Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics

post by lukeprog · 2011-11-05T11:06:42.308Z · score: 51 (105 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 1554 comments

Contents

  Relationships Styles
  The Science of Attraction
  Attractiveness: Mean and Variance
  Up next
  Notes
  References
None
1554 comments

Part of the Sequence: The Science of Winning at Life. Co-authored with Minda Myers and Hugh Ristik. Also see: Polyhacking.

When things fell apart between me (Luke) and my first girlfriend, I decided that kind of relationship wasn't ideal for me.

I didn't like the jealous feelings that had arisen within me. I didn't like the desperate, codependent 'madness' that popular love songs celebrate. I had moral objections to the idea of owning somebody else's sexuality, and to the idea of somebody else owning mine. Some of my culture's scripts for what a man-woman relationship should look like didn't fit my own goals very well.

I needed to design romantic relationships that made sense (decision-theoretically) for me, rather than simply falling into whatever relationship model my culture happened to offer. (The ladies of Sex and the City weren't too good with decision theory, but they certainly invested time figuring out which relationship styles worked for them.) For a while, this new approach led me into a series of short-lived flings. After that, I chose 4 months of contented celibacy. After that, polyamory. After that...

Anyway, the results have been wonderful. Rationality and decision theory work for relationships, too!

We humans compartmentalize by default. Brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation, and aren't configured to do so. Cached thoughts and cached selves can remain even after one has applied the lessons of the core sequences to particular parts of one's life. That's why it helps to explicitly examine what happens when you apply rationality to new areas of your life  from disease to goodness to morality. Today, we apply rationality to relationships.

 

Relationships Styles

When Minda had her first relationship with a woman, she found that the cultural scripts for heterosexual relationships didn't work for a homosexual relationship style. For example, in heterosexual dating (in the USA) the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself.

In the queer community, Minda quickly found that if she passively waited for a woman to hit on her, she'd be waiting all night! When she met her first girlfriend, Minda had to ask for the date. Minda writes:

On dates, I didn't know if I should pay for the date or hold the door or what I was supposed to do! Each interaction required thought and negotiation that hadn't been necessary before. And this was really kind of neat. We had the opportunity to create a relationship that worked for us and represented us as unique and individual human beings. And when it came to sexual interactions, I found it easy to ask for and engage in exactly what I wanted. And I have since brought these practices into my relationships with men. 

But you don't need to have an 'alternative' relationship in order to decide you want to set aside some cultural scripts and design a relationship style that works for you. You can choose relationship styles that work for you now.

With regard to which type(s) of romantic partner(s) you want, there are many possibilities.

No partners:

One partner:

Many partners:

Hugh points out that your limbic system may not agree (at least initially) with your cognitive choice of a relationship style. Some women say they want a long-term relationship but date 'bad boys' who are unlikely to become long-term mates. Someone may think they want polyamorous relationships but find it impossible to leave jealousy behind.7

 

The Science of Attraction

A key skillset required for having the relationships you want is that of building and maintaining attraction in potential mates.

Guys seeking girls may wonder: Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"? Girls seeking rationalist guys are at an advantage because the gender ratio lies in their favor, but they still might wonder: What can I do to attract the best mates? Those seeking same-sex partners may wonder how attraction can differ from heterosexual norms.

How do you build and maintain attraction in others? A lot can be learned by trying different things and seeing what works. This is often better than polling people, because people's verbal reports about what attracts them don't always match their actual behavior.8

To get you started, the virtues of scholarship and empiricism will serve you well. Social psychology has a wealth of knowledge to offer on successful relationships.9 For example, here are some things that, according to the latest research, will tend to make people more attracted to you:

But this barely scratches the surface of attraction science. In a later post, we'll examine how attraction works in more detail, and draw up a science-supported game plan for building attraction in others.

 

Attractiveness: Mean and Variance

Remember that increasing your average attractiveness (by appealing to more people) may not be an optimal strategy.

Marketers know that it's often better to sacrifice broad appeal in order for a product to have very strong appeal to a niche market. The Appunto doesn't appeal to most men, but it appeals strongly enough to some men that they are willing to pay the outrageous $200 price for it.

Similarly, you may have the best success in dating if you appeal very strongly to some people, even if this makes you less appealing to most people  that is, if you adopt a niche marketing strategy in the dating world.35

As long as you can find those few people who find you very attractive, it won't matter (for dating) that most people aren't attracted to you. And because one can switch between niche appeal and broad appeal using fashion and behavior, you can simply use clothing and behavior with mainstream appeal during the day (to have general appeal in professional environments) and use alternative clothing and behavior when you're socializing (to have strong appeal to a small subset of people whom you've sought out).

To visualize this point, consider two attraction strategies. Both strategies employ phenomena that are (almost) universally attractive, but the blue strategy aims to maximize the frequency of somewhat positive responses while the red strategy aims to maximize the frequency of highly positive responses. The red strategy (e.g. using mainstream fashion) increases one's mean attractiveness, while the blue strategy (e.g. using alternative fashion) increases one's attractiveness variance. Hugh Ristik offers the following chart:

This goth guy and I (Luke) can illustrate this phenomenon. I aim for mainstream appeal; he wears goth clothing when socializing. My mainstream look turns off almost no one, and is attractive to most women, but doesn't get that many strong reactions right away unless I employ other high-variance strategies.36 In contrast, I would bet the goth guy's alternative look turns off many people and is less attractive to most women than my look is, but has a higher frequency of extremely positive reactions in women.

In one's professional life, it may be better to have broad appeal. But in dating, the goal is to find people who find you extremely attractive. The goth guy sacrifices his mean attractiveness to increase his attractiveness variance (and thus the frequency of very positive responses), and this works well for him in the dating scene.

High-variance strategies like this are a good way to filter for people who are strongly attracted to you, and thus avoid wasting your time with potential mates who only feel lukewarm toward you.

 

Up next

In future posts we'll develop an action plan for using the science of attraction to create successful romantic relationships. We'll also explain how rationality helps with relationship maintenance37 and relationship satisfaction.

 

Previous post: The Power of Reinforcement

 

 

Notes

1 Bogaert (2004).

2 About half of romantic relationships of all types end within a few years (Sprecher 1994; Kirkpatrick & Davis 1994; Hill et al 1976), and even relationships that last exhibit diminishing attraction and arousal (Aron et al. 2006; Kurdek 2005; Miller et al. 2007). Note that even if attraction and arousal fades, romantic love can exist in long-term closed monogamy and it is associated with relationship satisfaction (Acevedo & Aron, 2009).

3 Paul et al. (2000); Grello et al. (2006).

4 Bogle (2008).

5 Bisson & Levine (2009).

6 Two introductory books on the theory and practice of polyamory are: Easton & Hardy (2009) and Taormino (2008).

7 See work on 'conditional mating strategies' aka 'strategic pluralism' (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000).

8 Sprecher & Felmlee (2008); Eastwick & Finkel (2008). Likewise, there is a difference between what people publicly report as being the cause of a breakup, what they actually think caused a breakup, and what actually caused a breakup (Powell & Fine, 2009). Also see Inferring Our Desires.

9 For overviews of this research, see: Bradbury & Karney (2010); Miller & Perlman (2008); Vangelisti & Perlman (2006); Sprecher et al. (2008); Weiten et al. (2011), chs. 8-12. For a history of personal relationships research, see Perlman & Duck (2006).

10 Goodfriend (2009).

11 This is called the mere exposure effect. See Le (2009); Moreland & Zajonc (1982); Nuttin (1987); Zajonc (1968, 2001); Moreland & Beach (1992). The limits of this effect are explored in Bornstein (1989, 1999); Swap (1977).

12 Steinberg (1993).

13 Zajonc (1998); Devine (1995); Rosenbaum (1986); Surra et al. (2006); Morry (2007, 2009); Peplau & Fingerhut (2007); Ledbetter et al. (2007); Montoya et al. (2008); Simpson & Harris (1994).

14 DeBruine (2002, 2004); Bailenson et al. (2005).

15 Jones et al. (2004).

16 Byrne (1971); Ireland et al. (2011).

17 Gonzaga (2009). For an overview of the research on self-disclosure, see Greene et al. (2006).

18 Langlois et al. (2000); Walster et al. (1966); Feingold (1990); Woll (1986); Belot & Francesconi (2006); Finkel & Eastwick (2008); Neff (2009); Peretti & Abplanalp (2004); Buss et al. (2001); Fehr (2009); Lee et al. (2008); Reis et al. (1980). This is also true for homosexuals: Peplau & Spalding (2000). Even infants prefer attractive faces: Langlois et al. (1987); Langlois et al. (1990); Slater et al. (1998). Note that women report that the physical attractiveness is less important to their mate preferences than it actually is: Sprecher (1989).

19 Eagly et al. (1991); Feingold (1992a); Hatfield & Sprecher (1986); Smith et al. (1999); Dion et al. (1972).

20 Cash & Janda (1984); Langlois et al. (2000); Solomon (1987).

21 Cunningham et al. (1995); Cross & Cross (1971); Jackson (1992); Jones (1996); Thakerar & Iwawaki (1979).

22 Men certainly prefer youth (Buss 1989a; Kenrick & Keefe 1992; Kenrick et al. 1996; Ben Hamida et al. 1998). Signs of fertility that men prefer include clear and smooth skin (Sugiyama 2005; Singh & Bronstad 1997; Fink & Neave 2005; Fink et al. 2008; Ford & Beach 1951; Symons 1995), facial femininity (Cunningham 2009; Gangestad & Scheyd 2005; Schaefer et al. 2006; Rhodes 2006), long legs (Fielding et al. 2008; Sorokowski & Pawlowski 2008; Bertamini & Bennett 2009; Swami et al. 2006), and a low waist-to-hip ratio (Singh 1993, 2000; Singh & Young 1995; Jasienska et al. 2004; Singh & Randall 2007; Connolly et al 2000; Furnham et al 1997; Franzoi & Herzog 1987; Grabe & Samson 2010). Even men blind from birth prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio (Karremans et al. 2010).

