Instrumental vs. Epistemic -- A Bardic Perspective

post by MBlume · 2009-04-25T07:41:41.482Z · score: 67 (69 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 188 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

188 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by JamesAndrix · 2009-04-25T16:41:34.071Z · score: 41 (41 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-25T17:01:18.647Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-04-26T20:00:50.529Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-02T18:02:45.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T17:05:40.630Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Scottbert · 2012-06-20T17:19:02.543Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did a post ever get made of this?

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

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

comment by VAuroch · 2014-01-20T07:27:27.846Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by smoofra · 2009-04-26T19:37:44.932Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

seconded

comment by TheAtomicMoose · 2009-08-11T06:28:45.141Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T15:50:59.489Z · score: 23 (27 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Excellent post.

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

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

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T20:20:26.504Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T15:57:56.265Z · score: 19 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T16:52:49.254Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T18:34:18.703Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by divia · 2009-04-29T06:11:40.360Z · score: 39 (41 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by steven0461 · 2009-04-29T15:43:09.367Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To provide yet another different male perspective:

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

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

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

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

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-29T18:53:07.316Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by steven0461 · 2009-04-29T19:50:11.779Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-29T20:36:59.682Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by badger · 2009-04-29T06:26:21.330Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by divia · 2009-04-29T06:52:41.328Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by patrissimo · 2010-09-29T15:04:33.627Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You want this blog: http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/

comment by jkaufman · 2011-09-03T00:53:53.136Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by lukeprog · 2011-04-30T13:27:11.472Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-04-25T22:42:53.200Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T20:32:32.409Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T20:41:21.607Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2009-04-26T16:01:05.531Z · score: 36 (38 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by johnlawrenceaspden · 2012-06-28T15:37:52.817Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-06-28T16:04:15.373Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know of any guides. My own strategies for working with introverts include:

  • Explicitly create a space for them to express their ideas, without obliging them to do so. E.g., ask open-ended questions in a diffuse way, rather than either putting them on the spot to express a position on a topic of my choice or counting on them to grab the floor when they have something they want to say
  • Explicitly pick up on the stuff they say, refer back to it often as I respond to it. (This is also helpful with extroverts, but for different reasons, and not nearly as necessary.)
  • Allow myself to be comfortable with silence... don't feel obligated to fill it.
  • Find tasks we can both concentrate on together, rather than concentrating exclusively on one another. (This is also helpful with extroverts, but for different reasons, and not nearly as necessary.)
comment by wedrifid · 2012-06-28T17:47:39.906Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Explicitly pick up on the stuff they say, refer back to it often as I respond to it. (This is also helpful with extroverts, but for different reasons, and not nearly as necessary.)

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-06-28T17:55:53.448Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Vaniver · 2012-06-28T17:40:16.672Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Allow myself to be comfortable with silence... don't feel obligated to fill it.

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-06-28T17:59:18.969Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by byrnema · 2009-04-26T16:44:39.176Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by komponisto · 2009-04-29T00:31:26.944Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

Sorry to be off-topic, but:

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

comment by TheAtomicMoose · 2009-08-11T06:50:34.023Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Private Investigator? :-O

comment by private_messaging · 2012-06-28T20:24:40.068Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T21:11:11.706Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T21:32:24.498Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T22:09:26.029Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T22:15:52.375Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Z_M_Davis · 2009-04-25T22:55:05.318Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

You are not alone!

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T22:43:26.026Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:04:01.485Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I were your wife, then what I'd want you to do would be to remark at some point while trying to bring me out of a funk, "This wouldn't have been my first instinct, but it really seems to make you feel better," or something along those lines. Then, assuming that in this parallel universe I retain my trait of honesty, I could determine whether it makes me feel better by a wide enough margin to be worth the cost and communicate that information.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T00:09:49.934Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I were your wife, then what I'd want you to do would be to remark at some point while trying to bring me out of a funk, "This wouldn't have been my first instinct, but it really seems to make you feel better,"

My wife prefers I make the appearance into a reality, and is willing to overlook the time in between where I'm still working on making it such. Like me, she prefers an improved relationship to truth-at-all-costs.

Don't get me wrong -- we went through many years of doing it your way, which also used to be my way.

And it really, really sucked.

I had argued for doing things that way, because in one of my first relationships, I was hit with a bombshell when my newly-ex told me that she'd had sex with me because she wanted me to like her, not because she wanted to.

At that point, I went all radical honesty in my relationships, because I never wanted to be responsible for someone else doing something they didn't like or want, just for my approval. And it made a mess of several years of my relationship with my wife, because we were both unhappy and unsatisfied, because I insisted that we be "honest" in this fashion.

Fortunately, we eventually came to our senses and decided to do something about it. Granted, it's only in recent years that we've had the technology that's allowed us both to start making the necessary changes in ourselves, not only so that we don't have to pretend, but also so that we don't care any more if the other person is "just doing that to make me happy".

Because, as it turns out, doing something to make someone else happy is actually a good thing, as long as the person is happy to be doing it. If I'm happy that she's happy, then she's happy I'm shopping with her. 'Nuff said.

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-25T22:21:13.738Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T22:23:26.029Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm afraid that's going to be a selling point of any movement that's marketing itself to men, irrespective of whether it's actually true.

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-25T22:32:21.596Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's an old Dave Barry column I'm trying to find which claimed that if you wanted to advertise to men, you must either show that your product will get them dates with bikini models, or that your product will save them time and money, which they will need, in order to date bikini models. He went on to say that given that the female mind is so much more complicated and nuanced than the male mind, you must convey a much more subtle message in order to advertise to women: you must tell them that, if they buy your product, they will be bikini models.

comment by CronoDAS · 2009-07-20T02:27:32.360Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I saw that one in The Dilbert Principle. I don't know where Scott Adams got it from, though.

comment by MBlume · 2009-07-20T02:35:40.944Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

actually I think you're completely right.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T22:32:52.450Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This approach conflates honesty with tactlessness.

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-26T07:32:40.519Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you're being a little disingenuous... You say you really hate being lied to and you really want the kind of honesty where your husband would not lie to you about enjoying shopping but you also say that too much honesty is tactlessness. It almost sounds like you want complete honesty but only as long as it doesn't offend.

People tell white lies all the time. They generally do it because they are being 'tactful' - they would rather mislead than offend. There's nothing wrong with that, white lies are a social lubricant. A preference for honesty is fine, even admirable, but if you believe you have a way of being always honest without ever being tactless then I'd love to know it.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-26T14:39:11.091Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I consider tact to be about what topics one brings up and in certain decisions about how to phrase a truth. If you're talking about X, you can say all and only true things about X without being unnecessarily rude. If you're not already talking about X (or doing something that implicitly makes X the topic), and it's not something that's polite to bring up, there is no need to express truths about it; that isn't dishonesty, that's being appropriately topical.

If I were under a mistaken impression about a significant other's enjoyment of shopping (not that this would be likely to come up, since I don't care for shopping myself), that would be to no one's benefit. in a distant possible world where I go out and buy things recreationally, I would prefer to do so with people who actually share that interest and trust me enough to believe me when I say I want honesty. I am not a friendless loner; people who are friendless loners probably should look into that before they start hunting for romantic relationships anyway. If my significant other lied to me and said (s)he liked shopping, I'd take him/her along and be missing out on an opportunity to go shopping with someone who genuinely liked it instead.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-04-27T23:26:55.500Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by Cyan · 2009-04-25T21:52:06.022Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T21:54:23.994Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by gwern · 2009-04-25T23:57:11.726Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Cyan · 2009-04-26T20:43:22.442Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, Gwern. I would add only that the thesis highlights that although prestige in the seduction community depends on having good game, this isn't the only or even the main thing men get from membership.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-26T21:57:33.689Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a man's prestige in the seduction community depends on his reports of how many women he has seduced, then, in the absence of non-gameable standards of observational evidence, this potentially invalidates everything they have ever concluded about anything.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T22:12:52.751Z · score: 12 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a man's prestige in the seduction community depends on his reports of how many women he has seduced, then, in the absence of non-gameable standards of observational evidence, this potentially invalidates everything they have ever concluded about anything.

