Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge

post by lukeprog · 2011-01-20T20:44:43.868Z · score: 157 (164 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 502 comments

Contents

  The industry and the literature
  A sampling of scientific self-help advice
  Conclusions
  Notes
  References
None
502 comments
Part of the sequence: The Science of Winning at Life

Some have suggested that the Less Wrong community could improve readers' instrumental rationality more effectively if it first caught up with the scientific literature on productivity and self-help, and then enabled readers to deliberately practice self-help skills and apply what they've learned in real life.

I think that's a good idea. My contribution today is a quick overview of scientific self-help: what professionals call "the psychology of adjustment." First I'll review the state of the industry and the scientific literature, and then I'll briefly summarize the scientific data available on three topics in self-help: study methods, productivity, and happiness.

The industry and the literature

As you probably know, much of the self-help industry is a sham, ripe for parody. Most self-help books are written to sell, not to help. Pop psychology may be more myth than fact. As Christopher Buckley (1999) writes, "The more people read [self-help books], the more they think they need them... [it's] more like an addiction than an alliance."

Where can you turn for reliable, empirically-based self-help advice? A few leading therapeutic psychologists (e.g., Albert Ellis, Arnold Lazarus, Martin Seligman) have written self-help books based on decades of research, but even these works tend to give recommendations that are still debated, because they aren't yet part of settled science.

Lifelong self-help researcher Clayton Tucker-Ladd wrote and updated Psychological Self-Help (pdf) over several decades. It's a summary of what scientists do and don't know about self-help methods (as of about 2003), but it's also more than 2,000 pages long, and much of it surveys scientific opinion rather than experimental results, because on many subjects there aren't any experimental results yet. The book is associated with an internet community of people sharing what does and doesn't work for them.

More immediately useful is Richard Wiseman's 59 Seconds. Wiseman is an experimental psychologist and paranormal investigator who gathered together what little self-help research is part of settled science, and put it into a short, fun, and useful Malcolm Gladwell-ish book. The next best popular-level general self-help book is perhaps Martin Seligman's What You Can Change and What You Can't.

Two large books rate hundreds of popular self-help books according to what professional psychologists think of them, and offer advice on how to choose self-help books. Unfortunately, this may not mean much because even professional psychologists very often have opinions that depart from the empirical data, as documented extensively by Scott Lilienfeld and others in Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology and Navigating the Mindfield. These two books are helpful in assessing what is and isn't known according to empirical research (rather than according to expert opinion). Lilienfeld also edits the useful journal Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, and has compiled a list of harmful psychological treatments. Also see Nathan and Gorman's A Guide to Treatments That Work, Roth & Fonagy's What Works for Whom?, and, more generally, Stanovich's How to Think Straight about Psychology.

Many self-help books are written as "one size fits all," but of course this is rarely appropriate in psychology, and this leads to reader disappointment (Norem & Chang, 2000). But psychologists have tested the effectiveness of reading particular problem-focused self-help books ("bibliotherapy").1 For example, it appears that reading David Burns' Feeling Good can be as effective for treating depression as individual or group therapy. Results vary from book to book.

There are at least four university textbooks that teach basic scientific self-help. The first is Weiten, Dunn, and Hammer's Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st Century. It's expensive, but you can preview it here. Others are are Santrock's Human Adjustment, Duffy et al.'s Psychology for Living, and Nevid & Rathus' Psychology and the Challenges of Life.

If you read only one book of self-help in your life, I recommend Weiten, Dunn, and Hammer's Psychology Applied to Modern Life.2 Unfortunately, like Tucker-Ladd's Psychological Self-Help, many sections of the book are an overview of scientific opinion rather than experimental result, because so few experimental studies on the subject have been done!

In private correspondance with me, Weiten remarked:

You are looking for substance in what is ultimately a black hole of empirical research ...Basically, almost everything written on the topic emphasizes the complete lack of evidence.

Perhaps I am overly cynical, but I suspect that empirical tests are nonexistent because the authors of self-help and time-management titles are not at all confident that the results would be favorable. Hence, they have no incentive to pursue such research because it is likely to undermine their sales and their ability to write their next book. Another issue is that many of the authors who crank out these titles have little or no background in research. In a less cynical vein, another issue is that this research would come with all the formidable complexities of the research evaluating the effectiveness of different approaches to therapy. Efficacy trials for therapies are extremely difficult to conduct in a clean fashion and because of these complexities require big bucks in the way of grants.

Other leading researchers in the psychology of adjustment expressed much the same opinion of the field when I contacted them.

 

A sampling of scientific self-help advice

Still, perhaps scientific psychology can offer some useful self-help advice. I'll focus on two areas of particular interest to the Less Wrong community - studying and productivity - and on one area of general interest: happiness.

 

Study methods

Organize for clarity the information you want to learn, for example in an outline (Einstein & McDaniel 2004; Tigner 1999; McDaniel et al. 1996). Cramming doesn't work (Wong 2006). Set up a schedule for studying (Allgood et al. 2000). Test yourself on the material (Karpicke & Roediger 2003; Roediger & Karpicke 2006a; Roediger & Karpicke 2006b; Agarwal et al. 2008; Butler & Roediger 2008), and do so repeatedly, with 24 hours or more between study sessions (Rohrer & Taylor 2006; Seabrook et al 2005; Cepeda et al. 2006; Rohrer et al. 2005; Karpicke & Roediger 2007). Basically: use Anki.

To retain studied information more effectively, try acrostics (Hermann et al. 2002), the link method (Iaccino 1996; Worthen 1997); and the method of loci (Massen & Vaterrodt-Plunnecke 2006; Moe & De Beni 2004; Moe & De Beni 2005).

 

Productivity

Unfortunately, there have been fewer experimental studies on effective productivity and time management methods than there have been on effective study methods. For an overview of scientific opinion on productivity, I recommend pages 121-126 of Psychology Applied to Modern Life. According to those pages, common advice from professionals includes:

  1. Doing the right tasks is more important than doing your tasks efficiently. In fact, too much concern for efficiency is a leading cause of procrastination. Say "no" more often, and use your time for tasks that really matter.
  2. Delegate responsibility as often as possible. Throw away unimportant tasks and items.
  3. Keep a record of your time use. (Quantified Self can help.)
  4. Write down your goals. Break them down into smaller goals, and break these into manageable tasks. Schedule these tasks into your calendar.
  5. Process notes and emails only once. Tackle one task at a time, and group similar tasks together.
  6. Make use of your downtime (plane rides, bus rides, doctor's office waitings). These days, many of your tasks can be completed on your smartphone.

Why the dearth of experimental research on productivity? A leading researcher on the topic, Piers Steel, explained to me in personal communication:

Fields tend to progress from description to experimentation, and the procrastination field is just starting to move towards that direction. There really isn’t very much directly done on procrastination, but there is more for the broader field of self-regulation... it should transfer as the fundamentals are the same. For example, I would bet everything I own that goal setting works, as there [are] about [a thousand studies] on it in the motivational field (just not specifically on procrastination). On the other hand, we are building a behavioral lab so we can test many of these techniques head to head, something that sorely needs to be done.

Steel's book on the subject is The Procrastination Equation, which I highly recommend.

 

Happiness

There is an abundance of research on factors that correlate with subjective well-being (individuals' own assessments of their happiness and life satisfaction).

Factors that don't correlate much with happiness include: age,3 gender,4 parenthood,5 intelligence,6 physical attractiveness,7 and money8 (as long as you're above the poverty line). Factors that correlate moderately with happiness include: health,9 social activity,10 and religiosity.11 Factors that correlate strongly with happiness include: genetics,12 love and relationship satisfaction,13 and work satisfaction.14

For many of these factors, a causal link to happiness has also been demonstrated with some confidence, but that story is too complicated to tell in this short article.

 

Conclusions

Many compassionate professionals have modeled their careers after George Miller's (1969) call to "give psychology away" to the masses as a means of promoting human welfare. As a result, hundreds of experimental studies have been done to test which self-help methods work, and which do not. We humans can use this knowledge to achieve our goals.

But much work remains to be done. Many features of human psychology and behavior are not well-understood, and many self-help methods recommended by popular and academic authors have not yet been experimentally tested. If you are considering psychology research as a career path, and you want to (1) improve human welfare, (2) get research funding, (3) explore an under-developed area of research, and (4) have the chance to write a best-selling self-help book once you've done some of your research, then please consider a career of experimentally testing different self-help methods. Humanity will thank you for it.

 

Next post: How to Beat Procrastination

 

 

Notes

1 Read a nice overview of the literature in Bergsma, "Do Self-Help Books Help?" (2008).

2 I recommend the 10th edition, which has large improvements over the 9th edition, including 4500 new citations.

3 Age and happiness are unrelated (Lykken 1999), age accounting for less than 1% of the variation in people's happiness (Inglehart 1990; Myers & Diener 1997).

4 Despite being treated for depressive disorders twice as often as men (Nolen-Hoeksema 2002), women report just as high levels of well-being as men do (Myers 1992).

5 Apparently, the joys and stresses of parenthood balance each other out, as people with and without children are equally happy (Argyle 2001).

6 Both IQ and educational attainment appear to be unrelated to happiness (Diener et al. 2009; Ross & Van Willigen 1997).

7 Good-looking people enjoy huge advantages, but do not report greater happiness than others (Diener et al. 1995).

8 The correlation between income and happiness is surprisingly weak (Diener & Seligman 2004; Diener et al. 1993; Johnson & Krueger 2006). One problem may be that higher income contributes to greater materialism, which impedes happiness (Frey & Stutzer 2002; Kasser et al. 2004; Solberg et al. 2002; Kasser 2002; Van Boven 2005; Nickerson et al. 2003; Kahneman et al. 2006).

9 Those with disabling health conditions are happier than you might think (Myers 1992; Riis et al. 2005; Argyle 1999).

10 Those who are satisfied with their social life are moderately more happy than others (Diener & Seligman 2004; Myers 1999; Diener & Seligman 2002).

11 Religiosity correlates with happiness (Abdel-Kahlek 2005; Myers 2008), though it may be religious attendance and not religious belief that matters (Chida et al. 2009).

12 Past happiness is the best predictor of future happiness (Lucas & Diener 2008). Happiness is surprisingly unmoved by external factors (Lykken & Tellegen 1996), because the genetics accounts for about 50% of the variance in happiness (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005; Stubbe et al. 2005).

13 Married people are happier than those who are single or divorced (Myers & Diener 1995; Diener et al. 2000), and marital satisfaction predicts happiness (Proulx et al. 2007).

14 Unemployment makes people very unhappy (Argyle 2001), and job satisfaction is strongly correlated with happiness (Judge & Klinger 2008; Warr 1999).

 

References

Abdel-Khalek (2006). "Happiness, health, and religiosity: Significant relations." Mental Health, 9(1): 85-97.

Agarwal, Karpicke, Kang, Roediger, & McDermott (2008). "Examining the testing effect with open- and closed-book tests." Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22: 861-876.

Allgood, Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks (2000). "Factors that influence study." In Flippo & Caverly, (Eds.), Handbook of college reading and study strategy research. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Argyle (1999). "Causes and correlates of happiness." In Kahneman, Diener, & Schwartz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Sage.

Argyle (2001). The Psychology of Happiness (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Buckley (1998). God is My Broker: A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7 1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth. New York: Random House.

Butler & Roediger (2008). "Feedback enhances the positive effects and reduces the negative effects of multiple-choice testing." Memory & Cognition, 36(3).

Chida, Steptoe, & Powell (2009). "Religiosity/Spirituality and Mortality." Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 78(2): 81-90.

Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer (2006). "Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis." Psychological Bulletin, 132: 354-380.

Diener, Sandvik, Seidlitz, & Diener (1993). "The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?" Social Indicators Research, 28: 195-223.

Diener, Wolsic, & Fujita (1995). "Physical attractiveness and subjective well-being." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69: 120-129.

Diener, Gohm, Suh, & Oishi (2000). "Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures." Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31: 419-436.

Diener & Seligman (2002). "Very happy people." Psychological Science, 13: 80-83.

Diener & Seligman (2004). "Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being." Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5(1): 1-31.

Diener, Kesebir, & Tov (2009). "Happiness" In Leary & Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior (pp. 147-160). New York: Guilford.

Einstein & McDaniel (2004). Memory Fitness: A Guide for Successful Aging. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Frey & Stutzer (2002). "What can economists learn from happiness research?" Journal of Economic Literature, 40: 402-435.

Hermann, Raybeck, & Gruneberg (2002). Improving memory and study skills: Advances in theory and practice. Ashland, OH: Hogrefe & Huber.

Iaccino (1996). "A further examination of the bizarre imagery mnemonic: Its effectiveness with mixed context and delayed testing. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 83: 881-882.

Inglehart (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Johnson & Krueger (2006). "How money buys happiness: Genetic and environmental processes linking finances and life satisfaction." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90: 680-691.

Judge & Klinger (2008). "Job satisfaction: Subjective well-being at work." In Eid & Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 393-413). New York: Guilford.

Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone (2006). "Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion." Science, 312: 1908-1910.

Kasser (2002). The high prices of materialism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, & Sheldon (2004). "Materialistic values: Their causes and consequences." In Kasser & Kanner (Eds.), Psychology and consumer culture: The struggle for a good life in a materialistic world. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Karpicke & Roediger (2003). "The critical importance of retrieval for learning." Science, 319: 966-968. 

Karpicke & Roediger (2007). "Expanding retrieval practice promotes short-term retention, but equally spaced retrieval enhances long-term retention." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(4): 704-719.

Lucas & Diener (2008). "Personality and subjective well-being." In John, Robins, & Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 796-814). New York: Guilford.

Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade (2005). "Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change." Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111-131.

Lykken & Tellegen (1996). "Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon." Psychological Science, 7: 186-189.

Lykken (1999). Happiness: The nature and nurture of joy and contentment. New York: St. Martin's.

Massen & Vaterrodt-Plunnecke (2006). "The role of proactive interference in mnemonic techniques." Memory, 14: 189-196.

McDaniel, Waddill, & Shakesby (1996). "Study strategies, interest, and learning from Text: The application of material appropriate processing." In Herrmann, McEvoy, Hertzog, Hertel, & Johnson (Eds.), Basic and applied memory research: Theory in context (Vol 1). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Miller (1969). "On turning psychology over to the unwashed." Psychology Today, 3(7), 53–54, 66–68, 70, 72, 74.

Moe & De Beni (2004). "Studying passages with the loci method: Are subject-generated more effective than experimenter-supplied loci?" Journal of Mental Imagery, 28(3-4): 75-86.

Moe & De Beni (2005). "Stressing the efficacy of the Loci method: oral presentation and the subject-generation of the Loci pathway with expository passages." Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19(1): 95-106.

Myers (1992). The pursuit of happiness: Who is happy, and why. New York: Morrow.

Myers & Diener (1995). "Who is happy?" Psychological Science, 6: 10-19.

Myers & Diener (1997). "The pursuit of happiness." Scientific American, Special Issue 7: 40-43.

Myers (1999). "Close relationships and quality of life." In Kahnemann, Diener, & Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Sage.

Myers (2008). "Religion and human flourishing." In Eid & Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 323-346). New York: Guilford.

Nickerson, Schwartz, Diener, & Kahnemann (2003). "Zeroing in on the dark side of the American dream: A closer look at the negative consequences of the goal for financial success." Psychological Science, 14(6): 531-536.

Nolen-Hoeksema (2002). "Gender differences in depression." In Gotlib & Hammen (Eds.), Handbook of Depression. New York: Guilford.

Proulx, Helms, & Cheryl (2007). "Marital quality and personal well-being: A Meta-analysis." Journal of Marriage and Family, 69: 576-593.

Roediger & Karpicke (2006a). "Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention." Psychological Science, 17: 249-255.

Roediger & Karpicke (2006b). "The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice." Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(3): 181-210.

Riis, Loewenstein, Baron, Jepson, Fagerlin, & Ubel (2005). "Ignorance of hedonic adaptation to hemodialysis: A study using ecological momentary assessment." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134: 3-9.

Rohrer & Taylor (2006). "The effects of over-learning and distributed practice on the retention of mathematics knowlege. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20: 1209-1224. 

Rohrer, Taylor, Pashler, Wixted, & Cepeda (2005). "The Effect of Overlearning on Long-Term Retention." Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19: 361-374.

Ross & Van Willigen (1997). "Education and the subjective quality of life." Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 38: 275-297.

Seabrook, Brown, & Solity (2005). "Distributed and massed practice: From laboratory to class-room." Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19(1): 107-122.

Solberg, Diener, Wirtz, Lucas, & Oishi (2002). "Wanting, having, and satisfaction: Examining the role of desire discrepancies in satisfaction with income." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(3): 725-734.

Stubbe, Posthuma, Boomsa, & De Geus (2005). "Heritability and life satisfaction in adults: A twin-family study." Psychological Medicine, 35: 1581-1588.

Tigner (1999). "Putting memory research to good use: Hints from cognitive psychology." College Teaching, 47(4): 149-151.

Van Boven (2005). "Experientialism, materialism, and the pursuit of happiness." Review of General Psychology, 9(2): 132-142.

Warr (1999). "Well-being and the workplace." In Kahneman, Diener, & Schwartz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Sage.

Wong (2006). Essential Study Skills. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Worthen (1997). "Resiliency of bizarreness effects under varying conditions of verbal and imaginal elaboration and list composition. Journal of Mental Imagery, 21: 167-194.

502 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-01-22T18:19:44.390Z · score: 47 (47 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Happiness is surprisingly unmoved by external factors (Lykken & Tellegen 1996), because the genetics accounts for about 50% of the variance in happiness (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005; Stubbe et al. 2005).

Caution: heritability, as in the statistical concept, is defined in a way that has some rather counter-intuitive implications. One might think that if happiness is 50% heritable, then happiness must be 50% "hardwired". This is incorrect, and in fact the concept of heritability is theoretically incapable of making such a claim. (I'm not saying lukeprog made this mistake, but someone is likely to make it.)

The definition of heritability is straightforward enough: the amount of genetic variance in a trait, divided by the overall variance in the trait. Now, nearly all humans are born with two feet, so you might expect the trait of "having two feet" to have 100% heritability. In fact, it has close to 0% heritability! This is because the vast majority of people who have lost their feet have done so because of accidents or other environmental factors, not due to a gene for one-footedness. So nearly all of the variance in the amount of feet in humans is caused by environmental factors, making the heritability zero.

Another example is that if we have a trait that is strongly affected by the environment, but we manage to make the environment more uniform, then the heritability of the trait goes up. For instance, both childhood nutrition and genetics have a strong effect on a person's height. In today's society, we have relatively good social security nets helping give most kids at least a basic level of nutrition, a basic level which may not have been available for everyone in the past. So in the past there was more environmental variance involved in determining a person's height. Therefore the trait "height" may have been less hereditary in the past than now.

The heritability of some trait is always defined in relation to some specific population in some specific environment. There's no such thing as an "overall" heritability, valid in any environment. The heritability of a trait does not tell us whether that trait can be affected by outside interventions.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T23:55:11.820Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For instance, both childhood nutrition and genetics have a strong effect on a person's length.

Length? You mean height or, um, well, length? I suppose both. :)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-01-23T09:06:28.801Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, height. Fixed. Thanks - those are the same word in Finnish, and I hadn't consciously realized that they're different in English until now. (Well, technically there is a separate word for height in Finnish, but it isn't used in this context.)

comment by XFrequentist · 2011-01-23T21:42:09.383Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just FYI, the joke in wedrif's comment is that "length" would probably be interpreted as "penis length" by most readers.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-01-23T22:05:54.014Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That... never occurred to me.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T09:52:24.252Z · score: 18 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, technically you could use length in English too. People are just three dimensional objects after all. I mean, once you knock them off and are trying to fit the body in the trunk you definitely worry about the length!

comment by Will_Sawin · 2011-02-02T06:58:27.573Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

However, if we have an intervention whose effect we expect to be roughly proportional to environmental differences, heritability tells us roughly how strong that intervention is. Similarly if we expect that our interventions will reduce environmental variance but not genetic variance, we can place an upper limit on how much we can reduce inequality.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T01:03:45.799Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You (Luke) give the cognitive-behavioral school of psychology too much credit. Yes, they're empirical, but empiricism is worth little unsupplemented by reason and imagination. What you get is the empirical study of platitudes and truisms.

That's not to say these works are of no benefit; only that the benefit doesn't lay in their tediously trivial experimentation. The idea advanced in the recommended book that procrastination is a species of impulsivity is valuable if you use it flexibly because it allows you to bring the whole literature on impulsivity to bear or procrastination. It appears that scientific offerings on procrastination are meager because less narrow-minded schools of psychology view procrastination as a facet of impulsity, which has been the subject of a great deal of research and analysis by more than a single school of thought.

Procrastination isn't one of my many problems, but merely writing the last sentence acknowledging impulsivity's relevance gave me the following idea about how to apply one line of impulsivity research. Here it is. Empirical research shows that will-power, while lacking the omnipotence often assumed, is something one can use up. In other words, if you exert your will it exertion becomes harder (in the short term.

To overcome a particular procrastination, indulge your appetites without restraint before trying to make yourself do the task, and you should subsequently you should find more will to exert. For example, if you have dietary impulse-control problems, pig out. (I guess getting drunk doesn't work because then you'll have to perform your task inebriated when you overcome procrastination with your will-power enhanced by preceding self-indulgence. Untested.

comment by ata · 2011-01-25T01:17:33.408Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Empirical research shows that will-power, while lacking the omnipotence often assumed, is something one can use up. In other words, if you exert your will it exertion becomes harder (in the short term.

That's disputed.

(PDF of the paper)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T03:51:23.264Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Voted up. Interesting article, but I don't think I (we) mean the same by "self-control" as the authors. Their model for a failure of self control is a lapse of concentration. Their studies show that the power to concentrate doesn't diminish, an interesting finding in its own right. But it's not a problem with volition. Involuntary lapses of concentration are not the "akrasia" kind of problem mostly discussed here. Lapse of concentration is a different phenomenon than procrastination.

comment by Davidmanheim · 2011-01-25T12:53:12.114Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There exists an even more important problem with using the results of this study to claim that self control is not a limited resource - that isn't a valid conclusion based on the evidence. There are an infinite number of other possible explanations, but the one claimed by the writer of the article doesn't explain the phenomena observed. The study shows a completely different effect than the one imputed. The study didn't even establish a fair correlation to strengthen the statements made - they ended up studying something different than what they intended.

By splitting the groups into one that believed in the limited nature of self control, and one that did not believe in it, they tested the utility of a belief, not its correctness. The limited nature of self control may be completely correct, and the study is simply showing that people told about this fact use it as an excuse to exercise their self control less often.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T19:23:18.502Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, the experimenters also found that those lacking the self-limiting theory didn't suffer any detriment in their performance. They performed like Energizer Rabbits.

The researchers also countered my point by showing real-world effects on akrasia-type behavior. So, it's possible that contrary to appearance and introspection, lapses in concentration do demonstrate the same phenomenon as procrastination.

Regardless the scope of the findings, whether will-power is a limited resource is one of the most important questions for rational self-regulation. It exemplifies ongoing research relevant to procrastination, which you're unlikely to see addressed in the self-help literature, because of its narrow cognitive-behavioral framework. Reorienting one's reading and reasoning to the broader topic of impulsivity, moreover, leads you to the work of two laboratories advancing opposed theories, a healthier epistemic environment than one dominated by cognitive behaviorism.

comment by Davidmanheim · 2011-01-26T21:57:59.212Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm unclear on why you think that their findings in the particular cases shown demonstrate what they claim. (I could easily be missing something.) The lack of findings demonstrates that the cases considered are not examples of the effect that they looked for - that still fails to show that there is no such effect.

Again, what they did show was that the existence of the mental model was detrimental to performance.

comment by bigjeff5 · 2011-11-08T17:51:32.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just want to point out that it is impossible to prove a thing doesn't exist.

However, when things exist we expect certain observations, and we don't find them that is, in fact, evidence that the thing we are looking for doesn't exist. It isn't particularly strong evidence (unless the "thing" absolutely must cause the effect we're looking for in the experiment). Not finding any effect in these studies really should shake your confidence in the theory quite a lot unless a.) there is already a large body of evidence contradicting these findings (doesn't sound like there is) or b.) there are some methodological flaws that invalidates the findings in the study (doesn't sound like there are, just disagreement with the conclusion). More studies would clarify both issues.

In other words, the lack of findings do, in fact, show that there is no such effect. It's just weak evidence, that's all. If various experiments are repeated over and over looking for the self-limiting control and never find them, well, we still haven't proven it doesn't exist. However, we can be pretty damn sure that it either doesn't exist or is so insignificant as to be meaningless.

I'm not saying this has happened at all, I haven't read any of the papers on the subject, I'm just saying your reasoning has a flaw. If you're really attached to the self-limiting theory for some reason, it could be a case of looking for evidence that allows you to believe in what you want to believe, rather than looking at whether or not the theory has a decent probability of being right and adjusting your views accordingly.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-26T14:28:07.105Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't understand exactly how that experiment is supposed to work.

Right now, I'm trying to work on a programming exercise for class, but I'm also interested in playing Civ4. So are you suggesting that I, say, play Civ4 for an hour, then try the programming again?

If so, I have done that before (many times) and it doesn't work. I'll just end up spending all of my time today playing and when I try to get the exercise done in the evening or tomorrow, it will be equally hard. (Unless I indulge so much that I get sick of it and doing anything else becomes more desirable.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-29T15:27:37.584Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right now, I'm trying to work on a programming exercise for class, but I'm also interested in playing Civ4. So are you suggesting that I, say, play Civ4 for an hour, then try the programming again?

For one hour? You can do that? Don't you want just one more turn?

(Personally I never played Civ 4 per se. I played the Fall From Heaven mod. Evil game.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-29T17:27:10.114Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, I have successfully played Civ while studying for an exam. Play a turn, do a problem (and let the AI do its turn), repeat. Works surprisingly well, especially with Civ5 and its sluggish AI. I'd recommend using two different locations and removing any chair or other comfortable arrangement at the Civ machine. A little workout every time limits the willingness to start world wars.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-30T03:27:05.626Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, I have successfully played Civ while studying for an exam. Play a turn, do a problem (and let the AI do its turn), repeat. Works surprisingly well, especially with Civ5 and its sluggish AI. I'd recommend using two different locations and removing any chair or other comfortable arrangement at the Civ machine.

I've had some luck using Civ turns as a prompt to do mundane cleaning. Surprisingly effective! :)

A little workout every time limits the willingness to start world wars.

How does that work? Oh, you mean you make the civ playing time into a form of excercise so you become reluctant to make your turns last a long time, as is the case in world wars. I suppose this could be combined this with some core building or stretching exercises during the "Civ" phase for extra willpower managing convenience.

That's it. I have some cleaning up to do this afternoon. I'm going to find a copy of Civ, install it and report back with my success story. :P

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-29T14:18:06.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How many turns of Civ4 can you get through in an hour, anyway.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-01-25T07:20:56.774Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm confused as to why this was a reply to my comment.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T18:32:31.482Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My apologies. It was a careless error.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-01-25T20:25:08.109Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's what I suspected. That's fine. :)

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-21T03:31:05.919Z · score: 17 (33 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One problem with self-help literature, very generally speaking, is that identifying one's shortcomings correctly and addressing them effectively requires, first and foremost, an accurate model of the relevant aspects of one's personality and typically also of the relevant social interactions. Humans, however, are notoriously self-delusional and hypocritical about these matters, and speaking the truth openly and explicitly is often taboo -- even though successful individuals recognize it at some level and adjust their actions accordingly, no matter how much (often honest) outrage they would feel if it were stated explicitly.

Therefore, in order to be palatable to public sensibilities, self-help literature must operate under two crippling constraints. First, it must sugar-coat the problem diagnosis and express it in a way that won't sound cruel, hurtful, and offensive to the relevant audience (and people almost invariably take accurate remarks about their flaws badly). Second, it must frame its solutions in a way that doesn't break the prevailing hypocritical rules about discussing the relevant social norms and social dynamics, or otherwise it will end up too far in the politically incorrect territory for mainstream success.

The best concrete illustration is also the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to discussions of self-help. I have in mind, of course, what is probably the most successful and effective body of self-help expertise ever devised, whose very mention however is guaranteed to arouse passions and provoke denunciations.

comment by ata · 2011-01-21T06:01:17.232Z · score: 24 (32 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think there are other important reasons for the comparative success and effectiveness of PUA; the lack of concern for sugar-coating and political correctness is probably part of it, but that may be more of a consequence of what drives it, rather than a necessary precondition for it.

  1. They have something to protect. Not a Great Cause, certainly, but a thing-to-protect nonetheless. PUA may not immediately sound like it matches "more than one's own life has to be at stake, before someone becomes desperate enough to override comfortable intuitions", but consider why the prospect of having commitment-free sex with lots of beautiful women may indeed seem higher stakes than life itself, for many heterosexual men...

    (I'm reminded of the words of Philip J. Fry: "So you have to choose between life without sex and a hideous, gruesome death? . . . Tough call.")

  2. They're playing to win, not just to convince themselves that they tried. I expect that PUA communities don't reward trying nearly as much as they reward winning (if they reward trying at all). (And, of course, male brains themselves reward winning (at this particular thing) much more than they reward trying. As do many male social hierarchies.)

  3. They have a natural drive to become stronger. I'm guessing that, for many of the guys who'd be into PUA in the first place, the prospect of even more and/or better sex would never fail to be compelling (or would at least have a very high ceiling), no matter how successful they already are.

  4. Although rationality (including instrumental rationality, including most of what we'd call "self-help") is a common interest of many causes, focused communities develop stronger and more precise arts. And I can't think of a more single-mindedly focused instrumental-rationality community than PUA. Probably one big problem with self-help is that it aims to help all kinds of people with all kinds of problems achieve all kinds of goals; there's too much ground to cover. Whereas PUA aims to help a few kinds of people with a few kinds of problems achieve essentially one goal. Its target demographic is large enough to produce successful communities, but specific enough to produce finely-targeted advice.

(Disclaimer: This comment shall not be taken as an endorsement of PUA. Overall I'm not a fan of it. But that should be separate from whether we can discuss it in the context of understanding the generalizable aspects of its instrumental success.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T06:56:31.782Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Today's SMBC strikes me as relevant, not to mention amusing (particularly the hover over text on the red button).

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-01-21T09:46:08.133Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guessed you were talking about PUA from the very first paragraph. But as you conclude by saying (without naming it) that PUA is but one example, what other areas of self-help do you believe fit your description?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-21T20:24:06.623Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know if I should take that to mean that my writing is praiseworthy for its clarity, or that I've become repetitive. In any case, that's an excellent question!

An immediately obvious example would be analogous advice for women. From what I know about the relevant matters, my impression is that if accurately formulated, it would in fact end up sounding even worse for mainstream sensibilities than the PUA stuff. Similarly for further advice (for both sexes) that builds on the PUA insights for successful long-term relationships and marriages.

Another topic that comes to mind is parenting. I'm not familiar with the self-help literature in this area, but there are some quite ugly truths which I'd bet these books don't say, for example how depressingly little you can do beyond the limits imposed by heredity. Moreover, fully accurate no-nonsense advice about what you can do to maximize your kids' expected success in life and happiness would require a cynical analysis of many respectable social institutions, customs, and beliefs, to the point where it would probably be too offensive for mainstream sensibilities.

Some other examples I can think of are too sensitive and potentially offensive to describe with a few casual words, so I'll stop at this for now.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T03:17:47.764Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I voted your comment down for two reasons. The first is this:

Another topic that comes to mind is parenting. I'm not familiar with the self-help literature in this area, but there are some quite ugly truths which I'd bet these books don't say, for example how depressingly little you can do beyond the limits imposed by heredity.

Making sweeping statements about a subject with which you are admittedly unfamiliar seems like the sort of thing this community should discourage.

And in this particular case, I think you would be surprised. Parents come up against the limits of their power very, very early on, and modern parenting books are actually very forthright about it. Of course they try and put it nicely -- generally something like "You can't make a sweetpea into an azalea, but with good watering and fertile soil you can help your little sprout become the very best sweetpea he or she can be" -- but the message of being unable to push your child beyond the limits of their own aptitudes is made quite clearly and quite often.

The other reason I downvoted your comment was this:

Some other examples I can think of are too sensitive and potentially offensive to describe with a few casual words, so I'll stop at this for now.

This just seems unnecessarily coy. My guess is that you're talking about HBD, but I think you should either make your case or not bring it up at all.

I'm relatively new here and still learning the ropes--are comments explaining downvotes considered useful? I know I'd appreciate explanations when I get downvoted, but I don't know if others have the same preferences.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-01-23T03:49:25.535Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm relatively new here and still learning the ropes--are comments explaining downvotes considered useful?

You can avoid unnecessary meta by just pointing out the problems with a comment, without explicitly stating whether you also downvoted the comment for their presence.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T03:56:02.234Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good point. I'll do that in future.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-24T08:47:55.232Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

siduri:

Parents come up against the limits of their power very, very early on, and modern parenting books are actually very forthright about it.

I stand corrected, if that's the case. I'm glad if things have changed so much for the better then. (My other point from that paragraph still stands, though.)

This just seems unnecessarily coy. My guess is that you're talking about HBD, but I think you should either make your case or not bring it up at all.

No, that's not what I had in mind. (And how on Earth did you get from the topic of self-help to that? Does my writing really evoke such strong stereotypical associations with those dark corners of the web?)

I wanted to make it clear that I do have more examples in mind (rather than generalizing from one example), but the trouble is that it's hard to state them briefly and bluntly in a way that's likely to be taken seriously and without offense on anyone's part.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-24T16:09:17.351Z · score: 22 (24 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Um... hinting about how your opinions are too dark and dreadful to be posted publicly will make people assume that your opinions are whatever they imagine to be incredibly dark and dreadful. This is not a great communication strategy.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-01-24T22:43:37.110Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

hinting about how your opinions are too dark and dreadful to be posted publicly will make people assume that your opinions are whatever they imagine to be incredibly dark and dreadful.

