The Social Coprocessor Model
Followup to: Do you have High-Functioning Asperger’s Syndrome?
LW reader Madbadger uses the metaphor of a GPU and a CPU in a desktop system to think about people with Asperger’s Syndrome: general intelligence is like a CPU, being universal but only mediocre at any particular task, whereas the “social coprocessor” brainware in a Neurotypical brain is like a GPU: highly specialized but great at what it does. Neurotypical people are like computers with measly Pentium IV processors, but expensive Radeon HD 4890 GPUs. A High-functioning AS person is an Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition—with on-board graphics!
This analogy also covers the spectrum view of social/empathic abilities, you can think about having a weaker social coprocessor than average if you have some of the tendencies of AS but not others. You can even think of your score on the AQ Test as being like the Tom’s Hardware Rating of your Coprocessor. (Lower numbers are better!).
If you lack that powerful social coprocessor, what can you do? Well, you’ll have to run your social interactions “in software”, i.e. explicitly reason through the complex human social game that most people play without ever really understanding. There are several tricks that a High-functioning AS person can use in this situation:
(Most importantly) Find a community of others—who are trying to solve the same problem (Though be careful not to wind up with a group of people who have weaker social coprocessors and aren’t doing anything about it, as you will tend to conform to this behavior). Having even a few friends who are in a similar niche to you is worth a huge amount in terms of motivating social pressure, as a sounding board to bounce ideas off, and simply for the instinctive feel of support that having a group of people “in the same boat as you” gives.
Cached answers—you can precompute the “right” responses to social situations. Probably the best example of this is the answer to the “buy me a drink” problem: you approach an attractive NT person who you might like as a future partner. After a short time, they ask you to buy them a drink. The logical answer to this question is “what kind of drink would you like?”, because in most social situations where you want to build up a positive relationship with a person, it is best to comply with their requests; not creating explicit conflict is usually a safe heuristic. But this is the wrong answer in this context, and you can store in your cache of counter-intuitive answers.
Scientific theories of social games—including game theory and especially signaling games, information economics and evolutionary psychology. Building on the “buy me a drink” problem, instead of simply storing the answer as an exception, you can use evolutionary psychology and information economics to see the underlying pattern so that you can correctly answer the “drink” problem and many other similar problems. The NT is using the drink request to solve a cheap talk problem—they don’t really want the drink, they want to know if you have higher dating market value than them, for example higher social status, income, success with other partners, etc. This is because evolutionary psychology makes some people want high-status people as partners. If they just asked you directly for these facts about yourself, you would have a strong incentive to lie. So they make a request that is somewhat rude, where only a lower-status suitor who thought they were worth “sucking up to” would comply, and then reject suitors who comply. This is really a kind of screening, where ability to give the “right” answer plays the role of a credential. Neurotypicals play some devious games, and this is actually quite a tame example.
The wisdom of nature heuristic—the human social coprocessor is perfectly optimized for an environment that we are no longer in. The EEA has significant differences to the present environment: most prominently, we have police and laws so other humans mostly don’t act on their desire to kill you. This means that you can get away with things that you have an innate fear of, and you should strongly distrust your fear of other people’s disapproval. There are also some reliable proxies of fitness that are no longer reliable, for example height (can be modified by higher shoes—a trick that women have cottoned on to, but men are totally missing out on).
Neuroplasticity and desensitization—your brain is plastic: you can train it and you can desensitize yourself to situations that scare you. Desensitization relies most on objectifing and dis-identifying with your maladaptive gut fear of doing something scary, for example public speaking or attending a social function where you know almost no-one. Realize that your brain contains small, simple, dumb circuits that produce your emotions, and some of them are outright harmful to you. You need to ignore their output and expose yourself to the stimuli.
Realizing that your brain contains nonrational psychological variables—that can be reset, often through a process known as “self transformation”. Examples include general outlook on life, confidence, self-estimated status, self-esteem, sense of “fun” and rational irrationalities such as vengefulness, honor and pride. Approaches to self-transformation include eastern-style “spirituality”, “new age” positive psychology works such as Eckhard Tolle, and more mainstream self-help like Tony Robbins. Changing your use of self-talk and framing is critical to resetting these variables.
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On the coprocessor model itself -- the phenomenon we’re trying to explain here is people who are good at analytical thinking but bad at social interaction. I really think there’s a tendency around here to automatically identify that pattern with Asperger’s, or with being at some point on the “spectrum.” It’s way more parsimonious to think of it as a result of specialization. If you’re kind of good at (or interested in) analytical things, and kind of bad at (or uninterested in) social things, you’ll specialize your own brain in that direction. It may even be in your best interest to specialize to some extent, to play to your strengths.
In fact I’d hypothesize that a lot of this specialization happens in early childhood, from rather small chance events like being an early reader, or being nearsighted. It’s a little easier and more pleasant to sit still and read than to go out and play, so you start specializing from the age of three or so. Or you’re Robert Louis Stevenson and develop a rich inner life directly because of childhood illness.
Children naturally play to their own strengths. They wear their favorite pathways down smooth, and ignore the thornier, more unpleasant ones. If you’re a “systematizing” child, you’ll do more and more systematizing, and it probably won’t be until adolescence or adulthood that you’ll want to go back and learn the skills that always felt unnatural. It takes a certain degree of self-awareness to go against the grain of your own nature. (Optimizing globally instead of locally, I think, is the appropriate metaphor.)
The thing is, “hardware” metaphors treat neurotype as static, and I think for many people it’s more likely to be dynamic, and the result of a specialization process. It goes the other way, too: people who have much stronger social than analytical skills have probably put more effort into developing social skills, and then created a positive feedback loop of playing to their strengths. Sure, there are fixed brain differences on the extremes (autism or Williams syndrome) and a specialization process may well begin with a small fixed brain difference, but I don’t think the fixed stuff explains the great human variation in social vs. analytical skills.
Why is it most parsimonious to conclude that all variation is due to nurture/experience, rather than a mixture of nature and nurture? Placement on the analytical/social spectrum is probably due to both genetic predisposition and lifetime experience; as I said, one should take advantage of one’s neuroplasticity.
I’d say there are different forms of nature that can lead to having a broken social coprocessor than just Aspergers. So I would be careful about generalising from your own example.
My social coprocessor isn’t very good. I think it is broken in a different way to people with Asperger’s though. I have no fear about going out to places where I don’t know many people. I’ve gone out to night clubs, events, been travelling etc on my own. I just don’t talk to anyone much in night clubs and I am only good at certain types of conversation otherwise. I completely fail at set jokes, amusing anecdotes or talking about my life in general. I am relatively good at self-deprecation, surreal improvisation and amusing comments on what is going on around me or the topic at hand. So I get by. I don’t find generic conversation very rewarding in itself either. But it is expected when you are around people, so I tend to go into question asking mode if I get trapped in conversation with someone generic. If it is someone that does something that I don’t know much about (even stuff like marketing which is antithetical to my nature), then I can maintain conversation fairly well. I’m just gathering data about the world.
And my goal at these events isn’t to meet new girls (although I quite like flirting with (introverted) female friends); it is to dance or to get a feeling of being in a tribe. I don’t really care about being leader of that tribe.
But I don’t tend to get out much so I’m bad at social niceties like introducing myself or remembering peoples name. I also react poorly to people bitching about other people I consider in my tribe.
I know I am not typical of non neuro-typicals. But I thought I would give you a concrete example of someone who has trouble in social situations, but is non-aspergers.
I think a certain amount of my antipathy to PUA stuff is the same as if you started talking about football a lot. I don’t really care and don’t want to encourage it.
Can you elaborate?
Imagine if someone came to lesswrong. He was very interested in winning and knew and applied a decent amount of probability theory. However he was only interested in winning football matches. He’d do articles on picking the optimal side taking into consideration fitness of players, opponents strengths, weather etc Also articles on picking the optimal training regimen to strengthen the right muscles for football and showing the bad heuristics other trainers use to pick training regimens.
Now I’d find it moderately interesting for a bit, despite minimal interest in football, but I’d get bored of it pretty soon, but I think I would be in the minority, People would lack the background knowledge to understand it (e.g. Golden goals, how long a football game lasts etc), they would find it boring. And they would probably voice their confusion and lack of interest, which I in turn would find boring. It would decrease the signal to noise ratio of the website.
I suspect something like that might happen if you use examples from the PUA arena. An example of what happens with a lack of background knowledge can be seen by RichardKenneway’s thread. So while mildly interesting it has its bad points in terms of the level of discussion, and if you are somewhat autistic, you are likely to go on about it if at all encouraged! So you won’t get encouragement from me.
There is a decent sub population of lesswrong interested in it, it would be ideal for a sub reddit. But spare a thought for those of us that are female or just not that into dating.
Truth is entangled, and who gets to mate with whom is one of the biggest truths in human social interaction—because mating behavior is very strongly selected by evolution. If you close your mind to the truths about human mating behavior, you’ll mess up your entire map of human social interaction.
If we are going to develop rationality to the point where we see an increase in uptake of rational thinking by millions of people, we can’t just ignore massively important parts of real-world human behavior.
I have a question, since you seem to know a lot about human sociality. What exactly is wrong with handling the dilemmas you describe by saying to the other humans, “I am slightly more committed to this group’s welfare, particularly to that of its weakest members, than most of its members are. If you suffer a serious loss of status/well-being I will still help you in order to display affiliation to this group even though you will no longer be in a position to help me. I am substantially more kind and helpful to the people I like and substantially more vindictive and aggressive towards those I dislike. I am generally stable in who I like. I am much more capable and popular than most members of this group, demand appropriate consideration, and grant appropriate consideration to those more capable than myself. I adhere to simple taboos so that my reputation and health are secure and so that I am unlikely to contaminate the reputations or health of my friends. I currently like you and dislike your enemies but I am somewhat inclined towards ambivalence on regarding whether I like you right now so the pay-off would be very great for you if you were to expend resources pleasing me and get me into the stable ‘liking you’ region of my possible attitudinal space. Once there, I am likely to make a strong commitment to a friendly attitude towards you rather than wasting cognitive resources checking a predictable parameter among my set of derivative preferences.”?
Saying this explicitly is extremely weak evidence of it being true. In fact, because it sounds pre-prepared, comprehensive and calculated most humans won’t believe you. Human courtship rituals are basically ways of signaling all of this but are much harder to fake.
When human females ask “Will you buy me a drink?” they’re testing to see if the male does in fact “demand appropriate consideration”.
Also, relative status and genetic fitness are extremely important in human coupling decisions and your statement does not sufficiently cover those.
That’s a good point. Let me try a different one.
Let X be ‘I am slightly more committed to this group’s welfare, particularly to that of its weakest members, than most of its members are. If you suffer a serious loss of status/well-being I will still help you in order to display affiliation to this group even though you will no longer be in a position to help me. I am substantially more kind and helpful to the people I like and substantially more vindictive and aggressive towards those I dislike. I am generally stable in who I like. I am much more capable and popular than most members of this group, demand appropriate consideration, and grant appropriate consideration to those more capable than myself. I adhere to simple taboos so that my reputation and health are secure and so that I am unlikely to contaminate the reputations or health of my friends. I currently like you and dislike your enemies but I am somewhat inclined towards ambivalence on regarding whether I like you right now so the pay-off would be very great for you if you were to expend resources pleasing me and get me into the stable ‘liking you’ region of my possible attitudinal space. Once there, I am likely to make a strong commitment to a friendly attitude towards you rather than wasting cognitive resources checking a predictable parameter among my set of derivative preferences.′
Then, instead of saying my previous suggestion, say something like, ‘I would precommit to acting in such a way that X if and only if you would precommit to acting in such a way that you could truthfully say, “X if and only if you would precommit to acting in such a way that you could truthfully say X.”’
(Edit: Note, if you haven’t already, that the above is just a special case of the decision theory, “I would adhere to rule system R if and only if (You would adhere to R if and only if I would adhere to R).” )
Wouldn’t the mere ability to recognize such a symmetric decision theory be strong evidence of X being true?
If I understood you correctly, I think that people do do this kind of thing, except it’s all nonverbal and implicit. E.g. Using hard to fake tests for the other person’s decision theory is a way to make the other person honestly reveal what’s going on inside them. Another component is use of strong emotions, which are sort of like a precommitment mechanism for people, because once activated, they are stable.
Yes, I understand the signal must be hard to fake. But if the concern is merely about optimizing signal quality, wouldn’t it be an even stronger mechanism to noticeably couple your payoff profile to a credible mechanism?
Just as a sketch, find some “punisher” that noticeably imposes disutility (like repurposing the signal faker’s means toward paperclip production, since that’s such such a terrible outcome, apparently) on you whenever you deviate from your purported decision theory. It’s rather trivial to have a publicly-viewable database of who is coupled to the punisher (and by what decision theory), and to make it verifiable that any being with which you are interacting matches a specific database entry.
This has the effect of elevating your signal quality to that of the punisher’s. Then, it’s just a problem of finding a reliable punisher.
Why not just do that, for example?
We do. That’s one of the functions of reputation and gossip among humans, and also the purpose of having a legal system. But it doesn’t work perfectly: we have yet to find a reliable punisher, and if we did find one it would probably need to constantly monitor everyone and invade their privacy.
Yet another reason why people invented religion...
Well it looks like you just got yourself a job ;-0
That is good!
Attention Users: please provide me with your decision theory, and what means I should use to enforce your decision theory so that you can reliably claim to adhere to it.
For this job, I request 50,000 USD as compensation, and I ask that it be given to User:Kevin.
Why is this being downvoted? Even those Clippy’s proposed strategy doesn’t work at all for reasons that Jack explained, he is asking an excellent question. For people (and AIs) without social experience and knowledge, it is very, very important for them to know why people can’t just talk all this stuff through explicitly. They should be asking exactly these sorts of questions so they an update.
A guess: because everything in quotes in Clippy’s comment is a copy and paste of a generic comment it posted a week ago.
I don’t actually know myself, though—I upvoted Clippy’s comment because I thought it was funny. Copying an earlier comment and asking for feedback on it where it’s semi-relevant is exactly in keeping with what I imagine the Clippy character to be.
I have little problem with the way that Robin Hanson discusses status, signalling, and human interactions including mating. He doesn’t give advice to the people on OB on how to pick up chicks though. If you are not interested in the practicalities it is enough to know that women test for a variety of personality and material traits in potential mates (with different tests dependent upon the women’s personality). You don’t need to know what tests go with what personality. Knowing that the majority of women like dominant, smooth talking, humorous men is useful in predicting what men will cultivate in themselves. But I don’t need to know how to fake it.
Wouldn’t it just be easier for you to ignore the posts that contain info that you don’t personally need or want to know?
Unless you find practical advice offensive? [Boy is that going to be a problem if rationality is about winning...]
I think it’s the “faking it” part I and many other people find objectionable.
ETA: you edited this post after I replied, so I don’t think my original reply makes sense any more....
How is this different from “if you disagree with me, keep it to yourself”?
This is where you and several other people here make a critical mistake. You view various aspects of human mating behavior exclusively in terms of signaling objective traits, and then you add a moral dimension to it by trying to judge whether these objective traits supposedly being signaled are true or fake.
In reality, however, human social behavior—and especially mating behavior—is about much more complex higher-order signaling strategies, which are a product of a long and complicated evolutionary interplay of strategies for signaling, counter-signaling, fake signaling, and fake signaling detection—as well as the complex game-theoretic questions of what can ultimately be inferred from one’s signaled intentions. Nobody has disentangled this whole complicated mess into a complete and coherent theory yet, though some basic principles have been established pretty conclusively, both by the academic evolutionary psychology and by people generalizing informally from practical experiences. However, the key point is that in a species practicing higher-order signaling strategies, signaling ability itself becomes an adaptive trait. You’re not supposed to just signal objective traits directly; you also have to demonstrate your skill in navigating through the complex signaling games. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback cycle, where at the end of the day, your signaling skills matter in their own right, just like your other abilities for navigating through the world matter—and most things being signaled are in fact meta-signals about these traits.
Therefore, where you see “faking it” and “head games” and whatnot, in reality it’s just humans practicing their regular social behaviors. You’ll miss the point spectacularly if you analyze these behaviors in terms of simple announcements of objective traits and plain intentions and direct negotiations based on these announcements, where anything beyond that is deceitful faking. Learning how to play the signaling games better is no more deceitful than, say, practicing basic social norms of politeness instead of just honestly blurting out your opinions of other people to their faces.
I agree with you, and pjeby, who made similar points: the complexity of actual social games is higher than they appear on the surface, and much signaling is about signaling ability itself. But these insights also imply that the value of “running social interactions in software” is limited. Our general purpose cognitive machinery is unlikely to be able to reproduce the throughput and latency characteristics of a dedicated social coprocessor, and can really only handle relatively simple games, or situations where you have a lot of time to think. In other words, trying to play mating games with an NT “in software” is kind of like trying to play basketball “in software”.
Your argument is fallacious because it rests on overstretching the software/hardware analogy. Human brain contains highly reconfigurable hardware, and if some particular computations are practiced enough, the brain will eventually start synthesizing specialized circuits for them, thus dramatically boosting their speed and accuracy. Or to say it the traditional way, practice makes perfect.
Whether it’s throwing darts, programming computers, speaking a foreign language, or various social interactions, if you’re lacking any experience, your first attempts will be very clumsy, as your general cognitive circuits struggle ineptly to do the necessary computations. After enough practice, though, specialized hardware gradually takes over and things start going much more smoothly; you just do what it takes without much conscious thinking. You may never match someone with greater natural talent or who has much more accumulated practice initially, but the improvements can certainly be dramatic. (And even before that, you might be surprised how well some simple heuristics work.)
“Practice makes perfect” has a rather different emphasis from Roko’s suggestion of “running social interactions in software”, which is what I was addressing.
But to answer your point, I agree that improvements in social skills from practice can be dramatic, but probably not for everyone, just like not everyone can learn how to program computers. It would be interesting to see some empirical data on how much improvement can be expected, and what the distribution of outcomes is, so people can make more informed choices about how much effort to put into practicing social skills.
I’m also curious what the “simple heuristics” that you mention are.
Fair enough, if you’re talking only about the initial stage where you’re running things purely “in software,” before any skill buildup.
From what I’ve observed in practice, people with normal (and especially above average) intelligence and without extraordinary problems (like e.g. a severe speech disorder) who start at a low social skill level can see significant improvements with fairly modest efforts. In this regard, the situation is much better than with technical or math skills, where you have to acquire a fairly high level of mastery to be able to put them to any productive use at all.
I don’t deny that some people with extremely bad social skills are sincerely content with their lives. However, my impression is that a very considerable percentage would be happy to change it but believe that it’s impossible, or at least far more difficult than it is. Many such people, especially the more intelligent ones, would greatly benefit from exposure to explicit analyses of human social behaviors (both mating and otherwise) that unfortunately fall under the hypocritical norms against honest and explicit discussion that I mentioned in my above comment. So they remain falsely convinced that there is something deeply mysterious, inconceivable, and illogical about what they’re lacking.
Well, which ones are the most effective for a particular person will depend on his concrete problems. But often bad social skills are to a significant degree—though never completely—due to behaviors that can be recognized and avoided using fairly simple rules. An example would be, say, someone who consistently overestimates how much people are interested in what he has to say and ends up being a bore. If he starts being more conservative in estimating his collocutors’ interest before starting his diatribes, it can be a tremendous first step.
This is admittedly a pretty bland and narrow example; unfortunately, pieces of advice that would be more generally applicable tend to be very un-PC to discuss due to the above mentioned hypocritical norms.
why what? Why do I find “faking it” objectionable? Dude, you’re talking about playing head games to trick insecure women into sleeping with you!
But more to the point: the real world is full of instances where verbalized whiter-than-white morality is thrown out of the window, in some cases to such a large extent that the verbalized rules are not the actual rules, and people consider you a defective person if you actually follow verbalized rules rather than just paying lipservice to them.
I understand that this is often the case, and that this is how “pick ups” often work in the real world. The thing is, I just think that human’s sexual rituals are ingrained so deeply in our little monkey brains, that I don’t think generalizing from what works in that domain to the broader world of “refining the art of human rationality” is a really good idea. This particular domain of human behavior is so ridiculously irrational that I don’t think it serves as a good model for ordinary, everyday human irrationality. So if you’re reasoning by analogy to it, you’re basically patterning against a superstimulus
No! Not at all. Quite the contrary: in the original post I was careful to show that a shit-test is actually an application of an advanced concept from game theory—using a credential to solve a cheap talk problem in a signaling game!
To put it more clearly, it’s not that this domain of human behavior is actually particularly irrational. In reality, it has its well-defined rules, and men who have the knowledge and ability to behave according to these rules are, at least in a libertine society such as ours, awarded with high status in the eyes of others—and lots of sex, of course, if they choose to employ their abilities in practice. In contrast, men who are particularly bad at it suffer an extreme low status penalty; they are are a target of derision and scorn both privately and in the popular culture. However, what complicates the situation is that this is one of those areas where humans practice extreme hypocrisy, in that you’re expected not just to navigate the rules of the game cleverly, but also to pretend that they don’t exist, and to discuss the topic openly only with mystical reverence and unrealistic idealizations. Realistic open discussions are perceived as offensive and sacrilegious. It’s an enormous bias.
I don’t really agree but I think this describes the fear that underlies much of the hostility to discussing these controversial topics.
I think you’re partly correct, but some other biases are in fact more relevant here. However, going deeper into this would look too much like attacking other people’s motives, which would be perceived as both unproductive and hostile, so I’d rather not delve into that line of discussion.
I would also like to know more about biases you mentioned, can PM me this too? Or just post it here for everyone to read, because it’s a very big teaser on a topic which you seem to have a lot of interesting insights.
I’ve enjoyed all your posts on this topic and would love to know what you mean about other biases. If you don’t want to say it here, can you PM me?
I don’t think I understand the connection you’re trying to make.
Have you never encountered this attitude amongst religious people over atheism? The idea that atheism is an inherently dangerous idea, that merely engaging with it risks infection. That atheism might be a kind of aqua regia for morality, capable of dissolving all that is good and right in the world into some kind of nihilistic nightmare. Even (or perhaps especially) those who think atheism might be true see it as potentially dangerous, that gazing into the abyss may permanently damage the seeker’s moral core. This belief, whether implicit or explicit, seems quite common among the religious and I think explains some of the hostility born of fear that is sometimes observed in the reactions to atheism and atheists.
I’m suggesting something similar may underlie some of the reactions to discussions of the below-the-surface game theoretic realities of human social interaction. People fear that if they gaze into that abyss they risk losing or destroying things they value highly, like traditional concepts of love, loyalty or compassion. I think this fear is misguided, and personally prefer the truth be told, though the heavens fall regardless, but I can understand and to some extent sympathize with the sentiment that I think sometimes underlies it.
Yes, and no. My objection to the citation of PUA tactics is motivated by fear that it could lead down the dark path… but not fear that it might be true. Rather, it’s fear that something that might be true in one narrow domain might get applied as a general rule in broader domains where it is no longer applicable.
In PUA circles, “winning” is defined by getting laid. So if you go to a meat-market and try your PUA tactics all night long, you may end up getting rejected 50 times, but be successful once, and your brain records that as a “win”, cause you didn’t go home alone (just like audiences at psychic shows remember the “hits” and forget the “misses”). But does that really tell you that PUA theory correctly describes typical social interaction? No, it just tells you that there is a certain, small minority of people on whom PUA tactics work, but they are a non-representative sample of a non-representative sample.
So when you then take one of these PUA tactics, which isn’t even effective on the vast majority of people even in the meat-market pickup context, and start talking as if it was a universal truth applicable to all manner of human social interactions, it makes my head explode.
So where does my “fear” come in? Well, here’s the thing… I suspect that a large portion of the audience for PUA material is AS spectrum, or otherwise non-GPU possessing people, who have trouble finding sex/romance partners on their own, so they learn some PUA techniques. Fine. But these techniques often require the abandoning of “black and white morality”, as has been said earlier on this thread. Applied solely to the realm of picking up women, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that—“all’s fair in love and war” after all. But the thing is, most NTs are able to compartmentalize this kind of thing. I know many NT, “ladies man” types who are perfectly moral, ethical, upstanding people in just about every other way imaginable, but who have no problem lying to women to get in their pants. I find this a bit distasteful, but I don’t object to it, I just recognize that this is how the world works. But the thing is, many AS/non-GPU people have difficulty compartmentalizing things like this in the same way NTs do.
So I fear that if you teach these kind of dark arts to the non-compartmentalizing, non-NT crowd, they’re going to take away from it the message that abandoning “black and white morality” is the way to go about fitting in in the NT world, in areas beyond the meat-market. I fear that we may end up unintentionally creating the next generation of Bill Gates and Henry Kissingers.
You make a fair point that PUA probably doesn’t explain all of human interaction—it explains just the bare minimum needed to get that 1 in 50 hit rate, so the majority of girls could be PUA-invulnerable and we wouldn’t know it. But you also claim that a hit rate of 1 in 50 is bad and shouldn’t be considered a “win”, and I take objection to this. Do you also think that a good mathematician should be able to solve any problem in the world or give up their title? Or do you have an alternative theory that can beat PUA at PUA’s game? (Then you should head over to their forums and if you’re right, they will adopt your theory en masse.) If not, why should we suppress the best theory we’ve got at the moment?
If your goal is to pick up women, then yes, absolutely 1 in 50 is a “win”. But if your goal is to refine the art of human rationality, I just don’t see how it’s relevant.
The thing is, with any model (PUA or otherwise), there are many reasons you could lose out on the 49 in 50 (to go with your terminology for now):
They aren’t into your body type, facial structure, height, race, or some other superficial characteristic
They have preferences that are explained by your model, but you messed up or otherwise failed to fulfill them (Similarly: they have preferences that are explained by your model, but you didn’t go far enough in following the model.) This is exacerbated by the tendency of people to go for partners at the edge of what they can realistically expect to attract, which makes it really easy to fall just a tiny bit short of fulfilling their preferences. Even when your improve your attractiveness, then you may set your sights on a higher tier of partners, and you will still be on the edge of being accepted. P(rejection | you go for a random person in the population you are into) is much less than P(rejection | you go after the most desirable person in that population who you still consider a realistic prospect).
They have preferences that are explained by your model, but someone else around fulfilled them better (or they weren’t single)
Taking into account these factors, from the start we know that there is a ceiling for success of under 50. Let’s say that at least one of these factors apply 50% of the time. Then we are really seeing a max success rate of 1 in 25. 1 in 10 max success rate out of 50 is even plausible. If you only pursue people on the higher edge of your attractiveness bracket, then the number could go even lower, and one success looks more and more impressive.
When you expect to meet rejection >50% of the time via your model, using rejection to test your model is difficult. It’s hard to test such theories in isolation. At what point do you abandon or modify your model, and at what point to you protect it with an ad hoc hypothesis? A protective belt of ad hoc hypotheses isn’t always bad. Sometimes you have actual evidence inducing belief in the presence or absence of the type of factors I mention, but the data for assessing those factors is also very messy.
Stated in a more general form, the problem we are trying to solve is: how do I select between models of human interactions with only my biased anecdotal experience, the biased anecdotal experience of others (who I select in a biased non-representative fashion), and perhaps theories (e.g. evolutionary psychology) with unclear applicability or research studies performed in non-naturalistic settings with unclear generalizability? Whew, what a mouthful!
This is not a trivial problem, and the answers matter. It is exactly the kind of problem where we should be refining the art of human rationality. And an increase in success on this problem (e.g. 1 in 500 to 1 in 50, to continue the trend of pulling numbers out of thin air to illustrate a point ) suggests that we have learned something about rationality.
I actually agree with this completely, and I think your analysis is rather insightful. Your conclusion seems to be that PUA topics are deserving of further study and analysis, and I have no problem with that… I only have a problem with assuming PUA-isms to be true, and citing them as “everybody knows that...” examples when illustrating completely unrelated points.
This is well put. The issue you raise is why I tried to be a little more explicit about the priors that I was using here. Obviously it’s a long way from giving the explicit probabilities that would be necessary to automate the Bayesian updating, but at least we can make a start at identifying where our priors differ.
Sure… maybe for when you’re starting out as a rank beginner, doing “cold approach” and “night game”. But my success rate at “social circle game” was an order of magnitude better than that before I knew any PUA stuff in the first place… and in retrospect I can easily see how that success was based on me accidentally doing a lot of things that are explicitly taught to PUAs for that type of game.
Hell, even during the brief period where I went to nightclubs and danced with girls, there are times that I realize in retrospect I was getting major IOIs and would’ve gotten laid if I’d simply had even a single ounce of clue or game in my entire body… and at a better success rate than 1 in 50.
So, I’m not sure where you pulled the 1 in 50 number from, but in my experience it’s not even remotely credible as a “success” for a PUA, if you mean that the PUA has to ask 50 to get 1 yes.
However, if you mean that a PUA can take 50 women who are attracted to him, and then chooses from them only the one or two that he finds most desirable, then I would agree that that’s indeed a success from his POV. ;-)
(And I would also guess that most PUAs would agree that this is much closer to their idea of “winning”, and that even a PUA of modest or average ability should be able to do much better than your original estimate, even for nightclub game.)
AAARGH! You’re still totally responding to this as if we were having this discussion on a PUA forum, rather than on LW.
The 1 in 50 number was totally pulled out of my ass, a hypothetical intended to illustrate the idea that if a given technique works only 1 in X times, but that’s enough to result in getting laid, your brain is likely to count that as a “win”, and ignore the (X − 1) times it failed, leading you to incorrectly assume that the technique illustrates some universally applicable principle of human behavior, where none in fact exists.
That seems to me to be a less appropriate way to do things on LW, personally.
Certainly, arguing that you pulled a number out of your ass in order to refute empirical information providing an inside view of a phenomenon is really inappropriate here.
IOW, your hypothesis is based on a total and utter incomprehension of what PUAs do or value, and is therefore empirically without merit. Actual PUAs are not only aware of the concept you are describing, but they most emphatically do not consider it success, and one guru even calls it “fool’s mate” in order to ridicule those who practice it. (In particular, Mystery ridicules it as relying on chance instead of skill.)