As I understand it, gurus usually compete in the field, with students watching. It's not how many you did pick up in the past, it's how many can you pick up today, with what degree of elegance/speed, and with how "hot" of girls, as judged by the watching students. Such a rating method may not be objective, and lead to debates over who "won" a showdown, but it keeps them from devolving into complete non-usefulness.

By the way, in-field trainers and coaches are routinely expected to demonstrate for their students in the field, usually when, like Luke with Yoda, the student says that, "but that's impossible!" (Trainers sometimes remark that this is the most pressure-filled part of their job, not because they need validation from the woman or fear rejection, but because they'll be embarrassed in front of several students if they can't show some kind of positive result on cue.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-27T07:02:49.919Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I understand it, gurus usually compete in the field, with students watching...

Okay. That works.

comment by Cyan · 2009-04-26T22:34:17.752Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I understand it, gurus usually compete in the field, with students watching. It's not how many you did pick up in the past, it's how many can you pick up today, with what degree of elegance/speed, and with how "hot" of girls, as judged by the watching students.

Well, yes and no -- not every PUA is a guru. Go on the forums and you'll see tons of pick-up stories. I'm not a PUA so I have no first-hand knowledge, but I think talking a good game gets eyes and respect.

comment by outlawpoet · 2009-04-26T22:21:12.916Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Doesn't that make the problem worse, though?

If the feedback is esteem of students in the field, then you're rewarding the mentor who picks his battles carefully, who can sell what happened on any encounter in a positive and understandable light. The honest mentors and 'researchers' who approach a varied population, analyze their performance without upselling, and accrete performance over time(as you'd expect with a real, generic skill) will lose out.

comment by gwern · 2009-04-26T23:25:42.400Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the feedback is esteem of students in the field, then you're rewarding the mentor who picks his battles carefully, who can sell what happened on any encounter in a positive and understandable light.

If I may: based on my minimal reading of PUA blogs & essays, I get the impression that picking battles carefully, & spinning losses, is exactly what is valuable about the techniques.

Consider the previously mentioned thesis: the author's brother was not interested in a goal like 'increasing, over the population of all females, the success of an approach' or 'learning how to pick up any girl', but rather something like 'how to get a reasonably attractive girl, period'. If the seduction techniques worked on only one girl in an entire bar (but infallibly), that'd be fine by them.

(I was particularly struck by one PUA who spent at least 2000 words discussing how to differentiate women who might sleep with him that night from 'princesses' who would require many dates and gifts before even considering sex.)

comment by elityre · 2019-10-14T20:52:05.439Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

> (I was particularly struck by one PUA who spent at least 2000 words discussing how to differentiate women who might sleep with him that night from 'princesses' who would require many dates and gifts before even considering sex.)

Do you still have a link?

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T23:50:41.582Z · score: 2 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consider the previously mentioned thesis: the author's brother was not interested in a goal like 'increasing, over the population of all females, the success of an approach' or 'learning how to pick up any girl', but rather something like 'how to get a reasonably attractive girl, period'.

Exactly, which is why talking about statistical models in this context is "academic", in the sense of "interesting to academics, but not particularly relevant to practitioners". Statistical models from experimental research can certainly inform practical approaches, but sometimes, one has to be "sorry for the Good Lord" in reverse: the theory may be utterly, totally, wrong, and yet still work.

If you want your rationality to protect something, let it protect results rather than "truth".

If the seduction techniques worked on only one girl in an entire bar (but infallibly), that'd be fine by them.

Well, as long as it was a girl they were interested in! ;-)

But by the same token, the reader of a self-help book is only interested in whether a technique fixes their problem, not a problem or all problems. The bigger picture of truth and generalizability is -- rightly and rationally -- not their concern.

comment by Cyan · 2009-04-27T00:30:05.202Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you want your rationality to protect something, let it protect results rather than "truth".

Yuck. Furthermore, yuck.

Don't get me wrong -- results are very important. But getting the model right is the only way to guarantee results. Get the model wrong, and one day you might to do the equivalent of filling your car's gas tank with acetone.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-27T08:06:29.857Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

'princesses'

barfs

comment by gwern · 2009-05-01T19:36:04.653Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

His term, not mine. Disgusting as it may be, it conveys his point with exceptional clarity.

comment by Cyan · 2009-04-26T22:31:08.910Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That would be the case if the students were buying just the experience of watching the guru. The students expect rather more than that.

comment by TheyHateTheGame · 2009-04-28T21:26:33.370Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I run the website www.theyhatethegame.com - which has been mentioned in this post a few times.

I used to be shy, insecure, lonely and without any girls in my life. After a low point a few years ago, I began reading books on self help, female psychology, evolutionary sexuality and relationship management.

All of this information did NOT turn me into a social robot designed to manipulate people. It DID give me a feeling of safety because I learned that we all share the same human condition - we are all born, we all die, and we are all molded by life in-between. This idea helped to cure my shyness and insecurity because I realized everyone else was just like me.

That feeling prompted a series of extreme social experiments over a period of three months where I determined - through trial and error - how to present myself in a way that provided others with the most pleasurable social experience. I found that by being the sort of person others liked, it would enrich their lives and provide my life with deep relationships that I so badly wanted.

They Hate The Game exists to give men the same tools that I wish I had when I was beating my shyness and insecurity and starting to have lots of fun with girls.

Some of you may view what I do as social manipulation (I accept that you have probably spent more time in libraries reading books on how to determine what is social manipulation and what isnt, so I'll let you be the judge of that.) but what helps me sleep good at night is knowing that my life is changed - and I have fulfilling relationships with women.

comment by Nominull · 2009-04-25T21:09:48.281Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I appreciate your honesty.

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T21:21:52.378Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Nominull · 2009-04-25T21:35:23.005Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T21:42:10.972Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-26T07:57:32.844Z · score: 14 (22 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-26T14:33:12.258Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any girl within about 2 standard deviations of the mean of physical attractiveness will have been approached on numerous occasions by men who will introduce themselves and suggest further meetings.

False. False false false.

This applies only to women with a certain social attitude who frequent certain social situations. (I'm bi, and therefore qualified to judge whether the women I've met fall into the physical attractiveness range you specify.)

Look, I have some sympathy. There are some lingering cultural norms and an average sex drive to each gender that probably make things very difficult for heterosexual men to scratch their itches, for free, with women "within about 2 standard deviations", without resorting to either rape or the art of pickup. But you know what? Lots of people have desires they can't satisfy ethically. This isn't just the plight of straight men. It's the plight of physically unattractive or shy or cautious women; it's the plight of gay people in small towns; it's the plight of pedophiles and zoophiles and other people with unconscionable fetishes.

I have some sympathy, but I'm not going to ethically greenlight dishonesty so you can get what you want by exploiting the poor judgment of other members of my gender. I'm just not.

Incidentally, have you heard of the whole thing where "nice guys" are in love with their female friends and pine for them in long laments that they post on the Internet? It happens to girls, too. It is not the case that no one ever falls for a guy based on his personality. It's not even the case that no one ever falls for a basically average guy based on his personality. The difference is she probably doesn't say anything, and she might be a little farther south of the "mean of physical attractiveness" than the more shallow type of guy prefers.

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-26T20:20:07.919Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

False. False false false.

It may have been a slight exaggeration to say that any girl within 2 sd of the mean will be approached but would you accept that overall women are much more likely to be approached by men than the other way around? I would think that's a fairly uncontroversial claim. I can't provide direct evidence for that if you doubt it but there is supporting evidence from studies of online dating. That paper found that the median number of first contacts for men was 0, the mean 2.3 and fully 56% of men received no first contacts. The figures for women were a median of 4, a mean of 11.4 and only 21% of women received no first contacts. My guess would be that real world first approaches are more heavily skewed than that because of the greater pressure of social convention in public situations that men should be the approachers.