I would assume that, on average, the abstract fact that someone believes something horrible is easier to forget, harder to feel upset about, and harder to use against someone than the specific concrete details of the horrible thing.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-01-25T17:26:14.487Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suppose it's a question of whether you want to mildly scandalize everyone or highly offend some people while sending a costly (and thus credible) "I'm on your side" signal to your comrades.

How many people, in the first instance, assume that you are coyly agreeing with them ("aha, a fellow oppressed racist!") is probably the most mysterious variable here, but it's probably more efficient to use shibboleths that outsiders haven't identified yet.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T20:25:25.736Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps not, but it's great for suspense.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-24T17:09:58.437Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, there's a significant difference between "too sensitive and potentially offensive to describe with a few casual words" and "too dark and dreadful to be posted publicly." I think some other factors also played an important part in the association, especially since I don't even see how these things could be plausibly connected to the topic at hand in the given context.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T09:50:12.683Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This just seems unnecessarily coy. My guess is that you're talking about HBD, but I think you should either make your case or not bring it up at all.

No, that's not what I had in mind. (And how on Earth did you get from the topic of self-help to that? Does my writing really evoke such strong stereotypical associations with those dark corners of the web?)

HBD Happy Birthday
HBD Homebrew Digest
HBD Here Be Dragons
HBD Hydrogen Bond Donor
HBD Has Been Drinking (police communications)
HBD Holden by Design (car enhancement company; Australia)
HBD Hadron Blind Detector
HBD Human Biodiversity
HBD Hypophosphatemic Bone Disease
HBD Hemoglobin--Delta Locus
HBD Hot Bearing Detector (trains)
HBD Half Board
HBD Honored By Death (gaming clan, Battlefield 2)
HBD Honored By Death (gaming clan)
HBD Hybrid Booster Drive (Electric Vehicle Institute)
HBD Handheld Business Device
HBD Hydraulic Bottom Detector
HBD Hierarchical Block Design
HBD Highest Benefit Density
HBD Hot Bus Driver

I can't even decipher HBD with google's help. Where is this dark corner of the web?

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-24T10:01:11.456Z · score: 17 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

HBD Human Biodiversity

Also known as race-realism, commonly associated with politically-incorrect but factually-supported statements like "blacks have lower IQs than whites", often found making the point that everybody accepts human biodiversity when it doesn't offend a minority - ie, recognising that West African heritage is advantageous for short-distance sprint running. 99% confident this is what was being hinted at.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T17:40:37.598Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, that's not what I had in mind. (And how on Earth did you get from the topic of self-help to that? Does my writing really evoke such strong stereotypical associations with those dark corners of the web?)

I wasn't the only one. But I apologize for misreading you.

I jumped there from the line "there are some quite ugly truths which I'd bet these books don't say, for example how depressingly little you can do beyond the limits imposed by heredity." The HBD crowd talks a lot about "ugly truths" involving "the limits imposed by heredity," too. I admit there's not much connection to self-help, although I'm moderately confident that a real HBD proponent would probably manufacture one if asked.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-25T23:21:50.585Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No need to apologize; in retrospect it's clear to me how you could have made that association. "HBD" (a term which I find quite silly) is not among my intellectual leitmotifs. In fact, I'm still not sure what to think of these controversies.

That said, however dangerous and incendiary this topic might be in the mainstream, on LW it's rarely approached but not at all problematic in the sense of inflaming passions and destroying discourse. Those few times I've seen it raised here, the discussion was entirely polite, knowledgeable, and without moral condemnations and protestations of offense. What exactly determines the patterns of dangerous discourse-breaking topics on LW and makes them different from the mainstream is a quite fascinating question, in my view.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-23T03:27:10.277Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

are comments explaining downvotes considered useful?

Many people explicitly request them. They certainly aren't _dis_couraged.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T03:56:44.259Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks!

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T09:48:29.943Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This just seems unnecessarily coy. My guess is that you're talking about HBD, but I think you should either make your case or not bring it up at all.

HBD Happy Birthday
HBD Homebrew Digest
HBD Here Be Dragons
HBD Hydrogen Bond Donor
HBD Has Been Drinking (police communications)
HBD Holden by Design (car enhancement company; Australia)
HBD Hadron Blind Detector
HBD Human Biodiversity
HBD Hypophosphatemic Bone Disease
HBD Hemoglobin--Delta Locus
HBD Hot Bearing Detector (trains)
HBD Half Board
HBD Honored By Death (gaming clan, Battlefield 2)
HBD Honored By Death (gaming clan)
HBD Hybrid Booster Drive (Electric Vehicle Institute)
HBD Handheld Business Device
HBD Hydraulic Bottom Detector
HBD Hierarchical Block Design
HBD Highest Benefit Density
HBD Hot Bus Driver

I can't even decipher HBD with google's help.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-01-22T00:53:33.677Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bryan Caplan has some interesting evidence based things to say on the topic of parenting. For example: on nagging children to eat their vegetables, he argues that parenting basically doesn't matter at all (link). He writes a lot about the evidence, economics and the family (link). Much of it is good.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-28T01:06:00.599Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another topic that comes to mind is parenting. I'm not familiar with the self-help literature in this area, but there are some quite ugly truths which I'd bet these books don't say, for example how depressingly little you can do beyond the limits imposed by heredity. Moreover, fully accurate no-nonsense advice about what you can do to maximize your kids' expected success in life and happiness would require a cynical analysis of many respectable social institutions, customs, and beliefs, to the point where it would probably be too offensive for mainstream sensibilities.

Less than two years later, Yvain is doing pretty much that on his blog.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-02T19:19:59.510Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

An immediately obvious example would be analogous advice for women. From what I know about the relevant matters, my impression is that if accurately formulated, it would in fact end up sounding even worse for mainstream sensibilities than the PUA stuff.

... really?

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2011-01-21T16:54:59.947Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

First, it must sugar-coat the problem diagnosis and express it in a way that won't sound cruel, hurtful, and offensive to the relevant audience

Some religions took the opposite approach (appealing to guilt without much sugar-coating), seemingly with some success

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-21T16:37:08.064Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have in mind, of course, what is probably the most successful and effective body of self-help expertise ever devised

How do you figure? Do you have any evidence?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-21T19:19:19.411Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but unfortunately not in a form that could be presented convincingly in a blog comment. It's mostly evidence from a mass of observation and anecdote, and the relevant facts I have established are indeed consistent with (and often successfully predicted by) these principles. More evidence also comes from their consistency with the facts about human nature and social dynamics I have observed in other areas of life, as well as the evident (to me) mispredictions and errors of logic and fact committed by pretty much all other popular sources of advice about the problems in question, especially those that, in contrast, enjoy mainstream respectability.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-23T01:06:37.486Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair enough. I was just thinking that "ever devised" is a tall order, and perhaps you're not casting your net wide enough when thinking about it. For example, consider books of manners in general, or correct behavior for women in particular, in the 19th century, when they were ubiquitous, and apparently very useful due to increased social mobility. Or Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends etc., which probably outsells all PUA material by a wide margin. Is it possible that some of these have been more successful and effective?

Anyway, thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-24T08:54:26.515Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are indeed good examples, especially the first one. It is possible that by some reasonable measures of effectiveness some of them might be ahead. So yes, I agree that I might have cast my net too narrowly.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T05:50:26.110Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a good book for general social skills, but it just doesn't sufficiently cover sociosexual dynamics, particular gender-specific behavior and preferences. It's like taking an excellent algebra book to your trig class.

The book is unlikely to substitute for pickup, though it could be a complement, and some PUAs do read it. We should never expect gender-neutral advice to be sufficient for those who have difficulty attracting the other gender or understanding their psychology.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-24T09:50:10.969Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, when it was written, there was no dating scene in the modern sense, and most PUA recipes made no sense. The sociosexual dynamics were all different.

Naturally, Carnegie's book wouldn't work as a guide to pickup, but note that I suggested it to Vladimir_M not as a contender to PUA in terms of pickup effectiveness, but as a contender to PUA in terms of "self-help" effectiveness, generally speaking.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-02T19:15:01.636Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a good book for general social skills, but it just doesn't sufficiently cover sociosexual dynamics, particular gender-specific behavior and preferences. It's like taking an excellent algebra book to your trig class.

How to Win Friends and Influence People was being discussed in the broader category of self-help, compared to PUA, not promoted as a "substitute for pickup"

comment by fiddlemath · 2011-01-27T17:46:23.793Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but unfortunately not in a form that could be presented convincingly in a blog comment.

Please try? If not in a blog comment, maybe a top-level post or a discussion post - or, if you think LW would react badly to the topic, in a blog post somewhere else, with a link?

I ask for two reasons: a) I'd like to be a little more certain that there's truth in PUA before I incorporate yet another heresy into my worldview, and b) for your own sake, it's immensely clarifying to reify any "mass of observation" into explicit claims with explicit accounts of your evidence. I've found (b) immensely helpful before; it's helped my clear away cant that I didn't know I labored under.

In fact, I suspect "this is a bad way to express my knowledge" may be a mental stop sign here, as I know it's been for me in the past. Similarly, "This summarizes my experience," full stop. It's hard to argue with, so it's hard to make clear in your own head.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-27T18:34:45.867Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

b) for your own sake, it's immensely clarifying to reify any "mass of observation" into explicit claims with explicit accounts of your evidence. I've found (b) immensely helpful before; it's helped my clear away cant that I didn't know I labored under

I agree. However, the problem is that for reasons you'll probably understand, I'm not sure if I want to write too much about my personal life in public comments on the internet. It's very hard to write about such things without letting into the public more information than is desirable or prudent.

Fortunately, I am not the only source on this topic. I recommend that you look at the comments left in this thread (and many other ones you'll easily find by googling) by the commenter HughRistik. He has much more expertise than me in this area and has written a great many lengthy comments about it, all very well written and argued.

comment by gwern · 2011-01-21T03:35:24.914Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might as well just name them: pick up artists.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-21T05:55:43.442Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A few personal thoughts on that...

I've invested my time studying science and philosophy rather than in mastering attraction methods, but I've hung out with the Art of Charm / Pickup Podcast guys (cool, genuine guys btw), and read enough of the literature to give two humorous speeches based on PUA material: How to Seduce Women with Body Language and How to Seduce Women with Vocal Tonality.

If PUA is what Vladimir_M was writing about, then I mostly agree with his last paragraph. I don't know about "most" successful and effective, but it has certainly transformed the lives of lots of men for the better, including my own. And yet, it is denounced by almost everyone - perhaps because they're only familiar with mechanical, dishonest, The Game-era material? I dunno.

Good thing the PUA guys are figuring this stuff out on their own, because the scientists sure have left us in the dark, excepting very recent stuff by David Buss and, for example, that study about which dance moves attract the most women.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-21T14:51:42.092Z · score: 29 (31 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I once had a friend tell me that he could sell me a $3000 vacuum cleaner.

"Really?" I said. "I don't think so. I know vacuum cleaners don't cost that much."

But he was certain of it. He'd sold dozens of these vacuum cleaners. His success rate had been tremendous. He believed they really were worth the money. The evidence really indicated that he could sell anyone a $3000 vacuum cleaner.

At this point... I really don't want him to try to sell me a vacuum cleaner. Or, in fact, to sell me anything. I'm scared he could get me to part with my money way too easily. That could be very bad for me!

Moral of the story: all charisma and salesmanship is, to some degree, a threat. Basically all people will be ok with "How to make a good first impression," but "Subconscious tricks to make everyone want to buy your product" is starting to sound a little sleazy, and "How to tap into neurochemistry to make your product addictive" is probably going to scare people. People get squicked by the thought of how World of Warcraft or McDonald's manipulates their reward circuits.

I think some analogous dynamics hold when the product you're selling is yourself.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-21T20:05:30.981Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

all charisma and salesmanship is, to some degree, a threat

That's true. But when honest discussion of charisma is outlawed, only outlaws will have charisma.

Right now, a large share of male charisma falls into the hands of the "naturals." These men are disproportionately extraverted, oriented to short-term mating, and hyper-masculine / anti-social in personality traits. Of course, not all of these guys are assholes, and most of them probably aren't, but I think it's fair to say that they have a higher rate of assholishness. The only way to stop these men from commanding a disproportionate amount of female interest is to give more charisma to the guys who are more introverted, long-term oriented, sensitive, and prosocial in values.

To paraphrase William Gibson, charisma is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed. The only solution is to try to distribute it more evenly, and educate the public about how it works. In the case of male heterosexual charisma, it means educating the male have-nots, and educating women about what many of them respond to. This same principle applies to female charisma, of course.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-24T15:58:47.541Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with this.

My point was to explain why I think PUA gets a bad rap. Nobody wants to be bamboozled. Most of us who know a little bit about human psychology know we can be influenced and that influence, social skills, and charisma will always be important; only people who are very ill adjusted to the real world have a serious problem with this. It's a matter of degree. It's somewhat disturbing, I've observed, to realize you're being "played" by someone not entirely benevolent -- even more disturbing to realize how very easy it is to be manipulated into doing things that bring you no good and only harm. People are pretty frail vessels. It's understandable that they mistrust things that might take over their brains.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-01-24T17:42:07.061Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Think of PUA as makeup/breast implants for men. Does this make it less or more offensive? In what ways does the analogy break down?

comment by Nornagest · 2011-01-24T20:04:25.145Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since one of the more common criticisms of the PUA scene is that it perpetuates an oversimplified view of relationships wherein women respond exclusively to deterministic social signals, that analogy's not going to win you much goodwill.

There is a lot of PUA technique that amounts to an artificial means of improving unconscious or semi-conscious social signaling, and that strikes me as fairly inoffensive, but unless I'm one-minding badly here I don't think that part of the culture is a common target of criticism.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-01-24T20:59:53.392Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since one of the more common criticisms of the PUA scene is that it perpetuates an oversimplified view of relationships wherein women respond exclusively to deterministic social signals, that analogy's not going to win you much goodwill.

No more so than arguments for women using makeup or getting plastic surgery. Do these assume men respond exclusively to a woman's looks? Not really. It just says, do this, and more and better men will want you than before. Maybe other factors matter, maybe they don't, but this works, on top of whatever else might work. To the extent that PUA is offensive for insinuating women only care about a few metrics, so too are beauty products offensive.

There is a lot of PUA technique that amounts to an artificial means of improving unconscious or semi-conscious social signaling, and that strikes me as fairly inoffensive, but unless I'm one-minding badly here I don't think that part of the culture is a common target of criticism.

I'm afraid it is part of the criticism: people have this belief that social interaction should just come naturally and people shouldn't build models of it to understand it better -- so if you're a non-neurotypical, high IQ male, tough, you "deserve what you get", and any scientific approach to social interaction that is helpful to such undeserving males constitutes terrorism.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-02T23:32:58.422Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No more so than arguments for women using makeup or getting plastic surgery. Do these assume men respond exclusively to a woman's looks? Not really. It just says, do this, and more and better men will want you than before. Maybe other factors matter, maybe they don't, but this works, on top of whatever else might work. To the extent that PUA is offensive for insinuating women only care about a few metrics, so too are beauty products offensive.

Less people are offended by the claim that men care only/disproportionately about physical attractiveness than similar oversimplications of female preferences.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-28T01:23:21.555Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a lot of PUA technique that amounts to an artificial means of improving unconscious or semi-conscious social signaling, and that strikes me as fairly inoffensive, but unless I'm one-minding badly here I don't think that part of the culture is a common target of criticism.

I think certain critics of the PUA culture don't even notice there are different parts to it, due to the outgroup homogeneity bias -- they just notice that certain PUAs say stuff they don't like, and generalize to PUAs in general. (The same thing happens to feminists.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-02T23:27:58.729Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The obvious breaking point would be that breast implants, at least, are improving the trait directly rather than improving signaling of said trait. Makeup ... depends on whether men care about what you look like underneath, I suppose.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-01-02T23:37:59.225Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think there's a hard line between improving a trait and improving signaling of a trait in the context of dating. For example, I don't think there's a hard line between becoming funnier and getting better at signaling funniness, or becoming more social and getting better at signaling sociability.

The strength of the analogy to me is the idea that what is on the surface may not resemble what's below, and if men have a preference for real breasts over fake breasts for reasons that aren't related to how they look under clothing, then I think the analogy holds.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-03T08:42:59.985Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think there's a hard line between improving a trait and improving signaling of a trait in the context of dating.

Or indeed any other context. Improving the trait itself generally helps with signalling, and people care about the signalling itself to some extent. Nevertheless.

For example, I don't think there's a hard line between becoming funnier and getting better at signaling funniness

The primary method of signalling funniness is to just be funny. Becoming funnier by, say, learning jokes would be roughly anonogous to brest implants, I think.

becoming more social and getting better at signaling sociability.

How does one "signal sociability"?

if men have a preference for real breasts over fake breasts for reasons that aren't related to how they look under clothing, then I think the analogy holds.

If, for example, men were only checking out your breasts in order to guage fertility, then implants that only impacted breast size would indeed be anonogous, and similarly deceptive (bad.)

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-01-03T08:59:47.043Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How does one "signal sociability"?

This may not be a good example, but I've found that people who use things other than photos of themselves (e.g. anime characters) as Facebook profile pictures tend to be less sociable, so one way to signal sociability is to use an actual photo of yourself on Facebook.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-03T18:50:38.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Using a picture of yourself and other people would signal even more sociability.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-03T16:51:35.414Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If people were (even subconsciously) using your Facebook profile picture to gauge your sociability, and you deliberately changed it to signal you were more sociable in order to trick them into choosing you for something, then that would be Wrong, I think, to a degree depending on how much them being right mattered.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-01-03T20:54:43.573Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So, I think part of being sociable means making people around you more comfortable in your presence, and if tweaking your Facebook profile picture has some part in that (which I think it does), then I don't see a hard line between that particular signaling decision and an actual increase in your sociability. The traits I signaled out above (being funny and being sociable) both themselves have some signaling component to them, so I think this observation generalizes to any social trait that has signaling components to it.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T11:05:53.331Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tweaking your facebook profile correctly might require some degree of sociability, I suppose. My point was that if you deliberately signal greater sociability than you have, you increase the noise surrounding that signal, increasing the chance that people will choose wrongly (including choosing you over someone more social.) In other words, it is functionally equivalent to lying. and should be treated however you treat lying.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-04T15:39:33.079Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In other words, it is functionally equivalent to lying. and should be treated however you treat lying.

You present a compelling argument in favor of lying.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:31:34.355Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is generally agreed that some lies, at least, do more good than harm (these are usually known as "white lies".) However, lying itself is generally not considered morally neutral, for whatever reason (in fact, lying in order to have someone sleep with you who would otherwise have refused is often considered a form of rape.[EDIT: not by me])

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-05T02:39:09.038Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

lying in order to have someone sleep with you who would otherwise have refused is often considered a form of rape.

This sounds like something that would appeal to those who have been lied to. They get to feel more righteous indignation in their victim-hood. It is less kind to those who have actually been raped through any one of coercion, drugs, violence or abuse of power. Their plight becomes trivialized for the purpose of someone getting a solid dig in against lying (or against people that have been declared liars).

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-05T12:35:02.373Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I personally wouldn't call it rape. But then, I only count literal coercive unwanted intercourse as rape, with lesser evils that often get bundled up with that as distinct if similar wrongs.

I find this more useful then other, more standard definitions because while obviously discovering you had sex, say, without birth control when you specified that you only wanted it with birth control is traumatic, I suppose, it's not traumatic in the same way as being forced to have sex with someone at gunpoint.

But these looser definitions are common, and often have legal force, so it's worth noting when an act could be classified as rape even if I myself would not do so. I considered adding a disclaimer to the effect that I would not consider it "rape" but decided not to bother, on the basis that we're not discussing my opinions and there was no point starting an argument over definitions. I see I may have been suffering from the illusion of transparency somewhat.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-07T16:00:49.792Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(in fact, lying in order to have someone sleep with you who would otherwise have refused is often considered a form of rape.)

There is a difference between outright lying and kind-of sort-of lying (a.k.a. “gilding the lily”). For instance, outright lying in order to have someone give you money who would otherwise have refused is usually called “fraud” and nearly universally shunned, whereas gilding the lily in order to have someone give you money who would otherwise have refused is usually called “marketing” and it is said that “advertising is the life of trade”. And what certain PUAs do surely sounds to me much more like marketing than like fraud.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-07T21:20:19.197Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most people are in favor of punishing advertisements that mislead consumers. Companies - who ideally would use advertisement solely to raise awareness of their product - have a financial incentive to make their ads as persuasive as possible, and so constantly push at the legal boundaries. Advertisement will always be biased, no matter how strict our regulations. But then, what we should do and what should be legal are two different questions.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-07T23:59:07.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess I'd better tap out now.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-08T09:02:56.081Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

... may I ask why?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-08T09:30:42.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think I have much else to say, short of mind-killing myself, which I kind-of would rather not do.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-08T10:52:27.770Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know what "tap out" implies, I just wondered what about this conversation prompted it. Are you worried about the political overtones of my last comment?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-08T23:29:55.948Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No. (I don't have any strong opinion on whether the current legislation on advertising is too lax or too strict, mainly because I don't know much about how lax or how strict the current legislation on advertising is.) It's just that if I carried on this discussion I'd be just reinstating points already made elsewhere in this thread with different words or talking nonsense.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-09T09:54:54.254Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, OK. Thanks for explaining.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-01-04T15:00:41.280Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...and lying is Wrong?

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:21:42.438Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most people seem to think so. I'm not going to bother defending the point here (all I'm trying to do is establish identity) but possible reasons include the claim that humans terminally value knowing the truth and the point that humans share a morality, so providing them with information gives them as good a chance as you of making the right choice based on the evidence (unless you're superintelligent or they're mentally subnormal, but what if it's the opposite?)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-01-04T16:38:53.417Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK. If you're not going to bother defending the point, I won't further pursue it.

comment by Peterdjones · 2013-01-04T15:03:32.064Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a virtually meaningless comment. There are many kinds of lying, and many are socially approved of.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-04T15:15:47.352Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a virtually meaningless comment. There are many kinds of lying, and many are socially approved of.

There are also many kinds of stupidity, violence, and other potentially-bad things that are socially approved of. If we grant that social approval is evidence that those kinds are net good, that's still not very relevant to whether the grandparent is meaningful.

The content / meaning I got from the grandparent is approximately: "Don't think of facebook tweaking as a free +1 agreeableness potion, think of it as more like (closer in conceptspace) lying and less like traditional costly sociability signaling". Perfectly valid and meaningful, as far as I can tell.

No judgment from me as to whether that's good advice, since I don't know well how facebook profiles tie in to social dynamics and all that, though.

comment by Peterdjones · 2013-01-04T15:27:55.070Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are also many kinds of stupidity, violence, and other potentially-bad things that are socially approved of. If we grant that social approval is evidence that those kinds are net good, that's still not very relevant to whether the grandparent is meaningful.

I wasn't arguing "net good, therefore meaningless", i was arguing that lying of various kinds is pervasive and sometimes beneficial, it is far too simplistic to argue "lying degrades the signal, and is therefore bad".

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-04T16:20:32.529Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

i was arguing that lying of various kinds is pervasive and sometimes beneficial, (...)

And I argued that this is irrelevant to the claim that you were apparently arguing against.

it is far too simplistic to argue "lying degrades the signal, and is therefore bad".

I don't see that claim being made directly, and there's only a hint of it in connotation. Going further up the comment thread, I can see that MugaSofer apparently believes that having correct information on this is important and that lying is in this case bad, but this is not (as far as I can tell) appealed-to anywhere as argument for the claims in the comment you called "meaningless".

So I don't see the two claims as being causally related, and certainly not something of the form quoted above. If this is implied, it is not obvious to me and I would ask for clarification or more explanation, rather than assume it implicitly and argue against (what is then most likely) a strawman.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:28:23.825Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Lying, in general, is considered Bad. Of course, Bad Things may have benefits that outweigh their Badness, such as telling kids Santa is real or their pet hamster went on holiday. Whether society is right to consider lying itself Bad or these examples as net wins regardless are not the point; the point is that we should treat "false signals" the way we treat lies (as Bad, generally, but if you think lies are inherently good my point still works.) Lying, of course, is simply a verbal "false signal".

comment by Peterdjones · 2013-01-05T14:11:52.517Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll say it again:both false non-verbal signals and verbal lies are asbsolutely pervasive in some contexts, eg most women wear makeup.There is a syndrome whereby lying degrqades infromation for everybody, and there is another syndrome where everyone exagerates their posiive atttributes, so that honest people end up looking worse than they are since a certain quantity of exageration is expected and compensated for. That applies to facebook. Everyone on FB has exagerated their sociability, and everyone takes that into account.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-05T19:06:58.828Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If everyone is taking it into account, then exaggerating your sociability in your profile is sending an accurate signal, and not doing so will mislead viewers into underestimating your sociability.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-01-05T19:21:14.463Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not necessarily. What can happen is that there are two functions that rely on sociability, one of which is relative/zero-sum and the other of which isn't. So you wind up in situations where, if you overreport your sociability, you send out signals that cause others to correctly gauge your relative sociability but incorrectly overestimate your static sociability, whereas if you don't overreport, they correctly gauge your static sociability but incorrectly understimate your relative sociability.

Basically, if everyone is exaggerating their signals, you can't just assume that it gets corrected for if there are any non-zero-sum aspects to the signaled-for trait, since you get a Lake Woebegone Effect.

comment by Peterdjones · 2013-01-05T21:50:07.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was not assuming that the only kind of correction is through zero-sum effects. if all men over-report their heught (to be polite) that is not zero zum, but listeners can still substract the extra inch or whatever.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-05T21:06:19.134Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Peterdjones specifically claimed that people were taking the universal exaggeration into account in their estimations. If he is correct in this, then it's not deceptive to exaggerate. If he is incorrect, then it is deceptive, which is the hypothetical I was discussing in the first place, so see my comments above.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-03T18:42:26.918Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If people were (even subconsciously) using your Facebook profile picture to gauge your sociability, and you deliberately changed it to signal you were more sociable in order to trick them into choosing you for something, then that would be Wrong, I think, to a degree depending on how much them being right mattered.

This framing ('trick') and the moral prescription is toxic and amounts to demanding people to self sabotage and act incompetent at a critical social skill. People who lack the ability to compartmentalise such beliefs and implement them hypocritically should avoid such moralizing like the plague.

Choosing a profile picture that has positive consequences for you is almost always a good idea.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-01-03T19:01:49.606Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Completely agreed, though I do often wonder whether following both of your advices (that is, conditioning myself to pick the highest-EV profile picture just because it "feels right" rather than deliberately doing so in order to signal some attribute I think will cause people to behave in some way I want them to) leaves me better or worse off than just following your advice. (In practice it's mostly moot, since I don't bother to do the work of fully conditioning myself, but I'm still curious.)

Tangentially, the idea that it's OK to do something which has a consequence as long as I'm ignorant of that consequence is one of the most pervasive and pernicious moralisms I know of.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-03T20:05:00.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tangentially, the idea that it's OK to do something which has a consequence as long as I'm ignorant of that consequence is one of the most pervasive and pernicious moralisms I know of.

I agree. In a similar vein I find that I value 'sincerity' far, far less than I once did.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-03T23:23:37.511Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I still value sincerity a lot, but I no longer think that showing your best side in situations where you're expected to show your best side¹ counts as insincere. See also this Will Newsome comment.

  1. e.g., wearing a suit and speaking standard language in a job interview even though you usually wear jeans and t-shirts and speak dialect outside job interviews, or wearing make-up and high heels when going to a night club where pretty much all people of your gender do that.
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T17:01:51.153Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems to me that dressing/acting informally in a job interview is simply signalling that you don't care about the interview - so unless you genuinely don't care (in which case why hire you) then you're either pretending to be sincere or you're just really bad at job interviews (which probably includes actually sincere people, at that.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-04T17:08:11.877Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you misparsed my comment. I said that being formal is not insincere; I didn't say anything on whether being informal would be.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T17:20:18.724Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I know. I was agreeing with you, and pointing out that it's arguably more sincere than being informal.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-03T20:41:43.299Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In a similar vein I find that I value 'sincerity' far, far less than I once did.

Is this of the "sincere intentions" or "sincere goodwill" kind? I'm a bit curious, because I've never valued the 'intentions' part of sincerity or goodwill or such. However, I've always valued the "deploy giant space lazers!" kind of sincere, really-actually-putting-forth-all-effort-and-resources type of actions, and now value them even more since reading the Sequences.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T17:04:13.552Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If nothing else, surely "sincere goodwill" is instrumentally valuable? I think "sincere intentions" is tied to virtue ethics, though; you shouldn't consider some one a Bad Person just because they made a mistake (this is one of the reasons I abandoned virtue ethics.)

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-04T17:22:15.933Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not quite sure. I'm inclined to counter that humans are just as likely to have "sincere goodwill" (or even pay tiny costs to display it when convenient) uncorrelated with their actions, intent to get the world to a certain state, or resource / effort allocation to the something to which they have "goodwill" for.

I've never observed this kind of "goodwill" in myself to have any sort of positive effect on my actions, their observable results, or my experiences, but faking such goodwill has brought me some positive-E.U. social gains. On the other hand, I'm generally not close to typical human minds, as expected for LW users.

So all things considered, I usually regard "sincere goodwill" as something rather trivial to be overshadowed by other considerations.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T23:18:52.790Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

All good points. I would argue that all humans (well, all neurotypicals, and most others) have "sincere goodwill", so clearly it can be overshadowed by their beliefs, say, or cached thoughts. Still, I guess it's better then if everyone really was out to get you, an a terminal level.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:57:01.579Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tangentially, the idea that it's OK to do something which has a consequence as long as I'm ignorant of that consequence is one of the most pervasive and pernicious moralisms I know of.

I think that's a virtue ethics thing, which is why it breaks when you try to use it consequentially.

Alternatively, " it's OK to do something which has a consequence as long as I'm ignorant of that consequence", but it's Bad to deliberately create such a situation.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:05:27.060Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry, are you saying that the claim that deliberately presenting false evidence in order to introduce noise into a signal, with the expectation that this will raise the chance of a substandard choice (of benefit to you) being made, is not immoral to some extent?

If you're claiming that humans don't value the truth, I would like to see some damn evidence; if you're claiming that false signalling is somehow less deceptive than verbal false signalling (lying) then I would love to see an actual argument in favor of that; and if you're just attacking me for making moral prescriptions then ... what the hell, seriously.

On the other hand, if you're pointing out that many "signals" are only such from an evolutionary perspective, and humans just like eg like big breasts without knowing why.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-05T02:34:25.484Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry, are you saying that the claim that deliberately presenting false evidence in order to introduce noise into a signal, with the expectation that this will raise the chance of a substandard choice (of benefit to you) being made, is not immoral to some extent?

I claim that whatever morally deprecated class the action "put your own face as your profile picture instead of anime because you know it makes you look more sociable" is declared to fall in is a class that contains actions I endorse wholeheartedly. So if the profile changing is 'murder', 'rape' and 'pedophilia' then I endorse 'murder', 'rape' and 'pedophilia' (in at least one context).

Putting something that is not representative into a class of Bad Things doesn't make the added item Bad, it merely weakens the meaning of the abused word.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-05T12:22:35.485Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, since you apparently didn't understand my question, let me put it another way:

Are you saying lying is not wrong, or that there is some relevant distinction between "lying" and false signals generally? The facebook profile is an extreme example, an extremely minor deception - but if you're claiming that it isn't a deception, then please provide a better defenition.

If, on the other hand, you are defending lies, then please bear in mind that I am well aware that acts which are Bad may have their Badness outweighed by consequences that are instrumentally Good - for example, killing someone by diverting a train is Bad, but saving ten people by diverting a train is Good, and the Goodness outweighs the Badness.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-04T16:34:10.246Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It feels like there are three separate issues / claims being debated here:

* Introducing noise into a social signal is generally wrong, because obtaining correct information on people is valuable to making social choices, and because these social choices influence the expected utilities of the various parties involved.

* Choosing an advantageous profile picture most likely introduces noise into this particular signal, because the difficulty of doing so is not correlated with your social skills / what the signal is supposed to tell people about you, given that profile pictures are perceived as such a signal.

* This particular kind of introducing noise into a signal is more akin (closer in conceptspace) to lying verbally than it is akin to directly performing a social skill, for the standard reasons such a claim could be made.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-05T01:58:04.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

While I agree that deceiving people is Bad, I think that

Introducing noise into a social signal is generally wrong, because obtaining correct information on people is valuable to making social choices, and because these social choices influence the expected utilities of the various parties involved.

is way too broad to be useful. Social signals are usually already somewhat noisy to begin with, so avoiding making them a little noisier isn't always worth the trouble. Politically conservative men tend to have shorter hair, so if I'm a libertarian socialist I shouldn't get a haircut lest people misjudge my political stance? People with wealthy parents tend to wear more expensive clothes, so if my parents are wealthy I shouldn't wear cheap clothes lest people underestimate my parents' income? Scientists tend to be skinny, so if I am a scientist I shouldn't exercise lest I become too muscular and people underestimate my interest in science? Pale-skinned people tend to be smarter, so if I'm smart I shouldn't spend time outdoors during the day lest I get a suntan and people underestimate my IQ? That's preposterous (especially given that if someone I know explicitly asks about my political stance, my parents' jobs, my job, or my IQ,¹ I'll answer truthfully). If I don't know someone, certain things about me are none of their business, and I don't give a damn about accurately signalling those things to them; and if they misjudge me due to a stereotype and act upon that misjudgement and get screwed over as a result, that serves them right: I hope the next time they actually ask rather than guessing based on superficial appearances. (OTOH, if someone whose opinion I do care about misjudge me due to a stereotype, that's my fault because I haven't provided them with enough evidence that the stereotype doesn't apply to me. And no, that's not in conflict with what I said earlier, because Postel's law,² and fault is not a pie.)


