, this means that people differ in attractiveness ratings for the same person. Whether people in general find you attractive matters considerably less than what the individual you're after thinks.

Last, but not least, IIUC not a single PUA theory of attraction is even tested by this research, let alone debunked. So even if you're ugly, there's still hope for you. ;-)

Comment author: wuwei 09 June 2009 12:14:39AM 4 points [-]

Thanks for clarifying what factors you think are relevant. I agree that those have not been tested.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 04 June 2009 12:09:15PM 2 points [-]

What is the nuts and bolts of what these men need to address such that they can successfully date the women all around them, and who is going to show them how to do it? Who is going to teach them all the dating rituals that they missed during adolescence, and give them back the self-confidence that they lost?

Nobody. Their problem, they fix it. If they can't, well, not all problems have solutions, and if you're screwed enough, you're screwed.

Ok, things aren't quite as harsh as that, there's the whole PUA thing (I have no experience of how effective it is), and various insights to be had from evolutionary psychology. Information is out there. (Can anyone suggest any other worthwhile -- by rationalist standards -- sources on the subject?) But no advice will magically solve the problem. Unlike giving someone a Google Maps pointer to a destination, the individual still has to apply himself with no certainty of success.

"You have before you the disassembled parts of a high-powered hunting rifle, and the instructions written in Swahili. In five minutes an angry Bengal tiger will walk into the room." -- Eugene Miya

Comment author: fburnaby 22 June 2011 07:10:54PM 6 points [-]

I hate to make this recommendation (especially 2 years late), but figuring out how much alcohol you need to turn from an underconfident introvert to a comfortable socialite (without tipping too far in that direction) has helped me.

Comment author: Mets 10 November 2013 07:59:18AM 5 points [-]

Introversion and confidence are completely unrelated. You probably weren't implying that, but for anyone who comes across this in the future: introversion is not about confidence, shyness, self-esteem, anxiety or anything of that sort. The sheer amount of people who fail to make this distinction is one of the most irritating things I have come across.

Comment author: fburnaby 22 November 2013 06:48:17PM *  0 points [-]

Hmm. Yeah, I agree with you. But booze loosens something up for me. It turns something in my social brain on high. This is not the same thing as confidence, so my wording was bad.

Comment author: SilasBarta 04 June 2009 12:40:47PM *  13 points [-]

Again, you seem to assume away the problem. Does no one ever leave home for college or move to a different city in your world? And whenever you do find something that could move me into the situation that you see as normal, you assume away its problems as well: what's the standard method for addressing the (1), (2), and (3) you listed? You act like it's an easy step to just casually change my "choice of friends and associates".

In any case, like others mentioned, you misunderstand the situation. At my workplace, I do know women (not single) who could introduce me to women they know. As a matter of fact, they unsolicitedly remark about how "women must be all over you!" and "some lady's going to snatch you right up before you know it" (note the similarity of their assumptions to yours). But then they inevitably don't know anyone's they'd introduce me to.

We comprise more than half of the population. We are not hard to find.

Yes, and this was the point. Of course I can "find" women, but that doesn't mean I could follow your advice with those women. I could go to the supermarket, the mall, bars, etc. and see lots of women. Are these the ones you're suggesting I approach?

Some of us are probably related to you.

I hope I don't need to explain why these women are off the list... j/k But anyway, relatives don't help if they all live far away. You were aware of that possibility, right?

In summary: Your advice is predicated on the recipient having a kind of social network that would have obviated the problem to begin with, and you don't know how a male should go about establishing such a network except based on other assumptions that aren't as likely as you think. Can you see why that might not be helpful?

And again, before you say how I must be soooo much of an outlier that I can't possibly be a representative case, keep in mind, I did get a date with a woman in a group that I joined, so really, I'm apparently not that much of a freak.

Comment author: loqi 04 June 2009 05:21:48AM 10 points [-]

the men you know themselves do not know any women, in which case something is wrong with them and you need to look into your choice of friends and associates

Nice casual, sweeping judgment there. Makes me wonder what the net effect of this attitude being widespread among females would be.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 05:47:39AM 10 points [-]

Makes me wonder what the net effect of this attitude being widespread among females would be.

You don't have to wonder. The net effect would be the propagation of the genes that led to the formation of this attitude. ;-)

In fact, you have your wondering backwards. Any time you find human behavior to be inexplicable, it would behoove you to work backward to any likely evolutionary cause. Not so that you can prove women (or people in general) are broken and bizarre, but so you can understand why they might feel that way, and accept their concerns and feelings as valid, within their own sphere of reference.

In this particular case, for example, consider what a guy being "creepy" (i.e., lacking social ties) would mean in our ancestral environment.

Comment author: loqi 04 June 2009 06:21:04AM 2 points [-]

Indeed, but I wasn't wondering about the attitude's origin, nor did I say I find it inexplicable.

Not so that you can prove women (or people in general) are broken and bizarre, but so you can understand why they might feel that way, and accept their concerns and feelings as valid, within their own sphere of reference.

No thanks. There's an evolutionary cause to the male tendency toward violent behavior, and I can empathize with what it feels like to want to hurt someone, but that doesn't mean I accept it as "valid". If I encounter someone whose "sphere of reference" involves public validation of macho violence, I am doing everyone a disservice by pretending it's okay. Likewise for blind prejudice.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 06:33:46AM 9 points [-]

Likewise for blind prejudice.

So, if you prefer women with certain physical qualities, is that a blind prejudice, too?

If a woman prefers chocolate ice cream, does that mean she's blindly prejudiced against vanilla?

If a company says they prefer job applicants to have references, is that blind prejudice also?

I think you are confused, especially if you're connecting this to violence. To women in general (though not at all always for any particular woman) a man's social connections are his references... and for many, it's also his flavor.

Granted, Alicorn's way of expressing this fact was not especially PC from a male perspective. To a guy, caring about who you know can sound "elitist", in precisely the same way that guys' concerns about various female characteristics can sound "shallow" and un-PC to women.

However, if you understand and correctly translate this female preference to whatever preferences you have for your partners (that women in their turn don't necessarily understand or appreciate), then it would be easy to accept/forgive Alicorn's way of putting it.

Comment author: loqi 09 June 2009 09:59:35AM *  3 points [-]

To a guy, caring about who you know can sound "elitist", in precisely the same way that guys' concerns about various female characteristics can sound "shallow" and un-PC to women.

Thanks for draping me with stereotypes and assuming the worst, but that wasn't my objection.

Meta-comment unrelated to the substance of this thread: I want to apologize for the above response. I do think your analysis of my perspective is incorrect, but I realized that it's stupidly counterproductive to actively discourage random strangers from taking stabs at my underlying psychology or motivation. I'm usually annoyed by such speculation (not just when it's directed at me) because of its low average accuracy and distracting nature, but the expected utility of just one penetrating insight would easily outweigh the "cost" of ignoring or tersely refuting the inaccurate ones. It's my choice whether or not to "take it personally".

Comment author: loqi 04 June 2009 07:04:54AM 1 point [-]

If a company says they prefer job applicants to have references, is that blind prejudice also?

This analogy is based on a reinterpretation of the original statement . Consider instead the trivially false statement: "if you don't have references, you will be a lousy employee".

I think you are confused, especially if you're connecting this to violence.

Which "this"? Your statement seemed to imply that I should "accept as valid" (which I assume means something along the lines of "don't publicly object to") a sentiment or preference with an understandable evolutionary origin. Why not a preference for violence?

Granted, Alicorn's way of expressing this fact was not especially PC from a male perspective.

According to you, her way of expressing this fact was to express a different fact.

To a guy, caring about who you know can sound "elitist", in precisely the same way that guys' concerns about various female characteristics can sound "shallow" and un-PC to women.

Thanks for draping me with stereotypes and assuming the worst, but that wasn't my objection. I was objecting to the elevation of a mere social intuition or preference to the status of a logical truth (note the if-then, case-by-base logical structure of the original context). If Alicorn had said "I think it's creepy when a guy doesn't know any women", I would not have replied.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 07:19:19AM 4 points [-]

If Alicorn had said "I think it's creepy when a guy doesn't know any women", I would not have replied.

Understood, and fair enough. However, it would've been much more helpful if you'd just said that to start with, rather than answering her with a sweeping dismissal.

I personally don't see what she said as that big a deal; I took the "something wrong" part as meaning "you have characteristics women in general will find undesirable" or "you lack characteristics that women in general will require" -- and I see that as a true statement.

If you take this as meaning there is something morally or ethically wrong with you in some absolute sense -- as opposed to merely "wrong" for the result you desire -- then I could see how you might consider it prejudice.

In my case, it's easy to see Alicorn as speaking through the lens of a worldview in which it's simply common sense that of course you would know other people, because otherwise you'd have to be some sort of creep, or at least have a terrible life that's in urgent need of repair. And within the sphere of women's social lives (in general), such an assessment is perfectly logical and sensible.

Your statement seemed to imply that I should "accept as valid" (which I assume means something along the lines of "don't publicly object to")

I mean, "understand why a human being might feel that way and separate your opinion of the behavior from your judgment of the person" - to disagree without being disagreeable, in other words.

Comment author: loqi 04 June 2009 07:55:15AM *  -1 points [-]

Understood, and fair enough. However, it would've been much more helpful if you'd just said that to start with, rather than answering her with a sweeping dismissal.

I think it's more helpful to sweepingly dismiss sweeping, incorrect generalizations of people that others may take to heart.