In short, you are simply wrong, and you’re probably getting downvoted (not by me, mind you) not because of disagreement, but because you’re failing to update on the evidence.
It’s very clear from the original context that “1 in 50” was not being proposed as evidence of anything, but simply as colloquial shorthand for “1 in some number X”. And I’m not sure what empirical evidence you’re referring to—the plural of anecdote yada yada yada.
My knowledge of what PUA entails is based almost entirely on various examples given by PUAs here on LW (that and a few clips from Mystery’s show being ridiculed on The Soup , which you might want to consider as a data point on what the general public thinks of PUA). Maybe if LW’s resident PUAs were to cite examples more like those you gave in your last reply to me, I might have a higher opinion of PUA wisdom.
Look, I totally understand why you and the other PUA adherents are so emotionally attached to the idea: if I were single, and somebody gave me a magic feather that enabled me to get laid a lot, I’m sure I would think it was awesome, and probably wouldn’t stop talking about it, well past the point that my friends and acquaintances were sick of hearing about it. It might be worth remembering, though, that the original topic of this article was Asperger/Autistic spectrum issues, and that one of the characteristic traits of the spectrum is what’s been referred to as “little professor syndrome,” where aspies tend to go on and on about their narrow topics of interest, unable to pick up social cues, like eye rolling, indicating lack of interest in the subject.
I don’t recall whether you responded positively to the “do you have high functioning asperger’s” question, and it’s not my intention to pejoratively imply that you, or anyone else here, does. I just think it might be worth looking at this through that lens.
If you’re implying that I’m single or attempting to get laid a lot, you’ve either missed a lot of my comments in this discussion, or you didn’t read them very carefully.
(Hint: I’m married, and have never knowingly used a pickup technique for anything but social or business purposes.. and I’ve made no secret of either point in this discussion!)
In other words, the numbers aren’t the only thing you just pulled out of your ass. ;-)
I would also point out that it is not particularly rational for you to first rant that nobody is responding to your points, and then, when people reply to you in an attempt to respond, for you to criticize them for “going on and on”.
(Well, it’s not rational unless your goal is to troll me, I suppose. But in that case, congratulations… you got a response.)
Meanwhile, you’ve also just managed to demonstrate actually doing the thing you’re arguing PUAs theoretically do (but actually don’t, if they’re well-trained).
That is, you made a sweeping judgment that doesn’t really apply to the claimed target group.
And, you didn’t make any allowance for the possibility that the specific person you were interacting with might be different from your generalized model of “single with a magic feather”. (Heck, even PUA’s know they have to calibrate to the individuals they encounter—i.e. pay attention.)
So… pot, meet kettle. ;-)
Nope, I neither said, nor implied anything of the kind. I was simply speculating on why it might be that so many people on LW seem to be so attached to the PUA ideas, despite their not really seeming to have much going for them in the way of Bayesian evidence. I wasn’t referring to you (or anyone) in particular. The format of comment threads requires that comments be addressed to a specific person, and so your comment was the one I happened to click ‘reply’ on, but I was referring in general to the PUA crowd.
I complained about people’s responses not addressing the substance of my argument, not the lack of responses.
Obviously I wasn’t talking here about your responses to my comments, but about the general inclination of certain PUA-boosters to continually bring up PUA themes in the middle of discussing unrelated issues.
No, I’m just saying that a 1 in 50 hit rate is more likely to be explained by a peculiarity of the particular people involved in the interaction, rather than a universal truth of all human social interaction.
Yep, I certainly got that point. (See the edited comment.) But today the real choice is between PUA that yieds little but positive results in the field, and alternative theories that yield no results.
OK, fair enough.
But I’m not arguing that PUA is bad. I’m arguing that the lessons learned from PUA aren’t generally applicable outside that arena, and are not good examples to use when illustrating a point on an unrelated human-rationality topic.
If I apply the same methods for the same amount of time to many problems, and I solve only 1 in 50 of them, then I should seriously consider the possibility that there was something special about that 1 in 50 that made them especially accessible to my methods. I should not conclude that the 1 in 50 were typical of all the problems that I considered.
I expect that a man can maximize his number of sexual partners by focusing his attentions on women who will be especially receptive to his advances. But it would be a mistake to infer that such women are typical.
That’s exactly what cousin_it has described himself doing, at least in the case of women who ask him to buy them drinks. His hug test (for lack of a better word) very quickly identifies which women are receptive to being physically companionable with him.
In PUA terminology, he’s taking her opener and screening it. Other relevant PUA terminology in this space:
AI (Approach Invitation) - reading signals that indicate a woman wants you to approach
Forced IOI (Indicator Of Interest) opener—engaging in a behavior that forces a woman’s body language to immediately reveal her interest or lack thereof, such as by gazing directly into her eyes while approaching, in order to see whether she looks down, away, or back at you, and whether she smiles.
Some men swear by these things as the essence of their game; others, however, want to be able to meet women who will neither AI nor accept a forced IOI, such as women who get approached by dozens of men a night and therefore have their “shields up” against being approached.
Anyway, your hypothesis isn’t a better PUA than PUA; but practical methods for actually applying that hypothesis are part of the overall body of knowledge that is PUA.
But my question is, does PUA theorizing help him get an accurate model of what women in general are actually like? More generally, does it give him tools to get a better understanding of what reality is like? Or is it just giving him tools that help him to focus his attentions on a certain small subset of women?
If I go into a library, I can easily tell the English books from the books in Chinese, so I can quickly narrow my attention to the books that I can get something out of. But that doesn’t mean that I know anything about what’s going on inside the Chinese books. And, if the vast majority of the books in the library are Chinese, then I actually know very little about the “typical” book in the library.
I’m having trouble parsing this sentence. What’s the “hypothesis” here?
I thought about it some more and honestly can’t tell if you’re right or not. On one hand, I never do cold approaches—there’s always some eye contact and smiling beforehand—so the women I interact with are already very self-selected. On the other hand, I know from experience that a girl who rejected me in one setting (e.g. a party) may often turn out to be receptive in another setting (e.g. a walk), so it’s not like I’m facing some immutable attribute of this girl. So every interaction with a woman has many variables beyond my control that could make it or break it, but my gut feeling is that most of those variables are environmental (current mood, presence of other people, etc.) rather than inborn.
Yes, I agree. In this particularly case, though, we have no idea whether your “if” clause is satisfied, and what the proportion of English to Chinese books really is.
To make an analogy with my previous post where I explain that the ceiling on success rate is actually rather low, most of the books you read either burst into flame when you read them, or their text disappears or turns into gibberish. Sometimes, even forensic inspection can’t tell you what language the book was originally in.
All you can know is that learning English helps you read some of the books in the library. Absent the knowledge of what was in the text that was destroyed before you could read it, you have no idea of the typicality or atypicality of the English books you are capable of reading. Yet if your forensic inspection of the destroyed books reveals more English characters than Chinese characters, or you have some additional theoretical or empirical knowledge on the distribution of languages in the books, then you may have to upgrade your estimate of the proportion of English books. (This assumes that the hypotheses of books being in English or Chinese are both locateable.)
Even if your estimate is wrong, it can still be very valuable to know how to read the typical English book in the library, especially if the alternative is not being able to read any.
You still know very little, of course, about the population of books (or people) you are trying to model. Yet in the case of people, you are often faced with competing hypothesizes about how to behave, and even a small preference for one hypothesis over the other can have great practical significance. That’s why stereotypically we see women picking over their interactions with men with their female friends, and PUAs doing exactly the same thing on internet forums. They have tough decisions to make under uncertainty.
Does a preference for one theory over another, and seeming practical results mean that the preferred theory is “true?” I think we both agree: no. That’s naive realism. Yet when you are engaged in discussion on a practical subject, it’s easy to slip from language about what works to language about what is true, and adopt a pragmatic notion of truth in that context.
As I’ve mentioned before, PUAs do commit naive realism a lot. While there are ceilings to what mass-anecdotal experience of PUAs can show us about epistemic rationality, there is a lot it can show us about instrumental rationality. How to be instrumentally successful when the conclusions of epistemic rationality are up in the air is an interesting subject.
I’m not a PUArtist, I’m a PUInstrumentalist about PU models. Yet when I see a theory (or particularly hypothesis in a theory) working so spectacularly well, and that data which deviates from it generally seems to have an explanation consistent with the theory, and the theory lets me predict novel facts, and it is consistent with psychological research and theories on the topic… then it sometimes makes me wonder if my instrumentalist attitude of suspended judgment on the truth of that theory is a little airy-fairy.
I doubt that PUA models are literally highly probable in totality, yet I hold that particular hypotheses in those models are reasonable even only fueled by anecdotal evidence, and that with certain minor transformations, the models themselves could be turned into something that has a chance of being literally highly probable.
Well put. This is a good delineation of the issues.
The portion of your comment that I quoted, i.e.:
I was saying that PUAs don’t entirely agree with your hypothesis (and incidentally, don’t necessarily value the “maximize his number of sexual partners” part)… but they do have tools for taking advantage of attuning to women who will be especially receptive.
Both. As I mentioned earlier, PUA models of social behavior have been successfully applied in and out of pubs, with people who the PUA is not even trying to sleep with, both male and female. Anecdotally, PUAs who focus on learning social interaction skills find that those skills are just as useful in other contexts. (For example, Neil Strauss noted in The Game that learning PUA social skills actually helped his celebrity-interviewing technique, as it gave him tools for pepping up conversations that were starting to go stale.)
Most of the criticism here about PUA has been claiming that it has poor applicability to women, but this is the result of a severe misapprehension about both the goals and methods of PUA-developed social models. PUA social signaling models are actually applicable to humans in general, even though the means of effecting the signals will vary.
My impression is that the typical LWer has little familiarity with these models, and has only heard about a few bits of (highly context-sensitive) specific advice or techniques. Are you familiar with microloop theory? Frames? Pinging? There’s a metric ton of of systematization attempts by PUA theorists, some of which is very insightful. Also, a lot of practical advice for dealing with a wide variety of social situations.
I would predict that if you took an experienced social-game theorist PUA trainer and threw him into a random physical social environment with a goal to make as many friends as possible, vs. an untrained male of similar geekiness (I’m assuming the social game theorist will be a geek, present or former) and similar unfamiliarity with the group or its rules/topics/etc., and the PUA will kick the untrained person’s ass from here to Sunday.
What’s more, I would bet that you could repeat this experiment over and over, with different PUAs and get the same results. And if the PUA in question is a good trainer, I’d be they’d be able to take a modest-sized group of similarly-geeky students and quickly train at least one student to beat an untrained person by a solid margin, and to get most of the students to improve on their previous, untrained results
That’s how confident I am that PUA social interaction models are sufficiently correct to be broadly applicable to “typical” human beings—not just women.
(Btw, I’m aware that I’ve left a huge number of loopholes in my stated prediction that an unscrupulous experimenter could use to skew the results against the PUA, but I don’t really want to take the time to close them all right now. Suffice to say that it would need to be a fair contest, apart from the PUA’s specialized training, and I’m only betting on PUA trainers being able to totally kick an untrained person’s ass; I would expect experienced PUAs to do say, maybe 2-3 times as well as the untrained on average. Trainers and “in-field” coaches have to have a better grasp of social dynamics than the people they’re training. Also, there’s a big gap between theory and execution—if you can’t get your body and voice to do what the theory tells you to, it doesn’t matter how good the theory is!)
Ok, I swore to myself I wasn’t going to comment on this thread anymore, but now you’ve made me think of something that hadn’t occurred to me before:
Assuming for the moment that it’s true that a skilled PUA trainer would beat an untrained person at this test, how much of that effect do you think is attributable to simply being more confident vs actually having a more accurate model of human social behavior? I.e. you could, in principle, test for what I’m talking about by replacing the untrained geek with a geek trained with a different, completely fabricated set of PUA rules and theories, which he’d been led to believe were the real, PUA methods.… tell him these methods have been extensively experimentally tested, maybe even fake some tests with some actors to convince him that his bogus PUA skills actually work, just to give him the confidence of thinking he knows the secrets of the PUA masters. Then test him against someone given an equal amount of training on the “real” PUA techniques.
Oh, and for bonus points, for the fabricated set of techniques, you could use stuff taught by Scientology, just to make sure there’s consensus that it’s bogus ;)
How do you think that test would turn out? (I’m taking no position on the issue—I honestly don’t know)
It’s hard to create and maintain confidence that isn’t based on actual results. I predict that the confident geeky guy would go barreling into interactions and just as easily alienate people as engage them. Without any competence to back up the confidence, the latter wouldn’t last very long, unless the guy was totally oblivious to negative signals from others.
It is a good question, whether a PUA could be matched by a control guy of the same level of confidence. But if we are talking any real sort of confidence, the main way it develops is through success, which requires manifesting attractive behaviors in the first place.
Exactly. But in the version of the experiment I proposed, both groups are composed of (initially) inexperienced geeks, as opposed to pjeby’s protocol, which involved an untrained newbie and a PUA trainer (who, despite having trained on, IMHO, potentially invalid methods, has likely acquired a great deal of real confidence via experience).
Which is why, now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I now predict that if this experiment were performed, both trainee groups would “go barreling into interactions and just as easily alienate people as engage them”. For it to mean much, you would have to iterate the experiment over a period of weeks or months and see which group improves faster. I remain agnostic on what the outcome of that would be.
I was thinking along our lines, where both groups involve newbies. I predict that the confidence will collapse in whichever groups lack some actual practical knowledge that can achieve success to keep the confidence boosted.
Do you have any prediction as to which group would come out ahead after a sufficient number of iterations?
And as an aside, wouldn’t it be awesome if LW had a prediction market built into it where we could resolve these things?
In PUA circles, this question has been addressed very extensively, both theoretically and practically. There is in fact a whole subfield of study there, called “inner game,” which deals with the issues of confidence and self-image. The answer is that yes, unsurprisingly, confidence matters a great deal, but its relative importance in individual PUA’s techniques varies, and it doesn’t explain everything in their success, not even by a long shot.
Generally, regardless of your overall opinion of the people in the PUA scene, and for all their flaws, you definitely underestimate the breadth, intensity, and thoroughness of the debates that take place there. There are of course lots of snake oil salesmen around, but when it comes to the informal, non-commercial discourse in the community at all levels, these folks really are serious about weeding out bullshit and distilling stuff that works.
To be fair, I can’t blame people first encountering this subject to have an initial negative reaction. They don’t know the breadth of what goes on, and that it would take a college-course-worth of knowledge to even begin to have an idea of what it’s really about. What interests me is that they update when exposed to new evidence.
The problem is not only that the topic runs afoul of moralistic biases, but also that it triggers failure in high-quality anti-bullshit heuristics commonly used by math/tech/science-savvy people. When you first hear about it, it’s exactly the kind of thing that will set off a well-calibrated bullshit detector. It promises impossible-seeming results that sound tailored to appeal to naive wishful thinking, and stories about its success sound like they just must be explicable by selection effects, self-delusions, false boasting, etc. So I definitely don’t blame people for excessive skepticism either.
A personal anecdote: I remember when I first came across ASF long ago, when I was around 20. I quickly dismissed it as bullshit, and it didn’t catch my attention again until several years later. In retrospect, this miscalculation should probably be one of my major regrets in life, and not just for failures with women that could have been prevented; it would have likely opened my perspectives on many other issues too, as it actually happened the next time around.
Very true. To me (and my bullshit detector), it sounds strikingly similar to any number of other self-help programs offered through the ages. In fact, it sounds to me a lot like Scientology—or at least the elevator pitch version that they give to lower level people before they start introducing them to the really strange stuff. And the endorsement you give it in your second paragraph sounds a lot like the way adherents to these kinds of absolutely-for-legal-reasons-definitely-not-a-cults will breathlessly talk about them to outsiders.
Now of course I realize that superficial similarity to snake oil doesn’t actually count as valid evidence. But I do think it’s fair to put PUA into the same reference class with them, and base my priors on that. Would you not agree?
If you see PUA-like techniques being marketed without any additional knowledge about the matter, then yes, your snake oil/bullshit detector should hit the red end of the scale, and stay that way until some very strong evidence is presented otherwise. Thing is, when it comes to a certain subset of such techniques that pjeby, HughRistik, me, and various others have been discussing, there is actually such strong evidence. You just have to delve into the matter without any fatally blinding biases and see it.
That’s pretty much the point I’ve been hammering on. The problem is not that your prior is low, which it should be. The problem is that an accurate estimate of posteriors is obscured by very severe biases that push them downward.
What evidence? PUAs may use a lot of trial and error in developing their techniques, but do their tests count as valid experimental evidence, or just anecdotes? Where are their control groups? What is their null hypothesis? Was subject selection randomized? Were the data gathered and analyzed by independent parties?
Would you accept this kind of evidence if we were talking about physics? Would you accept this kind of evidence if we were evaluating someone who claimed to have psychic powers?
One of the reasons this topic is of interest to rationalists is that it is an example of an area where rational evidence is available but scientific evidence is in short supply. It is not in general rational to postpone judgment until scientific evidence is available. Learning how to make maximal use of rational evidence without succumbing to the pitfalls of cognitive biases is a topic of much interest to many LWers.
Yes, that’s true. I’ve been phrasing my more recent comments in terms of scientific evidence, because several people I’ve been butting heads with have made assertions about PUA that seemed to imply it had a scientific-level base of supporting evidence.
I’m still not sure though what the rational evidence is that I’m supposed to be updating on. Numerous other self improvement programs make similar claims, based on similar reasoning, and offer similar anecdotal evidence. So I consider such evidence to be equally likely to appear regardless of whether PUA’s claims are true or false, leaving me with nothing but my priors.
Well, as I said, if you study the discourse in the PUA community at its best in a non-biased and detached way, desensitized to the language and attitudes you might find instinctively off-putting, you’ll actually find the epistemological standards surprisingly high. But you just have to see that for yourself.
A good comparison for the PUA milieu would be a high-quality community of hobbyist amateurs who engage in some technical work with passion and enthusiasm. In their discussions, they probably won’t apply the same formal standards of discourse and evidence that are used in academic research and corporate R&D, but it’s nevertheless likely that they know what they’re talking about and their body of established knowledge is as reliable as any other—and even though there are no formal qualifications for joining, those bringing bullshit rather than insight will soon be identified and ostracized.
Now, if you don’t know at first sight whether you’re dealing with such an epistemologically healthy community, the first test would be to see how its main body of established knowledge conforms to your own experiences and observations. (In a non-biased way, of course, which is harder when it comes to the PUA stuff than some ordinary technical skill.) In my case, and not just mine, the result was a definite pass. The further test is to observe the actual manner of discourse practiced and its epistemological quality. Again, it’s harder to do when biased reactions to various signals of disrespectability are standing in the way.
Even in physics, not all evidence comes from reproducible experiments. Sometimes you just have to make the best out of observations gathered at random opportune moments, for example when it comes to unusual astronomical or geophysical events.
You’re biasing your skepticism way upward now. The correct level of initial skepticism with which to meet the PUA stuff is the skepticism you apply to people claiming to have solved difficult problems in a way consistent with the existing well-established scientific knowledge—not the much higher level appropriate for those whose claims contradict it.
That’s a good point—the priors for PUA, though low, are nowhere near as low as for psychic phenomena. But that just means that you need a smaller amount of evidence to overcome those priors—it doesn’t lower the bar for what qualifies as valid evidence.
I think part of my problem is there is no easy way to signal you are a white hat PUA rather than a black hat. If I am interested in honest and long term relationships, I don’t want to be signalling that I have the potential to be manipulative. Especially as the name PUA implies that you are interested in picking up girls in general rather than one lady in particular.
This also applies somewhat to non-sexual relations. If someone studies human interaction to a significant degree, how do I know that they will only use their powers for good? Say in an intellectual field or political for that matter. I’m sure the knowledge is useful for spin doctors and people coaching political leaders in debates.
This comment, in itself, is probably signalling an overly reflective mind on the nature of signalling though.
That’s unfortunately a problem that women face with men in general, PUA or no PUA. Why do you think the signaling games naturally played by men are any different? The difference is ultimately like between a musical prodigy who learned to play the piano spontaneously as a kid, and a player with a similar level of skill who was however tone-deaf and learned it only much later with lots of painstaking practice. But they’re still playing the same notes.
There is absolutely nothing in the whole PUA arsenal that wouldn’t ultimately represent reverse-engineering of techniques spontaneously applied by various types of natural ladies’ men. There is no extra “manipulation” of any sort added on top of that. Even the most callous, sly, and dishonest PUA techniques ever proposed are essentially the same behavior as that practiced by certain types of naturally occurring dark personality types of men that women often, much as they loathe to admit it, find themselves wildly attracted to. (Google “dark triad,” or see the paper I linked in one of my other comments.)
It’s a name that stuck from the old days, which isn’t representative of the whole area any more (and in fact never fully was). The more modern term is “game.”
In the marginal Roissysphere, maybe. I’ve seen many attempt to get away from words like “pickup” or “seduction” though I haven’t seen any consensus on an alternative. The problem is that our culture simply has no value-neutral or positive terms for, uh, how do I put it… systematically investigating how people induce each other to want sex and relationships, and how one can practically make use of that knowledge oneself.
(It took me about four tries to write the part in italics after thinking about this subject for years, and it’s still really clunky. I could have said “understand the mating process and act on that understanding,” but that’s a bit too watered-down. My other best attempt was systematically investigating the process by which people create contexts that raise the chances of other people wanting to have sex and relationships with them, and how one can practically make use of this knowledge oneself. That phrasing is clunkier, but gets rid of the word “induce,” which a bunch of feminists once told me is “mechanical” and “objectifying.”)
“Game” has its own problems, of course. What I like about the term is that it implies that social interaction should be playful and fun. “Game” also highlights certain game-theoretic and competitive aspects of human interaction, but it might risk leading people to overstate those aspects. What I don’t like is the connotation that a game isn’t “serious” (e.g. “you think this is just a game, huh?”) and that PUAs (or critics of PUAs) may believe that “game” involves not taking other people’s feelings and interests seriously.
As I’m sure you know, some gurus (e.g. TylerDurden) have advocated viewing the process of learning pickup like learning a videogame. A similar frame is the “experiment frame,” where you think of yourself as a scientist engaging in social experiments. Such frames can be extremely valuable for beginners who need to protect themselves emotionally during the early stages of the learning process, when most of what they try isn’t going to work. Yet they are a form of emotionally distancing oneself from others; in a minority of people with existing problems, they could inhibit empathy, encourage antisocial behavior, or exacerbate feelings of alienation. In general though, I view the possible harm of such attitudes as mainly affecting the PUA.
I see these frames as training wheels which should soon be discarded once the need for such an emotionally defensive stance is gone. Most socially cool people don’t see other people as part of a video game they are playing, or as subjects in a science experiment they are running (though some Dark Triad naturals do… one favorite quote of mine from an intelligent and extremely badboy natural friend of mine who had no exposure to the seduction community: “I love causation… once you understand it, you can manipulate people”). I still engage in social experiments all the time, but when I go out, I no longer think “I’m gonna run some cool experiments tonight,” I think “I’m gonna hang out with some cool people tonight.”
I have the impression that “game” is used much more widely even as the primary general term, let alone when people talk about specific skill subsets and applications (“phone game,” “day game,” etc.). But I’m sure you’ve seen a much broader sample of all sorts of PUA-related stuff, so I’ll defer to your opinion.
That said, I see game primarily as a way of overcoming the biases and false beliefs held about male-female interactions in the contemporary culture. I would say that by historical standards, our culture is exceptionally bad in this regard. While the prevailing respectable views and popular wisdom on the matters of human pairing and sexual behavior have always been affected by biases in every culture that ever existed, my impression is that ours is exceptionally out of touch with reality when it comes to these issues. This is a special case of what I see as a much broader general trend—namely, that in contrast to hard sciences and technology, which have been making continuous and uninterrupted progress for centuries, in many areas of human interest that are not amenable to a no-nonsense hard-scientific way of filtering truth from bullshit, the dominant views have actually been drifting away from reality and into increasing biases and delusions for quite a while now.
To understand this, it is necessary to be able to completely decouple normative from factual parts in one’s beliefs about human sexual and pairing behaviors—a feat of unbiased thinking that is harder in this matter than almost any other. Once this has been done, however, a curious pattern emerges: modern people perceive the normative beliefs of old times and faraway cultures about pairing and sex as alien, strange, and repulsive, and conclude that this is because their factual beliefs were (or are) deluded and biased. Yet it seems to me that whatever one thinks about the normative part, the prevailing factual beliefs have, in many ways, become more remote from reality in modern times. (The only major exceptions are those that came from pure hard-scientific insight, like e.g. the details of women’s fertility cycle.) This of course also implies that while one can defend the modern norms on deontological grounds, the commonly believed consequentialist arguments in their favor are very seriously flawed.
The PUA insights are to a large degree about overcoming these relatively novel biases, and most PUA acolytes aren’t aware that lots of their newly gained taboo-breaking insight was in fact common knowledge not that long ago. When you look at men who have applied this insight to achieve old-fashioned pleasant monogamous harmony rather than for sarging, like that guy to whose marriage story I linked earlier, it’s impossible not to notice that it’s basically the same way our ancestors used to keep peace in the house.
I don’t. I wouldn’t want to associate myself with naturally skilled playas either.
Actually, it’s fairly simple to signal whether you’re a white-hat or black-hat PUA trainer—all you need to do is write your marketing materials for the audience you want. White hats write things that will turn black hats off, and vice versa.
I.e., white hats will talk about direct game, inner game, honesty, respect, relating to women, “relationship game”, and so on. Black hats will talk about banging sluts and wrapping them around your finger with your persuasive and hypnotic powers, and how much of a chump they used to be before they wised up to the conspiracy keeping men down. (Sadly, I’m not exaggerating.)
On the bright side, though, if you’re definitely looking for one hat or the other, they’re not too hard to find.
Most PUA material is somewhere in between though… mostly white-ish hat, with a bit too much tolerance for using false stories and excuses in order to meet people (e.g. “I’m buying a gift for my sister and can I get your opinion on this blah blah”) , even though they’re not endorsing continuing such pretenses past the time required to get into an actual conversation.
It certainly would be nice to be able to screen off the portion of PUA that involves even such minor dishonesty, and have a term that just applied to purely white-hat, deception-free strategies.
Yup. It doesn’t help that a lot of people in the seduction community are so crappy at PR and present their ideas a socially unintelligent way that makes it sound much worse than it actually is.
I don’t have a solution to this problem, except to hope that people will judge me by the way that I treat them, not by the stereotypes triggered by the negative first impression of some of my knowledge sources.
Again, I agree. I’ve been thinking about the ethics of social influence and persuasion for a while.
OK, this is, admittedly, a totally cheap shot, but.....… if PUA tactics are so effective, and so generally applicable to the broader world of social interactions beyond just picking up women, then how come they aren’t better at “seducing” people into buying in to their way of thinking?
My hypothesis: because so much stuff in the seduction community is incorrectly sneered at even when neutrally explained, many PUAs stop bothering and revel in the political incorrectness of their private discourse. Hence you see terminology like “lair” for a seduction meetup group. Why bother with PR if you think you will be unfairly demonized either way? That’s not my perspective, but it’s a guess.
PUAs themselves will admit to confidence being important… in meeting people, and in its being a foundation for everything they do. But it’s not a magic bullet.
I’ve seen an excerpt of a talk that one gave who explained that when he started, he actually attained some success at opening (i.e. initiating contact) through delusional self-confidence… however, this wasn’t enough to improve his success at “closing” (i.e., getting numbers, kisses, dates, etc.), because he still made too many mistakes at understanding what he was supposed to do to “make a move”, or how he was supposed to respond to certain challenges, etc.
Remember, if the signal is too easy to fake, it’s not very useful as a signal.
I think it would be a better test to reverse the PUA recommendations, i.e., teach them things that the PUAs predict would flop. If they succeed anyway, it’s a slam dunk for the confidence hypothesis. But I doubt they would.
Actually, one thing I saw on Mystery’s show suggests to me that it might be sufficient to train someone poorly—one trainee on the show couldn’t get it through his head as to tthe proper use of negging, and went around insulting women with what, as far as I could tell, was total confidence. And of course, It didn’t work, at all, while the other guys who both understood the idea and applied it with careful calibration, achieved much greater success.
In other words, I think confidence alone is insufficient to replace social calibration—the PUA term for having awareness (or reasonably accurate internal predictions) of what other people are thinking or feeling about you, each other, and the overall social situation. The principal value of PUA social dynamic theories to PUA practice is to train the socially ill-calibrated to notice the cues that more socially adept people notice instinctively (or at least intuitively).
In other words, having a theory of “status” or “value” helps you to to know what to pay attention to, to help tune in on the music of an encounter, rather than being misled by the words being sung.
(Of course , I’m sure we all know people who come along and wreck the music by confidently singing a new and entirely inharmonious tune. This sort of behavior should not be confused with being socially successful.)
But it certainly is fun!
I don’t think that would be a fair test. Techniques that PUAs think would flop, I would probably agree with them in predicting they’d flop—It’s easier to know that something doesn’t work, than that it does work. So they would actually end up at a disadvantage relative to a person with natural confidence and no PUA training.
I would want my control group to be given techniques that are entirely harmless and neutral, or as close to it as is reasonably possible.
While that would be an interesting test, being entirely harmless and neutral is how to flop, PUAs predict. People don’t want to date people they feel neutral towards; they want to date people they are excited about. Since women are more selective, this principle applies even more to women, and makes for some interesting problem-solving.
Since there a bunch of different taxa in female preferences (yes, my model of the preferences of the female population accounts for significant differences in female preferences in certain dimensions), and these taxa have strong, differing, mutually-exclusive preferences (e.g. the preference to definitely kiss on the first date, vs. the preference to definitely not kiss on the first date), and which preference taxon a woman belongs to in advance is not always reasonably predictable, certain behaviors will have a polarizing response. There is only a certain set of behaviors that is universally attractive to women (e.g. confidence), and outside that set, behaviors that attract one woman might annoy or repulse another (cousin_it’s arm around the waist example falls into this category).