  1. Well, to tell the whole story, while “I took an Internet test and it said it's 135, but, you know, such tests aren't that reliable” is denotatively true, it has the connotation that I believe the test overestimated my IQ, which in the case of iqtest.dk I'm pretty sure is not the case. The fact is, I have an emotional hang-up against bragging, and I still haven't found a decent way to overcome that.

  2. I know Postel's law wasn't intended to apply to humans, but I still think it's a good idea.


EDIT: Don't I ramble a lot when I write at three o' clock in the morning.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-03T18:53:50.619Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

By that logic, if you know people will judge you from the way you smell, you should never use deodorant.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-04T16:24:27.327Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

By that logic, if you know people will judge you from the way you smell, you should never use deodorant.*

* To the extent that there is indeed information contained in the smell as MugaSofer already said, and that making a correct judgment of this information is instrumental and valuable (i.e. "Wrong, I think, to a degree depending on how much them being right mattered.").

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:00:20.155Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If there is important information contained in said smell (for example, hygiene levels) then masking it would indeed be deceptive. If on the other hand some smells are simply disagreeable on their own, not evidence for disagreeable traits (EDIT: remember, adaptation-executors not fitness-maximizers,) then deodorant is not deceptive.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-03T23:09:49.955Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The obvious breaking point would be that breast implants, at least, are improving the trait directly rather than improving signaling of said trait.

Okay, make that push-up bras. ISTM that people object to them waaay less often than they object to PUAs.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T10:57:54.132Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've seen people object to them, but it definitely seems an order of magnitude less than the reaction people have to PUA. Perhaps there are other factors at work here.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-03T11:19:36.976Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The obvious breaking point would be that breast implants, at least, are improving the trait directly rather than improving signaling of said trait.

Human breasts---and in particular their maintaining significant volume even when not needed for feeding offspring---are very much a signal. It conveys information about fertility and health and, since it is significantly involved in intra-sexual selection, also information about the likely ability of prospective daughters and grandaughters to be able to attract quality mates with their breasts. Breasts implants break this signal. We can predict that if breast implants were free and available to all hunter gatherers that such tribes would soon evolve to be less attracted to breasts.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-01-03T14:32:20.456Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there any research on how quickly responses like this decay (e.g. over generations) once the conditions that supported them no longer obtain? Some casual Googling got me nowhere, and I'm curious.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-03T23:39:16.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

IIRC, pick-up artist Owen Cook AKA "Tyler Durden" in Blueprint Decoded (a PUA seminar that Anna Salomon and Alicorn liked) hypothesized that the reason men today like thinner women than they used to is that, thanks to breast implants, there are now plenty of big-breasted but otherwise very skinny women, whereas back in the day pretty much all women with big breasts had to be plump; but I doubt he was serious.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-03T17:22:25.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there any research on how quickly responses like this decay (e.g. over generations) once the conditions that supported them no longer obtain? Some casual Googling got me nowhere, and I'm curious.

As far as I know there isn't research on humans about such significant traits. Especially not the highly unnatural case where the self sustaining momentum aspect is also removed. (If there was merely a change in environment then we would expect the adaptation to take longer because sexual selection for the sake of nothing more than more sexual selection of descendants.)

I know there have been studies on various creatures in labs and observation of the rate of adaptation of traits in wild populations of less-than-human animals. I have little idea how much information that can give us about adaptations in humans and don't know to what extent human changes have been analyzed.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-03T23:29:56.514Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evolutionary-cognitive boundary confusion detected. I think there are plenty of men who don't even know that women with large breasts are more fertile, and even those who do still like large breasts when they aren't trying to have children. (And anyway, I guess a large part of what counts as sexy is cultural rather than hardwired, given that men in western countries nowadays in average like much skinnier women than men in western countries in the 1950s did.)

EDIT: Of course, not everything is either evolutionary or conscious; some preferences are learned but subconscious. I've recently noticed that ceteris paribus a women will look younger to me if she's wearing a nose piercing than if she isn't, and I guess that's because where I live nose piercings are very rare among women born until the 1970s but very common among women born since the 1980s.¹ This is not conscious as I wasn't even aware of this until recently, but it's most definitely not evolutionary either.


  1. I'm pretty confident it's a cohort effect rather than than an age effect, given that I see many more women in their 30s with nose piercings today than a decade ago.
comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-04T00:12:31.702Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evolutionary-cognitive boundary confusion detected.

False positive. But I've tired of this subject and will not go over it again.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-03T16:58:54.072Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Human breasts---and in particular their maintaining significant volume even when not needed for feeding offspring---are very much a signal.

[...]

Breasts implants break this signal. We can predict that if breast implants were free and available to all hunter gatherers that such tribes would soon evolve to be less attracted to breasts.

I understand there may be some debate about the actual purpose of breasts, which is why I phrased this as a hypothetical, but I think I should make it clear that the evolutionary pressures that led to men preferring breasts are separate to the question of whether men are actually evaluating fertility (or whatever) or simply enjoy large breasts for their own sake.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-01-03T17:46:52.649Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I understand there may be some debate about the actual purpose of breasts, which is why I phrased this as a hypothetical

What you did was make the following rather direct claim:

The obvious breaking point would be that breast implants, at least, are improving the trait directly rather than improving signaling of said trait.

There in fact isn't a clear breaking point between (some) PUA skills and breast implants. In the same way that breasts can be declared to be "an actual trait that is desired" as well as "a signal about other traits" the ability to perform social acts that combine dominance, humor, rapport and charm can be declared to be "an actual trait that is desired" as well as "a signal about other traits".

Of course there are differences between the two, and further differences between breast implants and makeup but the 'breaking point' most certainly isn't clear!

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-04T16:33:51.775Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I understand there may be some debate about the actual purpose of breasts, which is why I phrased this as a hypothetical

What you did was make the following rather direct claim:

The obvious breaking point would be that breast implants, at least, are improving the trait directly rather than improving signaling of said trait.

[...]

Of course there are differences between the two, and further differences between breast implants and makeup but the 'breaking point' most certainly isn't clear!

I guess I did phrase that too strongly, but adaptation-executors, not fitness-maximizers.

the ability to perform social acts that combine dominance, humor, rapport and charm can be declared to be "an actual trait that is desired" as well as "a signal about other traits".

Well, yes. As I said here, some traits may be (un)desirable in themselves as well as signalling other (un)desirable traits. The benefit of your signal could outweigh the harm of what you're countersignalling. My point stands.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-01-03T17:15:19.493Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for saving me the trouble of having to refrain myself from entering Someone-Is-Wrong-On-The-Internet! mode and posting a poorly-thought-out response.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2011-01-24T16:16:44.280Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's somewhat disturbing, I've observed, to realize you're being "played" by someone not entirely benevolent -- even more disturbing to realize how very easy it is to be manipulated into doing things that bring you no good and only harm.

Correspondingly it is somewhat disturbing to realize that you've been unreflectively manipulating someone in a way that is not very benevolent at all, which is also surprisingly easy to do, especially in situations where you have a lot of leverage in shaping someone's personality. I suspect that assholishness is largely unconscious, consciously self-deprecated, and addictive because it consistently yields id-appealing super-ego-unjustified reward. In my experience females tend to be more reflective of and feel more guilty about analagous forms of manipulation (perhaps because of having more opportunities to be manipulative), but this is an anecdotal small sample size.

ETA: I think it's rather aesthetic how there are all these implicit humanistic stories between the lines of the cold analysis... it's like somewhat ambiguous abstract lyrics in music. "Oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before the takeover, the sweeping insensitivity of this still life."

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T15:17:18.152Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

These men are disproportionately extraverted, oriented to short-term mating, and hyper-masculine / anti-social in personality traits.

I do not think this can be generalized that way. Naturally charismatic people can be long term oriented as well. And they surely also have their own shortcomings.

it means educating the male have-nots

Did you ever try that? If yes with what results?(My own experience lead to to completely stop trying.)

educating women about what many of them respond to

I would bet against that working. Did you try?

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T13:54:25.687Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm thinking prisoner's dilemma here. If we all hold back, wouldn't it be better for all of us? Of course, some people - the naturals, the PUA guys - are already ahead. But knowledge of the outcome should not change our decision (cf. Good and Real - ethics chapter). Or perhaps compared to the huge payoffs of getting laid/love, these marginal efforts into keeping up with the arms race are worthwhile?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T14:58:30.895Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we all hold back, wouldn't it be better for all of us?

No. Doing the mating dance well is fun for all concerned. Mutual self sabotage of social skills would leave us all 'settling' for mediocre, ineptly handled relationships.

But knowledge of the outcome should not change our decision (cf. Good and Real - ethics chapter).

I don't think this applies.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T14:22:29.859Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is this tendency to treat PU as a separate magister. Similar to learning secret but effective magic spell in a world where magic is widely unknown. I think that view is severely mistaken. There are two important things to keep in mind: PU has a wide range of ideas to offer for all kinds of purposes. Sturgeons law still applies. Some of the more useful advice boils down to: 'be freaking normal'. Much of it is copied by observing other successful people. So called 'Naturals'. If you take ideas that are good anyway from the PU container you are not practicing an evil dark art. You are studying applied social science.

I think it is sometimes useful to look at the idea itself, not at its source, or the metaethic that generated it.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T14:45:28.585Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. So I guess you are saying there is no arms race. Just naturals, and the socially inept?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T15:09:02.531Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No! There very much is an arms race. (There were studies about how many man of each generation got to procreate.) You have the most beautiful women in relatively poorer countries. You have women in the industrial world complain about the lack of real man, and run to those of other cultures who are perceived as more manly. You have a few males getting most of the sex from active non-married female crowd, and you also have unhappy 40yo virgins.6 You need to be relatively better than those around you. Which leads to interesting results if you act in male dominated fields :-). Naturals are not naturals by birth. They develop and hone their respective skills at some point and get a lot of practice in it. Likewise being inept is not a life time curse. You can learn things later in life too, assuming there is useful material available. But you do not need to become a complete master of any particular domain. Just good enough to get what you happen to want.

The point i tried to make above was another one. If someone is incapable to speak correctly he can go to a doctor and train. If someone wants to improve his vocality he can take acting classes, learn the ways actors use to speak varied and understandable. Which is good. If you are unhappy with your social life you can do very much the same. If a PU book then tells you to take acting classes to learn to speak better it does not suddenly become evil advice. It is the same. Just from a different source.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T15:14:28.131Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Naturals are not naturals by birth. They develop and hone their respective skills at some point and get a lot of practice in it.

This is worth emphasising.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T15:22:51.687Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

»The key to this mystery is to rephrase the question slightly. Why don't smart kids make themselves popular? If they're so smart, why don't they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests? .... The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties. .... Even if nerds cared as much as other kids about popularity, being popular would be more work for them. The popular kids learned to be popular, and to want to be popular, the same way the nerds learned to be smart, and to want to be smart: from their parents. While the nerds were being trained to get the right answers, the popular kids were being trained to please.«

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T16:29:24.662Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why don't smart kids make themselves popular?

Anecdotal evidence: I did. Maybe nerds stay nerds because they only profess a desire to be popular and don't actually hold it; maybe group distaste for popularity if it ever was achieved ("I wouldn't want to be popular even if I could be" sour grapes style) is also a factor. Maybe not being popular is a defining part of nerd; certainly I was not considered a nerd despite being smart and interested in all the same areas.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T16:37:29.113Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How did you do it?

I lacked the ability to recognize the underlying structures completely and utterly failed.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T17:04:52.568Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Attended six schools, mostly. Threw myself at the popular cliques and remembered how I failed, didn't fail that way at the next school.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T17:30:45.051Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see how that works by itself. If you ever do a write up or feel like talking about it in a detailed way, you got +1 reader.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T17:43:08.806Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think I will, sorry. The audience that could understand it are well past when they could use it and I don't believe it's general enough for popular groups past high school. It is an interesting story about idea generation (one science class about cornflour+water had me modelling cliques as a non-Newtonian fluid - you don't make a splash, you make a thud and fall off) but of course my brain would say that about itself.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T16:21:50.158Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agree, but i think it's more peers than parenting, and more genetics than peers. Also I would not praise nerds so highly, the popular kids don't aim exactly to please, and the nerdy kids don't aim exactly to get the right answers.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-22T15:34:16.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a nice explanation but it fails since in many cultures outside the US the popular v. nerd dichotomy doesn't exist or doesn't exist with nearly the same strength. In much of US culture and some other areas in the West there really is a stereotype that smart people are/should be unpopular.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T16:24:20.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This doesn't seem to depend on existing social categories. Individual proclivities and social feedback seem to be enough. The stereotypes could simply be a reflection of the macro outcome of this proclivity-feedback process. Though admittedly in a conformist culture there is less room to deviate.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T16:19:10.012Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My point wasn't that PU was somehow unique in its 'evilness'. I would disapprove of speaking or acting classes as well if most of it was simply positional. So no, not attacking solely PU here, just anything that is positional and causes more grief than joy.

I like wedrifid's point of these social games being fun. I somehow managed to forget that. But this needs to be put into perspective of the desired end result here. Most people I'm sure would enjoy the journey of social dancing along the way to the destination of getting laid/love. But most of the utility is derived from the sex/love, not the dancing. Bored lovers might complain that their relationship was getting stale, but they are already much better of than the 40yr old virgins.

Let's not forget that anything 'fun' probably indicates that it is a status game. Which means there will be huge inequalities. If the final result of this instrumental pleasure (which is not to say it is all that matters, just the magnitude of its importance) were getting sex/love or not, then I am certainly willing to compromise some of the social fun for more people getting the sex/love they want.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T16:35:15.275Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think life is generally not designed as fair. But it is possible to change a part of your position.

But most of the utility is derived from the sex/love, not the dancing.

That can be changed. If sex alone is the goal, there is a trivial way to get it. Especially if your own hourly rate is high enough. But to get love you also have to offer the other person something. You will not get loved for your brain, or your collection of comic books, or your knowledge about human history or any other topic. You get love for a set of properties that can be surprisingly trivial. One thing I am interested in is what these properties are and how to develop them. But you really have to enjoy the trip itself, otherwise there is a high chance you become a very grumpy single. It is more fun to enjoy dates, or what ever social activity you choose to find your partners, than to see it as an annoying step on the way to your terminal goal.

Bored lovers might complain that their relationship was getting stale, but they are already much better of than the 40yr old virgins.

I doubt that for many cases. You find enough married couples where the partners at least seem to be worse off than even the 40yo.

then I am certainly willing to compromise some of the social fun for more people getting the sex/love they want

I do not think I understand the meaning here. Social games are not played consciously. You maybe saw the scene from A beautiful mind, where John Nash tries to do away with the social conventions and get down to business right away. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfS-8X8PNx8

Does not work.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T17:02:48.390Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But to get love you also have to offer the other person something.

It is more fun to enjoy dates, or what ever social activity you choose to find your partners, than to see it as an annoying step on the way to your terminal goal.

You seem to simultaneously claim it is an arms race, yet imply that all the socially inept people need to do was to learn some social skills so that they can offer the other something.

I certainly agree that the horribly socially inept can learn to improve their social skills so that at the very least they get themselves across to the other person more effectively. Dating/flirting certainly does serve a practical purpose of letting us assess our compatibility, which besides being fun in itself, contributes to the relationship.

But if there was an arms race then this simply won't be enough. Past a certain point, the social maneuvering won't contribute to signaling anything relevant to compatibility anymore, and it will all be a zero-sum contest. Fun perhaps, but if so, then for its own sake only.

I doubt that for many cases. You find enough married couples where the partners at least seem to be worse off than even the 40yo.

Quick google search gave me at least this: http://spr.sagepub.com/content/22/5/607.abstract

I do not think I understand the meaning here.

I'd rather we relinquish some of the fun of the more sophisticated zero-sum dating/flirting techniques for more people actually hooking up with each other. (arms races creates inequalities)

Social games are not played consciously.

They don't have to.

You maybe saw the scene from A beautiful mind

That was a disaster. I don't recommend it.

If sex alone is the goal, there is a trivial way to get it.

I'm not sure if sex with prostitutes contribute enough to self-esteem/happiness. Anyone?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T17:51:59.505Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh boy. What did I get myself into. From time to time I run into sophisticated arguments about relationships and usually fail to bring anything useful across. But I try anyway.

You seem to simultaneously claim it is an arms race, yet imply that all the socially inept people need to do was to learn some social skills so that they can offer the other something.

That is no contradiction. If you (in a very broad sense) aim to be the most sociable guy in the room, than the difficulty of that task depends on who you hang with. You can raise your own status to some degree with a few easy things. But that does not mean you are at the top. And then the average can shift. If more people go into actively raising their status you get a visible arms race for the top positions. But if that happens slow and more intuitively than the race is slow, and maybe even non existant. I think you do have to be better than the competition. But lots of the competition does not act.

it will all be a zero-sum contest I think status games pretty much are a useless contest in a productive view.

Quick google search gave me at least this As a sociable inept person you might have a higher risk to end up in a bad relationship. (This is just an estimate. Might be very very wrong.) If you get to choose between a bad relationship and eternal singledom I choose the former. Making a good relationship, and more so a consistently good one is something I strive to learn, but yet have no data on.

I'd rather we relinquish some of the fun of the more sophisticated zero-sum dating/flirting techniques for more people actually hooking up with each other. (arms races creates inequalities)

That sounds awesome. And I have no clue how to actually do it. Not even in theory.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T18:30:57.530Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But if that happens slow and more intuitively than the race is slow, and maybe even non existant.

Speed really isn't the issue. An arms race will create waste and inequality.

That sounds awesome. And I have no clue how to actually do it. Not even in theory.

I think a typical person would be receptive to some of the PU techniques but not others. If as you say (I really need to educate myself on PU), most of it is obvious social skills then I don't think they would have any objection. Some techniques they might think 'unfair' or 'evil', in which case their deontological ethics already takes care of this not degenerating into an arms race.

So perhaps PU may be unfairly maligned. But I think when its techniques are presented in a non-PU context, most people already have the right built-in ethics to accept what is useful for themselves and reject what is on net harmful to all of us.

I guess it was kinda unfair for me to press this point about arms races. Because if I'm getting this right, it seems that PU serves more to help the socially inept achieve basic social functionality than keeping up with the sophisticated players in the field. This is an honorable effort.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T19:06:50.894Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think a typical person would be receptive to some of the PU techniques but not others

I think you might have a mistaken view on what a PU technique is, and does. A discussion would make more sense if you were specific about what you think works or does not work. It is not a clearly defined field anyway. The comparison with magic also does not hold that well. In magic you have spells, and it is clear when you cast a spell, and when not. Your PU toolbox consists of wider variety of issues.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T20:09:08.772Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whoops you might have misunderstood me there. I meant a typical person would be willing to employ some PU techniques but not others. I'm sure most of them do work.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-23T07:37:03.053Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which do you have in mind for each?

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T18:00:55.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure if sex with prostitutes contribute enough to self-esteem/happiness. Anyone?

Huge status hit is problematic. Maybe it is enough for self-esteem, but the hit brings esteem down again.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T15:00:01.498Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. So I guess you are saying there is no arms race. Just naturals, and the socially inept?

(He certainly didn't say anything remotely like that in the grandparent.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-28T01:37:14.512Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we all hold back, wouldn't it be better for all of us?

How so? The fraction of dating-age straight women who are taken at any given moment is nowhere near close enough to 1 that the competition among straight men is a zero-sum game. That would be the case if there many fewer women than men, but AFAIK the sex ratio is close to 1 among dating-age people. Making all men become more attractive by the same amount might well reduce the overall prevalence of involuntary celibacy.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-21T17:25:35.121Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When you're selling yourself, there's also an additional dynamic: Robin Hanson has argued that any method to win better mates than you appear to "deserve" genetically will be viewed as "unfair" by the opposite sex. For an example parallel to PUA, men may get squicked by this advice for women, even though they know it works.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-21T17:45:05.295Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does that advice really work? If a female acted the way that essay describes (especially in regards to keeping dates short and being rarely available) I'd just assume that they weren't interested but didn't have the guts to say so and move on.

comment by soreff · 2011-01-23T04:30:46.308Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting question! Back in 1988, I met two women close to simultaneously. The one who made love with me is the one who I married. If the other one intended to be chased - well, she wasn't. "Hard to get" acted simply as a negative.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-21T17:51:05.635Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haha, that's what many girls say about PUA techniques. "Wouldn't work on me!" Yet they work. Maybe we should get some girls' opinions about advice from The Rules: have they tried it? How effective was it?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T00:54:40.001Z · score: 28 (28 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Certainly haven't followed it as a matter of conscious intent. I am pretty much only attracted to nerds (one of my personal rules, back when I was on the market, was that I would not date a guy who did not own a d20) and my reaction is that much of this is really horrible advice for the girl trawling the geek pool for a boyfriend.

For instance all the stuff about waiting for him to make the first move, expecting him to take the lead, etc, is just a recipe for two lovelorn nerds staring hopelessly at each other over the miniatures table (and never going any farther than that). I generally found it pretty easy to tell when a guy was into me, and I made some pretty blatant passes just to get the ball rolling.

For instance, with the man who is now my husband, I initiated our relationship by saying (this is a direct quote) "Hey, have you ever thought about you and me dating?" And I continued to take the lead in things like initiating our first kiss and the first time we went to bed together, because I knew I was a lot more experienced in that arena. On the other hand, most girls do like to be courted and I'm no exception, so there definitely was a point when I expected him to start taking the lead. But I didn't expect him to guess where it was. I told him straight up, "hey, I've kind of been the instigator up until now, but we're getting kind of serious and I'm not going to always be the one pushing our relationship to the next level. If we keep at this there are going to be a few milestones coming up--the first time someone says 'I love you' is the next one--and I'm not going to be the one to go first there, so, you know, just keep that in mind." So he was the one to use the "L-word" first, and he proposed marriage, and so forth.

We did end up having a fight on Valentine's Day, when I baked him cupcakes and he got me absolutely nothing, but the lesson I took away from that was not "dump him," it was "use your words." If I expect a present, I need to tell him, in English, that I want a present. Tone of voice does not count and neither does body language. He is not good with hints, even if they seem to me to be really, really obvious hints. He wants to do things that will make me happy, but he cannot be relied upon to guess what those things are. He and I are both much, much happier when I just tell him what I want.

So, "be mysterious" would have been terrible advice for me, and all that stuff about not signaling too much interest I think is counterproductive for "our kind" as well, since nerd guys often have a hard time picking up on it when a girl is flirting with them.

There are a few things in there that I think are useful. The old "never sleep with a guy before the third date" rule is one that I would probably endorse, except I would take out the "never." But in general I think being slow to jump in bed with people is a good, self-protective strategy for women. "Don't try to change him" is just good solid advice, and so is "don't date a married man." But yeah, I think for the gal batting her eyelashes at the company sysadmin, most of those rules are either not really applicable or downright counterproductive.

Which leads me to my objection to PUA stuff. I mean, a lot of it seems like harmless enough "Dumbo's feather" type stuff -- tricks to get shy guys to actually approach and interact with women in a way that signals confidence rather than desperation. I'm fine with all that and I can certainly see how it would be useful. But in the overarching philosophy -- it just seems like an incredibly alienating view of women. I know there's some lip-service to the idea of individual variation, but for the most part the PUA strategies encourage guys to see women almost like androids, all obeying the same script.

And from what I've seen of measurable differences between men and women, they exist as averages over large groups, but they are dwarfed by individual variances. Like, yes, men are on average taller and stronger than women. But Jill Mills could kick your ass. Women are human and as individuals we fall across the whole spectrum of human variance. All women are not alike, not any more than all men are alike.

So yeah, I don't have much trouble believing that PUA "works" in terms of helping guys pick up at singles bars. I'm a lot more skeptical that it "works" across a broader spectrum of experience. I have my doubts about how well it would work on nerd girls (I courted a few of them in my wild youth, too.)

And ultimately I worry about the damage that the PUA mindset does to relations between men and women as human beings--lord knows, reading Roissy's blog doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for the species.

comment by LauraABJ · 2011-01-23T04:49:33.214Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are very unusual. I love nerds too, and am currently in an amazing relationship with one, but even I have my limits. He needed to pursue me or I wouldn't have bothered. I was quite explicitly testing, and once he realized the game was one, he exceeded expectations. But yeah, there were a couple of months there when I thought, 'To hell with this! If he's not going to make a move at this point, he can't know what he's doing, and he certainly won't be any good at the business...'

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T05:24:03.334Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are very unusual. I love nerds too, and am currently in an amazing relationship with one, but even I have my limits. He needed to pursue me or I wouldn't have bothered.

If I hadn't already had good evidence that he was crazy about me, I might have gone for more of that sort of testing, I don't know.

At the time I had this idea that I was going to be San Francisco's real-life superheroine. I would get a cape and a mask and call myself Mistra. I went as far as enrolling in a first-responder course and a Wing Chun class. I told Sam (now my husband, but at the time just a good friend) that he should be my sidekick, Fog Lad. He agreed to this plan. We started throwing around ideas for his costume.

Sometime after this it occurred to me literally in the shower that he must be in love with me, because I'm pretty sure guys don't agree to run around the city in tights calling themselves Fog Lad unless they are desperately in love with some chick.

So I told him I thought we should date, and then everything just went extremely well from there. Sadly, once we fell into bed together, we kind of got distracted and I stopped going to Wing Chun class, and San Francisco never did get its ace crimefighting team.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T07:03:00.451Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is just too adorable to be true! Tell me you made it up. If not, you may just have be the inspiration for the first romantic teen comedy superhero flick that is based off a true story!

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T16:57:27.601Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tell me you made it up.

Nope, it's all true.

comment by zaph · 2011-01-25T13:16:51.896Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The RomCom version of Kick Ass would probably do very well at the box office.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-24T16:13:35.021Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Awesome.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T05:05:48.314Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But yeah, there were a couple of months there when I thought

A couple of months. Even that is a little unusual. :)

comment by LauraABJ · 2011-01-23T05:13:53.277Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is true. We were (and are) in the same social group, so I didn't need to go out of my way for repeated interaction. Had I met him once and he failed to pick up my sigs, then NO, we would NOT be together now... This reminds me of a conversation I had with Silas, in which he asked me, "How many dates until....?" And I stared at him for a moment and said, "What makes you think there would be a second if the first didn't go so well?"

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T05:23:41.137Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"How many dates until....?" And I stared at him for a moment and said, "What makes you think there would be a second if the first didn't go so well?"

By the ellipsis do you mean 'sex', and indicate that lack of it on the first date constitutes a failure? (Good for you if you know what you want!)

comment by LauraABJ · 2011-01-23T05:26:44.138Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-01-23T02:18:24.925Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great post. I loved your approach with your husband and think that in general, most people would be better off following it (especially women).

[PUA] just seems like an incredibly alienating view of women. I know there's some lip-service to the idea of individual variation, but for the most part the PUA strategies encourage guys to see women almost like androids, all obeying the same script.

Your objection to PUA stuff is based on a certain view of PUA I don't think is accurate. In fact, one of the most helpful things to me about PUA was the idea that each person has an individual set of "attraction switches" and it's just a matter of finding them. This freed me up a lot.

And from what I've seen of measurable differences between men and women, they exist as averages over large groups, but they are dwarfed by individual variances.

I don't really think this is an issue of the differences between men and women. In fact, I think most of the PUA ideas apply equally well to men and women, because they're observations on human psychology. PUA gets applied mostly to women because it's mostly men who go after women, not because women are so different than men. The relevant distinction here is "friends" vs. "people you are attracted to and want to go after" -- a lot of PUA advice consists of distinguishing behaviors for these two categories -- not men vs. women.

And ultimately I worry about the damage that the PUA mindset does to relations between men and women as human beings--lord knows, reading Roissy's blog doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for the species.

I'm tempted to say "but Roissy is an idiot who has nothing to do with PUA!" However, I'm wary of committing the One True Scotsmen fallacy, and I suppose I have to admit that there is a portion of the PUA blogosphere that is misogynistic. I don't think that his blog is representative of most of the valuable stuff in the PUA community, and in fact his blog has been described as more of a "men going their own way" blog.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T02:45:31.315Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your objection to PUA stuff is based on a certain view of PUA I don't think is accurate. In fact, one of the most helpful things to me about PUA was the idea that each person has an individual set of "attraction switches" and it's just a matter of finding them. This freed me up a lot.

Can you point me to a page that espouses that view? I googled for it and found this: http://www.seductionbase.com/seduction/cat/In_the_Middle/EC/218.html -- but it seems the opposite of what you're saying, as it's a list of "attraction switches" that will supposedly work for "most women." Now granted, they're all generically good things ("TRUST" and "CONFIDENCE" and "CHEMISTRY" are all fine things in a relationship, sure) but there's no mention of individual variation or any conception that different women may be looking for different things. Instead, the message is: flip these switches and "she's really going to be into you"! And then at the end the author writes "I'd love to see another list: of the switches to flip for a ONS [One Night Stand] -- the switches that over-ride the social programming and make her crave that adventure and abandon. " Like I said, it's women as androids. Flip the switches, override the programming, badda bing badda boom.

It just seems like a juvenile fantasy--women as sex robots, available to anyone who knows the override code. Not the kind of outlook that's actually going help a lonely guy make a genuine connection with a woman.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T04:50:40.768Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, this kind of systematizing and abstraction is really helpful when you don't know what to do or how to start a relationship. And it's useful to have some defaults that work pretty well, most of the time, before you get to know someone.

I actually think that seeing women as acting based on a specific pattern, that has reasons behind it and that can be understood with time and practice, rather than a baffling and impenetrable mystery, is exactly what will help a lonely guy make a genuine connection.

Can you point me to a page that espouses that view?

there's no mention of individual variation or any conception that different women may be looking for different things.

I got the insight that everyone has different attraction switches from a conversation with someone, not a web page, and I'm not as familiar with what material is available online. However, HughRistik wrote two comments about this topic with a few links to pages that might be relevant.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-23T05:56:41.450Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not the kind of outlook that's actually going help a lonely guy make a genuine connection with a woman.

Why would a lonely guy want that? Aren't you thinking of what a woman would want, instead?

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-23T05:51:27.272Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your point of view has a lot in common with the indignation of theists that say the universe cannot be made of "cold numbers" or somesuch. As someone who's had a lot of field practice and done a lot of homework, I can say this: the mating behavior of humans (men and women alike) is frighteningly predictable if you know the right variables to look at. Humans aren't nearly as different as they think they are. Getting offended by this is like getting offended by the theory of relativity. Sure you can, but it will only get you so far.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T06:04:24.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You put the same kind of confidence in PUA as you do in the theory of relativity? Really?

My experience leads me to different conclusions, yes.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-23T06:07:48.679Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry. My comment wasn't very thought out, so I deleted it immediately after posting. I'd rather not be having this argument here and now.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T06:25:43.784Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No problem. I deleted my reply to it as well.

I also just want to remark that, the first time I saw this happen on Less Wrong -- where two people were getting into a discussion of escalating snarkiness, until one of them apologized and retracted a remark -- I just about fell out of my chair. I mean, people don't do that on the Internet! It actually clinched my interest in this forum and the material here.

comment by taryneast · 2011-01-24T11:20:44.371Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Awesome. There is hope :)

This bodes well for the intended purpose of this site.

comment by rabidchicken · 2011-01-24T02:49:31.416Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really wish your approach was not so unusual... You would be doing humanity (and nerds) a favour if you wrote your own guide to dating for women. I don't think one book would change the insanity of human interaction, but it would probably help.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-21T18:22:54.015Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm atypical, but here's my take:

Some of it is common sense (she who cares least wins; look your best; avoid certain "turn-off" subjects; have standards regarding hygiene and considerateness.)

Some of it sounds distasteful (withholding personal information and intimacy sounds like a bad idea for relationships, but then again I may tend to be too trusting. The focus on "closing the deal" by making sure you marry within two years of meeting someone also seems problematic. I suspect these people do not care as much as I do about intellectual/emotional compatibility.)

Some of it is frankly unrealistic (gifts of flowers are not typical in all social circles. Making the man pay for everything is not always practical.)

From what I've seen of "The Rules" it's structurally different from PUA. PUA has a lot in common with marketing, and also a lot in common with general social skills advice. "Rules"-style dating advice for women is generally not an exercise in teaching social skills to awkward women. It's more about being strategic at dating (an area of life where admittedly too many people refuse to even consider using reasoned strategy.) It's hard to see how you could test whether it works, though. To see if PUA works, just go out and see if you can pick up women. To see if The Rules work, you have to see if you can marry an (implicitly rich) man -- that's a much longer time frame and you don't get as many trials!

comment by Jack · 2011-01-21T20:11:15.586Z · score: 32 (34 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone needs to write a Romantic comedy/tragedy where two people fall in love but they can never get together because the man is following PUA and the woman is following The Rules. They keep rushing to be the one to end phone conversations and both are always pretending to be too busy to go out with each other. The woman won't have sex until she gets flowers and the man won't give flowers until they have sex. Since both methods work they just fall more and more madly in love with each other but can never tell each other for fear of seeming too needy or desperate.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T16:33:14.473Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If they were both following the online dating rules someone linked to earlier, it would all be over very quickly. Neither would reply to an email before at least 3 days have passed, but both ignore anyone who doesn't reply to an email within 3 days.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-01-24T15:55:39.444Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not showing too much enthusiasm sounds like a low risk low reward strategy.

comment by ata · 2011-01-24T00:19:52.843Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm. That sounds like dating is an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. (And PUA, The Rules, etc. are guides to defecting?)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T03:44:43.123Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And PUA, The Rules, etc. are guides to defecting?

Well, at least the "delay reply to gain power" gambit is the rest vary. :)

comment by Zvi · 2011-01-25T22:35:40.611Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any dating filter that doesn't filter out itself is clearly not a very good filter!