Anyway, it would seem your main concern is the ethics of pick up. Specifically it seems to be dishonesty that concerns you. That brings us back to the original discussion of whether your image of the seduction community reflects reality. I think you've picked up on the most unethical/dishonest aspects and letting that blind you to the range of other approaches that fall under the general umbrella.

Dishonesty is not a requirement of pick up. Some people might advocate it but others will strongly advise against it. Neither is it the case that the main goal of pick up is a one night stand by whatever means necessary. Again, there are elements of the community that see that as the primary goal but they are probably in the minority. It's mostly about finding things that work to improve the chances of a positive interaction with women. It's up to the individual to decide whether any given technique is something they are ethically comfortable with and act accordingly.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-26T22:21:33.373Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have to say, I went Googling for PUA next to words like "honesty" and "feminism" in the hope of finding a PUA community that was loud about ethical principles, and what I found was more exactly the opposite. What I read makes me want to press the work of sex-positive feminists like Susie Bright, Pat Califia, Carol Queen, Avedon Carol, or Greta Christina into the hands of everyone in the PUA community.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T23:09:44.186Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have to say, I went Googling for PUA next to words like "honesty" and "feminism" in the hope of finding a PUA community that was loud about ethical principles, and what I found was more exactly the opposite.

In PUA lingo, the term for "honesty" is "direct game": From a page by one Vin DiCarlo:

DIRECT GAME

I. Who can use direct game? Why use direct game? Direct game is a game based on value and self respect. It is based on honesty and disregard for societal constructs. It is completely absent of any takeaways intended to manipulate interest, direct invalidation, and disrespect. I would suggest that direct game can be used by anyone ESPECIALLY newbie's because of it's simplicity, efficiency and congruence with the newbie's intentions. People also like direct game because it allows them to persist confidently without pretending to be hard-to-get.

In contrast, "indirect game" is the term for approaching someone without letting them know that you're attracted to them, and the bulk of "material"-oriented schools focus on it, whereas "natural game" or "inner game" schools are more likely to also be "direct".

The reason you don't see much mention of honesty in relation to PUA, is because direct schools treat it as flat-out obvious, and indirect schools treat it as irrelevant, except where they're making excuses for why an opening line like, "Did you see that fight outside?" isn't "really" a lie.

I believe Soporno is the only trainer who makes sex-positive feminism a focal point in his work, although I don't think he ever uses the word explicitly. Nonetheless, there are many natural game schools, although the google results for "natural game" are dominated by spam at the moment. TheApproach, CharismaArts, and UltimateNaturalGame are a few of the schools that are strongly or excusively "natural" in bent, and some, like Real Social Dynamics have a mixed bag of training, moving increasingly towards emphasis on natural/direct game and away from material except for overall logistics.

Viewed as an outsider, I'd say that the trend among established training companies is increasingly towards natural and direct game, away from indirect/material. In part, this is a response to the fact that "canned material" gets played out through overexposure, but also just because as the trainers get older and more experienced, they tend to get more mature outlooks on life. (A lot of these guys start really young!)

(The main reason I even follow the field these days is because competition in the increased emphasis on "inner" game aspects means that the PUGs are driven to innovate in the area of training people to believe in themselves and act confidently... which of course crosses over into my own area a bit. Back when the industry consisted mainly of Ross Jeffries, David D., and Mystery, there was really little of interest for me.)

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-26T22:40:14.529Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's probably fair to say that the community is primarily 'results driven' - you won't find a tremendous amount of normative ethics there. The most common ethical principle (if you can call it that) would be the idea that the ultimate goal is self improvement (inner game) - become the kind of person who is attractive without needing to rely on any kind of 'tricks' or dishonesty.

If the sex-positive feminists you mention had advice that would actually produce positive results I imagine it would find a positive reception. I followed a link here to Greta Christina's blog and didn't find anything very enlightening there in the time I looked around it but if you have specific links to material you think is representative of the ideas you would like to spread please share them. My impression is that sex-positive feminists represent a very small percentage of women and so their views are not likely to be helpful in understanding how to relate better to most women. I am open to being persuaded otherwise though.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-04-26T14:48:25.022Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Over the course of human history, about twice as many women as men have been able to reproduce at all. How do you propose to end the inequality?

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2009-04-26T15:08:50.641Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even supposing the inequality needs to be ended, what makes you confident that it can be, ethically?

comment by cousin_it · 2009-04-26T15:16:54.864Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pickup techniques are already ameliorating the inequality by giving the loser guys a shot. Laws that encourage more equal paternal investment, and a more equal distribution of alimony and child custody decisions among sexes, could attack the problem from the other side.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2009-04-26T15:24:45.347Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Point taken.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-26T14:52:21.660Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Inequalities are only bad if they deprive someone of a right. You don't have a right to sex that you don't provide yourself - no one does. You certainly don't have an absolute right to father children. No way in hell do you have that right.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-04-26T14:57:35.506Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Inequalities are only bad if they deprive someone of a right.

I do not believe that you seriously subscribe to this thesis. For example, even the most severe rich/poor divide doesn't deprive anyone of a right - no one has a right to someone else's money. Discrimination against women in the workplace doesn't deprive women of a "right" to be promoted - no such absolute right exists for anyone. Any other ideas?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-26T15:01:01.490Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do hold it, but obviously it's more complicated than a single sentence. Severe poverty deprives people of rights to various forms of safety and health, or if not those, then to independence or freedom, that I think everyone has. Discrimination against women in the workplace deprives them of the right to be considered on their relevant merits. (If women really didn't have the relevant merits, then I wouldn't think the inequality needed resolution.)

comment by cousin_it · 2009-04-26T15:07:23.604Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can invent similarly sounding vacuous rights to justify anything at all. For example, let's ban cars to give everyone the right to clean air. Or, alternatively, let's give everyone free cars: the right to transportation. Surely such a right is less far-fetched than your "right" to financial independence or the "right" to be considered, by me, on some "merits" that some organization defined as "relevant". (Thoughtcrime alert?)

The point of this whole exchange being, of course, that your idea about rights is just a rationalization for defending the status quo of women having higher reproductive chances. No. Severe inequality can be bad for us all even when no "rights" are involved.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-26T15:10:40.543Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Look, I'm obviously not going to sufficiently explain and justify my entire novel ethical system in comments within comments within comments here on Less Wrong. Ask me about it in five years and I'll e-mail you a copy of my thesis, okay? That is, if you're actually interested in what I think about ethics instead of looking for excuses to put me down for not thinking you are entitled to reproductive opportunities.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-04-26T15:30:38.415Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, I'll repeat it once again because your reply didn't really address my words. Reproductive inequality is not about anyone's personal entitlement to sex. Yes, it's bad, and it's bad despite being not about rights. It's bad because it entails inequal average chances of good stuff happening to random people who were unlucky enough to be born a certain way. It's bad in the same way that severe inborn IQ and ability gaps between people are bad. It's not, not, not about rights or "entitlements".

Maybe your ethical system says in advance that if some issue isn't about personal rights, then it can't require a communal solution. Well... then your ethical system is wrong by the criterion of my ethical system and (I imagine) those of many other people.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-26T15:52:39.674Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could you express the problem you see and the solution you propose in more directly consequentialist language? Different kinds of inequality can lead to different problems and therefore prompt different solutions. If you want to colonise the moon, fine, but it would seem weird to justify that in terms of a "fertility gap" between the Earth and the Moon, since that would be to state a "problem" that could be solved by reducing the fertility of the Earth.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-04-26T17:22:15.772Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair objection.

Myself, I don't much like the socialist angle of attack that always begins with the word "inequality". Inequality is only a problem because it leads to suffering: in our world many men suffer from being unable to have sex or offspring, whereas in a more equal world men and women would be matched more or less pairwise in percentiles of sexual market value. Yes, it would necessarily mean that some females settle for lower quality males than they currently desire, so your Moon analogy isn't completely unfounded.