Unfortunately, you can’t always explicitly ask what preference taxon a woman is in; your ability to guess based on either strong or weak cues may be one of her filters. And asking too much about someone else’s preferences can signal that you consider her higher status, which many women may find unattractive. It might also signal that you think something in particular is going to happen, when she hasn’t decided if she wants it to happen yet. Even if a woman could have an explicit discussion of her preferences and not consider your obsequious for doing so, you can’t really know this in advance. And you can’t ask her if she is part of the taxon of women who can discuss their preferences explicitly without docking status points from men for raising the subject; nor can you ask her if she part of the taxon of women who can be asked which taxon of women she is in: the problem is recursive. So the only rational solution is to guess, unless you are comfortable screening out women who can’t have explicit discussions of their preferences early in the interaction. (Though you can help your guessing by starting oblique discussions of preferences, such as talking about relationship history and listening carefully.)
You can’t just avoid polarizing behaviors that women will have either strong positive or negative responses to, because then you risk relegating yourself to the boring guy heap. You are stuck doing an expected value calculation on these polarizing behaviors taking into account the uncertainty of your model of her. If you decide to make a certain move, you hope your calculation was right and you don’t weird her out. And if you decide not to make that move, you hope your calculation was right and you don’t get docked points for not making the move and failing to make a strong enough impression. A lot of guessing is going on here; if your hardware doesn’t steer you down the right path, you need to get better at guessing, which is a job for rationality.
Shorter version of the above: Men need to make strong positive impressions on women to be reliably successful. Many of the behaviors that make strong positive impressions on some types of women make strong negative impressions on other types of women. The result is that men need to engage in high-risk, high-reward behaviors to make strong positive impressions on many types of women, though the risk is substantially mitigateable with experience and knowledge. This leads to some interesting ethical dilemmas. It also leads to some interesting practical consequences, where sometimes it’s better to increase the variance in your attractiveness even at the cost of your average attractiveness to the female population. But now I’m just rambling…
I think you’ve highlighted an important difference between the inside view and outside view of PUA.
Outsiders think that for PUA to be valid, it has to have techniques that work on “most women”. However, for insiders, it simply has to have a set of techniques that work on women they are personally interested in.
Outsiders, though, tend to think that the set of “women PUAs are personally interested in” is much more homogeneous than it really is. The women that say, Decker of AMP goes for, are orders of magnitude more introspective than those that say, Mystery goes for. David D seems to like ambitious professional women. Johnny Soporno seems to dig women with depth of emotion who’ll all be a big happy family in his harem. Some gurus seem to like women they can boss around. Juggler seems to value good conversation. (And notice that none of these preferences are, “who I can get to sleep with me tonight”. Even Mystery’s preference for models and strippers is much more about status than it is about sex.)
Granted—these are all superficial personal impressions of mine, based on random bits of information, but it’s helpful to point out that men’s preferences vary just as much as women’s do. PUA is not a single unified field aimed at claiming a uniform set of women for a uniform set of men. It is a set of interlinked and related fields of what works for specific groups of women in specific situations…
Conditioned on the preferences of the men who are interested in them.
That is, successful PUAs intentionally choose (or invent) behaviors and sets of techniques that will screen out women that they are not interested in. And they don’t engage in a search for what technique will work on the woman they’re with—they do what the kind of woman they want would like.
Now, there are certainly schools of thought who think the goal is to figure out whatever woman is in front of them, but my observation of what the people in PUA who seem happy with their life and work say, is that they always effectively talk about being fully themselves, and how this automatically causes one group to gravitate towards them, and the rest to gravitate away.
This has also been my personal experience when I was single and doing “social game” (which as I said, I didn’t know was a thing until much later).
What I’ve also noticed is that many gurus who used to teach mechanical, manipulative game methods have later slid over to this line of thought—specifically, many have said that thinking in terms of “what do I need to do to get this woman to like me” is actually hurting your inner game, because it sets the frame that you are the pursuer and she is the selector, and that this is going to cause her to test you more than if you just were totally open about who you are and what you want in the first place, so there’s no neediness or apprehension for her to probe.
Some people talk about feigning disinterest, but I think that what really works (from my limited experience) is genuine disinterest in people who aren’t what you’re looking for. In some schools, this is talked about as a tactic (i.e. “qualifying” and “disqualifying”), but I think the more mature schools and gurus speak about it as a way of thinking, or a lifestyle.
Anyway, tl;dr version: the success of PUA as a field isn’t predicated on one set of techniques “working” on all taxa of women, it’s predicated on individual PUAs being able to select behaviors that work well with the taxa he wants them to “work” on… and the taxa for which techniques exist is considerably wider than field-outsiders are aware of… leading to difficult communication with insiders, who implicitly understand this variability and don’t get why the outsiders are being so narrowminded.
No, you misunderstood what I was saying. I meant that for the purposes of maintaining a valid control group, they be given instructions which neither help nor harm their chances, i.e. have a completely neutral effect on their innate “game” or lack thereof.
I appreciate the idea of this test; my point is that is that it might be hard to set up a group with instructions that have a completely neutral effect on their results. Maybe with a pilot study?
I also choose to use your post as a jumping off point for some rambling of my own.
What are we testing for? Whether there’s a placebo effect in believing you have good instructions?
If yes, it seems obvious there is one—especially in a domain where confidence is highly correlated with positive results.
Hmmmmmm.… is anyone here on LW experienced at writing grant proposals? ;)
The problem is that then you’re not cleanly comparing methods any more. Remember: much of PUA is the result of modeling the beliefs and behaviors of “naturally confident” and socially-skillful people. The PUA claim is that these beliefs and behaviors can be taught and learned, not that they have invented something which is different from what people are already capable of doing.
So, if you take “a person with natural confidence”, how do you know they won’t be doing exactly what the PUA will?
By the way, please remember that the test I proposed was befriending and social climbing, not seducing women. The PUA trainer’s relevant experience is strategic manipulation of social groups—something that an individual PUA need not necessarily master in order to get laid. It is the field of strategic social manipulation that has the most relevance to applications outside dating and mating, anyway.
I’m not sure I understand why you think so.
They might—that’s what I want to test. I’m proposing to take two randomly selected groups, with randomly varying amounts of natural confidence and “game”, and train one group with PUA techniques, the other with equally confidence-building yet counter-theoretical non-PUA techniques (which have been validated, perhaps via a pilot study, to have no effect one way or the other), and see which group improves faster. The test could be either picking up women, or any other non-pickup social game that PUA claims to help with. If it’s true that PUA is an accurate model of how people with natural game operate, then people in each group on the high end of the natural game spectrum should be relatively unchanged, but the geekier subjects should improve more in the PUA group than the control group.
Now of course this is all just hypothetical, since we don’t have the resources to actually run such a rigorous study. So my motivation in trying to negotiate a test protocol like this is really just that here on LW, we should all be in agreement that beliefs require evidence, and we should be able to agree on what that evidence should look like. Until we reach such an agreement, we’re not really having a rational debate.
So, do you think the above protocol would generate valid, update-worthy evidence? If not, why not?
Because if the two groups are doing the same things, what is it that you’re testing?
I don’t understand this question. The two experimental groups get different training, and the ones in each group who actually follow the training are doing different things.
Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t understand why you think the two groups would be doing the same thing, even given your assumption that PUA is an accurate model. If PUA is accurate, then the people in the PUA trained group would end up behaving more like naturally socially successful people, and the control group would go on being geeky (or average, or whatever you select the groups to initially be), and hence the two groups’ results would diverge.
Maybe you need to re-read the experimental protocol I suggested.
I’m confused—I thought you wanted to match the PUAs against naturally confident people, which AFAICT wouldn’t be comparing anything.
What I was concerned about is the possibility that the group that was given neutral instruction might disregard the instruction and simply fall back to whatever they already do, which might be something successful.
(Thinking about it a bit more, I have a sneaking suspicion that giving people almost any instruction (whether good, bad, or neutral) may induce a temporary increase in self-consciousness, and a corresponding decrease in performance. But that’s another study altogether!)
No—initially I said to use geeky, socially unsuccessful subjects, but I later realized that a random sample, including all kinds of people, would work just as well.
Which wouldn’t be a problem, since they’re supposed to be the control group. Unless of course they lost their confidence boost in the process as well. But as long as they are at least initially convinced their training will be effective (see below), then it wouldn’t invalidate the experiment, since the same effect would apply to the PUA group as well, if PUA turns out to be ineffective.
Yes, that is a possibility I’d considered, which is why I said you may need to go so far as to fake some tests, undergrad psych experiment style, using actors, to actually convince everyone their newly acquired skills are working.
THAT’S what we’re testing: whether the two groups are doing the same thing! Your assumption that they are is based on the belief that PUA trains people to do the same things that socially successful people do naturally, which is based on the assumption that PUA theory is an accurate model of human social interactions.… which is the hypothesis that we’re trying to test with this experiment.
“PUA theory” is not a single thing. The PUA field contains numerous models of human social interactions, with varying scopes of applicability. For example, high-level theories would include Mystery’s M3 model of the phases of human courtship, and Mehow’s “microloop theory” of value/compliance transactions.
And then, there are straightforward minor models like, “people will be less defensive about engaging with you if they don’t think they’ll be stuck with you”—a rather uncontroversial principle that leads “indirect game” PUAs to “body rock” and give FTCs (“false time constraint”—creating the impression that you will need to leave soon) when approaching groups of people.
This particular idea is applicable to more situations than just that, of course—a couple decades ago when I was in a software company’s booth at some trade shows, we strategically arranged both our booth furniture and our positions within the booth to convey the impression that a person walking in would have equal ease in walking back out, without being pounced on by a lurking sales person and backed into a corner. And Joel Spolsky (of Joel On Software fame) has pointed out that people don’t like to put their data into places where they’re afraid they won’t be able to get it back out of.
Anyway… “PUA Theory” is way too broad, which is why I proposed narrowing the proposed area of testing to “rapidly manipulating social groups to form alliances and accomplish objectively observable goals”. Still pretty broad, and limited to testing the social models of indirect-game schools, but easiest to accomplish in a relatively ethical manner.
OTOH, if you wanted to test certain “inner game” theories (like the “AMP holarchy”), you could probably create a much simpler experiment, having guys just go up and introduce themselves to a wide variety of women, and then have the women complete questionnaires about the men they met, rating them on various perceived qualities such as trustworthiness, masculinity, overall attractiveness, how much of a connection they felt, etc..
(The AMP model effectively claims that they can substantially improve a man’s ratings on qualities like these. And since they do this by using actual women to give the ratings, this seems at least somewhat plausible. The main question being asked by such a test would be, how universal are those ratings? Which actually would be an interesting question in its own right...)
I don’t think that you should compare social-skills trainer geeks to average geeks. Of course the trainers will be much more charismatic. Otherwise they wouldn’t have elected to become trainers. But that doesn’t mean that the trainers’ specific theory has much to do with why they’re charismatic.
The relevant test would be this: Compare a successful PUA social-skill’s trainer to a successful non-PUA social-skills trainer. I’m sure that almost all social-skills trainers broadly agree on all sorts of principles. The question is, do PUAs in particular have access to better knowledge?
Furthermore, do the methods used by either trainer work on the typical person? Or do they work selectively on certain types of people? Of course, instrumentally, you can have good reasons for caring only about certain types of people. But, if you are making claims about the typical person, you should demonstrate that your models reflect the typical person.
ETA: There’s an analogy to dieting gurus. I’m sure that dieting gurus are better than the average person at losing weight. That is, if you forced dieting gurus to gain weight, they could probably lose the extra weight quicker than an average person of the same weight.
However, my understanding is that all the dieting theories out there perform pretty much equally well. There are probably some principles that most diets share and which are good advice. But, as I understand it, there is little evidence that any particular diet has struck upon the truth. Whatever it is that makes a given diet distinct doesn’t seem to contribute significantly to its success.
This is despite the fact that many diets have legions of followers who gather into communities to poor over their successes and failures in meticulous detail. The analogy with the PUA community seems pretty strong on that count, too.
I think the specific dimensions of performance on which PUA trainers would outscore general social skills trainers would be in short-term/immediate manipulation of social groups to achieve specified objective and tactical results.
General social skills trainers tend to focus on longer-term and “softer”, less-specific objectives, although this could vary quite a bit. They’re unlikely to have skills that would be useful at more Machiavellian objectives like, “get people in the group to compete with each other for your attention” or “make the group single out a person for ridicule”, or “get everyone in the room to think you’re a VIP who everyone else already knows”.
Granted, not every PUA trainer would have all those skills either, and that last one might be doable by some non-PUA trainers. But if you could come up with novel challenges within the scope of what a PUA social theory would predict to be doable, it would be a good test of that theory.
(Also, I predict that PUA theorists who agree to such a challenge as being within scope of their theory, will generally update their theory if it bombs. It’s an unusual PUA social theorist who hasn’t done a lot of updating and refinement already, so they are already selected for being open to experimentation, refinement, and objective criteria for success.)
I’m not sure about that… It’s actually a mathematical question, but the proper formalization escapes me at the moment. (Maybe someone could help?) At first glance, any value of hit rate can be equally well-explained by hidden characteristics or by simple randomness. Right now I believe you have to notice some visible characteristic that determines the success of your method before you can conclude that it’s not just randomness. But I can’t prove that with numbers yet.
I should be a little clearer about the priors on which my claims are based.
What I am saying is that the observed level of PUA success is very likely on the hypothesis that the PUA description of the “typical woman” reflects only a small subset within a very heterogeneous population. If I furthermore take into account my prior that women are a heterogeneous population, the observed PUA success is not sufficient evidence that their description is accurate of the “typical woman”.
To be a little more precise:
H = “Traits vary among women with a certain kind of distribution such that the population of women is heterogeneous. Moreover, insofar as there is a typical woman, the PUA description of her is not accurate.”
T = “The PUA description of the typical woman is accurate. That is, PUA methods can be expected to ‘work’ on the typical woman.”
S = “PUAs have the success that we have observed them to have.”
X = Prior knowledge
I grant that p(S | T & X) > p(S | H & X). That is, PUAs would be more likely to have their observed success if their model of the typical woman were accurate.
However, I think that p(S | H & X) is still fairly large. Furthermore, I think that p(H | X) is sufficiently larger than p(T | X) to imply that
p(H | S & X)
= [ p(H | X) / p(S | X) ] p(S | H & X*)
> [ p(T | X) / p(S | X) ] p(S | T & X*)
= p(T | S & X).
[ETA: I’m not sure why that “>” sign is not escaping properly.]
That is, the PUA model of the typical woman is probably inaccurate.
Isn’t this begging the question? You haven’t really given me any reason to update towards your point of view.
No, it’s localizing the source of disagreement :P.
You brought the evidence of pickup artist success to the table. I’m telling you something about the priors that were already on the table. (Here, the table’s contents are my beliefs about the world.) In particular, I’m saying something about why your new evidence isn’t enough to change what I think is probably true.
It’s too difficult to give you exact values for all of the relevant probabilities. But this is a start. For example, now you know that I already grant that p(S | T & X) > p(S | H & X), so you could try to increase my estimation of their difference. Or you could try to show me that p(H | X) doesn’t exceed p(T | X) by as much as I thought. That is, you could try to show me that, even without the evidence of PUA success, I shouldn’t have thought that women are so likely to be heterogeneous.
I don’t expect you to consider all of this work to be worth your time. But at least maybe you have a better sense of what it would take than you had before.
Damn, so this is how Aumann agreement works in the real world. You update! No, you update!
Even without knowing S, the hypothesis T comes with a nifty biological explanation—all those alphas and betas. Does H have anything like that? Why would it be genetically useful for different women to prefer highly different traits in men?
I don’t think that the biology predicts that much psychological unity among humans.
That link argues that each individual interbreeding population does have psychological unity, but there are differences between populations. So PUA techniques should work or fail depending on ethnicity. (Yeah! I win the Non-PC Award!) Is that what you believe?
I see an argument that different populations could have different means for certain quantifiable traits. I don’t see an argument that a single population will be homogeneous.
Moreover, the link claims that populations have diverged on these metrics in fairly short amounts of time. I think that that is evidence for a fair amount of diversity within populations to serve as the raw material for that divergence.
I should clarify that I’m not convinced by the link’s claim that populations differ on those metrics for genetic reasons. But I certainly allow that it’s possible. It’s not ruled out by what we know about biology. I presented the link only as evidence that the case for psychological unity is not a slam-dunk.
cousin_it, I hereby award you the un-PC silver medal for offending both feminists and politically correct race-difference deniers in one sentence.
Different mating practices in different cultures is a piece of data consistent with your hypothesis.
For characteristics that we share with other primates, what would be your evidence that we would not be so heterogeneous in our inner workings?
Yes, people are pretty varied in their cultural trappings and acquired values (i.e. choices of signal expression), but we’re ridiculously common in the mental/emotional machinery by which we obtain that acculturation.
Did you mean, what would be my evidence that we would be so heterogeneous?
Assuming that you did, it’s not clear to me that we share the relevant characteristics with the other primates at the relevant level of abstraction. It’s not known to me that a female chimpanzee would react well to a male she’d never met before putting his arm around her waist.
My understanding is that mating practices vary pretty widely among the primates. They have greater and lesser sexual dimorphism. They are more or less inclined to have harem-type arrangements.
Oops, I temporarily confused homogeneous and heterogeneous, actually. ;-)
Based on your examples, I’d say that where we disagree is on what the correct level of abstraction is. I would expect “arm around the waist” to vary in attractiveness by culture, but the attractiveness of “comfortable initiating touch” to vary a good bit less.
Yes, I think that’s right. I too would expect most women to like men who evince confidence, and who act as though they’re used to being liked rather than disliked.
But it’s less clear to me that initiating touch conveys that attitude without giving 49 out of 50 women the impression that you have other undesirable qualities.
For example, perhaps, by rushing to touch, you give the impression that you are in a hurry to be physically intimate as quickly as possible. She might infer that you lack the confidence or security to pursue courtship at a leisurely pace. Perhaps you are some zero-status interloper who’s trying to get in and out as fast as you can before the local alpha male catches you. And, given the level of inter-tribe violence in the EEA, she might be leery of interlopers. Maybe they present too high a threat of violence or rape to her personally, especially if they seem eager to get intimate quickly.
You’re not imagining the same thing as pjeby when you think of “comfortable initiating touch”. If you appear to be rushing/eager, you’re not appearing comfortable and, as you’ve predicted, will appear less attractive.
I’m considering the possibility that initiating touch a few minutes after meeting a woman for the first time, in and of itself, could convey that you are in a hurry.
That’s the best time to initiate touch. Any later and it will seem out of character or contrived.
I understand that that’s the theory.
What you’re saying sounds weird to me. If there is such a thing as a “local alpha male”, he certainly wouldn’t “pursue courtship at a leisurely pace”.
I’m not convinced of that. The local alpha male might have so many irons in the fire that no one woman should expect to see him in a particular rush to court her.
But it doesn’t really matter what the local alpha male would be expected to do. The local alpha male in the EEA ought to be well known, not a stranger. It doesn’t seem plausible to me that you could fool someone into thinking that you’re him just by initiating some touch. As I understand it, strangers in the EEA were so dangerous that a woman would be very leery about admitting a stranger into her personal space.
Here’s another point: As you know, there’s a whole line of theory in PUA circles about feigning disinterest, so that the woman thinks that you must have higher market value than her. Part of my argument is appealing to that line of thinking. Touching shortly after meeting may imply that you are too eager to be intimate with her.
Let me make a few meta remarks about what I’m arguing and how I’ve argued it.
The above account may not be what is going in with women who profess that they don’t like to be touched by strangers. What I’m trying to do is to make it plausible that the PUA-constructed “typical woman” is not typical by (1) showing that PUA success does not prove that their models of women are generally accurate, and (2) showing that even PUA theory itself has room for women who don’t like to be touched, for the above reasons. Argument (2) is just to open up a “line of retreat” by making the existence of such women seem plausible to a PUA proponent. I’m making the additional claim that such women may in fact be much more common than what the PUA view as I understand it would allow.
The upshot is that PUAs mistakenly think that their success implies that the woman with whom they succeed are typical.
I grant that. Aside from the Aumann-type evidence that I hold my point of view, I’ve given you little else.
However, my position is closer to the null hypothesis, the extreme version of which would posit that women correlate no more with each other than is implied by the definition of “woman”. Unless I misunderstand you, you are asserting that they tend to conform to a certain model of the typical woman espoused by PUAs. Since my view is closer to the null hypothesis, you should be the one presenting evidence for your position. My obligation is just to say what I can about what evidence would convince me.
OK, now we’re getting somewhere.
Counterpoint: whether it’s due to hidden variables, or simple randomness, in either case, what general principle are you able to extract from the example which can be usefully applied to topics other than male/female mating interactions?
Do you think the costs to women are negligible in a utilitarian sense, or just not of interest to you?
I’m not sure really. I just meant that I file it under “things about the world that are beyond my power to control”
Maybe we should be working on the FHI problem.
Friendly Human Intelligence.
Sorry, I’m not following...
See the problem of Friendly AI; that is, if humans are going to make a powerful AI, we should make sure it doesn’t do something to wreck our shit, like turn the whole universe into paperclips or some other crazy thing—i.e. it should be Friendly.
RichardKennaway was putting a jokey spin on the idea by suggesting that we solve the problem of designing Friendly Human Intelligence, by analogy to the problem of designing Friendly Artificial Intelligence. (Edited last sentence for accuracy.)
Exactly. Well, not instead of FAI, but FHI is an important problem, as old as humanity: how to bring up your kids right and stop them wrecking the place.
I’ll take this to the open thread.
You’re right, ‘instead of’ was sloppy phrasing on my side, I’ve edited my comment.
Rationalism, which leads to atheism, is just such an aqua regia. Contact with it can destroy any and all of one’s beliefs. The result is not necessarily an improvement:
It is. It can.
I agree that in principle it’s possible that someone will do worse (or become more harmful to others) by becoming more rational. But do you take it to be likely?
I’ve no basis for attaching numbers. But some of the things some people have said right here on LW or on OB make me wonder.
We are dealing with fire here. Most people learn to use matches safely. That does not mean that matches are safe.
I’d love to hear an elaboration of this. How can rationality be so dangerous?
Perfect rationality is, by definition, perfect and can never go wrong, for if it went wrong, it would not be perfect rationality. But none of us is perfect. When an imperfect person comes into contact with this ultimate solvent of unexamined beliefs, the ways they could go wrong outnumber the ways they could go right.
“There is no such thing as morality, therefore I can lie and steal all I like and you’re a chump if you don’t!” “There is no afterlife, therefore all is meaningless and I should just cut my throat now! Or yours! It doesn’t matter!” “Everything that people say is self-serving lies and if you say you don’t agree you’re just another self-serving liar!” “At last, I see the truth, while everyone else is just another slave of the Matrix!”
That last is a hazard on any path to enlightenment, rationalistic or otherwise. Belief in one’s own enlightenment—even an accurate one—provides a fully general counterargument to anyone else: they’re not as enlightened.
ETA: Those aren’t actual quotations, but I’m not making them up out of thin air. On the first, compare pjeby’s recent description of black-hat PUAs. On the second, a while back (but I can’t find the actual messages) someone here was arguing that unless he could live forever, nothing could matter to him. On the third, black-hat PUAs and people seeing status games at the root of all interaction are going that way. On the last, as I said above, this is a well-known hazard on many paths. There’s even an xkcd on the subject.
Perfect rationality can still go wrong. Consider for example a perfectly rational player playing the Monty Hall game. The rational thing to do is to switch doors. But that can still turn out to be wrong. A perfectly rational individual can still be wrong.
The rational thing to do might be to look behind the doors, but in any case, perfect rationality is not perfect omniscience.
I hope that my reply does not in any way discourage Richard Kennaway’s reply. I am curious about different responses. But mine: rationalism intends to find better ways to satisfy values, but finds in the process that values are negated, or that it would be more rational to modify values.
Some time ago, I had grand hopes that as a human being embedded in reality, I could just look around and think about things and with some steady effort I might find a world view—at least an epistemology—that would bring everything together, or that I could be involved in a process of bringing things together. Kind of the way religion would do, if it was believable and not a bunch of nonsense. However, the continued application of thought and reason to life just seems to negate the value of life.
Intellectually, I’m in a place where life presents as meaningless. While I can’t “go back” to religious thinking—in fact, I suspect I was never actually there, I’ve only ever been looking for a comprehensive paradigm—I think religions have the right idea; they are wise to the fact that intellectualism/objectivity is not the way to go when it comes to experiencing “cosmic meaning”.
Many people never think about the double think that is required in religion. But I suspect many more people have thought about things both ways … a lifetime is a long time, with space for lots of thoughts … and found that “intellectualism” requires double think as well (compartmentalization) but in a way that is immensely less satisfying. In the latter, you intellectually know that “nothing matters” but that you are powerless to experience and apply this viscerally due to biology. Viscerally, you continue to seek comfort and avoid pain, while your intellect tells you there’s no purpose to your movements.
A shorter way of saying all of this: Being rational is supposed to help humans pursue their values. But it’s pretty obvious that having faith is something that humans value.
Although this comment is already long, it seems a concrete example is needed. Culturally, it appears that singularitarians value information (curiosity) and life (immortality). Suppose immortality was granted: we upload our brains to something replicable and durable so that we can persist forever without any concerns. What in the world would we be motivated to do? What would be the value of information? So what if the digits of pi strung endlessly ahead of me?
I think the “mental muscles” model I use is helpful here. We have different ways of thinking that are useful for different things—mental muscles, if you will.
But, the muscles used in critical thinking are, well, critical. They involve finding counterexamples and things that are wrong. While this is useful in certain contexts, it has negative side effects on one’s direct quality of life, just as using one physical muscle to the exclusion of all others would create problems.
Some of the mental muscles used by religion, OTOH, are appreciation, gratitude, acceptance, awe, compassion… all of which have more positive direct effects on quality of life.
In short, even though reason has applications that indirectly lead to improved circumstances of living, its overuse is directly detrimental to the quality of experience that occurs in that life. And while exclusive use of certain mental muscles used in religion can indirectly lead to worsened circumstances of living, they nonetheless contribute directly to an improved quality of experience.
I’ve pretty much always felt that the problem with LessWrong is that it consists of an effort by people who are already overusing their critical faculties, seeking to improve their quality of experience, by employing those faculties even more.
In your case, the search for a comprehensive world view is an example of this: i.e., believing that if your critical faculty was satisfied, then you would be happy. Instead, you’ve discovered that using the critical faculty simply produces more of the same dissatisfaction that using the critical faculty always produces. In a very real sense, the emotion of dissatisfaction is the critical faculty.
In fact, I got the idea of mental muscles from Minsky’s book The Emotion Machine, wherein he proposes mental “resources” organized into larger activation patterns by emotion. That is, he proposes that emotions are actually modes of thought, that determine which resources (muscles) are activated or suppressed in relation to the topic. Or in other words, he proposes that emotions are a form of functional metacognition.
(While Minksy calls the individual units “resources”, I prefer the term “muscles”, because as with physical muscles they can be developed with training, some are more appropriate for some tasks than others, etc. So it’s more vivid and suggestive when training to either engage or “relax” specific “muscle groups”.)
Anyway… tl;dr version: emotions and thinking faculties are linked, so how you think is how you feel and vice versa, and your choice of which ones to use has non-trivial and inescapable side-effects on your quality of life. Choose wisely. ;-)
I’ve always suspected that introspection was tied to negative emotions. It’s more of a tool to help figure out solutions to problems rather than a happy state like ‘being in flow’. People can get addicted to introspection because it feels productive, but remains depressing if no positive action is taken from it.
Do you think this is related to the mental muscles model?
Yep—Minsky actually uses something like it as an example.
I agree and this is insightful: thinking in certain types of ways results in specific predictable emotions. The way I feel about reality is the result of the state of my mind, which is a choice. However, exercising the other set of muscles does not seem to be epistemically neutral. They generate thoughts that my critical faculty would be .. critical of.
For me, many of these muscles seem to require some extent of magical thinking. They generate a belief in a presence that is taking care of me or at least a feeling for the interconnectedness and self-organization of reality. Is this dependency unusual? Am I mistaken about the dependence?
Consider a concrete example: enjoying the sunshine. Enjoyment seems neutral. However, if I want to feel grateful, it seems I feel grateful towards something. I can personify the sun itself, or reality. It seems silly to personify the sun, but I find it quite natural to personify reality. I currently repress personifying reality with my critical muscles, after a while I suspect it would also feel silly.
I’m not sure what I mean by ‘personify’, but while false (or silly) it also seems harmless. Being grateful for the sun never caused me to make—say—a biased prediction about future experience with the sun. But while I’ve argued a few times here that one should be “allowed” false beliefs if they increase quality of life without penalty, I find that I am currently in a mode of preferring “rational” emotions over allowing impressions that would feel silly.
Is this conflict “real”?
Nope. The idea that your brain’s entire contents need to be self-consistent is just the opinion of the part of you that finds inconsistencies and insists they’re bad. Of course they are… to that part of your brain.
I teach people these questions for noticing and redirecting mental muscles:
What am I paying attention to? (e.g. inconsistencies)
Is that useful? (yes, if you’re debugging a program, doing an engineering task, etc. -- no if you’re socializing or doing something fun)
What would it be useful for me to pay attention to?
Is that really necessary? I have not personally observed that gratitude must be towards something in particular, or that it needs to be personified. One can be grateful in the abstract—thank luck or probability or the Tegmark level IV multiverse if you must. Or “thank Bayes!”. ;-)
Sure, there’s a link. I think that Einstein’s question about whether the universe is a friendly place is related. I also think that this is the one place where an emphasis on epistemic truth and decompartmentalization is potentially a serious threat to one’s long-term quality of life.
I think that our brains and bodies more or less have an inner setting for “how friendly/hostile is my environment”—and believing that it’s friendly has enormous positive impact, which is why religious people who believe in a personally caring deity score so high on various quality of life measures, including recovery from illness.
So, this is one place where you need to choose carefully about which truths you’re going to pay attention to, and worry much more about whether you’re going to let too much critical faculty leak over into your basic satisfaction with and enjoyment of life.