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-21T20:17:29.141Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A variant of this has been discussed in xkcd. I don't think that Munroe thought about the consequences as you have.

comment by Document · 2011-01-21T20:34:21.736Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be a bunch of girls playing hard to get, not returning phone calls, and a bunch of guys consequently moving on to other girls.

-- sockthepuppetry

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-24T07:49:06.659Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone needs to write a Romantic comedy/tragedy where two people fall in love but....

Romantic comedies assume there is a predestined partner who one ends up with after a series of ups and downs and a big showdown. That is not so in real life where everyone just moves on after a while. The fiction of romantic movies can really hurt the expectations of reality. Maybe someday someone researches the effect of chick flicks on the amount of unhappy involuntary singles due to unrealistic expectations.

comment by rastilin · 2011-01-23T17:21:02.338Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That would end pretty quickly. PUA tells you to drop a woman if she seems cagey about going out or you're not making progress by the second date. It's very much a numbers game, there are tens of thousands of unattached women in even the smallest city and on average, 4% are willing to do anything without any PUA skills being applied; if it's not working out just give up and go find someone else.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-28T02:20:22.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

there are tens of thousands of unattached women in even the smallest city

Depends on what you count as a city vs as a town. A settlement of 60,000 will likely have about 30,000 women, about 12,000 of whom will be post-pubescent but pre-menopausal (and many guys will have stricter age limits than that), about 4000 of whom will be unattached.

comment by sark · 2011-01-22T14:15:02.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thankfully, our built-in (if imperfect) deontological-acausal ethics usually prevents that from happening to most of us.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-24T01:52:37.380Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Rules is a filter women can apply to their dating. Being manipulated by, or at least not bothered by, certain things on that list (like double standards with responding), correlates strongly with desired personality traits. Most people will get bored with Rules-girls and move on. The ones that don't are far more likely to be the type desired. Assuming a dating woman knows what she desires, that is - I wager women using the Rules aren't as aware of what they are selecting for as pick-up artists are.

On PUA, the same thing applies: if you think those techniques wouldn't work on you, well, you're not the type pick-up artists are after.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-21T19:19:41.330Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Part of what you label as common sense, avoiding certain "turn-off" subjects is on the list of things I don't understand. Why shouldn't people talk about their exes? Presumably if someone was an SO or close to being an SO then they were, you know, significant. Not talking about them places a substantial limit on what subjects the person is able to talk about. And are guys really so insecure that they feel uncomfortable just being reminded that the person they are dating has had other relationships?

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-21T21:22:38.050Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A big reason is that talk about exes can easily turn emotionally negative. Many mainstream people don't seem to be on good terms with their exes.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-21T21:41:42.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Lol, I'm curious: What does "mainstream people" mean in this context? People who have romantic relationships that fail in a way that sometimes causes frustration and resentment?

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-21T22:06:55.265Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most gender-typical people. They have more drama. It's a lot easier for high IQ, gender-atypical nerdy folks with good impulse control to be on good terms with their exes.

comment by wnoise · 2011-01-24T08:35:17.160Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Especially if their exes are also high IQ, gender-atypical nerdy folks with good impulse control.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T18:35:07.726Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Exactly.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T14:28:24.280Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One might think this is due to a lack of supply.

I see the emotional ups and downs of many people with more and more amazement of why anyone would want to life like that.

comment by rastilin · 2011-01-24T06:55:43.967Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Aside from the possibility that you had a bad breakup and you end up complaining for several minutes, which isn't a good sign in a date. It raises the question of "What did those people find out about this person that I don't know yet that it caused them to break up with them.".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T08:33:32.994Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And: "If he is bitching about his ex to me then chances are he would bitch about me to others too." Possibly applies even more for boasting.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T08:20:27.378Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. Complaining about your breakup allows the other person to locate and privilege various unsavory hypotheses about you which may or may not be fair. Don't let people do this. You aren't being more "honest" by giving people true information that will bias them.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-21T20:04:56.385Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

31. Don't Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist.

Anyone read the book and can explain what this is about?

Is this like "Don't discuss Heaven's Gate with your family"?

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-21T21:43:12.045Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sort of. I haven't read the book but was sufficiently amused to look this one up. They give three reasons: your therapist may think The Rules are manipulative and dishonest and dissuade you; your therapist may not realize how clueless and pathetic you are when you fall for a guy, if you don't have The Rules to protect you; you don't want to start debating this topic with your therapist, you'll lose your resolve to stick to The Rules.

comment by Zvi · 2011-01-25T22:52:39.534Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's more like "Don't discuss Zeus with your Rabbi."

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-21T17:39:45.339Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder how this translates to the dynamics of communities where sexual attraction isn't constrained to opposite-sex pairings.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-22T08:30:37.880Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very good point, I hadn't thought about that. Does there exist effective dating advice for gay people? It might be illuminating.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-22T16:31:44.396Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing I know of that's analogously mass-marketed.

Dan Savage is moderately popular in this space, but I suspect that he is to dating advice what talk radio is to political analysis: entertaining, vaguely topical, and mostly non-data-driven. Mostly his advice is to be attractive (exercise, grooming, etc.) and forthright (ask for what you want, walk away from what you don't want), which isn't bad advice as far as it goes.

More generally, there seems to be a sentiment in the gay male community that "playing hard to get" (which a lot of dating advice for het women seems to advise, and a lot of "dating" advice for het men seems to advise ways of neutralizing) is mostly a female thing, and gay guys simply shouldn't bother.

I have no particular reason to believe that this is true, though. In fact, I've seen enough queer men fascinated by the "is he or isn't he?" game with respect to attractive men of unspecified orientation that I rather doubt it. (I don't know if the analogous game is popular among queer women, though I'd be somewhat surprised if it weren't.)

That said, there was so much coyness ineluctably built into the gay dating scene by the fear of punishment for so long that I guess it's unsurprising that deliberate coyness is officially rejected. That rejection will probably fade as it becomes more and more taken for granted, as it seems to be becoming, that gay people can be publicly visible as romantic/sexual beings without risking assault or other forms of "reprisal".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T04:24:11.729Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For an example parallel to PUA, men may get squicked by this advice for women, even though they know it works.

That's an interesting list. A lot of those serve as general advice that tends to be given to guys too.

  • Always look great, whatever your income.
  • Never reveal information you don't have to. An enigmatic [man] drives [women] wild.
  • Try and stay in shape and involve some fitness regime at a gym.
  • Never be available when he wants you to be.
  • If he is available Tuesday, you are available Thursday.
  • Ensure you are a good kisser.
  • Never ever talk about previous [girlfriends], particularly their prowess in the bedroom. Your ex-[girlfriends] are your business only.
  • Never assume anything about your date until you choose to know him better. You cannot always tell by looking.
  • Never ever come across as too available or too desperate. [She] will run a mile.
  • If the [girl] in the corner is gorgeous, go get [her] and create the need in [her] for you. Never wait for [women] to come to you because you may watch [her] leave with someone else.
  • If you want a child, don't mention it on the first few dates.
  • Never ever criticize [her] mother unless you want to remain single.

Then there are some tips about evaluation strategies that guys tend to be warned to consider:

  • If any man shows the slightest signs of possessiveness or insecurity, run like the wind. Life is too short for boys.
  • If his shoes or hygiene are a disgrace, dump him.

(Yup. Shoes, and insecurity. Those two are the big ones in fashion and behavioral signalling respectively.)

Then there are others that guys are often suggested strategies for dealing with. (Such strategies vary rather a lot depending on individual identity, what kind of relationship is desired and pure arbitrariness.)

  • Let your man pay. If he is interested, he is interested enough to ensure you eat well and get home safely in a cab.

Often I'll do this as a hat tip to tradition or as a pure matter of convenience. It depends a bit on the girl. Sometimes it will pay for a meal then say, for example, that now she can take me and buy me icecream. With respect to the attitude conveyed in the above tip, if a girl does expect me to pay and conveys that then I expect her to do so from the position that it is a gesture that she appreciates, not her prerogative. I am not paying for her time, the transaction is 'time and company' for 'time and company'. She isn't a hooker!

  • Ensure you receive flowers. If he doesn't know what a florist is, dump him.

I like how the unreasonable tips come with "dump him" instructions. Dumping her would be hard work after all. Flowers are to add flavour of novelty within an established relationship and even then subject to preference.

  • Keep dates brief, but your men interested. Less is always more.

Yawn. Organising dates is a significant overhead. Short is the opposite of interesting to me.

  • Never ever sleep with a guy until he has fallen for you. Sex early in your dating game plan will ruin everything.

I have found sex too early in the relationship to sometimes be a mixed blessing. Primarily because it can sometimes cover over incompatibility or lack of other common interests. But I don't think that is what the tip is getting at (which is defintely squick).

  • Always keep a guy waiting and never turn up early. It is a lady's perogative.

I prefer to arrange meetings where no waiting for either party is required and there is a minimum of inconvenience if someone flakes. Apart from that there are all sorts of ways to handle this and other sorts of power play in a way that eliminates deliberate discourtesy while providing the best experience for both parties. That's where sharing strategies and successes with others who have found ways to handle a situation comes in handy.

  • Weekend shopping trips with girlfriends are sacred and not available for dates.

Sure, whatever. Just assume an approximately constant pool of 'asking out's with two or three potential times given for each ask out. Calibrate availability and acceptance accordingly.

From what I observe of my own behaviour in general, if doing something does not work then I go and do something (or in this case someone) else. Einstein would call that 'not being insane'.

  • Keep your man standing on quicksand by shifting landmarks and goalposts constantly.

I have fond memories of the time back in my teenage years when I realised that in dating, as in the rest of life, the only goalposts I have to worry about are my own. The approval of others is sometimes useful and sometimes it is fun to play other people's games. But other times it is more fun to reverse them or ignore them outright.

  • Never talk too much about your father and how your date measures up in comparison.
  • You may well have all the bodily functions of a man, just try not to demonstrate them early on.

(Whatever.)

  • Always reply to emails at least 3 days after receipt.
  • A man who doesn't reply to your email within 3 days should be ignored.

Now there is some real squick. My biggest peeve is bullshit double standards like that. Fortunately they are self screening once again.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-23T04:41:44.169Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some of these seem also just designed to cause maximum drama. Consider:

Let your man pay. If he is interested, he is interested enough to ensure you eat well and get home safely in a cab.

Many females I've dated get actively offended if I the guys try to pay rather than splitting the bill. And frankly, they have a right to be offended, giving the historical double standards that are associated with this sort of thing. That someone is trying to get females to insist on this while others use it as a test in the opposite direction? Yeah, this isn't going to lead to problems at all.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T05:03:13.556Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many females I've dated get actively offended if I the guys try to pay rather than splitting the bill. And frankly, they have a right to be offended

I wouldn't want to deny anyone the right to be offended at anything they please but for my part I would bid them politely goodnight and delete their phone number. Getting actively offended over things that are not a big deal is a huge red flag. It indicates either specific emotional issues or a generally high maintenance personality. I'll leave those girls to you Josh. :)

Some sample sane responses in such circumstances:

  • No, we'll split it.
  • Hey, none of that, Neanderthal! (With a smile and or fake arm slap to indicate lightheartedness. Equivalent to assertiveness with humor.)

Ideal response:

  • Sure, but I've got the next one!

This follows from a general principle that a propensity for taking offence is an unattractive trait and an indicator of immature boundaries. If you want something different ask for it or actively make it happen.

comment by anon895 · 2011-01-24T13:19:11.770Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • No, we'll split it.

From what I've read, being able to credibly offer a free meal is a critical tool in some men's dating arsenal. Changing it to "well, if you want I'll pay, but I'd be really grateful if you'd chip in too" could leave him substantially weakened. Her making decisions on his behalf and talking about them as a couple after one date also seems like a bad sign.

  • Hey, none of that, Neanderthal! (With a smile and or fake arm slap to indicate lightheartedness. Equivalent to assertiveness with humor.)

"Ha, ha! It's funny because she insulted me and dismissed my sex's relevance as economic agents!"

  • Sure, but I've got the next one!

"So just because I was curious enough to spend some money to get to know her better, suddenly I'm at her beck and call? What kind of spineless plaything does she see me as?"

...and that's one of many reasons I hope I don't need to date.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T02:55:51.410Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow. All those could technically be valid interpretations. That's where things like body language and confidence come in. There is something to be said for interpreting everything in the best possible light. Occasionally (dependent highly on context) even when you know they intended it to be critical. (Although in this case they didn't).

  • Hey, none of that, Neanderthal! (With a smile and or fake arm slap to indicate lightheartedness. Equivalent to assertiveness with humor.)

"Ha, ha! It's funny because she insulted me and dismissed my sex's relevance as economic agents!"

For my part I find the ability to mock tradition and culture without getting personally insulted by it kind of endearing. In this case, again depending rather significantly on cues in the context, I would quite possibly go ahead and be sure to open doors for her and move her to the side of the pavement farthest from the road. Because teasing each other is fun, life isn't meant to be taken seriously and, incidentally, because it would be role playing the masculine stereotype light-heartedly.

Incidentally I don't consider 'Neanderthal' to be an insult. Neanderthals were awesome. ;)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T04:59:18.150Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many females I've dated get actively offended if I the guys try to pay rather than splitting the bill. And frankly, they have a right to be offended, giving the historical double standards that are associated with this sort of thing.

I have to admit, when I was dating, I would always offer to pay half the bill -- but I never went on a second date with any guy who took me up on it. I know this goes against the general policy of forthrightness that I otherwise followed, and I can't really defend the practice rationally. It probably was an area where I was following drives I didn't fully understand, maybe something about finding a man who was capable of the old-fashioned, stand-up, protect & provide business.

In any case I would definitely advise men to offer to pay on the first date. I mean, don't insist on it, but showing that you have money, and aren't stingy with it, is generally an attractive thing.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-01-23T20:12:46.447Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When my date pays for things/establishes a trend of paying for things, it gives me permission not to fuss about money. I am very, very inclined to fuss about money if any of the money involved is mine, so I find it a huge load off my mind. (I go on first dates prepared to pay half if my date seems to prefer this idea when I ask, but preparing to do that before every date with a person I intended to see regularly would be rapidly exhausting for me, so I'd be leery of going on dates-that-could-cost-money with someone who doesn't demonstrate an inclination to pay - though this doesn't preclude 100% of possible second dates.)

Example: I recently dated a guy who took me out to movies (he paid), and we were trying to think of something else to do besides see movies. I proposed snow tubing, but then discovered that the only snow tubing place open in the area which had a device to pull the tubes up the hill was expensive. I dithered to him about this. If he had said something like "don't worry about that, I've got it", we would have gone snow tubing. He did not, so we didn't. (This didn't preclude another movie date after this non-event.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-24T01:02:59.456Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the relevant joke and intended consequences is something like:

  1. I insert an obvious derogatory remark about a tribal group you are very loosely affiliated with.

  2. Since I am closely affiliated with that tribal group, this comment acts as a countersignal and ironically signals affiliation with that group. This also works because the group in question has a history of countersignaling in this fashion and calling it "humor".

  3. Since a disproportionate fraction up LW readers have past or present emotional connections to that tribal group, this raises my status at LW.

  4. (Something else very Hansonian occurs here)

  5. Profit.

ETA: And actually, this post also signals affiliation with nerdy internet people. Now if only I can find a way to simultaneous signal with people concerned about FAI and signal affiliation with paperclip maximizers, then I'm all set.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-01-26T19:07:45.290Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Voted up for being funny. This probably proves some kind of point, doesn't it?

comment by arundelo · 2011-01-24T06:10:51.101Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a nice example of a division of labor based on relative strengths (at least when your partner does not happen to have a similar aversion). For me, such a division is preferable to the idea that roles in (heterosexual) relationships are determined by the sexes of the respective partners.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-01-24T12:43:05.341Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I'd have similar preferences if I dated a girl. (I have been in relationships with girls, but never in the "we will go to a place and spend money on food/an activity" style of relationship.)

comment by rastilin · 2011-01-25T10:44:03.662Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You mean the relative strengths of having money versus being a woman? I'm not seeing the division here.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-25T10:54:21.092Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The division is that Alicorn is not strong with money; she lets her date sort out the money because (while not necessarily strong with money absolute) they are stronger with money than her. Relatively, the date is stronger, so they do the labour of paying.

One possible reason for someone being strong with money is they have lots of it.

Arundelo is making the point that it could have turned out that Alicorn was strong with money and her date was not; in this case Alicorn would have paid. It was not a case of "man pays, woman doesn't." It was a case of "those who can most pay, pay."

comment by rastilin · 2011-01-25T11:06:33.220Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's not the impression I got. The date ended up paying because Alicorn didn't want to, and the date not paying would have led to fewer dates. She stated she was prepared to pay half, not prepared to pay full like her date was doing.

(I go on first dates prepared to pay half if my date seems to prefer this idea when I ask, but preparing to do that before every date with a person I intended to see ?regularly would be rapidly exhausting for me, so I'd be leery of going on dates-that-could-cost-money with someone who doesn't demonstrate an inclination to pay

In the comment just next to mine, she says...

Yeah, I'd have similar preferences if I dated a girl. (I have been in relationships with girls, but never in the "we will go to a place and spend money on food/an activity" style of relationship.)

Which illustrates the reasoning behind PUA advice being to split the bill. It explicitly states that she should only bother spending time with you for your company. If the idea that you two would work out something that didn't involve spending money never comes up, then she just wasn't into you.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-25T12:35:01.597Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's not the impression I got.

It's the impression arundelo got exactly, unless I miss my mark.

comment by arundelo · 2011-01-26T03:13:41.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The relative strengths of having money versus whatever Alicorn is strong at.

(To be precise, it's a matter of comparative advantage rather than strength, with the proviso that if Alicorn's partner is even worse than her at spending money, they probably won't do many spending-money dates at all.)

comment by cousin_it · 2011-01-25T11:34:16.216Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of my resentment toward your comments has to do with your acceptance (sometimes approaching flaunting) of women's disproportionate bargaining power in relationships. This attitude makes me feel uncomfortable and sometimes provokes me to write flamey comments, which I then delete. I'm not sure how many other men here feel the same way, maybe I'm the only one, but still.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-23T20:31:28.957Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When my date pays for things/establishes a trend of paying for things, it gives me permission not to fuss about money. I am very, very inclined to fuss about money if any of the money involved is mine, so I find it a huge load off my mind.

Resisting temptation to make obvious joke about your paternal ancestry...

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T00:04:58.276Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've scoured the paragraph for possible allusions to make. None of the jokes I can construct are obvious enough to be particularly funny. Bother.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-24T00:35:34.525Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alicorn is of Jewish ancestry on the paternal side. The real issue is that the obvious jokes just aren't very funny.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-01-24T00:47:45.029Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not even sure what the "obvious jokes" are given the hint about my dad's side of the family being Jewish.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-24T00:52:38.862Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something along the lines of "ah, and here we see confirmation of your Jewish ancestry." The joke I was thinking of was simply that your concerns about money as expressed fit very well with negative stereotypes about Jews and money. It really isn't that funny and is probably anti-humorous when one has to explain it to this level.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T05:07:33.971Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mind you the parent completely reverses the impression given by the earlier comment of "Wow, that's an attitude of the perfect girl for a nerd to be dating!"

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T05:28:56.462Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mind you the parent completely reverses the impression given by the earlier comment of "Wow, that's an attitude of the perfect girl for a nerd to be dating!"

I know! I wasn't even aware of it as inconsistent at the time.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-01-23T05:20:17.372Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mind you the parent completely reverses the impression given by the earlier comment of "Wow, that's an attitude of the perfect girl for a nerd to be dating!"

Well, humans have lots of different behaviors and variation. It is extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be perfect. Moreover, everyone is influenced by cultural norms. As far as I can tell, that sort of thing is evidence more that people should try not to use any single warning sign as an absolute deal-killer unless it is very severe.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T05:43:33.899Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be perfect.

Naturally. siduri's earlier comment indicated that she was an extreme outlier in terms of preferences and and proactive forthrightness. This additional trait just serves as a regression to the mean.

comment by taryneast · 2011-01-24T11:42:38.946Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have never had a guy offer to pay for my dinner. I guess Aussie blokes just don't tend to do that kind of thing. I think that if anyone ever did - I'd be so surprised that I'd accept. I'd certainly be happy to pay for the next meal (or coffee or whatever).

I'm told that, during WWII, the American soldiers that were stationed in Australia cleaned up on the dating scene - because they happened to still use those traditional behaviours. ;)

I totally understand the inclination to get upset if being treated unfairly - but these days, I'm pretty sure that most guys that hold a door open for you are not doing it because they think I'm incapable of doing it myself... so I smile and say thank you, and make sure I pay it forward for somebody else next time I have the opportunity.

comment by khafra · 2011-01-25T00:01:27.068Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems that, steadfast allies as American GIs may have been to the ANZAC forces during combat, on the home front they were ruthless-if unknowing-defectors

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-23T18:13:17.873Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

but I never went on a second date with any guy who took me up on it

I doubt you followed that rule consistently. It looks like to much of a unimportant minimal indicator that should be superseded by the rest of the date.

But if you poll enough women you will find many such statements that contradict with the ones other women give. Getting angry for paying the bill, getting angry for not paying the bill. Expecting him to hold the door. Getting angry holding doors for her. There is no standard rule set to follow. And i find it ridiculous how women (or anyone) expect others to just know what they want without ever bothering to tell them.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T19:02:46.410Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another way of thinking about it might be that "paying the bill" or "not holding the door" are indicators of the man's personality, rather than terminal values of the woman. In this case, telling the man "I expect you to pay the bill" is counter-productive. It doesn't actually achieve anything the woman wants -- what she wants (in this hypothetical) is a man that would do this on his own. It merely eliminates "paying the bill" as a useful indicator of personality.

Granted, this strategy doesn't work well on a man who doesn't have an opinion on the matter and just wants to make the woman happy, but it's a plausible explanation.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T19:35:41.814Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think a lot of women are looking for a man who can create romantic experiences, start to finish, for them. I think that's what the "bill paying" business is really about. (If it were about money you could just ask what he does for a living.) And it's fun once in a while when someone has orchestrated an entire evening for you and taken care of all the details for you. But if you expect that regularly and don't reciprocate... I guess I disapprove of that. It reduces him to "The Guy Who Brings The Fun Stuff."

comment by anon895 · 2011-01-24T12:19:10.993Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I got a little angry reading that (didn't follow the original link), but I'm feeling too lazy to discard the post I wrote, so:

  • Never ever talk about previous [girlfriends], particularly their prowess in the bedroom. Your ex-[girlfriends] are your business only.

Thereby signalling to her (if she were rational) that she'll be equally a nonentity to you in a year, and/or (if you actively avoid the subject) that you handled your past relationships badly and are likely to do the same for your next.

  • Never assume anything about your date until you choose to know him better. You cannot always tell by looking.

If I had video of every time that was hilariously bad advice for me back when I still expected human statements to necessarily mean things, I expect I could make a substantially better contribution to this thread.

  • If the [girl] in the corner is gorgeous, go get [her] and create the need in [her] for you. Never wait for [women] to come to you because you may watch [her] leave with someone else.

This appears to be a disguised problem statement: "If she perceives you as pursuing her, she'll run a mile, but if you wait for her to pursue you she won't. Therefore, use magic." So glad I'm a lifestyle-aspie where the rule is "if you want something from someone, ask, if you don't think that'll work, offer something in exchange, if you don't have anything to offer, do without".

My imagined "stereotypical advice" version of that sentence is more like "If the girl in the corner is gorgeous, too bad. The girl who actually talks to you and affects an interest in you will be gorgeous too if you let yourself see it, and you don't want to miss out on her just because you're hung up on someone else that you probably didn't have a chance with anyway.

  • Never ever criticize [her] mother unless you want to remain single.

God, I love family-as-applause-light. Just seeing "criticize" and "mother" next to each other looks dirty. Mothers are sweet and upstanding ladies who work hard to take care of their daughters!

  • If his shoes or hygiene are a disgrace, dump him.

The lack of any definition of "disgrace" makes me want to look over the others to see if they fit the pattern of "blank canvas for the reader to project her already existing behavior on".

Often I'll do this as a hat tip to tradition or as a pure matter of convenience. It depends a bit on the girl. Sometimes it will pay for a meal then say, for example, that now she can take me and buy me icecream.

Should "it" be I?

She isn't a hooker!

Also love "hooker" as boo light.

I like how the unreasonable tips come with "dump him" instructions. Dumping her would be hard work after all.

Are you implying that the page is saying that men withhold flowers from women as a less hard alternative to dumping them directly?

Einstein would call that 'not being insane'.

...but probably didn't.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T03:03:02.814Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I got a little angry reading that (didn't follow the original link)

Just so long as you don't interpret it as avocation from me (except where explicitly indicated). It is, after all, a bunch of dating tips given to women and presented here because it may 'squick' guys. Mind you most of them did not squick me at all and even then it was just a "I wouldn't date her" reaction. But other people not getting offended at something is sometimes itself taken as offensive so I don't mind if you are angry at me too. :)

I know you mentioned that you hope you never have to date. For those that do date an attractive trait tends to be the ability to accept the dating patterns of the desired demographic without discontent. The signalling reason for this is obvious.

Thereby signalling to her (if she were rational) that she'll be equally a nonentity to you in a year, and/or (if you actively avoid the subject) that you handled your past relationships badly and are likely to do the same for your next.

I wouldn't call that rational. A rational girl would assume that I don't have my entire history written down on my sleeve for all to see. I don't speak of all the important things in my life in all conversations. I would call that girl 'paranoid'.

So glad I'm a lifestyle-aspie where the rule is "if you want something from someone, ask

Not a bad approach at all. Not universally effective but the screening/signalling combo would work well for some combinations. :)

My imagined "stereotypical advice" version of that sentence is more like "If the girl in the corner is gorgeous, too bad. The girl who actually talks to you and affects an interest in you will be gorgeous too if you let yourself see it, and you don't want to miss out on her just because you're hung up on someone else that you probably didn't have a chance with anyway.

In that vein the actual sentiment in the tip would translate to actively seeking out those other 'gorgeous', interesting/interested people too, rather than waiting passively.

God, I love family-as-applause-light. Just seeing "criticize" and "mother" next to each other looks dirty. Mothers are sweet and upstanding ladies who work hard to take care of their daughters!

'Applause light' is a little different from 'personal - don't insult'.

Should "it" be I?

No. Just no.

Also love "hooker" as boo light.

Framing, like it or not, is incredibly important when dating. A particularly aggressive framing of "If I do then I am entitled to material resource>" is an indication that a certain kind of relationship will follow and to some extent the type of personality of the girl. Again, it is how it is framed that is important more so than who actually pays for stuff. It also depends what kind of relationship you want.

Some people in some circumstances are looking for a more overtly transactional relationship than a partnership - rich middle aged men having affairs for example. Which is somewhat different to the provider/dominant-partner role that a less aggressive expectation that he will pay may indicate.

Are you implying that the page is saying that men withhold flowers from women as a less hard alternative to dumping them directly?

Almost certainly. It's a male conspiracy. The CIA is probably involved too. And aliens. And if the flowers don't work the Tin Foil Hat will every time.

...but probably didn't.

No, quite probably not. The "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." attribution to Einstein is a cultural myth. But sometimes I humour culture on the little things. :)

comment by Zaine · 2013-04-15T04:14:20.213Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I prefer to arrange meetings where no waiting for either party is required and there is a minimum of inconvenience if someone flakes. Apart from that there are all sorts of ways to handle this and other sorts of power play in a way that eliminates deliberate discourtesy while providing the best experience for both parties. That's where sharing strategies and successes with others who have found ways to handle a situation comes in handy.

I had no idea such a thing were possible. Please share your strategies and successes for arranging those situations.

(I'm being purposely non-specific in the hopes of encouraging as much detail as possible; a good strategy for interviews and give-and-take, but for requesting particular information in an asynchronous exchange I'm unsure of its efficacy.)

comment by wedrifid · 2013-04-15T04:37:07.040Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had no idea such a thing were possible. Please share your strategies and successes for arranging those situations.

I presume wedrifid was essentially referring to making dates that were things you wanted to do anyway or meeting points where the waiting party has an alternative thing to be doing.

comment by Zaine · 2013-04-15T04:51:45.852Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That was what I assumed, but to schedule a meeting where being late would not make the first arrival wait seems impossible to me. Perhaps a fair or festival? Those occur infrequently. A petting zoo? That's... not a bad idea, actually - but petting the animals would hardly be the main activity, and the animals could only entertain one for so long. At cinema one may feel to have been made to wait by seeing other tribes all around, even though the explicit activity is idle viewing. A talk? One may want to save a seat for the tardy party, but besides that a talk appears perfect.

Well, that's one "[meeting] where no waiting for either party is required...." I figured you or wedrifid might have a cache of events that fit that criterion and asked to hedge against figuratively 're-inventing the wheel'.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-04-15T06:58:49.785Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recommend sitting down and listing ten things you might do for fun, just because you enjoy them. Then look at that list and circle the ones that don't have a fixed start time (like zoos, fairs, festivals, museums, outdoor walks, amusement parks, beaches, etc. etc. etc.) If you haven't circled anything, repeat the exercise with another ten things you like to do. If the area where you live publishes a directory of local events, that's a useful place to start.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-28T01:54:55.672Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most of those don't offend me, and most of those that do offend me offend me because they're sexist, so I guess they wouldn't offend a counterfactual version of me who is more sexist. I suspect some of those are intended to be tongue-in-cheek. (But the one about e-mail immediately made me think about what would happen if both partners abode by it.)

comment by Will_Sawin · 2011-01-21T22:33:54.384Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My reaction was that it's not very nice to intentionally titrate the time one spends interacting with me. It doesn't seem like anything else on the list is deceptive or otherwise squicky.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T03:08:26.952Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is, of course, why 'self help' is best performed in communities where other people's agendas are not there to interfere with your progress. Given that success is for most part social and zero sum there will inevitably be epistemic pollution as a result of other people trying to influence your behaviour for their own purposes. Morality, after all, is mostly a tool used by people with (an appropriate kind of social) power to control the behaviour of those most vulnerable to its influence. (Note that sometimes it also serves a useful overall social purpose but it is not there to help you.)

Edit: If nothing else having specialised self help communities prevents every single remotely related conversation from ending up derailed into ethics.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-22T06:51:05.442Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In my view, the problem isn't inherent in discussion of ethics, it's just that many notions of ethics (particularly in social interaction) are just hypocritical and wrong from the start. Basically, people's conventional ideas about "self", "authenticity", and "manipulation" are largely an ephemeral slave morality. (Sorry if I'm giving anyone inferential distance shock, but I've outlined this position in the past here in massively long comments that I'm too lazy to dig up.)

The problem with throwing out the ethical baby with the bathwater is that then it's hard to get help optimizing your self-improvement according to a particular vision of ethics.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T07:02:45.035Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In my view, the problem isn't inherent in discussion of ethics, it's just that many notions of ethics (particularly in social interaction) are just hypocritical and wrong from the start.

I agree with you here and also note that what I am wary of is not environments in which ethical discussions take place but rather environments in which discussions pertaining simple instrumental or epistemic considerations are systematically diverted by ethical discussion or moral proscription. That is, it is what is lost and the implied introduction of bias into what remains that is the problem.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T03:47:53.522Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

best performed in communities where other people's agendas are not there to interfere with your progress.

careful you who take advice from.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T04:10:06.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

careful you who take advice from.

Obviously. But your advice in this particular instance appears, shall we say, ambiguous at best.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T04:41:20.143Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ambiguious posting is matter of habit for me. In this context: I experienced both growth oriented communities. And others that punish you for looking into improvement. Or people that give bad advice for all kinds of reasons. It was difficult for me to understand that this happens and why.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T04:45:51.428Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well said.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-24T21:27:48.930Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And yet, it is denounced by almost everyone - perhaps because they're only familiar with mechanical, dishonest, The Game-era material? I dunno.

It is a matter of definition for many people including myself. The PUA techniques fall in to the category of manipulation. If a technique is not a form of manipulation then it is not PUA.

Which works great for my personal definition, but it does not line up how people practicing PUA define it right? What percentage of PUA techniques would you consider manipulative. Do you have a better definition for me to use?

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T21:43:40.403Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is a matter of definition for many people including myself. The PUA techniques fall in to the category of manipulation. If a technique is not a form of manipulation then it is not PUA.

This statement seems very a priori. What is your definition of "manipulation," and why do you say that PUA techniques fall into it?

Which works great for my personal definition, but it does not line up how people practicing PUA define it right?

I'm ready to taboo the word "manipulation," because it doesn't have a fixed meaning. Some people use it to mean morally-neutral intentional social influence. Other people use it to mean unethical intentional social influence. Others don't require intent in their definitions. The term invites equivocation.

In my view, I would use "manipulation" to mean unethical social influence, in which case calling any technique manipulative first requires that one show it to be unethical.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-24T23:03:44.668Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This statement seems very a priori. What is your definition of "manipulation," and why do you say that PUA techniques fall into it?

I did not.

I stated a definition that I am working from, then I would take the existing techniques described by others as PUA and decide weather or not I consider them PUA under my definition.

I did not take all techniques described as PUA by others and classify them as manipulative. This in fact is what causes PUA to be "denounced by almost everyone." I was offering a plausible explanation since lukeprog said he did not understand why people would do this.

Defining manipulation in terms of ethics just moves the problem from the word manipulate to ethics so all the definitions of manipulation in your post are inadequate to me.

How about deceptive or untruthful to obtain something wanted.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T23:47:02.419Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did not take all techniques described as PUA by others and classify them as manipulative. This in fact is what causes PUA to be "denounced by almost everyone." I was offering a plausible explanation since lukeprog said he did not understand why people would do this.

Oh, I see. I thought you were asserting that position, rather than merely describing it. Thanks for clarifying.