23 Buss et al. (1990); Buss & Schmitt (1993); Khallad (2005); Gottschall et al. (2003); Gottschall et al. (2004); Kenrick et al. (1990); Gustavsson & Johnsson (2008); Wiederman (1993); Badahdah & Tiemann (2005); Marlowe (2004); Fisman et al. (2006); Asendorpf et al. (2010); Bokek-Cohen et al. (2007); Pettay et al. (2007); Goode (1996).

24 Feingold (1990, 1992b).

25 Cunningham (2009); Cunningham et al. (1990).

26 Singh (1995); Martins et al. (2007).

27 Lynn & Shurgot (1984); Ellis (1992); Gregor (1985); Kurzban & Weeden (2005); Swami & Furnham (2008). In contrast, men prefer women who are about 4.5 inches shorter than themselves: Gillis & Avis (1980).

28 Figueredo et al. (2006).

29 Langlois & Roggman (1990); Rhodes et al. (1999); Singh (1995); Thornhill & Gangestad (1994, 1999). We may have evolved to be attracted to symmetrical faces because they predict physical and mental health (Thornhill & Moller, 1997).

30 Cunningham (2009).

31 Cunningham (2009).

32 This is called reciprocal liking. See Curtis & Miller (1986); Aron et al (2006); Berscheid & Walster (1978); Smith & Caprariello (2009); Backman & Secord (1959).

33 Carducci et al. (1978); Dermer & Pszczynski (1978); White & Knight (1984); Dutton & Aron (1974).

34 Myers (2010), p. 710.

35 One example of a high-variance strategy for heterosexual men in the dating context is a bold opening line like "You look familiar. Have we had sex?" Most women will be turned off by such a line, but those who react positively are (by selection and/or by the confidence of the opening line) usually very attracted. 

36 In business, this is often said as "not everyone is your customer": 1, 2, 3.

37 For discussions of relationship maintenance in general, see: Ballard-Reisch & Wiegel (1999); Dinda & Baxter (1987); Haas & Stafford (1998).

 

References

Acevedo & Aron (2009). Does a long-term relationship kill romantic love? Review of General Psychology, 13: 59-65.

Aron, Fisher, & Strong (2006). Romantic love. In Vangelisti & Perlman (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge University Press.

Asendorpf, Penke, & Back (2010). From dating to mating and relating: Predictors of initial and long-term outcomes of speed dating in a community sample. European Journal of Personality.

Backman & Secord (1959). The effect of perceived liking on interpersonal attraction. Human Relations, 12: 379-384.

Badahdah & Tiemann (2005). Mate selection criteria among Muslims living in America. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26: 432-440.

Bailenson, Iyengar, & Yee (2005). Facial identity capture and presidential candidate preference. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association.

Ballard-Reisch & Wiegel (1999). Communication processes in marital commitment: An integrative approach. In Adams & Jones (eds.), Handbook of interpersonal commitment and relationship stability (pp. 407-424). Plenum.

Belot & Francesconi (2006). Can anyone be 'the one'? Evidence on mate selection from speed dating. Centre for Economic Policy Research.

Ben Hamida, Mineka, & Bailey (1998). Sex differences in perceived controllability of mate value: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75: 953–966.

Berscheid & Walster (1978). Interpersonal Attraction. Addison-Wesley.

Bertamini & Bennett (2009). The effect of leg length on perceived attractiveness of simplified stimuli. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 3: 233-250.

Bogaert (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41: 279-287.

Bogle (2008). Hooking Up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York University Press.

Bokek-Cohen, Peres, & Kanazawa (2007). Rational choice and evolutionary psychology as explanations for mate selectivity. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2: 42-55.

Bornstein (1989). Exposure and affect: Overview and meta-analysis of research, 1968-1987. Psychological Bulletin, 106: 265-289.

Bornstein (1999). Source amnesia, misattribution, and the power of unconscious perceptions and memories. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 16: 155-178.

Bradbury & Karney (2010). Intimate Relationships. W.W. Norton & Company.

Buss (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses testing in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12: 1-49.

Buss & Schmitt (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100: 204-232.

Buss, Abbott, Angleitner, Asherian, Biaggio, et al. (1990). International preferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21: 5-47.

Buss, Shackelford, Kirkpatrick, & Larsen (2001). A half century of mate preeferences: The cultural evolution of values. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63: 291-503.

Byrne (1971). The Attraction Paradigm. Academic Press.

Carducci, Cosby, & Ward (1978). Sexual arousal and interpersonal evaluations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 14: 449-457.

Cash & Janda (1984). The eye of the beholder. Psychology Today, November: 46-52.

Connolly, Mealey, & Slaughter (2000). The development of waist-to-hip ratio preferences. Perspectives in Human Biology, 5: 19-29.

Cross & Cross (1971). Age, sex, race, and the perception of facial beauty. Developmental Psychology, 5: 433-439.

Cunningham, Roberts, Wu, Barbee, & Druen (1995). "Their ideas of beauty are, on the whole, the same as ours": Consistency and variability in the cross-cultural perception of female attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68: 261-279.

Cunningham (2009). Physical Attractiveness, Defining Characteristics. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 3 (pp. 1237-1242). Sage Reference.

Curtis & Miller (1986). Believing another likes or dislikes you: Behaviors making the beliefs come true. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51: 284-290.

DeBruine (2002). Facial resemblance enhances trust. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 269: 1307-1312.

DeBruine (2004). Facial resemblance increases the attractiveness of same-sex faces more than other-sex faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 271: 2085-2090.

Dermer & Pszczynski (1978). Effects of erotica upon men's loving and liking responses for women they love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36: 1302-1309.

Devine (1995). Prejudice and outgroup perception. In Teser (ed.), Advanced Social Psychology. McGraw-Hill.

Dinda & Baxter (1987). Strategies for maintaining and repairing marital relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4: 143-158.

Dion, Berscheid, & Walster (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24: 285-290.

Dutton & Aron (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30: 510-517.

Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Kennedy (1991). What is beautiful is good, but...: A meta-analytic review of research on the physical attractiveness stereotype. Psychological Bulletin, 110: 109-128.

Easton & Hardy (2009). The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, 2nd edition. The Celestial Arts.

Eastwick & Finkel (2008). Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94: 245-264.

Eldridge (2009). Conflict patterns. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of human relationships: Vol. 1 (pp. 307-310). Sage Reference.

Ellis (1992). The evolution of sexual attraction: Evaluative mechanisms in women. In Barkow, Cosmides, & Tooby (eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 267-288). Oxford University Press.

Fehr (2009). Friendship formation and development. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 1 (pp. 706-10). Sage Reference.

Feingold (1990). Gender differences in effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59: 981-993.

Feingold (1992a). Good-looking people are not what we think. Psychological Bulletin, 111: 304-341.

Feingold (1992b). Gender differences in mate selection preferences: A test of the parental investment model. Psychological Bulletin, 116: 429-256.

Figueredo, Sefcek, & Jones (2006). The ideal romantic partner personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 41: 431-441.

Fielding, Scholling, Adab, Cheng, Lao et al. (2008). Are longer legs associated with enhanced fertility in Chinese women? Evolution and Human Behavior, 29: 434-443.

Fink & Neave (2005). The biology of facial beauty. Internal Journal of Cosmetic Science, 27: 317-325.

Fink, Matts, Klingenberg, Kuntze, Weege, & Grammar (2008). Visual attention to variation in female skin color distribution. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 7: 155-161.

Finkel & Eastwick (2008). Speed-dating. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17: 193-197.

Fisman, Iyengar, Kamenica, & Simonson (2006). Gender differences in mate selection: Evidence from a speed dating experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 121: 673-697.

Ford & Beach (1951). Patterns of Sexual Behavior. Harper & Row.

Franzoi & Herzog (1987). Judging personal attractiveness: What body aspects do we use? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13: 19-33.

Furnham, Tan, & McManus (1997). Waist-to-hip ratio and preferences for body shape: A replication and extension. Personality and Individual Differences, 22: 539-549.

Gangestad & Simpson (2000). The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23: 573-644.

Gangestad & Scheyd (2005). The evolution of human physical attractiveness. Annual Review of Anthropology, 34: 523-548.

Gillis & Avis (1980).

Gonzaga (2009). Similarity in ongoing relationships. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 3 (pp. 1496-1499). Sage Reference.

Goode (1996). Gender and courtship entitlement: Responses to personal ads. Sex Roles, 34: 141-169.

Goodfriend (2009). Proximity and attraction. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 3 (pp. 1297-1299). Sage Reference.

Gottschall, Berkey, Cawson, Drown, Fleischner, et al. (2003). Patterns of characterization in folktales across geographic regions and levels of cultural complexity: Literature as a neglected source of quantitative data. Human Nature, 14: 365-382.

Gottschall, Martin, Quish, & Rea (2004). Sex differences in mate choice criteria are reflected in folktales from around the world and in historical European literature. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25: 102-112.

Grabe & Samson (2010). Sexual Cues Emanating From the Anchorette Chair: Implications for Perceived Professionalism, Fitness for Beat, and Memory for News. Communication Research, December 14.