Much more than you should worry about whether your uncritical enjoyment is going to leak over and ruin your critical thinking.
Trust me, if you’re worrying about that, then it’s a pretty good sign that the reverse is the problem. (i.e., your critical faculty already has too much of an upper hand!)
This is one reason I say here that I’m an instrumentalist: it’s more important for me to believe things that are useful, than things that are true. And I can (now, after quite a lot of practice) switch off my critical faculties enough to learn useful things from people who have ridiculously-untrue theories about how they work.
For example, “law of attraction” people believe all sorts of stupidly false things… that are nonetheless very useful to believe, or at least to act as if they were true. But I avoid epistemic conflict by viewing such theories as mnemonic fuel for intuition pumps, rather than as epistemically truthful things.
In fact, I pretty much assume everything is just a mnemonic/intuition pump, even the things that are currently considered epistemically “true”. If you’ll notice, over the long term such “truths” of one era get revised to be “less wrong”, even though the previous model usually worked just fine for whatever it was being used for, up to a certain point. (e.g. Newtonian physics)
(Sadly, as models become “less wrong”, they have a corresponding tendency to be less and less useful as mnemonics or intuition pumps, and require outside tools or increased conscious cognition to become useful. (e.g. Einsteinian physics and quantum mechanics.))
Without really being able to make a case that I have successfully done so, I believe it’s possible to improve my life by thinking accurately and making wise choices. It’s hard to think clearly about areas of painful failure, and it’s hard to motivate myself to search for invalidating experiences, rather than self-protectively circumscribing my efforts, but on the other hand I love the feeling of facing and knowing reality.
That reminds me—I’d been intending to add more applause lights to my comments.
I think if you look at the original source for that phrase it reflects the double-edged sword concerns raised by this comment:
I think perhaps discussion of the topic is also seen as low status. And you giving advice to us is implying we are low status.
Because a high status confidant man would just expect the world to conform to them because of their manifest qualities, rather than trying to adapt to the world.
Well, even if Geoffrey Miller’s theories are overshooting it a bit, the role of sexual selection in the evolution of the human mind should not be underestimated. Rather than being some isolated dark corner or irrationality that can be safely corralled and ignored, it seems to me that various inclinations and biases related to the mating behaviors, whether directly or indirectly, are very much all-pervasive in the workings of human minds. Therefore, careful dissection of these behaviors can reveal a lot about human nature that is applicable more widely.
No one wants to take the rules or methods for playing status games or encouraging sexual attraction and generalize from them lessons for how to be rational. What people want to do is (a) apply rationality techniques to this field to better understand how it works and (b) take the techniques people used to learn about this field, specify them, and see if they are applicable more generally.
Women who shit test are typically quite secure, not insecure. You seem to be in a muddle surrounding the subject. That is not to say that I condone everything that everyone on the internet ever says about dating and psychology—but the example quoted is a clear case—passing a shit test is not doing a bad thing. If anything, the person who uses such a test is in more questionable territory, as they are probing you for insecurity.
See previous comment about signal to noise ratio.
Edit: Practical advice that is appropriate for the majority of people on this site is fine, it doesn’t create the noise of confusion and boredom. Akrasia being a good example of appropriate practical advice. As is advice about sleeping, eating, teaching, communicating ideas.
Look at it from the flip side. Should we do make up tips for nerdy girls?
Sure, why not? If a nerdy girl feels she has learned something about rationality from exploring makeup techniques, I would absolutely be interested to hear about it on LessWrong. If other people don’t care about makeup, they don’t have to read her posts.
There are females who are interested. And I don’t just mean for academic reasons.
I suspect but can’t prove that picking up girls as a girl would be different than picking up girls as a guy. Oh and that girls would have different problems with the picking up than men, even if it was the same process.
Self Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back—an account by a lesbian of living as a man in four different male social groups. One of her experiments includes dating women, but I don’t remember the details.
I read Self Made Man a couple years ago, and I highly recommend it. The author is to be commended for such an extensive debiasing project. Vincent found living as a man to have a lot more challenges than she thought. I’ll post some excerpts or articles about her that might be interesting for people here.
Yes, and girls would have different problems with picking up (and maintaining relationships with) guys, but the same general social principles apply. “PUA” is just dating and relationship advice.
I understand this sentiment, but I’m not quite sure about your analogy between football and mating. Football is a sport; mating is a species-typical task. Articles on mating are relevant to a wider audience than articles about football. A better analogy would be between mating and another challenge that almost everyone deals with, such as akrasia.
Not everyone is equally interested in akrasia, but the community seems to find it worth discussing as an example of applying rationality to personal development. Why is mating different?
I see rationality as relevant for females to improve their dating and relationship success, also.
As for those who are just not that into dating, I think this population may contain heterogenous groups:
People who are already in satisfying relationships
People who genuinely aren’t interested in dating, or in relationships that can be achieved by dating.
People who want relationships, but aren’t interested in the dating steps necessary to get there.
People who want relationships and would want to be dating, but have challenges in those areas, and have suppressed or denied their desires.
For people in groups #1 and #2, I can indeed see how they would quickly become bored by discussions of rationality applied to mating, just as someone who has their akrasia issues handled would become bored by continued discussion of akrasia. Individuals in groups #3 and #4 might benefit from such discussions, even if they found them initially uncomfortable. It may be hard to distinguish people in the last three groups from each other.
Hmm, it might be worth doing a questionnaire to try and distinguish between these and find out the demographics on this site.
Questions about how well they interact with women etc.
The sorts of relationships I’m interested might possibly be achieved by dating/going to clubs. But most standard relationships don’t appeal. There is a probability of low pay off for me for learning about standard techniques. I’m better off seeing if I mesh well with people on a shared task/problem.
Voted up. You got away from the bar room chat and said something about the heart of the post. I am sure that many people have their adult lives fenced in by decision about themselves taken in childhood. It is always a good idea to challenge yourself to overcome such fences.
“If you’re kind of good at (or interested in) analytical things, and kind of bad at (or uninterested in) social things, you’ll specialize your own brain in that direction. It may even be in your best interest to specialize to some extent, to play to your strengths.”
I agree with this. I would also like to add, especially with higher-functioning autistics , that they are quite aware of the practicality of social skills and status, and if wrongplanet users are any indicator, many if not most want to be genuinely socially adept. Regarding the NT vs. AS model, here are a couple possible reasons as to why NTs have better social skills: 1) It is unconscious and hard-wired, or 2) due to being more vigilant for social cues and body-language, learn the rules of the game earlier in life and reap the benefits as a result. I prefer the latter explanation, because it means one can be socially competent once these rules are taught.
What about the other side of the same coin: how can we get neurotypicals to use more of their cognitive resources to solve non-social (e.g., technical) problems? When I look at people who seem to spend almost all of their time and energy playing social games that largely don’t matter, I can’t help but think “what a waste.”
To use myself as an example, I think I’m neurotypical, but lost interest in making friends and socializing in my teenage years due to negative feedback (not “fitting in” after immigrating from China and having different interests from my peers). As a result, I now have a lot more time to think about technical and philosophical problems. And while perhaps not quite GPGPU, I speculate that due to neuroplasticity, some of my neurons that would have gone into running social interactions are now being used for other purposes instead.
Let’s use them to simulate an economy!
LOLed and upvoted.
(Well, it was more like I made a wheezing screeching noise than an actual “laugh” out loud, but still...)
I’ve thought a bit about this question, and what I’ve come up with so far is that neurotypicals will become more interested in developing technical abilities when doing so is considered cool, and all their friends are doing it.
Since when do social games not matter?
When your utility function assigns little weight to them. Social games matter quite a bit to a lot of people, and less to others. I know that sounds almost tautological, but the point is that people differ here.
Even if you don’t like or care about social games, other things you may care about can depend on them, such as:
Not getting bullied or pushed around by other people
Finding mates outside a narrow nerdy minority of people
Business and job negotiation
For social games to truly not matter, you need to have a very narrow preference set where you not only don’t care for social games, but you don’t need or want anything that can be achieved by them. It would be like not caring about money, and also not caring about anything money can buy you. It’s possible to have that preference set; it’s just a tall order.
A large amount of doors in neurotypical society are closed to you if you can’t play social games at some level. I would speculate that for many people who think they don’t care about silly things like social games, those very social games actually do impact other things they care about, and they are either unaware of that impact or in denial about it.
I think social games do matter, just not nearly to the degree that most people seem to think, judging from how they spend their time. I think the explanation for this is that social games mattered much more in the past than they do now, but most people don’t realize this yet. And on the other side, there are a lot more opportunities for technical problem solving, which weren’t available in the past.
I was bullied in school, but eventually graduated, and I don’t think anyone tried to push me around after starting work. If they did, I would have complained to my boss or changed jobs. In a less mobile society, if you didn’t know how to “handle yourself”, you were probably stuck with low status for life.
Being single isn’t that bad. I imagine it was a lot worse in the past, where there was much less you could do to entertain yourself.
I spent most of my spare time in college writing an open source C++ library, which led to plenty of business and job opportunities. I really doubt that I would have gotten more opportunities if I had spent most of my time socializing instead. I also didn’t put any effort into networking after starting work, and I don’t think that it’s hurt me much.
Looking back at my past job interviews, I now realize that when the interviewer asked me what salary range I was expecting, that was supposed to be the start of the negotiation. At the time, I just told them honestly that I don’t know, and that I care more about how interesting the job is than the salary.
That was probably not optimal, but I don’t think I was hurt too badly by my lack of negotiation skill. And the reason for this is that salaries and other prices are constrained by market competition, and markets are more efficient today than in the past, leaving less room for negotiation.
Even if they don’t matter as terminal values, it doesn’t mean they don’t matter as instrumental values either.
The comments to this post and most of the other literature I’ve read assumes that the problem with poorly social people is that they’re afraid, not sure how to carry out a conversation effectively, or make poor decisions when confronted with social dilemmas.
Anecdotally, my experience isn’t like this at all. I’m pretty good, maybe even better than average, at talking to people in one-to-one conversations, at home, at cafes, on the bus, before class, and pretty much any time other than at deliberately social events. But at bars or parties, the constantly shifting conversations of dozens of people trying to all talk to each other at once at a mile a minute, about nothing in particular, in a loud and overstimulating environment completely discombobulates me, and I usually end up either ignored, unable to break into a conversation more than once every few minutes, or just plain bored with having nothing to say but the same small talk everyone else is making.
Maybe I’m atypical of non-social people, but I also give a bit of credence to the possibility that all this “not knowing how to give the right reply in a conversation” stuff is what neurotypical people imagine being bad at socializing must be like, the same way hicks sometimes deal with non-English speakers by speaking English words really loud and slowly because they can’t imagine what it’s like to genuinely not understand English. But I’d like to hear from other non-social people to confirm.
(I got a 23 on the test)
this is indicative that you are paying attention to the topic/words of the conversation, rather than the sub-communication, which is often the interesting bit for these kinds of conversations. People who can’t read social cues and sub-communication typically don’t get why others find small talk so “interesting”, but this is rather like a radio that sends the carrier wave rather than the signal to the loudspeaker. The topics are just there as a “carrier wave” which is then modulated to encode social signals.
Sub-communication includes agreement/disagreement (someone agrees with you to signal alliance, disagrees to signal enmity), tone of voice (tone that rises towards the end of the sentence indicates submission, tone that falls towards the end conflict/assertiveness/dominance), body language, who gets to talk most/who listens most. Once you tune your radio in, you may find such occasions more exciting.
Tuning in to the carrier wave in social situations is a common failure mode for smart people, because we feel comfortable assessing factual statements.
For me, understanding “what’s really going on” in typical social interactions made them even less interesting than when I didn’t. At least back then it was a big mystery to be solved. Now I just think, what a big waste of brain cells.
Roko, do you personally find these status and alliance games interesting? Why? I mean, if you play them really well, you’ll end up with lots of allies and high status among your friends and acquaintances, but what does that matter in the larger scheme of things? And what do you think of the idea that allies and status were much more important in our EEA (i.e., tribal societies) than today, and as a result we are biased to overestimate their importance?
Well, that depends upon your axiology.
If you are concerned with existential risk, then it is worth noting that the movement has an undersupply of “people people”, a big gender imbalance and an undersupply of money. (I think that ability to make money is determined, to some extent, by your ability at these social games)
You may feel that status within a social group is an end in itself.
If you are concerned with academic learning, discovering new mathematics/philosophy, then getting better at these social games is probably not so important.
Their importance is a function of our values, which came from the EEA and are not so easily changed. Those values, like wanting friendship, community, relationships, and respect, are a part of what make us human.
I actually don’t interpret social interactions as “status and alliance games,” which is kind of cynical and seems to miss the point. Instead, I try to recognize that people have certain emotional requirements that need to be met in order to gain their trust, friendship, and attraction, and that typical social interactions are about building that type of trust and connection.
Most of what we call values seem to respond to arguments, so they’re not really the kind of fixed values that a utility maximizer would have. I would be wary about calling some cognitive feature “values that came from the EEA and are not easily changed”. Given the right argument or insight, they probably can be changed.
So, granted that it’s human to want friendship, community, etc., I’m still curious whether it’s also human to care less about these things after realizing that they boil down to status and alliance games, and that the outcomes of these games don’t count for much in the larger scheme of things.
Well, is it also human to stop desiring tasty food once you realize that it boils down to super-stimulation of hardware that evolved as a device for impromptu chemical analysis to sort out nutritionally adequate stuff from the rest?
As for the “larger scheme of things,” that’s one of those emotionally-appealing sweeping arguments that can be applied to literally anything to make it seem pointless and unworthy of effort. Selectively applying it is a common human bias. (In fact, I’d say it’s a powerful general technique for producing biased argumentation.)
Not to stop desiring it entirely, but to care less about it than if I didn’t realize, yes. (I only have a sample size of one here, namely myself, so I’m curious if others have the same experience.)
I don’t think I’m applying it selectively… we’re human and we can only talk about one thing at a time, but other than that I think I do realize that this is a general argument that can be applied to all of our values. It doesn’t seem to affect all of them equally though. Some values, such as wanting to be immortal, and wanting to understand the nature of reality, consciousness, etc., seem to survive the argument much better than others. :)
Honestly, I don’t see what you’re basing that conclusion on. What, according to you, determines which human values survive that argument and which not?
I’m surprised that you find the conclusion surprising or controversial. (The conclusion being that some some values survive the “larger scheme of things” argument much better than others.) I know that you wrote earlier:
but I didn’t think those words reflected your actual beliefs (I thought you just weren’t paying enough attention to what you were writing). Do you really think that people like me, who do not think that literally everything is pointless and unworthy of effort, have just avoided applying the argument to some of our values?
It seems obvious to me that some values (e.g., avoiding great pain) survive the argument by being hardwired to not respond to any arguments, while others (saving humanity so we can develop an intergalactic civilization, or being the first person in an eventually intergalactic civilization to really understand how decisions are supposed to be made) are grand enough that “larger scheme of things” just don’t apply. (I’m not totally sure I’m interpreting your question correctly, so let me know if that doesn’t answer it.)
As the only logical possibilities, it’s either that, or you have thought about it and concluded that the argument is not applicable to some values. I don’t find the reasons for this conclusion obvious, and I do see many selective applications of this argument as a common bias in practice, which is why I asked.
Yes, that answers my question, thanks. I do have disagreements with your conclusion, but I grant that you are not committing the above mentioned fallacy outright.
In particular, my objections are that: (1) for many people, social isolation and lack of status is in fact a hardwired source of great pain (though this may not apply to you, so there is no disagreement here if you’re not making claims about other people), (2) I find the future large-scale developments you speculate about highly unlikely, even assuming technology won’t be the limiting factor, and finally (3) even an intergalactic civilization will matter nothing in the “larger scheme of things” assuming the eventual heat death of the universe. But each of these, except perhaps (1), would be a complex topic for a whole another discussion, so I think we can leave our disagreements rest at this point now that we’ve clarified them.
Agreed: this is an instance of the Godshatter concept
What makes the desire to obtain high status within some small group a legitimate piece of Godshatter (good), as opposed to a kind of scope insensitivity (bad)? Or to put it another way, why isn’t scope insensitivity (the non-linear way that a typical human being values other people’s suffering) also considered Godshatter?
Voted up as this is an important and general question about converting human intuitions into a formal utility function.
Do we have a general criterion for deciding these things? Or is it still unresolved in general?
In this specific case, it seems to me that there are many aspects of social interaction that are zero-sum or even negative sum. For the purpose of Coherent Extrapolated Volition, zero sum or negative sum elements are like scope insensitivity, i.e. bad.
There are clearly some social status games that are positive sum.
I think it’s unresolved in general. I brought up scope insensitivity as a counter-example to the “Godshatter” argument, or at least a strong form of it which says we should keep all of the values that evolution has handed down to us. It seems likely that we shouldn’t, but exactly where to draw the line is unclear to me. Still, to me, desire for high status in some small group seems to be the same kind of “crazy” value as scope insensitivity.
I wasn’t talking about CEV, I was mainly talking about what you or I should value, now, as individuals. I’m not sure that positive-sum/zero-sum has much to do with that.
Deciding which psychological drives to keep, and which to abandon, is the same as figuring out full formal preference (assuming you have more expressive power than just keeping/abandoning), so there is no heuristic for doing that simpler than full formal preference. This problem isn’t just unresolved, it’s almost FAI-complete (preference theory, as opposed to efficient implementation).
Can you expand on this? It isn’t logically inconsistent to want to have status…
Status should be about gaining allies and mates, correct? Just as charity is about helping people.
Gaining more allies and mates (especially for a male) should be better than gaining fewer agreed? If so, why do maths professors spend so much time and effort trying to gain status in the small world of maths? They would be better off appealing to the lowest common denominator and using their intellect to wow people in something more accessible.
The quality of the allies also matters. Having allies that can’t help you in your chosen goals is a drain on resources.
However, that’s not how human brains work. It’s not like someone who on an average day spends, say, eight hours doing intellectual work and four hours socializing could do 50% more useful intellectual work by spending 12 hours working instead of socializing. For the overwhelming majority of people, it’s impossible to employ their brains productively for more than a few hours a day. You get tired and lose focus to the point where you’re just making a mess instead of progress.
Similarly, if you develop skills independent of your main intellectual pursuits, it’s not like they will automatically steal resources and make you less productive. Human brain just doesn’t work that way. On the contrary, a suitable schedule of entertaining diversions can increase your productivity in your main pursuit.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some people really can spend nearly all their waking hours intensely focused and fully productive, without the need or want for anything more in their lives. However, this is a very small minority, even among people working in math, hard science, and technical professions.
That argument can be used to deny the importance of absolutely everything you do. Unless you believe that some part of you came into existence supernaturally, or you’re carrying some highly consequential recent mutation, absolutely everything in your thoughts and deeds is a result of some impulse that evolved in the EEA (although of course it might be manifesting itself in a way very different from the original in today’s environment).
I agree with everything, except:
-- unless you’re using “impulse” in a very broad sense. Plenty of thoughts and deeds (even in the System 1) are the result of your brain’s inputs in your life so far.
Merely “tuning in” to a social interaction isn’t enough. Subtextual conversations are often tedious if they’re not about you. You have to inject your ego into the conversation for things to get interesting.
They’re way more interesting than video games, for example. Or watching television. Or numerous other activities people find fun and engaging. Of course, if you’re bad at them you aren’t going to enjoy them; the same goes for people who can’t get past the first stage of Pac-Man.
Video games have a lot of diversity to them and different genres engage very different skills. Small talk all seems to encompass the same stuff, namely social ranking.
Some of us know how to do it but just don’t -care-, and that doesn’t mean we’re in fact bad at it. I think that is the point this comment thread is going for.
Be careful when you notice more diversity in subject matter you’re a fan of than in subject matter that you’re not. I’m not sure if there’s a name for this bias, but there should be.
I would expect this people are just more familiar with what they’re a fan of, but it could also be related to outgroup homogeneity bias.
That’s definitely it. I suspect it’s too much like work for most people to pay attention to the details of things they aren’t fond of.
Your link is broken.
My father disparages all video games as being “little men running around on a screen”.
When you do that sort of thing to people, it’s called stereotyping of the group you don’t like. I don’t know of a word for noticing distinctions in the thing or people you do like.
Could it just be characterized as a specific example of the halo effect?
There’s also the fact that video games … have a freaking rule book, which tells you things that aren’t complete fabrications designed to make you fail the game if you’re stupid enough to follow them.
I really like the idea of creating a video game with a deceptive rulebook.
I thought for a bit that it would be interesting to have, say, a WWI game where the tutorial teaches you nineteenth-century tactics and then lets you start the game by throwing massed troops against barbed wire, machineguns, and twentieth-century artillery. The slaughter would be epic.
I really like this idea too. Portal does this to some extent, but the idea could be taken much farther.
Not disagreeing with your general point, but...
...with video games, the printed, widely available strategy guides often tend to be lacking. For adventure games or Final Fantasy-type games, you can often get decent walkthroughs. But for many games, like say, Diablo II (thinking of the last strategy guide I read), the strategy guide sold in mainstream bookstores can’t get you much farther than a n00b level of play.
To actually get good, the best thing to do is to go to online forums and listen to what people who are actually experienced at the game are saying.
In the case of both social skills and video games, the best way to learn is to practice, and to get advice from the source: people who already broke down the task and are experienced and successful at it, not the watered-down crap in mainstream bookstores.
You effectively answered your own comment, but to clarify -
Strategy guides on dead tree have been obsolete for more than a decade. GameFAQs is over a decade old, and it’s the best place to go for strategies, walkthroughs, and message boards full of analysis by armies of deticated fans. People are still finding new and inventive strategies to optimize their first-generation Pokemon games, after all. Games have long passed the point on the complexity axis where the developper’s summary of the point of the game is enough to convey an optimal strategy.
Your last paragraph is gold.
Right, but at least with video games, the rule book tells you what the game is, and what it is you’re judged on. That gives you enough to make sense of all the other advice people throw at you and in-game experience you get, which is a lot more than you can say of social life.
This is something that’s been discussed a few times on LW, but I don’t think it’s accurate. I don’t think there are two sets of rules, a “real” one and a “fake” one. Rather, I think that the rules for social interaction are very complicated and have a lot of exceptions, and any attempt to discuss it will inevitably be oversimplified. Temple Grandin’s book discusses this idea: all social rules have exceptions that can’t be spelled out in full.
The status test (actually a social skills test) isn’t to see if you fail by being stupid enough to follow the “fake” rules rather than the “real ones”. It’s to see if you’re savvy enough to understand all the nuances and exceptions to the rules.
It’s a bad analogy because there are different kinds of games, but only one kind of small talk? If you don’t think pub talk is a different game than a black tie dinner, well, you’ve obviously never played. Why do people do it? Well, when you beat a video game, you’ve beat a video game. When you win at social interaction, you’re winning at life—social dominance improves your chances of reproducing.
As for rule books: the fact that the ‘real’ rules are unwritten is part of the fun. Of course, that’s true for most video games. Pretty much any modern game’s real tactics come from players, not developers. You think you can win a single StarCraft match by reading the manual? Please.
No, pub talk is not exactly the same as a black tie dinner. The -small talk- aspect, though, very much is. It all comes down to social ranking of the participants. In the former, it skews to word assortative mating and in the latter presumably toward power and resources in the buisness world.
If you have a need or desire to win at social interaction, good for you. Please consider that for other people, it -really- isn’t that important. There is more to life than attracting mates and business partners. Those things are often a means to an end, and it is preferable to some of us to pursue the ends directly when possible.
The video game analogy is just plain bad.
What I usually dislike about the small talk game is that it’s often played by people who don’t know each other well and/or by people who are so conformist as to be intrinsically boring. It’s one thing to measure alliances among fascinating, dynamic people who are out in the world doing and being things. I would be more than happy to listen to say, Dan Savage, Janet Napolitano, and Max Tegmark make small talk. Ditto people in their 20s who were correspondingly less accomplished but who look likely to get to that kind of exciting impact level later in life.
But when the people sitting around a table are pushing papers in (say) the finance industry by day, watching cable TV in the evening, having vanilla sex at night, and going to see a national rock band and a national sports team over the weekend, what’s the attraction? Or when the people have all just met each other, and are making their strategic decisions about dominance and alliances based on nothing subtler than who they find attractive and who shares their opinion about a piece of pop-culture or current-events trivia? Why should I care how the alliances ultimately break down among a group of people who, as individuals, hold no dramatic interest for me in the first place?
I get that small talk can be practically useful, so I have successfully made an effort to acquire a moderate level of skill at it. But I don’t see why I’m supposed to enjoy it, whether I’m at a pub or a black-tie gala award ceremony.
Because people can tell when you don’t, even if they’re too polite to mention it.
That’s why, btw, “How To Win Friends And Influence People” advises cultivating a genuine interest in people, and PUAs advise more or less the same thing. By becoming a connoisseur of the finer (in the sense of more finely-graded) distinctions between people, and cultivating your curiosity about “what people are like”, you gain more enjoyment.
And genuinely enjoying a person’s company is the hardest, most expensive signal to fake… which might be why people evolved to value it so much.
I know a couple who embody this principle, btw—Garin and Vanessa Bader. I met them at a series of marketing workshops, actually. By their second time there, practically everybody would line up to talk to them during breaks. Not because they were presenters or anything, but just because they radiated such enjoyment to everyone they spoke with, that people could hardly help but want to spend more time with them.
The way Vanessa explained it to me, when I interviewed her for one of my own CD products, was that people are so constantly worried about what other people are going to think of them, that they no longer even notice. But the moment they encounter someone who genuinely accepts them as they are, without any judgment, they suddenly feel so much better that they can’t help but want to be around you. So, she said, she and Garin just always acknowledge and accept everyone.
And that is the difference between these very charismatic (and fairly successful) people, and people who go around judging whether other people are living up to their standards. ;-)
(Fair disclaimer: I don’t claim to have personally reached anything remotely near G&V’s level of nonjudgmental acceptance, but I can definitely see why it’d be a good thing for me to aspire to. And I’ve occasionally attempted to practice it in specific situations, with some small success.)
Yes yes yes, a million times yes. This is so true for me. My (successful) attempts to modify myself to be more social were sparked off by meeting just such a person. It was a girl I met on the street three years ago. We started talking, then went to her place and spent the night talking. There was no sexual tension at all (though we did have sex much later), I just sat there thinking “holy crap, I’ve been sitting in a box my whole life, I have to learn this.” It was absolutely glorious to feel not judged in the least. I have since learned to project a similar vibe when I try really hard.
Allow me to express polite but strong skepticism on this point. I would be very much surprised to find that they accept literally EVERYONE. Do they acknowledge panhandlers the same way as attendees to marketing conferences? How about leading politicians from the opposite party as theirs? Religious leaders from a different religion?
It’s easy to say “just genuinely accept everyone” when you don’t even see most of the people around you.
In fact, really acknowledging and accepting -everyone- would probably ruin them in short order as they would find all their time and resources wasted on people that they are quite right to filter. No one has the time and resources to -actually- do what they are advocating.
It’s empty advice.
EDIT: fixed some typos after having a nice, stimulating cup of coffee.
[shrug] I observed them at least treating wait staff, valets, hotel personnel, etc. with the same warm glow they did everyone else. Also, it’s not like there weren’t some obnoxious people at these conferences—but even when they maintained their personal boundaries, I didn’t see them get judgmental or even show any disapproval. They smiled just as warmly, and bid their farewells.
I didn’t say they didn’t filter people. They just didn’t judge people.
In other words, they didn’t confuse a conflict of goals with meaning that somebody else was bad, wrong, or unworthy for having those different goals, nor did they confuse accepting people with having to agree with them or give anything that was asked of them. They simply said “no” as warmly as they said “yes”, and often with a sense of reluctance that made you feel as though they genuinely wished the no could have been a yes, but that alas, it was simply not to be.
How does one acknowledge and accept everybody without filtering people?
What I have seen of people who hold non-judgmentalism as a aspiration has led me to believe that it is a deeply anti-rational ideal. The net result is repeating the same mistakes over and over, such as associating with people who will will take advantage of the non-judger, or not correcting a critical failure because it’s judgemental to consider it a failure. By critical failure I mean things like dropping out of the workforce out of sheer laziness; it would be judgemental to say that this is wrong so therefore it’s wrong to stop anyone, including yourself, from doing so.
So they judged people and their needs or wants, then proceeded to claim they were non-judgemental. Either somebody isn’t thinking through the meaning of “judgement”, or doesn’t care about the actual implications of that advice if it is really followed 100%.
Er, pjeby said that they did filter people.
Taboo judge. They decided whether to say “yes” or “no” to a request, and they (allegedly) didn’t enter into some class of cognitive states associated with negative affect or disapproval.
Right—where the specific states involved are the ones that we use to signal lowered status or withdrawal of friendly interaction on the basis of a personal inadequacy or moral failing. In the vernacular, they didn’t “look down their noses” on anybody, but instead treated them as if they were worthy of appreciation.
I just went back to listen to parts of the interview again to refresh my memory (it’s been three years), and some of the key points Vanessa made were:
It feels good to experience being approved of, and paid attention to
It also feels good when you make other people feel good, by approving of and listening to them (which is a big part of why she and Garin do it)
Both only happen if you’re sincere, rather than faking it
She says she tries to remember that she can learn something from everyone, as a way of evoking a state of genuine interest in herself
When you proactively project approval towards people before they even do or say anything, they start the conversation relaxed and feeling better—and attribute this to you.
People often confuse arrogance and confidence—they think they have to put on a big show in order to impress people, but really this is just another form of approval seeking.
She described the more useful attitude as “humble, but not apologetic”, i.e., her openness to learn something from anyone, while at the same time not apologizing for her own choices, opinions, or personal boundaries.
These are just quick summaries from a ten-minute excerpt of the full interview, but I think this was the only section where we really talked about approval seeking or the process by which she and Garin “proactively approved of” people before meeting them.
I have a problem here. Filtering implies that some judgement has been made, and the person has been found wanting. It is harmful to advise against filtering, and therefore also harmful to advise against judging.
Advising people not to judge others is not the same as what you said. My point is only that this constitues bad advice.