(I believe this thought is at the root of most female critique of PUA: they feel that when men deliberately increase their sexual attractiveness, it amounts to fraudulently disguising low-quality genes.)

Disseminating PUA knowledge is one way to ameliorate the problem, helping the losers rise up. Another way would be legislation to promote more equal parental investment and more equitable child custody decisions in the hope that a) women loosen up and b) alpha men start having fewer ilegitimate kids, pushing more women out into the tails.

And, of course, monogamy can be viewed as another attempt to rescue humanity from the Darwinian horror where a few alpha males get all the girls, and all lesser males are expendable labour and war fodder.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2009-04-26T23:15:35.402Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe this thought is at the root of most female critique of PUA: they feel that when men deliberately increase their sexual attractiveness, it amounts to fraudulently disguising low-quality genes.

IAWYC here, but I'm pretty sure they're not actually thinking about genes.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2009-04-26T15:03:03.121Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even supposing the inequality should be ended, what makes you confident that there is an ethical way to end it?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-26T11:53:48.064Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a problem with the seduction community because it openly advocates treating women dishonestly.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T12:17:59.463Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a problem with the seduction community because it openly advocates treating women dishonestly.

Some schools are just as vehement about being absolutely, utterly, bluntly honest. But if you're a reporter, which parts of the community are you going to write a story about?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-26T12:53:21.124Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm going by the way people talk about it here; most hint darkly, and Sirducer who has spoken most openly has explicitly advocated dishonesty. I'm glad to know there's another side to it - I'd be interested to read more about that, if you have pointers.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T14:39:47.829Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm glad to know there's another side to it - I'd be interested to read more about that, if you have pointers.

One example of that would be Johnny Soporno; in particular, his free "Seductive Reasoning" video series. I've only watched the first couple of tapes, but those made it pretty clear his philosophy is centered on liberating women from the societal slut/whore dynamic.

I know there are others, I'm just not recalling offhand anything else that's available for free or that is this explicit (in the sense of being verbally advocated). In some of my other comments, though, I've mentioned that there are entire methods based on honest SOI, such as the book "Mode One: Let The Women Know What You're REALLY Thinking".

Edit: Soporno's site also has this interesting article on guys who blame women for their problems.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-07T21:54:08.427Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Edit: Soporno's site also has this interesting article on guys who blame women for their problems.

I don't like that analogy, anyway. I don't think any fish would actually want to be caught by you in any circumstance, whether I'd rather women actually would want to have sex with me, as opposed to being ‘baited’ and ‘caught’ by me. (Would want ≅ CEV here; the overwhelming majority of women don't want sex with me right now (e.g. because they've never met me yet) but I guess this doesn't mean I'll never be able to have consensual sex with any of them short of unethically manipulating them. I hope that makes sense.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-02-07T23:05:49.195Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The amount of sense it makes to me correlates pretty well with how well I understand the boundaries of categories like "unethical manipulation," "baiting," "catching," etc., are.

Unfortunately, I don't understand the boundaries of those categories very well.

comment by elityre · 2019-10-14T20:57:54.829Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm aware of this book: Models: Attract Women Through Honesty.


comment by MBlume · 2009-04-26T08:05:22.662Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoting you doesn't seem like quite enough.

There needs to be a "this comment is strongly confirmed by my experiences" button

comment by Nominull · 2009-04-25T22:09:05.776Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T22:28:39.499Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know what humans in general want, but I don't think I'm completely alone - an illustrative cartoon - in wanting affection that is genuine in the way I describe. But maybe I'm a rare specimen? If you're content to have relationships where you and others model each other on a web of carefully selected half-truths, I'm not exactly going to parasail in and demand that you stop like a spandex-clad vigilante for truth and transparency. You simply won't have anything, in having that relationship, that I have an inclination to value, promote, or normatively endorse.

Also, I don't see how the link is relevant. The article is about deadlines and cost estimates and there's nothing apparently applicable to this topic.

comment by Nominull · 2009-04-25T22:34:26.307Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The article is about the dangers of considering yourself a rare specimen, the talk of deadlines and cost estimates is just for concreteness.

That's a really good cartoon, by the way, because it can make two people on the opposite sides of an argument each think it supports their own point. To me it seems like the construction of the third robot was just as wrongheaded as the first two, and that the scientist has a fundamental confusion about the nature of love stemming from romanticism. But clearly you see it differently.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:01:20.915Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I considered it illustrative not because of the third robot, but because of the second one. It had - ostensibly - freedom, but circumstances were manipulated by the scientist so it would love the scientist. The resulting love is not valuable. Seduction is a subtler circumstance manipulation than that, but otherwise similar-looking.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T23:22:47.117Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seduction is a subtler circumstance manipulation than that, but otherwise similar-looking.

90% of what guys want from the seduction community is the ability to confidently approach a woman and start a conversation, so that they have a chance to get to know each other, and find out if they want to do something more. As some put it, "I'm looking for the One, but I don't know what I would say when I meet her."

Yeah, there's maybe 10% who, like Sirducer, just want to get laid, and are looking for a formula to do that. I have the impression, though, that quite a few of those guys end up raising their standards, when they realize that it's just as empty as you're saying.

Read e.g. Neil Strauss' book, "The Game" -- it ends with him being really glad that he found a woman his more-manipulative tricks didn't work on... and yet, he never would have had the confidence to even talk to her in the first place if he hadn't already had so much successful experience with comparably intimidating women (in terms of looks, intelligence, strong personalities, etc.)

To put it another way, actually being confident, caring, and knowing ways to please women (in and out of the bedroom) is not a trick. But for many people, the only way to get there is to first learn tricks. If they have to wait until they can do it without any tricks, they will never be able to start.

And that would be a terrible shame, for an awful lot of men and women.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:30:02.770Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a dramatic difference between learning tricks to increase confidence/social success and then not sleeping with anyone under false pretense (via honesty or just ending the game three-quarters of the way through), and learning tricks to increase confidence/social success and then proceeding to use them to get poorly-informed women to have sex. I assume it's possible to do the first thing.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T01:02:40.747Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I assume it's possible to do the first thing.

Yep. Actually, from one trainer's blog, I get the impression there's a paradox, though.

The trainer tells a student: go over there and get blown out (rejected). Say whatever you have to say to get those women to reject you. Paradox: the set opens, the student gets attraction, because he's absolutely at ease, not caring about the outcome. The more outrageously he speaks and acts, the more the women perceive him as a confident guy who's just being playful with them.

Now, the trainer says, "okay, you see how well it works when you're confident? Now go over there and talk to those other women and do the same thing..." Student gets blown out, because now he cares.

So, it's not quite that simple. When the entire point of the exercise is to be confident taking things all the way to the end of the process, bailing out becomes an excuse not to face the fear of the next step. And if somebody bails at LMR -- the last possible moment before sex occurs -- then the woman is going to be just as disappointed, if not more, than if the guy went all the way.

i.e., if you get to LMR, you already got somebody to go home with you or vice versa, and it's very likely the case that she did so, already wanting to have sex with you!

I guess what I'm getting at, is that a premature ending can be more deceitful/hurtful than going all the way, if the entire subtext was that the woman wanted to get laid and the guy was providing her with excuses.

I'm really not that familiar with that kind of game, and find it a turnoff, as I prefer women who can be direct about their desires. Doesn't mean I want to deprive those women of having any outlet at all, just because society's taught them they're not supposed to want it or be direct... even less if it's because of their genes!

comment by Nominull · 2009-04-25T23:44:04.882Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds like you are trying to say you can learn karate by kicking the air in front of someone.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:47:29.609Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Only if your goal really is sex by hook or by crook. Clearly, not having sex will not increase your capacity to just plainly and simply get sex. But if someone finds seduction appealing because they want confidence and social skills, there is no obvious reason they have to take the suggested tricks to the point of actual sex under false pretenses in order to develop them into skills.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T23:46:52.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kicking the air in front of someone would be more analogous to practicing your confidence tricks talking to a dressmaker's dummy, then never actually going out and talking to women.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T22:19:36.528Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This talk of "the way it is supposed to work" strikes me as irrational; you are looking at what "ought" to be, what you want to be, and ignoring what actually is.