Greene, Derlega, Mathews (2006). Self-disclosure in personal relationships. In Vangelisti & Perlman (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships (pp. 409-428). Cambridge University Press.

Gregor (1985). Anxious Pleasures: The sexual lives of an Amazonian people. University of Chicago Press.

Grello, Welsh, & Harper (2006). No strings attached: The nature of casual sex in college students. Journal of Sex Research, 43: 255-267.

Gustavsson & Johnsson (2008). Mixed support for sexual selection theories of mate preferences in the Swedish population. Evolutionary Psychology, 6: 454-470.

Haas & Stafford (1998). An initial examination of maintenance behaviors in gay and lesbian relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15: 846-855.

Hatfield & Sprecher (1986). Mirror, mirror... The importance of looks in everyday life. State University of New York Press.

Hill, Rubin, & Peplau (1976). Breakups before marriage: The end of 103 affairs. Journal of Social Issues, 32: 147-168.

Ireland, Slatcher, Eastwick, Scissors, Finkel, & Pennebaker (2011). Language style matching predicts relationship initiation and stability. Psychological Science, 22: 39-44.

Jackson (1992). Physical appearance and gender: Sociobiological and sociocultural perspectives. State University of New York Press.

Jasienska, Ziomkiewicz, Ellison, Lipson, & Thune (2004). Large breasts and narrow waists indicate high reproductive potential in women. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B, 271: 1213-1217.

Jones (1996). Physical attractiveness and the theory of sexual selection. University of Michigan Press.

Jones, Pelham, Carvallo, & Mirenberg (2004). How do I love thee? Let me count the Js: Implicit egotism and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87: 665-683.

Karremans, Frankenhuis, & Arons (2010). Blind men prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31: 182-186.

Kenrick, Sadalla, Groth, & Trost (1990). Evolution, traits, and the stages of human courtship: Qualifying the parental investment model. Journal of Personality, 58: 97-116.

Kenrick, Keefe, Gabrielidis, & Cornelius (1996). Adolescents' age preferences for dating partners: Support for an evolutionary model of life-history strategies. Child Development, 67: 1499-1511.

Kenrick & Keefe (1992). Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in reproductive strategies. Behaivoral and Brain Sciences, 15: 75-133.

Khallad (2005). Mate selection in Jordan: Effects of sex, socio-economic status, and culture. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22: 155-168.

Kirkpatrick & Davis (1994). Attachment style, gender, and relationship stability: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66: 502-512.

Kurdek (2005). What do we know about gay and lesbian couples? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14: 251-254. 

Kurzban & Weeden (2005). HurryDate: Mate preferences in actionEvolution and Human Behavior, 26: 227-244.

Langlois & Roggman (1990). Attractive faces are only average. Psychological Science, 1: 115-121.

Langlois, Roggman, & Reiser-Danner (1990). Infants' differential social responses to attractive and unattractive faces. Developmental Psychology, 26: 153-159.

Langlois, Roggman, Casey, Ritter, Riser-Danner, & Jenkins (1987). Infant preferences for attractive faces: Rudiments of a stereotype? Developmental Psychology, 23: 363-369.

Langlois, Kalakanis, Rubenstein, Larson, Hallam, & Smoot (2000). Maxims or myths of beauty? A meta-analysis and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 126: 390-423.

Le (2009). Familiarity principle of attraction. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 1 (pp. 596-597). Sage Reference.

Ledbetter, Griffin, & Sparks (2007). Forecasting 'friends forever': A longitudinal investigation of sustained closeness between friends. Personal Relationships, 14: 343-350.

Lee, Loewenstein, Ariely, Hong, & Young (2008). If I'm not hot, are you hot or not? Physical-attractiveness evaluations and dating preferences as a function of one's own attractiveness. Psychological Science, 19: 669-577.

Lynn & Shurgot (1984). Responses to lonely hearts advertisements: Effects of reported physical attractiveness, physique, and coloration. Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10: 349-357.

Marlowe (2004). Mate preferences among Hadza hunter-gatherers. Human Nature, 4: 365-376.

Martins, Tiggermann, & Kirkbride (2007). Those speedos become them: The role of self-objectification in gay and heterosexual men's body image. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33: 634-647.

Miller & Perlman (2008). Intimate Relationships, 5th edition. McGraw-Hill.

Montoya, Horton, & Kirchner (2008). Is actual similarity necessary for attraction? A meta-analysis of actual and perceived similarity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25: 889-922.

Moreland & Beach (1992). Exposure effects in the classroom: The development of affinity among students. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 28: 255-276.

Moreland & Zajonc (1982). Exposure effects in person perception: Familiarity, similarity, and attraction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 18: 395-415.

Morry (2007). The attraction-similarity hypothesis among cross-sex friends: Relationship satisfactions, perceived similarities, and self-serving perception. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24: 117-138.

Morry (2009). Similarity principle in attraction. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 3 (pp. 1500-1504.

Myers (2010). Psychology, 9th edition. Worth Publishers.

Neff (2009). Physical attractiveness, role in relationships. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 3 (pp. 1242-1245). Sage Reference.

Nuttin (1987). Affective consequences of mere ownership: The name letter effect in twelve European languages. European Journal of Social Psychology, 17: 381-402.

Paul, Wenzel, & Harvey (2000). 'Hookups': Characteristics and correlates of college students' spontaneous and anonymous sexual experiences. Journal of Sex Research, 37: 76-88.

Peplau & Fingerhut (2007). The close relationships of lesbians and gay men. Annual Review of Psychology, 58: 405-424.

Peplau & Spalding (2000). The close relationships of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. In Hendrick & Hendrick (eds.), Close relationships: A Sourcebook. Sage.

Peretti & Abplanalp (2004). Chemistry in the college dating process: Structure and function. Social Behavior and Personality, 32: 147-154.

Perlman & Duck (2006). The seven seas of the study of personal relationships: From “the thousand islands” to interconnected waterways. In Vangelisti & Perlman (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships (pp. 11-34). Cambridge University Press.

Pettay, Helle, Jokela, & Lummaa (2007). Natural selection on female life-history traits in relation to socio-economic class in pre-industrial human populations. Plos ONE, July: 1-9.

Powell & Fine (2009). Dissolution of relationships, causes. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships: Vol. 1 (pp. 436-440). Sage Reference.

Reis, Nezlek, & Wheeler (1980). Physical attractiveness in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38: 604-617.

Rhodes, Sumich, & Byatt (1999). Are average facial configurations attractive only because of their symmetry? Psychological Science, 10: 52-58.

Rhodes (2006). The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty. Annual Review of Psychology, 57: 199-226.

Rosenbaum (1986). The repulsion hypothesis: On the nondevelopment of relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51: 1156-1166.

Schaefer, Fink, Grammar, Mitteroecker, Gunz, & Bookstein (2006). Female appearance: Facial and bodily attractiveness as shape. Psychology Science, 48: 187-205.

Simpson & Harris (1994). Interpersonal attraction. In Weber & Harvey (eds.), Perspective on close relationships (pp. 45-66). Allyn & Bacon.

Singh (1993). Adaptive significance of waist-to-hip ratio and female physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65: 293-307.

Singh (1995). Female health, attractiveness, and desirability for relationships: Role of breast asymmetry and waist-to-hip ratio. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16: 465-481.

Singh (2000). Waist-to-hip ratio: An indicator of female mate value. International Research Center for Japanese Studies, International Symposium 16: 79-99.

Singh & Bronstad (1997). Sex differences in the anatomical locations of human body scarification and tattooing as a function of pathogen prevalence. Evolution and Human Behavior, 18: 403-416.

Singh & Young (1995). Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, breasts, and hips: Role in judgments of female attractiveness and desirability for relationships. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16: 483-507.

Singh & Randall (2007). Beauty is in the eye of the plastic surgeon: Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and women's attractiveness. Personality and Individual Differences, 43: 329-340. 

Slater, Von der Schulenburg, Brown, Badenoch, Butterworth, Parsons, & Samuels (1998). Newborn infants prefer attractive faces. Infant Behavior and Development, 21: 345-354.

Smith & Caprariello (2009). Liking. In Reis & Sprecher (eds.), Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, Vol. 2 (pp. 978-982). Sage Reference.

Smith, McIntosh, & Bazzini (1999). Are the beautiful good in Hollywood? An investigation of the beauty-and-goodness stereotype on film. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 21: 69-80.

Solomon (1987). Standard issue. Psychology Today, November: 30-31.

Sorokowski & Pawlowski (2008). Adaptive preferences for leg length in a potential partner. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29: 86-91.

Sprecher (1989). The importance to males and females of physical attractiveness, earning potential, and expressiveness in initial attraction. Sex Roles, 21: 591-607.

Sprecher (1994). Two studies on the breakup of dating and relationships. Personal Relationships, 1: 199-222.

Sprecher, Wenzel, & Harvey, eds. (2008). Handbook of Relationship Initiation. Psychology Press.

Steinberg (1993). Astonishing love stories (from an earlier United Press International report). Games, February: 47.

Sugiyama (2005). Physical attractiveness in adaptationist perspective. In Buss (ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 292-342). Wiley.

Surra, Gray, Boettcher, Cottle, & West (2006). From Courtship to Universal Properties: Research on Dating and Mate Selection, 1950 to 2003. In Vangelisti & Perlman (eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge University Press.

Swami, Einon, & Furnham (2006). The leg-to-body ratio as a human aesthetic criterion. Body Image, 3: 317-323.

Swami & Furnham (2008).