Wow. You really are adding a lot of baggage to this… and it has nothing to do with what Vanessa said about how to treat people, or how I saw her and Garin treating people.
I never saw them let anybody walk all over them—they just didn’t get upset by people trying.
There’s a difference between accepting a person, and accepting their behavior.
Clearly, you are using a different definition of “judge” than I am.
For example, if I were to “judge” you in this interaction, I would say you’re being rude, nasty, and massively projecting your experiences onto something that has nothing to do with them… and I would attribute this as a personal characteristic of you… e.g. you are irrational, you are projecting, etc.
If I were, on the other hand, following Garin and Vanessa’s example, I would probably say something like, “wow, you really had a painful experience with that, didn’t you?” and then either change the subject or drop the conversation if I didn’t want to pursue it any further.
IOW, not judging you, but rather paying attention to your experience and communication, and accepting you as a person worthy of compassion, rather than someone who should be written off as a matter of moral assessment. (vs. simply personally not wanting to continue the interaction).
I hope that that’s enough information for you to be able to separate whatever definition of “judgment” you’re using, from the one I’m talking about here.
(Attempting to make another link with LW references, you might say that Vanessa’s advice was to avoid indulging our human tendency towards fundamental attribution error.)
Let me sum it up more simply: Telling people not to judge is not an accurate reflection of what they actually do.
I tried to explain why non-judgmentalism is a bad value to uphold. I have nothing to say about Garin and Vanessa, only about the value of the advice proffered.
As I said, you can judge behavior without judging a person. i.e., I can say, “I don’t like what you’re doing”, without it meaning “I don’t like you”.
The advice was about judging people, not about refraining from judgment in the abstract.
I doubt they meant literally EVERYONE. I’m guessing Garin and Vanessa just meant that they’re in the top percent of non-judgmentally accepting people. Just as if someone says to me ‘I get along with everyone,’ I don’t interpret it as meaning they get along with literally every single person on the planet, I interpret it as something weaker like ‘Of the people I know, I get along with almost all of them, and have a good chance of clicking with random people I meet.’
You make a valid point that the comfort zone of even the most tolerant people is unlikely to extend to random panhandlers, and if Garin and Vanessa spend 99% of their time with self help gurus and marketing conference attendees, they’re probably overestimating their acceptance-ness.
I don’t think this is fatal to pjeby’s main point, though; it sounds likely to me that a lot of people who dislike small talk could probably improve their social hit rate by turning up their acceptance-ness knob.
(Edited to fix Garin’s (not Gavin’s!) name. Note to self: read what’s on the screen, not what I think is on the screen.)
At the time of those conferences, they spent 99% of their time on cruise ships, working as entertainers. So I they spent a lot more time with tourists and ship staff than with their internet marketing colleagues.
And I find it difficult to imagine that they didn’t mean it. I had the impression that for Vanessa at least (I haven’t interviewed Garin for anything, at least not yet), it was a matter of principle.
I don’t mean that they’re saints or that I don’t think they’d ever have a bad day and lose their temper or anything, but I do believe they sincerely look for the (potential) good in literally everyone they encounter, even if there’s some distinct possibility that they might miss it or that it might not be there to be found.
Think of it like being a rationalist aspiration to always tell the truth and never self-decieve: setting that as your aspiration does not mean you always can or will accomplish it, but at the same time, it doesn’t mean your aspiration should be downgraded to “being in the top percentage” of truth-telling and non self-deception!
Ah, fair enough.
It also doesn’t mean you get to claim that you always tell the truth and never self decieve.
Having known some people who made “accepting everyone” and “being non-judgemental” a point of honour and seen the results, I find it very hard to believe that is possible to be successful and really live up to those ideals. I also don’t think they’re very good ideals.
How do you think most of these people ended up in the position where people like you are aware of them as representing these traits? Very often it will have been in large part through greater mastery of social dynamics. Generally the best known/most successful people in any given field won’t have got there purely through ability in their field but through a combination of ability in their field and mastery of the social dynamics of that field.
So if I’m with a bunch of people from my class, and I already know who’s considered “high status”, and none of us have any major conflict of interest that would make us want to assess whether or not the others are allies or not, wouldn’t we all just be broadcasting generic “I like you well enough and consider you pretty much an equal, except in the context of this and this and this fact which we already both know quite well” signals? Go to a party with thirty people, and unless someone’s committed the faux pas of inviting my arch-enemy, I do this thirty times. If anything, this seems even less interesting than literally talking about the weather.
If you can recommend a good free source of information that explains this (or a book that’s worth the money), even better.
EDIT: Yeah, what Wei Dai said.
If you were a character in a sitcom I was writing, I’d have your dream girl walk in just as you were saying that.
BenAlbahari, that is mean—but funny!
If you’re in a social situation that is without drama, then the social subcommunications will be relatively uninteresting.
However, there are many interactions where this will not be the case, e.g. dating/romance, probably business events that involve alliance and conflicting interest.
This mirrors my experience, but then how come other people, whose lives are generally just as boring as mine, seem to like parties?
Innate need to socialize, probably?
What you’re describing seems like the introversion/extroversion distinction, which is probably different from, although possibly overlapping and somewhat correlated with, the autism spectrum/NT distinction. The introversion/extroversion literature seems to capture the difference pretty well; just about everything I’ve read about introversion recognizes that introverts can be competent to excellent at one-on-one or small group socializing, but that they are probably less good and certainly uncomfortable in large group settings. But I don’t recall reading much about introverts that suggests they’re unable to read social cues (although they may have less practice at it as well as less interest).
I haven’t seen a breakdown on introversion/extroversion numbers in the population (my own quick Google search found an article in the Atlantic with this passage: “How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—‘a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.’”), and as NancyLebovitz also suggests, I believe it varies between cultures, but what numbers I have seen seem to suggest that the percentage of people who fall more on the introverted side of the scale is probably considerably greater than the percentage of people who fall on the autism spectrum.
It’s certainly possible that neurotypical people misunderstand autism spectrum people, and that extroverts misunderstand introverts (the Atlantic article makes that argument), but the autism spectrum descriptions about not understanding social cues seem to be getting at something real and different than introversion. Your description makes you sound like an introvert but not particularly far along (if at all) on the autism spectrum. It does seem like some of our commentary here may sometimes be casually conflating extroversion with neurotypicalness and introversion with autism spectrum.
I didn’t quite say that.
There’s social pressure to be extroverted in the US—but there are a lot of unhappy introverts. There’s social pressure to be introverted in other places (Great Britain?), but for all I know there are a lot of squelched-feeling, lonely extroverts.
Finns (disclaimer: I am one) are probably the archetypal introverts.
-- You know you’ve been too long in Finland when...
Alas no, there is no social pressure to be introverted here in the UK, at least not in my generation and younger. We have the same celebrity culture which idolises the loud and outgoing as does America.
Middle class, middle aged British people are a bit more reserved than the younger generation.
I live in Ireland, and the social pressure in favor of extraversion is at least as great as in the United States.
Finns (disclaimer: I am one) are probably the archetypal introverts.
I apologize for misreading your comment. When you wrote:
I had thought you were suggesting that cultural pressure would influence people to become extroverts (or introverts as the case may be in some cultures). Actually, I would guess that the dominant social culture would cause both these things: 1) some people, probably influenced from an early age, would be more likely to become extroverts in an extrovert-dominated culture (or vice versa); and 2) some people would feel unhappy because they didn’t fit into the dominant culture.
I agree it’s plausible those who have some flexibility between introversion and extroversion will probably become what fits in their culture, but not everyone can do that.
It occurs to me that we’re putting a lot of thought into how people can be more like extroverts, but I haven’t heard anything about how people can become more comfortable with their own company. Meditation presumably helps, but is there anything more specific?
I believe that is a US-specific figure
Indeed, I have slightly higher AQ than him but nearly median extroversion, and my experience is the opposite of his.
Isn’t introversion/extroversion a continuum? If so, what would that question even mean? How many people are tall?
For what it’s worth, you’ve echoed my experience precisely.
It’s easy and good to talk in one-on-one or small groups of people. It’s also easy for me to speak publicly or in front of an audience. But interaction in strictly social settings—parties, bars, clubs—is almost painful. I don’t know how to begin. The impression is just that of trying to start climbing a wall that admits no footholds.
I’m pretty certain I don’t fall very far on the Asperger’s spectrum. In particular, I can read body language and subtext pretty well, and I’m considerate of others to a degree I haven’t seen in people I know who actually have Asperger’s. I suspect that, as others have said, we’re conflating distinct causes under a single banner.
Your comments sound as if I wrote it myself =) But wait, do you have Asperger’s? If so, I should really get checked.
Growing up, my social skills were fairly slow to develop, but at this point in my life, I’ve practiced enough to actually be quite socially savvy with people. I can easily weave humour, emotional intelligence, facial expressions, deep comprehension, etc into my conversations. I’m always making new friends.
But, I’ve never been able to handle environments with too much stimulus (bars/clubs), when someone’s voice is overlapping with a dozen other voices in the room: I can’t understand them. When there’s constant noises, light displays, many events around me: I feel a sort of confusion / cognitive dissonance.
This is not a matter of introversion/extroversion in my case: my ability to comprehend people in these environments just drops. Sometimes to the point where I seem deaf. However in 1-on-1 situations, there’s no issues. I can be quite extroverted, an initiator.
If this is your only or primary problem I would recommend having your hearing checked before you start on the neuro stuff.
Okay, I’ll keep this in mind, but is this potentially a hearing problem when I can hear people whispering to me 1-on-1?
“When many people talk at once I can’t distinguish their voices” is a common first symptom of hearing damage. “I can’t hear when somebody is whispering” is unusual as first symptom. So I would guess that the answer to your question is yes. And in any case, if you go to an ear doctor they can find out for certain whether or not you have a hearing problem.
I think sensitivity to faint sounds and the ability to sort signal from background noise are separate abilities.
That’s true, however people with severe hearing loss can often hear faint sounds provided the sounds contain frequencies that stimulate the cilia in their cochlea that remain undamaged. A person with normal hearing will tend to tolerate more audio interference than a hearing impaired person.
Doesn’t sound like a hearing problem to me. It sounds more like you’re easily overwhelmed, which is pretty common, and may mean you have a very very slight amount of sensory integration difficulties, which is one symptom of the autism spectrum.
Also, culture affects how social people are expected to be.
I’ve been in a discussion of introversion where it was clear that extroversion is much more compulsory in the US than in a lot of other places.
In my case, it’s mostly the other way round. I enjoy talking to groups of people and even entertaining them, but in one-to-one conversations I quickly lose interest or run out of things to say unless the other person is someone I particularly like or we have interests in common (such people comprising maybe 30% of the population or less).
The thing that I have been most surprised by is how much NTs like symbols and gestures.
Here are some examples:
Suppose you think your significant other should have a cake on his/her birthday. You are not good at baking. Aspie logic: “It’s better to buy a cake from a bakery than to make it myself, since the better the cake tastes the happier they’ll be.” Of course, the correct answer is that the effort you put into it is what matters (to an NT).
Suppose you are walking through a doorway and you are aware that there is someone about 20 feet behind you. Aspie logic: “If I hold the door for them they will feel obligated to speed up a little, so that I’m not waiting too long. That will just inconvenience them. Plus, it’s not hard to open a door. Thus, it’s better for them if I let the door close.” To the NT, you are just inconsiderate.
Suppose you are sending out invitations to a graduation party. You know that one of your close friends is going to be out of town that weekend. Aspie logic: “There is no reason to send them an invitation, since I already know they can’t go. In fact, sending them an invitation might make them feel bad.” If your friend is an NT, it’s the wrong answer. They want to know they are wanted. Plus, it’s always possible their travel plans will get canceled.
In each of these 3 examples the person with AS is actually being considerate, but would not appear that way to an NT.
I agreed with all of your comment but this: the person with AS is not “being considerate”, when “being considerate” is defined to include modeling the likely preferences of the person you are supposedly “considering.”
In each case, the “consideration” is considering themselves, in the other person’s shoes, falling prey to availability bias.
Personally, I am very torn on the doorway example—I usually make an effort to hold the door, but am very uncomfortable. I think it will help to remember in future that the availability bias of my own preferences shouldn’t rule out being considerate of what the likely preference of the other person is… and to change my SASS rules so that I feel good about holding the door, so it’s self-reinforcing.
It’s worth pointing out that all three examples are highly culturally variable.
The “aspie logic” example behaviour is far more common where I live (urban Japan).
In the first, most people lack the facilities to bake, especially young adults in small apartments or dorms. Buying a cake is the obvious thing to do. That or taking the SO to a cake-serving cafe.
In the second, -no one- here holds doors for strangers. I had to train myself out of the habit because it was getting me very strange looks. Similarly, no one says “bless you” or equivalent when strangers sneeze. The rules of courtesy are different.
In the third, it’s normal here to expect repeated invitations for any occasion. One invitation will be for show, so you invite people you don’t expect to make it as well. The key is that people won’t actually make plans to attend until two or more invitations have been received. (This is locally variable; some regions and demographics expect three or four invites. Think of it as a pre-event version of the British quirk where one says “We must do this again sometime” while having no actual desire to repeat the encounter.)
The bottom line is that the other person’s expectations ought to be factored into the logic. Beware generalizing from a sample of one and all that.
Your time and effort can be used to give status. By sending a reliable signal you’ve wasted time and effort for a friend, you’re giving your friend good evidence they have some power over you—a feeling much sweeter than a store-bought cake.
There’s also a difference between Ask and Guess cultures in this kind of things.
I have the feeling you are talking about quite untypical NT people here (except maybe for example 3). Around me you would have defined “NT people” (even the term sounds strange to me) as being Aspies. That doesn’t add up.
My NT ‘data’ are from conversations I’ve had over the years with people who I have noticed are particularly good socially. But of course, there is plenty of between person variability even within NT and AS groups.
I have had drinks with friends and friends of friends in bars, pubs and beverage rooms in UK, Canada and US. I am almost 70 years old. I have never asked for a drink, I have never been asked for one. If I saw this happen, I would assume that the asker either wanted to have a favour done for them because they were feeling low or was out of money. I would not suspect that it was some sort of test. I would expect the response to be buying the drink, making a joke about the request or avoiding further conversation (or maybe all of them). I am used to people buying drinks for one another in some situation but not asking for a drink.
In my experience, people are by and large not testing; they have good will towards others; and they like company. This includes Aspergers and NTs. Why start out suspicious?
Then maybe it’s a generation thing. I am over 50. La, what curious customs these young things invent!
I have never encountered or heard of this behaviour. I would be rather startled if someone I had just met asked me to buy them a drink. I’d guess they were too poor to get their own (and with all respect to poor people, my interest in pursuing a relationship with them would substantially diminish).
I can understand your explanation, but I would find an opposite explanation just as plausible (they are trying to determine if the cost of a drink is a mere trifle to you, hence buying them one = good).
Is this a culturally specific thing? Where is this action, with this meaning, a standard pattern of behaviour?
Lily Allen has. The relevant section:
Cut to the pub on our last night out,
Man at the bar cos it was his shout,
Clocks this bird and she looks OK,
Caught him looking and she walks his way,
“Alright darling, you gonna buy us a drink then?”
“Err no, but I was thinking of buying one for your friend.
It seems very weird to me that this seems unfamiliar to you. It’s a cliche in movies and the like.
It’s a cliche in movies but it’s actually rare in real life, in my experience, except as a joke.
I just realized that one person’s joke is another person’s status test, of course.
In bars and clubs in the UK, US and Canada at least.
How often do you approach attractive people of your preferred gender in, e.g. bars with the intention of having some kind of romantic interaction?
Never. That could explain it. I don’t watch romantic movies either, or any TV.
So, how does the script normally play out?
“No, we don’t know each other well enough yet?”
“snort Too poor to get your own, are you?”
Ignore or somehow deflect the request and talk about something else?
None of the above?
If I had to guess I’d go with the fourth, but I’m only guessing.
ETA: I don’t mind getting the karma, but I’m curious about why I’m getting several upvotes within minutes of posting this.
What you would do if one of your little sister’s sixteen year old-still has braces friends saw you in a bar and said “well, are you going to buy me a drink now?” (or substitute any other person who is obviously lower perceived statusvalue than you, e.g. gay man if you’re straight, fat/ugly/dumb/smelly person, anyone who you basically see as unworthy of you).
Take that, add some mocking humor/banter, and there’s your response.
Well hang on. It isn’t that simple. The man buying the woman a drink is more or less the courtship norm. They haven’t actually stepped that far out of line by asking for a drink so the way you respond has to be calibrated to their status. If their status isn’t that high and it was something of a gutsy move to ask for one, there is nothing wrong with letting them down softly with a “Nope. It isn’t anything personal, you seem cool. I just don’t buy drinks for women I just met” and you can segue into a conversation about how silly the norm is if you like. If the person has really high status then something more along the lines of lightly mocking them for being a spoiled brat who won’t buy their own drinks can go over fine.
Is this speculation or have you tried it?
Umm, only with someone with whom I was already acquainted and I think the way I phrased it sounds worse than I meant it to sound. Spoiled is a bit much, I meant it to describe the extreme end of the possible responses you were suggesting. My point was more (1) when someone asks you to buy them a drink while they are testing your status they’re also putting themselves at risk for rejection. So if your status is fairly equal already, be nice about it. And (2) the greater the initial status differential between you and the other person, the more confident you need to be (which, as I understand it has been well tested, I can anecdotally testify to and which is consistent with dominance hierarchy theory.)
This was not a particularly constructive example to use in the original post, for several reasons.
There are basically two situations that lead to this: First, the other person is interested in you, but is somewhat awkward and uses this as a rather blunt test to measure your interest in them. Second, if person is not interested in you, but sees you as a means of getting a free drink.
As the latter tends to be more likely, and in the former, there are still ways you can show interest without buying them a drink, you should not buy them a drink. However, buying them a drink is not wrong insofar as no unpleasant social consequences result from it (as they might result from, for example, an unflattering comment about a person’s weight or appearance). All that happens is you’re out $3-10, depending on the bar.
It’s also worth noting that with certain people and in certain circumstances, you may actually be seeking someone with the qualities indicated by this request. If I were a rich and not particularly attractive older man, and the subject were a much-younger and attractive woman, this comment may actually suggest we could establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Our response to the request is really a response to the person making the request, and your hypothetical assumes we should a negative response, which is generally but not invariably true. Your description of the
That doesn’t cover Mallah’s story. I think the free drinks explanation is largely a confabulation by girls who don’t know why they do it.
I believe that covers that story perfectly. he approached an attractive woman, who saw him as a sucker who’d buy her an expensive drink, which he did, whereupon she promptly ignored him. If that’s not exactly what I said, I don’t know what is.
It covers the story up to the point of her not taking the drink. Perhaps she just wanted to see if she could. I agree that getting him to buy the drink may be more significant than actually consuming it. Or it could simply be a way of chastising someone she didn’t believe should be talking to her. Or, perhaps, she simply forgot.
For practical purposes, she’s not different whether she takes the drink or not. It’s still a waste of money. If she didn’t forget, it’s likely she simply got a kick out of ordering some guy around. Not a situation I anticipated, but certainly deserving the same response as the selfish drinker.
This seems very odd to me. You seem to be suggesting that this is the typical way a socially successful NT responds to being asked for a drink, and that just seems truly, bizarrely wrong to me. Where did you learn this? Is it a PUA thing? I’m not necessarily saying it wouldn’t work—it might, in the same way that weird PUA crap like “peacocking” might work, but it definitely isn’t normal behavior, even for NTs
I’m confused why you think this is so bizarrely wrong. I mean, yes, some inexperienced guys are easily manipulated by attractive women, but I think that more successful and more experienced people would just make a joke of it, and not allow themselves to be manipulated easily.
And everyone “peacocks” every time they dress for an occasion or buy clothes because they like how they look. That’s not weird or bizarre either.
Roko explicitly wrote about using a status-lowering level of teasing.
Part of the problem may be that a lot of play is inhibited attack, and it can be hard to judge just how much of a verbal attack is either intended or received.
I think that the emphasis on status here is misplaced. Here’s an analogy:
Imagine that you, dear reader, are very smart, and when you get into conversations about intellectual topics, people almost always say “Wow, you’re smart,” based on superficial indicators, and seem impressed. Now imagine that you meet someone who reacts differently: they take it for granted that you’re smart, and actually try to engage with you intellectually, rather than being awed and amazed by your intellect.
Can you see that your reaction might be very different? You might be more likely to like and be interested in talking to this person, intrigued that they weren’t so easily won over, and possibly a little motivated to prove your intelligence to them.
That’s what’s going on in the example with attractive girls, except with looks and sexuality rather than intelligence. It’s less of a “Oh wow you have high status” reaction on the girl’s part, and more of “Hey, finally someone who isn’t a pushover just cause I’m hot. He might actually be fun to talk to.” This is communicated all the time with little things like body language, the way you turn to look at someone, the way you stand, and how you speak. It usually isn’t as direct as “Will you buy me a drink?”
Yes, I like this analogy between intellectual interaction and social (status) interaction. Both types of interaction have “I’ll push you until you stop me” behavior, that would be considered offensive or attacking if it was manifested in the other form of interaction.
A common mode of interaction for intellectuals is to argue for positions that you aren’t sure of in order to figure out if they believe in, or even to argue for positions that they don’t believe just to play devil’s advocate. These debate styles push against people, expecting them to push back, analogous to the social styles of many neurotypical extraverts.
Just as introverts on the autistic spectrum hate it when neurotypical extraverts try to turn everything into a status game, neurotypical extraverts hate it when autistic spectrum introverts try to turn everything into a debate.
In a group of neurotypical extraverts, saying something like “you’re such a dork” to someone else is not necessarily considered rude or an attack. They expect the other person to handle it and fire back. Likewise, in a group of autistic spectrum introverts, saying something like “you’re wrong” is not necessarily considered rude or an attack. They expect the other person to be able to handle it, and either defend or concede their position.
Both groups have different norms for showing assertiveness, and an assertiveness display in one group could be considered an attack if it was performed in the other group.
Good point about “you’re wrong,” which has unnerved me a few times. Also, especially on this site: “you’re unethical” or “that’s unethical.”
In intellectual circles, it often seems to be considered acceptable to communicate intellectual disagreement in an assertive way, the assumption being that everyone knows that disagreement isn’t personal. This communication style jars some intellectuals, and it enjoyed by others. Non-intellectual people universally hate this communication style.
It just runs counter to my own experience and observation. Deflecting the request with a joke would be an effective way to avoid getting played for free drinks, if you think that’s what’s going on, or of politely declining if you’re just not interested, but it doesn’t seem like a generally effective, or commonly practiced, method of actually parlaying the interaction into a “score”—not unless you happen to be dealing with the kind of person who’s attracted to assholes. My impression is that these kind of PUA style techniques are geared towards successfully picking up people with low self esteem. That may work, but I think it’s a mistake to draw conclusions from that about “normal” social interaction.
I am very confused by this comment. Who are you talking about as the “asshole” in this scenario? I think you may be misunderstanding it. The idea is that two people are talking and flirting, and the girl asks the guy for something (like a drink, but it could be anything: taking a picture, helping her with something) at which point the guy teases her about it. I’m not seeing anything about low self esteem here.
The guy who says “no” when, in the middle of flirting, a girl asks for a drink. This just doesn’t happen IRL unless the guy is intentionally trying to shut down the interaction.
Could you explain your basis for this claim a little more?
Just my own personal experience. I guess maybe I phrased that a little strongly for something based entirely on anecdotal evidence. And I guess I should have added a caveat like “This just doesn’t happen unless the guy is intentionally trying to shut down the interaction, or has studied PUA techniques, or is Richard Feynman”.
I guess the kind of person who is not attracted to assholes wouldn’t ask a stranger for a drink in the first place, would they?
Decline, but the conversation would never have got that far anyway, and isn’t going to get any further. I’m not very good at maintaining a conversation, but when I deliberately put out the “please shut up and go away” vibes it has no chance. :-)
I’m not sure what this has to do with the original scenario, where the two people are still trying to assess each other. Or what status has to do with those examples.
Ah, the confusing world of NT social games…
Basically, imagine each person P has a number X, called their “statusvalue”, and the way we respond to others is a function of the statusvalue difference between us and the person we respond to. Suppose that your number is, say, 5, and the person you are approaching is single, sought-after and attractive, and therefore has a statusvalue of 8. Therefore your body’s automatic response will be a “+3″ type response, i.e. you will defer to the person you are talking to, attempt to please them, etc.
In order to work out the correct response, you need to think what your response would be if the person asking you for the drink were a 2 on the statusvalue scale. This will be a “-3” type response, i.e. you will assert your desires over theirs, and interpret their behavior in terms of whether it meets your expectations. Then, you gradually condition yourself to always give “-3″ type responses, i.e. give off signals that you are three statusvalue points above everyone.
The way we respond to others has a lot more to it than that. If I’m approached by someone of the wrong sexual orientation for me, then my declining their advances has nothing to do with status. The same with 15-year-old girls (the only example in the original version of your comment). My response to these people will be whatever is necessary to get them to give up on the sexual advances. This does not strike me as a useful response to someone that I would like to get together with.
Perhaps the idea you are trying to get across is that you should begin by trying to put the other person off, but (if you still want to get together with them) take care not to do so too effectively? I am familiar with the custom of ritually refusing a gift before accepting it—is this something similar?
Are you speaking from personal experience or is this something you have only worked out on paper?
That’s why I said statusvalue—i.e. something that is a combination of their overall status and their value to you.
Not really—as I said, it is more abstract than that—the idea is to approach the interaction from a higher-statusvalue frame, because ultimately (in this case) that is what the other person is testing for.
This particular example is taken from the world of pick-up, which has been tested more extensively than you can imagine.
EDIT: though the idea of a “social coprocessor” is speculation.
On a very narrow and self-selecting sample, i.e. people who show up at bars and clubs with the express intention of getting “picked up”
You think it’s abnormal to ever show up at bars and clubs? Most young people go to either a bar or a club (or party, cafe, music gig, etc) at least, say, once a month.
I think a lot of people, when they first turn 21 (or whatever the legal drinking age is in their jurisdiction) go through a phase of going to meat-markety type places, but eventually become disillusioned with that ‘scene’ and grow out of it.
I would call that simply value. If their status matters to me, it is part of their value to me; if it does not, it is irrelevant.
Tested by you? Ok, maybe that’s too personal a question, but I’m aware in general terms of the PUA stuff, and I have only a limited interest in soup of the soup.
soup of the soup?
On the first day, you have a delicious chicken. The next day you make soup with the bones and leftovers. On the third day you make soup from the leftover soup.
In other words, an exposition only indirectly connected with the source, unrefreshed by contact with real life.
This is a legitimate concern—but there are plenty of people here who have used such methods successfully.
I’m one of them. I’m not committed to the view that the rather crude theory Roko outlines is true, but acting as if it’s true indeed seems to be useful. I’m not a PUArtist, I’m a PUInstrumentalist.
Indeed the instrumentality of certain worldviews is an interesting topic in rationality…
Sure—though the two are very strongly linked, value is really the key.
Sorry, what is “NT”? I read this blog often enough that I feel like I should know, but I don’t.
“Neurotypical”—in context, not being significantly autistic.
I completely understand the general idea here, I just think the drink-buying thing is a bad example. In my experience, refusal to buy a drink for someone who’s flirting with you doesn’t send the signal “you’re X statusvalue lower than me”, it sends the signal “I’m not interested in playing this game at all”
I think you’re misunderstanding the “refusal.” It’s not a “No, go away,” it’s more like “you buy me one first, I’m cuter” said playfully.
I’ve never understood why people think that’s effective.
What good does it do to act like you’re higher status if you’re not? You can’t change your face or your income by signaling. Is everybody really so gullible?
And also—I’ve not spent a huge amount of time in bars, but I’ve never seen anyone ask a stranger for a drink.
Income and looks are only one component of status. Other components are determined by signaling and other forms of implicit communication in actual interactions. So, merely acting like you are high status will go a long way to convince people that you are, as long as you aren’t giving off contradictory low status signals also.
One of the reason that people play status games (of which “buy me a drink” often is), is because there is a margin of error in status perception, and poking the other person with a status ploy is a way to confirm or disconfirm your initial impression of their status. If you believe that you are higher status that someone, and you attempt a successful status grab that they submit to, then it confirms that you are higher status.
As I’ve hypothesized, the way normal people tend to interact (or at least, a typical mode for certain types of extraverts to interact) is to constantly bump up against each other socially in mini-dominance battles and figure out the pecking order by seeing who can away with what against who.
This form of interaction used to be rather alien to me, and I would interpret it as an affront (which is how RichardKennaway seems to interpret it), but Ben Kovitz’s weird psychology wiki gave me some ideas to help understand it.
From an article on negotiation:
From another negotation article:
Status is partly a process of empirical discovery. It is decided through negotiation. People with different phenotypes approach this negotiation in different ways. Some people negotiate by acting lower in status to everyone. Some people negotiate by acting equal in status to everyone. Some people (such as neurotypical extraverts) negotiate by acting higher in status to everyone. Non-neurotypicals are simply unaware of this negotiation.
To people like us, neurotypical socially-dominant extraverts will seem annoying with their constant status grabs. But they aren’t necessarily trying to be jerks, they are just interacting the only way they know how. They are attempting to negotiate with you, they just begin the negotiation by driving a hard bargain. They may assume that you are like them, and expect you to stand up for yourself and give them a counter-offer back of a different status relationship, where instead of them being on top, you two are equals, or you are on top. They may even want you prove that you are higher status, and their test is an opportunity for you to do so. They will expect you to negotiate yourself, by either submitting, or attempting to fight back; what they won’t be able to understand is someone who doesn’t even participate in this sort of negotiation in the first place.
Yep. And depending on the way you opt out of the negotiation, you may be perceived as either very low self-esteem, or as an arrogant bastard.
The latter category (which I personally have been categorized as a lot) tends to happen when you assume that all people are supposed to be equal, dammit, and refuse to give ground to anything that isn’t Right with a capital R. This results in the problem of causing others to have to lose face when you win… and people don’t like it.