Why is it irrational to think that the ways things ought to be is different from the way they are?

comment by Nominull · 2009-04-25T22:23:33.022Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why is it irrational to think that the ways things ought to be is different from the way they are?

It's not, of course. But you should be careful not to mix the two up and, for example, give romantic advice based on how you feel relationships ought to work.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T22:30:58.139Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't giving romantic advice. I was giving ethical advice, and my personal data point on why the ethical advice won't necessarily spell romantic doom.

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-25T22:22:46.787Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not. What's irrational is to let your idea of the way things ought to be prevent you from acting in such a way as to achieve your desired goals given the way things actually are

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T22:31:36.257Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's irrational is to let your idea of the way things ought to be prevent you from acting in such a way as to achieve your desired goals given the way things actually are

And if one's goal is "have a relationship that meets criteria X", disregarding criteria X only serves to better attain the goal "have a relationship" which isn't what one actually wanted in the first place.

You seem to be making unwaranted assumptions about other people's goals.

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-25T22:43:22.113Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think I'm making any assumptions about other people's goals, I'm just saying that allowing beliefs about the way you'd like the world to be to interfere with success in the actual world is irrational.

In the special case where maintaining your belief is a high priority goal in itself that obviously factors recursively into your decisions in a complicated way. A community of rationalists who give short shrift to religious arguments for god along the lines of 'I wouldn't want to live in a world without god' and that professes a high regard for truth would at least be receptive to the idea that maintaining false beliefs is not a strongly defensible position I would think.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T22:56:06.025Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Valuing "a relationship meeting criteria X" is not a belief, it's a term in a utility function. "People would be better off if their relationships had criteria X" is a belief that may or may not be justified. Determining the latter to be false in the general case does not invalidate the former.

Furthermore, your argument seems to be based on the observation "Most relationships do not meet criteria X" which is true but logically irrelevant to either of the above propositions.

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-25T22:57:31.298Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:07:01.299Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...and we come full circle to:

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

If your goal is to get sex and that's all, the ethical choices are to explicitly advertise this goal and find someone who shares it, or to take the solo route. As I said, I'm not offering practical advice for the morally indiscriminate pickup artist. I'm talking about ethics.

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-25T22:54:35.552Z · score: -6 (35 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-26T11:30:20.700Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The behaviour you advocate here is totally unethical.

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

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

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-05-02T07:22:32.543Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think in large part people sleep with me because I accurately communicate a happy, positive, fun-loving attitude to sex from which people correctly infer that I'll be fun to sleep with and I won't be trouble afterwards.

Could be! I believe that sort of thing could work, and I don't know you, so maybe you really do have a great attitude and it really does work for you, and if so, great -- enjoy the sex.

One thing that bothers me, out of context, is that the idea that people sleep with you because they can tell you're fun to sleep with is awfully convenient. It suggests that you deserve a decent helping of sex, whereas others don't. Now, maybe bitter ex-nice-guys like Sirducer don't have as good of an attitude as you do. I think you probably should get some credit. But what about looks? Money? Sense of humor? The recursive confidence that comes from knowing that someone will probably sleep with you soon?

Do you really have a good reason to think that your fun-loving attitude is more important than the rest of that stuff put together?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:16:21.447Z · score: 9 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-26T09:36:17.393Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

which I think says something about your taste.

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

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

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

comment by TheyHateTheGame · 2009-04-28T21:40:58.908Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I run the website www.theyhatethegame.com - which has been mentioned in this post a few times.

I used to be shy, insecure, and lonely. After a low point a while ago I began reading books on female psychology, evolutionary sexuality and relationship management. These books did NOT turn me into a social robot that manipulates people. They DID give me a feeling of security because they gave me the impression that we are all human - we are all the same and we all need each other.

This feeling prompted a series of social experiments over a period of three months where I determined - through trial and error - what I could do to give others the most pleasurable social experience possible. The end result was simple. I turned myself into a confident, competent person that people like because of a high level of social intuition and empathy.

My website is dedicated to giving men the tools that I wish I had when I was on my journey from "looser to winner."

Some of you may label what I do as social manipulation (I accept that you have read more books on how to label what is and is not social manipulation than I have and that's okay with me - I was out having fun while you were reading.) but what helps me sleep at night is knowing that I have changed. I used to not like who I was. Now I like me - and I am able to enrich the lives of those around me. Women and men.

P.S. I'm impressed with the quality of conversation going on here. I don't get exposed to these view points often. Cheers.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T11:59:58.957Z · score: 8 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've tried it on >20 women, with poor results in every case.

That's really not very many women, for club game and cold approach. Are you counting based on sets opened, or only ones where you got to an extraction attempt?

Women want to be chased, and an honest exchange of information doesn't give them a chase.

I see two problems with your statement. First, I've had women chase me. Second, the fact that some of them wanted to be chased didn't interfere with honesty; I just changed myself in such a way that I could be honest.

So, your poor results might have been affected by your taste in women. I like smart girls who are sexually aggressive, or at least passionate and sexually self-aware. That probably makes a big difference in my results, since my criteria would tend to select for women who would find honesty sexy, because they don't like playing games.

Those women are somewhat less likely to be found in bars and clubs, but I've met a few, so it's not like they don't exist.

Honestly, though, based on the entitlement attitude you've been showing, I suspect the reason your "honest" approach flopped was a function of your inner game, not of the women. The existence and success of such things as the apocalypse opener, forced IOI openers, Gunwitch method, mode one, and um, I forget what the other one is called, but that one where you alternate between escalating sexually explicit SOIs and casual conversation without giving any opportunity to object...

Anyway, the existence of all these methods shows that there are other PUAs who get results with the bold, explicit, truth, up to and including expressing a desire to have sex with the girl in the first few sentences of conversation.

To me, that says it's not the women. It's you.

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

The point is just that you're using your particular taste to justify your ethics, when, if you valued your ethics more, you could still find women who would appreciate your honesty.

Beyond that, I think your attitude shows a flawed understanding of women: you think they respond to qualities independent of the guy those qualities are attached to. But this is not entirely true: women often come to appreciate a quality that's possessed by a man they find attractive. Even if those 20 women never appreciated an honest man before, you still had the opportunity to make them appreciate your honesty... as long as it wasn't an excuse to be boring.

Hell, consider Steve P. -- the guy goes around telling people in a monotone that he teaches women how to have the best orgasms of their lives; I don't get any impression that he "games" in the least, and he's not exactly a great looker. But women chase him because he offers a unique sexual experience. (There are some definite parallels between what he does and what I did, but I'll not go into details here.)

My point is: if you cared as much about having something to offer women as you apparently care about what they offer to you, you wouldn't have problems with honesty. And if all you really care about is fast sex with a desirable body, why not just pay for it in the first place? That takes far less time than developing your game, and it's more honest, too.

The only way that I see you can get stuck in the spot where you're saying you are is if you:

  • don't value women enough to offer them any value of your own, aside from intrigue, DHV stories, and ASD excuses...

  • don't care about women enough to help them get over the societal programming that makes ASD excused necessary.

  • are too cheap to pay for what you want in any other way,

  • and not only have insufficient self-worth to be perceived as an attractive man, but also no desire to improve yourself to becoming one.

So frankly, you sound like you don't like women or yourself very much. That, IMO, is the "something wrong with this".

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

Maybe, maybe not. Most people would make either approach a DLV, but some men could make either one a DHV. (Hell, I can think of a guy I once knew who could have opened with, "Hey... you're cute, can I have your number?" in such a fun-yet-sarcastic way that it would've been perceived as anything from a rapport-building "gee these other guys are stupid to approach you in such a lame way", to a flat-out neg (i.e. "you're not really cute and I don't care about your number.")