Yes, I agree that one reason people denounce pickup PUAs is due to the non-rigorous folk-concept of "manipulation," whether that means. I'm sure it means something, and that it often does express some sort of valid objection... I'm just trying to find out what that objection is.

Defining manipulation in terms of ethics just moves the problem from the word manipulate to ethics so all the definitions of manipulation in your post are inadequate to me.

I agree with you that my attempted definition merely defers the problem. I would defend that deferral for two reasons:

  • When people say "X is manipulative," of social influence behavior X, they may often mean "X is unethical" (or more cynically: "I have an Ugh Field around X")
  • People might use "ethical" with more humility than "manipulative." People might be less likely to accuse behaviors of being unethical without explanation, while they have no qualms about making accusations of "manipulation" without explanation.

How about deceptive or untruthful to obtain something wanted.

This definition might capture some aspects of what people mean by "manipulation," but not others. For instance, I'll suggest that various forms of coercion would fall under the folk-concept of manipulation, even while being non-deceptive.

Whether that objection applies to PU is another question, of course. I think it's mostly overblown.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T00:20:07.301Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm just trying to find out what that objection is.

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision. That is what I see at the heart of many peoples concerns, even if they are often not able to verbalize it.

Whether that objection applies to PU is another question, of course. I think it's mostly overblown.

You think that the objection that PUA techniques use deception or untruthfulness is overblown? Most men looking toward PUA are looking for something effective, so I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-25T06:08:42.162Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision. That is what I see at the heart of many peoples concerns, even if they are often not able to verbalize it.

I think that's a plausible hypothesis about the "manipulation" objection to pickup. What I'm wondering is how those people are defining "manipulation."

You think that the objection that PUA techniques use deception or untruthfulness is overblown?

Yes.

I would speculate that the three main worries about deceptiveness and pickup are that (a) PUAs will lie about their relationship interest in order to trick women into sex, (b) PUAs will lie about their accomplishments, profession, and experiences, and (c) PUAs will be "putting on an act" socially and "acting like someone they are not." Do you think there are any other components to that objection?

(a) is probably just false, because PUAs don't advocate lying about relationship interest. Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more. There are various game-theoretic reasons why that can be a strong strategy, and I will make them more explicit if necessary.

(b) is false, except for white lies in routine-based pickup. Routines are hardly universal in the seduction community, and they are widely hated, even though some methods use them as training wheels. I discussed the ethics of white lies in routines in this post, where I argued:

Ok, then could you give me a specific example, other than one I've already stipulated (e.g. telling anecdotes about friends who don't exist during the first 10 minutes of conversation)? No, there isn't really a fight outside, and no, you don't really have a friend who is buying his girlfriend a cashmere sweater. But can't we excuse such white lies in helping people learn to socialize? Once a guy gets some social experience under his belt, then he will have entertaining anecdotes about friends that are actually true, and he will be as cool as those canned stories make him seem. [...]

I think that PUAs engaging in impression management, or even using scripts as a temporary measure to learn social skills, are not in the same moral category as substantive deception (lying about accomplishments, career, and income) or the same moral category as deception on a permanent basis (makeup, push-up bras). I think women should recognize that the intention of PUAs is not to deceive women about how they measure in qualities that women use to evaluate them, but to actually develop those qualities over the long term.

Although I'm personally not a fan of canned routines that contain factual untruths, I think such white lies (e.g. stories about imaginary friends within the first hour of conversation) could be justified on utilitarian grounds. The benefit of the user is high, because it keeps him in conversations that will allow him to learn social skills. The cost to people he interacts with is low. Furthermore, there is a benefit to women when he eventually learns social skills and discards routines, expanding the pool of datable men.

(c) is technically true, in that PUAs certainly do things that many people would call "putting on an act." In the past, I've argued that this judgment is unfair, because it presupposes a static notion of self and an overly restrictive and hierarchical notion of self-development. "Fake it 'til you make it" is a valid way of learning just about anything, and it gets unfairly hated on when applied to personal development. From the linked comment:

In my experience in real life, people who try to signal more social skills than they actually have tend to get seen through or make people feel uncomfortable almost immediately, or get believed on a permanent basis. While I think it's possible to hit somewhere in between, where people initially think you're cool and then later decide that you're a loser, doing so is hard, because signaling substantially more social skills than you actually have is hard.

I suspect that most of the time, the amount of social skills that someone can "fake" is about the level of social skills they could attain if they would practice a bit, get some good reactions from people, and believes in themselves. In some cases, merely one or two tries of a new social behavior with such positive results are enough to grant you that social skill.

Predicting how you would act if you were more socially skilled than you actually are, and pulling it off, is almost as paradoxical a notion as predicting what you would think if you were more intelligent than you actually are. To predict what the more intelligent / socially-skilled version of you would do, then you would need that level of intelligence / social skills!

Social reality doesn't work by the same rules as physical reality. Any notion of deception presupposes that there is some sort of truth being hidden, but often in the exterior social world and the interior world of self, it's hard to say what is true. You can partially change yourself merely by changing your self-narrative (to use Daniel Dennett's terminology).

Sorry to throw so much stuff at you all at once, but I hope the reasoning I've presenting in this post, and the linked posts, starts to show why I believe that the "deception" criticism of pickup is overblown. Let me know if you have any objections, or if there is anything that still bothers you (or might bother other people).

In my mind, the real problem with pickup is that some particular techniques and mindsets are toxic. Some techniques have a negative expected value. Some attitudes result in morally-neutral techniques being applied in negative ways.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T12:02:28.232Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, “pretending to be sexy,” aka projecting confidence, social dominance, good looks, etc., doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I know a lot of PUA focuses on stuff like that, and I think that’s great; I’ve seen it have a positive influence on friends of mine, and vastly improve their lives, without compromising their ethics. I think this sort of training falls under "self-improvement," and I think it's an unalloyed good thing, and from what I can tell, this is exactly what you've been teaching and promoting.

I’m bothered by what I think of as “compliance tricks,” which I’ve also seen recommended in a PUA context.

That is, when you get someone to do things that she doesn’t want or like, using commitment effects and manipulating her own guilt, awkwardness, and desire to please. Or playing on her insecurities so she doesn't feel she deserves to refuse. I’ve been on the receiving end of a mild version of this: it’s possible to make me do things that are bad for me just by being “dominating” and making me feel too awkward to refuse a favor. This is similar to the Milgram Experiment. People can be remarkably unwilling to say “No” to someone who expects to be obeyed, and people can be willing to harm others or themselves just to avoid a reprimand, a stern look, or social awkwardness.

A man who understands this can get sex just by using compliance tricks (especially if he uses them on an especially timid or docile woman.) He doesn’t necessarily have to be cool or charming – he can be unattractive and creepy – but he can make a woman feel bad about saying “No” very effectively if he’s good at psychology, and he can make her life worse. I think this is why there’s a lot of feminist talk about “No means no” and consent and so on – because women are socialized to try to please people and go along with others’ desires, and can be put in harmful situations by people who take advantage of their reluctance to give a direct “No.”

Maybe that in itself isn’t a crime; maybe unfulfilling, not-quite-desired sex isn’t the worst thing in the world; but as a general rule, I think compliance tricks are pretty disturbing. People have permitted genocide and tyranny -- and, less dramatically, ruined their own lives -- because they were too awkward or meek to say “No,” and someone took advantage of their meekness. The victim of a compliance trick bears responsibility for his/her weakness, but the instigator of a compliance trick is still doing wrong, in my opinion.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-31T07:55:12.429Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

SarahC:

Actually, “pretending to be sexy,” aka projecting confidence, social dominance, good looks, etc., doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I know a lot of PUA focuses on stuff like that, and I think that’s great; I’ve seen it have a positive influence on friends of mine, and vastly improve their lives, without compromising their ethics. I think this sort of training falls under "self-improvement," and I think it's an unalloyed good thing, and from what I can tell, this is exactly what you've been teaching and promoting.

Glad to see that we are on the same page on this point.

I’m bothered by what I think of as “compliance tricks,” which I’ve also seen recommended in a PUA context.

PUAs indeed use some compliance techniques. Here are a few hypotheses why:

  • PUAs use compliance techniques because (whether PUAs realize or not) they induce vulnerable women to go along with sexual activity that they are unenthusiastic about, or outight do not want
  • Certain behavior that induce compliance are attractive to some women (e.g. dominance and status behaviors, giving minor orders)
  • For some women, a side effect of behavior that attracts them is that is also induces compliance. Therefore, you can test attraction by testing compliance as a proxy. Hence compliance tests like "give me your hand for a sec...", which could also be called "attraction tests."

I suspect that all these factors underlie the use of compliance in pickup.

That is, when you get someone to do things that she doesn’t want or like, using commitment effects and manipulating her own guilt, awkwardness, and desire to please.

We recently had a similar conversation on Clarisse Thorn's blog, discussing the case of the PUA David X, described in The Game p. 146:

His philosophy was to never lie to a female. He prided himself on bedding women by trapping them with their own words. For example, on meeting a girl at a bar, he'd get her to say that she was spontaneous and didn't have any rules; then, if she was reluctant to leave the bar with him, he'd say, "I thought you were spontaneous. I thought you did what you wanted."

Do I like this tactic? No. Can I imagine a woman find this manipulative? Yes. Can I imagine a woman going along with him out of "manipulation"? Maybe. Yet his "trap" is so transparent that it lacks the underhanded component many people associate with "manipulation." It's a lot easier to imagine a woman perceiving his approach as assholish. I can even imagine some women perceiving it as flirtatious.

I think this is why there’s a lot of feminist talk about “No means no” and consent and so on – because women are socialized to try to please people and go along with others’ desires, and can be put in harmful situations by people who take advantage of their reluctance to give a direct “No.”

As someone who has had to work a lot on my assertiveness, and who still sometimes has trouble saying "no," I sympathize. I've run into enough men with similar challenges that I am not convinced that "people-pleasing" behavior is heavily gendered. The difference is that men tend to end up in the role of sexual initiator, making the people-pleasing behavior of women more pivotal in sexuality.

The difficulty that some women have saying "no" needs to be taken seriously. Yet what exactly are its ethical implications? How do we define ethical disjunctions that don't prohibit any sort of initiating?

Unfortunately, it's quite possible that there is a nontrivial overlap between (a) male behaviors that some women find attractive, and (b) male behaviors that some women go along with out of vulnerability, difficulty saying "no," pressure, or people-pleasing. Some women have trouble saying "no," and other women have trouble saying "yes" (and of course, some women probably have trouble saying either). Some women prefer advances that other women have trouble saying "no" to. Some women prefer advances that other women have trouble saying "yes" to.

Imagine being a guy thinking about these possibilities... then try to go out on a date and make a move.

Women don't come with manuals describing exactly what sort of advances they find sexy, and what sort they comply with in order to people-please... so men have to guess. It's possible to make better guesses about women's sexual psychology, but that takes practice and experience.

For every male advance, we could invent a hypothetical woman who would have trouble refusing it. Make an assertive advance? Some women might feel pressured. Make an extremely polite and hesitant advance (even asking permission)? Some women might go along with it (without wanting it) merely because she doesn't want to make you feel bad.

This guessing requirement could cause a screwed up incentive structure. Imagine that 40% of women strongly prefer a type of advance that 10% of women have trouble saying "no" to. Ethics aside, the dominant strategy in conditions of uncertainty is to use that advance, which would be harmful to 10% of women. You could be a good person and not use it... but then you throw out 40% of women as dating options. Meanwhile, you sit and watch the guys who play the dominant strategy make out like bandits and surpass you in experience with women. Now imagine another type of advance, except that 75% of women strongly prefer it, and 5% have trouble saying "no." Then another advance, there 90% of women strongly prefer it, and 1% have trouble saying "no" to it. Or how about an advance that 99.9% prefer, and 0.1% have trouble saying "no" to; do men need to relinquish this one, too?

At what point are men allowed to get off that train of ethical thought before it reaches its destination of saintly celibacy? What's the cutoff point where a man has sufficiently minimized the probability of inducing a woman to comply with him sexually out of people-pleasing or difficulty saying "no"?

Reflecting on the massive diversity of female preferences and assertiveness about their boundaries can be frightening to many men. To my high school version, the thought of a woman having trouble saying "no" was so compelling that I never asked anyone out, at all (some people on LW might consider this idea a "basilisk").

Maybe that in itself isn’t a crime; maybe unfulfilling, not-quite-desired sex isn’t the worst thing in the world; but as a general rule, I think compliance tricks are pretty disturbing.

Some behavior under the label "compliance tricks" is disturbing. Yet it can be difficult to define where compliance tactics end, and normal social interaction begins. Furthermore, whether behavior is a "compliance tactic" isn't always an objective feature of the behavior: for many behaviors, it depends on the other person, and on context. As discussed above, women vary vastly in what behaviors compel them.

Is David X's "I thought you were adventurous?" a compliance tactic, or is it him being an obvious asshole, or is it flirting? Is "sit on my lap?" a "compliance tactic"? How about "call me tomorrow around 6"? Any type of request can induce compliance in someone with sufficiently low boundaries. How do we distinguish between unethical "compliance tactics", and ethical sorts of advances and requests?

continued...

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-31T11:05:13.529Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To my high school version, the thought of a woman having trouble saying "no" was so compelling that I never asked anyone out, at all

Related to the old problem of avoiding to asked women out that are in relationships, leading to the awkward »do you have a boyfriend« question. And all kinds of hang-ups when the girl mentions hers only late in the conversation or not at all.

comment by katydee · 2011-01-31T08:23:42.487Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm pretty sure that if you think the idea that people don't always have the same romantic ideas is a basilisk-level idea, you don't know what a basilisk-level idea is.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-02-01T04:51:54.489Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

First, allow me to clarify that I'm not sold on any of the discourse about "basilisks." Yet since that word is so popular on LW, I decided to use to it to characterize an idea that has the capacity to destroy the quality of life of some people.

Your paraphrase of the idea ("people don't always have the same romantic ideas") makes it sound harmless. Here's how I put it originally:

Reflecting on the massive diversity of female preferences and assertiveness about their boundaries can be frightening to many men.

If the variance of female boundary-assertiveness (people-pleasing, etc...) is large enough, then X% of women may be vulnerable to complying with male advances that they do not want. This principle could be true of any advance that a man could make.

Even if X% is low, this notion is still highly disconcerting to some men, and can motivate some of them (e.g. my past self) to refrain from making any advances. For men who aren't significantly above-average in attractiveness, this usually means being alone. This outcome is severe enough that it overlaps with what some people on LW call basilisks.

Of course, my reference of that meme doesn't mean that I endorse it, nor do I want to shutdown discussions of these possibilities. Instead, I want us to examine these possibilities and articulate sexual ethics that make sense.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-31T08:33:00.287Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Continued from previous post...

I'm raising lots of questions, and I don't necessarily expect answers... most of them are rhetorical, because I know there isn't an easy answer. In ethics, it's easy to prohibit things, but it's hard to show the distinctions between what's prohibited and what's permitted.

People have permitted genocide and tyranny -- and, less dramatically, ruined their own lives -- because they were too awkward or meek to say “No,” and someone took advantage of their meekness.

It's correct that it's costly to someone if you destroy their ability to say "no." It's also costly to them if you destroy their ability to say "yes." Those costs aren't symmetrical, though the latter cost needs to be considered when calculating the expected value of advances. "Choice" doesn't just mean the ability to say "no," it also means the ability to say "yes."

The victim of a compliance trick bears responsibility for his/her weakness, but the instigator of a compliance trick is still doing wrong, in my opinion.

Lots of mainstream mating behavior by both genders has elements of compliance (e.g. "call me") that people are not always aware of. What if the initiator is genuinely unaware that their behavior might induce unenthusiastic (or unwanted) compliance? Check out this body language TV program where the expert remarks that women's accepting and rejecting behavior sometimes looks the same due to politeness.

How ethical responsibility should be divided is a good question. Clearly there is a responsibility that an initiating partner consider the other person's boundaries and ability to assert them, but there is also a responsibility of the receptive partner to assert their boundaries, since initiators don't have perfect knowledge of the other person's boundaries. The division of responsibility would depend on the sort of activity, and the context.

Given that women's boundaries and preferences have wide variation and conflicts, while men are expected to initiate under conditions of uncertainty, there's only so much that men can do to ensure that they initiate in a way that is both attractive and easy to say "no" to. This is not a system that we opted-into. Nobody came and said "please check this box if you would like to date a population of people who have a high rate or trouble saying 'yes,' and a high rate of trouble saying 'no'... and who typically expect you to initiate."

Men can be cautious, or attempt to read women's minds, and it's a good thing if they do. It's quite feasible to avoid running over women's boundaries... if you treat women like frail porcelain statues. Yet what percentage of women actually finds such behavior attractive? Does the possibility of a woman complying with an unwanted advance, without the guy knowing, mean that men need to treat women like frail porcelain statues by default?

At what point does men's caution turn into infantilization towards women, and at what point do we ask them to help with cultural change? At what point do we hold women responsible to assert their boundaries (particularly for advances that aren't aggressive, and where the guy might never know that she was just going along with it out of people-pleasing)? If less women had trouble saying "no," then men wouldn't have to initiate so conservatively. If less women had trouble saying "yes," then men could initiate cautiously without worry of being rejected because their advance was considered "wimpy" or otherwise unattractive.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-31T13:22:58.986Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hadn't realized that the fear of harming women could actually be that paralyzing in real life that it actually scares men away from getting dates at all. There's no reason men should have to bear that whole cost as some kind of precautionary principle. There are some ways in which the deck really is stacked against men, and I agree that it's unfair.

You have to understand, like Robert Hand "I have come up from a lower world and I am filled with astonishment when I find that people have any redeeming virtue at all." I'm used to my male friends talking about bedding unconscious girls and planning to screw my teenage little sister. The idea that someone could be so scrupulous that it hurts his dating prospects simply didn't occur to me.

And definitely I believe in putting more pressure on adult women to be more straightforward: say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. That takes character, though, and character takes time, and most women who hear something about "assertiveness" never really grok that this means "Yes, you should self-modify!" I'm in the process of trying to be more assertive -- and the trouble is, I get positive reinforcement every time I'm meek and deferent! Even people who verbally encourage assertiveness respond positively to self-effacing, timid people. So even this is a two-way street. If women want respect for our boundaries, we have to be more assertive. If it would be good for women to be more assertive, then everyone has to actually behave as though they prefer to be around assertive people.

It's hard to figure out where to draw the line ethically, when it comes to the compliance stuff. The David X tactic doesn't seem obviously immoral to me; I'm not sure I would mind if my male friends tried it on a woman; I can imagine some women falling for it and feeling really shitty in the morning, though. Is a man doing wrong if he makes a woman feel really shitty? I'm not sure -- it's just feelings, after all.

One way of looking at it: if a sleazy come-on is followed by a healthy relationship, who wouldn't forgive the sleazy come-on? If a man just does sleaze, all the time, and there's never any underlying goodwill, then I'm afraid I'm going to judge him negatively. Such people exist; you are obviously not one of them; but yes, they exist, and even despite the unfair structure of society, I'm going to judge them.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-31T14:37:23.419Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hadn't realized that the fear of harming women could actually be that paralyzing in real life that it actually scares men away from getting dates at all.

To make matters worse, there is also the case of appearing to harm women. Even a false accusation of rape is a terrifying prospect for any man who isn't like the specified male friends you mentioned.

For some social environments, the cost of a false positive (you determine 'yes' when actually 'no') is way higher than the cost of false negatives. For many other situations, the cost is potentially lower. I don't see it here, but the failure mode in almost all social discussions I've had the misfortune of having on this topic has been to try and generalise a single behaviour for women or men over both situations.

comment by CuSithBell · 2011-02-02T17:47:27.740Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is a man doing wrong if he makes a woman feel really shitty? I'm not sure -- it's just feelings, after all.

?? As opposed to what?

Or is this sarcastic?

comment by HughRistik · 2011-02-02T07:23:19.715Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

SarahC said:

I hadn't realized that the fear of harming women could actually be that paralyzing in real life that it actually scares men away from getting dates at all.

I'm glad that I've been able to minimize the inferential distance. This feeling of anxiety is one reason why some men get sensitive or defensive in discussions about consent.

'm used to my male friends talking about bedding unconscious girls and planning to screw my teenage little sister. The idea that someone could be so scrupulous that it hurts his dating prospects simply didn't occur to me.

Ah, it looks like we are talking about different areas of the moral spectrum. Since we were talking about manipulation and compliance tactics, I thought we were talking about something a bit more subtle. Can someone give a concrete example of objectionable "manipulation" or "compliance tricks" that they have in mind?

And definitely I believe in putting more pressure on adult women to be more straightforward: say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.

I do think it's a good thing if women are encouraged to be straightforward. Also, I would like to see women consider whether men following their preferences would be a good thing for other women. For instance, if you (general "you") are a woman who likes men to initiate when they could only be 70% sure you are consenting... is that really a good practice to encourage men towards? How will other women feel if guys act this way?

If it would be good for women to be more assertive, then everyone has to actually behave as though they prefer to be around assertive people.

Yes. And it's unfortunate that even women who like to communicate verbally about what they want are likely to run into men who have been trained by other women to guess rather than ask. Similarly, women who prefer to do most of the initiating themselves will often run into men who've been trained by other women to do most of the initiating.

As I've mentioned before, women's responses to men are like votes in a democracy. Some women are running a tyranny of the majority over other women in determining men's default dating behavior.

It's hard to figure out where to draw the line ethically, when it comes to the compliance stuff. The David X tactic doesn't seem obviously immoral to me; I'm not sure I would mind if my male friends tried it on a woman; I can imagine some women falling for it and feeling really shitty in the morning, though. Is a man doing wrong if he makes a woman feel really shitty? I'm not sure -- it's just feelings, after all.

That's my reaction, also. I think if a man knowingly does something that reliably makes women feel shitty, that's problematic. In this case, I guess we have to weigh the possibility of her feeling shitty with the possibility of her having a good time. I'm not sure what the correct weights are, or how to do that calculation.

My intuition is against this particular tactic, because I believe that there are ways to have women leave bars with you that are just as good, but which don't have potential downsides.

One way of looking at it: if a sleazy come-on is followed by a healthy relationship

As SilasBarta has pointed out, it's conceivable for men to use "sleaze" to get in the door with a woman, but then be scrupulous in gaining consent before actually having sex.

It's difficult to excuse a "sleazy" come-on ex post facto because it happened to result in a healthy relationship. Yet if the come-on has that result, that could be evidence that the come-on actually wasn't sleazy: the positive outcome is evidence (at least, weak evidence) against the potential harmfulness of the come-on.

Such people exist; you are obviously not one of them; but yes, they exist, and even despite the unfair structure of society, I'm going to judge them.

Sure. It's not them I'm trying to protect. I'm worried about the more scrupulous guys who might get caught by the sweeping language that is commonly used to criticize the sleazy guys.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-31T14:20:53.833Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The idea that someone could be so scrupulous that it hurts his dating prospects simply didn't occur to me.

Try reading NON-PU online tip sites for dating/romance and the like. The quite men do not make too many noteworthy appearances in real life.

And definitely I believe in putting more pressure on adult women to be more straightforward[....]

I wonder how that would work out.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-01-31T12:08:48.678Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think these are all worthy questions, but I can't agree with the implication that this lessens (if that is the implication - my apologies if I have misread you) our concerns over compliance tricks. In particular I think the metaphor of "dividing ethical responsibility" is very bad framing: it allows discussions like these to turn into cheering or booing various possibly responsible groups, and moreover it doesn't even make sense outside of a punitive or compensatory context. What one should do is identify what's normative for every actor in the situation.

Removing someone's ability to say "yes" is bad; I don't think anyone disputes this. And one of the great ethical advances of the past half-century has been to increase people's, especially women's, ability to say "yes" in the sexual field. But I don't see any respect in which curtailing compliance tricks will seriously compromise anyone's ability to say yes. (I'm sure one could come up with particular side examples.) I'm not sure if this would be reading you correctly, but you might be saying that by respecting boundaries men make themselves unsexy, which curtails women's ability to say yes. I think that if this is what you're saying it's deeply incorrect; if men are making themselves unsexy, for whatever reason, that results in lost opportunities, but it's not actually curtailing anyone's ability to say yes that in fact wants to.

It's also true that compliance tricks are used unconsciously. If this is the case (which it is) we should critically examine our "autopilot" modes of interaction to see where we are in fact using confidence tricks, so we can eliminate them where possible and appropriate. (It may not always be appropriate: society depends on a great deal of soft coercion. Sexuality is one of the few areas I'd be a total absolutist about freedom, but that may be a question of terminal values.) Of course the fact that (at least some elements of) PUA openly rather than subconsciously use compliance tricks means the first half of the battle is won, and we just have to move on to making them (more) socially unacceptable (than they already are.)

If the choice really is between treating women as porcelain statues and accidentally raping someone, how could anyone treat this as a serious dilemma? As you note, forgoing a yes and forgoing a no have highly asymmetric costs. But SarahC is correct to say that confidence is not the same thing as manipulation. A confident, high-affect, charismatic &c. person can sedulously respect boundaries. Perhaps we're running into a purely semantic confusion and what I label "respecting boundaries" is not actually the same thing as what you label "treating women like porcelain statues" - perhaps you could operationalize the latter?

I agree that continuing the secular increase in women's (and for that matter, men's) ability to say yes or no, as is their wont, is an important social goal that will continue to benefit all parties (other than date rapists.) How to ensure that is a sometimes very complicated and sometimes very simple (don't engage in slut-shaming, don't use compliance tricks, &c) question, but one that's been addressed at length elsewhere.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-02-01T08:25:18.798Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oligopsony said:

I think these are all worthy questions, but I can't agree with the implication that this lessens (if that is the implication - my apologies if I have misread you) our concerns over compliance tricks.

Thanks for helping me nail down what it is I am saying. I really appreciate it when people ask me to clarify, rather than jump to conclusions (and down my throat).

I actually don't know whether we should have less worry about compliance tricks or not, because I'm still not exactly clear about what "compliance tricks" means (same with "manipulation"). If any sort of mundane request falls under that heading, then perhaps we shouldn't be so concerned about all sorts of compliance tricks, because some of them are innocent. If "compliance tricks" refers to something more narrow and extreme, then we should be concerned.

My intuition is that there are problematic behaviors that could fall under "manipulation" or "compliance tricks," but I'm really not sure what other people mean by those terms in this discussion. No concrete examples have been given. I proposed one to SarahC (David X's "I thought you were adventurous"), but she didn't seem to think it was manipulative.

Removing someone's ability to say "yes" is bad; I don't think anyone disputes this.

Not explicitly, at least.

But I don't see any respect in which curtailing compliance tricks will seriously compromise anyone's ability to say yes. (I'm sure one could come up with particular side examples.)

That depends on what "compliance tricks" means. Any request could induce compliance. If you curtail requests, then it becomes harder for people to say "yes" if you don't ask. What distinguishes a "compliance trick" from a request that is not a "compliance trick?"

I'm not sure if this would be reading you correctly, but you might be saying that by respecting boundaries men make themselves unsexy, which curtails women's ability to say yes.

If a man respects a woman's actual boundaries, that's highly unlikely to be unsexy. The problem is that a man doesn't know where her actual boundaries are, at least not early on. Here's a concrete example of some women's potential preferences and boundaries around a kiss at the end of a date:

  • Sally prefers men to ask explicitly before kissing her
  • Jane prefers men to kiss her nonverbally, but to look for confirmation that she is moving in for a kiss
  • Roxanne prefers that men just kiss her without asking, or looking for nonverbal confirmation

Now, imagine that you are a man going on date. The problem is that you don't know whether you are dating Sally, Jane, or Roxanne. Well, you know the name of the person you are dating, but you don't know their preference set. You can guess, but it's, well... a guess. Early in dating, you don't know who the person in front of you truly is: you must aim your behavior towards a probability distribution of who that person might be.

Respecting Sally's boundaries isn't a turn-off if you are on a date with Sally. Sally won't be turned off by you asking for a kiss goodbye, but Jane and Roxanne will. In fact, they might find it unconfident, inept, or wimpy.

So, what should you do? With all the talk you've heard about vulnerability, people-pleasing, consent, etc... you might make the following conclusion (of course, I have no idea whether anyone would actually advocate such a conclusion):

It's more costly to a woman to attempt to kiss her without asking if she prefers being asked, than to fail to kiss a woman who wants you to kiss her without asking. You don't know which set of preferences she has. Therefore, as a precautionary principle (to use SarahC's term), you should treat all women as if they are Sally, and always ask.

This ethical argument is compelling, but it runs into major practical problems if women like Sally are in the minority.

I think that if this is what you're saying it's deeply incorrect; if men are making themselves unsexy, for whatever reason, that results in lost opportunities, but it's not actually curtailing anyone's ability to say yes that in fact wants to.

Ah, but whether someone someone wants to say "yes" can often depend on how the request was made. Making a request in an unsexy way makes it harder to say "yes" to. Getting concrete again, let's consider two ways of asking for a kiss goodnight at the end of a date:

  • "May I please kiss you goodnight, if that's alright with you?"
  • "Gimme a kiss goodnight..." or "Gimme a kiss goodnight?"

The second is probably harder to say "no" to. It induces more compliance, regardless of whether it is phrased as a question or an imperative. Yet the first way is probably harder to say "yes" to, for women who don't find that way of asking attractive.

It's also true that compliance tricks are used unconsciously. If this is the case (which it is) we should critically examine our "autopilot" modes of interaction to see where we are in fact using confidence tricks, so we can eliminate them where possible and appropriate. (It may not always be appropriate: society depends on a great deal of soft coercion.

That's correct. It's frustrating for me to watch people condemn PUAs for engaging in behavior that people in the mainstream do on autopilot. There should be more investigation into what sorts of social influence are ethical, but I am very pessimistic about getting mainstream people to disarm. A much more practical solution is to arm everyone with the tools to influence others, and resist influence. As you perceptively point out, even discussion of pickup is a step towards this goal.

Of course, I will suggest that there are plenty of commonly-used influence behaviors (including compliance-inducing ones) that would pass inspection. And I would question whether "soft coercion" always deserves to be called coercion.

But SarahC is correct to say that confidence is not the same thing as manipulation. A confident, high-affect, charismatic &c. person can sedulously respect boundaries.

Confidence isn't the same thing as manipulation, but there could be an overlap in the consequences. If our ethical principle is to avoid making advances that someone might unenthusiastically comply with, then avoiding confident behavior might well be better!

I'm sure that most people who advocate concern about female sexual vulnerability and people-pleasing don't want to imply that men have to relinquish confident behavior. But what exactly are the practical implications of that concern?

Perhaps we're running into a purely semantic confusion and what I label "respecting boundaries" is not actually the same thing as what you label "treating women like porcelain statues" - perhaps you could operationalize the latter?

I agree that these semantic questions are getting to the crux of this discussion.

A behavior that Sally might perceive as respectful of her boundaries (e.g. asking for a kiss) might leave Jane or Roxeanne feeling like you are treating her as a porcelain statue. Here are some other potential behaviors that lower the chances of unenthusiastic compliance:

  • Making advances only by tentatively asking questions in the interrogative tense
  • Never engaging in touch that the other person hasn't given explicit verbal consent to (including hugs, touches on the arm to emphasize a point, holding hands)
  • Never making any sexual advances at all that haven't been explicitly invited
  • Never making any requests at all, including requests for consent

I hypothesize that many women will find these sorts of inhibitions to result in stilted and unattractive behavior that makes them feel treated like porcelain statues (or conclude that the guy is wimpy, unconfident, or unperceptive of her nonverbal signals). Yet such behaviors do maximize the ease of women saying "no." So why shouldn't men be good little consequentialists and act like this? What percentage of women actually find such behavior attractive in men they are dating?

comment by Abisashi · 2011-01-25T20:37:57.751Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the term feminists use that you are looking for is "enthusiastic consent"; for the reasons you describe, "no means no" may be too limited of a standard at times for ensuring ethical sex.

comment by Tesseract · 2011-01-25T20:46:32.453Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Minor error: judging from context, I think you mean the Milgram Experiment, which focuses on obedience to authority, and not the Stanford Prison Experiment, which is about how social roles affect personalities.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-26T08:55:32.514Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

fixed.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T06:43:22.076Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something I think a lot of people don't understand- particularly the type that stay in on a Saturday night to write critiques of PU- is that your average urban bar scene isn't anything like the real world. It's night time. Everyone is dressed and made up to look about as good as they will ever look. Everyone is drinking. In other words, nearly everyone is in costume and on drugs! The preferences people have in such circumstances only vaguely resemble the preferences they have during daytime hours. The whole affair is perhaps best described as a collective game of make believe where we all pretend to be sexy and cool and fun for four hours. It is theatre.

Of course viewing this near-mode orgy of cool and constant stream of negotiations to fulfill base desires is going to look perverted under the cool gaze of far-mode ethics. The denouncement of PUA deception under these circumstances feels a bit like denouncing self-awareness. Everyone sometimes pretends to be someone a little bit sexier and cooler than they really are- PUAs seem unique in that they do so systematically and self-consciously.

Now of yes, there are those who criticize the entirety of nightlife culture- often calling it 'rape culture'. And indeed, we should have well-embedded mental constraints on our hedonism to avoid doing things that are actually harmful. In this regard though, the sub-surface self-awareness that distinguishes the pick-up artist from the natural would likely be a boon.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-01-25T12:55:20.624Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've never heard "rape culture" applied specifically to bar culture. I've always heard it applied to the whole culture-- the implication is that there are pervasive ways of thinking which facilitate rape.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T23:57:33.401Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Usually when I see criticisms of bar/party culture it is done under the umbrella of a rape culture critique. But yeah the term is very broad.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-25T07:25:32.293Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something I think a lot of people don't understand- particularly the type that stay in on a Saturday night to write critiques of PU- is that your average urban bar scene isn't anything like the real world.