(Later in life, I’ve realized that it generally works better to arrange things so that other people can receive status strokes by siding with you, and they then tend to return the strokes.)
I’ve heard this before, but framed as ‘Ask Culture meets Guess Culture’.
Even guess cultures have that distinction; look up the etymology of otaku sometime.
Yeah this is a good analysis. Important for more rational/AS people is to realize that more emotion-driven NTs run their social interaction in hardware ==> they do things like little status grabs almost without thinking about it.
No, people are godshatter , they value signals of status in and of themselves.
Status isn’t something you have, it’s something you do.
As long as we’re piling on anecdotes, I’ve asked folks for drinks on numerous occasions. And the bartender at a club I frequented back in the day used to give me my drinks for free.
I voted you up because I wanted to attract attention to your comment, because I also wanted the questions contained within answered as well.
Indeed, this pattern seems totally strange to me. While on the dating scene, if a woman brazenly asked a man to get her a drink, I would consider it a test to see if he can handle assertiveness. That is, if he is fun and easy-going. If he said no, I would think she could consider him either not interested in her enough to part with a few dollars AND too cheap to satisfy a small request, or insecure about his status in the company of a woman. Hopefully, he would say yes, and they could enjoy a drink together.
Do men really say, ‘no, I won’t’ and find success with that??
[Apologies for the editing and then un-editing; I commented naively and then realized I’m kind of over my head here with the inferential distance; culture and values-wise. I think things have changed since I was dating, or I noticed different things.]
The above is correct but this part would depend a lot on how the “no” is delivered:
The real status test is about whether he considers his company to be as valuable as hers. If he complies with the request (without any quid pro quo), then he’s ceded her the higher social status—which was what the question was testing (either intentionally or unintentionally), in the common case.
Declining the request, reversing it (you buy me one), or insisting on a quid pro quo, are the only ways to maintain equivalent or higher status in the interaction (absent an ongoing equal relationship wherein the quid pro quo is assumptive). Also, skillfully handling any of these options raises the observer’s estimate of your social coprocessor’s power rating as well. ;-)
There are a wide variety of context-sensitive ways to decline or redirect such a request, depending on the situation and level of rapport of the conversation… from the polite to the downright rude, all of which can be functional if delivered with confidence. But certainly, “fun and easygoing” no’s are possible.
(For example: pretending to misinterpret the request as an offer, eg. “Oh, yes please. That’s very kind of you. I’ll have a..”, a playful, “Oh? And what are you going to do for me?”, or even a humorous, mock-offended and effeminately-voiced, “Hmph! What kind of boy do you think I am? Are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?”)
As thomblake points out, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”contains his story of finding out this counterintuitive fact—although the specific story involves calling a woman “worse than a whore” for getting him to buy $1.10 worth of sandwiches. She then proceeded to pay him back the $1.10… and then came over later to have sex with him.
In Feynman’s second story, he asks “Listen, before I buy you a drink, I want to know one thing: Will you sleep with me tonight?”—and gets a “yes”.
Amusingly, the “Player Guide” (an open-source guide for beginning PUAs) isn’t quite so bold—it only recommends asking for a french kiss as the quid pro quo. ;-)
Of course, all of these anecdotes and advice are subject to selection bias—i.e., to the mostly-NT women who show up at bars and ask men to buy them drinks. My guess is that most non-NT women don’t ask guys to buy them drinks unless there’s either an ongoing quid pro quo (i.e., “I’ll buy the next round”), or they’ve consciously chosen to exploit the social dynamic for financial/alcoholic gain.
tl;dr: a man is generally best-off treating a request for a drink as a test to determine whether he has low enough self-esteem to believe he needs to pay for female company, and an opportunity to display an unruffled and socially-skillful response.
Hang on half a second here. No more than 1% of Americans are autistic. (CDC estimates 1 in 110.) Autism is four times as common among males as females. This whole “NT” vs “non-NT” thing you’re talking about is distinguishing 99.75% of women from 0.25%. I think this may be misguided. There are way more women who don’t ask to be bought drinks than that.
I didn’t say that (most NT women) (ask men for drinks), I said (most women who ask men for drinks) are NT.
Given your statistics, this would be expected even if half of all women asked men for drinks, because then you’d have half of 99.75% of women being NT+drink.asking and half of .25% being non-NT+drink.asking.
That being said, I do not assume that non-NT-ness requires actual autism or even diagnosable Asperger’s. High intelligence alone (IMO) qualifies one for being neurally “atypical” in my book.
Ah, I misunderstood (I’ve only ever heard “NT” to refer to “not autistic.”)
You’re quite right, technically; I perceived an implication the other way as well but you may not have meant that.
Sure, (the ~75% who are not in the right tail of the attractiveness distribution)union (those who are not in the appropriate age range)
Personality is a factor, not just attractiveness. Women who are some combination of the following don’t engage in testing like this, or are less likely to do so:
highly introverted (Big Five extraversion has a social dominance component)
high in Agreeableness (Big Five Agreeableness has a submissive component)
highly nerdy (though then we get into the question of how nerdy is non-neurotypical)
Sweet, sensitive, nerdy quiet types of both genders just don’t like status games very much, and they tend to be bad at them.
The standard PUA model focuses a lot on women who do engage in testing and status games, because they tend to disproportionately encounter women who play them. This is understandable, but flawed.
I expect that women who match one or more of your bullet points are less likely to be the most eye-catching.
I suppose that’s true.
My confusion with this whole business is quantitative. The assumption in Roko’s drink-buying model is that this is the right way to interact to attract the kind of women his audience would be interested in. That’s a statement of probability. It’s likely that you’ll be going to bars to meet women, it’s likely that any women you’re interested in engage in shit-testing, it’s likely that any women you’re interested in respond the way the girls in the Feynman story do. I’m really not sure about that.
There are, as I mentioned, very, very few autistic women. So Roko and Nancy lump in the less attractive women. Fine, in principle. I’m still not convinced that a typical straight male LW reader won’t find, in his dating pool, quite a few women who don’t behave like the prototypical chick in a PUA parable. I only have anecdotes, of course, but I and most of my female friends and family members don’t behave like that. We hit a lot of HughRistic’s bullet points. And we’ve stumbled into our fair share of good relationships.
In other words: I think nerdy women are pretty numerous, far too numerous to be diagnosable autistics, and do just fine on the dating market. And I suspect the typical straight male LW reader wouldn’t mind dating one.
Actually, it’s a statement of conditional probability, conditioned on a woman asking a man for a drink in such a setting, often as a prelude to having any conversation at all.
(It’s not, however, a great example of a cacheable response. Really, the whole point of it as a status/social skill test is that it is hard to fake!)
Anyway, here’s the reasoning: if a man is asked for a drink, it may or may not be a test, conscious or unconscious. However, in all possible cases, the man is highly likely to improve the situation by skillfully declining or negotiating a quid pro quo, because the situation is still a signaling opportunity, even if the woman’s attraction wouldn’t have decreased upon acquiescence. (In other words, you either win, or don’t lose—a positive expected outcome over multiple trials.)
For example, let’s say it’s one of those “nerdy women”—she is not fishing for a drink, not consciously testing, and (probably) not unconsciously testing, but maybe has been taught that this is how you signal openness to being courted, or just doesn’t think about it at all.
Well, in that particular case, it’s an opportunity for a signal like, “Not a feminist, huh?”—probably leading to a thought-provoking conversation about feminism, chivalry, and the impact of social trends on dating behaviors...
A conversation that wouldn’t have happened if the response was a bland, “okay”. If he’d simply agreed without further comment, maybe he wouldn’t have lost any points, but he certainly wouldn’t have gained any either—he has simply failed to distinguish himself from any other man who lacks the social skill to finesse the situation. He is out a drink, and gets nothing except (maybe) the continuation of the conversation… assuming that her attraction doesn’t mysteriously evaporate shortly thereafter, due to her unconscious lowering of his status.
But the (extreme) case of a nerdy woman who’s both sincerely asking for a drink and won’t subconsciously decrease attraction upon compliance, is actually the worst case scenario for measuring the advantage of the “never buy a drink without quid pro quo” heuristic… and yet it still comes out well ahead of compliance in the best case, and only slightly better in worst-case!
And in all other scenarios, such as a woman using this to get rid of the guy or to get drinks, using it as a filter for non-interesting guys, or even a woman who thinks it’s normal but unconsciously feels less attracted to men who comply… the heuristic produces much better results on average than buying the drink does. (Assuming, again, the guy has developed the social skills to pull it off.)
Among other things, it’s also a counter-filter, since the woman who truly has no interest in the guy outside his ability to procure alcohol will immediately depart in search of another sucker, no matter how skillfully it’s done. For the rest, you still either win, or else you don’t lose.
Of course, this is all conditional on the man’s skill in making use of all the available information in the situation… for one thing, he’s got to be socially calibrated enough to be able to tell the difference between the woman who’ll respond to “Sure, bend over, you spoiled brat” vs. the one who’ll respond to “Not a feminist, eh?”… and preferably be able to tell that before even starting the conversation. (Oh, and let’s not forget that those two can be the same woman, in different moods!)
But that’s the “software” way of doing it… the “coprocessor” way is that the guy ideally just believes that it’d be silly to buy a woman a drink without a quid pro quo (like Feynman’s advisor) and lets their social hardware handle the details of responding.
Attempting to cache a specific behavioral response in “software” isn’t going to cut it, though; the PUA methods that revolve around “canned” material are necessarily probabilistic and essentially manipulative. So, if there’s a flaw in Roko’s example, that would be it: caching a specific response pretty much guarantees it’s not going to be done with a truly beneficial level of skill.
And yet, even in that case, it’s still probably positive-sum advice, as long as the man continues learning and improving over the long haul.
Well, if “behave like that” is asking guys for drinks, then there’s no conflict with what Roko said, since the situation will never come up.
However, if “behave like that” is responding with increased attraction to a display of confidence, tact, humor, and/or other social skills, I’d be surprised. (It’s just that what you would personally consider to be such a display is going to depend on a lot of situational factors that a single canned response can’t possibly take into account.)
I think this needs to be emphasised a lot. Also the differences between types of women. While a nerdy girl may not ask for a drink, they may ask for help with a heavy box. Now from the canned advice given this can be seen as a shit test, will the guy demean himself by lugging a heavy box to try and get with someone of my level. If so they don’t want to be with a loser who lifts his own boxes. So a response like “Do I look like a shelf stacker?” said in a suitably amused tone, would be appropriate.
However the nerdy girl might just want the box moved and be interested in people who can just get stuff done with a minimal amount of prodding. The appropriate response in this case is to help. Grumbling (with a grin) while doing so, or making a light comment about being owed one might show you aren’t a complete push over and won’t put up with too much of that sort of thing without something in return, would be appropriate I think.
I’d have a lot less problem if advice were couched in term of normal human interaction rather than just trying to get into an extrovert girls pants.
Hauling a heavy box is not at all analogous to the drink example. When a woman asks a man for help with heavy physical work, this puts him in a much better initial position status-wise. She is the weaker party, asking for necessary assistance from his greater physical strength. Helping a weaker party from a position of greater power is a first-rank status-winning move. Therefore, it’s best for him to do it cheerfully with a “that’s nothing for a man like me” attitude; grumbling and saying “you owe me” is a bad idea since it suggests that he actually finds it hard, rather than an act of negligible difficulty from his superior position.
Of course, if a woman regularly exploits a man for such favors or makes him spend unreasonable time and effort helping her, that’s another story altogether. However, a random request for some small help with a hard physical task nearly always conforms to this pattern of status dynamics.
In contrast, when a woman asks a man to buy her a drink, she is asking him to satisfy a random and capricious whim, not help her as a weaker party from a superior position. Therefore, acceptance carries no positive status signals at all, but instead signals that he is willing to obey her whims for the mere privilege of her company. Compared to the box example, it’s like accepting to pay extortion money versus giving to charity. The former is an expression of weakness and submission, the latter a dispensation of benevolence.
My point was more that the situations could be confused by people with broken social coprocessors and inappropriate behaviour translated across from one domain to another. Without a lot of explanation of the appropriateness.
Buying drinks can also be seen as someone weaker (financially) asking someone stronger. Considering that men earn more on average than women, and if you are picking up college girls and have a real job that is likely to be even more the case. So I don’t see the way that these situations can be easily distinguished that way by someone without much social experience.
I agree about the grumbling, don’t grumble about the weight, grumble about the time taken.
I have a few meta-rules of thumb in such matters:
Anything can mean anything.
Corollary: Never explain by malice that which is adequately explained by intelligence.
The rules are never what anyone says they are.
The rules may not even be what anyone thinks they are.
Nevertheless, there are rules.
It is your job to learn them, and nobody’s job to teach them to you.
All advice, however universally it may be expressed, is correct only in some specific context.
Application of the last to the whole is left as an exercise. :-)
This whole list is brilliant. Particularly,
This makes “Never explain … stupidity” a special case of this rule!
Well, yes, but that’s what explanations are for. Once you grasp the underlying principles, it’s not that complicated—and more importantly, you gradually start to make correct judgments instinctively.
No, if you understand the status dynamic fully, you’ll realize that you shouldn’t grumble at all. Grumbling, of whatever sort, indicates that you assign a significant cost to the act, and in order to come off as high-status, you must make it look like it’s a negligible expense of effort from your lofty high-status position, a casual dispensation of benevolent grace. As soon as you make it seem like you perceive the act as costly in any way, it looks like you’re making the effort to fulfill her wishes, clearly displaying inferior status to hers.
Remember we are talking about nerdy girls, that is not the norm that the PUA deals with. I remember a recent post by someone saying that nerdy girls prefer men who dominate everything but them. I can’t remember who posted it, at the moment.
Getting back to an earlier discussion of whether more women are wanted at LW..… anyone who’s likely to show up here is nerdy. Perhaps it would be a good idea to remember, and keep remembering, and make it clear in your writing, that “women” are not a monolithic block and don’t all want the same thing.
Assuming that there are non-Anglospheric folks here, this is probably an unjustified generalization due to a cultural bias. The idea that smart people interested in the sorts of things discussed here have to conform to the stereotype of “nerdiness” is a historically recent North American cultural phenomenon, which doesn’t necessarily hold in other places. It’s actually a rather curious state of affairs by overall historical standards.
Your observation is probably accurate statistically, though.
That’s interesting. Any theories about what’s going on?
People who appear socially low-status can end up in economically high-status knowledge-based professions in an industrial society, which upsets people’s intuitions of how the social hierarchy should work. Put-downs have evolved for making things look right again.
I still find American anti-intellectualism kind of shocking. Do you know if there are other cultures where children reliably punish each other for getting good grades?
I don’t really know how it’s distributed. There seems to be a generally stronger streak of anti-intellectualism in America than in Europe, and kids probably pick that up. A poor primary education system may make the problems worse by making education gaps wider and by leaving children with a poor grasp on how the wider society functions.
I’ve the impressions that things are somewhat more US-like in Britain and that studying science is more appreciated in the former Soviet bloc, but I don’t know how accurate these are. Education seems to be very highly valued in China and India. I’ve no idea about the rest of the world.
Yes, Britain has a similar culture to the US in terms of children punishing those who get good grades. My personal experience was that getting good grades was not in itself a major problem as long as you didn’t appear to be trying too hard or to care about the outcome.
A woman who doesn’t want a generalization applied to them? :)
But that is an extremely normal human interaction.
You haven’t clarified the all-important context. Is this a friend? Stranger? Do they need boxes moved often? What are your goals? Friendship? Company? Just getting a good feeling from helping people out?
Certainly, the default response, assuming a member in good standing of your extended tribe, is to help. This doesn’t make it the “appropriate” response for all goals and contexts, however.
Agreed. Don’t see anyone talking about “just trying to get into an extrovert girls pants,” though. The rough consensus I’m seeing lately from proponents of learning normal social interaction is that it is useful for improving interaction with people in general.
As someone who is fairly good at predicting my own behavior in various counterfactual situations, I’d like to hereby offer to tell people how I’d react to lines about which they are curious. I don’t know to what extent I’m in the reference class anyone’s aiming for, but if the information would be useful, there it is.
Alicorn: Hey, wanna buy me a drink?
pjeby: Not a feminist, huh?
Am I parsing you correctly?
I know it’s an act of terrorism for me talk about Alicorn, especially given this topic, but …
She’s really not someone whose reactions are characteristic of the NT, average intelligence women that men would approach in bars, so knowing what she would do is probably not going to be helpful.
Strongly agreed. Alicorn is not the kind of girl one has in mind when one thinks about shit testing behavior—finding alicorn shit testing a guy would be like finding Ghandi at a KKK rally.
Wait, you realize that Ghandi was a gigantic racist, who hated black people (as well as the minority groups in his own country), right?
LOL good catch. Still, the KKK advocates violence and hides their identity in protests, so they’re not quite kindred spirits.
I would not actually say “Aaaaaaaugh.” in that situation. I’d probably say “Excuse me?” and then there would need to be a rather excellent recovery or I’d stop interacting with the person. (I’m granting for the sake of the exercise that I’d ask for a drink in the first place, even though in real life I don’t consume alcohol.)
Which is precisely why the offered hypothetical is worse than useless in this case.
Bear in mind that in the circumstance being discussed, asking for a drink is like asking someone to hand you $5 -- for no reason at all other than than that you asked, and the fact that they are a male.
To presume that you would react in a certain way, conditional upon first having done something so utterly foreign to you in the first place, is like saying what you’d do if the moon were made of green cheese, only ISTM you’d have a better chance of being right in that case. ;-)
Well, pretend the bar serves something I’d drink. Say I’d get a virgin pina colada. I could imagine asking for one of those.
I might also ask girls, if the environment gave me high enough priors on them being bi/gay.
So, your moral compass allows you to use other people’s sexual preferences as a money pump?
(And no, that’s not a line, although now that I’ve said it, I suppose it could be reworked into a LW-friendly response to a drink request. Needs more humor, less judgment, though! Hm, maybe “Are you trying to exploit my hardware preferences as a money pump?” A little too double-entrendreish, though. These things are really situational, and not at all suited to cached responses.)
I can’t actually think of any situation where asking a question seems to me to be immoral. It can’t be a denotative falsehood, so it’s clear on the “lying” front; there’s nothing else obvious it could be that would be wrong. I suppose it could be mean, or impolite, but this doesn’t even appear to be that to me. I wouldn’t badger anybody about buying me the beverage, which would be mean.
This is a request which is slightly different from a question. Some requests are considered immoral when there is a power or status differential. University lecturers and students provide an example where some requests are widely considered immoral.
Point. Questions/requests that predictably create a sense of obligation in the hearer to do something they ought not feel obligated to perform may be wrong. I don’t think I can, let alone do, project enough power in a casual setting to make anyone feel obliged to buy me the liquid of my choice, although I suppose it’s possible I’m mistaken.
There is also an implied contract with most requests. Many people if asked to buy a stranger a drink will assume that agreeing to the request will result in an opportunity for conversation at least. If someone makes the request with an understanding of the implied trade and no intention of fulfilling their half of the bargain then that seems at least dishonest if not actually immoral.
I wouldn’t request a favor like this from someone I didn’t plan to have at least a short conversation with. (I would ask smaller favors, like that they tell me the time, or more urgent favors, like that they loan me their cell phone so I can call my ride, but a drink is neither negligible nor particularly important.)
Maybe you wouldn’t. I’m just giving an example of another way that a question/request could be seen to be immoral.
Refusing makes the guy look bad, unless he has a particularly adept response. The request becomes “buy me a drink, or go through status shenanigans to not look bad.” That’s not exactly obligation, but it is a form of social pressure.
Asking for $5 (well, probably $7-8 if it’s not a beer) isn’t exactly obligation, either. Is that a request you would make of both men and women? If not, why not? And how it is different to a request from a drink, other than the latter being wrapped up in more social frills (and combined with more social pressure)?
If anyone is saying “excuse me?” shouldn’t it be the person being asked for the drink (aka $7)? The only problem is that if men make this response, they look bad, due to the context-specific social power differential.
Yes, I said so elsewhere.
Right, my question here was whether you would ask both men and women for $7 on its own. I should have made that clearer.
And if not, how it asking for a $7 drink different?
I would not ask a stranger for money unless I had an urgent, immediate need for it and no other way to get it. Asking for a drink seems different in much the same way that asking my friends for books instead of money on my birthday seems different. The drink provides a context for some sort of interaction; the money doesn’t.
Which is precisely why it’s a status move: you are placing an implicit pricetag on your continued interaction, and therefore implicitly asserting that your status/value is such that you can demand a payment of tribute for nothing more than the chance of remaining in your good graces.
Whether this were your intention or not, it’s the situation the man is placed in, unless he has the cojones (and possibly training) to be able to refuse with impunity.
Or they are just showing a sign of desiring social interaction and they have culturally ingrained that the way to do so is to ask for a drink (disclaimer: I’ve never actually seen this occur). One may be assuming a lot more about unconscious status inquiring that is more in the category of just silly cultural norms.
As I said in an earlier comment, there is almost no benefit to treating this possibility as a special case, especially since it is so cheap for her to claim that this is what she’s doing, even when it’s not.
Many women who are actually status-testing no doubt sincerely believe in their conscious model of their actions, and you cannot inexpensively separate them from the ones who are also correct!
One reason, by the way, why this situation is so useful for women as a test of a man’s social skills, is that it requires considerable social calibration to pull off a declination or negotiation that also acknowledges and continues the “game” in progress, rather than simply refusing to play.
I think that the women who’ve been involved in this thread have actually been modeling Roko’s original statement as though it’s a refusal to interact, when in fact to be functional it has to actually take the interaction up a notch, by giving a nod to something you’ve noticed about her, or something she said, etc. (IOW, men who think women want them to be mind-readers are only partly correct; they just want to know you’ve been paying attention)
But if this is what they are doing then the ideal response may be to actually buy a drink since at least in pop culture depictions of this sort of scenario (at least in movies I’ve seen) seems to be that the male is actually supposed to do that. Failure to do so might be interpreted as a lack of interest.
Not compared to refusing in a way that shows you’re paying attention. A drink without attention isn’t nearly as flattering as the attention without the drink. And giving too much of either or both is counterproductive at Byrnema’s hypothetical level 2.
Sure, it may merely be unconscious entitlement, rather than a conscious status move.
I’m a little mystified by your analogy, and what you are intending to show with it. Being treated like the birthday girl (or boy) is a form of special treatment that happens once a year. It’s not your birthday every time you go out, right? Giving birthday presents between friends is generally mutual, yet you’ve made no mention of the drink buying being mutual. Furthermore, giving birthday presents happens when people know each other and already have an interaction, rather than being a precondition for an interaction occurring.
Since getting presents on one’s birthday is a form of special treatment, doesn’t your analogy suggest that expecting/requesting drinks to be bought for oneself is an expectation/request for year-round special treatment? And doesn’t asking for drinks look even worse when we remember that buying birthday presents among friends in mutual, while women asking for drinks aren’t expecting to reciprocate and buy the guy a drink the next night?
I actually receive a fair number of gifts on non-special occasions too, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.
I haven’t mentioned buying a reciprocal drink, but this is largely because I have idiosyncratic neuroses about money, not because it wouldn’t occur to me as something appropriate to do.
I’ve noticed something interesting about your “social processing” in these posts—your reasoning does not appear to include anything about what other people think or feel; in fact, it barely seems to include them at all! (For example, how would anyone you ask know whether you intend to reciprocate, or not?)
And I would guess that this apparent lack of consequential modeling of others’ visceral experience of you, would lead to other sorts of situations in which your NT friends/co-workers find you “weird”.
NTs pay lip service to deontological rules, but are mostly consequentialists with respect to their social behavior. As others here have pointed out, one of the key rules of NT social interaction is that everyone must show loyalty to the rules, while not being so clueless as to actually follow them or expect others to do so, when the real rules are about status and its consequences.
IOW, it’s insanely irrational to treat NT social interactions as being truly rule-driven. (By which I mean it’s irrational to think you will accomplish anything besides driving the NT’s insane!)
Unfortunately, it’s also similarly irrational/insane to try to convince non-NTs of this, unless they have some relevant personal experience. Me, I learned a little from a mentor in the business world who taught me how to see the power and affiliation subtexts of business interactions, but I’ve consistently erred on the side of assuming that those situations were special cases, and that I didn’t need to think like that with some group of trusted allies.
And in pretty much every case, I’ve found it to be a tragic error to assume that people are NOT playing games, no matter how sincerely they themselves believe they “really aren’t”. (When that’s really just the game of “not playing games”. Ever wonder why everybody claims to hate office politics, and yet it still exists?)
Geeks, of course, just use a different rulebook for their game, where (among other things) we get status for valuing “what you know” and “what’s right” over “who you know” and “what’s cool/popular/socially calibrated”. (However, this doesn’t change the game itself, just what the points get awarded for.)
Have you ever thought about why this is? The social dynamics of gift giving is a pretty interesting topic in itself.
I don’t know why in general. In my case, I hate surprises, and am pretty good at getting my friends to indulge this hate by not getting me things that I haven’t pre-approved. Since I’m neurotic about money and tend to not spend it unless it’s really, really important, this means that the average gift I get from a friend is more useful to me than the equivalent amount of money (which I’d basically never spend), especially since when I use the gift I think of the friend and get some utility from that.
That’s quite princessy behavior—worthy of a cute 10/cheerleader type! Go Alicorn!
Okay, this has me curious—is there actually a subset of pickup that is designed to tell me what to do, instead of telling people what to do to me? That would be news to me.
What, you mean girl game? Yeah, sure. It’s just not as big as guy game. ASF has a board for girls only.
Meh. This reminds me of advice columns, only with worse punctuation.
And apparently a “Playette FAQ” as well. (It makes heavy use of PUA terminology like “one-itis” and “IOI”, though.)
I haven’t really read ASFin almost 20 years, so I didn’t know about the Playette stuff. Funny story, though: I can attest to the value of the “whiff” technique in the Playette FAQ, because my wife used it in our first email and phone conversations, back in 1992… and well, um, it worked out pretty well for both of us. ;-)
That depends on what exactly your goal is. Typical men can boost their sexual attractiveness to women by changing their behavior far more than vice versa, so it’s unsurprising that there is a much greater body of expertise aimed at men in this regard. Also, getting sex is pretty much trivial for women and requires no particular skill. However, commitment and long-term relationship strategies are important and nontrivial for women too, and on better game-oriented blogs, I’ve often seen good discussions about the mistakes women make in this regard. Trouble is, realistic treatments of this issue tend to bring up even more ugly truths and end up sounding even less PC than the ordinary PUA stuff.
Can you give a couple examples?
Like in everything else, humans make bad decisions due to biases in matters of mating and pairing too. However, these particular biases are male- and female-specific, and pointing out the latter is easily perceived by women as an affront to their sex, which makes realistic discussion very hard.
But since you’re asking, here are some instances of such biases. None of them are universal, but each is held strongly by non-negligible numbers of women and leads them to decisions they later regret. One example is when women overestimate the attractiveness of men they can realistically hope to attract for serious permanent commitment, given the higher attractiveness of men they can attract for temporary relationships and short-term flings without any real commitment on the man’s part. Another is when women underestimate the speed with which their looks and reproductive abilities deteriorate with age. Yet another is the refusal to acknowledge that women can be greatly attracted to some very nasty personality types of men, not despite them but because of them (google “dark triad”), which leads some women to entering disastrous relationships with such men. Then there are also many wrong beliefs about what personality characteristics of women are truly attractive and pleasant to men and apt to attract their loyalty and commitment in the long run.
There are other examples too, many of which would probably sound more controversial. Even these I listed can provoke much worse reactions when put in less abstract and detached terms, which is typically necessary when forming concrete advice.
You’re bi, right? You could probably make use of much of the advice for straight men if you wanted.
I find it nasty to read. It’s not intended for me, even if I’d be interested in some of the people it’s about interacting with.
This is a general comment about the PUA material I’ve read.
It comes off as lonely. There’s no hint of enjoying someone’s company, or hope that a someone could enjoy the writer’s company if not manipulated into it.
Yes. Sometimes I get a sense of simmering resentment underneath it all, especially on the subject of “nice guys” vs. “jackasses”.
What the PUA people call “day game” (approaching women in everyday life, instead of bars and clubs) can verge on the concept of enjoyable company, but from my limited reading on the subject they don’t seem to cover day game nearly as much. They say it’s more difficult than “night game”.
It’s a little like something in a famous essay by Eric Raymond on “good porn” vs. “bad porn”. (Just google on those phrases to find a copy—I don’t care to do that search from a machine at work.) Following a personally conducted scientific examination of porn pictures on the web, he concluded that men looking for porn are not looking for depictions of attractive young women posed as if about to have enjoyable sex with the viewer. The porn industry knows what sells, and pictures of that sort, that Raymond called “good porn”, formed only a small minority. They are looking for what he classified as “bad porn”: pictures of an absolutely joyless activity, all hard faces, cold stares, and fetishistic trappings.
ETA: Eric Raymond’s essay is on his own blog here, and he’s updated some of the links that were broken when I first read it, so you can see some of his experimental samples.
Yes: It’s so bitter and so full of blame for the vast sea of women who didn’t respond as desired to “niceness”.
I find the resentment off-putting too, and as in any other area of human concern, there is indeed a lot of unjustified feeling of entitlement. However, it should be noted that the main reason for the resentment is the rules-hypocrisy. Many men are indeed too clueless to figure out the disconnect between the official attitudes and values that are professed piously in our culture and the actual rules of the status game that it’s taboo to discuss openly (so that such discussions are corralled off to disreputable venues like the PUA culture). Can you really blame them for being frustrated when they naively play by the official rules and end up scorned as low-status losers, or for acting out a bit when they finally realize what’s been going on?
This isn’t about blame, it’s about revulsion, and possibly about anger and fear.
You’re sympathizing with the men, which is natural—without speculating about details, your experience is more like theirs. Try imagining dating one of them, or being in a relationship with them—if that’s too much of a strain, try imagining reading a forum of women who are that hurt and angry about men.
Fair enough. However, I would say that women tend to display at least two major biases when they encounter this sort of stuff. (I don’t think these biases completely account for the fear and revulsion you mention, but they do mean that it often goes too far.)