Ok, but what other honest approach can you do?

Forced IOI openers and kino-based game would select for women who are open to a physical approach but who prefer to avoid verbal acknowledgments. When you get ASD, just raise an eyebrow like, "are you serious?", but say nothing. Or say, "Don't worry, I'll still respect you in the morning." HOW you say or do this is vastly more important than the words. Lying is really not necessary... hell, talking much at all isn't necessary, AFAICT.

(I'm not using myself as an example here; I hung with naturals once or twice in college, who tried and failed to teach me anything. But AFAICT they didn't really say much between "Hey" and "Let's get out of here", although there was some time in between, some dancing and a couple of location bounces within the club. They mostly let the girls do the talking.)

In short, every piece of evidence I have tells me that it ain't the women, it's you. Every man can be a natural, if he believes he actually has something of value to offer. But I get the impression you don't think you have anything to offer, and if you don't want to grow old chasing club girls with equally low self-esteem, you might want to change that.

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-26T14:28:08.885Z · score: 3 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"honest" approach flopped was a function of your inner game, not of the women In short, every piece of evidence I have tells me that it ain't the women, it's you.

Of course! If you had perfect inner game, you wouldn't need game.... that's why naturals exist. They're men with very good inner game because they had (probably early) life experiences that built their confidence and sense of self-worth up to unusually high levels. I'm not knocking the the natural way, or direct game, building inner game, which you seem to have been gifted with a lot of. You have these attractive, sexually aggressive women chasing you all the time... btw, what planet do you live on because I want to move there!

But let us suppose, for a moment, that you're a guy who doesn't start off naturally confident, and doesn't live in the pjeby Shangri-La of abundant, sexually aggressive, confident, intelligent, high self-esteem women who always chase and want to date you. Suppose that you have never in your life been approached or chased by a woman. What to do?

On thing that most guys in this situation do is they put up with no sex, then they marry the first girl who shows any interest. Screw that!

Another thing is to completely throw your dignity out of the window and pay for sex.

Getting into game with a healthy attitude is better, I think. This means realizing that some of the time, some girls want to be manipulated, and that if you don't go out and take what you want, you won't get it. But this doesn't mean being an asshole - it just means realizing that you have to play the game.

Yes, eventually you'll pick up so much confidence that you'll be able to go natural and then yes, girls will pick up on this and start chasing you. But until that point, it will help to have some tactics under your belt.

Every man can be a natural, if he believes he actually has something of value to offer.

yes, again, I agree. In fact this is true by definition. This is like saying "any man can be a millionaire by having $ 1million in his bank account". But it's really really hard to change from believing that you are low value to believing that you are high value. If it were easy, if you could just think "ah, I'm going to change the counter in my mind that represents self-value from low to high", then a million dollar seduction industry wouldn't exist.

By the way, I'm always looking for new and better ways to improve my inner game, so if you have any tips on how you got there, do share them with us.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T15:36:12.006Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not knocking the the natural way, or direct game, building inner game, which you seem to have been gifted with a lot of.

No, what I had was non-neediness and non-reactivity, combined with empathy and intelligent conversation. My inner game actually sucked. I was non-needy and non-reactive because that was my response to fear of rejection. I believed no woman would ever really love me, so there was no point in pining over what I couldn't have.

You could say I was following "The Tao of Steve", as in "Be desireless, be excellent, be gone"... but not because I had reached some sort of true inner peace.

But let us suppose, for a moment, that you're a guy who doesn't start off naturally confident, and doesn't live in the pjeby Shangri-La of abundant, sexually aggressive, confident, intelligent, high self-esteem women who always chase and want to date you.

I never said those women wanted to date me. A few did, most just wanted to get off or fulfill a fantasy. (To be clear, I didn't sleep with these women or have intercourse with them; I almost exclusively saved "standard" sex for my LTRs or FWBs, not the girls who just wanted to experiment.)

Another thing is to completely throw your dignity out of the window and pay for sex.

If you look down on people who pay for sex (and by implication, on sex workers), this is part of your attitude problem. You believe you have no value, so you take paying as evidence to support this belief, while ignoring the fact that rock stars also pay for sex... as Charlie Sheen I believe put it, "you're paying them to leave".

So it's not the act of paying for sex that throws out the dignity that you're afraid you lack in the first place.

Getting into game with a healthy attitude is better, I think. This means realizing that some of the time, some girls want to be manipulated, and that if you don't go out and take what you want, you won't get it. But this doesn't mean being an asshole - it just means realizing that you have to play the game.

You seem to be ignoring the part where manipulating doesn't equal lying, and that being tactful, cool, and fun does not equal "manipulating".... unless you view them through a frame where YOU are low-value!

Yes, eventually you'll pick up so much confidence that you'll be able to go natural and then yes, girls will pick up on this and start chasing you. But until that point, it will help to have some tactics under your belt.

You don't even need confidence; I certainly never had it. Non-neediness and non-reactivity are plenty enough.

This is like saying "any man can be a millionaire by having $ 1million in his bank account". But it's really really hard to change from believing that you are low value to believing that you are high value.

You don't need a trick -- you just need to cultivate something of genuine value. What do you really have to offer women? In my case, it was conversation, understanding, and a certain class of sexual experiences. You might offer excitement and adventure. Another guy might be an artist or musician. Per the Tao of Steve, what are you "excellent" at? What could you be excellent at? Value is just being excellent at something, that offers a woman an experience.

People (not just women) want emotional experiences. They are bored and afraid and dissatisfied, for the most part. What can you give them?

Not as a trade, not as a "look at me I'm awesome", but... what is part of your world that someone else would want to find out more about, or be a part of? I never flaunted my "fantasy fulfillment services"; I simply mentioned them in passing and never tried to talk anyone into making use of them. They had to ask me, and I was pretty tight-lipped about it, simply because I genuinely didn't want to push it on anyone. I'd answer questions briefly, then return to whatever non-sexual topic we were on.

Then, later... sometimes much later... someone I mentioned it to would come back and make a more serious inquiry, at which point I'd tell them about my NLP theory of how you can create fantasy experiences for someone by interpreting one of their existing fantasies, and we were off to the races.

This worked for me precisely because it was not a technique. I really didn't care. I hadn't seen "The Tao Of Steve", but I was desireless, I was excellent, I was gone.

This was not "inner game" or belief in my own value. It was just nonreactivity. Women don't really care about confidence so much as they care about you NOT being creepy or needy... as long as you also have some sort of "excellence" to enjoy.

If it were easy, if you could just think "ah, I'm going to change the counter in my mind that represents self-value from low to high", then a million dollar seduction industry wouldn't exist.

Nor the self-help industry. The catch is that there's more than one "counter", and as I always say, the brain has no "view source" button to let you list them all. (Technically, they're frames, not counters.)

By the way, I'm always looking for new and better ways to improve my inner game, so if you have any tips on how you got there, do share them with us.

My personal advice to you would be to ask what it is that you're afraid is true about yourself. Not are you afraid of rejection or relationships or any of that, what are you afraid is true about you, specifically?

Low self-esteem, and especially the sort of compensating ideals you're promoting, are usually based in fears of low-value qualities. But if you know what you're afraid of and admit to it, you'll have the chance to do something about it -- either decide that it's not really true of you, or that it is true, but you can change it.

Also, for whatever it's worth, I seem to recall that the period in my life where women were most abundant and I was at my most non-reactive/confident, was when I was doing daily Zen meditation of at least 20 minutes, and doing an extended session once a week at the local Zen center.

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-26T15:57:43.124Z · score: 3 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My personal advice to you would be to ask what it is that you're afraid is true about yourself. Not are you afraid of rejection or relationships or any of that, what are you afraid is true about you, specifically?