I took the "something wrong" part as meaning "you have characteristics women in general will find undesirable" or "you lack characteristics that women in general will require" -- and I see that as a true statement.

I don't, except in the tautological sense ("there's something wrong with men who don't know any women, and that something is women find them undesirable, because they don't know any women").

If you take this as meaning there is something morally or ethically wrong with you in some absolute sense -- as opposed to merely "wrong" for the result you desire -- then I could see how you might consider it prejudice.

Ah, I see. You're talking about "wrong" in the sense that it's wrong to have gay friends, if you want to meet Christians.

Comment author: Alicorn 04 June 2009 05:25:26AM 3 points [-]

Out of curiosity, what would you be inclined to say about a random woman who simply did not know any men and who socialized exclusively with women, none of whom knew any men either? Assume this scenario is in a country not dominated by strict Islam or similar social structures.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 06:46:53AM 22 points [-]

Out of curiosity, what would you be inclined to say about a random woman who simply did not know any men and who socialized exclusively with women, none of whom knew any men either?

The mind boggles at such a concept. However, you probably mean a woman who did not know any men she considered potential partners, and who socialized with women, none of whom knew any men they considered introducing as potential partners... in which case, that sounds like a lot of women. ;-)

So, I'm not entirely sure where you meant to draw the line, there. But unless you were trying to imply that she's a nun or a lesbian, though, you need to understand that men (in general, though not always in every specific case) simply wouldn't care.

Likely male responses to this condition in reality would be things like, "Cool, a virgin", or "Great, she won't have anybody to compare me to", or "wow, so many women not knowing guys... think of the opportunities for me!"

In fact, my first joking response that I almost typed at the beginning of this comment was that I'd say, "Welcome to Fantasy Island!" -- because that's more or less the evolutionary-instinctual male response to the idea of "lots of women without any men around", i.e. "awesome".

IOW, the female preference for men to have social connections just doesn't translate in reverse. Men have different evolutionary drives in this respect, which is why guys who think just enough about this stuff to notice it (but not enough to properly translate/balance) tend to end up with all sorts of grudges against women's preferences as being "irrational" and "unfair" (i.e. not-the-same-as-men's).

Comment author: Psychohistorian 04 June 2009 08:42:35AM *  2 points [-]

This wasn't addressed to me, but I have to say I don't quite agree with the responses.

Ignoring its trivial impossibility, I'd believe such a woman was (at least in a romantic sense, and probably in a non-romantic one) very naive and very socially awkward, or that she was a lesbian. As I understand it, it's fairly hard to be a woman without encountering at least a few men, so if a woman totally lacks any male friends in her entire social network, that would signal serious, debilitating shyness, a lack of social skills, or a lack of interest in men. Of course I'd change this belief in the face of any contradictory evidence, but absent further evidence, that's what I'd infer.

Comment author: loqi 04 June 2009 05:38:53AM 0 points [-]

Given that I'm male, by definition I haven't known any women in that situation, so I don't have anything to say.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 01:03:32AM 11 points [-]

your time as a single male rationalist might be better spent concentrating on not being a jerk, preserving and consolidating spare time to spend on a girlfriend, and looking through the available females in your area to find one who is basically agreeable and spark-y with you in particular.

Also, cultivating social confidence (as opposed to confidence in the rightness of one' s opinions), and an unconditional interest in individual human beings (as opposed to "humanity") would be good ideas as well. AFAICT, these correlate strongly with (if they don't equate to) "not being a jerk".

(Social confidence mostly means being relaxed and emotionally unreactive to disagreements or differences of opinion, as opposed to argumentative, tense, or submissive. An actually confident person has no need to either harangue or dismiss those who they disagree with, or indeed to express any outward semblance of disagreement. And cultivating genuine interest in human beings as-they-are, not as-you'd-like-them-to-be, helps one to react to the most bizarre ideas and beliefs with, "Ah, how fascinating" -- without putting off any social signals of arrogance.)

Comment author: Mycroft65536 04 June 2009 01:13:39AM 0 points [-]

Any idea HOW to do that?

Comment author: Jack 04 June 2009 02:53:23AM *  4 points [-]

Re: Social confidence... you can fake it 'til you make it. You don't actually have to be confident (my uninformed guess is that a lot people who seem confident aren't– but that might just me projecting my own experience on to others). You just have to look confident to others. Don't brag (explicitly, at least) but never self-deprecate either. Friendly teasing of the opposite sex *, joking... all good. I made a conscious effort to do these things and now they're just a part of my personality and I like myself better for it.

Though I wonder if this would be harder if I was older (I picked this up only a few years after I got interested in girls so I didn't have as many bad habits to break)

*I don't know how this would work for those who are not interested in the opposite sex. It may or may not signal the same things.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 04:44:15AM 8 points [-]

You just have to look confident to others.

Mostly, this means being relaxed and at ease. If you're not sure what confidence is, you'll probably think it means being aggressive, boisterous, or some sort of backslapping, hand-grabbing, "hail-fellows-well-met", can-do attitude. Everybody actually hates that guy. Be relaxed and at ease, instead, but match your overall "energy level" to the group you're in. It's okay if you're a little lower or higher, but being close in energy level signals social calibration - i.e., that the group's preferences are important to you.

One of the really nasty side effects of being introverted is that if you're not socially calibrated, you may well be constantly signaling to other people that they're both boring and beneath you.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 01:26:35AM 4 points [-]

Any idea HOW to do that?

My own improvements in nonreactivity and interest in others have been largely due to mindhacking; e.g. removing triggers that caused me to fear rejection of particular types, removing negative "ideals" that triggered judgment of self or others, deleting conditioned appetites driving approval-seeking and status-seeking behaviors, etc. (A blog post I wrote on dirtsimple.org in May mentions in passing a bit about how removing a negative ideal/compulsion to be "good" created a mini-renaissance in my marriage, for example.)

I've posted here a lot about ideal-belief-reality conflicts (Robert Fritz's term) which are a primary driver of hypocritical behaviors -- e.g., being obsessed with the future of "humanity" while not being able to be nice to individual humans you disagree with. This is precisely the sort of signaling that will label you as a "jerk" to others. The fewer IBRCs you have, the less often you'll make judgments of others that trigger automatic contempt signals from your body.

(If you feel contempt for someone in a real-time social situation, trust me, other people are noticing, and judging you accordingly. The only real fix is to make it so you don't have the contempt in the first place.)

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 05 June 2009 07:38:53AM 4 points [-]

this is my problem. I look great on paper but as soon as you get me in a social situation I can't hide the fact that I feel contempt for the vast majority of the people around me (including desirable partners). I think the problem is that I connect behaviors I see in those around me to larger scale social problems even though this is stupid overgeneralizing. is there anything you could point to since your awareness of it makes me think you've dealt with it yourself.

Comment author: MichaelBishop 05 June 2009 04:12:28PM *  6 points [-]

Two thoughts:

  1. Learn humility. When you think about how much superior you are to others, challenge that idea: think of ways in which you are not superior. Perhaps more important, remind yourself that your superiority is partially determined by luck. Practice, practice, practice.

  2. Learn confidence. This may or may not be true in your case, but people often feel contempt towards people that they worry may judge them harshly. If you are confident enough not to be threatened by their judgment, then you can act more wisely and learn to manipulate the interactions.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 05 June 2009 07:28:43PM *  2 points [-]

#2 is very interesting and something that hadn't occurred to me before. It is a reciprocal relationship. I judge others too harshly and in turn (since i generalize others from the example of myself) worry that I will be judged too harshly.

thank you very much!

edit: font is showing up weird for me even though I did no formatting...

Comment author: Alicorn 05 June 2009 07:36:12PM *  4 points [-]

In the "recent comments" segment of the sidebar, a pound sign appears which doesn't show up in the full comment. Could that be it?

Testing. This paragraph begins with a pound sign.

#Testing. This paragraph begins with a backslash followed by a pound sign.

So apparently you did do formatting, accidentally. Escape the pound sign with a backslash to rid yourself of the giant bold text.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 June 2009 06:35:10PM 0 points [-]

Cool! That's not documented in the help.

Comment author: arundelo 09 June 2009 03:13:32AM *  0 points [-]

Markdown's official syntax documentation. (LessWrong's Markdown implementation may not perfectly match this.)

Comment author: pjeby 05 June 2009 03:17:31PM 1 point [-]

this is my problem. I look great on paper but as soon as you get me in a social situation I can't hide the fact that I feel contempt for the vast majority of the people around me (including desirable partners). ... is there anything you could point to

One of the easiest methods to get started with is The Work of Byron Katie. The critical key to making it work, though, that is not emphasized anywhere near enough in her books (or anyone else's, for that matter), is that you need a mental state of genuine curiosity and "wondering" when you ask the questions. It simply will not work if you use the questions as a way of arguing with yourself or beating yourself up, or if you simply recite them in a rote fashion, like magic words.

The magic isn't in the words, it's in the "search queries" you're running on your mind. As with all mind hacking, the purpose is to create new connections between existing memories and concepts in order to update your "map". So, it will also not work if you try to consciously reason out the answers; you want to keep silent verbally, so you can notice when System 1 answers, without being verbally overshadowed by System 2.

I don't use the Work that much on IBRCs and judgment issues, myself. (I have techniques that generalize better to entire groups or classes of people, rather than just focusing on individual people.) But The Work is good practice for the basic skill underlying all mind hacking: asking System 1 a question, then shutting up system 2 and waiting for an answer. And it'll definitely give you a taste of what it feels like to drop a "should" or judgment about a person, and how it changes your felt-responses to them.