First, women often don’t take into account that they’re observing men’s in-clique behavior, which they rarely, if ever, see in real life. Many young men whom they’d perceive as decent, polite, overall good guys (and who indeed are that by any reasonable standards) sometimes spew out stuff that’s just as extreme when they loosen up over beers among their male buddies, complete with foul language, frustrated trashing of women who have hurt them, etc. It’s just that polite men instinctively watch their mouths when women or authority figures are within hearing distance, so when they’re caught off guard rambling, or when they’re writing anonymously on the internet, they tend to come off much worse than they really are.
Second, I understand that women might fear getting involved with a man whose attractive surface hides an angry, frustrated, manipulative PUA underneath, whose nasty nature will only later come to prominence. However, this fear is entirely out of proportion when you consider a similar, but much more prevalent and dangerous natural phenomenon. Namely, there are significant numbers of men around whose personalities are naturally fundamentally nasty but nevertheless wildly attractive to women—many of whom ruin their lives big time by pursuing relationships with such men. See, for example, the Dark Triad paper by Jonason et al. for a discussion along these lines, which is nowhere near a complete account of this entire phenomenon. This is realistically a far greater danger than encountering a PUA, who is anyway more likely to be just a regular guy who undertook some self-improvement than a monster lurking below a smooth surface.
From the PUAs I’ve known, they are unlikely to be wolves in sheep’s clothing… they are more likely to be sheep in wolves’ clothing. There are a few guys who are badly adjusted and have weird antisocial ideas in the local PUA group, and other guys make fun of them behind their backs.
Do you have that sort of distance when women vent about men?
As for the Dark Triad guys, I agree that they should be a matter of more concern—the only specific advice I’ve seen about avoiding them is to not get involved with a man who’s rude to waitresses.
I would say yes. I have a hobby of sorts that consists of exploring obscure corners of the web where various sorts of fringe people with unconventional (and often disreputable) ideas gather, and attempting to understand their perspectives in a detached manner, as free of bias as possible. As an example relevant for your question, I have read radical feminist websites where the level of anger against men far surpasses any venting against women you’ll see on even the worst PUA forums.
Now, my conclusion is that out of all these fringe groups, most of them just form their own echo chambers where they vent and reinforce their peculiar biases, but a small minority actually manage to come up with non-trivial accurate insight that is nowhere to be found in more reputable and mainstream sources. The PUA community just happens to be one such example. In contrast, I have never come across any analogous women’s community, where lots of valid and interesting insight would be offered alongside anti-male anger and venting, but if I hypothetically did, I have no doubt I would enjoy reading it. (There are also communities full of angry venting men where, in contrast to PUAs, I’ve never seen any particularly interesting ideas.)
Trouble is, some very strong biases are present here, because the ugly and hard to admit truth is that some personalty types of this sort are attractive as such to many women—not all women, of course, and I won’t speculate on the percentage, but it’s certainly non-negligible. Note that I don’t mean the situations where such dark characteristics are hidden under a nice surface only to emerge later, but when they are truly attractive by themselves, causing irresistible urges in women to engage in dangerous, self-immolating adventures with such men. You can view it as a specifically female form of extreme akrasia, I guess. The prevailing bias, however, is to interpret all such situations as women having been manipulated by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, even when the wolf was howling and brandishing his fangs from day one, only to get an enthusiastic response.
I would love to read material from a female analogue to PUA. Looking back on past relationships I can see some patterns for behavior that ‘hooked’ me, but I’m sure I’m missing a lot of potentially valuable insights.
People often meet a person they like but can’t commit to romantically because of small ‘defects’ in the person’s behavior as it relates to the relationship. Personally, I’d be all in favor of my significant other using PUA equivalent methods on me, provided I was aware it and had studied the material myself (in the same way that I’m in favor of my significant other wearing certain clothing, etc).
So, two main upshots of wide dissemination of PUA style material: better understanding of myself, and heightened attraction to my partner.
I replied to a similar question in this subthread.
You’re response in the subthread was more a list of biases exhibited by females (an interesting list though). What I’m looking for is a set of actionable techniques a woman can use in the context of a relationship to keep a man more interested.
The Rules is probably the best known example. I haven’t read it and don’t know whether there is any validity to the claims. I suspect there’s some truth in there but that it is not terribly rigorous or accurate.
I haven’t read this book either, but a significant piece of evidence against it is that one of the authors divorced her husband only a few years after it was published. Otherwise, I’ve seen it get mixed to negative comments on game websites, the principal complaint being that a man who lets himself be played by those rules may easily ipso facto signal low status to the point where he’ll destroy her respect for (and thus attraction to) him. Some of the tactics allegedly advocated by the book indeed sound that way, but I won’t pass any definite judgments since I haven’t read it.
Manslations is pretty good.
Certainly such products exist (e.g. catchhimandkeephim.com, husbandscantresist.com) but I’m not familiar with any free online resources comparable to the vast assortment available for men. Catchhimandkeephim.com has some articles, but skimming through I found it difficult to judge how useful a woman would find this advice, as it sounded all very obvious and straightforward to me… but then, I’m a man, and the articles are about how men react and think. It’s possible that the information would be a revelation for someone who wasn’t a man. ;-)
There are many books giving that sort of advice, but I haven’t read any, so I can’t recommend them. Just from the titles and blurbs I’ve seen, it can be reliably concluded that many are very bad.
Anecdotally, I can say that in the best discussions of women’s relationship strategies and techniques I’ve ever read on game-related sites, I’ve never seen anyone point out a book or any other source of systematic advice whose message closely matches the best evidence-supported conclusions of these discussions. I see this as a strong piece of evidence against the whole existing literature. This is not that surprising considering that the best evidence-supported conclusions sound, to a large degree, highly un-PC and shattering lots of pleasant-sounding illusions.
Another piece is that, to the extent that the challenge for women is getting commitment, it’s simply harder to do experiments.
Yes, it’s harder to do experiments on parts of the interaction that occur later down the line. I think that’s a lot of the reason that PUAs talk so much more about pickup than relationships (though PUA forums typically have active relationships boards): the conversion funnel of approaches to dating to relationships gets narrower and narrower. PUAs spend most of their time stuck at particular interaction points prior to relationships, such as getting numbers and women not calling them back, going on dates with women and not being able to kiss them, or only successfully attracting women who don’t quite meet their relationship criteria. I’ve noticed that once PUAs get all that stuff handled, they start talking about relationships more than the mechanics of pickup, and actually get really picky.
You might find The Fantasy of Being Thin interesting.
What insights have you found in odd corners of the web?
As for the Dark Triad, I don’t know what’s going on there. I tentatively assume that some people like danger, and what attracts some to motorcycles and mountain-climbing can also attract people to mates who have TROUBLE written all over them.
Alternatively, some women choose men like their fathers—they’re imprinted on a bad idea of what a man is.
Also, I hope it’s less common in the culture, but some women believe that they can turn a bad guy into a good one by being a sufficiently good wife. I’m not going to say it never happens, but making the attempt can be a powerful emotional hook.
It’s clear that how reliable people’s survival instincts are (and about what parts of their lives) vary tremendously, and I’ve never seen a substantial discussion of how the “this is good for me, that is bad for me” sense works.
Yes, I am familiar with this particular community. They do discuss some common biases in an interesting way, but ultimately, my conclusion is that they generate their own more severe ones, without adding much clarity to anything overall.
Well, that could be a topic for a whole book, not a mere blog comment. I’d rather not just drop concrete names and places I’ve found interesting, since without lots of painstaking explanations and disclaimers, it would send off a thunderous signal of affiliation with all kinds of disreputable people.
This would be extremely surprising to me if true. This sounds like something that was true in the 1950s, but does this really match your experience today? In my experience, at least among people under 30 or so, there is no difference between how guys and girls act in social situations when there are, or are not, members of the opposite sex around. (Business or formal situations are different.)
Well, I have no evidence except anecdotal to present, but yes, this does match my experience. It surely doesn’t apply to all individuals, social groups, and occasions, but I observe it regularly, and I have to personally plead guilty to a certain degree of such inconsistency. Especially when, for example, a guy gets dumped or rejected and wants to vent a bit by rambling about the evilness of the girl in question, or women in general, it definitely seems likely to me that much cruder rants can be produced in an exclusive company of close, trusted male friends than otherwise.
In any case, even if this is true only for a minority of men, my main point still holds, i.e. there are non-negligible numbers of men around who, despite being perfectly respectable by all other criteria, engage in crude language about women and male-female relations on some occasions when no women are around to hear it. For this reason, women are often biased in that they tend to interpret such language, when observed, as unrealistically strong evidence of serious character flaws in the man in question.
I have often been bitterly amused at how the “Yes, but...” speeches on the misogyny often perpetrated by Western socially/sexually deprived men, on the one hand, and the crime often perpetrated by lower-class Afro-Americans, on the other hand, often end up disquietingly similar.
And with good reason; in both cases, we have angry, alienated young men who are least able to cope with the systemic oppression of their social group, least willing to play by the rules that treat them unfairly, spiral into hatred and evil, bringing even more scorn upon their group and the peaceful advocates in it, and inadverently creating good conditions for the “natural-born” antisocial/immoral assholes who wear their colors.
-Martin Luther King
Sadly, for now the MRAs/gender egalitarians seem to be doing far worse than even American blacks—see the bitter split with feminism, and the inability of similarly-minded feminists and MRAs to leave behind the sectarianism. (This collective blog that HughRistik writes for is the kind of collaboration that I’d like to see way more of on the gender front.)
I think you have had your opinion coloured by encountering people in the anger phase of the denial, anger, acceptance progression of changing beliefs in the light of new evidence.
Depends where you look. Some of that stuff is indeed written in such tone, and it’s true that some of it advises sly and dishonest tactics. On the other hand, here’s the story of a man who saved his marriage by applying insights he gained on game websites (the blog might be NSFW for foul language, though it’s on the blogroll of Overcoming Bias):
For me, that story seems awfully depressing. Nothing in the story suggested to me that the man loved his wife or that his wife loved him. Game may have permitted them to have a more harmonious marriage, and evidently better sex, but not a relationship that seemed based on mutual love and respect.
It may be that the marriage was just too flawed to begin with; it’s also possible, given that the writer was writing for Roissy’s blog, that he consciously left details and color about love out of his narrative. But from what he has actually written, he’s not describing the sort of marriage that I would want to be a part of.
Agreed. I also noticed that there was basically nothing about the wife’s individual personality. She could have been anybody, as long as she was gameable.
And the couple of tidbits that don’t sound dreadful and nasty to me, do sound like they are okay by accident—the theory sounds like bullshit, it’s just a stopped clock right twice a day. Example:
Panicking when one’s faithfulness is questioned is bad, but not because it’s “beta” and signifies fear of the wife or something—but because if the question causes panic, that might be because there’s cheating going on and he fears being caught. The post recommends teasing. That is better than panic (ymmv), but my guess would be that even better would be a perfectly calm and deadpanned: “No.” Or a longer sentence, but just as declarative: “I am not cheating on you.” No details or explanations or protestations. Presenting concrete evidence (unless asked for it!) might or might not hurt, but it probably won’t help, especially if you can come up with it too quickly—readily thought-of evidence could be planted, or might signify that you’ve already considered what to say if asked because there’s some reason to expect her to ask you wanted to be prepared for.
The problem with this approach is that factual statements can be argued with, putting you back into the same place as before—i.e., having an argument where you’re being accused of something. The “agree and amplify” approach has the tactical advantage that it leaves the other person with no place to escalate to, and can be repeated more or less indefinitely.
(Note: I’m not commenting here on the (un)desirability of having an adversarial relationship like that to begin with, just pointing to a tactical advantage of the proposed “agree and amplify” over a flat assertion or denial. Another advantage, btw, is that it can actually make the accuser paradoxically feel listened to/accepted/validated in a way that disagreement does not. My wife has actually successfully used this tactic on me when I’ve been annoyed at some minor thing—the old, “yes, I did do that, and I did it just to annoy you” routine. ;-) )
The incident described in the piece doesn’t involve the possibility of cheating at all.
I was generalizing. The examples of “before” conversations make it sound like he thinks he’s being accused of some sort of infidelity (however minor) and that he’s scared of being so accused.
As I mentioned once before but should mention again since you linked to his blog, Roissy is not representative of PUAs. He is like most of the worst things about PUAs, plus some other flaws of his own, all packed together. He’s attracted a lot of attention outside the seduction community, but virtually nobody inside it knows who he is or cares about him.
I think you’re making the mistake of judging him for his theatrics and shock-value approach. Once you get past the swaggering style, tune in to his sense of humor, and figure out which commenters are worth reading, I’d say his blog is by far the best place for all but the most technical discussions of all aspects of male-female interactions. This doesn’t mean I endorse all he has to say, of course, but the level of insight far surpasses the other game/PUA sites I’ve seen. (I don’t think it’s for nothing that Robin Hanson links to him.)
In particular, I’m struck by the quality of many commenters I’ve seen there through the years, though in this regard, the blog is past its prime (and even back in the past, you had to sift through the detritus of unmoderated comments to find the gems). What many people might find strange is that lots of the regulars there are women, some of them extremely smart and cultured, though it’s actually not surprising when you consider that it’s an environment where the usual rules-hypocrisy is thrown out the window.
All in all, there is certainly much there to be offended by, and in fact, for lots of that stuff, one is required to be offended by it according to the official respectable standards of our culture. Yet anyone striving to eliminate biases about these topics should find much of the insight offered there worthwhile.
What emotion or thought is this onomatopoeia intended to signify?
OK let’s try this. I’ve faced this situation maybe hundreds of times, and am curious as to how you compare to the girls I typically see.
Alicorn: Hey, wanna buy me a drink?
cousin_it: (smiles happily and shakes head)
Then it would probably depend on how much I wanted to talk to you in the first place (where this includes, factored in, how charming the happy smile is). If not much, I’d probably shrug and go back whence I came. If more than not much, I might say “Aw, why not?”—not to try particularly to extract a drink after all, but out of curiosity and to have something to have a conversation about.
I’ll be optimistic and assume the latter option happens! I’ve heard this reply several times, here’s what happens next:
Alicorn: Hey, wanna buy me a drink?
cousin_it: (smiles happily and shakes head)
Alicorn: Aw, why not?
cousin_it: (keeps smiling, almost laughing, eyes half closed, reaches with arm to catch her waist)
In fairness, you can’t give an informed reply to that because you can’t assess my physical attractiveness over the Internet, but I can just tell you the decision tree from this point. The girl either plays along or evades. If she plays along, I keep doing what makes sense. If she evades, I turn away to the bar without lingering even a second. You’d be surprised how many girls thus NEXT’ed later come back :-) Of course I don’t mean to imply anything about your behavior!
Yeah, going for the waist at that point would get a shriek even if you managed not to tickle me, and not in a good way. I don’t care if you look like Sean Maher. I’d escape (and it would feel like escaping, not like something more neutral like “disengaging” or whatever), and if I was with any female friends I’d warn them you were grabby. I might do an evaluation of how the bouncer would react if informed, but I have low priors on getting help for “socially acceptable” invasions of space.
I think you misunderstand cousin_it’s reference to “physical attractiveness”. He’s filtering not for whether you think he’s good-looking, he’s filtering by whether you are physically attracted to him at that moment in time, and open to the possibility of doing something about it, preferably as soon as possible. (This doesn’t necessarily mean sex, btw, just being physically companionable and open to exploring the chemistry further.)
Anyway, if you’re someone who’s aversive to being touched by strangers, this will obviously filter you out.
I’ll be honest here—girls kino-ing me (i.e. touching to show interest in this way) used to freak me the fuck out. I wouldn’t shriek, but I would definitely respond in a negative, abused-cat kind of way.
And I used to rationalize this response as being not just different but better and more right(eous) somehow than the dog way of doing things.
Nowadays, though, I realize that it’s irrational to pretend I’m going to change everybody into cats or even that it’s necessarily a good idea! (If everyone’s a cat, who’s going to do the stroking?)
So, while a stranger rubbing me the wrong way might make my hair stand on end, I have learned not to hiss, scratch, or run when I’m pawed by a dog person of whichever sex. Tolerating the discomfort or politely disengaging or explaining my issues with touch produces a better long-term result than just freaking out.
I’ve endured a fair number of lectures from my parents about how it’s rude to freak out when strangers touch me. Here is why I go on doing it anyway:
It is always startling. I do not expect strangers to touch me, and I can’t read them well enough to come to expect it when it’s going to happen. This gives me little opportunity to prepare a response.
It often sets off sensory issues. I can tolerate accidental, very brief incursions into these issues by people who know about them and will stop instantly if they hear the relevant word, but anything prolonged may well have me curl up in a ball and scream. And it turns out that people are confused, or worse, think it’s funny, when I try to explain these issues. If they are confused enough, or think it’s funny enough, to go on touching me in a non-approved way while I try to explain in an increasingly hysterical fashion, I will wind up doing something far less socially acceptable than just freaking out and escaping.
I don’t think that every random person is a rapist, but I think some of them are, and if I’m later in a position of having to go to the cops, I want every witness who saw me with the accused to have noticed that I established a precedent from the start of not wanting to be touched, because sexual assault investigations are nightmarish enough as-is without the kinds of whispers a history of “kino” would create.
There are certain kinds of touch that are quite safe. I will shake hands. I love hugs. Backrubs are awesome. I often ask to pet people’s hair and am perfectly happy to permit the reverse. But the only context where I would be okay with someone grabbing me around the waist would be if I were in an ongoing relationship with them and they knew to stop on a dime if I utter the words “that tickles”.
To be clear, I am not saying that it’s “rude”… I’m just pointing out that in my case, it has been more useful to adapt. This should not be construed as an implication that you can or should do so.
(looks up Sean Maher)
Oh no, I look nothing like that. I look like a dork, not a movie star :-)
I feel bad that this behavior would scare you. Honestly I don’t know that I ever scared a single person in my life, man or woman. I mean, you could probably beat me up if you wanted to :-) Humorous shrieks are a common girl response; scared shrieks, no. But… okay. I’m playing a numbers game anyway, some form of evasion is the expected response.
There are many arguments that come to mind here, but above all: having to cut down your dating pool drastically because you can’t handle typical social behavior is not winning.
All other things equal, it is better to have more choice, and all other things are not equal: “nerdy” occupations and communities are not gender balanced.
I don’t see any necessary contradiction between Roko and SarahC’s perspectives in determining an optimal dating strategy for men with LW-reader phenotypes that doesn’t rely on luck.
Are there nontrivial subsets of women who would make good matches for male LW-readers, with psychology not correctly described by the standard PUA model? Yes. Should these guys go outside that model to understand these women? Yes.
Are there nontrivial subsets of women who would make good matches for male LW-readers, with psychology that is correctly described by the standard PUA model, in part or in whole? Yes. Would these guys benefit from attaining knowledge of neurotypical social behaviors (from PUAs or elsewhere) to be able to date these women, instead of arbitrarily cutting them out of their dating pool? Yes.
I take an empirical approach to romantic success. Being able to date many kinds of people gives you a lot of options. Sometimes, you can’t know whether you would be compatible with a certain type of person until you try dating someone like that. Saying “but I don’t want anyone like that anyway” about people out of one’s reach because of a lack of common social skills is a failure mode. Yet if you attain the skills to date someone like that, and you find it doesn’t work, then you know that you are not merely the fox calling the grapes sour in Aesop’s fable.
Yeah, that’s the thing. I’m all for learning helpful skills. Bar game might be a helpful skill; I’ve seen enough positive testimonials to make me believe it. And certainly it’s a failure mode to do the sour grapes thing. (I’ve tried dating outside my comfort zone; it’s quite possible.)
PUA is a model, though, and people who like it sometimes overstate its applicability. The other thing to keep in mind is that there’s a tension between learning new skills and playing to your strengths. Sometimes it’s in your best interest to do the latter.
Umm. The purpose of dating is to find someone you’re compatible with. “Expanding your dating pool” to include personality types you don’t like defeats the whole point.
Unless your current idea of what personality types you’re compatible with is too limited, or your judgment of other personality types that makes you not like them is prejudiced. The purpose of dating is also to find out what types of people you are compatible with empirically. See also my response to SarahC.
“Doesn’t play culturally-common status games socially-inexperienced people don’t know how to handle” is not a reasonable way for nerdy people to determine compatibility with potential mates (or friends). The filter is too broad, and it will exclude people they might actually be compatible with if they understood status games better and how to handle them.
A big part of the reason that nerdy people don’t like status games is because they don’t understand the psychology behind them, and consequently give the other person an unfairly negative assessment. Since they aren’t accustomed to status games, their hackles may go up, particularly if the status ploy triggers issues for them, like memories of past bullying by higher status people. Yet once one attains some understanding of status games and skill at playing them, then the hackles no longer go up, and there is no reason to ascribe such a negative judgment to the other person and exclude them as a potential mate or friend.
Of course, there are valid reasons for nerdy people to find certain types of status games annoying and undesirable, even after understanding them. Yet the best way to get a sense of what kinds of status games are fun, what kind are OK with you, and what kind are intolerable, and what kinds of people play these kinds of games, is to have experience playing them with people.
Except that you may find that you’re compatible with someone that you never expected would be compatible with you. Especially when you’re talking about stereotypes like “people who go to bars” or “nerdy women” or “people who engage in shit-testing,” which are broad enough to include many different types of people
Not to mention that there are many purposes of dating: not all relationships are about long-term compatibility.
Assuming you are incompatible with certain personality types without any experience of dating them seems unnecessarily limiting.
Many kinds of educated guesses about compatibility increase the probablity of finding the right person or the right relationship, because time is finite, and time spent dating a born-again Christian fundamentalist is time not spent dating an atheist librarian (or not studying Pearl or Jaynes ;-) ).
I’ve never dated a religious fundamentalist; I almost certainly never will. And I think that is the rational choice, even though it seems “limiting” in a sense. In reality, though, I don’t think it is limiting at all, because time is not infinite, and dating opportunities are not fungible with respect to time. It’s only limiting if you ignore the probability of successful outcomes based on what you know of yourself and other people, but what is a decision theory worth that ignores the probabilities altogether (and differing payoffs too)?
Edit: what holds regarding religious fundamentalists also holds to a lesser degree regarding various subsets of the average, neurotypical women that are the subject of this thread.
On the other hand, cargo-cult free-thinking can be, at least for me, far more obnoxious than just plain religious close-mindedness. And in that regard, an atheist librarian may well be much worse than a regular churchy girl (or guy).
I agree with your underlying point, but you brutally twisted my message in order to make your point.
I said “religious fundamentalist”, not “close minded” or “regular churchy girl (or guy)”, so you’re talking about something other than what I was talking about. There is a world of difference between a fundamentalist who thinks (for example) that the Earth is 6,000 years old and the bible is the literal word of God, and the average church-going person.
There’s more to life than intellectual activity and rationality. What about occasionally enjoying light-hearted conversation or sex with a born-again fundamentalist, just as a form of recreation? I understand your point about not wanting a serious relationship with someone with very different values, but not everything has to be about a serious relationship.
A much lesser degree, especially for intelligent extraverted women who might enjoy socializing for fun sometimes in bars, as well as more abstract pleasures.
I agree with the point about everything not having to be about a serious relationship, but the reality is that many of us are looking for a serious relationship, and we need the other person to be somebody that we can have interesting conversations with and whom we can respect and be challenged by intellectually.
I also agree on the much lesser degree point, but I do think that somebody who is extremely introverted and intellectual is not necessarily making a big mistake by limiting their romantic pursuits to people who aren’t extreme extroverts, for example, or limiting themselves to people with the intellectual equivalent of a college education and an ongoing passion for learning.
Born-again fundamentalist light-hearted sex? That does not compute....
For me, the reason I don’t do casual relationships is because my personality type does not do casual very well. Either I’m really into someone or I don’t really care.
Heh, I thought someone might ask about that. Believe it or not, there are fundamentalists out there who take the attitude that since they know they’re already saved, they can do whatever they want.
I think a lot of what I’m disagreeing with you and blueberry about is this assumption that meat-market type bars and clubs, and the PUA style tactics that may work well in those environments, are a representative sample of “typical social behavior”
PUA style tactics are predominantly a reverse-engineering of naturalistic behaviors. PUAs didn’t invent status games, they just try to copy them.
On what population do you base your view of “typical social behavior”? I do think that bars and clubs are pretty representative of the behavior of extraverts of average IQ. This is just what extraverted 100 IQ homo sapiens do when you put them in a room with a little ethanol. Such behavior may not be representative of the average introvert who is lower in sensation-seeking, but average IQ extraverts are a pretty big slice of humanity.
Bars and clubs may contain a disproportionate amount of status behavior, but this is just on the higher end of the continuum of status behavior among typical homo sapiens.
People in relationships push each other all the time to see how the other person will react. Even friends not of each other’s preferred gender do this. You may be taking the “buy me a drink” example too literally.
I don’t think people have been talking about “PUA style tactics,” as much as about normal social relationships and interactions. You’re right that they may be more exaggerated at a bar scene.
Maybe it’s happening so subtly that I can’t see it, but I don’t think everyone is pushing that much all the time.
I think you’re defining yourself as normal, and rather subtly making a status claim that anyone who doesn’t fit in well with you is deficient.
But that example was the only thing I was ever disagreeing with. I honestly don’t even remember what this article was originally about any more, I just remember reading the “buy me a drink” example, and thinking “whaaaaaa?”. It just weirded me out that something was being cited as an example of a broader phenomenon, as if it was this universally known, obvious thing, when in reality I think it’s something that only people involved in the PUA “community” actually believe—which makes it, whether right or wrong, not a very good example.
It’s not universally known, but it it more widely known than the PUA circle.
It seems to be understood among the set of guys that have experience successfully attracting girls.
My friends that meet this criteria take it as an obvious rule with a few exceptions, and they didn’t learn it from anything “PUA” related- just from experience and observation
Well, the “buying a drink” story is an extreme example that’s been canonized to make a point. But I’m convinced that in general, human beings are always unconsciously “testing” each other, and that this applies to everyone, male or female, autistic or NT. It’s just part of how humans talk and joke around and communicate. For instance, saying hi to someone and smiling is “testing”: you’re seeing what kind of mood someone is in. Making a joke, or laughing at a joke, is “testing”: you’re seeing how other people react.
I don’t see the “PUA” stuff as about sex or dating or men and women. It’s about human social interaction in general.
I suggest there’s a difference between “testing” and “checking”. In a test, you’re trying to find out whether the other person will fail or (in the case of bullies) hoping they will, while in a check, you’ll hoping they’ll succeed. I gather there are some people who are pretty evenly balanced on the chack/test scale—if the other person passes, fine, it’s a potential friendship, and if the other person fails, the harassment commences.
I think that a lot of small talk is what I call “pinging”—“Hello, I’m here and friendly”.
Good point about the pinging.
Using your test/check distinction, I think in most cases, including the “buy me a drink” scenario, what’s going on is a check. After all, the attractive girl is in a bar talking to the guy; she’d prefer the guy be attractive to her, not a pushover.
Yes, status-testing is a general component of typical human interaction. I think this is the point that Roko was trying to make, even though his particular example was rather gendered. If you want to see status testing in a non-male-female context, watch the behavior of frat boys, for example.
The point is that for those unfamiliar with this behavior, they need to be able to identify it when it happens, to not take it personally or as a sign of hostility, and know how to respond. Roko’s advocation of “caching responses” is very helpful, until one gets a gut feeling and can be guided towards a satisfactory response merely by emotions.
I understand your point: that is an extremely visible and easy to see example of a dominance hierarchy.
But I’m more thinking about testing in general, not necessarily status testing. I interpret most testing as learning about the other person’s responses, not necessarily testing their status. I don’t even know if I would interpret the “buying a drink” story as about status: it’s more about humor and confidence.
The frat boy example has extremely negative connotations, and I wouldn’t call it “typical human interaction”. How about “watch two people having a pleasant and friendly conversation, laughing together, and enjoying each other’s company”? That’s a more pleasant example of unconscious testing, in the sense of unconsciously doing things to see people’s reactions and learning about the other person.
With introversion, agreeableness, and sensitivity, I wouldn’t suspect any negative correlation with conventional attractiveness (agreeableness could even have a weak positive correlation). Nerdiness and lack of socialization may be related, and even if there is a negative correlation between them and attractiveness for whatever reason, that correlation may not be particularly strong.
I would hypothesize that personality traits are at least as big a factor as looks in explaining variance in female status testing behavior. As a result, I agree with SarahC’s view that neurotypical vs. non-neurotypical status does not adequately demarcate women who ask men to buy them drinks from women who don’t. And I also disagree with Roko’s suggestion that women who don’t engage in this behavior predominantly lie in the left tail of the attractiveness distribution for age.
If pjeby’s original intent, however, was to present NT women as those most likely to engage in this behavior, and non-NT women as least likely, then I would agree with him that such a correlation is plausible. If Roko wanted to hypothesize a weak-to-moderate correlation of attractiveness and status-testing behavior, than I would agree. I just consider certain personality traits that are probably uncorrelated with beauty as having a large effect on engaging in this kind of behavior.
I actually didn’t state either of the things that people are attributing to me. I simply referred to “the mostly-NT women who show up at bars and ask men to buy them drinks”.
The mostly-NT is hyphenated because it is an attribute of “women who show up at bars and ask men to buy them drinks”—and this attribution does not require any correlation. The simple fact that non-NT women are a minority, period, ensures that most of the women who do this showing up at bars and asking of drinks will be neurotypicals.
I was making a point about the selection bias effect of this on PUA models, not attempting to draw any conclusions about the likelihood of drink-asking behavior given neurotypicality. (I did suggest a negative correlation between neuro-atypicality and drink-asking behavior, however.)
People involuntarily/unconsciously test and asses others’ status all the time. Evidence of one’s status is embedded in every action, and therefore, all action can be used to determine status.
I’m curious what you mean by this. Do you mean you think they will have put less effort into clothing, hair, makeup, etc. (perhaps true, but perhaps less relevant to male attraction than you think) or do you mean that you expect some inverse correlation between physical attractiveness and the personality traits described?