Swap (1977). Interpersonal Attraction and Repeated Exposure to Rewarders and Punishers. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3: 248–251.

Symons (1995). Beauty is in the adaptations of the beholder: The evolutionary psychology of human female sexual attractiveness. In Abramson & Pinkerton (eds.), Sexual nature, sexual culture (pp. 80-118). University of Chicago Press.

Taormino (2008). Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Cleis Press.

Thakerar & Iwawaki (1979). Cross-cultural comparisons in interpersonal attraction of females toward males. Journal of Social Psychology, 108: 121-122.

Thornhill & Gangestad (1994). Human fluctuating asymmetry and sexual behavior. Psychological Science, 5: 292-302.

Thornhill & Gangestad (1999). The scent of symmetry: A human sex pheromone that signals fitness? Evolution and Human Behavior, 20: 175-201.

Thornhill & Moller (1997). The relative importance of size and asymmetry in sexual selection. Behavioral Ecology, 9: 546-551.

Vangelisti & Perlman (2006). The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge University Press.

Walster, Aronson, Abrahams, & Rottman (1966). Importance of physical attractiveness in dating behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4: 508-516.

Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer (2011). Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st Century, 10th edition. Wadsworth Publishing.

White & Knight (1984). Misattribution of arousal and attraction: Effects of salience of explanations for arousal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 20: 55-64.

Wiederman (1993). Evolved gender differences in mate preferences: Evidence from personal advertisements. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14: 331-352.

Woll (1986). So many to choose from: Decision strategies in videodating. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 3: 43-52.

Zajonc (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9: 1-27.

Zajonc (1998). Emotions. In Gilbert, Fiske, & Lindzey (eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, 4th edition. McGraw Hill.

Zajonc (2001). Mere exposure: A gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10: 224-228.

1554 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-03T04:57:41.179Z · score: 22 (36 votes) · LW · GW

Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"?

I find that claim bewildering because the partnered men I know aren't jerks. It could be that I'm filtering for non-jerkness, but my tentative alternate theory is that the maybe the most conspicuously attractive women prefer jerks, and the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women. Or possibly a preference for jerks really is common in "girls"-- not children, but women below some level of maturity (age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?), and some men are imprinted on what they saw in high school.

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean? What proportion of women are you talking about? Is there academic research to back this up? What have you seen in your social circle?

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2011-11-03T23:22:05.343Z · score: 124 (123 votes) · LW · GW

This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it. Now let me join in.

The research on this topic is split into "completely useless" and "mostly useless". In the former category we have studies that, with a straight face, purport to show that women like nice guys by asking women to self-report on their preferences. To illuminate just how silly this is, consider the mirror case of asking men "So, do you like witty charming girls with good personalities, or supermodels with big breasts?" When this was actually done, men rated "physical attractiveness" only their 22nd most important criterion for a mate - number one was "sincerity", and number nineteen was "good manners". And yet there are no websites where you can spend $9.95 per month to stream videos of well-mannered girls asking men to please pass the salad fork, and there are no spinster apartments full of broken-hearted supermodels who just didn't have enough sincerity. So self-reports are right out.

Other-reports may be slightly less silly. Herold and Milhausen, 1999, found that 56% of university women believed that women in general were more likely to date jerks than nice guys. But although women may have less emotional investment in the issue than men, their opinions are still just opinions.

The few studies that earn the coveted accolade of "only mostly useless" are those that try to analyze actual behavior. Bogart and Fisher typify a group of studies that show that good predictors of a man's number of sexual partners include disinhibitedness, high testosterone levels, "hypermasculinity", "sensation seeking", antisocial personality, and extraversion. Meston et al typify a separate group of studies on sex and the Big Five traits when she says that "agreeableness was the most consistent predictor of behavior...disagreeable men and women were more likely to have had sexual intercourse and with a greater number of partners than agreeable men and women. Nonvirgins of both sexes were more likely to be calculating, stubborn, and arrogant in their interpersonal behavior than virgins. Neuroticism predicted sexual experience in males only; timid, unassertive men were less sexually experienced than emotionally stable men...the above findings were all statistically significant at p<.01"

These studies certainly show that jerkishness is associated with high number of sexual partners, but they're not quite a victory for the "nice guys finish last" camp for a couple of reasons. First, men seem to come off almost as bad as women do. Second, there's no reason to think that any particular "nice" woman will like jerks; many of the findings could be explained by disagreeable men hooking up with disagreeable women, disagreeing with them about things (as they do) and then breaking up and hooking up with other disagreeable women, while the agreeable people form stable pair bonds. Boom - disagreeable people showing more sexual partners than agreeable people.

I find more interesting the literature about intelligence and sexual partners. In high-schoolers, each extra IQ point increases chance of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% by females. 87% of 19-year old US college students have had sex, yet only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex. There's conflicting research about whether this reflects lower sex drive in these people or less sexual success; it's probably a combination of both. See linked article for more information.

The basic summary of the research seems to be that smart, agreeable people complaining that they have less sex than their stupid, disagreeable counterparts are probably right, and that this phenomenon occurs both in men and women but is a little more common in men.

Moving from research to my own observations, I do think there are a lot of really kind, decent, shy, nerdy men who can't find anyone who will love them because they radiate submissiveness and non-assertiveness, and women don't find this attractive. Most women do find dominant, high-testosterone people attractive, and dominance and testosterone are risk factors for jerkishness, but not at all the same thing and women can't be blamed for liking people with these admittedly attractive characteristics.

There are also a lot of really kind, decent, shy, nerdy women who can't find anyone who will love them because they're not very pretty. Men can't be blamed for liking people they find attractive either, but this is also sad.

But although these two situations are both sad, at the risk of being preachy I will say one thing. When a girl is charming and kind but not so conventionally attractive, and men avoid her, and this makes her sad...well, imagine telling her that only ugly people would think that, and since she's ugly she doesn't deserve a man, and she probably just wants to use him for his money anyway because of course ugly women can't genuinely want love in the same way anyone else would (...that would be unfair!) This would be somewhere between bullying and full on emotional abuse, the sort of thing that would earn you a special place in Hell.

Whereas when men make the same complaint, that they are nice and compassionate but not so good at projecting dominance, there is a very large contingent of people, getting quite a lot of respect and validation from the parts of society that should know better, who immediately leap out to do their best to make them feel miserable - to tell that they don't deserve a relationship, that they're probably creeps who are only in it for the sex and that if they were a real man they'd stop whining about being "entitled to sex".

EDIT: But see qualification here

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2011-11-08T19:07:36.541Z · score: 30 (30 votes) · LW · GW

After talking to a couple of people about this, I should qualify/partially-retract the original comment.

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

I would find this person annoying, and although I hope I would be kind enough not to lash out against her in quite the terms I mentioned above, I would understand the motivations of someone who did, instead of having to classify him as having some sort of weird Martian brain design that makes him a moral monster.

The obesity metaphor is especially relevant. Since there are people out there who think becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food", I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident".

For people who honestly believe those things, and there seem to be a lot of them, the obese woman and the socially awkward man would reduce to the case of the woman who never showered but constantly complained about how superficial men were to reject her over her smell - annoying and without any redeeming value.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T08:56:16.621Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

That would seem to apply better if at least some (but not all) of the significant elements of gross obesity and bad hygiene were rewarded with approval and reinforced with verbal exhortations for a significant proportion of the woman's lives. So basically the metaphor is a crock. Mind you the insult would quite possibly do the recipient good to hear anyway unless they happen to be the kind of person who will reject advice that is clearly wrong without first reconstructing what the advice should have been, minus the part that is obviously nonsense.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-11T16:48:40.399Z · score: 10 (20 votes) · LW · GW

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

People are really bad at measuring their own levels of altruism, which is hardly surprising. Those in this cluster of peoplespace are worse than average at reading social cues and others' assessments of them, and are apt to interpret "nice" and its congnates as "particularly kind and proscial," instead of what it usually means, which is "boring, but not actively offensive enough to merit an explicitly negative description." (Consider what it usually means when you describe your mother's watercolors or the like as "nice," sans any emphatic phrasing.) Likewise, we halo bad predicates onto those whom we resent - "jerk" is the male equivalent of "slut," in this sense.

What's creepy about this group is precisely the entitled attitude on display - that they deserve to enjoy sexual relations with those on whom they crush merely for being around them and not actively offending, or indeed in some cases for doing what in other contexts would be rightly considered kind and prosocial. This transactional model of sex is, well, creepy, and quite evident if you're specifically doing {actions that would otherwise be kind and prosocial} for unrequited loves and not people in general. The complaint is accurate in that yes, their being inoffensive and helpful isn't getting them laid, but the conclusion - that if they were jerks they would get laid - reveals a fundamental confusion. (I also think the PUA types are 100% right when they say displaying confidence is key, but that it's a bit confused to treat it as relating to dominance or women's preferences specifically - if you think you suck, others will assume you're right; this is the key to all sales work, and I've known a number of decent-looking women and gay men who aren't getting laid due to a lack of self-confidence as well.)

I have sympathy for these young men in that having poor native social skills and low self-confidence sucks, and, hey, I've been there. But they're not getting any approval for this, except when they meet up for affective death-spirals.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-13T10:28:04.231Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

I used to believe this, but after doing some research, and further experience, I changed my mind.

First, the available research doesn't show a disadvantage of altruism, agreeableness, and prosocial tendencies for men.

I used to experience agreeableness and altruism as disadvantages. Now I experience agreeableness as sometimes a big advantage, and sometimes a moderate disadvantage. Altruism is neutral, as long as I can suppress it to normal population levels (I have excessive altruistic tendencies).