Comment author: JGWeissman 05 June 2009 08:10:35PM 3 points [-]

The reference you recommend seems to advocate changing one's attitude be engaging in a sequence of biases.

First, one is supposed to construct a strawman of their reasons for not liking someone or something:

I invite you to be judgmental, harsh, childish, and petty. Write with the spontaneity of a child who is sad, angry, confused, or frightened.

Rather than seeking out one's true objection, one should express their dislike in terms of their pettiest reasons, and identify with that expression. And one should "Simply pick a person or situation and write, using short, simple sentences", discouraging deep explanation, which in turn discourages deep understanding. An important filter is bypassed, allowing the bad reasons to mix with the good. The question "What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be, think, or feel?" in the context of asking one's opinions is a setup to appear to commit the Mind Projection Fallacy. Priming someone to say "X should" when they mean "I want X to" so you can later say "In reality, there is no such thing as a 'should' or a 'shouldn’t.'" is a sneaky debating trick.

And then, the strawman is subjected to unreasonable standards:

Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Of course one can not absolutely know that it's true, one should not assign probability 1 to anything. Does one have a large accumulation of evidence that causes one to have high confidence that it's true? That seems like a more reasonable question, which one of course should apply to one's true objection.

Then the question is asked:

How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

which would be fine if it were setting up to ask, "Is that reaction constructive? Are there more constructive ways you could react?". But instead, the follow up is:

Who would you be without the thought?

Hm, who would I be if it didn't bother me to have my face burned. Probably the sort of person who doesn't avoid being touch in the face by hot pokers.

And finally, there is the "Turn it around" concept. Now, holding oneself to the same standards one expects of others is good, but a big problem comes from asking one to "find three genuine, specific examples of how the turnaround is true in your life". This is advocating the Confirmation Bias. One is encourage to find supporting evidence for the turn around, but not contradicting evidence. If I have a problem with someone for being a chronic liar, it does not make sense for me to think it is OK because I can recall three time she told the truth, or three times I told a lie. What does make sense is to notice her unusually high proportion of lies to honest statements, and to not believe what she tells me without corroboration, and maybe even associate instead with others who reliably give me truthful information.

If this is the sort of mind hack you advocate, it is no wonder that people express skepticism instead of trying it. After all, our sister site is not called "Embracing Bias".

Comment author: pjeby 05 June 2009 08:44:45PM *  3 points [-]

The reference you recommend seems to advocate changing one's attitude be engaging in a sequence of biases.

It's engaging in System 1 thinking, which of course has a different set of biases than System 2 thinking. The object is to activate the relevant System 1 biases, and then update the information stored there.

one should express their dislike in terms of their pettiest reasons, and identify with that expression.

Absolutely. How else would you expect to reconsolidate the memory trace, without first activating it?

Rather than seeking out one's true objection, ...

You mean your System 2 explanation whose function is to make your System 1 bias appear more righteous or socially acceptable. That "true objection"?

And one should "Simply pick a person or situation and write, using short, simple sentences", discouraging deep explanation, which in turn discourages deep understanding. An important filter is bypassed, allowing the bad reasons to mix with the good.

Precisely. We don't want System 2 to verbally overshadow the irrational basis for your reactions, by filtering them out and replacing them with good-sounding explanations.

The question "What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be, think, or feel?" in the context of asking one's opinions is a setup to appear to commit the Mind Projection Fallacy.

Actually, it's an attempt to identify what conditioned standard or ideal you believe the person is violating, creating your irrational reaction.

Priming someone to say "X should" when they mean "I want X to" so you can later say "In reality, there is no such thing as a 'should' or a 'shouldn’t.'" is a sneaky debating trick.

Of course it's a debating trick. If fair, logical reasoning worked on System 1, there'd be no need for mindhacking, would there?

Of course one can not absolutely know that it's true, one should not assign probability 1 to anything.

And you are discussing this with System 2 reasoning - i.e., abstract reasoning. When you ask yourself this question about a specific thing, e.g., "can I absolutely know it's true that Tom should listen to me?", it is a request to query System 1 for your implicit epistemology on that particular topic. That is, how would you know if it were true? What if it weren't? How would you know that? In the process, this retrieves relevant memories, making them available for reconsolidation.

You are confusing a concrete system 1 practice with abstract system 2 reasoning. Again, if the two were the same, we would have no need for mindhacking, and the Dark Arts could not exist.

(That being said, I've honestly never found this particular question that useful, compared to questions 1, 3, and 4.)

Does one have a large accumulation of evidence that causes one to have high confidence that it's true? That seems like a more reasonable question

Indeed. However, if you were to translate that to a System 1 question, it'd be more like, "How do I know that it's true?". That is, something closer to a simple query for sensory data, than a question calling for abstract judgment. (I've actually used this question.)

which one of course should apply to one's true objection.

One's "true objection" is of course in most cases an irrational, childish thing. If not, one would likely not be experiencing a problem or feelings that cause you to want to engage in this process in the first place.

Then the question is asked: How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? which would be fine if it were setting up to ask, "Is that reaction constructive? Are there more constructive ways you could react?". But instead, the follow up is: Who would you be without the thought?

Again, we need to distinguish System 1 and 2 thinking. "Is that reaction constructive?" and "Are there more constructive ways you could react?" are abstract questions that lead to a literal answer of "yes"... not to memory reconsolidation.

"Who would you be without that thought?" is a presuppositional query that invites you to imagine (on a sensory, System 1 level) what you would be like if you didn't believe what you believe. This is a sneaky trick to induce memory reconsolidation, linking an imagined, more positive reaction to the point in your memory where the existing decision path was.

This question, in other words, is a really good mind hack.

Mind hacking questions are not asked to get answers, they are questions with side-effects.

Hm, who would I be if it didn't bother me to have my face burned. Probably the sort of person who doesn't avoid being touch in the face by hot pokers.

You are equating physical and emotional pain; the Work is a process for getting rid of emotional pain created by moral judgments stored in System 1, not logical judgments arrived at by System 2.

And finally, there is the "Turn it around" concept. Now, holding oneself to the same standards one expects of others is good, but a big problem comes from asking one to "find three genuine, specific examples of how the turnaround is true in your life". This is advocating the Confirmation Bias. One is encourage to find supporting evidence for the turn around, but not contradicting evidence.

On the contrary, it is countering confirmation bias. Whatever belief you are modifying has been keeping you from noticing those counterexamples previously. Notice, btw, that Katie advises not doing the turnarounds until after the existing belief has been updated: this is because when you firmly believe something, you react negatively to the suggestion of looking for counterexamples, and tend to assume you've done a good job of looking for them, even though you haven't.

So instead, the first two questions are directed at surfacing your real (sensory, System 1) evidence for the belief, so that you can then update with various specific classes of counterexample. Questions 3 and 4, for example, associate pain to the belief, and pleasure to the condition of being without it, providing a counterexample in that dimension. The turnaround searches provide hypocrisy-puncturing evidence that you are not really acting to the same standards you hold others to, and that your expectations are unrealistic, thus providing another kind of counterexample.

If I have a problem with someone for being a chronic liar, it does not make sense for me to think it is OK because I can recall three time she told the truth, or three times I told a lie.

You will not arrive at useful information about the process by discussing it in the abstract. Pick a specific situation and belief, and actually try it.

What does make sense is to notice her unusually high proportion of lies to honest statements, and to not believe what she tells me without corroboration, and maybe even associate instead with others who reliably give me truthful information.

Sure. And if you can do that without an emotional reaction that clouds your judgment or makes you send off unwanted signals, great! The Work is a process for getting rid of System 1 reactions, not a way of replacing System 2 reasoning.

If this is the sort of mind hack you advocate, it is no wonder that people express skepticism instead of trying it. After all, our sister site is not called "Embracing Bias".

Mind hacking is working on System 1 to obtain behavioral change, not engaging in System 2 reasoning to result in "truth".

That's because, when your System 2 tries to reason about your behavior, it usually verbally overshadows system 2, and ends up confabulating.... which is why pure system 2 reasoning is absolutely atrocious at changing problematic behaviors and emotions.

(Edit to add: Btw, I don't consider The Work to be a particularly good form of mindhacking. IMO, it doesn't emphasize testing enough, doesn't address S1/S2 well, and has a rather idiosyncratic set of questions. I personally use a much wider range of questions and sequences of questions to accomplish different things, and last, but far from least, I don't unquestioningly endorse all of Katie's philosophy. Nonetheless, I recommend the Work to people because, performed properly it works on certain classes of things, and can be a gentle introduction to the subject. Another good book is "Re-Create Your Life" by Morty Lefkoe, which provides a difference evidence-based reconsolidation process, but The Work has the advantage of having a free online introduction.)

Comment author: orthonormal 09 June 2009 01:09:53AM 2 points [-]

IAWYC, but you didn't need to quote and refute every sentence to get the point across about System 1 and System 2 and our real vs. signaled reasons for affective reactions. It's a question of style, not content, but I think you'd communicate your ideas much more effectively to me and to others here at LW if you focused on being concise.

Comment author: JGWeissman 06 June 2009 02:33:38AM 0 points [-]

You mean your System 2 explanation whose function is to make your System 1 bias appear more righteous or socially acceptable. That "true objection"?