Partly that they put less effort into their appearance (which, for many, also includes a non-trivial effort to be thin), but also that a desire to be noticed is more related to extroversion and dominance than their opposites, and skill at being noticed favorably is related to neurotypicallity.
To the extent that the personality traits described are learned, I would expect more innately-attractive women to be less likely to develop them. (More specifically, women who were more attractive at some relatively young age, like how men’s income is more strongly associated with adolescent than adult height [PDF].)
I think you’re letting an instrumental approach to psychology affect your epistemic rationality.
sorry, Orthonormal, I don’t see what you’re getting at—I didn’t mean the above as being exhaustive—merely saying that at least those people are not likely to play these kinds of games
Ah, then we have a miscommunication. I think it could have been worded better in order to avoid an unsavory misinterpretation.
A woman asks a man for a drink at a bar.
The PUA theory explains this in terms of a status interaction. The woman is testing, ‘is this man so low status he feels compelled or obligated to buy me a drink?’
I am wary of explanations based on status interactions. It is the kind of explanation that can explain anything and therefore nothing. Also, I am skeptical based on my sense of the woman’s subsequent disappointment and embarrassment if the man says no directly—this is not a test where the level 1 correct answer is ‘no’.
Alternatively, there’s the simplistic evolutionary explanation, that I present here as what I would use to explain the phenomenon to a true human-outsider. Asking a man for a drink at a bar covertly or overtly, and in general men buying drinks for women, is the first step in a courtship ritual in which the man is to display that he is a provider. Raising children is a big investment and a family will be successful if the man and the woman together provide for the family. The woman’s investment is largely guaranteed by other mechanisms, so it is the male’s investment that must be tested and assured.
When a woman asks a man for a drink, this is the modern equivalent of asking him to bring her an animal skin. Something of token value that is of some benefit to her. What happens next is variable and perhaps does depend upon status. The woman can signal that she is not a single-animal-skin female, perhaps because providing for a child is much bigger than a single-animal-skin investment. Alternatively, the female can signal loyalty (her test in the courtship game) and signal that in return for the drink, the man has secured her undivided attention (politely, for at least the length of time it takes her to consume the drink).
This is all level-1 interaction. Human beings are intelligent, and the interaction can go meta to level 2 or 3 or higher. A woman should have concerns about a man that will buy any woman a drink that asks him. If he is too nice (signals too generally that he is a provider) then you can predict he will be fixing Aunt Rosa’s faucet when he ought to be changing diapers. Also, he might not be very smart, or too low status in the tribe to provide much for the family. Thus a man that can deflect the request in a humorous/intelligent way will be very attractive—especially if it is early in the courtship (he will not provide indiscriminately to every female that asks!) and especially if he manipulates the situation to advance the courtship (he is intelligent and capable and interested!).
Level 3 or higher would be the man going meta about the courtship ritual itself. (Not feminist? Or commenting on how silly the norm is.) This can be very attractive because the man is signaling intelligence and a larger meaning-of-life potential value. This is someone you can talk to about whether you should have kids or not.
I would guess that if you are naturally successful with people of the opposite sex, you slide easily and naturally among these levels. PUA seems to recommend making it level 2 or higher. My preference in courtship would be level 1 and level 3 together: the drink and signaling at the meta level about intelligence and gender roles. Because real life is changing diapers, but it’s valuable to have a mutual awareness that life is—to some extent—a set of choices.
My hunch is that Feynman had success with his rogue tactics because he was meta, and this is what the intelligent women attracted to his intelligence were looking for. His behavior, if given at level 1 or level 2, would flop disastrously.
This is true—but only because just answering “no” is a DLV—demonstration of lower value. It says that you’re not paying attention, or that you’re either stingy or you lack resources. (Also, the PUA model is basically if that the woman ends up feeling bad, you’re doing it wrong. Feynman’s “worse than a whore” story should not be considered a canonical example here.)
The big problem, though, with these hypothetical discussions is that they’re abstract, and what is actually a DHV or DLV is going to depend hugely on body language, voice tone, and numerous other elements of context that are impractical to talk about in text like this.
Likewise, on the flip side:
The exact same words can still be a DLV, if they’re uttered without social calibration. A guy who says these things while being in his head and not actually connecting with the woman in front of him, may well be seen as a self-centered jackass or a pompous twit.
It’s not just what you say or how you say it, but the degree to which both show that you are tuned in and present to what is going on around you… especially what’s going on with the person in front of you. Otherwise, it’s still not expensive enough of a signal! (Secondarily, the inherent riskiness of the act implies your authenticity and courage—more expensive, hard-to-fake signaling.)
Interestingly, I’ve seen that there is at least one PUA school (“Authentic Man Program”) that has focused their training efforts on precisely these hard-to-fake aspects of signaling, to the virtual exclusion of everything else.
That is, they appear to focus on training men to be present and responsive to what is going on, while maintaining the integrity of their own mission or principles. And they claim that it is these qualities of presence, awareness, and authenticity that female status/value testing is really trying to measure.
(Side note of possible interest: they may also be the only PUA school that employs more female teachers than male ones—some of their workshop samples show panels of three or four women working with two male teachers, or pairs of women giving students feedback on their presence qualities, while the male coaches then just tell the guy what to do (mentally and physically) with the feedback that’s been given. IOW, it seems like the women are used as experts on the female experience of the men, while the men focus on how those things are generated or experienced inside men.)
Anyway, their goal seems to be to train men to actually have these attractive qualities (and get rid of the beliefs and behaviors that interfere with them), rather than teaching all the ways the qualities can be signaled or faked, as other PUA schools do.
No, that’s not correct. It is falsifiable—it claims that you won’t get laid as much by failing shit tests as by passing them. And, indeed, it has been subjected to man-centuries of field testing, unlike many ideas we see on Less Wrong.
This is what I mean by status theories can explain anything: if buying the drink for the girl on average results in a good outcome, you could say that buying a drink on average raises your status in her point of view. If not buying the drink for the girl on average results in a good outcome, you could say that not buying a drink on average raises your status in her point of view. In either case, you assume rather than establish that higher status corresponds to the more successful outcome.
How do you know if “status” is a real thing if you can’t measure it directly but only infer it from successful outcomes? The problem is that maybe higher status is redefined in each case as getting the good outcome, in which case “status” is just the property-of-resulting-in-successful-outcomes. Even if status is some external objective thing, if we don’t know how to objectively measure whether it has increased or not, this is missing in theories based on predicting what happens if it’s increased or not.
Later edit: I thought about it a little longer and my true argument isn’t that good outcomes aren’t correlated with higher status, I suspect they are. It’s that the theory is missing where you predict which things will raise status and which will lower status. If not buying the drink helps, you deduce that this raised your status. But why should it have been raised? This last part is just filling in the blanks.
Some PUA theories use “value” and “compliance” as their currency rather than status. i.e., giving compliance implies the other person has value to you. This is at least marginally better, although as your previous comment points out, there are various levels and dimensions on which “value” can be measured.
There are PUA terms for value demonstration—“DHV” for demonstration of higher value, and “DLV” for demonstration of lower value. Self-deprecating behavior, deference, and compliance are DLVs, while confidence, humor, leadership, social proof (e.g. having friends or followers) are all DHV’s. PUA’s also attempt to tell stories that contain oblique references to things that imply value, by showing how you treat your friends and allies, protect your mates, and that you have other positive qualities such as openness to new experiences (implied bravery and resource/fitness surplus), etc.
Of course, at level 1 this is just boasting that you work out and have a fast car; so PUA’s select stories that show these qualities implicitly, rather than directly boasting about them, so that the inferences are drawn subconsciously, instead of being presented on the surface for conscious dismissal.
(Btw, as with so many things in PUA, these concepts apply to other social interactions as well. A marketing message (or really, any story) is more effective when it “shows” instead of “tells” the things it wants you to conclude.)
Related Less Wrong post.
Another proxy for measuring status is how attractive you are to attractive women—given that the fundamental attractor is reliable status signals.
Status is not just defined and determined by good outcomes; the drink example is one small piece of a larger puzzle.
You could consider status to be rather like the magnetic field—it is a mathematical moving part of the theory, and has explanatory power only to the extent that the theory predicts objectively measurable events. Is the magnetic field real? Who cares—what matters is whether your radio works.
The explanation is fitted to the observations of the custom. It is therefore not supported by the observations. Had the observations been different, the explanation would never have been invented.
Upvoted just for this. Flip the script, great.
Later that night...
“So… you wanna come in for a cup of tea?”
“Ummm… okay, but just a cup of tea then.”
“[mock relief] Phew, and here I was afraid you were trying to get into my pants!”
Feynman would end up with the woman buying him a drink.
Yes. Especially if success is partly defined by “not wasting money on other people”. But even if it isn’t. You have to be humorous about it but, yeah, the only time I would ever buy a woman I just met a drink is if it is her birthday. I’ll also buy second rounds if the girl buys the first.
On the other hand this tradition makes going out to bars with my girlfriend a lot cheaper since she can just walk away for a minute and someone will come up to her and buy her a drink. After which she comes back to me, drink in hand. (ETA: Though, I don’t think she’s ever asked for a drink. She’s much too nice for that. People just come up and offer.)
As a non-drinker, I often passed proffered drinks onto my friends, who could make use of them. Obviously I would never ask for a drink, except maybe a glass of water.
I’ll buy you an orange juice if you want. ;)
The point was partially made by the fact that water is free, at least everywhere I’ve lived. Thanks, though.
I can confirm that this does happen at least sometimes (USA). I was at a bar, and I approached a woman who is probably considered attractive by many (skinny, bottle blonde) and started talking to her. She soon asked me to buy her a drink. Being not well versed in such matters, I agreed, and asked her what she wanted. She named an expensive wine, which I agreed to get her a glass of. She largely ignored me thereafter, and didn’t even bother taking the drink!
(I did obtain some measure of revenge later that night by spanking her rear end hard, though I do not advise doing such things. She was not amused and her brother threatened me, though as I had apologized, that was the end of it. She did tell some other lies so I don’t know if she is neurotypical; my impression was that she was well below average in morality, being a spoiled brat.)
In European bars or nightclubs, if (relatively) attractive girls ask strangers for drinks or dishes, then it typically means they are doing it professionally.
There is even a special phrase “consume girl” meaning that the girl’s job is to lure clueless customers into buying expensive drinks for them for a cut of the profit. The surest sign of being a “consume girl” is that they typically don’t consume what they ask for.
It’s all about money, and has nothing to do with social games, whatsoever. They are not spoiled brats, but trained for this job.
I am not sure how common is this “profession” in the US, but in Europe it’s relatively common.
Sounds like Cabaret Hostesses in Japan. They have male counterparts, too, but the female variety is a lot more common.
It’s common in Korea—they call them “juicy girls” (from the korean word for “please,” roughly “juseo”). I’ve never seen it here in the US. I don’t know why it doesn’t exist in the US, the only other slightly relevant and consistent difference I can think of is the cultural attitudes toward tipping.
Well, there is this...
In the US the equivalent job is selling people VIP tables for bottle service.
I’ve heard of such in the US, too, but only in decades-old fiction. I don’t know whether it’s current practice.
I don’t like to go meta, but this comment and its upvotes (4 at the time I write) are among the more disturbing thing I’ve seen on this site. I have to assume that they reflect voters’ appreciation for a real-life story of a woman asking a man to buy a drink, rather than approval of the use of violence to express displeasure over someone else’s behavior and perceived morality in a social situation.
I’m also surprised that you’re telling this story without expressing any apparent remorse about your behavior, but I guess the upvotes show that you read the LW crowd better than I do.
Correct in my case.
I’m wondering if it’s a true story. The part about the drink is conceivable. I’d be surprised if the woman’s behavior is at all common,. though.
The violence..… where is there enough privacy at a bar to spank someone?
I didn’t get the impression that the spanking was done in privacy.
You think he lied about the story?
If it wasn’t done in privacy, then I understand my culture less than I thought.
Would people just let a man grabbing a woman and spanking her happen? No one calls the police? There’s no bouncer?
If the glass of wine was expensive, this isn’t an extremely sleazy bar, if that matters.
The story is so far off from my priors of how people behave that I think the possibility that it isn’t true should be considered.
He didn’t say “grabbing”, and in context, I’d guess that by “spanking” he meant a single swat to the buttocks.
It says more that you don’t get out much, or aren’t very observant when you do. I don’t get out much, and never got out much, even during the brief few years when I was both single and of age, and such a story as this one is so utterly mundane and commonplace in its elements as to seem scarcely worthy of comment in the first place.
Most guys that protest such behavior from women make some other form of scene than swatting, of course, and most simply whine to their buddies or suffer in silence rather than make a scene at all. But apart from that, it’s an utterly ordinary story, and observable many, many times a night in any “meet market” where the women go to dance and drink, funded by deluded potential suitors.
I agree that “spanking” is ambiguous, and a single hit would be plausible.
It’s true that I don’t get out much in that sense—I don’t like loud noise (as in really hate it) or drunk people.
Bouncers are a way to get around the bystander effect.
Hey, I never thought of that— having a designated person to come over and break up a fight is probably more valuable than a naive analysis would reckon, not even counting the other security benefits.
Read in the context of the entire thread, I take this as a non-apology apology, not an expression of remorse or contrition. In the thread, Mallah continued to take the position that the woman “deserved” the spanking, and it appears to me that the apology was made in order to avoid future confrontation/trouble, not remorse. Moreover, Mallah also commented:
Remorse involves some genuine feeling of regret that one’s actions had been wrong in some ethical or moral sense, not merely reconsideration because they had been ill-advised in a a practical sense.
You assaulted her because she asked for an expensive drink, you gave her the drink, and then she ignored you?
You say you don’t recommend what you did, but I’m curious about why, considering that you seem to think she deserved it.
It was a single swat to the buttocks, done in full sight of everyone. There was other ass-spanking going on, between people who knew each other—done as a joke - so in context it was not so unusual. I would not have done it outside of that context, nor would I have done it if my inhibitions had not been lowered by alcohol; nor would I do it again even if they are.
Yes, she deserved it!
It was a mistake. Why? It exposed me to more risk than was worthwhile, and while I might have hoped that (aside from simple punishment) it would teach her the lesson that she ought to follow the Golden Rule, or at least should not pull the same tricks on guys, in retrospect it was unlikely to do so.
Other people (that I have talked to) seem to be divided on whether it was a good thing to do or not.
[Note: this is going to sound at first like PUA advice, but is actually about general differences between the socially-typical and atypical in the sending and receiving of “status play” signals, using the current situation as an example.]
I don’t know about “good”, but for it to be “useful” you would’ve needed to do it first. (E.g. Her: “Buy me a drink” You: “Sure, now bend over.” Her: “What?” “I said bend over, I’m going to spank your spoiled [add playful invective to taste].”)
Of course, that won’t work if you are actually offended. You have to be genuinely amused, and clearly speaking so as to amuse yourself, rather than being argumentative, judgmental, condescending, critical, or any other such thing.
This is a common failure mode for those of us with low-powered or faulty social coprocessors—we take offense to things that more-normal individuals interpret as playful status competition, and resist taking similar actions because we interpret them as things that we would only do if we were angry.
In a way, it’s like cats and dogs—the dog wags its tail to signal “I’m not really attacking you, I’m just playing”, while the cat waves its tail to mean, “you are about to die if you come any closer”. Normal people are dogs, geeks are cats, and if you want to play with the dogs, you have to learn to bark, wag, and play-bite. Otherwise, they think you’re a touchy psycho who needs to loosen up and not take everything so seriously. (Not unlike the way dogs may end up learning to avoid the cats in a shared household, if they interpret the cats as weirdly anti-social pack members.)
Genuine creeps and assholes are a third breed altogether: they’re the ones who verbally say they’re just playing, while in fact they are not playing or joking at all, and are often downright scary.
And their existence kept me from understanding how things worked more quickly, because normal people learn not to play-bite you if you bare your claws or hide under the couch in response ! So, it didn’t occur to me that all the normal people had just learned to leave me out of their status play, like a bunch of dogs learning to steer clear of the psycho family cat.
The jerks, on the other hand, like to bait cats, because we’re easy to provoke a reaction from. (Most of the “dogs” just frown at the asshole and get on with their day, so the jerk doesn’t get any fun.)
So now, if you’re a “cat”, you learn that only jerks do these things.
And of course, you’re utterly and completely wrong, but have little opportunity to discover and correct the problem on your own. And even if you learn how to fake polite socialization, you won’t be entirely comfortable running with the dogs, nor they you, since the moment they actually try to “play” with you, you act all weird (for a dog, anyway).
That’s why, IMO, some PUA convversation is actually a good thing on LW; it’s a nice example of a shared bias to get over. The LWers who insist that people aren’t really like that, only low [self-esteem, intelligence] girls fall for that stuff, that even if it does work it’s “wrong”, etc., are in need of some more understanding of how their fellow humans [of either gender] actually operate. Even if their objective isn’t to attract dating partners, there are a lot of things in this world that are much harder to get if you can’t speak “dog”.
tl;dr: Normal people engage in playful dog-like status games with their actual friends and think you’re weird when you respond like a cat, figuratively hissing and spitting, or running away to hide under the bed. Yes, even your cool NT friends who tolerate your idiosyncracies—you’re not actually as close to them as you think, because they’re always more careful around you than they are around other NTs.
Your cat/dog analogy is very good, but this requires some extra elaboration.
As you say, in regular socializing, this “cat-baiting” behavior is characteristic of jerks and bullies; regular people will typically leave “cats” alone rather than provoke them. However, in male-female interactions in which the woman deems (consciously or not) that the man might have some potential mating value but requires additional assessment, or if she perceives that the man is actively trying to win her favors, she’ll typically engage in some “cat-baiting” to test him for undesirable “catlike” traits.
There’s nothing surprising there once you really understand what’s going on; it’s simply a regular way of assessing a potential partner’s fitness. Sometimes this “cat-baiting” will be subtle and entirely unremarkable to the man, but sometimes it has the form of harsh and unpleasant shit-tests which can leave him angry and hurt, and which go far into the jerk territory by the standards of regular socializing. The latter will happen especially if the woman generally imposes high standards, or if the man looks like a poor prospect who could redeem himself only with some amazing bullet-dodging. (Hence guys who give off a “catlike” vibe often get the worst of it.)
For many guys, understanding this would, at the very least, save them a lot of pointless anger in situations like the one described above by Mallah.
Thank you, that was a very helpful explanation for me. It’s posts like these that make me thankful you contribute here, even as we’ve had our differences in the past.
Reading it, I thnk I can interpret a past experience in a new light, in which I was, long ago, asked to leave a large NT-dominated club, for (what seemed like) kafkaesque reasons which were criticisms of my behavior they couldn’t rationally justify. In particular, how I was told that far more people had a negative reaction to me than I had ever interacted with. I had heard third-hand (though from a trusted source) that it was because someone passed around a false, serious accusation that they never told me about.
But looking back, the explanation that there was a dog/cat expectation barrier makes a lot of sense of the way they treated me, which was not just vicious, but bizarre. (I think that NTs would agree that some my treatment was wrong, even from an NT perspective, but believe that the my reaction to it escalated the conflict, drawing out my different behavior.)
PS: Whoever voted the parent down, I request an explanation.
Am I correct in thinking that sensitivity to a downvote like this is “cat” like?
No. As I keep pointing out, there is a group of posters on LW strongly opposed to this frank discussion of the real governing factors behind sociality, such as those discovered by the PUA community. We need to have a similarly open discussion of what drives people who want to keep such helpful comments as pjeby’s above from being made.
Since I’m not out to punish the comment, or feel threatened by it, but just want to understand the various positions regarding this issue, it is not “cat like”.
It may be a moot point though, as I may have been mistaken in thinking that anyone downvoted pjeby’s comment; I had voted it up, then shortly after saw it at zero. I inferred that someone must have downvoted and canceled my vote, but given the quirks we’ve seen with the codebase, there’s a good chance it may have just been a case of the site briefly not reflecting my vote, meaning it’s still possible no one voted it down.
Really great post. I can definitely see some “cat” like tendencies in myself that I’d like to know how to change more, like getting irritated at things I see as rude. Any specific ideas on how to change that, or recognize when I’m overreacting, and when I need to speak up so as not to let people get away with treating me badly?
I would like to see more discussion of this on LW, as it applies across the board to all kinds of interactions, and I think it’d be very useful.
Interesting theory—as a catlike person, I’m passing it around to see if it makes sense to a range of people.
I suspect that a lot of social difficulty is caused by dog types who don’t know how to dial it down with cats, or are so in love with their usual behavior that they feel they shouldn’t have to. They aren’t jerks (those who enjoy tormenting cats), but they can look rather similar.
Interestingly, this metaphor ties in perfectly with another dog/cat metaphor that has geeks as the cats:
It sure was one hell of a low status signal. The worst possible way you can fail a shit test is to get visibly hurt and angry.
As for whether she deserved it, well, if you want to work in the kitchen, better be prepared to stand the heat. Expecting women you hit on to follow the same norms of behavior as your regular buddies and colleagues, and then getting angry when they don’t, is like getting into a boxing match and then complaining you’ve been assaulted.
I don’t think I got visibly hurt or angry. In fact, when I did it, I was feeling more tempted than angry. I was in the middle of a conversation with another guy, and her rear appeared nearby, and I couldn’t resist.
It made me seem like a jerk, which is bad, but not necessarily low status. Acting without apparent fear of the consequences, even stupidly, is often respected as long as you get away with it.
Another factor is that this was a ‘high status’ woman. I’m not sure but she might be related to a celebrity. (I didn’t know that at the time.) Hence, any story linking me and her may be ‘bad publicity’ for me but there is the old saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’.
But you didn’t get away with it.
Also, technically, you acted like a creep, not a jerk. (A jerk acts boldly, a creep is sneaky and opportunistic.)
I wasn’t sneaky about it.
That’s true only if you manage to maintain the absolute no-apologies attitude. If you had to apologize about it, it’s automatically a major fail. (Not trying to put you down, just giving you a realistic perspective.)
I still don’t understand how she “deserved” to have you escalate the encounter with a “hard” physical spanking; nor do I understand how, if you spanked her in a joking context, you would consider it punishment or “some measure of revenge.” From what you’ve said, it doesn’t seem like you were on sufficiently friendly terms with her that the spanking was in fact treated as teasing/joking action; you previously stated that she was not amused by the spanking, her brother threatened you, and you apologized.
I’m certainly not trying to say that her behavior wasn’t worthy of serious disapproval and verbal disparagement. But responding to her poor behavior with physical actions rather than words seems at least equally inappropriate.
I think this situation falls pretty squarely into “two wrongs don’t make a right” territory. The moral intuition is that a minor social infraction doesn’t justify a violent response, even extremely minor violence. Even though you don’t say so, perhaps that was a tacit reason for you to acknowledge it as a mistake.
I do sympathize with your frustration at encountering such naked privilege and entitlement on her part, and that you would want some sort of recourse. It’s possible that such brattiness would cause her trouble in her future relationships with men, but that isn’t even necessarily true. You can’t really get recourse for behavior like this; you just have to shut it down when it appears. I think you’ve learned that lesson.
Thanks for the explanation.
This is spot-on. That’s exactly how I do it, although I seem to have a good coprocessor for emotional empathy (tuned towards the opposite gender, no less), which does help tremendously; I only have to do social in software and while I’m rather bad at it, the empathy compensates for that and makes people more forgiving for miscalculations.
Consequently I tend not to like and avoid my own gender, because the empathy processor fails there and what’s left is pure awkwardness.
That, or I’m just rationalizing over competition anxiety.
(EDIT: BTW, I got 32 on the test.)
(Another edit: in case it’s not apparent, note that I strongly prefer the opposite gender for mating. And, well, for pretty much anything at all.)
That applies to me, too, but to a lesser extent.
It seems this post bundled together the CPU vs. GPU theory regarding the AS vs. NT mindset, with a set of techniques on how to improve social skills. The techniques however—and in a sense this is a credit to the poster—are useful to anyone who wants to improve their social skills, regardless of whether the cause of their lack of skill is:
1) High IQ
3) Social Inexperience
A combination of several of these factors might be the cause of social awkwardness. It’s possible to place too much importance on looking for a root cause. The immediate cause is simply a lack of understanding of social interaction—the techniques will help anyone develop that understanding.
Some NTs are somewhat unconscious of the game, but that doesn’t mean they don’t understand it. I’d argue the most useful definition of “understanding” is that one’s brain contains the knowledge—whether one is conscious of it or not—that enables one to successfully perform the relevant task. Any other definition, is quite literally, academic. Furthermore, I’d argue that those best at the game actually become conscious of what is unconscious for most people, such as the degree to which status plays a role in social interaction. This helps them gain an edge over others, such as better predicting the ramifications of gossip, or the ability to construct a joke. A joke that works well socially, often consists of the more socially aware person bringing to the surface an aspect of someone else’s self-serving behavior that was previously just under the social group’s conscious radar. It would be impossible to construct such jokes without a conscious understanding of the game.
If you want to learn social skills, hang out with people who have them. And it’s not enough to just hang out—you have to enjoy it and participate. And to be frank, often the easiest way to do that is with alcohol. And don’t assume you’re so different to other people—why do you think they’re drinking?
I think the distinction can be helpfully represented in terms of my levels of understanding.
NTs understand social interaction at Level 1, the level at which one is capable of outputting the right (winning) results, even if that is due to an inscrutable black-box model contained inside oneself (which is the case here).
But there are higher levels to reach than that, and it is not an academic distinction. To advance to Level 2, you must not only produce the right results, but also be able to “plug in” your understanding of the social interaction domain to various other domains, and make inferences between them. And most NTs cannot do this: they get the results “for free”, even (and perhaps especially) if they cannot derive these results as implications of other domains (or vice versa).
Roko’s point, in turn, can be rephrased as saying that HFASes try to build up a Level 2 understanding directly, checking for cross-domain consistency before they adopt any rules; and that this is because their hardware doesn’t feed them the correct black-box output, as happens in NTs. Further, inferences that HFASes make come from applying a more general-purpose “reasoning engine” to social interaction; to NTs, the inferences just look dumb, even if they can’t explain why.
Someone with sufficiently advanced understanding will be able to connect the NT black-box model to useful models for everything else, explaining the basis for NT conventions. This can grow from an NT mind or a HFAS one, but they will take different paths.
In any case, there’s a higher level of understanding to reach, even if a specific threshold suffices for some purpose.
Note that Introversion is a principal component of human personality, so it must correlate with AS and social inexperience. This is simply because “introversion”, by definition, is that component of human personality surrounding desire and ability to interact socially.
Principal components come out of the statistics without definitions having any say. Also, a cause can anti-correlate with its effect; I think the standard example is paying taxes causes you to have less money, but people with more money pay more taxes.
Introversion the principal component and “introversion by definition” could be two different things.
I’m not sure I understand what you mean. I can understand how introversion, at least if the introvert has been able to follow his or her own preferences, must correlate with social inexperience, at least relative to the average extrovert.
But why is it that introversion must correlate with AS?
Because of the way introversion is defined: it is a component from the technique of principal component analysis, so it necessarily bundles together all kinds of personalities that are less sociable.
My understanding is that introversion may be partly about ability to socialize, but primarily reflects lack of desire to socialize ( and especially lack of desire to socialize in larger versus smaller groups). It’s also my understanding that with AS, there is at least sometimes a component involving inability to socialize, for example, many of those with AS have a hard time reading facial expressions (and this inability comes not merely from lack of practice, but is more innate).
I have also met a number of people with AS who are extroverts, that is, they have a desire to socialize, although they may have some difficulties in execution. I don’t have any breakdown on the numbers, but it seems to me that if introversion is more about lack of desire to socialize and AS is more about inability to socialize, they don’t necessarily need to be correlated, although they may very well be.
One definition I’ve seen is that extroverts get energy from being with people, while introverts need to be alone to recharge.
I have in the past used precisely the latter to describe myself to others. Last Saturday I was at a student party: I spent the late afternoon and early evening chatting with both friends and new acquaintances pretty much non-stop, drank up to the point where my behaviour became just a bit more impulsive than usual, danced into the wee hours of the morning and exchanged some crude sexual rites with a stranger.
I unquestionably had fun. It will also take me at least a couple of weeks before I can talk to more than one people at a time without feeling exhausted. Until then, my free time will be spent with a pair of headphones, my reading queue, a 4X videogame, and no human interaction closer than Skype.
Wikipedia quotes diagnostic criteria for AS that focus on ‘impairment’ and ‘repetitive, stereotyped behavior,’ which sounds like it’s just based on ability, not desire/introversion. That’s consistent with your hunch.
I also skimmed for studies correlating AQ (Autism-Spectrum Quotient) with introversion, and discovered the AQ is built from 5 question types, one of them testing social skills. But the social skill questions don’t just test for ability (#36, ‘I find it easy to work out what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their face’), they test for desires too (#1, ‘I prefer to do things with others rather than on my own’). (Source is Simon Baron-Cohen’s paper about the AQ.) So I’d expect the social skill subtest to tap into introversion as well as social ability, which would make the AQ correlate with extroversion/introversion (and it does).
I expect the correlation of AS with introversion depends how you measure Asperger-ness. The binary criterion ‘diagnosed with Asperger’s’ probably has a weak correlation; the AQ scale would have a better one. It’s interesting that AS diagnosis criteria are based just on social ability, while the AQ scale tests far more than that—that suggests the AQ is measuring quite a lot more than Asperger-ness.
(I also found a forum called Typology Central, ‘a personality type indicator community.’ For some reason the idea of a forum for discussing personality types makes me giggle.)
Sometimes a cause anti-correlates with its effect. I think the standard example is being taxed causes low wealth, but is correlated with high wealth.
As pointed out in several of the comments on that post, women do not wear high heels primarily to increase their height but rather to change their posture, gait and apparent leg length.
I’ve completely taken myself off of the dating market; I have nothing of value to offer anyone. :(
Beware the self-fulfilling prophecy...
I’m just not in a place in my life where I’m ready to look for a romantic partner, and, to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be. On the other hand, I’m much less pessimistic about my prospects for being friends with women, though.