Hypotheses that reconcile this data and anecdata:

  • Prosocial tendencies are orthogonal to attractiveness
  • Prosocial tendencies have a non-linear relationships to attractiveness (e.g. it's good to be average, or maybe even a bit above average, but any higher or lower is a disadvantage
  • The relationship between prosocial tendencies and attractiveness is moderated by another variable. For instance, perhaps prosocial tendencies are an advantage for extraverted men, but a disadvantage for introverts

What's creepy about this group is precisely the entitled attitude on display - that they deserve to enjoy sexual relations with those on whom they crush merely for being around them and not actively offending, or indeed in some cases for doing what in other contexts would be rightly considered kind and prosocial.

While some people who believe they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial have this attitude of entitlement, ascribing an entitlement mentality to that entire class of people is a hasty generalization. It is likely that people who believe they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial with a genuine entitlement attitude are very visible (far more visible than people in that class without that attitude), and this visibility may distort estimates of their prevalence due to the availability heuristic.

Furthermore, in this context perhaps you would agree that "entitlement" is political buzzword that has not been appropriately operationalized. In some hands, it is used as expansively and unrigorously as "nice" and "jerk."

comment by John_D · 2013-10-11T15:26:15.491Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that while dark triad traits are desirable to women, they aren't the only desirable traits. As you said, research shows that agreeableness and altruism also tend to be attractive, and conscientious and agreeable men tend to be better dancers, and thus more attractive. (quick google search) I suspect that there are multiple types of attractive men, or you can still possess all these traits.

Then again, it is important to know how the dark triad is measured to begin with. I am not sure if this is the actual test, but it looks legitimate. While saying disagree to all or most of the questions that measured lying and callousness, I still managed to score high on Machiavellianism and above average in Narcissism. (low on psychopathy) This also calls into question how "dark" some of these traits are, since outside of psychopathy, the other questions were related to self-esteem and a desire for influence, which isn't inherently evil, and can still coincide with agreeable and prosocial personalities.
http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-dark-triad-test-1

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-13T10:39:44.259Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Now I experience agreeableness as sometimes a big advantage, and sometimes a moderate disadvantage...

Hypotheses that reconcile this data and anecdata:

...The relationship between prosocial tendencies and attractiveness is moderated by another variable.

I said, which was given some implicit endorsement (I think):

That deeper truth is that it is behaviors indicating high status that are attractive. Usually these are "selfish and aggressive", not showing concern with others' standards, but conspicuous vulnerability/non high-status behavior also shows high status by ignoring opportunities to display high status with selfishness and aggression. See e.g. John Mayer.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T18:15:37.356Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

It is doing no such thing. Make no mistake - I don't conflate altruism with approval seeking niceness and I recommend "quit being a pussy" as a far more practical bite of self talk for people in the category you describe to use than the "women only like jerks" message; I'm clearly not rejecting the analogy because I'm supporting a sob story. No, what I am doing is rejecting one soldier that happens to be on the opposite extreme to the one above. Because it is a false analogy.

But they're not getting any approval for this

I don't give any approval for this either, but I don't do it out of judgement or blame. I don't give approval or sympathy because that would be counterproductive to their own goals.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-08T20:50:42.635Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth, my reflex before reading a bunch of stuff here was closer to hearing "socially awkward man who can't manage to attract women" was closer to thinking of various annoying men who have hung around me, who I find unattractive (sometimes at the skin-crawling level [1]), but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

After reading these discussions, I conclude that my preconception was a case of availability bias (possibly amplified by a desire to not know how painful things are), and so I use a more abstract category.

[1] To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid. If I were, I'd be handling things differently. It also turned out to my surprise, that at least some men have never had the experience of that sort of revulsion. It seems to me that it's not quite the same as not wanting to be around someone who just about everyone would think was overtly ugly, though women frequently agree (independently, I think) about some men being uncomfortable to be around.

It wouldn't surprise me if there are specific elements of body language or facial expression which cause that sort of revulsion, but I don't know what they are.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T21:08:01.432Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid.

My understanding is that it is an instinct intended to protect you from threats to your reproductive success, not threats to your survival. ie. I expect it to tend to encourage behaviors that will prevent pregnancy to losers more so than behaviors that prevent losers from killing you.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-08T22:05:57.095Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think people are highly optimized. Evolution aims for good enough, rather than best hypothetically possible, and when I say hypothetically possible, I mean hypotheses generated by people from a time when no one knows the limits of what's evolutionarily possible.

I've had the skin crawl effect from men of varying status, though I admit the average status is on the low side.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T03:25:18.269Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think people are highly optimized.

Having a 'repulsion/creepiness' response to supplement an 'attraction' response seems like something to expect as an early, basic optimization. Something that would begin to be optimized before even bothering with things like human level intelligence.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-09T08:37:59.795Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Has anything like the repulsion response been seen in animals?

Something I don't think I've seen discussed is that the men who set off the repulsion response seem to be pretty rare. I haven't heard of the response being studied scientifically.

If PUA helps, it might not distinguish between men who have been ignored and men who have been actively avoided.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T09:22:30.782Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If PUA helps, it might not distinguish between men who have been ignored and men who have been actively avoided.

From what I understand of the philosophy a personal development program based on PUA would be expected and intended to reduce the amount that the guy is placed in the 'ignored' category while actually increasing the 'actively avoided' category. Because being ignored is useless (and 'no fun') while being actively avoided actually just saves time. Bell curves and blue and red charts apply.

There tends to be some lessons on how to reduce 'creepiness' in general because obviously being creepy in general is going to be a hindrance to the intended goals.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T09:28:49.443Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't heard of the response being studied scientifically.

My brief searching for 'creepiness research' didn't turn up much either. But to be honest I don't really know where to look. :)

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-08T21:19:35.085Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks a lot! Your comment made something click for me.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T21:01:37.817Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

The obvious conclusion from these premises: If you had the belief that "This could go on for years and is no fun" is a valid justification for telling someone to go away then your life would contain less 'no fun'.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T21:08:53.987Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That works for the future. You have to somehow acquire that belief in the first place, and it seems like something that would be hard to learn any way but experience.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T21:15:19.551Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That works for the future.

If you find something that works for the past please let me know. That would be awesome. Kind of like timer-turner hack for relationships. You wouldn't have to guess which relationships would work, you would just automatically select a relationship that would work by virtue of all the counterfactual bad relationships being pre-empted by the techniques that work for the past!

You have to somehow acquire that belief in the first place, and it seems like something that would be hard to learn any way but experience.

Or, like with many life lessons, by having good friends, role models and mentors. They help you notice that you're making a silly mistake when you've been making it for an order of weeks not an order of years!

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T21:21:10.304Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Amusing, and yes, my phrasing was imprecise - I wasn't intending tautology.

My objection was that 1) she probably has already made this transition herself, and 2) telling people that this transition needs to be made is not providing much information unless they understand how to recognize such relationships, and learning to distinguish what kinds of things suck for years from those that suck right now but get awesome later is necessarily going to take years unless we convey much additional information (assuming it is sufficiently stable between people to allow communication of that information to be meaningful).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-13T03:01:56.572Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't made the transition in all cases. wedrifid's advice might be useful.

I probably need to figure out where I want the line to be. It's also a complicating factor when I'm thinking "I'd enjoy this person's company if there were less of it and I wasn't feeling pressured".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T21:27:03.849Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

telling people that this transition needs to be made is not providing much information

I hope not. I was trying to get as close as possible to a pure deduction from the quote so as to be almost entirely impersonal.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T21:33:18.209Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Understood. It wasn't so much a complaint directed at you, as at anyone who wanted to add more details.

Edited to clarify: That is to say, the negativity of the complaint, such as it was, was directed at the situation; the communicative content of the complaint was directed at anyone, including you.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-08T21:03:43.924Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It also turned out to my surprise, that at least some men have never had the experience of that sort of revulsion.

I haven't experienced revulsion I would describe as 'skin-crawling', but I have experienced my scrotum shriveling up. This might be an idiom / physiological experience issue rather than a difference in life experience.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T08:46:34.587Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident.

And it is that easy. Just like becoming an engineer is as easy as "getting a degree and being better at math".

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-09T06:08:46.210Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident".

There's a community of men how are in fact to find effective ways to be socially assertive in a way that's attractive to women, it's called PUA.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-25T11:20:34.555Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Since there are people out there who think becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food"

Becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food" -- as someone once pointed out, were there many plump fellows among the Auschwitz inmates liberated by the Allies? The problem is that for some people just eating less food is itself not terribly easy.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-03-25T16:12:47.353Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's also the thing that while thermodynamics says you can't stay fat and maintain a body temperature while taking in sufficiently few calories, there isn't a law of physics that says your body must start losing fat in that situation instead of just getting very sick and eventually dying. The skinny people who walked out of Auschwitz didn't include the people who had died of sickness during internment.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-25T20:43:08.281Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

“there isn't a law of physics” all right, but for evolutionary reasons I'd expect that for all except a non-sizeable fraction of people, the minimum weight below which they would die from starvation (or even the minimum weight below which they would stop being fertile) would be way below the maximum weight above which their obesity would turn potential sexual partners off. (And if this isn't the case, that would mean that today's fucked-up beauty standards --mostly due to the preponderance of very skinny models in the media IMO-- are by far even more fucked up than I thought.)

comment by pwno · 2011-11-08T20:47:46.872Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right, but more specifically, the annoying parts are their denial of the problem and reluctance to improve. We'd all be a lot more sympathetic otherwise.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T09:05:45.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right, but more specifically, the annoying parts are their denial of the problem and reluctance to improve. We'd all be a lot more sympathetic otherwise.