No, I mean if, for example, it bothers you that your roommate never comes through with his share of the rent, you would not want to focus on how you get annoyed by his stupid shrug (which you probably only find annoying and stupid because you associate it with him and his flakiness).

The question "What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be, think, or feel?" in the context of asking one's opinions is a setup to appear to commit the Mind Projection Fallacy.

Actually, it's an attempt to identify what conditioned standard or ideal you believe the person is violating, creating your irrational reaction.

Priming someone to say "X should" when they mean "I want X to" so you can later say "In reality, there is no such thing as a 'should' or a 'shouldn’t.'" is a sneaky debating trick.

Of course it's a debating trick. If fair, logical reasoning worked on System 1, there'd be no need for mindhacking, would there?

You seem to have gone from missing my point to agreeing with it. If you understood why I said it is a debating trick, why would you argue that it is something else instead?

On the contrary, it is countering confirmation bias.

If it were countering the confirmation bias, it would ask something like, "Consider the last ten time X had an opportunity to do Y. How many of those times did X actually do Y?" (If the answer is ten, it seems probable that this method has the wrong goal.) And even with that, you have to be careful not to over do it. You would not want to excuse someone punching you in the face when you meet, just because he only actually does it one time in twenty. But asking for three examples ever of not doing the wrong thing, and expecting people to change their minds based on that, is encouraging irrationality. That just is not enough evidence.

If I have a problem with someone for being a chronic liar, it does not make sense for me to think it is OK because I can recall three time she told the truth, or three times I told a lie.

You will not arrive at useful information about the process by discussing it in the abstract. Pick a specific situation and belief, and actually try it.

It seems I wasn't clear. My problem with the method in this case is not that it wouldn't work. My problem is that it might work, and I would lose my ability to protect myself against those who would manipulate my behavior through lies.

You seem pretty much in agreement with my impression that the method is to engage in a series of biases, but you seem to actually think this is a good thing, because somehow these biases will exactly cancel out other biases the person already has. I see no reason to expect this precise balance from the method. I expect someone who uses this method to forgive people they should not forgive (that is, the forgiveness is not in their interest), and will be easy to take advantage of. After all, they do not have XML tags that say "Should not be taken advantage of", and they could imagine not being bothered by it.

Contrast this with dedicated rationality, confronting your biases head on, acknowledging the real extent of things that bother you, neither exaggerating nor down playing. You would actually recognize the difference between an abusive relationship and not always getting your way.

Comment author: pjeby 06 June 2009 05:45:03AM 2 points [-]

No, I mean if, for example, it bothers you that your roommate never comes through with his share of the rent, you would not want to focus on how you get annoyed by his stupid shrug (which you probably only find annoying and stupid because you associate it with him and his flakiness).

But the purpose if you were doing The Work, would be to focus on that stupid shrug and his "flakiness", precisely so that you can drop them from consideration. Presumably (I assume this is a hypothetical situation), you would be having a judgment like "he shouldn't be flaky" or "he should be responsible", or some other character judgment based on his behavior. The point of the Work is not to do rational computations, it's to drop emotional attachments from the system whose job it is to make you reinforce your tribe's value system through emotional displays.

Once you've dropped whatever "irrational" stuff you have going on, the reasoning about what to practically do gets a LOT easier. As often as not, the first thing that happens upon thinking about the problem afterward is that an obviously sensible solution pops into your head, that you feel you can actually execute -- like, say, calmly starting the search for a new roommate.

If it were countering the confirmation bias, it would ask something like, "Consider the last ten time X had an opportunity to do Y. How many of those times did X actually do Y?"

Yeah, that's totally not the point of the exercise. The point is to drop the emotional judgments that are clouding your reasoning, not to perform reasoning. You do the reasoning after your head is free of the attachment. Because while System 1 is thinking "irresponsible" and "flaky" -- i.e., "this person is violating the rules of my tribe", System 2 tends to stay busy figuring out what arguments to use to accuse him with in front of the tribe, instead of actually trying to solve the problem.

(If the answer is ten, it seems probable that this method has the wrong goal.)

No, it means you've directed the tool to the wrong target: you're not supposed to apply it to the practical problem, you apply it to the most emotional, irrational thoughts you have about the problem... the ones that System 2 likes to keep swept under the rug.

It seems I wasn't clear. My problem with the method in this case is not that it wouldn't work. My problem is that it might work, and I would lose my ability to protect myself against those who would manipulate my behavior through lies.

No, because what you're supposed to use it on is ideas like, "People should be responsible" or "People should do their share", or whatever "tribal standard" you have an emotional attachment to, interfering with your reasoning.

Some people here, for example, get in a tizzy about theists or self-help gurus or some other group that is violating their personal tribal standards. For a while, I got in a tizzy about people here violating one of mine, i.e. "people should listen to me". I used the Work on it, and then quit beating that particular dead horse.

But note that this does not mean I now think that people are listening to me more, or that I now believe I have nothing to say, or anything like that. All I did by dropping the "should" is that I no longer react emotionally to the fact that some people listen to some things more than others. That is now a "mere fact" to me, such that I can still prefer to be listened to, but not experience a negative response to the reverse.

You seem pretty much in agreement with my impression that the method is to engage in a series of biases, but you seem to actually think this is a good thing, because somehow these biases will exactly cancel out other biases the person already has. I see no reason to expect this precise balance from the method.

That's because you're imagining using it for something that it's specifically not intended to be used on. It is aimed at System 1 (aka "the heart", in Katie's terminology) rather than System 2 (aka "the head"). It's not for changing your intellectual appraisal of the situation, it's for removing the emotion that says tribal standards are being violated by a member of the tribe.

That's why the emphasis is on "shoulds", and simple, emotional language -- the real target is whatever standard you've imprinted as a "moral", usually at a young age.

I expect someone who uses this method to forgive people they should not forgive (that is, the forgiveness is not in their interest), and will be easy to take advantage of. After all, they do not have XML tags that say "Should not be taken advantage of", and they could imagine not being bothered by it.

It doesn't interfere with your rational desire not to be taken advantage of. You will still prefer that not to happen. You just won't have emotions clouding your judgment about doing something about it.

Have you ever noticed how often people complain and complain about someone else's behavior, but never actually do anything about it? This is a fix for that.

(Hypothesis: in a tribal environment, individual enforcement of an important group standard is less advantageous than bringing the matter before the tribe, where you can signal your own compliance with the standard and your willingness to punish violations, without having to take on all the risks and costs of private justice. Thus, our emotions of judgment and outrage are evolved to motivate us to expose the violation, rather than taking action on our own. The Work and certain of my own techniques appear to switch off the emotional trigger associated with the standard, ironically freeing one to contemplate whatever enforcement or alternative responses one rationally sees fit.)

Comment author: rhollerith 05 June 2009 05:55:01PM *  0 points [-]

Previously in this thread: PJ Eby asserts that the inability to refrain from conveying contempt is a common and severe interpersonal handicap. Nazgulnarsil replies, "This is my problem. . . . I can't hide the fact that I feel contempt for the vast majority of the people around me (including desirable partners)."

I probably have the problem too. Although it is rare that I am aware of feeling contempt for my interlocutor, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that messages (mostly nonverbal) conveying contempt are present in my face-to-face communication with non-friends (even if I would like the non-friend to become a friend).

I expect that PJ Eby will assure me that he has seen himself and his clients learn how to transcend this problem. Maybe he can even produce written testimonials from clients assuring me that PJ Eby has cured them of this problem. But I fear that PJ Eby has nothing that a strong Bayesian with long experience with self-help practitioners would consider sufficient evidence that he can help me transcend this problem. Such is the state of the art in self help: there are enough gullible prospective clients that it is never in the financial self-interest of any practitioner to do the hard long work to collect evidence that would sway a non-guillible client.

Comment author: pjeby 05 June 2009 06:09:03PM 5 points [-]

But I fear that PJ Eby has nothing that a strong Bayesian would consider evidence that he can help me transcend this problem. Such is the state of the art in self help: there are enough gullible prospective clients that it is never in the financial self-interest of any practictioner to do the hard long work to collect evidence that would sway a non-guillible client.

I notice you ignored the part where I just gave somebody a pointer to somebody else's work that they could download for free to help with that, and then you indirectly accused me of being more interested in financial incentives than results... while calling nazgulnarsil gullible, too!

If that's an example of your ordinary social demeanor, then it's not in the least bit surprising that people think you hold them in contempt, as it's not even necessary to observe any of your "nonverbal" communication to obtain this impression.

Comment author: rhollerith 05 June 2009 08:01:18PM *  5 points [-]

Previously in this thread I opined as follows on the state of the art in self help: there are enough gullible prospective clients that it is never in the financial self-interest of any practitioner to do the hard long work to collect evidence that would sway a non-guillible client.

PJ Eby took exception as follows:

you ignored the part where I just gave somebody a pointer to somebody else's work that they could download for free

Lots of people offer pointers to somebody else's writings. Most of those people do not know enough about how to produce lasting useful psychological change to know when a document or an author is actually worth the reader's while. IMHO almost all the writings on the net about producing lasting useful psychological change are not worth the reader's while.

In the future, I will write "lasting change" when I mean "lasting useful psychological change".

you indirectly accused me of being more interested in financial incentives than results

The mere fact that you are human makes it much more probable than not that you are more skilled at self-deception and deception than at perceiving correctly the intrapersonal and interpersonal truths necessary to produce lasting change in another human being. Let us call the probability I just referred to "probability D". (The D stands for deception.)