To be honest, nothing in particular. I genuinely thought hard about that question. I suppose in the past, when I was less mature, there were things.

Of course nowadays I practice almost exclusively direct game, and it works for me. And yes, you are still manipulating someone when you are doing direct game. You're just doing it in a more natural and mutually enjoyable way. But I guess in the past, when I didn't have that inner confidence, unreactivity and non-neediness that you're talking about, direct wouldn't have worked for me, so I needed the props and tricks of opinion openers, etcetera. Then I got laid a bit, then a bit more, then my inner unconfidence evaporated!

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T16:25:58.932Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course nowadays I practice almost exclusively direct game, and it works for me.

So then WTF have you been advocating dishonesty, if you know it's unnecessary?

And yes, you are still manipulating someone when you are doing direct game. You're just doing it in a more natural and mutually enjoyable way.

I don't think it really does anyone a service to frame it that way, except maybe as a way to convince somebody to buy your course so you can then talk them out of it.

Thing is, by framing it as "manipulation" to yourself, you are implying that you are not good enough to get a woman without manipulation -- you are still maintaining a low-value frame, despite being nonreactive. You're just framing yourself as "low-value with workarounds", instead of "high value".

If you frame it instead as you providing women with mystery, intrigue, drama, or something else that they value -- then that immediately makes you a person of value... and flips over that "counter" in your brain that you asked about.

You've already done the hard work of getting competence and nonreactivity; now follow RSD Tyler's example and realize that you really do have something to offer. Voila! You now have value.

The difference between "value" and "manipulation" is mostly in the mind of the manipulator, but it also gets subcommunicated. And I personally believe it's better to spend a lot of time on flipping that switch, vs. learning all the many subcommunications that you otherwise have to mimic, because they're not being generated automatically.

If it takes you 100 hours of work on yourself to flip the inner switch, it's still 10 times more efficient than spending 1000 hours honing techniques that merely mimic the effect. Do the noobs a favor and don't send them down the "dark path" needlessly; better yet, be Yoda and warn them about its seductive dangers. ;-)

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-26T17:06:42.795Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The difference between "value" and "manipulation" is mostly in the mind of the manipulator,

Right, so first you have to learn how to manipulate women, then you realize that they like being manipulated, then you realize you're doing them a service, then you realize that in this special case, the ability to manipulate people is a great and valuable thing to have, and it makes you a more interesting and exciting person to be around (not that you weren't to start with), and once you've had this realization, you become a natural!

Of course we are starting to argue semantics now... as you say, the difference between "manipulation" and "alpha male behaviour" can be merely one of poetry. Likewise the difference between "mystery, intrigue" and "lying".

I think that the key to getting good is to realize that sexual interaction in humans constitutes an exception to the rule that lying and manipulation are generally bad. We give them different names like "mystery and intrigue" or "dominant, confident behaviour" to flag this up.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T17:20:59.776Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right, so first you have to learn how to manipulate women, then you realize that they like being manipulated, then you realize you're doing them a service, then you realize that in this special case, the ability to manipulate people is a great and valuable thing to have, and it makes you a more interesting and exciting person to be around (not that you weren't to start with), and once you've had this realization, you become a natural!

Or, you do what I did and assume that the only way women would be interested in you is if you have something of value to offer them, and then go about doing something to develop that value. Yes, it has taken me a long time to realize that I have value, just by virtue of being a unique person. However, I didn't have to go through a "manipulation" stage to get there.

Instead, to the extent that you could call certain behavior options I have now "manipulation", I chose to do them because of having an understanding of their value, and caring about the woman in question (my wife) enough to want to give that value to her.

So, in this particular example, it's the exact opposite order to what you're suggesting.

Of course we are starting to argue semantics now... as you say, the difference between "manipulation" and "alpha male behaviour" can be merely one of poetry.

Actually, it's a matter of what your motivation is. Alpha males look out for the group, and do other useful things, rather than adopting those behaviors because it gets them laid. That's the difference between manipulating and being genuine. (See also some of Eliezer's posts about "adaptation executing" vs "fitness maximizing" for the psychology difference.)

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-26T14:15:18.253Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Women want to be chased

I'm sure you have simply loads of data points on this, of women who you chased who really liked it and weren't trying to remember if their favorite law firm does restraining orders, but since I'm an actual woman and do not have an interest in being "chased", it would have displayed some politeness to add a qualifier like "some" or "in my experience".

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

Yes. This displays a revolting attitude towards women. Unless (as pjeby suggested) you pay for it, or (as I mentioned in another comment) you find a woman who just wants sex with an attractive man (I'll charitably assume you are one at least to some people) regardless of your personality. The latter sort of woman exists. She can be found on Craigslist. She is, however, immensely picky because she gets several hundred e-mails every time she posts an ad, because your desires are not remotely uncommon and you have a lot of competition. If you aren't good-looking enough to stand out from the crowd of honest seekers of NSA sex, of course investigating other categories of women who might let you sleep with them and using every trick in the book to get them to do so would seem like the next logical choice. That doesn't make it right.

But where do you draw the line between tact and lying?

Broadly, tact is about what topics you bring up. Lying is about what you say about the topic at hand, whatever it may be. Attempting to actually have sex implicitly brings up the topic of your motives, because if it's had under false pretenses, consent is flimsier and the entire thing is thrown into moral confusion.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-02T18:28:21.944Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've tried it on >20 women, with poor results in every case.

I don't suppose they were selected at random from the population, were they?

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T23:09:55.385Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-26T09:27:50.441Z · score: 1 (24 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T12:15:02.545Z · score: 10 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

An example: you take a girl back to your place from a nightclub. She'll say something like "we're not going to have sex" or "I'm just coming in for a coffee". If you respond honestly "actually I do want to have sex with you", she won't come back with you.

Not because you're being honest, but because you're being tactless. Compare with this answer: "oh, darn, here I was thinking you were trying to get me alone so you could have your way with me...." and that's just the first thing that popped into my head when I saw your comment. (Probably because I have a vague recollection of having said something similar to a girl once, a few minutes before she literally attacked me.)

ASD is a social calibration ping: she wants to make sure you're a cool guy. It is not necessary to lie or even conceal the truth in order to be a cool guy, it is only necessary to communicate that you understand the rules of the game being played and are willing to play it. A response like the one I gave above would be an honest answer, but not a tactless one.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-13T19:34:00.807Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh, no. If an adult isn't willing to owning up to their desires, that’s their own friggin' problem and it's not my job to second-guess them.

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T23:08:00.594Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Sirducer · 2009-04-25T23:12:29.482Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

honest liberation for men and women.

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T23:53:38.250Z · score: 2 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

You're talking about cold approach in a public social situation with immature and self-deceiving women. The situations I'm talking about were the exact opposite in all three, as I like intelligent, mature women. If I had to lie to a woman for more than say, five minutes on first meeting her, before admitting to the lie as a way to get to talk to her, I really wouldn't be interested.

I realize some men aren't wired that way. I'm just pointing out that if all you want is to "get laid", then verbal alpha subcom is sufficient, especially with social proof. Before I got married, every party I went to had a room full of pivots -- i.e., female friends who either specifically set me up, or at least gave social proof by talking to me. And anybody I went out with, I'd already chatted with online, and impressed verbally that way.

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

You've got to be kidding me. Girls chased me. I've never been much of a chaser, to be honest. I can't remember anyone who shit-tested me. And LMR is only an issue if you're the one doing the initiating.

In a way, I'm kind of glad that I didn't study this stuff in those days, because I might have run into some of the stuff you're saying here, and actually believed it. I could have used more confidence, and if I'd been better at attraction/extraction logistics I probably I wouldn't have had to wait until I was 20+ to lose my virginity.

In college, never got past the rapport stage on cold approach, but it wasn't a question of shit tests or anything. I could open and get rapport, but I didn't know how to kino, escalate, time bridge, any of that stuff.