On average people in that category get more than enough sympathy (mind you it probably varies a lot in degree and sincerity). More sympathy would tend to be a toxic influence from the perspective of trying to meet their unmet goals. Far better to empathize but show no sympathy whatsoever.

comment by pwno · 2011-11-27T19:42:38.319Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that category of people are considered low status on average, and thus, not met with much sympathy. Maybe they have a small circle of people enabling their bad habits, but I suspect the strongest force is rationalization.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-11T07:07:28.750Z · score: 1 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The obvious strategy for this woman seems to be to look specifically for men who don't care much about looks and hygiene. (Also, you're a bad person for saying a woman who doesn't shave her legs is gross.) Melissa McEwan is fat and doesn't shave her legs (though as far as I know she has good hygiene), and that works out just fine because the people she's interested in prefer, or at least don't strongly disprefer, that.

On the other hand, those compassionate betas (at least those we hear complaining) seem to only pursue the (admittedly common) type of women who care strongly about status. There are obvious reasons for that (it correlates with being conventionally attractive), but it does seem like they're shooting themselves in the foot. If people who prefer your type have to throw themselves at you before you notice them, you're doing it wrong.

Edit: I don't understand the downvotes. wedrifid's objection is true, but it wasn't my main point. Is it because I'm telling people to hit on people who aren't their first choice? Or is it the "how dare you want the same characteristics everyone wants" undertones? Or did I just plain miss Yvain's point?

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2011-11-11T16:28:45.381Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I voted you down for saying "Also, you're a bad person for saying a woman who doesn't shave her legs is gross" when I never said anything of the sort. Maybe you misunderstood the term "grossly obese" (which uses 'gross' in the sense of 'large')? I don't know.

Even if I had said that, there would have to be a nicer way to correct it.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-11T16:39:39.093Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

No, just the description that is intended to make people go "Ew, undateable" (obesity, poor hygiene), as opposed to "Aw, poor girl, those guys are so shallow" (ugly duckling).

But... but... how come I don't get to say that, when you get to say "This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it."? (Because you're freaking Yvain. Also because you have some concept of tact.)

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2011-11-11T17:07:36.104Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Again, where did I say that it was "gross"?

I said it would make it harder for the woman to get dates with men, but is that really in doubt? Do you need me to find statistics showing that (American) men in general rate women who don't shave their legs as less attractive? And I was using it as an example of something that shouldn't matter, but does.

You don't get to say that because 90% of people who used it in the context you did would be using it seriously, and because accusing someone of being a bad person for being sexist is more of a trigger point than accusing someone of having a bad debate.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-11T17:18:38.606Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

When you give a list of three attributes, people tend assume the salient features are common for all three or different for all three. The attributes you gave were obese, poor hygiene, and unshaved. Two of these, obese and poor hygiene, are problematic for reasons other than simple lack of social acceptance, and people thus feel more confident calling them "gross" - for which they were also primed by your use of the term in it's other sense.

As I see it: no, you didn't say it, but I completely understand why they heard it.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-11T17:23:34.497Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

90% of people who used it in the context you did would be using it seriously

Uh. Okay. I guess I far underestimated the proportion of people who would seriously call you a bad person on LW. My bad.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T18:27:47.775Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For what it is worth I appreciated the tongue in cheek nature of your call and only object to the 'being wrong about what what Yvain said' part, not the 'bad' part. I can't help you in finding an explanation on how you managed to get to -4. Perhaps you could edit that one part out and see if you get back up to 0? People often seem to approve of retraction-edits.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2011-11-12T02:35:37.983Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, fine. Maybe I'm just oversensitive. Downvote revoked.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-11T16:51:15.534Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Because this is a terrible debate, and we should all feel bad for having it. (I say this, like Yvain did originally, as a moth who knows it is drawn to the flame.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-11T13:55:06.730Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Edit: I don't understand the downvotes. wedrifid's objection is true, but it wasn't my main point. Is it because I'm telling people to hit on people who aren't their first choice? Or is it the "how dare you want the same characteristics everyone wants" undertones? Or did I just plain miss Yvain's point?

I would say you missed his point. The description was meant to be analogous to the sort of men who're held up as having entitlement complexes. If she doesn't meet many men's preferences, her dating prospects are going to be slim, and she can try to seek out men whose preferences she meets, or try to change aspects of herself which will allow her to meet more men's preferences, or, yes, she can complain about it and rail against men for having the preferences they have, but the last one is unproductive and insulting so it's no wonder if people take a dim view of it.

Since the woman is being rejected by people whose preferences she doesn't meet, and complaining about it, there is no "on the other hand" relative to the men who're complaining about their lack of success with women whose preferences they don't meet, they're behaving in the same way. You seem to be arguing that the men are more socially blameworthy (because they are shooting themselves in the foot) for not engaging in the behavior which you say the obese woman should be engaging in. But in the context of the analogy, she isn't doing those things.

Also, Yvain didn't even come up with the analogy, it was related to him by people who didn't think that his previous analogy (the ugly duckling woman being rejected by men) was appropriately descriptive. So saying something like "Also, you're a bad person for saying a woman who doesn't shave her legs is gross" sends a doubly negative signal, first for parsing his statement in a disingenuous way, and second for holding Yvain accountable for the opinions of other people he's relating to us. Unless you were obviously joking, I would have downvoted for that alone, even if as you say it isn't the main point, unless the rest of the comment was exceptional.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-13T03:09:01.717Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think part of the situation is that both the very fat woman and the shy man feel rightly that they're on the receiving end of a hostile conspiracy.

It isn't just that people are spontaneously unattracted to them, it's that there's a lot of public material which portrays people like them (and perhaps especially in the case of the very fat woman) anyone who's attracted to them as objects of mockery.

Thinking about the dominance thing.... there are heterosexual couples (actually, now that I think about it, the examples I know best are poly) where the woman is dominant.

If a man is temperamentally in the not-dominant to submissive range, would looking for a compatible dominant woman be a good strategy?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-13T03:26:10.758Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If a man is temperamentally in the not-dominant to submissive range, would looking for a compatible dominant woman be a good strategy?

There are many more submissive men than there are dominant women. On top of that, in the poly community I seem to have noticed a pattern where dominant women end up primaries with even more dominant men (with both taking more submissive people as secondaries, etc).

So the prospects for a submissive male can be slim.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-28T00:09:58.351Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If a man is temperamentally in the not-dominant to submissive range, would looking for a compatible dominant woman be a good strategy?

Now that I think about it, I've been generally mostly following that strategy.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-11T14:08:08.737Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T08:11:38.306Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Also, you're a bad person for saying a woman who doesn't shave her legs is gross.

That meaning is very different to saying "grossly obese" in the same sentence as never showering or shaving her legs. At worst Yvain could be bad for saying that people who are very, very, overweight is gross - and even then it wouldn't be somewhat of a distortion.

Writing simply 'obese' would be an underspecification. For example the only time I have ever qualified as officially 'obese' was when I was body building aggressively - which is an entirely different thing.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-04T00:44:21.349Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Relevant: the Dark Triad and short-term mating.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-11-12T17:19:06.760Z · score: 10 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it. Now let me join in.

I suspect a large number of upvotes were purely for this line. I approve.

comment by hairyfigment · 2011-11-04T17:31:30.574Z · score: 2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I agree as far as this goes. But remember that we don't chiefly want to prevent people calling women ugly. We chiefly want to prevent this, because we think it increases actual rape. (The cited research does not establish this with any clarity, but it does establish that you left out another potential distorting factor.)

Would you actually feel surprised if you found out the belief that women only date jerks causally increases talk of rape fantasies, and that this increases rape? What about the belief that a simple and general method will allow guys to have sex with the women they desire?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T21:01:58.162Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I think the causation may be going the other way: it's that men who are willing to rape are more likely to enjoy rape jokes, not that men who read rape jokes thereby become more willing to rape.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-04T22:54:28.977Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Another theory I've heard (although not one relevant to this particular study, except maybe in an ecological sense) is that rape jokes signal to predators that non-predatory men aren't going to socially punish them.

comment by Emile · 2011-11-05T12:51:18.917Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Very plausible, similar things could be said of racist jokes.

I can't think of a negative interpretation of blonde jokes though.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-05T14:02:48.121Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean negative interpretations in general, or that particular sort of negative interpretation?

I would think ill of someone who told blonde jokes, especially if they told a bunch of them. To my mind, anyone who gives a lot of time to blonde jokes is probably making themselves less able to see intelligence in blonde women. I haven't tested this belief, I'm just going on plausibility.

comment by hairyfigment · 2011-11-10T08:23:41.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Late response: I tend to believe in causation of the sort that Oligopsony mentions, because of Altemeyer's research on Social Dominance Orientation and the oddly named Right-Wing Authoritarian scale. Though the conclusion involves two inferences that I personally haven't seen anyone test.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-06T11:55:38.269Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I agree as far as this goes. But remember that we don't chiefly want to prevent people calling women ugly. We chiefly want to prevent this, because we think it increases actual rape.

Is the 'we' royal, referring to some specific group you are a part of or a normative presumption that I, and the people in some group of which I am a part all must have this attitude? Because for my part I am perfectly ok with being outraged at insulting women by calling them ugly for its own sake and not due to any belief in some complicated causal chain whereby talking about ugliness causes rape and the torture of puppies.

Would you actually feel surprised if you found out the belief that women only date jerks causally increases talk of rape fantasies, and that this increases rape?