Right. And the people who regularly hang out in bar scenes are a different phenotype than people who don't. I tried to get this point across in discussion of pickup on a feminist blog, without much success. I ran into the silliest sorts of sophistry:

The big problem here, Hugh, is that PUAs don’t disproportionately meet women of any characteristic because people are not interchangeable.

I answered:

Of course PUAs meet women of particular characteristics more often! PUAs don’t meet women randomly. Do you really think that women who PUAs run into at clubs are psychometrically identical to women who stay home and read books?

and got this response:

I do. Most women enjoy both. We aren’t divided into the neat little category boxes PUAs like to put us in.

Statistical thinking fail.

Back to you:

In other words, nearly everyone is in costume and on drugs!

Yup. It's not only people with the most extraverted and primal phenotypes, it's those folks at their most extraverted and primal.

Now of yes, there are those who criticize the entirety of nightlife culture- often calling it 'rape culture'.

Could changing certain cultural norms around consent be a good thing? Yes. But I don't agree with scapegoating PUA in particular merely for copying prevalent norms, just because they were the poor fools to expose how the system works and how to operate within it.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T23:59:54.983Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could changing certain cultural norms around consent be a good thing? Yes. But I don't agree with scapegoating PUA in particular merely for copying prevalent norms, just because they were the poor fools to expose how the system works and how to operate within it.

In case it wasn't clear before: I agree and actually think the fact that that PU makes existing norms explicit is a really essential first step.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-26T00:27:24.413Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I was quite sure you would agree; I was just elaborating.

comment by Zaine · 2013-04-15T04:05:04.981Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This conversation on manipulation I have great interest in. Of course, since the word carries a lot of confused meaning for you, let us replace it with and discuss solely the following sentiment:

  • Making another think and or act in a fashion that directly results from an intentional behaviour or action of the Initiating Party. The Initiating Party (IP) accurately predicts that their initiating behaviour or action will effect a certain predicted fashion of thoughts or actions on the part of the Changed Party (CP). The IP continues to knowingly control the CP's: perception of the IP; thought patterns; and or actions and behaviour. The IP does not inform the CP that they are being controlled by the IP.

My main objection to the above is its dishonesty. Why do I value honesty? Honesty enables two parties to come closer to actually understanding each other - which is already impossible enough a task. I value these interactions (as they make me happy), and thus I value honesty.

Assume one enters an interaction wishing solely for company with another (hopefully interesting) human being - which, again, is the valued result.

In an honest interaction, Alice sends a signal (of any sort - though radio waves would probably not be received) to Bob, Bob responds, and Alice has interacted with Bob.

In a dishonest interaction between Alice and Bob, Alice sends a contrived signal to Bob, having predicted Bob's response, either receives a confirmation of their prediction or does not. In the former case, they have not interacted, but experimented. In the former case, Bob has interacted with Alice-attempting-to-subversively-control-Bob (henceforth false-Alice). If Alice desires an interaction with Bob, and Bob can only reach false-Alice, then Alice's goals are not being met.

Indeed, if Alice acts as false-Alice enough Alice may very well become false-Alice. However, Alice values interpersonal interactions. As false-Alice's interactions are either not interactions at all but rather experiments, or failed attempts to control another party, Alice does not wish to become false-Alice.

Why should Alice wish to act like IP?

comment by CCC · 2013-04-15T08:59:53.050Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why should Alice wish to act like IP?

Normally, manipulation has some sort of external goal. Alice does not manipulate Bob merely for the joy of manipulating Bob; rather, Alice manipulates Bob because she wants Bob to help her accomplish some sort of goal.

This is incompatible with entering an interaction wishing solely for company. If Alice acts like IP, therefore, this implies that she is either inconsistant, or that she has some other wish (for example, she may wish for the appearance of company).

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T08:10:25.776Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are right there is too much to reply to at once, if possible lets keep the conversation a little more narrow from this point on or we are less likely to get any where.

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

So this seems to fall under the category of deceptive. The PUA undertakes actions to make the other person hold a false belief for the PUA's benefit.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-26T00:10:40.632Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

So this seems to fall under the category of deceptive. The PUA undertakes actions to make the other person hold a false belief for the PUA's benefit.

Ha! You expected me to be only interested in a one night stand because I didn't act like an adoring little puppy on the first date. Now, since the sex was so great and we have awesome physical chemistry and emotional rapport I will call you up another time and see if you want to date again and maybe you will have to say no. You have fallen right into my trap. Mwaha. Mwahahaha!

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-25T22:47:36.328Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I said:

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

Davorak replied:

So this seems to fall under the category of deceptive. The PUA undertakes actions to make the other person hold a false belief for the PUA's benefit.

I guess you could call it deceptive (maybe). If so, it's an entirely justified and healthy sort of deception, so I have trouble labeling it "manipulation" due to the negative connotations of that word.

Many people hide their full romantic interest early in dating, because they don't want to reveal it until they think the other person has a good chance of reciprocating. Otherwise, they risk looking emotionally needy and clingy. PUAs aren't the only ones to worry about looking "clingy"; lots of heterosexual women have that exact same worry.

The fact is, early in dating, the other person does not have the right to expect you spontaneously reveal your full romantic interest when they haven't asked. People who are dating often develop feelings on a different time-table. If there was some sort of moral obligation to immediately reveal the full extent of your feelings, it would be too easy to prematurely ruin many potential relationships by forcing the DTR talk too soon (DTR = Defining The Relationship).

The counter-intuitive result is that even if you do have relationship interest, sometimes the best way to get into a relationship is to wait to show it. The dominant strategy is to limit the amount of romantic interest shown early in dating. Showing too little can be easier to recover from than showing too much too soon.

So is hiding relationship interest a "lie of omission"? The omission is only a lie if it would deceive someone of truth. Hiding relationship interest only deceives someone if they assume that displayed level of interest is your true level of interest. But if they don't make that assumption in the first place, then they won't be deceived. And many experienced daters will know that people they are dating might have good reasons to try and avoid signaling clinginess.

Broadcasting false romantic interest is much more likely to be harmful than failing to display true romantic interest. If you broadcast too much, the other person will often get uncomfortable and flat out dump you (especially women with men, in my view). If you broadcast too little, then the other person isn't forced to dump you. They can show their own romantic interest, at which point it becomes safe for you to reciprocate. Or they can just come out and ask your feelings via a DTR, giving you an opportunity to articulate your true level of romantic interest.

Yes, hiding romantic interest has the potential to deceive someone who isn't savvy about the game-theoretic incentives on you to avoid showing it. Directing lying to someone who asks by saying that you don't have romantic interest that you actually do have would definitely be deceptive (but even then, there might be a justification if you feel that the DTR is the wrong place to reveal your romantic interest). If someone directly discloses that they don't have romantic interest, and doesn't want to hook up with someone who does, and you hide your romantic interest while hooking up with them, that would be deceptive.

Yet outside these cases, limiting display of "true" romantic feelings is simply a commonplace and healthy relationship strategy for people of both genders. It benefits PUA who are looking for relationships, yes (PUAs who aren't would have no need to use it), but it also potentially benefits women who end up wanting relationships with them. I don't think avoidance of the appearance of clinginess early in dating deserves to be called "manipulation," nor need it be deceptive, and I don't think it's what people are thinking of who accuse PUAs of being manipulative.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-26T00:33:24.764Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, hiding romantic interest has the potential to deceive someone who isn't savvy about the game-theoretic incentives on you to avoid showing it. Directing lying to someone who asks by saying that you don't have romantic interest that you actually do have would definitely be deceptive (but even then, there might be a justification if you feel that the DTR is the wrong place to reveal your romantic interest).

And in such cases directly lying tends to be a dominated strategy. A simple "I don't do Defining The Relationships on a second date." shows stronger personal boundaries, self awareness and a sense for the appropriate time for self disclosure.

An exception (a game where non-disclosure does not dominate explicitly lying about relationship preference) is possibly with particularly high status and gender typical women who operate at a level where verbal symbols used for purposes that are more or less divorced from application to mundane reality. In that case a "I'm not interested in a relationship" or "we're not going to have sex" can prompt an instinctive contrariness and an inclination to challenge your declaration.

Interpreting that level of signalling as 'deception' would be as absurd as interpreting a metaphor literally and dismissing a poem as a lie. It just isn't supposed to be a correct factual description.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T07:33:57.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

false, accept for white

Except.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-25T06:47:17.192Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Replying to your other point:

Most men looking toward PUA are looking for something effective, so I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

Yes, PUAs are looking for something effective, but that doesn't mean that they will use deception. There are two main barriers to deception:

  • It's not as effective as people think for becoming successful with women in general
  • PUAs have consciences and don't all believe that the ends justify the means

While we might initially think that there is benefit to males making substantive lies in dating and sexual success (e.g. lies about career, accomplishments, commitment, romantic interest), there are several significant pitfalls:

  • Even if she doesn't know, you do
  • If she finds out, there will be drama, which can be costly (both emotionally, or because it hurts your status in your social circle if others find out)
  • Lying isn't easy for everyone
  • Lying takes away from building self-esteem and self-confidence, while gaining sexual interest based on the truth about you builds confidence. Even if lying might help you with one woman, it will be an impediment to building self-confidence with women over the long-term which is an important component of sexual success.

Lying is an awesome strategy if you are a massive asshole with a high level of antisocial personality traits. But if you have species-typical levels of empathy, it's not so useful. Some people may stereotype PUAs as being highly antisocial con men, which might make lying a plausible worry. Yet the vast majority of PUAs don't fit that description (though I've met a few). PUAs with prosocial personality traits who attempt lying are probably hurting themselves far more than they are hurting women.

For people with prosocial traits, if they are in a situation where lying would be beneficial, there is a much better way to save the day: self-deception! That way, you get all the benefits of the lie, without the pangs of conscience, and you can defuse drama if the shit hits the fan. I don't think I've ever done this. But if I had, would I know? (Wow, the baby basilisks are really out tonight.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T07:31:54.650Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For people with prosocial traits, if they are in a situation where lying would be beneficial, there is a much better way to save the day: self-deception! That way, you get all the benefits of the lie, without the pangs of conscience, and you can defuse drama if the shit hits the fan. I don't think I've ever done this. But if I had, would I know? (Wow, the baby basilisks are really out tonight.)

The Hanson Basilisk.

On a related note I hold in contempt rules or systems of normative judgement under which an individual becomes penalised for becoming self aware or epistemologically rational. For example, when using an approach explicitly because you know that is how humans work is condemned as 'manipulative' while doing the same thing while lying to yourself about your intent is treated entirely differently.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T08:58:45.457Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a bias against learning some skills consciously. (While with others it is considered bad to have just inherited them.) Charisma and Money belong in one of those categories.

I see a few misconceptions coming up time and again in this discussion, and I do not see how to bridge the inferential distance towards them. The picture is all messed up with media, or mistaken samples.

I personally like being truthful. (For people who consider flirty behavior and various ways of joking lying I would need to go into a deeper explanation.) There is a lot of lying being done in monogamous relationships by both men and female. The PUA has his stack of books and exercises that allow the pursuit of a wide range of goals. Lying is not particularly necessary, and more complication than necessary. It is stressful and weak. Also one should keep in mind how many people are naturally successful in their social lives. Their numbers will out-weight the learned PUA people for many years to come. I see a greater problem in naturally charismatic people who treat their partners badly, than in a learned charismatic person who treats people well.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T11:33:22.397Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also one should keep in mind how many people are naturally successful in their social lives.

Where by 'natural' we of course mean "have developed skills, prestige and a social network through concerted effort during most of their waking hours from the day they were born". :)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-25T16:46:55.765Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...and in some cases through the concerted effort of others before then.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T11:42:30.716Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see a few misconceptions coming up time and again in this discussion, and I do not see how to bridge the inferential distance towards them.

Let Hugh explain them. That seems to be the easiest way. ;)

I have to say, however, that as far as misconceptions and general nonsense this has probably been the most sane conversation that I've ever seen on lesswrong. More importantly what little insanity there has been has been cognitive more than political. Altogether promising.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-01-25T12:38:42.021Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The most sane conversation you've seen here about PUA, or the most sane conversation you're seen here about anything?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T12:51:07.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

About PUA. I haven't really thought about the sanity of anything in general.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-26T00:48:20.511Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have to say, however, that as far as misconceptions and general nonsense this has probably been the most sane conversation that I've ever seen on lesswrong. More importantly what little insanity there has been has been cognitive more than political. Altogether promising.

Catching up on overnight reading makes me tempted to retract this statement. :)

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T09:08:54.243Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision.

What is your mental model on how people find partners, love, sex and what is your explanation of the data observed in other people - particularly hook-ups without extensive getting-to-know beforehand.

I am not asking in a rhetorical or socratic way, I really want to know. For my own mental model I tracked the development to some degree, and then tried to identify generalizable errors in my thinking, recently I started again to collect those of others.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T17:18:10.098Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hesitate to enter into this conversation at this juncture because I do not see how it forwards the current conversation and I do not know why you want to know. Are you looking to compare your own models and improve them, or do you think you see a sign(in what I have written) that there is a flaw in my model that you understand because you once had it as well?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T17:51:13.155Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Both. I think you have a flawed model. But I concede that mine might be mistaken as well. However I am reasonably well convinced I have some correct views, otherwise I would not have them.

The statement above showed a view that I do not share, but had at some point, so I am curious in where it comes from for you.

As a general habit I try to get away from surface discussions and see which base convictions lead someone to have his respective opinions. That was probably described here somewhere.

Since this whole discussion is about social items, there is a lack of information on what experience each participee has. HughRisk has shared his background, but everyone else can be from any point of the possible experiences-cluster. I would guess we have some experienced people in here who draw from what there see, but there will probably be also some who draw from pure intellectualized models of how an interaction should happen without real world data to back it up.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T18:54:59.369Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you have a flawed model.

Since there has been essentially zero discussion of my models your confidence that you understand my model should not be much higher then a random individual.

The statement above showed a view that I do not share, but had at some point, so I am curious in where it comes from for you.

Are you talking about the following?

... so I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

This statement is the equivalent of saying:

Most people looking toward business are looking for something effective, so I would imagine that what are considered business techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective(often for different goals and sometimes for the same goal).

Some business practices are deceptive that does not make all business people deceptive. Some PUA practices are deceptive that does not make all PUAs deceptive.

Am I correct in assuming that you had jumped to conclusions and believed I held a stronger view point then you now infer with the above these additional comments?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T19:35:29.734Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't say I understand your model. I just mentioned that I might have an idea about it from what you said so far.

I meant the statement:

If a PUA technique is deceptive or untruthful then it deprives the person to be seduced from relavent information that could help them make a better decision.

I wonder where the 'relevant information' plays in, and how. And when the person to be seduced makes the 'decision' about it. The description gives the impression of a rehearsed ritual where all parties involved already know upfront what will result from it.

Most people looking toward business are looking for something effective, The comparison between business life and PU is not particularly helpful. Usually people do not approach their love life as a business event. And when they do bad stuff can happen.

This statement is the equivalent of saying: That makes me inquire about which PUA techniques you are referring too. As such the statement is trivially true.

Am I correct in assuming that you had jumped to conclusions and believed I held a stronger view point then you now infer with the above these additional comments?

I don't think so. But that is a common failure mode for me which i work on, so it might be true in this case. If so it is not with intention.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T21:20:37.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't say I understand your model. I just mentioned that I might have an idea about it from what you said so far.

You stated that I had a "flawed model." I was unsure how strong a claim you were trying to make with this statement and pointed out that you do not have solid ground to make a strong claim because there is little information available on what my model would be and therefore weather or not it is flawed. Were you making a weak claim?

I wonder where the 'relevant information' plays in, and how. And when the person to be seduced makes the 'decision' about it. The description gives the impression of a rehearsed ritual where all parties involved already know upfront what will result from it.

I am not thinking of anything formal or a ritual. The decision can be conscience or completely subconscience. The decision could be about having sex, kissing, going on a date, or simply continuing or discontinuing a conversation or pretty much anything else.

If someone is willing to preform deception around a piece of information then I would probably consider it 'relevant information'.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T21:51:45.060Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Were you making a weak claim?

No.

I might have to think about if your initial claim is trivially true (which then makes me wonder why you made it in the first place.) And of course I am still slightly curious about what your model is. But I can see enough reasons not to pursue this topic.

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T23:55:26.783Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was a method of finding common ground with HughRistik. If we both agree to a few trivially few statements it is easy to then define each others arguments in those trivially true things, find what the fundamental differences in our evidence/logic discuss and hopefully resolve.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-26T00:37:51.165Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would guess we have some experienced people in here who draw from what there see, but there will probably be also some who draw from pure intellectualized models of how an interaction should happen without real world data to back it up.

I'll add particular emphasis on and deprecation of the should when divorced from any appropriateness in the real world.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-25T09:59:35.072Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You think that the objection that PUA techniques use deception or untruthfulness is overblown?

I recall being surprised about how much of PUA is actually "be the kind of guy that girls want to sleep with straight away". Assuming PUA is deceptive seems like a common flaw in many peoples' approaches to condemning PUA; people are pretty good at spotting deception in the dating/pickup scene; without a further study of common or popular techniques I would be wary of assigning an equal prior:

I would imagine that what are considered PUA techniques can be both deceptive or untruthful and the opposite because both can be effective

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-25T17:13:22.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To be clear I have not been trying to condem PUA.

I just starting examine a technique with HughRistik, do you categorize it as deceptive?

Actually, PUAs are far more likely to display less relationship interest than they truly have, rather than more.

Here

My response.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-24T21:32:00.504Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you consider Art of Charm's methods to be so manipulative that they fall within the category of "PUA" for you? If no, then that's a strange way to categorize the producers of the most popular PUA podcast. If yes, then I wonder what you mean by "manipulative." Art of Charm's methods are manipulative only in the sense that a woman putting on cute clothes and makeup and acting flirty and trying to be her best self is "manipulative."

comment by Davorak · 2011-01-24T22:48:00.577Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you consider Art of Charm's methods to be so manipulative that they fall within the category of "PUA" for you?

I don't know because I do not know what methods they advocate. The video at Art of Charm does not seem to advocate anything manipulative and seemed like it had a positive message but that is the extent of my knowledge of them.

I was not categorizing anything or anyone. I was stating a definition that I and many other people seem to use regarding PUA a probably cause for it to be "denounced by almost everyone." I was offering an explanation. I then asked for your definition since there are many and yours different and currently unknown to me.

I asked what percentage of PUA techniques are manipulative because I wanted to know weather or not you consider manipulative techniques to be part of PUA material; eventually I would also like to know if you consider them valuable and a net positive, but the former is a large topic by itself and would need to be covered before the later could be discussed coherently.

a woman putting on cute clothes and makeup and acting flirty and trying to be her best self is "manipulative."

"makeup", "cute cloths", "acting flirty" do not manipulation make. Those same things can be used in a deception or manipulation though.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-21T14:34:35.472Z · score: 2 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And yet, it is denounced by almost everyone - perhaps because they're only familiar with mechanical, dishonest, The Game-era material? I dunno.

Denunciation is a social act. The social framework is an evolutionary fitness mating arena. Kill the status of anyone more successful than you.

This principle is strong enough for me to treat denunciation of PUA as weak evidence that it works.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-21T17:02:40.605Z · score: 6 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a terrible argument:

  • it affirms the consequent;
  • the assumption that all social activity reduces to fitness strategies is in sharp contrast with reality and lacks evidence;
  • even allowing for the unreasonable assumption and overlooking the fallacy, the problem remains that apart from some anecdotal evidence, nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works, including people who denounce it. The most that could be concluded, even under the manifestly unreasonable assumptions, is that people who denounce PUA believe that it works, or have anecdotal evidence that it works. However, since it's reasonably common for people to both denounce PUA and believe that it's practiced by pathetic unsuccessful creeps, this conclusion is wrong, too.
comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-21T19:29:12.731Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

[the above argument] affirms the consequent;

To be fair, the above commenter only said that this constitutes "weak evidence" in favor of the hypothesis, and deducing mere evidence (as opposed to certainty) by affirming the consequent is correct reasoning. (How strong evidence should be deduced, of course, is another question that depends on the concrete case. But "shokwave" did say "weak.")

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-21T19:58:09.047Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that with no further information but only an affirmed consequent, treating it as nontrivial evidence, even "weak"[1], is wrong; you need to say something about alternative hypotheses, even if it's hand-wavy and vague[2]. This is somewhat of a gray area, to be sure, because the "something about alternative hypothesis" part is often taken to be implicitly understood[3]. But I don't think it's implicitly understood in this case that there aren't other, non-evo-psycho, reasonable explanations of peeps hatin' on PUA.

[1] I think that "weak" in normal usage implies "nontrivial", even though theoretically it could be trivial or zero.

[2] "If my theory is correct, the sun will rise tomorrow".

[3] If a physicist says informally "my theory predicted value X, and measurement confirms", they might take it as understood and not say that other competing theories predict a different value. But a paper will make it explicit unless it's already obvious.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T07:57:08.764Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When I say 'weak evidence', I mean it. If I met one person who had been practicing PUA for six months, and they hadn't had significantly more sex in those six months than in the previous six months (as judged by some method other than self-reporting; probably by asking the person's friends or roommates), that would be stronger evidence that PUA doesn't work.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-22T21:13:55.211Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I said above, I believe that you're using the phrase "weak evidence" in a non-standard way, essentially violating Grice's Maxim of Quantity. When something is as weak as in this case, people don't call it weak, they call it trivial or negligible or exceedingly weak, or some other term to transmit the idea of just how very weak it is. When people say "weak evidence", they mean that it's definitely not strong or conclusive, but there's nontrivial amount of it, it's not vanishingly small.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-23T04:52:55.495Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do not believe it is non-standard for LessWrong. I admit I'm guilty of tailoring my posts to fit the LessWrong-specific audience.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-23T06:52:27.952Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're possibly right. I invite you to test your belief by consulting the search for "weak evidence" over LW. This probably sounds snarky, so let me quickly clarify that I don't mean this in the sense "this search confirms I'm right". I looked over the results briefly and saw that roughly half of them use further qualifiers like "astonishingly weak", "very weak", "extremely weak"and so on, which is consistent with what I'd said. But it's also possible that many results use vanilla "weak evidence" to refer to what other results call "extremely/incredibly weak" etc., and then you're right. I looked at a few "vanilla" uses in context and didn't see that, but I didn't look at enough.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T14:53:47.312Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you find more people for who it does not work, than for whom it works. But I doubt this works as evidence that it does not work.

There are many factors that influence success. One would be doing it wrong.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T15:38:19.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But I doubt this works as evidence that it does not work.

Not much, no. But it works as more evidence than people denouncing it. Weak evidence! Weak! Weak.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T15:45:17.869Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I see different requirements for things working that for things not working.

People getting actively angry about something looks like a (weak) indicator that they are afraid there might be something to it. They do not get angry at 9/11 conspiracists, but laugh about them. They do get angry at the other party.

If you have someone trying to do something and be unsuccessful that tells you even less. I would not see it as indicator of not working. It is just no particular evidence.

But maybe I have the notion of what 'weak' means wrong.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T16:20:33.870Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have someone trying to do something and be unsuccessful that tells you even less. I would not see it as indicator of not working. It is just no particular evidence.

It almost has to be evidence; even if it's just evidence that the person isn't doing it right, then you push this case through your prior for how often they do things wrong. Unless your prior is very high, you're still getting half the impact or more of the evidence. Although you could argue from the selection effect of "correct in your expectations of success" that you're almost guaranteed to only notice cases where they are doing it wrong, not cases where it doesn't work (because you don't expect it to work where it won't).

comment by rockthecasbah · 2020-06-22T16:47:29.065Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My take -

A person using the techniques and not having increased success - weak evidence

People hating PUA - trivial evidence

A bunch of people active on a PUA forum having increased success in aggregagate - moderate evidence (would be strong but selection on dependent variable)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-01-22T16:46:11.807Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But it works as more evidence than people denouncing it.

More evidence than a negative amount? How much is that worth?

Weak evidence! Weak! Weak.

For practical purposes, I regard weak evidence as equivalent to no evidence. It has the value of a penny lying on the road: I do not bother to pick it up. Weak evidence is not worth wasting time on.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T17:15:15.548Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

More evidence than a negative amount? How much is that worth?

Further up in the thread, I claimed that (in cases like these) people denouncing it is weak evidence in favour.

It has the value of a penny lying on the road: I do not bother to pick it up.

Anecdote: I once refused to pick up a small denomination coin (we don't have pennies in Australia anymore). A friend did and promptly discovered it was a penny, from 1938, and worth two dollars to collectors.

On practical matters, though, this is a case where training will greatly decrease effort and time to pick up (more so than for pennies). If you track how much time is spent on picking up pennies and put a value on that amount of time, and then how much money in pennies you have picked up, you will probably find it not worth it. I expect this weak-evidence-picking-up will prove worth it - if it even slightly addresses the common human problem of incorrectly assessing or entirely discounting large amounts of small evidence, it comes out positive for me.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T22:47:40.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anecdote: I once refused to pick up a small denomination coin (we don't have pennies in Australia anymore). A friend did and promptly discovered it was a penny, from 1938, and worth two dollars to collectors.

Still not worth it unless you have a personal interest in coins or expect to find or otherwise collect many such coins. (Of course many people would value the experience at more than $2 just for the novelty and the story.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-01-22T18:07:45.972Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I expect this weak-evidence-picking-up will prove worth it - if it even slightly addresses the common human problem of incorrectly assessing or entirely discounting large amounts of small evidence, it comes out positive for me.

Can you give some examples of that, i.e. where large amounts of small evidence are being badly used?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-01-27T17:03:55.805Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This appears to be) an example of an accumulation of weak evidence badly used, but in the opposite direction. (I say "appears", because I haven't read the article it references, just that LW posting and its comments.)

Probabilities of multiple events are being multiplied without concern for whether they are independent. And that is the basic practical problem with accumulating weak evidence. Look at the vast amount of evidence for the existence of Santa Claus! Even if each story only offers a microbit of evidence....well, no. The stories are not independent of each other. Collectively they prove no more than a handful of them do.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T14:51:36.048Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But I don't think it's implicitly understood in this case that there aren't other, non-evo-psycho, reasonable explanations of peeps hatin' on PUA

After adapting to, and talking to people about at least 10 different idea packages(*), not including this one I finally noticed how dislike is not actually a statement about the idea package itself, but about its perceived strangeness. I got negative and even hostile reactions for each of them! So I assume people do not mentally process everything and then come up with a well reasoned debunk. But they more simply just run a diff(self.current_idea_set,new_idea_set) and if it is to far out reply in the negative.

Peeps hate on everything they don't already know.

(*) being vegetarian, being atheist, standard skepticism which includes a few applied topics like homeopathy and astrology, economics, some instantiations of liberty/libertarian ideas and more

[Edit: \_ as recommended in the comment below]

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T07:36:10.763Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

diff(self.currentideaset,newideaset)

Need to escape the underscores.

diff(self.current\_idea\_set,new\_idea\_set)

diff(self.current_idea_set,new_idea_set)

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-22T20:50:37.520Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I understand your frustration, but the PUA case is different: you get lots of people denouncing it who do not as a rule denounce lifestyles very different from their own. Including, for example, some LW members.

BTW, if all the people around me reacted with hostility to unfamiliar ideas, I would, first of all, try to rule out myself as a factor (e.g. maybe I'm annoyingly preachy w/o knowing it?), and if that didn't clear things up, look for better people. Well, actually, I don't know if I'd do that, but I'd like to think I would.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T07:45:54.761Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see how it affirms the consequent; could you spell it out logically for me?

My reason for thinking it doesn't is that I didn't give a consequent. I gave three premises, all of which I strongly believe are true, and the consequent derived from these (you can find it in lukeprog's post) is a prediction that pick-up artists will suffer social attacks such as denunciation.

It's an abductive explanation of the state of the world, to be sure, but it depends on many other premises (evolutionary psychology is an accurate description of the world, other hypotheses are unlikely, etc). At some point you risk rejecting arguments for theories of gravity because they look like affirming the consequent; that is, your theory predicted that the object would fall at a certain rate (9.8 m/s, say) and then the object fell at a certain rate (9.81~ m/s). P therefore Q, Q, P.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-22T21:27:50.461Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see how it affirms the consequent; could you spell it out logically for me?

Your P->Q is "if PUA works, people will try to denounce PUA". You affirm Q and deduce P. As I replied to Vladimir_M, this is fallacious unless you invest at least some effort into refuting alternative hypotheses that explain Q. You note it yourself:

(evolutionary psychology is an accurate description of the world, other hypotheses are unlikely, etc)

Now, your astonishingly reductive claim that all social acts are fitness strategies (this claim is not, in fact, part of evolutionary psychology, whose claims are far-ranging but more modest than that) is on the face of it simply wrong; and several other reasons why people might want to denounce PUA are ready at hand. You have your work cut out for you if you wish to give some convincing evidence for the claim, and against the alternative hypotheses; but before either is done at least to some degree your argument, it seems to me, is wholly unsubstantiated.

P.S. And all this doesn't take into account my third objection above, which would be true even if you were able to support deducing P from Q in your case.

P.P.S. Thank you for the phrase "abductive reasoning", I didn't know that name, or that it was well-studied.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-23T06:20:47.768Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your P->Q is "if PUA works, people will try to denounce PUA". You affirm Q and deduce P.

Ah, okay. Yes to that, although of course I prefer to call it abductive reasoning. I got the impression you were saying something like "kill the status of anyone more successful" was being affirmed.

Now, your astonishingly reductive claim that all social acts are fitness strategies

Never claimed all, but I didn't make it clear enough. The social framework can be used for evolutionary fitness; in this sense, it is an arena for mating struggles. And it is used in this way, and regularly.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T06:52:25.436Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

the assumption that all social activity reduces to fitness strategies is in sharp contrast with reality and lacks evidence;

"Lacks evidence" is a handy accusation, isn't it? So is tu quoque.

(I don't believe the accusation of 'lacks evidence' in this context means much more than 'I disapprove of your belief".)

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-22T21:43:20.554Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd like to think that this accusation also carries a hint that this is quite an extraordinary claim, and therefore requires extraordinary evidence. At least, that's the idea I was trying to get across without spelling it out, so as not to appear uncivil.

It really is quite an extraordinarily strong claim, and I'm still using milder language and not saying what I really think about it. It's much like saying that all social acts are really attempts to sleep with one's parent of the opposite sex, or that all social acts are actually attempts to get control of the means of production.

There are so many social acts, they are so different in different societies, and so many of them are so obviously shaped by culture and non-universal, that I have never seen any evo-psych theorist try to seriously claim that any and all of them are mating fitness strategies. Typically even the most far-reaching varieties of evo-psych claim that about a wide swath of supposedly universal social behaviors, not all social acts.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T22:38:01.907Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd like to think that this accusation also carries a hint that this is quite an extraordinary claim, and therefore requires extraordinary evidence.

The hint was overwhelmingly clear. You were saying that your opponent was the one that needed lots of evidence while trying to present your own position as the default.

With respect to this particular premise your claim of 'extraordinary' struck me as incredibly naive. That social behaviours reduce to fitness maximising strategies is trivially obvious (and not all that interesting). There are of course going to be exceptions to the rule, humans being far from completely optimised but this claim:

the assumption that all social activity reduces to fitness strategies is in sharp contrast with reality and lacks evidence

... combined with things like:

the problem remains that apart from some anecdotal evidence, nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works

... suggests to me that the 'reality' you are appealing to is a purely social reality, not one that is determined by interaction with the world. "Nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works"? What the...? Anyone who has lived among humans with a modicum of introspection would have more than a 'clue' that it would work. "Bloody obvious social skills development combined with lots of practice and trial and error' doesn't stop being effective just because it gets a TLA applied.

I'm frankly amazed that your refutation wasn't downvoted to oblivion. It completely misuses the fallacy of 'affirming the consequent' and implies a lack of understanding of how Bayesian reasoning works.

Note that I don't even agree with shockwave's claim as he specifies it. Your reply is just completely confused and made all the worse by opening with 'This is a terrible argument'. When you lead with that sort of denunciation (and presumption) the bar gets raised and you really need to follow up with particularly solid reasoning.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-22T23:42:09.584Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You were saying that your opponent was the one that needed lots of evidence while trying to present your own position as the default.

No, I didn't offer any position on how much of human social behavior is fitness strategy and thus didn't present anything as the default. I pointed out, correctly, that the claim that all social acts are fitness strategies is an extraordinarily strong claim.

There are of course going to be exceptions to the rule

Since my opponent's argument explicitly deduced that PUA-denunciation is a fitness strategy directly from its being a social act, and nothing else, it brooks no exceptions to the rule. If the rule is not universal, the argument falls through.

"Nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works"? What the...?

It'd be interesting to see a reference to a study, a survey, anything other than anecdotal evidence. Something like this, for example.

"Bloody obvious social skills development combined with lots of practice and trial and error"

Oh, I see. Well, you're welcome to your definition of PUA, I'm not interested in debating it. If you have any data, do share.

comment by jimrandomh · 2011-01-23T00:39:26.644Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since my opponent's argument...

Be very wary when you start thinking of a participant in a conversation as an "opponent". Discussions are not battles, and the goal is not to win; it is to acquire correct beliefs. And/or to make yourself look good. But if you think of it as a battle, you are more likely to reject true some true statements that seem like evidence against your beliefs, and to accept false ones that seem like evidence for them. The consequences of that may be farther reaching than just the conversation they came up in.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-23T00:44:55.475Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Be very wary when you start thinking of a participant in a conversation as an "opponent".

I kind of picked up the term from the comment I was replying to; but you are right, I shouldn't have. Thanks.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-23T06:08:48.911Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It'd be interesting to see a reference to a study, a survey, anything other than anecdotal evidence.