You have written (in a response to Eliezer) that you usually charge clients a couple of hundred dollars an hour.

The financial success of your self-help practice is not significant evidence that you can produce lasting change in clients because again there is a plentiful supply of gullible self-help clients with money.

The fact that you use hypnotic techniques on clients and write a lot about hypnosis raises probability D significantly because hypnotic techniques rely on the natural human machinery for negotiating who is dominant and who is submissive or the natural human machinery for deciding who will be the leader of the hunting party. Putting the client into a submissive or compliant state of mind probably helps a practitioner quite a bit to persuade the client to believe falsely that lasting change has been produced. You have presented no evidence or argument -- nor am I aware of any evidence or argument -- that putting the client into a submissive or compliant state helps a practitioner producing lasting change. Consequently, your reliance on and interest in hypnotic techniques significantly raises probability D.

Parenthetically, I do not claim that I know for sure that you are producing false beliefs rather than producing lasting change. It is just that you have not raised the probability I assign to your being able to produce lasting change high enough to justify my choosing to chase a pointer you gave into the literature or high enough for me to stop wishing that you would stop writing about how to produce lasting change in another human being on this site.

Parenthetically, I do not claim that your deception, if indeed that is what it is, is conscious or intentional. Most self-help and mental-health practitioners deceive because they are self-deceived on the same point.

You believe and are fond of repeating that a major reason for the failure of some of the techniques you use is a refusal by the client to believe that the technique can work. Exhorting the client to refrain from scepticism or pessimism is like hypnosis in that it strongly tends to put the client in a submissive or compliant state of mind, which again significantly raises probability D.

To the best of my knowledge (maybe you can correct me here) you have never described on this site an instance where you used a reliable means to verify that you had produced a lasting change. When you believe for example that you have produced a lasting improvement in a male client's ability to pick up women in bars, have you ever actually accompanied the client to a bar and observed how long it takes the client to achieve some objectively-valid sign of success (such as getting the woman's phone number or getting the woman to follow the client out to his car)?

In your extensive writings on this site, I can recall no instance where you describe your verifying your impression that you have created a lasting change in a client using reliable means. Rather, you have described only unreliable means, namely, your perceptions of the mental and the social environment and reports from clients about their perceptions of the mental and the social environment. That drastically raises probability D. Of course, you can bring probability D right back down again, and more, by describing instances where you have used reliable means to verify your impression that you have created a lasting change.

For readers who want to read more, here are two of Eliezer's sceptical responses to PJ Eby: [001][1], [002][2]

If it makes you feel any better, I am not seeing you any more harshly than I see any other self-help, life-coach or mental-health practitioner, including those with PhDs in psychology and MDs in psychiatry and those with prestigious academic appointments. In my book, until I see very strong evidence to the contrary, every mental-health practitioner and self-help practitioner is with high probability deluded except those that constantly remind themselves of how little they know.

Actually there is one way in which I resent you more than I resent other self-help, life-coach or mental-health practitioners: the other ones do not bring their false beliefs or rather their most-probably-false not-sufficiently-verified beliefs to my favorite place to read about the mental environment and the social environment. I worry that your copious writings on this site will discourage contributions from those who have constructed their causal model of mental and social reality more carefully.

Comment author: pjeby 05 June 2009 09:18:12PM 3 points [-]

Lots of people offer pointers to somebody else's writings. Most of those people do not know enough about how to produce lasting useful psychological change to know when a document or an author is actually worth the reader's while. IMHO almost all the writings on the net about producing lasting useful psychological change are not worth the reader's while.

You missed the point - I was pointing out there is no financial incentive for me to send somebody to download somebody else's free stuff, when I sell workshops on the same topic.

The fact that you use hypnotic techniques on clients and write a lot about hypnosis raises probability D significantly because hypnotic techniques rely on the natural human machinery for negotiating who is dominant and who is submissive or the natural human machinery for deciding who will be the leader of the hunting party. Putting the client into a submissive or compliant state of mind probably helps a practitioner quite a bit to persuade the client to believe falsely that lasting change has been produced. You have presented no evidence or argument -- nor am I aware of any evidence or argument -- that putting the client into a submissive or compliant state helps a practitioner producing lasting change. Consequently, your reliance on and interest in hypnotic techniques significantly raises probability D.

Holy cow, you're confused. To actually refute the huge chain of fallacies you've just perpetrated seems like it would take me all day. Nonetheless, I shall try to be brief:

  1. I do not use formal hypnosis. I have recently been interested in the similarities between certain effects of hypnosis and my techniques.

  2. I am not aware of any connection between hypnosis, dominance, and hunting parties, and would be very, very surprised if any arose, unless perhaps we're talking about stage hypnotism. The tools I work with are strictly ones of monoidealism and ideodynamics... which are at work whenever you start thinking you're hungry until it becomes enough of an obsession for you to walk to the fridge. That is what monoidealism and ideodynamics are: the absorption of the imagination upon a single thought until it induces emotional, sensory, or physical response.

  3. I do not consider my work to be done until someone is surprised by their behavior or their automatic responses, specifically in order to avoid "false placebo" effects. Sometimes, a person will say they think they changed or that something changed a little bit, and my response to that is always to question it, to find out specifically what is happening. A true success nearly always involves something that the person did not expect -- indicating that their S1 behavior model has changed, relative to their S2 self-modeling.

  4. A state of submission is not useful to my work; I spend a considerable effort getting clients out of such states, because then they will spend ridiculous amounts of time deprecating themselves, instead of actually answering the questions I ask.

Whew. I think that'll do for now.

When you believe for example that you have produced a lasting improvement in a male client's ability to pick up women in bars, have you ever actually accompanied the client to a bar and observed how long it takes the client to achieve some objectively-valid sign of success (such as getting the woman's phone number or getting the woman to follow the client out to his car)?

I do not believe I have produced such an improvement. I have had only one client who asked for anything like this, and it was for alleviation of specific fears in the matter... and the result was what I'd consider a partial success. That is, the alleviation of some of the fears, and not others. The client did not pursue the matter further with me, but has a girlfriend now. I don't know whether he met her in a bar or not, but then, the situation we discussed was talking to a girl on the subway. ;-)

If someone wants to learn to do pickup, they should go to a pickup coach. I don't teach pickup, and I'm not a coach.

In your extensive writings on this site, I can recall no instance where you describe your verifying your impression that you have created a lasting change in a client using reliable means. Rather, you have described only unreliable means, namely, your perceptions of the mental and the social environment and reports from clients about their perceptions of the mental and the social environment. That drastically raises probability D. Of course, you can bring probability D right back down again, and more, by describing instances where you have used reliable means to verify your impression that you have created a lasting change.

Since it is my clients' perceptions that determine their behavior (not to mention their satisfaction), what else is it that I should measure, besides their perceptions? What measurement of the goodness of their lives shall I use? Is there such a thing as a scale for objectively determining how good someone's life is?

I seem to remember someone who said something along the lines of "we pretend to treat people, and if we pretend really well, they will pretend to get better... for the rest of their lives." The point is not about pretending, the point is that virtually all of the measuring tools we have for subjective experience are themselves subjective. (Somatic markers are at least empirical, though still not entirely objective.)

In my book, until I see very strong evidence to the contrary, every mental-health practitioner and self-help practitioner is with high probability deluded except those that constantly remind themselves of how little they know.

I am most curious as to what this evidence would look like. How would you measure it? I would truly love to know about such an absolute measure, if it existed, because even if my methods scored low on it, it would offer me untold opportunity to improve -- provided, of course, it gave relatively fast feedback.

(I use somatic markers for measurement because they give extremely fast feedback, and sometimes fast feedback with modest accuracy can be much more useful than a precise measurement that takes weeks or months.)

I worry that your copious writings on this site will discourage contributions from those who have constructed their causal model of mental and social reality more carefully.

  1. Replying to me with this type of thing is not a good way to discourage me from writing here.

  2. Your models are not nearly as carefully constructed as mine, or you wouldn't be confusing hypnosis with social dominance.

Comment author: rhollerith 05 June 2009 10:23:42PM 1 point [-]

When I wrote that "it is never in the financial self-interest of any [self-help] practitioner to do the hard long work to collect evidence that would sway a non-gullible client," I referred to long hard work many orders of magnitude longer and harder than posting a link to a web page. Consequently, your pointing out that you post links to web pages even when it is not in your financial self-interest to do so does not refute my point. I do not maintain that you should do the long hard work to collect evidence that would sway a non-guillible client: you probably cannot afford to spend the necessary time, attention and money. But I do wish you would stop submitting to this site weak evidence that would sway only a gullible client or a client very desperate for help.

And with that I have exceeded the time I have budgeted for participation on this site for the day, so my response to your other points will have to wait for another day. If I may make a practical suggestion to those readers wanting to follow this thread: subscribe to the feed for my user page till you see my response to pjeby's other points, then unsubscribe.

Comment author: jimrandomh 05 June 2009 09:34:16PM 1 point [-]

you ignored the part where I just gave somebody a pointer to somebody else's work that they could download for free

Lots of people offer pointers to somebody else's writings. Most of those people do not know enough about how to produce lasting useful psychological change to know when a document or an author is actually worth the reader's while. IMHO almost all the writings on the net about producing lasting useful psychological change are not worth the reader's while.