I would be somewhat skeptical, read the details of such a study closely and in particular look at the degree of the purported effect as well as the significance. I would be equally as surprised to find that belief that women only dated jerks reduced incidence of rape due to the other obvious causal chain (involving reducing sexual frustration by identifying and implementing those elements of 'jerkiness' that are effective).

comment by hairyfigment · 2011-11-09T16:30:40.533Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain seems to have deleted the strawman I responded to (which supports the theory that he erred due to writing a long comment). By "we" I mean people who object to the unproven assertion that women only like jerks. The great-grandparent claims that a "very large contingent" of us make shy men feel bad. Yvain uses the analogy of calling a woman ugly, and originally claimed that people felt like they couldn't condemn one harm without committing the other.

Nobody on Earth literally thinks that way. Whatever Yvain observed likely stemmed from the desire to prevent rape. Though quite possibly some of it went too far or got tied up with other motives.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T16:42:31.655Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Whatever Yvain observed likely stemmed from the desire to prevent rape.

Ok. I don't believe your claim about the way the world is but I think I understand what you are saying.

comment by hairyfigment · 2011-11-10T08:25:01.312Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you mean the quoted claim, does your previous misunderstanding cause you to update your belief in your own motive-grasping powers?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-10T08:30:10.161Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you mean the quoted claim, does your previous misunderstanding cause you to update your belief in your own motive-grasping powers?

I don't believe I said I misunderstood anything and looking back at what I have previously said doesn't lead me to that conclusion either. I just didn't see any point in being more confrontational than polite disagreement. (And I give myself a big burst of self-approval reward for my restraint.)

Based on other times I have noticed that I misunderstood something I expect that I would update rather significantly if such were the case. I hate making mistakes like that.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T23:38:18.067Z · score: 1 (17 votes) · LW · GW

And yet there are no websites where you can spend $9.95 per month to stream videos of well-mannered girls asking men to please pass the salad fork

I don't believe people pay money for those websites in hopes of mating with the videos.

Imagine the mirror situation: telling a woman who complains about being judged on her looks that only ugly people would say that

That's not quite analogous, given that what one complains about does have bearing on whether someone is actually "nice" and not so much bearing on whether someone is actually "ugly".

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-04T04:51:31.966Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That's not quite analogous, given that what one complains about does have bearing on whether someone is actually "nice" and not so much bearing on whether someone is actually "ugly".

I agree that it's not perfectly analogous. Nevertheless, more times than I care to keep track of I have witnessed people lambasting men who complain about lack of relationship success because they pattern match to the Heartless Bitches International construct. They see the black hair and hide the ketchup.

comment by Zeb · 2011-11-03T14:45:51.432Z · score: 33 (31 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately I can't provide sources at the moment (Luke probably can), but I have seen research both sociological and anthropological showing that women and female higher primates in general have a tendency to try to mate with multiple dominate highly masculine males, sometimes secretly, while they tend to have long term pairings with less dominate, less masculine males. The theory is that the genes of the more masculine men lead to more fecund offspring, while the parenting of the less masculine men leads to higher offspring survival. In society this works out to women dating more masculine men (and testosterone is of course linked to the aggressiveness and risk taking we associate with "bad boys") prior to marriage, and then marrying less masculine men (nice guys). And if they cheat, they tend to cheat with "bad boys" and have their "nice guys" raise those kids.

EDIT: For pure anecdote, I am a nice guy (I think) who always complained about the "bad boy" thing, and now I am raising a step-daughter from my wife's youthful short term relationship with a guy everyone would still call a "bad boy." My wife is winning at natural selection! As is that jerk :(

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T10:06:34.076Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection (no offence intended to any LWer with many children or your wife).

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-07T03:14:50.882Z · score: 17 (13 votes) · LW · GW

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-07T03:34:49.198Z · score: 17 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

Suffering is often ameliorated somewhat by knowing you are not alone in your situation.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-26T08:51:21.026Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It can also be made worse by knowing that the suffering is a direct and inevitable result of forces they cannot plausibly alter.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-07T20:59:02.522Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That reminds me of that game that girls sometimes play "Given three choices of guys, which would you sleep with, date, or marry?"

comment by Insert_Idionym_Here · 2011-11-07T21:11:43.779Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Guys play it too.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-07T21:15:56.112Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The criteria are a little different, though.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-11-14T18:04:22.042Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've played it in mixed groups, its generally about perceived personality features rather than subjective attractiveness.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-14T18:27:32.395Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

mixed groups

I wouldn't expect this to be a recipe for honesty.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-14T19:17:01.379Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I would expect this sort of game to have difficult honesty issues even when it is a single gender. For example, if some individual has a fetish that is in some way connected to one of the individuals (say for example a celebrity that frequently wears some sort of clothing, or only one of the three falls into a racial group they have a fetish for) how likely is it that someone is going to be honest about that motivation.

That said, I agree that mixed groups will likely have more severe honesty issues.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-11-16T19:20:05.371Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've never treated the game as a data collection exercise. IT is more suited to social bonding and conversation stimulation.

For more statistically useful data okcupid has done studies, as have hotornot and its various imitators.

comment by Blueberry · 2012-03-25T08:10:04.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why would you do that? Have you thought about killing the step-daughter or something of that nature? (People, please don't reflexively downvote that suggestion.)

comment by wedrifid · 2012-03-25T08:16:20.891Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(People, please don't reflexively downvote that suggestion.)

Wait... you mean it as a suggestion, not a query?

comment by Blueberry · 2012-03-25T08:23:58.169Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That made me laugh hysterically for no good reason. Oh, LW and wedrifid, how I missed ye.

No, I'm not literally suggesting murder. But it's what most animals would do.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-01-16T06:19:20.226Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For pure anecdote, I am a nice guy (I think) who always complained about the "bad boy" thing, and now I am raising a step-daughter from my wife's youthful short term relationship with a guy everyone would still call a "bad boy." My wife is winning at natural selection! As is that jerk :(

Reading this anecdote made me wonder if it would be possible for a group of rational "nice guys" to cooperate with each other, refusing relationships with and shunning women who had previously been involved with and fathered children by "bad boys" even though each one of them would have to sacrifice the benefit they would individually get from entering into such a relationship. The idea being to make having a later father care for a baby sired by a jerk not a viable strategy for women, thus incentivizing them away from that behavior.

(I also thought about what would happen if nice guys switched to a jerk strategy until they were ready to settle down and then switched back, since that mixed strategy appeared to dominate either pure strategy, but then I realized that that would reduce the number of childless women for guys to marry, thus leading to a tragedy of the commons.)

comment by wedrifid · 2012-01-16T06:27:59.331Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Reading this anecdote made me wonder if it would be possible for a group of rational "nice guys" to cooperate with each other, refusing relationships with and shunning women who had previously been involved with and fathered children by "bad boys" even though each one of them would have to sacrifice the benefit they would individually get from entering into such a relationship. The idea being to make having a later father care for a baby sired by a jerk not a viable strategy for women, thus incentivizing them away from that behavior.

Roughly speaking you seem to be describing the norm for a lot of historical civilisations that I'm familiar with. The consequences for siring bastard children by bad boys is far lower now than it often has been.

comment by Blueberry · 2012-03-25T08:24:39.391Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The origins of the madonna/whore complex?

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T16:08:20.321Z · score: 25 (29 votes) · LW · GW

the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women

Seems most plausible to me.

I have had several friends who went to bars to meet women, and then were disappointed that the only women they met were the ones who enjoyed going to bars.

People think/do strange things.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-05T22:37:34.648Z · score: 19 (25 votes) · LW · GW

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean?

An accurate analysis of this issue would require unpacking the cluster of traits implied by the word "jerk," and then dividing them into several categories:

  • Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

  • Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

  • Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

This is further complicated by the fact that behaviors and attitudes seemingly identical to a side-observer (especially a male one) can in fact be perceived radically differently depending on subtle details, or even just on the context. This makes it easy to answer accurate observations with jeering and purported reductio ad absurdum in a rhetorically effective way.

What proportion of women are you talking about?

This question further complicates the issue. Different types of above listed traits can elicit different reactions from various categories of women. However, even just to outline these categories clearly and explicitly, one must trample on various sensibilities one is expected to respect in polite society nowadays.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-13T11:03:42.291Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

and then dividing them into several categories:

Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

Here's a couple more:

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people in their mating interaction during one-on-one interaction with a potential partner (e.g. initiation or receptiveness).

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people compete with others of their same gender

In sexual selection, there is a difference between intersexual choice, and intrasexual competition. "Women go for jerks" or "nice guys finish last" might not be a primarily a claim about the traits that women are attracted to; rather, it could be a claim about the traits necessary to initiate with women and compete with other men. All this stuff partially overlaps, but there are differences.

For example, pushing past competition on a crowded dance floor, dealing with competitors interrupting you, or making a physical advance on a potential mate may require a slightly different balance of traits (e.g. more assertiveness or even aggression) than what is necessary to attract mates.

Specifically, I would suggest that the male initiator script along with male-male competition jacks up the necessary amount of "jerk" traits beyond what women are actually attracted to. This hypothesis could help explain why people have trouble seeing eye-to-eye on this issue.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-13T20:14:41.751Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

IOW the reason jerks are more successful might be that they cockblock other guys. It makes perfect sense to me and, in retrospect, I'm surprised that it took so long for someone to hypothesise this.

comment by RomanDavis · 2011-11-06T05:05:10.296Z · score: 15 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I wish you'd just spit out whatever unPC stuff you thinks going on, even if it was rot13'd or only PM'd to people who volunteered to read it out of curiosity.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-11-08T05:16:27.551Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ditto, though I would phrase it differently.