I've been emailing a few researchers a year trying to develop some interest in studies of the effectiveness of pickup. Unfortunately, until science gets off its ass, we can't get that particular proof.

Until that time, however, I don't think it's correct to say that "nobody has a clue" as to whether pickup works. While wedrifid is being a bit prickly, I think he's basically correct. It's a bit strange that on the subject of pickup, the burden of proof suddenly rises, and people suddenly throw out types of evidence that they normally find valuable.

There isn't scientific evidence for the effectiveness of many teachings, yet these teaching are widely regarded as effective. I doubt that your cooking behavior is informed by the ground-breaking study "The Effect of Hot Stoves on Fingers." There isn't scientific evidence that, say... waltz lessons are effective, either. Yet I bet that if you wanted to learn to waltz, you would go around the corner to a dance studio. If you doubt the instructors, you may be able to watch them do demos or performances, or see video footage.

We have evidence of a similar sort for the effectiveness of pickup.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T07:35:54.575Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been emailing a few researchers a year trying to develop some interest in studies of the effectiveness of pickup. Unfortunately, until science gets off its ass, we can't get that particular proof.

As soon as someone finds a way to put it inside a pill and tack on a patent and there will all sorts of research on the subject. It is a shame that will quite possibly lower the quality of evidence.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-01-29T06:28:54.352Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A problematic complication is that many pickup instructors suddenly start making huge sums of money by teaching pickup, in a way no waltz instructor ever did. Dishonest charlatans are likely to displace good instructors when the money is good (e.g., Tom Brown Jr.'s wild popularity in primitive skills). If there were good pickup instructors once, they may be gone now.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-30T01:19:29.830Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

NOTE: I made a mistake in this analysis due to a brain fart. I fixed it and reposted it.

That's correct. I'm not particularly interested in defending any particular method, just the notion that pickup in general can be lead many guys to greater success.

I agree that there is plenty of dishonesty in workshops, based on reviews I've heard. I'm not so confident that the money is good. Let's do a little accounting (based on eyeballing a few well-known programs):

  • Typical price of weekend bootcamp: $2000
  • Student teacher ratio: 2-3 students to 1 teacher
  • Time: 8 hours per day, total: 24 hours. 8 hours field instruction and demonstration, and the rest would be seminars

Assuming a 3:1 student teacher ratio, each instructor would pull in $6000 for the bootcamp. $6000 / 24 hours work = $250/hour. Except we need to count the plane flight. ($6000 - $200 ticket) / (24 + 4 hour flight) = $207/hr.

That might seem like a good wage, but remember that PUAs can only run bootcamps on weekends. $207/hr * 50 weekends a year = $10,350/year. Even if you jack up the bootcamp rates to $3k (which some companies do), that's still just $15k a year per instructor.

Dance instructions can make $40k/year in metropolitan areas working multiple days a week. Accomplished dance instructors can run pricey workshops. While probably not as expensive as pickup workshops, they can have a higher student:teacher ratio. Based on a dance workshop I found in my area, guessing at a student:teacher ratio, gives the following:

$200 per person * 8:1 student:teacher ratio / 12 hours over two days = $133/hr... and the instructors don't have to travel. With a 10:1 student:teacher ratio, it's about $166/hr.

Pickup instructors obviously can't make much from bootcamps. Bootcamps just aren't scalable. You can only work on the weekend, and you have to be doing marketing and lead generation during the week. PUA gurus must make most of their money from ebooks and DVDs, unless they can do some pricier form of coaching. (Of course, dance instructors who are entrepreneurially minded will have instructional DVDs, too.) Or PUA instructors have day jobs during the week, which burns time for building their pickup business.

Running pickup workshops is clearly not a very profitable business. For teaching students live, it's not obvious by how much pickup instructors out-earn instructors in the performing arts... if at all. Doing in-field instruction is also extremely grueling, and live demonstrations are high pressure. Pickup instructors must demonstrate the techniques every weekend even when jetlagged, sick, or hoarse from shouting. On top of that, their work is stigmatized.

If anything, lack of quality of pickup instruction is more likely because PUA gurus are poorly compensated, rather than because they are well-compensated.

So... you wanna be a pickup guru?

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-30T03:31:30.334Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's correct. I'm not particularly interested in defending any particular method, just the notion that pickup in general can be lead many guys to greater success.

I agree that there is plenty of dishonesty in workshops, based on reviews I've heard. I'm not so confident that the money is good. Let's do a little accounting (based on eyeballing a few well-known programs):

  • Typical price of weekend bootcamp: $2000
  • Student teacher ratio: 2-3 students to 1 teacher
  • Time: 8 hours per day, total: 24 hours. 8 hours field instruction and demonstration, and the rest would be seminars

Assuming a 3:1 student teacher ratio, each instructor would pull in $6000 for the bootcamp. $6000 / 24 hours work = $250/hour. Except we need to count the plane flight. ($6000 - $200 ticket) / (24 + 4 hour flight) = $207/hr.

PUAs can only run bootcamps on weekends. $5800 * 50 weekends a year = $290,000/year. However, you are traveling virtually every weekend, and you need a marketing machine to fill seats in your destinations in front of you. And you will have no life. Looking at an actual bootcamp schedule, it seems that the workshops are $3k and the lead instructors are only working 5-19 weeks over half a year = 10-38 weeks a year.

$3k 3 students - $300 airfare = $8700 a bootcamp 25 bootcamps a year = $217,500. This figure is a lot more optimistic than my previous flawed analysis.

Dance instructors can make $40k/year in metropolitan areas working multiple days a week, but it might not be fair to compare the average unknown dance instructor in a city to PUAs who are nationally-known through the news, or who had massive internet marketing machines. Accomplished dance instructors can run pricey workshops. While probably not as expensive as pickup workshops, they can have a higher student:teacher ratio. Based on a dance workshop I found in my area, guessing at a student:teacher ratio, gives the following:

$200 per person * 8:1 student:teacher ratio / 12 hours over two days = $133/hr... and the instructors don't have to travel. With a 10:1 student:teacher ratio, it's about $166/hr.

For another comparison, Tony Dovolani of Dancing with the Stars runs dance camps for $600 a person. $600 * 10:1 student:teacher ratio = $6000 / instructor. That overlaps with pickup earnings, though I doubt that Dovolani has the business machine to run his dance camp every weekend, considering that it's much bigger than a pickup workshop. However, if there is a 10:1 student:teacher ratio (reasonable to assume for ballroom dance classes), and considering that he has 10+ instructors working with him, he isn't spending 6 hours in a row working like a PUA instructor would.

Both dance and pickup bootcamps suffer from scalability problems, especially pickup because a lower student:teacher ratio is necessary. You can only work on the weekend, and you have to be doing marketing and lead generation during the week. Dance instructors can teach private lessons during the week for $60+ an hour. PUA gurus must make most of their money from ebooks and DVDs, unless they can do some pricier form of coaching. (Of course, dance instructors who are entrepreneurially minded will have instructional DVDs, too.) Or PUA instructors have day jobs during the week, which burns time for building their pickup business.

Running pickup workshops is clearly a very profitable business, but it looks like it's a lot of work and has a lot of overhead. To fill seats for bootcamps each week, you need a massive marketing and lead generation machine. For teaching students live, pickup seems potentially more profitable than dance, but there is overlap, especially for nationally-known instructors of their respective disciplines. If dance instructors had the marketing machines of pickup companies, the gap would be even narrower.

Doing in-field instruction is also extremely grueling, and live demonstrations are high pressure. Pickup instructors must demonstrate the techniques every weekend even when jetlagged, sick, or hoarse from shouting. On top of that, their work is stigmatized.

Now that I'm using the right numbers, it does seem plausible that pickup instructors can make pretty good sums of money if they work hard, build a strong marketing machine, constantly generate leads, and give up half their weeks traveling. The same is true of many businesses. As for dance, nationally-known pickup instructors are probably in a similar income bracket to nationally-known dance instructors, unless I'm missing something.

In both of those industries, there could be a temptation to skimp on giving 1-on-1 instruction live. Pickup instruction also has additional pressure to perform.

So... you wanna be a pickup guru?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-30T01:59:43.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

remember that PUAs can only run bootcamps on weekends.

That would be the only line I generally disagree with. Teaching PU is a f'ed up thing. But that also depends a bit on how much your own time is worth.

The problem of choosing a teacher looks very similar to sports. You do not want someone who is a good sport himself, but someone who can train you really well. But to choose someone, you would need to already know the stuff that is taught or at least what to look for.

Many reviews are done in the hyped up after glow right after the workshop. Where I would consider it better to see how someone is doing a year or more after such an event - but that seems to not be too helpful for the business. [edit: corrected a messed up line break in the top line quote]

comment by nshepperd · 2011-01-30T01:58:57.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

$207/hr * 50 weekends a year = $10,350/year

Huh? Units do not match. If the average weekend bootcamp makes the instructor $6000-$200 = $5800 / weekend, earnings per year should be (up to) $5800 * 50 = $290,000.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-30T02:22:36.199Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oops, I changed the analysis in the middle. I'll go back and re-do it.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-02-06T06:20:14.559Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In The Game, and in Mystery's book The Pickup Artist, the PUA instructors are shown living in fabulously-expensive mansions, driving $100,000+ cars; and described as having come into that wealth very suddenly after starting to teach pickup. David DeAngelo is believed to make millions of dollars every year.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-06T06:46:00.549Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do not model your expectations of an art after its teachers. Especially not after the top crowd of those.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-06T06:31:53.846Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are describing the reference class 'best selling authors and self publishing education marketers', not the reference class 'pickup instructors'. That a field is large enough to support the sale of popular books is hardly evidence against said field.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-23T00:08:17.197Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since my opponent's argument explicitly deduced that PUA-denunciation is a fitness strategy directly from its being a social act, and nothing else, it brooks no exceptions to the rule. If the rule is not universal, the argument falls through.

This claim is false. You do not understand how correct reasoning works.

It'd be interesting to see a reference to a study, a survey

So would I. This does not make your claim that "Nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works" a sane claim to make. You do not understand how evidence works and are also conflating the claim "there have not been scientific studies about" with "nobody has a clue about".

Oh, I see. Well, you're welcome to your definition of PUA, I'm not interested in debating it. If you have any data, do share.

Was not a definition. It was a reference to several commonly included aspects of the behaviour and declared strategies of actual real world communities. Not something you can use the 'dismiss as semantics' tactic on.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-01-23T03:56:59.959Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This claim is false. You do not understand how correct reasoning works.

Not helpful.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T14:39:52.611Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

nobody has a clue as to whether PUA works

I think that is a mistake. There are at least 10.000s of people who ran through all kinds of programs or self studied. Some report and increased success rate, some do not. Some do worse. How is that just mere anecdotal evidence?

You may not get the specific evidence you ask for. But you get some.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-01-22T21:04:54.361Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How is that not anecdotal evidence? You don't have any clear data. First of all, you don't have any aggregate statistics on those 10.000s of people - you can only ask a few for their personal opinions. Any self-reporting will be naturally biased towards success. Any information put out by a program will be naturally biased towards success. And you have absolutely no idea how many people studied PUA, tried it, didn't work for them, went on to try something else. You have no data to work with.

Just think about diets. Every time you think you may have good evidence about PUA working or not working, think about diets. Many millions of people try them every year. You have mountains of people swearing by this diet or the other. Dozens of studies and research programs are being run all the time (and they dutifully report that almost all the fans of this diet or the other gain their weight back). And they still have no clue if low-carbs is better than low-calories, or maybe they're both good, or maybe one is better for some people and the other for the others, or whatever. Or maybe they have too many clues all going in the different directions. Do diets work?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-23T18:25:04.308Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And you have absolutely no idea how many people studied PUA, tried it, didn't work for them, went on to try something else. You have no data to work with

And you have absolutely no idea how many people studied math, tried it, didn't work for them, went on to try something else. You have no data to work with.

The usefulness of math is not measured by the amount of people who learn it, or the amount of people who fail to grasp its usefulness, but by the results that those who master it get.

It is not that interesting how many people try it and fail, but if it works, when done right.

I find statistical exploration of social issues rather hard. But that might just be my own ignorance on the tool set real scientists have.

But I see that someone who is sucessfull in one area might not be able to actually explain how he does it. He might have mistaken models, or ignore important factors he is not aware of. But at least he shows something is there.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-23T19:41:11.087Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that if you want to know "effect on women if one has mastered the technique" people who do not try or fail to learn PUA techniques are not of interest. One probably has to study the successes of PUAs to get a complete picture on women's psyche.

However, if you want to know the "expected payoff if one starts to study the technique" the failure rate given a serious time investment is hugely relevant. If I would have known that 90% of the math students fail within the first semester (note: this is not the case), I would not have tried it at all, as I am not in the top 10% of any measure, however I would construct it.

Note: I do not know what success-rate PUAs claim and/or achieve.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T08:00:55.042Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is my best attempt to catalog the success rate of the guys with pickup background I've known in real life. Of course, in some cases I have imperfect information and don't know how they are doing, in which case I will guess, and my guess will be conservative (e.g. I will assume that they are the same way I last saw them, rather than improving since then). This sample isn't representative at all, so take it with it a grain of salt, but it will help other people understand some of my priors about the success of pickup.

  • Me: Started out with social anxiety disorder. 6 months: substantial social skills improvement. 8 months: lost virginity. Next few years: Stuck on a plateau of getting numbers and kisses, but social skills slowly improving. Since then: going in and out of flings and relationships; currently in a relationship. I could give several other success metrics, but it would sound like I'm bragging.

  • 4 other guys: Began with severe social deficits. Now they have no problem dating and go in and out of flings and relationships. One of them started out as 300 lbs and massively insecure, but lost weight, applied himself, and is now massively popular with women, to the point of sometimes refusing sex because he is looking for relationships.

  • 1: Had one relationship before pickup and was struggling after. Hooked up with several women for a year, met one he liked, dated her for a couple years, and married her.

  • 1: Started out with severe social problems and alienation, along with depression. Lost his virginity, but then struggled for multiple years without a single date. However, in the last year, he greatly improved his fashion sense and started going out multiple times a week. He is now quite socially popular, and several women in our social circle are really into him, though he isn't attracted to them. Women come up to him in clubs and compliment him. He went out with this one girl who was really into him, but he wasn't interested in a relationship, so he ended things and they are just friends. He recently had a fling with a girl who was in town.

  • 1: I give him a brush of pickup knowledge around the same time he was getting into kink subculture. Butch dominant women started looking at him like a piece of tasty meat, and were lining up to beat him. He said that the pickup stuff helped him keep up conversations when women approached him, even though he was still having trouble approaching. He is in a relationship now.

  • 1: He had pickup background improve his fashion sense and social skills, but he still has difficulties interacting with women. He is mega-cool around guys, but still feels very awkward talking to women he is interested in. He says that pickup is part of what caused the awkwardness (inverse of the previous guy). He isn't really applying himself to pickup nowadays, and working on his career.

  • 1: Similar story, except he managed to end up in a long-term relationship, which is now over.

  • 1: Similar story, except he isn't awkward around women, and gets phone numbers. He is very socially popular, but still has difficulties expressing sexuality with women.

  • 4: Guys with some exposure to pickup, mostly through me. They are still struggling and having minimal success, as far as I know. Their difficulties are easily explained within the pickup paradigm, such as fashion issues, posture (the classic computer slouch), and women reading them as extremely "nerdy" and/or emotionally inexpressive. One of them may have Asperger's syndrome. Some of these guys have gone on some online dates. These guys all have < 1 year experience with pickup.

Here are some interesting results, out of these 15 guys:

  • 5 (33%): Massive sexual success
  • 7 (47%): At least one relationship
  • 5 (33%): Still significant lack of success at sexual contact or dates
  • 6 (40%): Still lack of consistent success at sexual contact or dates currently, but has had some success in those areas after studying pickup
  • 2 (13%): Lack of consistent success, even though they have at least average fashion sense and social skills
  • 15 (100%): Minor social skills improvement
  • 11 (73%): Major social skills improvement
  • 1 (7%): Married

The main variables that appear to correlate with success (order of causation unclear):

  • Fashion sense, particularly non-nerdy presentation. I doubt this variable fully explains success, but it may gate improvement in other areas.
  • Social skills and self-confidence
  • Years of experience (all of the highly successful guys have multiple years of experience, and some had plateaus where they struggled)

For a sample of almost all nerdy guys with social deficits, this distribution of outcomes is probably pretty impressive, relative to the alternative (it's quite possible that by now, I would have been on a couple dates with a few women and still be a virgin). Only one guy reports pickup exacerbating his struggles.

My limited empirical evidence does suggest that success with women as a function of attractiveness is a step function. There can be periods of rapid improvement, and plateaus of little progress. There is very much a feeling of "leveling up" as things come together.

For instance, whenever I've seen a guy hit both above average fashion sense, and above average social skills, the attention he gets from women suddenly jumps. It's as if female attention is a multiplicative factor of different components of attraction.

The plateaus can be tough, especially if you start out on one. However, improvements in social skills during those times can keep you motivated.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-24T23:41:39.626Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course, one of the issues with estimating the effects of pickup knowledge is that none of this is placebo tested. Since PU itself teaches that self-confidence is crucial having a method for meeting women that you believe works should by itself produce positive results- especially for people who were previously too anxious to walk up to a stranger and say hello.

Also, those correlates your reporting are pretty general and 101-level. I'd be a little more suspicious of the efficacy of the more 'advanced' routines and techniques in the PUA literature.

(Though as usual I pretty much agree with you)

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T00:13:13.322Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You know, I have this great cure for scurvy. But I cannot tell you about it, since it has not been properly double blind tested yet.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T00:17:52.855Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a great cure for the flu. Take some Muscovy Duck offal and dilute it to 1 part in 100^200 with water.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T00:21:11.841Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did it work on the one guy you tried it on?

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T06:09:00.172Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup! Only took like 3 days with bed rest!

comment by HonoreDB · 2011-01-25T00:16:29.709Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Placebo testing would be hilarious. Isn't that a standard comedy plot? A shy man asks for pickup and courting tips, gets terrible ones, and implements them with disastrous results?

Not safe for work.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-25T10:52:18.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

none of this is placebo tested.

Medicine holds itself to the standard "do better than placebo". I am not sure if it is fair to hold PUA to the same standard.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-26T00:05:47.475Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't think every professional pick-up artist/dating coach would say their material works better than placebo?

I realize of course we're not talking about formal science but we still need to be aware of the limitations of personal anecdotes versus controlled studies. Who cares if it is fair?

comment by rastilin · 2011-01-24T06:29:33.141Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might be interested to know that Style says roughly one out of twenty people who start to learn PUA reach a high level of skill.

I personally agree with Martin however; especially in relation to diets. Diets DO work, they are just difficult to implement, changing your lifestyle often is; that applies to exercise, studying a new language or anything that requires a large time investment before you see payoffs. The math comparison is especially appropriate. In this way PUA is no different from any other self improvement course that you might decide to undertake.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-01-24T15:47:39.862Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Diets DO work

That depends on what you mean by "work". If your intent is to improve your life through achieving some goal, but the side effects of a strategy cause a net cost in quality of life even if the intermediate goal is achieved, then I'd say that the method doesn't work.

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2011-01-25T03:22:11.996Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's two ways beside the point. They work by the most reasonable and common definition, and often do so without causing a net cost in quality of life. Even if diets don't suit a majority of people, they work, unlike reciting the alphabet backwards before you go to sleep.

Furthermore, if a procedure, perfectly applied, yield no significant results with 99% of the population, but clearly is effective upon the remaining 1%, it's not a sham. It might not be the most efficient procedure if you can't distinguish who it will work with beforehand, but it still works. Even if diet's aren't in such a category, the point that something can be should be accepted, and your argument should be focused on the strongest possible case.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T04:15:27.693Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's two ways beside the point. They work by the most reasonable and common definition

Bear in mind that a diet only 'works' if you actually successfully keep to them in the long term. Only a minority of people stick to diets in the long term. That's where choosing diets based on convenience and ease of compliance becomes more important than raw effectiveness.

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2011-01-25T04:51:14.123Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bear in mind that science only 'works' if you actually successfully use it over the long term. Only a minority of people stick to science in the long term. That's where choosing knowledge-gathering techniques based on convenience and ease of compliance becomes more important than raw effectiveness.

I see your point (which is valid), but mine is that the cost of using a method does not reduce the effectiveness of that method, just the number of people who apply it. One might say that it is too costly to uniformly apply science, diets or PUA, but that's a different statement than saying that they don't work.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T05:29:15.027Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought your reference to conventional 'works' was a valid reply to Nancy's "but maybe it will also make you sad or otherwise have external costs" point. Convention would call that 'works' even though naturally it is a cost to consider. (For yet another 'although' I expect people who find a diet that works in the mid to long term to also enjoy improved experience in other aspects of life so I don't think there is much of a balance to be had there at all.)

What I would not agree with is the complete exclusion of psychological considerations from deciding whether a diet 'works' or not. For example for a bare minimum 'diet' I would argue that "have a breakfast including at least 30g of protein within 30m of waking up" works far more effectively than "eat 10% less". This is just based on how humans work at a psychological and physiological level.

I actually consider science to be a good analogy to go by and not at all as the ad absurdum imply. 'Science' is the application of various traditional rules and limits upon rational thinking that discard all sorts of reasoning that is valid for the purpose of avoiding some of the more drastic human failure modes and biases. By limiting evidence and officially sanctioned persuasion via some formulaic rules it makes it somewhat harder for money, politics and ego to sabotage epistemic progress. (Unfortunately it is still not hard enough).

comment by rastilin · 2011-01-25T00:05:49.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What if your intent is to lose weight? You're pre-defining "work" for the benefit of your argument.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-24T07:29:46.674Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A good place to deconstruct my own argument.

The math comparison lacks in one important piece: Math is clearly defined, and has standard textbooks. If you ask around for recommendations on how to learn math you get similar responses, and will end up learning similar things - up to a certain degree. There is only one type of math! In general people agree on what math is, and what not.

PU as well as PD is a very broad, not clearly defined subject, that contains a mash-up of many other topics. It is contradictory. Done by amateurs who generally do not care about scientific results. You get advice that goes against those transported by the mainstream (which we on LW are somewhat used to in other contexts.) But you also find the statement that the subjects of your interest will generally give you bad advice and do not even know what works for them. As will your peers, your family, potential natural friends, the media, and anyone else who you could possibly ask. That makes for a very bad heuristic in regards to its truthfulness.

And then there is the annoying property of PD advice, that it is not only difficult to actually get, but that it also hurts. Sometimes we carry gaping holes that really hurt our social life, and no one has the guts to tell us, since they are afraid of a bad reaction.

One easy to understand example is trying to tell a colleague or friend that he needs to do something about his smell.

I am not aware of a safe way to navigate this. It would be interesting to see real scientists, or science minded people undertake this exploration. But there are way to many possibilities to have it go wrong.

PU does contain basilisks. So handle with care. And do not believe any one particular source completely.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-01-25T05:20:40.849Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is only one type of math! In general people agree on what math is, and what not.

The second sentence here is true, but the first one is false. There is mainstream math, and then there are alternatives. Of course, there are insane crackpot ideas, but there are also alternative forms of mathematics that are studied by serious researchers who earn tenure for it and prove valid theorems. Buzzwords to search for include "intuitionism", "constructive mathematics", "predicatvism", "finitism", and "nonclassical mathematics" generally.

This mostly only affects things from after the 19th century, however, so nothing significant about the mathematics that most people learn in school. Even going on to more advanced material, there is a very definite mainstream to follow, so this doesn't really affect your point; this is just a hobby horse of mine.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T05:55:09.527Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And Though shall get a geek point for it. I was kind of waiting for someone to point this out.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-01-30T15:34:56.612Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And I should have mentioned "experimental mathematics", which is really different! This term can be interpreted in weak and strong ways; the former, in which experiments are a preliminary to proof, is normal, but the latter, in which massive computer-generated experimental results are accepted as a substitute for proof when proof seems unlikely, is different. The key point is that most true theorems that we can understand have no proofs that we can understand, a fact that can itself be proved (at least if if you use length of the text as a proxy for whether we can understand it).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T07:59:10.117Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

PU does contain basilisks.

Oooh, PU basilisks. Where? Show me!

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-24T08:05:09.289Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you sure you want me to do that on a public forum? I do not want to have my account deleted for posting dangerous stuff.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T08:09:27.124Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then message me. The concept of a PU basilisk seems unlikely to me but still somewhat intriguing. The closest things I can imagine are in the form of disillusionment with ideals.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-24T23:26:56.341Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be interesting to have a collection of basilisks somewhere, like an ammo dump for a mimetic war.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T01:39:53.081Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be interesting to have a collection of basilisks somewhere, like an ammo dump for a mimetic war.

Absolutely! Maybe not on lesswrong, that might make some people cry. But I'd love to have a list somewhere else. And this can be considered an open request to send any basilisk spotted in the wild to me personally for examination.

I've yet to see a basilisk that was remotely intimidating to me. And would like to be able to further improve my resistance to exposure to new 'basilisks' while they are framed as basilisks so I am even less likely to be vulnerable to them in the wild.

A superintelligence would almost certainly be able to construct sentences that could hack my brain and damage it. Some humans could if they were able to put me in a suitable social or physical environment and ensure ongoing exposure (and environment and exposure are far more important than the abstract concepts conveyed). But things like "Roko's Basilisk" are just cute. You can tame them and keep them as pets. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T04:27:51.661Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My perspective on this is very similar to yours. If you were sent any interesting PU basilisks, would you please forward them to me?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T04:44:38.096Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being careful not to criticise what was sent to me (and by so doing discourage others) I don't think what I was sent fits the term 'basilisk'. Instead I got some well thought out considerations and potential pitfalls that people may fall into along a PUA journey. In fact I think people would appreciate them being spoken publicly. Rather than "things that will kill you just by looking at them" they are things that you are better off looking at so you can avoid falling into them. Obviously the exceptional case is the pessimistic person who is looking for excuses not to try - which is not an uncommon mindset.

I would not repost them here (that would be discourteous) but I suggest that if the author did post his thoughts publicly they would be well received (ie. would get an 8+karma rating if the comment was not buried too deeply to gain exposure.)

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T04:08:12.151Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I violently agree with all of this. Have you seen any basilisk-like ideas besides roko's? Roko's at least looks like a real basilisk until you think about it. Everything else I've seen doesn't come close to living up to the name.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T04:34:32.448Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I violently agree with all of this.

'Violent agreement' seems to have been adopted for use in situations in which the participants have been arguing aggressively only to discover that they agree on the substantive issues. For a term that hasn't been hijacked as jargon I go with "vehemently". It has a more visceral feel to it too. :)

Have you seen any basilisk-like ideas besides roko's? Roko's at least looks like a real basilisk until you think about it. Everything else I've seen doesn't come close to living up to the name.

Roko's is the most interesting I've seen too. Although for some people a combination of Pascal's Wager and certain religious doctrines about children not being held accountable for their beliefs until a certain age would do it. Once again it is the ability to apply abstract reasoning while at the same time the naivety and weakness in following the rational conclusion correctly that would cause the problem.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T05:07:42.657Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyone have a really solid working definition for 'basilisk' as we use it here?

Although for some people a combination of Pascal's Wager and certain religious doctrines about children not being held accountable for their beliefs until a certain age would do it.

Am I supposed to be able to see it from just this? Assuming it's not the kind of thing that would hurt LW posters can you explain? Otherwise, pm it?

One interesting idea is that it seems plausible to create basilisks that only effect your memetic/cognitively different enemies- perhaps the only way to avoid the harm of the basilisk is to deconvert from your religion/ideology. A basilisk that only worked on, say, religious fundamentalists would be a really powerful weapon (I'm not suggesting that the basilisk be capable of killing anyone, necessarily).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T05:47:51.508Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Am I supposed to be able to see it from just this? Assuming it's not the kind of thing that would hurt LW posters can you explain?

  • Pascal's Wager -> Accept popular religion (Disclaimer: I did label these people naive and with an inability to take reasoning all the way to a sane conclusion. Nevertheless, it works on some intelligent people better than on some unintelligent people.)
  • There exist popular religious doctrines that God will send young children to heaven regardless because they are too young to have been able to do the conversion thing. I think the "Age Of Accountability" concept may be related.
  • If a child is not likely to convert to the 'True' religion in adulthood then they are (believed to be) likely to go to Hell instead of Heaven if they grow up.
  • Such a child would go to Heaven if murdered while young but Hell if they grow up.
  • Such a child would be better off in they are murdered.
  • Therefore...
comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T05:53:33.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A quick google on "do young children go to hell?" led me to this, excerpt:

Therefore, we have been given a specific example in the Old Testament of an infant who died and would live forever in heaven. And Jesus Christ Himself, in the New Testament, stated that little children retain the qualities that make a person eligible to inherit the kingdom of God. We see, then, that infants and small children that die are in a safe state, and will live eternally in heaven.

With such clear statements from the Bible about the eternal destiny of dead infants and small children, why have religious people mistakenly taught that babies go to hell when they die?

(The scripture quotes in question were totally reaching by the way. But that's the whole point of theology.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T05:34:51.738Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyone have a really solid working definition for 'basilisk' as we use it here?

Knowledge or concepts, the comprehension of which will cause one significant disulitly.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T06:05:49.748Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is over-broad unfortunately. The concept needs to be distinguished from "ugly truths" where the disutility comes from an emotional reaction to how far from ideal the world is.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-01-25T14:13:22.081Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Knowledge or concepts, the comprehension of which may cause substantial damage to one's instrumental rationality.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T07:17:29.098Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do we include concepts selected to elicit a maximal emotional response? Such as particularly Funny Jokes or things so sad that they would drive most people to suicide? They do seem to be a different concept but still deserve a similar title. (If not basilisk then at least cockatrice or one of the Gorgons).

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T15:44:52.268Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Am I supposed to be able to see it from just this? Assuming it's not the kind of thing that would hurt LW posters can you explain? Otherwise, pm it?

I think I know what wedrifid is getting at, but I don't think Pascal's Wager would do it. Pascal's Wager argues that one should act as if one believes in God because the costs are low and the potential benefits (Heaven) are high.

But in order to get to the particular failure state at which I think wedrifid is hinting, you can't just be betting on God -- you have to be absolutely certain that Heaven exists and that its joys outweigh on every axis everything that Earth has to offer. Most people, no matter what they say, are not that certain, which is why we don't routinely slaughter infants in order to ensure their blameless souls entry into Heaven. (Similar logic has been invoked to rationalize murders--such as innocent deaths at witch trials--but in these cases, as a justification pasted on after the fact rather than an honest motive towards murder.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T16:47:22.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But in order to get to the particular failure state at which I think wedrifid is hinting, you can't just be betting on God -- you have to be absolutely certain that Heaven exists

No, absolute certainty is definitely not required. The cost is increased so a proportionate increase in probability*payoff is required. But this is still all dwarfed by the arbitrarily large payoffs inherent in religious questions. The whole point of 'afterlife' focussed doctrine is to encourage the flock to discount all 'earthly' matters as trivial compared to eternal questions.

Most people, no matter what they say, are not that certain, which is why we don't routinely slaughter infants in order to ensure their blameless souls entry into Heaven.

No, that would not be a rational reason to refrain from the slaughter. The difference between 90% sure and absolutely certain isn't really much of a big deal when you have the chance of flipping the sign bit of an arbitrarily large disulility payoff (Hell). A 0.05% hunch would be more than enough.

Rational agents that really have arbitrarily large utility payoffs floating around in their utility function will inevitably do things that look insane to us.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T17:26:03.167Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, absolute certainty is definitely not required. The cost is increased so a proportionate increase in probability*payoff is required.

Right, but now you've left the standard formulation of Pascal's Wager. The original Pascal's Wager includes the stipulation that one loses nothing by behaving as if God were real. To get to a point where you're willing to kill kids, obviously you have to go a lot further -- you must be ready to incur substantial costs as a consequence of belief.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T05:59:39.612Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One interesting idea is that it seems plausible to create basilisks that only effect your memetic/cognitively different enemies

I am sure that this is possible, but wonder why it has not been done yet - or at least appeared on my radar. Might be one of the more darker arts, and a very interesting one!

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T06:07:35.955Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Creating basilisks is hard- as evidenced by the fact that we have no recorded instance of one ever existing.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-01-25T17:56:32.099Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For similar reasons, good bodyguards -- the kind that would take a bullet for you -- are hard to find. (apologies to Magic: The Gathering)

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-01-25T17:41:30.016Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or: the only basilisks that are easy to create are those that directly disable the host's ability to spread them.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-01-25T18:12:26.048Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is it time to link to Monty Python yet?

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-25T00:05:55.354Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No. It would be better to first develop defenses against them. Basilisks seem to only affect people of a certain mental capacity able to understand and process them. If you look up the Charles Langan interview, or his writings, or this Ted/Unabomba guy you see how really bright people can go wrong.

I would hate LW to contribute to that.

I want LWers and myself to not only have a realistic view of reality, but also be able to life in it and be happy and productive.

comment by Jack · 2011-01-25T00:14:31.083Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure how you develop defenses to Basilisks without know what they are. Unless we get lucky and there is a fully general countermeasure.

I was just talking about collecting them though- it's another question entirely whether or not the list should be public. One doesn't usually leave ammo dumps unlocked.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T01:29:03.249Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Basilisks seem to only affect people of a certain mental capacity able to understand and process them.

And, probably more importantly, without certain other mental capacities that allow them to handle information appropriately.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-01-24T08:12:42.270Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you tell wedrifid privately, then you have to promise to tell me.

I have a few minor basilisks (not from PU alone, but from combining PU with psychometrics or feminism). Nothing so bad that I think it would make people want to ban me, but it might be disconcerting and depressing for many people, and some of it I'm still thinking through.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T08:16:39.559Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

combining PU with ... feminism

Did the two annihilate each other, destroying swathes of your cerebral cortex?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-24T08:14:42.097Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you tell wedrifid privately, then you have to promise to tell me.