If you're going to insult someone, just do it. Don't write insults directed at "lots of people", when it's obvious who you're talking about. Perhaps if you made your attacks more concrete, you would realize that you have an obligation to check your facts first.

Comment author: Sideways 05 June 2009 09:39:04PM 0 points [-]

Most of those people do not know enough about how to produce lasting useful psychological change to know when a document or an author is actually worth the reader's while.

The mere fact that you are human makes it much more probable than not that you are more skilled at self-deception and deception than at perceiving correctly the intrapersonal and interpersonal truths necessary to produce lasting change in another human being.

Probably true. But if you use those statistical facts about most people as an excuse to never listen to anyone, or even to one specific person, you're setting yourself up for failure. How will you ever revise your probability estimate of one person's knowledge or the general state of knowledge in a field, if you never allow yourself to encounter any evidence?

The financial success of your self-help practice is not significant evidence that you can produce lasting change in clients because again there is a plentiful supply of gullible self-help clients with money.

have you ever actually accompanied the client to a bar and observed how long it takes the client to achieve some objectively-valid sign of success (such as getting the woman's phone number or getting the woman to follow the client out to his car)?

Is that your true rejection? If P.J. Eby said "why, yes I have," would you change your views based on one anecdote? Since a randomized, double-blind trial is impossible (or at least financially impractical and incompatible with the self-help coach's business model), what do you consider a reasonable standard of evidence?

I worry that your copious writings on this site will discourage contributions from those who have constructed their causal model of mental and social reality more carefully.

In my book, until I see very strong evidence to the contrary, every mental-health practitioner and self-help practitioner is with high probability deluded except those that constantly remind themselves of how little they know.

Given the vigorous dissent from you and others, I don't think "discouraging contributions" is a likely problem! However, I personally would like to see discussion of specific claims of fact and (as much as possible) empirical evidence. A simple assertion of a probability estimate doesn't help me understand your points of disagreement.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 05 June 2009 09:50:25PM *  1 point [-]

Since a randomized, double-blind trial is impossible (or at least financially impractical and incompatible with the self-help coach's business model), what do you consider a reasonable standard of evidence?

A reasonable standard of evidence is established by what it takes to change your mind (ideally you'd need to work from elicited prior, which allows to check how reasonable your requirements are). If it's double-blind trial that is required to change your mind, too bad it's unavailable.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 07 October 2009 10:26:59PM 0 points [-]

Regardless of its (in)applicability to pjeby, whose participation on this site I generally approve of, this beautiful rant reinforced and gave reasons for my own similar feelings toward self-help salesmen in general.

Comment author: jimmy 04 June 2009 08:18:36PM 0 points [-]

(If you feel contempt for someone in a real-time social situation, trust me, other people are >noticing, and judging you accordingly. The only real fix is to make it so you don't have the >contempt in the first place.)

Really? My experience is the opposite (at least when the person is trying to hide it)

Comment author: [deleted] 04 June 2009 08:37:23AM *  0 points [-]

del

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 June 2009 06:32:32PM 1 point [-]

The people who are best at it are sociopaths, because they don't care. So brain surgery to damage selective parts of your limbic system may help.

Comment author: Tom_Talbot 04 June 2009 06:39:17PM 3 points [-]

This post assumes that the reader wants a long-term relationship. There is often talk here on Less Wrong about PUA techniques, but they seem to be oriented towards the short-term. So, as usual, the question to ask yourself is: what do you really want? If your preference is for the short-term then you should get to know someone who knows PUA techniques, or attend a bootcamp. If your preference is for the long-term there are plenty of dating sites that claim to be able to match you with people of your type.

Comment author: HughRistik 05 June 2009 06:42:49AM *  7 points [-]

This post assumes that the reader wants a long-term relationship. There is often talk here on Less Wrong about PUA techniques, but they seem to be oriented towards the short-term.

There are indeed particular pickup techniques and approaches that, while they are effective in the short term, they will not set up a solid foundation for the long term. For instance, I know that Cocky&Funny can generate a lot of sexual tension, yet it may not lead to the most fertile emotional connection if it is relied on too heavily, or if it used between the wrong couple.

Furthermore, there are some mindsets in the community that may not be most conducive to relationship success. Cynicism towards women is an obvious one. And though viewing human interaction as an "experiment" is a great tool that facilitates learning and protects from feelings of rejection, and there is a sense in which every relationship is an experiment, relationships require a level of emotional investment that goes beyond clinical detachment.

Another barrier to relationships experienced by some PUAs is the social robot problem master PUA Neil Strauss discusses in The Game. In fact, he has also written that in his experience, a lot of the behaviors necessary for a man to get in a relationship, and to keep it, are opposite.

Yet even though there are many particular techniques and attitudes that are detrimental to long-term relationships, it would be false to assume that PUA teachings in general suffer from that flaw when we understand in detail what PUAs actually teach (which only a few people here do). The seduction community studies male-female interaction on a fundamental level and teaches principles and techniques that apply to interactions of any duration. Most of the stuff is the kind of "nuts-and-bolts" advice that SilasBarta points out, that is missing in general society.

Here are a few examples:

  • Approaching women
  • Attracting women, and sparking and maintaining sexual chemistry with them
  • Establishing and maintaining status in a woman's eyes
  • Making sexual advances
  • Not being overly desperate or needy
  • Conversational skills
  • Developing rapport between people
  • Understanding someone else's values and showing yours
  • Communicating over phone, text message, email, etc...
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Understanding female psychology and sexuality, and being able to more accurate model female responses
  • Emotional self-regulation

As you can see, most of these areas of study are useful for both short-term and long-term relationships. PUA techniques are probably relatively more useful for the early stages of relationships than they are for the later stages, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still very relevant for long-term relationships (e.g. maintaining sexual chemistry).

When you think about it, every relationship went through the early stages before it reached the later stages.

Pickup artists do also study specific relationship skills, and PUA forums typically have relationships subforums, though this body of knowledge isn't so far a long as other PUA knowledge (we should expect them to have exponentially more experience with the earlier stages of male-female interaction than with later stages).

So, as usual, the question to ask yourself is: what do you really want? If your preference is for the short-term then you should get to know someone who knows PUA techniques, or attend a bootcamp.

Yes, but it's not true that you shouldn't if you are looking for long-term relationships. You just need to filter out the stuff in the community that is detrimental to relationships.

The question I would ask is: what is your biggest challenge? If a guy is finding items on the above list challenging, then the seduction community can help. If he is having trouble meeting any eligible women, then improving his attractiveness and dating skills will help him find someone. And as he improves, he will have a higher chance of meeting women he is well matched with (though he will be less likely to jump in a relationship with the first woman who gives him the time of day).

If he doesn't find my laundry list challenging, and he is already attractive to women and has choices then good for him! He doesn't need the seduction community and he should study materials more specifically focused on maintaining relationships, if that is his real challenge.

If your preference is for the long-term there are plenty of dating sites that claim to be able to match you with people of your type.

The evidence of the effectiveness of online dating is less than stunning. Online dating is probably more effective when you have pickup skills to back it up. Men who don't already have some level of attractiveness and skill with women may find it a frustrating experience, because they won't really make a strong impression on the women on the site who are swamped with male attention. Even though online dating eliminates some of the barriers for these men (e.g. the need to confidently approach), without a fundamental understanding of what women look for and how male-female interaction works, there are so many pitfalls that can drop them into women's "boring" or "creepy" bins.

My solution is to study pickup, and mess around with an online dating profile when I'm bored... I set up a profile which shows my lifestyle in real life, and women sometimes contact me.

Comment author: rhollerith 04 June 2009 07:39:17PM 1 point [-]

This post assumes that the reader wants a long-term relationship.

Post edited to make the assumption explicit.

Comment author: HughRistik 04 June 2009 03:31:43AM 2 points [-]

I am not as old as you (I am in my early 20s), but I have come to the same conclusions independently.

If an interest or proficiency in rationality is related to cognitive or personality traits that show sex differences in mean or variance, such as systemizing or Openness to Ideas, then the pool of female rationalists would be lower that the pool of male rationalists. Consequently, barring polyandry, not all male rationalists can date female rationalists.

Yet even though a female rationalist might be a good match for a male rationalist in many ways, it is not self-evident that a male rationalist will only be compatible with females with a similar interest in rationality. What types of women he will be compatible with is an empirical question, that can only be answered through experimentation (i.e. dating women with different types of personalities).

Even though many male rationalists might think that they would be ideally matched with someone who thinks like them and inhabits an attractive female body, in practice, this may not happen. In females, an interest in rationality may be correlated with other masculine features, personality traits, body language, etc... which may or may not be attractive to the male rationalist, depending on the degree. While commonality due to similar thought processes might increase compatibility, there might be less chemistry. Or the chemistry might be just fine, and they might drive each other crazy for other reasons, especially if they have unresolvable philosophical differences and they both have a need to be right.

If a male rationalist cannot date a female rationalist, either due to scarcity or incompatibility, there are other more common types of women he might be quite compatible with. Specifically, I recommend women who are high in Openness to Experience. She will be more open-minded and interested in your views of the world, and if you are also high in Openness, you will be more interested in hers, and you both will be more understanding of the other in the event of disagreement.