Just the logistics of pickup knowledge would've helped immensely there, no need for lying or manipulation. I'm pretty positive that many of those girls I talked to in college wanted me to make a move, I just didn't have a clue how.

Anyway... lying is totally unnecessary, I don't care how noob you are. If you can't handle cold approach without lying, get social proof. If you're actually worth sleeping with, you should have no problem making female friends.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T23:56:44.077Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm completely baffled by the jargon here. Can you provide a glossary?

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-26T00:42:21.233Z · score: 11 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

SOI - statement of intent -- stating outright what you intend towards a woman, anything from, "I think you might be cool to hang out with", to "[explicit details of what I'd like to do with you in bed tonight]".

cold approach - meeting someone you don't know

warm approach - being introduced, already knowing them online, etc.

alpha subcom - communicating confidence non-verbally: body language, facial expressions, gesture, posture, voice tone, inflection, word choice, stories told, beliefs and attitudes expressed... everything, pretty much. Acting as-if you are an attractive and desirable man, not in the way of trying to show it, but acting the way such a man would naturally act.

shit-test - a verbal or non-verbal challenge by a woman, usually in the form of being rude or implying the man has is unworthy or "not in her league", but this can also be in the form of a false IOI (indicator of interest). For example, a woman who speaks in an aggressively sexual fashion, without any actual sexual interest, is often shit-testing to find out if the man will respond in a way that reveals he's more desperate for sex than he's trying to appear. In general, shit tests are when women probe to see how confident a guy actually is, versus what he's pretending to be. This is obviously much more an issue with cold approach than other situation, but some women shit-test their way through entire relationships.

Shit tests are a controversial subject, to say the least. Having given it more thought, I now can remember being shit tested, but I don't think I've ever slept with anyone who shit tested me on initial contact. However, I also kind of agree with the trainers who say that shit testing really is an indicator of interest, in the sense that a woman only shit tests because she wants to know if the guy is "for real" -- that it's like an instinct to pinch yourself to see if you're dreaming.

Recently, my wife's grandmother died, and she ended up shit-testing me because on an emotional level, she needed to know that I was strong and she was safe. I didn't handle it well at first, because I didn't realize that was what was going on; I thought she was being unreasonable and vicious towards me for no reason.

Once I understood, however, I was able to give her what she needed, and afterward she agreed with my interpretation; she just couldn't tell me at the time, because on an emotional level it would've defeated the entire purpose. (This is not a regular occurrence, fortunately.)

(In female language, I've had women friends tell me that they want a guy who "doesn't let them get away with anything" or "put up with their shit". In other words, a guy who isn't fazed by their shit tests, either by passively putting up with them, or by freaking out, but instead by setting boundaries and making her feel safe within them.)

social proof - evidence that you're not a weird, creepy stalker or something, as demonstrated by having friends, especially female ones. esp. such proof in real-time, visual form -- i.e., saying that you have friends doesn't count for much.

pivot - female wingman, i.e., a woman who is with you to help you meet other women and/or get laid. Usually a friend who's not attracted to you, but thinks you should get laid more often, and will spread helpful rumors or try to match you up. (At least, that's the kind I have experience with. I never did "club game" with a pivot, just had a social network.)

LMR - "last minute resistance" -- having doubts or seeking reassurance just before sex is about to happen. Often, this takes the form of a need for reassurance that the woman is not a slut or otherwise of questionable character just because she is having sex with a guy she "hardly knows". I don't have much experience with this because I was never in so much of a hurry to get laid. Some PUA trainers claim that you need to know someone for at least 7 hours in order to minimize LMR, and except for the women who sought me out, I'd always spent at least that much time with someone long before they dragged me to the bedroom. (Like I said, I've never been much of an initiator, at least outside the chat room.)

"open" -- start a conversation and have it go somewhere, as opposed to immediate rejection or quickly fading into nothingness.

rapport stage -- conversation stage where you actually start to get to know someone

kino -- touching, either casual, flirtatious, or beyond

escalate -- taking things past rapport, to some kind of action or relationship in the present or future

time bridge -- smoothly establishing a reason for future contact, without making a big commitment or "date" out of it, e.g. talking about a cool art gallery early in the conversation, then ending by saying, "oh hey, I'm going to that gallery on Thursday with my friends, you should come check it out with us," and exchanging numbers or email.

Whew. There is a lot of terminology, isn't there? It really is a Conspiracy with a capital C. There are a lot of different schools, but the language tends to get shared across the board.

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-26T00:13:37.003Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

bit of googling:

social proof appears to mean being seen with attractive female friends who, by their presence, act as references -- "as a fellow woman, I approve of this man and voluntarily choose to associate with him"

LMR stands for Last Minute Resistance

kino basically means touching, even just socially

escalate means increasing the intensity of that touching

shit-test appears to refer to women testing men to see if they can be easily manipulated, and then discarding them if they are.

"direct game" seems to be what you refer to as tactlessness =)

I got nothing on subcom

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-25T22:12:27.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T22:54:52.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-25T23:23:18.983Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2015-06-08T06:25:03.458Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...amusingly enough, "sit in my room and write posts on Less Wrong" turned out to be a pretty good move, in retrospect.

comment by Crux · 2016-01-17T20:36:09.810Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did you gain any skills which allowed you to achieve the position you have now which were acquired through not "sitting in your room and writing posts on Less Wrong"?

(I assume your point is that you met your partner through Less Wrong.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T18:58:19.421Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T19:28:42.784Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T19:58:33.330Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T20:07:01.482Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T21:05:41.579Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by mattnewport · 2009-04-25T20:27:34.908Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by pwno · 2009-04-25T19:27:51.017Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Annoyance · 2009-04-25T16:11:56.850Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-04-25T16:54:11.418Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2009-04-25T16:15:13.529Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Annoyance · 2009-04-25T16:25:59.378Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-11-16T01:35:43.270Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Alexandros · 2009-04-25T12:13:09.991Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T20:35:45.344Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-04-25T09:35:13.737Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Technologos · 2009-04-25T17:04:33.694Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2009-04-25T09:16:10.464Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by roland · 2009-04-25T13:59:48.436Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-25T16:43:25.042Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by pjeby · 2009-04-25T20:42:03.034Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-04-25T12:38:36.002Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by MrShaggy · 2009-04-25T17:00:46.361Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by Roko · 2009-04-25T21:34:17.457Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, no, not exactly. More likely, it's because the blind idiot god has already done the calculation for me. Evolution's goals are not my own, and neither are evolution's utility calculations. Most saliently, other men are no longer allowed to hit me with mastodon bones if I approach women they might have liked to pursue. The trouble is, evolution has already done the calculation, using this now-faulty assumption, with the result that, if I do not see myself as dominant, my motor cortex directs the movement of my body and the inflection of my voice in a way which clearly signals this fact, thus avoiding a conflict. And, of course, any woman I may be pursuing can read this signal just as clearly. I cannot redo this calculation,

So, the point with this is that the human brain is quite disunified. The fact that you know these facts, but when you go into a club with all the big biker kids in leather jackets you go all submissive indicates that you hold beliefs on more than one level.

In this particular case, having an accurate map on the top level is not incompatible with having an inaccurate one on the lower, subconscious one.

And, by the way, once you know what the situation is, you can start doing things about it.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-04-26T13:12:23.842Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Artaudin2 · 2010-09-13T20:27:08.160Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by MrShaggy · 2009-04-25T08:17:38.880Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by byrnema · 2009-04-26T07:09:25.208Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by MrShaggy · 2009-04-27T11:39:12.597Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-25T08:39:04.314Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by MrShaggy · 2009-04-25T17:02:13.794Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

comment by byrnema · 2009-04-26T06:59:05.115Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2009-04-26T07:30:08.386Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

comment by byrnema · 2009-04-26T14:05:21.855Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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

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

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

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

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-04-25T13:19:21.258Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bravo!

comment by CannibalSmith · 2009-04-25T08:44:54.334Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If being irrational is rational then it's rational.