Or I'll tell you. :)

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-01-29T06:22:55.773Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The usefulness of math is not measured by the amount of people who learn it, or the amount of people who fail to grasp its usefulness, but by the results that those who master it get.

Where "those who master it" is defined by "the intersection of people who tried it, and people who get good results".

Anatoly's observations are spot on, whereas MartinB's ignore the problems with self-selection bias, and could also be used as a defense of psychotherapy, ouija boards, and picking lottery numbers from fortune cookies.

More importantly, we don't even have evidence that pickup artist techniques work for anyone! All we have are testimonials from people highly-incentivized to make them. Is there any factual evidence that David DeAngelo, Neil Strauss, or any of these PUAs actually have slept with many beautiful women?

It would be hard to provide such evidence - but that doesn't mean we can just trust them.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-29T07:58:53.847Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

More importantly, we don't even have evidence that pickup artist techniques work for anyone! All we have are testimonials from people highly-incentivized to make them. Is there any factual evidence that David DeAngelo, Neil Strauss, or any of these PUAs actually have slept with many beautiful women?

Yes. Video evidence and an overwhelming abundance of eyewitness reports. Including reports from women who they have dated. All of this is evidence that someone could assert is faked or engineered by some ingenious plot with payed actors and widespread bribes. Technically.

Anatoly's observations are spot on, whereas MartinB's ignore the problems with self-selection bias, and could also be used as a defense of psychotherapy, ouija boards, and picking lottery numbers from fortune cookies.

If we are going to throw about insulting analogies for rhetorical effect then a more appropriate one would be "moon landing".

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T14:41:41.934Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh I should add, that it does not mean that the people who achieve success know how they do it. Just that.

I noticed how in many cases successful people not only have a hard time explaining how the are successful, but honestly have a mistaken view about it. Unconscious competence.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-01-21T16:28:28.714Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've seen much more mockery of PUA than denunciation, mostly with the sort of attitude one sees displayed towards, say, furries (who are a prototypically unthreatening group.) But perhaps this depends on the corner of the internet you're from.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-01-22T06:48:25.680Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mockery is mostly for attack. I'm not sure how the mode of attack matters.

It's true that most people don't seem genuinely disturbed by the existence of furries, though. And it must be true that some people mock PUA without feeling threatened, or even without intending to raise their status or lower PUAers'. And in particular cases, for we do love to laugh at those who overreach (are more confident of their status than we think they can justify).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T07:39:49.069Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

that some people mock PUA without feeling threatened, or even without intending to raise their status or lower PUAers'.

Mockery of another group without intending to raise one's own status? That only seems possible if we include lack of self awareness in evaluating 'intent'. Isn't that just Human Behavior 101?

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-01-23T03:56:13.517Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're right. I was so struck by that, I almost deleted the clause entirely, instead of weakening it with "intending to".

comment by Davidmanheim · 2011-01-21T16:04:41.451Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have to disagree with the principle, even if the conclusion is correct. I could argue similarly that atheists denounce god because it's a successful paradigm, and therefore threatening, and so it must be true.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-21T16:10:07.058Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

God paradigms are not related to evolutionary fitness the way pick-up artistry is. Atheists do not denounce God because it is a successful paradigm (they denounce it because it's wrong, its popularity or success only determines the scale or intensity of denouncement). "And so it must be true" is not a correct paraphrase of "weak evidence that it works".

You could argue it. You couldn't win the argument.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-21T16:50:53.331Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have to side with davidmanheim here.

You asserted your prior belief that denunciation is a social act of reducing the status of things viewed as more successful, and therefore concluded that people's denunciation of PUA is "weak evidence" that it works.

As I can tell the implicit reasoning goes "People denounce things they see as successful; people denounce X; therefore people probably see X as successful; things people see as successful probably work; therefore X probably works."

The same line of reasoning can apply to any X that people denounce. Davidmanheim applied it to religion, which is denounced by atheists.

Your reply was that religion is different, because religion also belongs to the class of wrong beliefs. But that doesn't mean your earlier argument doesn't apply, it merely means that other arguments apply as well. If your argument is evidence for PUA, it's evidence for any denounced X.

As you said initially, it's weak evidence. I agree. In fact, I'd say it's negligible evidence, in both cases.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-22T07:19:40.052Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"People denounce things they see as successful"

This was not part of my reasoning. It was specifically an evo-psych-style argument; people denounce things they see as increasing the evolutionary fitness of an opponent. The principle in question is Kill the status of anyone more successful than you, which is also why creationists trying to make science look bad (instead of finding evidence for their beliefs) is weak evidence that science more successful at explaining the world, and in full generality it is the principle behind ad hominem attacks.

comment by Will_Sawin · 2011-01-29T22:51:59.809Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many females denounce PUA. One can EvPsych explain this, but with a different explanation.

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-30T06:16:59.232Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It ain't evo-psych, but SarahC's comment is basically the explanation for why women react badly to PUA.

comment by waveman · 2012-10-08T03:44:14.858Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think there are probably three: PUA (pick up techniques), salesmanship, and possible some religious mind mind training techniques (Buddhist Logic by TH. Stcherbatsky).

PUA has a bad press because people tend to automatically equate it with misogyny. Like many forms of knowledge, you can employ it in various ways. There is a whole sub-genre called "married man game" (e.g. The Married Man Sex Life Primer 2011, by Athol Kay) devoted to helping married men and other men in relationships to apply these insights so their relationships are happier and more stable. The PUA community had broadened its scope in recent years into more general self-improvement techniques, and moved past the earlier narrow focus on hacking the female brain.

Another field where results are important and feedback is rapid and unambiguous is sales. This also crosses into the field of self management, given the psychologically challenging nature of sales. One example of the collected wisdom, admittedly without a scientific study in sight, is Tom Hopkins "How to master the art of selling" and with a broader focus "The official guide to success".

The PUA and Sales focus on what works, with no consideration for ideological sensitivities, tends to infuriate some people. Particularly because many of the things they say are true. People buy things, and pick mates, based on some quite basic and surprising heuristics.

comment by R3dpill · 2011-01-24T20:43:10.976Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You Speak much truth.

It is really a gross failure if LW that we do not allow the elephant to be discussed. No matter how evil one thinks it is, surely it is worth analyzing thoroughly just as an example of successful instrumental rationality.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-25T02:58:39.307Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find this topic fascinating not only because of its practical utility, but also because it presents a dissection of complex human social interactions in a way that's uniquely suitable for study and reaching genuine and reliable insight. Nothing even remotely like that, to my knowledge, has ever come out of any other attempt to study human social behavior.

Alas, the dissection analogy can be extended to people's reactions to it. Just like the prevailing religious opinion in ancient times was appalled at the idea of desecrating dead bodies even for the good of science, so the modern respectable opinion, even in venues like LW, is appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-25T17:02:53.236Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

so the modern respectable opinion, even in venues like LW, is appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way.

This idea -- that everyone skeptical of PUA is simply too prudish to handle the truth -- sounds like a self-flattering way to avoid engaging with critics on a substantive level. I haven't seen a single comment here that can be accurately described as "appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life...can be analyzed." By contrast, many of the comments that raise some criticism of PUA, or simply register skepticism, start by ceding that skeptic can see helpful or useful aspects to the techniques.

However, PUA is not settled science, and the idea that the simplified evopsych theories behind PUA represent incontrovertible and unassailable truth -- that's a statement of faith, not reason.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-01-25T23:59:06.985Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think "prudish" is a completely wrong characterization of the problem here. The idea that this aspect of human life is surrounded by some sacred mystery and that it works (or could or should work) according to some idealized principles, as well as the tendency to instantly sniff out and be struck by the ideological implications (intended or not) of people's expressed opinions about it, are not at all limited to people who could be described as "prudish" in any meaningful way.

Now, of course that such biases will usually not manifest themselves in a transparent way, especially not in a place like this. Rather, they take the form of biased treatment of evidence, judging people's attitudes and behavior with unusual and inconsistent ethical standards, turning up one's sensitivity to offense, etc., etc. For a lot of evidence of these phenomena, see the numerous discussions in which the commenter HughRistik, who has a particular interest and expertise in this area, has had to deal with them. (He writes with great clarity and invariably treats his interlocutors with saintly patience and kindness, and these biases are thus especially apparent in his discussions.)

Also, regarding the folk evo-psych theories often heard in this context, I agree that they are more often than not just idle speculation; in fact, I don't have very high opinion even about much of the academic evolutionary psychology. I am much more interested in first establishing an accurate phenomenological view of things before moving on to any such speculation.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-01-25T17:00:05.107Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

modern respectable opinion, even in venues like LW, is appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way.

Actually, I think the question-begging turn here is in "correct." Perhaps the referenced ways of dissecting human relations are correct and perhaps they are not, but it does not seem to be the case that what the author refers to as "modern respectable opinon" (whether justly or unjustly) consider it to be so. Thus it does not seem that they are, in fact, appalled that "these aspects... can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way."

comment by R3dpill · 2011-01-25T14:21:06.705Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"even venues like LW are appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way."

which begs the question: what is LW for if not for being rational and confronting the truth?

comment by Abisashi · 2011-01-25T16:36:51.261Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you mean "raises the question?"

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-25T16:43:46.935Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, the quote does beg the question... the connotations of "even" presuppose certain answers to the question of what venues like LW are for.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-25T16:52:35.282Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What struck me was that it presupposed a level of "idealization and ideologization" in related areas far below that of the general population.

comment by Abisashi · 2011-01-25T16:50:17.900Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are right. It's strange to see "begs the question" used properly for a change, I couldn't puzzle it out when I read it before.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-25T16:58:04.903Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(nods) I know what you mean: I would have quietly assumed it was a misuse as well if you hadn't raised the question and made me consider it explicitly; I was surprised to realize that it needn't be.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-01-20T21:43:54.313Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Results like these should "only" hold on average; for some people they may be three times as true and for others the opposite of true. That suggests we shouldn't just copy these results, but we should supplement them with some self-modeling and self-experimentation, and the weirder we (and our situations) are along various dimensions, the more weight we should give this self-modeling and self-experimentation relative to the studies.

comment by JenniferRM · 2011-01-21T19:59:10.078Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems this claim might itself be amenable to testing on groups of people to see if it "holds on average" across a spectrum of people who vary in the degree to which they are "weird". I suspect such a study would reveal uninformed self experimentation to be less effective than naively expected.

For most of my life I've had a useful heuristic for problems which is "seek out a self help book on the subject that seems relevant and is reasonably well recommended and try things in it if they seem like they might work". I got this heuristic from my mom, though I don't know whether it was her own invention or something she got from someone.

In any case, one of the ways she motivated the advice was to notice that on several distinct occasions she initially thought she was a unique snowflake with an unusual problem and then she found out from a book that lots of people had faced the same problem and were able to articulate surprisingly specific details of the problem that she'd thought where unique to her own circumstances. A sense of a problem being unique was even one of the things people would sometimes bring up as such a detail.

Based on this, its easy to see how people might not talk much about the painful or embarrassing things in their life, but its less obvious to carry that insight through to lowered estimates of one's own uniqueness and therefore a higher estimated value for finding usefully relevant literature.

One nice thing about "non-uniqueness" as a default assumption is that it trivially suggests a method of falsification for a problem: state your problem clearly, work out related keywords, and hit the library. If you don't find anything, then either you need to spend more skill points on library science, you have the wrong key words, or your problem is a genuine counter example and in that case it really would make more sense to deploy self-experimentation techniques instead of library skills.

Personally, having worked on and off according to the above theory for a while, the tricky part seems to be knowing the keywords to search for. On several occasions I've checked the library, found nothing, and only later learned that a literature existed but not where I was searching. Learning about new keywords is something I find LW to be really good for... its one of the concrete benefits I get out of the site. For example, before today, I'd never heard of "bibliotherapy" :-)

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-01-22T15:29:38.704Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In any case, one of the ways she motivated the advice was to notice that on several distinct occasions she initially thought she was a unique snowflake with an unusual problem and then she found out from a book that lots of people had faced the same problem and were able to articulate surprisingly specific details of the problem that she'd thought where unique to her own circumstances. A sense of a problem being unique was even one of the things people would sometimes bring up as such a detail.

There are 6 billion people in the world. If you're one in a million, there are 6,000 people just like you. ;)

comment by arundelo · 2011-01-22T17:59:56.932Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

6 billion

7 billion!

There are facts that basically never change (the diameter of Earth) and there are facts that change fairly fast (the U.S. GDP; the temperature). There are also facts that change slowly enough that we tend to remember the first value we memorized for them (human population). Those last two sentences are an attempted summary of an article or blog post that I once read but can no longer find. Does this ring a bell for anyone?

comment by saturn · 2011-01-23T19:52:37.575Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think this is the article you read.

comment by arundelo · 2011-01-24T05:16:50.255Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh hell yeah! My google-fu is pretty good, but I couldn't remember enough keywords to find that thing. Thanks!

satt also found mesofacts.org, a site founded by the author of the article I read and you found.

comment by satt · 2011-01-23T19:24:37.055Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mesofacts?

comment by arundelo · 2011-01-24T05:17:38.721Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes! The article I read was actually the one that saturn found, by Mesofacts.org's founder (also linked from the site you found). Thanks!

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T18:18:04.294Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. Its annoying if you base your habits around it. My grandmother had it cached how distance calls are super expensive. But in the last decade all land-line calls in Germany became either cheap, or flat feed. She would still cut them short.

Having the wrong number for the world population is probably not a problem.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-01-23T08:21:07.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

7 billion!

Indeed. Correction noted.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-22T19:04:17.994Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I completely agree that your knowledge can explode when you find the right keyword. Past examples for me include 'naturalism', 'formal epistemology', or 'distributed practice'.

comment by MartinB · 2011-01-22T15:35:22.390Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And then we get these beautiful collections with methods and books for all segments of a problem.

It is worth to keep in mind how having the same problem does not mean having the same causes. So it is worth to have a few approaches and ideas to try.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-20T22:02:29.483Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, excellent point.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-31T00:27:23.742Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Update: I added about 15 more direct PDF links to the original article.

comment by LauraABJ · 2011-01-23T05:06:58.204Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Self help usually fails because people are terrible at identifying what their actual problems are. Even when they are told! (Ahh, sweet, sweet denial.) As a regular member of the (increasingly successful) OB-NYC meetup, I have witnessed a great deal of 'rationalist therapy,' and frequently we end up talking about something completely different from what the person originally asked for therapy for (myself included). The outside view of other people (preferably rationalists) is required to move forward on the vast majority of problems. We should also not underestimate the importance of social support and social accountability in general as positive motivating factors. Another reason that self-help might fail is that the people reading these particular techniques are trying to help themselves by themselves. I really hope others from this site take the initiative in forming supportive groups, like the one we have running in NYC.

comment by curiousepic · 2011-01-24T15:04:09.092Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

frequently we end up talking about something completely different from what the person originally asked for therapy for (myself included)

Is this because you performed some sort of "root cause analysis", or simply where the conversation strayed?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-21T00:53:07.604Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given that The 4-Hour Work Week can be boiled down to more or less:

Productivity

Unfortunately, there have been fewer experimental studies on effective productivity and time management methods than there have been on effective study methods. For an overview of scientific opinion on productivity, I recommend pages 121-126 of Psychology Applied to Modern Life. According to those pages, common advice from professionals includes:

  1. Doing the right tasks is more important than doing your tasks efficiently. In fact, too much concern for efficiency is a leading cause of procrastination. Say "no" more often, and use your time for tasks that really matter.
  2. Delegate responsibility as often as possible. Throw away unimportant tasks and items.
  3. Keep a record of your time use. (Quantified Self can help.)
  4. Write down your goals. Break them down into smaller goals, and break these into manageable tasks. Schedule these tasks into your calendar.
  5. Process notes and emails only once. Tackle one task at a time, and group similar tasks together.
  6. Make use of your downtime (plane rides, bus rides, doctor's office waitings). > These days, many of your tasks can be completed on your smartphone.

Combined with some awareness of:

Happiness

Factors that don't correlate much with happiness include: age,3 gender,4 parenthood,5 intelligence,6 physical attractiveness,7 and money8 (as long as you're above the poverty line). Factors that correlate moderately with happiness include: health,9 social activity,10 and religiosity.11 Factors that correlate strongly with happiness include: genetics,12 love and relationship satisfaction,13 and work satisfaction.14

... it is probably worth throwing Tim Ferris's book in there somewhere too.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-21T00:56:05.498Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Back in 2007, I was pretty critical of Tim's book. But I don't know whether I would agree with lukeprog2007 if I read that book again today.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-21T00:59:02.314Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The similarity of Tim's conclusions to yours can not be ignored.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-21T03:07:05.449Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found it amusing that your blog advertises at the top:

lukeprog.com: where every page is easy to read

... then includes a menu on every page that is coloured to be very nearly impossible to read. Was this a deliberate irony (to contrast with the simplicity of the text) or just a terrible graphical design choice? :)

The colours look good when the text is white by the way.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-21T05:15:07.550Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah. I really should just delete that whole site. It hasn't been updated, nor its CSS fixed, for years. But people keep contacting me about it, not realizing it's way out of date, which is of course my own fault.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-01-21T10:44:08.149Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are no dates, so there's no way for anyone to know how old it is. You have your reasons for not organising it as a blog, but one advantage of the blog format is that every entry automatically gets timestamped.

comment by gwern · 2011-01-21T03:02:27.606Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your link to WP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ferriss#Reviews) is now broken.

comment by ata · 2011-01-20T21:08:46.500Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A thought I've had about choosing self-help books:

Judging a self-help book by its average rating or reviews on sites like Amazon will probably be misleading. I'd suspect that they are frequently skewed toward higher ratings because of a reviewer self-selection bias: the sorts of people who need self-help books are often the people who will blame themselves for failing to benefit from a book, but will give the book credit (and glowing reviews) if they do get any benefit, which is often chance and/or temporary.

(If PJ Eby's hypothesis of "naturally struggling"/"naturally motivated" mindsets is correct, then those would be the naturally struggling people, while the naturally motivated people can benefit to some degree from almost any self-help book, which may contribute further to them getting more praise than they've earned.)

comment by pjeby · 2011-01-21T16:07:03.412Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(If PJ Eby's hypothesis of "naturally struggling"/"naturally motivated" mindsets is correct,

See Dweck's research on growth vs. fixed mindsets, and Seligman on optimism vs. pessimism. There are definitely some dichotomies of this sort out there in reality, and in the better self-help literature ("better" as measured by, "I got better results from it") tend to group personality characteristics in similar ways: generally speaking, nobody confuses success characteristics and failure ones.

then those would be the naturally struggling people, while the naturally motivated people can benefit to some degree from almost any self-help book, which may contribute further to them getting more praise than they've earned.)

Naturally motivated people are actually more likely to write a positive review, but yes, people who are struggling can definitely get into a religious zeal about books that they have only read, but not applied. I used to do this myself all the time, and I frequently see it in the emails I get about my own writing.

It seems that this is just the response to feeling validated, justified, and to some extent forgiven for one's past misdeeds: the new book or tape or whatever has presented you with new information that you didn't have before... therefore, you couldn't possibly have been expected to achieve anything, and it's not your fault. What's more, you now have hope for the future as well, and that feels good.

What I'm actually wondering about is whether there's a way to harness this response for good. Like, if I could offer a program where you only get new stuff once you've actually learned some of the old stuff. Mechanically, that's not difficult to accomplish, but developing and sequencing the material is another thing altogether. (Really, sequencing is one of my biggest challenges these days.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-01-21T06:20:43.997Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I check amazon reviews for whether the reviewer says they actually got any useful changes from the book. This is very rare compared to people who recommend self-help books for other reasons like being pleasant to read.

comment by sfb · 2011-01-21T22:43:08.459Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Has that check helped you?

Whether someone learns advanced piano from a book must be at least as much down to whether they know intermediate piano up to the level the book starts at, as to whether the book is a good guide to advanced piano.

But those divisions of ability and knowledge are even less agreed on in self-help, so matching up where you "are" with a book is less easy, and whether someone else matched with any given book might not be of any real help at all.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-01-22T00:03:03.547Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This does raise the rather embarrassing question of how many of my self-help books I've actually gotten some good out of, and it's something I need to evaluate.

However, the review filter I'm using isn't exactly for identifying which books to look into. It's for eliminating otherwise promising books unless they look very good, and I'm not sure that I've bought any books that no one has reported good results from.

comment by timtyler · 2011-01-20T21:01:07.091Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My first thought was: what no Quantified Self?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-20T21:05:32.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. Added.

comment by Metus · 2011-01-23T21:55:39.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you maybe give an introduction to all those utilities at Quantified Self? Or maybe a dedicated post about them?

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-01-26T02:52:22.071Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the "59 seconds" recommendation. A first-chapter writing exercise has already given me quite a thrill (although I'm not writing only to myself, but also copying a trusted friend). It's refreshingly concise so far.

Disclaimer: I'm moderately disposed toward receiving placebo benefits (though certainly aware of it).

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-31T00:28:36.889Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Glad you like it!

comment by MBlume · 2011-01-28T22:55:57.467Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Factors that don't correlate much with happiness include: [...] physical attractiveness, inteligence, [...] Factors that correlate strongly with happiness include: [...] love and relationship satisfaction, and work satisfaction.

blinks I would have expected physical attractiveness and intelligence to hugely impact love/relationship satisfaction and work satisfaction, respectively, and from there to happiness -- do the first links not seem to exist?

ETA: Or do they simply mean "holding these other things that correlate more closely with happiness fixed, intelligence and attractiveness don't seem to correlate with happiness," because that I'd buy, but that does not imply, as the original seems to, that attractiveness and intelligence are not good intervention points for increasing happiness.

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2011-01-29T00:18:52.471Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I took a course in positive psychology, and this was a significant line of discussion; the links you expect, surprising as they are to almost everyone, do not seem to exist.

Regarding relationships, people of higher perceived value (more beautiful, wealthy, intelligent) are more likely to perceive their significant others as less than equal in these regards, and more often feel like they could do better. Wealthy/beautiful pairs are reasonably common, and in these pairs it is not unusual for both parties to feel like they could do better.

Regarding work satisfaction, intelligence does correlate with performance, and performance with satisfaction, but both are limited correlations, and not necessarily positive. In particular, above an IQ of (IIRC) 115, the correlation plateaus, and eventually becomes negative (locally; IQ 155 is still positively correlated with performance compared to IQ 100, but not compared to IQ 115). These studies have an unfortunate habit of using linear regressions, but the overall picture is that an IQ of about 115 is ideal for happiness, and movement in either direction tends to decrease happiness.

ETA: These are rationales created after the fact to explain various research findings, and to my knowledge, while widely accepted as the causes and individually true, haven't been shown to be the actual cause of the lack of correlations.

ETA2: My hypothesis about IQ versus happiness is that 1 standard deviation above the mean, people are happy that they are smarter than most other people; much more than that, and they start to feel alienated, because they no longer think like other people. I think this is related to The Level Above Mine. If this hypothesis is true, people with an IQ of 130 should be the happiest when raised and kept in a group of people with a mean IQ of 115 and a normal standard deviation.

Edit to remove: "I do not expect this to hold for very high IQ's, since we also know that above 145 IQ starts to be highly correlated with mental disease and personality disorders." See comment below.

comment by Perplexed · 2011-01-29T00:57:50.911Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

we also know that above 145 IQ starts to be highly correlated with mental disease and personality disorders.

Do you have a citation for that? I tried Googling, but the results of that search strongly suggest that the claimed correlation is a myth (an urban legend?).

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2011-01-29T01:14:55.867Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good catch. Apparently "IQ ∝mental illness" is a thought I need to uncache. I just scanned the abstracts of a dozen or so highly-cited papers on the subjects, and it seems that while not overwhelming, the evidence weakly supports a negative correlation wtih mental illness.

I also just came up with a list of the 20 most intelligent people I can think of, living or dead (mostly dead). Not a majority, but a very disproportionate majority of that list suffered serious mental illnesses. Perhaps there is a correlation for very high IQ (almost impossible to statistically measure), or more likely, there is a confounding variable (fame, perhaps?).

comment by gwern · 2011-01-29T02:55:03.598Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's one possible link: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/10.23/01-creativity.html

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2011-01-30T16:24:25.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found that along with the papers I was reading, and there were a few papers that supported such conclusions, but the majority do not, and I saw no reason to prefer the papers supporting the conclusion I was expecting to the larger number that did not, so I still consider the issue unresolved, leaning slightly toward "IQ ∝ mental health".

comment by [deleted] · 2011-01-26T16:59:12.338Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

lukeprog, thanks so much for this post. Last week I made the decision to actually read a self-help book or two on productivity, and on scholarship. I realized that I wasn't sure where to start, and how much sifting I would have to do - a discouraging thought. Then I got home and scanned the usual blogs, and on LW this was the newest post. Serendipity!

comment by SRStarin · 2011-01-24T02:40:07.141Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Such a fantastic piece!

But this is really wrong: "# Make use of your downtime (plane rides, bus rides, doctor's office waitings). These days, many of your tasks can be completed on your smartphone."

No, downtime is your chance to be a human being, interacting with other humans. On the plane? Watch a movie. Talk to your neighbor, if they appear to want that. It totally gets you into the frame of mind necessary to interface with whomever* you're traveling to meet with. It also relaxes you. Do not do any work on a plane if you can avoid it. You will be unexpectedly productive for it. I have tried working on a plane, and I get little done, but felt upset at myself for the failure. Now, I play games, watch movies, and think a little about what meetings are coming. I find myself so much more ready for them.

*I am an introvert, but not a strong one.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-01-24T02:49:55.324Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe that this works for you, but it sounds idiosyncratic in the extreme. Language like "be a human being" is unnecessarily judgmental towards people who do not share your preferences/dispositions/idiosyncrasies. I'm human when I have my laptop on and six windows of tasks open, too.

comment by SRStarin · 2011-01-24T23:27:55.193Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair enough, and I apologize for the seeming judging. I'm actually fairly non-judgmental, and yet for some reason often find myself embarrassed at others thinking I'm judging them, when I'm talking about myself. So, mea culpa - I did say that was "wrong," when what I meant was that it was very wrong for me. If advice is wrong for me, I tend to think of it as wrong in the general, logical sense. (Claim: All A should do B. Fact: This member of A should not do B. Conclusion: NOT(All A should do B) )

But, I do think that there is the potential to lose a lot of chances for personal growth if we merely immerse ourselves in our online-lives when surrounded physically by others. For example, I did jury duty today (I wasn't selected), and I was impressed by how the waiting room of 400+ strangers got along so well together, often laughing together at the ups and downs of the day. Airplanes and movie theaters can be like that, too. When people spontaneously interact with and appreciate one another, and I'm part of that, it makes me feel very good about being a live human being.

So, back to my idiosyncracies in the presence of strangers: Your use of that word appears to be a claim that the vast majority of people do not behave or think like I do, but in my experience, quite a lot of people on buses, planes, in jury duty, etc., behave quite a lot like I do. If they didn't, I would have fewer interesting conversations on planes, fewer laughs with strangers, fewer experiences where I go in dreading being in a large crowd of strangers and come out feeling really gosh darn good about being alive.

So, I guess I cop to everything you say except that I'm idiosyncratic in my behavior.

Though if you say I am idiosyncratic in my verbosity, I'd have to give you that one, too.

comment by kotrfa · 2015-11-13T17:46:53.866Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hello. Is it possible for the author to review this and possibly update it? It has been already 4 years. I wonder, if something changed.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-25T09:49:02.345Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just ordered a copy of Psychology Applied to Modern Life on amazon.co.uk for £3.23 (plus £4.02 shipping).

Gotta love this phenomenon, at least when the product of the multipliers is less than 1. :-)

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-30T02:25:39.720Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The comments here suggest that "PUA for Rationalists" would be a popular and controversial post...

comment by BenPS · 2011-01-28T08:02:56.276Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There really isn’t very much directly done on procrastination

Hmmm.

comment by Nikki_Olson · 2011-01-21T22:50:56.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"As Christopher Buckley (1999) writes, "The more people read [self-help books], the more they think they need them... [it's] more like an addiction than an alliance.""

'Addiction' strikes me as the wrong way of characterizing the relation.

comment by gwern · 2011-01-22T00:13:12.696Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something that increases the need for itself sounds like an addiction to me. Or do you disagree that self-help books increase the desire to use self-help books?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-01-22T23:57:32.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something that increases the need for itself sounds like an addiction to me.

Assuming it comes along with near irresistible compulsion or physical withdrawal symptoms.

comment by Nikki_Olson · 2011-01-22T07:54:04.690Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is 'increasing the need for itself' when it comes to self-help books? I don't know what that means. Buying more and more? How do you isolate variables enough in experimental design to separate out 'addiction' from 'increasing interest' in this case?

And what is the source of pleasure in self-help? The narcissism? The feeling of being less lost? How do you measure 'feelings of being less lost' as a variable and isolate it as an effect of the books and not from other processes that go on when someone is at a contemplative/reflective point in life?

And besides, getting into a 'way of looking at the world' and then reading more and more about it in attempt to try and get the 'right view' or the 'best view' is a process that could be said to describe other acts more benignly associated with 'trying to figure things out'. Seems to me that 'dependency' is not an entailed/always present feature of the above process.

comment by gwern · 2011-01-22T14:15:49.321Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And what is the source of pleasure in self-help? The narcissism? The feeling of being less lost?

Fake utility, perhaps - the illusion of progress. Like someone playing World of Warcraft who feels, deep down, that they are accomplishing something more than in their real life and as their real life degenerates in part due to WoW, feels ever more like playing WoW is a good idea.

comment by Flextechmgmt · 2015-03-28T00:54:02.036Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Speaking from a similar point of view here, I MUST say that this is an incredibly well-documented essay. Well done!

comment by Elo · 2014-04-17T22:50:19.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Factors that don't correlate much with happiness include: age,3 gender,4 parenthood,5 intelligence,6 physical >attractiveness,7 and money8 (as long as you're above the poverty line). Factors that correlate moderately with happiness >include: health,9 social activity,10 and religiosity.11 Factors that correlate strongly with happiness include: genetics,12 >love >and relationship satisfaction,13 and work satisfaction.14

Factors not within a human's control: age, gender, intelligence, money. genetics.

Factors that are within a human's control: parenthood, health, social activity, religiosity relationship satisfaction, work satisfaction.

factors that are sort of within human control: Parenthood Physical attractiveness Love

By this thinking - a lot of what creates happiness is within our control (or probable control).

comment by brazil84 · 2013-10-23T09:21:52.429Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's a thought experiment:

Suppose somebody actually figures out an excellent way to help oneself, e.g. to stop smoking; lose weight; be more productive; etc. And suppose they wrote a book which presented their strategy in a clear coherent way.

One can ask if the book would actually help anyone. Or to put the question another way, would people benefit from reading the book?

I'm pretty confident that the answer is "generally speaking, no." There seems to be a meta-self-help problem, which is that people are very resistant to that kind of learning.

I would hypothesize that that there are different aspects to one's personality. Among other things, we all have a "Mr. Fat Slob" who is perfectly happy to smoke cigarettes and stuff his face and procrastinate and doesn't care about the consequences. We also have a "Mr. Know-It-All" who doesn't want to do anything which might be an admission that he's been screwing up or that he doesn't know what he's doing. Since those aspects of the personality have a big influence over our thoughts and actions, it's very difficult to benefit from a self-help book. Much of the human brain doesn't actually want to change since it might interrupt the flow of nachos. And much of the brain doesn't want to change because that would mean that it had made a mistake.

Of course if you solve the meta-self-help problem, then you arguably don't need self-help books in the first place.

comment by abcd_z · 2011-06-26T01:48:04.043Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure if this is particularly relevant or not, but I would like to recommend the book "Self-Directed Behavior" by David L. Watson and Roland G. Tharp . The amazon.com review puts it better than I could:

This delightful book on self-control is a largely undiscovered jewel. I have read over thirty books on life coaching and not one of those books mentions this lovely volume. Given that Watson & Tharp put forward a research based program of self-modification and given that life coaching is generally lacking it is presentation of supporting evidence, this oversight needs to be corrected. As behavioral learning theorists, Watson & Tharp address multiple skills that are needed to successfully change your own behavior. They look at how to measure your behavior; they examine how to set goals and subgoals; they stress the importance of overlearning, of being specific, and of looking at antecedents and consequents of behavior. Their discussion of shaping behavior is critical to coaching -- new behavior is best learned through small steps that become habitual and progressively approach the final behavior you seek. They constructively apply the idea of self-reinforcement. Taken as a whole, their model is specific, and their advice for how to go about changing your behavior is practical. Their research confirms that their approach works. The authors see human capacity as primarily open ended, but not in some vague, wishful thinking way. They see the development of self-control as a life long practice dependent on the learning of particular skills. Great book, I can't recommend it too much.

comment by Dorikka · 2011-01-20T21:13:51.927Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Handle papers and emails only once. Tackle one task at a time, and group similar tasks together.

(emphasis mine)

I find this surprising, since what I've heard regarding writing papers suggests that it's better to spin out a draft and then review it later (more times for longer/more important papers.) Could you elaborate on this?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-01-20T21:17:45.452Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the intended reading here is not academic papers, but paperwork -- bills, forms, letters, etc. Pick it up, do what you gotta do, put it where it goes, and never look at it again.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-01-20T21:27:00.392Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

TheOtherDave is correct. I've updated my wording; hopefully it's more clear now.

comment by Dorikka · 2011-01-20T23:24:56.902Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks.

comment by aceofspades · 2012-11-11T00:53:49.038Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If this is article is actually correct, representative, etc. then the only thing it says to me is that the entire field of self-help is completely worthless, so I am going to actually operate under that assumption and just do what I want.

comment by limyreth · 2011-08-27T23:57:34.925Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)No longer endorsed
comment by ugquestions · 2011-01-26T12:18:33.333Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The problem with self help is that most people don't know what they really want. If they did then maybe self help books might work.