Female rationalists may well be great matches for male rationalists. But they are rarer, and they don't hold a monopoly as good matches for a male rationalist. Consequently, a male rationalist is best off dating a variety of women until he discovers through actual experience what types of women he is best matched with.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 05:00:26AM 3 points [-]

Female rationalists may well be great matches for male rationalists. But they are rarer

Is that really true? It could easily be an availability bias on my part, but I find most non-airheaded women to be supremely rational on the instrumental level. Much more level-headed and focused on results, and far less likely to get obsessed about some stupid thing the way men do, with the possible exception of a man or a social drama, and in both cases, those things are usually short-lived by comparison to male irrational obsessions, or so ISTM.

(Of course, most of the women I meet these days besides my wife are either at internet marketing conferences, or else customers of mine. So, could easily be some sort of bias factor there!)

Comment author: rhollerith 04 June 2009 08:11:31PM 1 point [-]

Yes, but there is a sense of the word "rationalist" that makes HughRistik's quote (and my post) make sense. Something like "strongly motivated to learn science and the art of rationality" or "the kind of person you become if for the last 20 years you have been strongly motivated to . . ."

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 04 June 2009 09:01:51PM *  1 point [-]

"the kind of person you become if for the last 20 years you have been strongly motivated to . . ."

For the last 20 years???

Comment author: HughRistik 04 June 2009 05:42:45AM 1 point [-]

I'm thinking of "rationalist" in the sense that is used here (such as actually self-identifying as "rationalist"), which may be, as you have argued, overly disdainful of some forms of instrumental rationality (I'm still thinking through that issue).

And note that my post acknowledges that it is based on this premise which may well be false:

If an interest or proficiency in rationality is related to cognitive or personality traits that show sex differences in mean or variance, such as systemizing or Openness to Ideas, then the pool of female rationalists would be lower that the pool of male rationalists.

It could be that rationality has many components, some of which are more common in males and some of which are more common in females.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 05:52:40AM 4 points [-]

actually self-identifying as "rationalist"

That's actually a good example of the sort of obsession I notice rational females avoiding. ;-) (To be fair, I certainly know of women who irrationally obsess on other labels and causes, I just try not to hang out with them.)

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 04 June 2009 06:08:47AM 6 points [-]

This is actually exactly the attitude I take. 'Doing rationality' is the good part, 'being a rationalist' just makes me more likely to want to signal stuff, or to disregard other useful viewpoints. I don't have to be a rationalist to do rationality, so why would I?

Comment author: Annoyance 05 June 2009 07:55:10PM -1 points [-]

But using rationality makes you a rationalist, in the same way that using science makes you a scientist.

Whether you label yourself that, or consider yourself to belong to some social category, is irrelevant.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 June 2009 07:58:43PM *  4 points [-]

But using rationality makes you a rationalist, in the same way that using science makes you a scientist.

This is like saying that because an insectivore eats insects, a locavore must eat locations (like some sort of kaiju), ignoring the fact that the word is used to mean "person who eats locally grown food". Words have meanings based on things other than their etymology and grammatical construction.

Comment author: Annoyance 05 June 2009 08:11:43PM 1 point [-]

Acknowledged. However, I think it's a bad idea to make 'rationalist' mean something other than "one who consistently uses rationality".

I don't like 'locavore'.

Comment author: rhollerith 04 June 2009 08:34:18PM 1 point [-]

HughRistik writes, "I recommend women who are high in Openness to Experience."

My two most personally-useful long-term relationships have been with women high in Openness to Experience. The Wikipedia article says that this trait is normally distributed, so I will add that both women were definitely in the top quartile in this trait and probably at least a standard deviation above the mean.

HughRistik, since we seem to see things similarly, maybe we should talk.


Contact rhollerith

Comment author: taw 04 June 2009 02:44:47AM 6 points [-]

Survey results show that 57.5% of people here are single (plus most a likely large number of people who are in less than happy relationships with not very desirable partners, and this it's best they can do and stay in them because it beats being single).

Let me express again a shock at this figure, which seems a lot higher than society average. As far as I can tell techniques developed by PUA community for getting romantic and sexual partners are the only case ever of evolutionary psychology getting used to achieve very significant practical results in people's lives. So why doesn't absolutely everyone here learn them?

It cannot possibly be lack of interest, unless your emotions are very far from human mainstream sex, affection, connection etc. are probably very high on your list of priorities. So when you can have a solution to a major problem in your life using your favourite tools of rationality and evolutionary psychology, why not take it?

Also advice like avoiding people with opposite political views makes me just sad. That's not how it works. You have a wrong model.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 04:37:47AM *  6 points [-]

So when you can have a solution to a major problem in your life using your favourite tools of rationality and evolutionary psychology, why not take it?

But where are the peer-reviewed studies?!!! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Edit to add actually useful information: most PUA material focuses on what's called "club game", and is therefore unlikely to be as useful for an introverted rationalist who values IQ and thoughtfulness over conventional attractiveness. The keywords you want to look for are "day game" (talking to people in non-nightclub surroundings), "social proof" and "social networking" (not the online kind!), and "charisma arts" or "conversation skills". There is a lot of useful information out there for that sort of thing, that doesn't require you to lie or make up stories. (Which is really not a great way to start a lifelong relationship, especially if -- as Alicorn suggests -- you're dating within your overall social network.)

Comment author: taw 04 June 2009 06:55:33AM 2 points [-]

I think club game is the focus of most big PUA names because they became big before the big advent of online dating, and day game is considered much more difficult. I checked what David DeAngelo had to say about online dating, and he basically advises getting the woman off the internet and on the phone / for a coffee as soon as possible, what will definitely work if your offline game is already good, but really misses vast potential of online dating.

I'd guess the next generation of PUA artists will much more focused on exploring the full potential of online interaction - they might already be here, just not as well known.

Right now there's so much PUA material with all kinds of approaches that I would be surprised if there was any that didn't fit everyone's goals and circumstances. There's also quite well developed PUA community that can help separate valuable material from garbage.

Comment author: pjeby 04 June 2009 07:07:17AM 0 points [-]

I checked what David DeAngelo had to say about online dating, and he basically advises getting the woman off the internet and on the phone / for a coffee as soon as possible,

This is probably because most of his market will want to quickly validate that the woman looks like their profile. I'm on one or two PUA companies' mailing lists, and recently saw a promo for tips to help you figure out if a woman's picture is fake, or signals other undesirable qualities.

I'd guess the next generation of PUA artists will much more focused on exploring the full potential of online interaction - they might already be here, just not as well known.

Good point. In my wild days it was BBSes, not the Internet, but I met a lot of the women I dated or ONS-ed online, including my future wife. We didn't have online pictures then (took forever to download, and nobody had a way to get them into the machines in the first place), so text was king, and that meant a goldmine for writerly types like moi.

For some reason, though, I tend to forget that other people might need help with their online game, since I was sort of a "natural" in that limited sphere. ;-)

Comment author: taw 04 June 2009 07:21:31AM 1 point [-]

This is probably because most of his market will want to quickly validate that the woman looks like their profile.

I never encountered fake picture problem, what makes me think it must be very rare. Most people don't even do something as simple as selecting their best photo (professionally taken, or with proper hotornot testing), they just put a few random pictures. If you care a lot you can just ask for some extra pictures or webcam session (right now most people don't have webcams, but it's only matter of time), but it's not really worth it.

I'm almost absolutely sure David DeAngelo simply wants to reuse his existing system in a new context, instead of developing a new approach. That's perfectly understandable if you're already good offline. If you're not, but you're smart and good at writing, I would I would advice going directly online to start with, and not bothering much with the club game.

Comment author: knb 04 June 2009 04:49:45AM *  3 points [-]

PUAs make claims that are based on naturalistic observation, and hence lack rigorous scientific backing. I personally think that PUA "theory" is probably generally accurate and actionable, but I think many LW style rationalists doubt the claims of PUAs, because they seem grandiose and self-serving. Indeed, I suppose that many LW patrons consider PUAs to be manipulative and immoral, and don't use PUA advice for that reason.

Also, don't forget that LW might have a large number of atomistic loners who don't want to be in relationships, and this might contribute to the high percentage of singles.

Comment author: HughRistik 04 June 2009 06:19:35AM 11 points [-]

PUAs make claims that are based on naturalistic observation, and hence lack rigorous scientific backing.

Correct. Naturalistic observation is indeed inferior to rigorous science on mating preferences... except that the latter doesn't really exist yet, at least not to a degree that it is sufficiently comprehensive and actionable. For people lacking knowledge or experience, naturalistic observation, backed by a little evolutionary psychology still beats, hands down, anything else available right now, especially the most common alternatives (a) blundering around without knowing what you are doing, and (b) following the outdated conventional advice.

Although PUAs should be studying studying science (well, they are, though they are making a few oversimplifications), scientists should also be studying PUAs by taking hypotheses from their theories for testing. But until scientists catch up, a guy need some ideas that are better than his nerdy male brain's model of women combined with the advice of Maxim, his mom, and his friend Joe.

Indeed, I suppose that many LW patrons consider PUAs to be manipulative and immoral, and don't use PUA advice for that reason.

Yes, there are attitudes and techniques in the seduction community that are unethical, or not as ethical as a better option even if they are not actually unethical. In other cases, observers might have overly narrow views of sexual morality, or misunderstand the nature of PUA techniques. Indeed, a blanket rejection of PUA techniques really shows that the person involved doesn't know very much about pickup, because there is plenty of stuff in the community that works and can't be reasonably considered unethical outside of certain religious or radical feminist frameworks.

Personally, I've found that I can add my own moral constraints to what I practice. In fact, I go through implicit calculations about just about everything I do to figure out the expected value of the behavior for both myself and the other person. There is some stuff that I just won't use, even though I know it can be effective (examples upon request). Yet since I have strengths in other areas, I can take this moral stand without destroying my practical success. It is precisely because of my pickup skills that I don't have to make a choice between morality and any kind of success.

Another reason that people on LW would shy away from pickup is that they perceive it as inauthentic and incompatible with their personalities. In response, I would make a similar argument that I made about ethics. If someone is blanketly rejecting pickup out of authenticity, I would suspect that they have an overly narrow notion of their identity. For instance, I had identity-related beliefs such as "I'm not a people person," or "I'm shy," or "I don't do small-talk." Yet such qualities like shyness are really not intrinsic parts of people's personality or identity. Sometimes, to find out what your personality is, you need to stretch it to its limits, and then see what shape it snaps back into.

In my experience, it was possible to take what I wanted from the seduction community and increase my success with women by orders of magnitude, without selling my soul or my identity. This does indeed sound "grandiose," but that doesn't make it not true. YMMV.

Comment author: taw 04 June 2009 07:28:21AM 3 points [-]

In my experience, it was possible to take what I wanted from the seduction community and increase my success with women by orders of magnitude, without selling my soul or my identity. This does indeed sound "grandiose," but that doesn't make it not true. YMMV.

Orders of magnitude improvement is definitely possible, especially if you start really low (or at pretty much zero). Most people would be really happy with as little as doubling their success rates, what is really trivial with very mild approaches.

Comment author: taw 04 June 2009 05:34:19AM 5 points [-]

Indeed, I suppose that many LW patrons consider PUAs to be manipulative and immoral, and don't use PUA advice for that reason.

I'm yet to see someone who has the skills but doesn't use them for moral reasons. While it's possible to use them immorally, there's nothing about PUA skills that's inherently immoral.

Also, don't forget that LW might have a large number of atomistic loners who don't want to be in relationships, and this might contribute to the high percentage of singles.

It would require a vast deviation from human emotions not to want any kind of relationship (committed or casual, sexual or romantic etc.) with any partner whatsoever. The more likely explanation is that they don't want the kind of relationships with the kind of partners they think they can get, which is basically lack of skills together with perhaps too much rationalization (which is considered wrong thing to do on this site).

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 June 2009 06:16:43PM 1 point [-]

Let me express again a shock at this figure, which seems a lot higher than society average. As far as I can tell techniques developed by PUA community for getting romantic and sexual partners are the only case ever of evolutionary psychology getting used to achieve very significant practical results in people's lives. So why doesn't absolutely everyone here learn them?

  • They don't work nearly as well as advertised.

  • They don't work as well as going to the gym a few times a week.

  • They have low information density. If you chose to study just the works of David DeAngelo, that would be about (I'm guessing, but not wildly) 25 hours of DVDs and 60 hours of audio, plus another 200 hours of recommended readings, not counting practice and review.

You would probably be better off taking that time and learning how to dance, play an instrument, or speak a foreign language.

Comment author: HughRistik 08 June 2009 07:30:12PM *  6 points [-]

They don't work nearly as well as advertised.

Does anything work as well as advertised? Anecdotally, I've seen most people who try it getting some sort of improvement, and orders of magnitude improvement is not uncommon. Unless you've tried it yourself, or have friends who have, or have some empirical evidence, then I don't know where this claim comes from. Even if this improvement doesn't quite measure up to some of the more sleazy marketing materials, it can still be substantially better for some guys than any other alternative currently available.

They don't work as well as going to the gym a few times a week.

Evidence or reasoning, please.

They have low information density. If you chose to study just the works of David DeAngelo, that would be about (I'm guessing, but not wildly) 25 hours of DVDs and 60 hours of audio, plus another 200 hours of recommended readings, not counting practice and review.

This one is correct. You have to filter through this stuff and figure out what applies to you, how to become an intelligent consumer, and how to throw out what you regard as incompatible with your ethics or personality. Low information density is unfortunate, but it will have to be dealt with by those who don't have better options.

You would probably be better off taking that time and learning how to dance, play an instrument, or speak a foreign language.

What evidence do you have for this claim? Anecdotally, there are many men who do these things but still lack success. For me, being multi-talented got me some attention, yet that attention was useless when I couldn't capitalize on it.

The advice you are giving is pretty much conventional wisdom. If I had followed it years ago, I suspect I would still be more-or-less at where I was then. Instead, I have wildly more success than back then, and I've seen other guys accomplish the same thing. Consequently, I hope you are not merely repeating conventional wisdom and that you have some additional evidence or arguments for the claims of this post; otherwise, the overconfidence displayed might lead others astray.

Comment author: Rune 04 June 2009 02:22:21AM 2 points [-]

Excellent post. We need more posts on this topic. The best rationalists I know are single and lonely. They're holding out for a strong female rationalist, I presume.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 June 2009 06:19:38PM 1 point [-]

I think it's the women who are holding out.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 June 2009 06:24:19PM 2 points [-]

What do you mean by that?

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 June 2009 04:05:46PM *  6 points [-]

Sorry, I was trying to be cute. I just meant that I know a lot of single, lonely, very smart and/or rational guys, and I'm pretty sure it's not because they're holding out for a better woman. It's because women aren't attracted to them.

And, in fairness, men aren't especially attracted to women who are smart, either. At least, not unless they're smart enough not to get fat.

Comment author: Ttochpej 04 June 2009 01:56:42AM 2 points [-]

my advice for mate selection for any person is that while it is good to have things in common like both being rationalists it is more important to have values that complement each other. So if you focus a lot on theory then someone who is more practical, might be better for, if your indecisive then someone who is a bit impulsive could be good for you.

If you are good at math and bad at English then a good match for you might be someone who is bad at math and good at English. So maybe the best match for a rationalist isn't another rationalist.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 04 June 2009 10:25:05AM 11 points [-]

Please attach status of evidence to advices. What you said is at least cached wisdom, there obviously is the opposite meme going around, and it's unclear whether there is any foundation for each of these suggestions to be systematically correct.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 June 2009 06:21:50PM -1 points [-]

I don't know if it's reasonable to ask that of advice. This sort of advice is much like an opinion, and evidence isn't appropriate for opinions. ('Cheesecake tastes better than caviar'. 'What evidence do you have of that?')

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 08 June 2009 06:28:32PM *  4 points [-]

You seek the evidence of the facts like "if a random person, or a person with properties Z, tastes this new improved cheesecake, what's the probability they'll enjoy it? How highly will people rank it on so and so scale?". This can be estimated in many ways, with different levels of certainty. Advice is useless noise if you don't expect it to work for you.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 November 2013 07:42:35PM 1 point [-]

The first few paragraphs of this post sent me in “WTF? Seriously?” mode until I realized that by “rationality” you specifically meant explicit LW-style x-rationality rather than just not being an idiot. But getting kicked in the rationals is no fun, and I already get more than enough of those from people whom I can't choose whether to interact with; so if someone did that on a regular basis I would become much less willing to be friends with them, let alone be their boyfriend. (If I were single I'd have no particularly strong objections to have casual hookups with such people, but that's not incompatible with holding out for a long-term relationship with a non-idiot.)

Comment author: knb 03 June 2009 11:56:36PM 0 points [-]

I think these are all pretty good points, but I have to wonder if female rationality is very important to most male rationalists. This implies that rationalist (Rationalist?) men are very, very, different from most men in the qualities they look for in a partner.

Comment author: Psychohistorian 04 June 2009 01:45:08AM 3 points [-]

Based on my (admittedly limited) experience, one relationship-breaker is a failure to model each other's minds correctly, and, similarly, interpreting identical data in very different ways, which leads to serious communication problems. Also, along these lines is trust; it tends to be harder to trust someone if you can't predict their reaction or you expect they may react with (what you percieve as) totally disproportional emotion to a minor (as you see it) event.

Rationalists should, in theory, be somewhat better at avoiding these pitfalls, both because they think in similar ways and because they're rationalists and thus have a shared language to address these problems and some consciousness that they exist.

This may offer some explanation of why rationalists might prefer rationalist romantic partners, since it (may) increase the odds of effective communication and minimize both the frequency and magnitude of misunderstandings.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 04 June 2009 07:34:43AM 1 point [-]

Additionally, it's nice to be with someone who realizes that disagreements are likely over differing interpretations of the same data and thus be open to other possibilities. My current girlfriend is bad at considering other possibilities, which tends to cause friction in our relationship.

Comment author: rhollerith 04 June 2009 01:20:36AM *  1 point [-]

The following comments are evidence that female rationality is important to at least some male rationalists. Note that the first comment was upvoted by 7 readers.

I know I would love to have my next girlfriend be a rationalist (if only to avoid my most recent failure mode)

http://lesswrong.com/lw/ap/of_gender_and_rationality/7me by MBlume

But she loves magical thinking, she is somewhat averse to expected-utility calculations, my atheism, etc. . . . We love each other but are scared that our differences may be too great.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/zj/open_thread_june_2009/rxy

Comment author: knb 04 June 2009 04:40:16AM 1 point [-]

I agree that rationality is a desirable feature, all else equal. But how much facial symmetry, or sexual compatibility, would male rationalists give up for an extra unit of rationality in their partners?

Perhaps this is just my personal failing, but I find that my answer is not very much.

Comment author: rhollerith 04 June 2009 10:51:17PM 1 point [-]

We differ in that respect, perhaps because I have had more time slowly to shape my emotional responses to women.