Vlad_M says a number of things which are unintuitive to me, but without more details it's hard for me to judge why the conflict exists.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-08T06:07:28.076Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In this case at least the potential for conflict should be quite obvious from what I wrote. What exactly do you find unintuitive in my above comment?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T16:04:30.889Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

An accurate analysis of this issue would require unpacking the cluster of traits implied by the word "jerk," and then dividing them into several categories:

Doesn't that imply that the claim "women claim to want nice guys, but prefer to date jerks" should be downrated in emphasis and considered factually suspect until an accurate jerk-model can be constructed, and we can simply go look for the actual prevalence of what we now agree are jerks and their success at attracting women, as opposed to nice guys?

Come to that, don't we need a coherent nice-guy model as well? Or are they equivalent to a control; ie, "not jerks" = "nice guys?" And how useful does that render the resulting model?

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-11-06T04:53:43.608Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wish this kind of comment were more common.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-11-03T12:24:47.210Z · score: 19 (23 votes) · LW · GW

A few bullet-points on what I see as the likely contributing factors to the "women prefer jerks" meme:

  • Romantic relationships often expose you to the worst of what people are capable of, and often end in unpleasant circumstances. If you ask someone about their most recent ex, they'll probably have more nasty stories than nice ones to tell about them.

  • If the competition for the object of my affections is charming and confident, I'm going to say he's manipulative and arrogant.

  • Making poor decisions about people you're attracted to, and systematically overlooking your partner's negative qualities, are well-established behaviour patterns in both sexes.

  • Romantic underdogs feel like they bend over backwards to be noticed by women, whereas romantically successful men seem by comparison to put in relatively little work to achieve the same goal. This perceived effort is conflated with caring or worthiness.

It strikes me that the nice-guy/jerk idiom has an analogue in the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. I was going to comment on how I'd never seen mention of this in any of the numerous feminist treatments of "nice guy syndrome" I've seen, but a cursory Google suggests it's not a new idea.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2011-11-04T09:46:39.461Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

(age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?),

Whatever age it takes to get past peak attractiveness and fertility.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T10:14:52.146Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Seems relevant.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-08T13:15:00.363Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I remember as an high school kid PUA seemed sensible. (I had a nerdy straight male friend into it, and no personal interest since if I wanted to get laid I could use boobies.) I mostly took home "People, especially women, dig confidence, and will chase rather than be chased. 'Bitches ain't shit' is therefore a desirable mindset.".

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious. Not because I'm supposed to want sex with hot women and nothing else, but because their idea of "hot women" isn't hot at all. Why would I ever want that?

I get that liking androgyny and brains and being neutral to fat and small breasts are rather idiosyncratic traits. But what kind of guy wants a girl just old enough to legally consent who never swears, dresses sexy and fashionable without actually caring about it, same for sports, and has the exact three kinds of sex they show in cookie-cutter porn? That's not a person. That's what you get if you ask RealDoll's research department for a toy that reconciles your horror of sluts with your hatred of prudes.

...also, the hot photo is supposed to be the one on the left, right?

comment by pjeby · 2011-11-11T01:14:30.422Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious.

That's because it's a "blue line" test. At the beginning, it explicitly points out it's orienting on averages, and defining market value in terms of breadth of appeal. It doesn't mean lots of people will like a high scorer, it means lots of people won't rule out the high scorer.

In other words, the person who scores perfectly on this test will probably not be hideously offensive to anyone -- which means they don't get ruled out early in the selection process. But a low score just means they're more likely to need a "red line" strategy, aiming at strong appeal to a narrower audience, at the cost of turning more people off. (i.e., emphasizing one's supposed "defects" would attract people who like those qualities, while turning away more of those who don't)

(Ugh. I can't believe I'm defending that misogynist a*hole, but I don't see anything wrong with the test itself, just the conclusions/connotations being drawn from it.)

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2011-11-11T00:40:15.698Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

what kind of guy wants a girl just old enough to legally consent who never swears, dresses sexy and fashionable without actually caring about it, same for sports, and has the exact three kinds of sex they show in cookie-cutter porn?

An exaggeration of a real , very common type. The better the description fits the less common the type. Practically no one who reads this site would fall in that category (I think/hope) if only because boring people are boring.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T13:17:25.136Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

...also, the hot photo is supposed to be the one on the left, right?

Yes.

comment by Paradrop · 2011-11-08T12:44:11.302Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I will respect properly written articles on almost any subject. Not these.

One thing I demand from authors claiming to be supported by "science" is that they won't make me stop thinking in mid read. The articles behind these links do not respect the reader's opinion. Instead of making you think, they seek to shock, trump and convince. I've seen this style and these patterns before in articles about climate denial, xenophobia and religious fundamentalists. (Seriously, a lifestyle article is not a valid citation.)

I'm not saying the author has not done his fair share of reading. I'm saying he should stop waving the "this is science"-sign with one hand and be clubbing down his readers with the other.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T13:12:13.934Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I demand from authors claiming to be supported by "science" is that they won't make me stop thinking in mid read.

The latter trait doesn't seem all that closely linked to 'science'. It is a quality of good authorship not science.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-05T09:39:31.971Z · score: 6 (18 votes) · LW · GW

While it's definitely interesting to point out the correlation between egg-bank and attractiveness, I have to say that my god but that site is chauvanistic! Apparently, after "hitting the wall" a woman is "sexually worthless" o_O I do not agree.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T11:58:37.424Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm - my comment has been quite severely downvoted. Quite interesting. I'd like to know why.

perhaps I should point out the obvious mind projection fallacy inherent in the "sexually worthless" comment, instead of leaving it as an exercise to the reader... ?

After all, he didn't say "Due to my own personal predilections, i find that a woman over the age of 40 is no longer at all sexually attractive for me", but instead made his value judgment and considers it to be some kind of inherent value of the woman (ie value == 0) completely oblivious to the fact that other men (and possibly women) may have a different value-judgment of that woman.

I disagree with his assessment because her worth is not 0... just his own personal map-value for that woman.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T12:14:26.697Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I don't take Roissy all that seriously but have read quite a bit of his stuff. I've never understood him as comparing women's value as people, but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

The sexual value is something determined by "the sexual marketplace". Sure some people like the less likeable, but they are pretty rare and thus on average the person with these traits will need to be less picky, since she/he runs into those interested in them less often.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T18:19:54.820Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

Yep, I can understand that. though his phraseology is very clearly as though it is an inherent value of her worth as a (sexual) person... which is what I found so unappetising.

I also disagree with his valuation. I know from... well knowing 40 YO women (and older), that they do indeed suffer from diminished sexual appeal - but certainly nowhere near zero. 40YOlds get it on all the time... therefore his valuation is wrong. It is limited by his own personal perspective - and that of the average young-ish man who is himself high up on the "sexual appeal" rating.

I can definitely understand that for a man who can "get anybody" - that they would try almost exclusively for younger women, and that therefore an older woman would hold no sex appeal for them... but for anybody not an alpha male... (especially 40-50YO average men), a 40YO woman would still hold some interest.

Her "value" on the marketplace is not zero.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-13T10:42:02.281Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

While mean sexual value is an important concept, as lukeprog points out with my graph, sometimes it is not relevant. The relevant metric of success in attracting people is something like "being over a cutoff of attractiveness for a subset of the population that you desire and that you can find, and where you don't face a punishing gender ratio in that niche."

For instance, regardless of your average attractiveness, you could be doing great even if 0.1% of the population is attracted to you, as long as (a) you know how to find them, (b) they fit your criteria, and (c) there isn't an oversaturation of people like you that you're competing with.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-06T12:55:26.827Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm - my comment has been quite severely downvoted. Quite interesting. I'd like to know why.

It's not the content of what you said (though, given the topic we're on, people are getting offended, this being one of the things LessWrong can't really discuss without exploding and drawing battle lines) but the way in which you said it; your online habitus automatically marks you as an outsider. Lurk a bit more and you'll get an idea of how to phrase things.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T18:26:40.889Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for responding. :)

Firstly - can you define "online habitus" in this context? the dictionary gives me "physical characteristics", but I'm not sure exactly how that relates here, but I've taken a stab at it:

ie that it was the emotive content of my comment that was objected to. I', surprised that the reaction against my personal expression of shock was disliked so much so that I was downvoted. Surely rational people are allowed to be offended too? :)

Am I allowed to personally respond to a site that objectifies women and rates their value as objects (and values them at literally zero) in a way that shows that I do not agree?

How should I have expressed my reaction in a way that would not have offended?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-06T19:24:23.593Z · score: 16 (24 votes) · LW · GW

that site is chauvanistic

I upvoted your original comment but I disfavored this statement because it sounded like arguing against something by saying something other than "it isn't true".

If someone tells me "Japanese-Americans have average IQs 70 points higher than Korean-Americans," I don't have to try and refute that by saying "that's racist," because I have available the refutation "that's false". When I want to disfavor or shun a true idea that's unpopular, and can't say "that's false," I will have to say something else, such as "that's racist". Observers should notice when I do that, and estimate depending on the context how likely I was to respond with a negation like that had it been available.

comment by christina · 2011-11-06T20:13:13.929Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Factual incorrectness is not the only objection a person could have to something. In many cases, people present what they believe to be the facts and then give their response to those facts. For example, someone says that Amy is 80 years old. They could then decide:

1.) Amy should be treated with unquestioning respect--they want to live in a society that respects their elders.

2.) Suggest that Amy should treat her children with unquestioning respect since they will have to take care of her.

3.) Say that Amy should be accorded respect, but not unquestioning respect because their preference is to treat others in an egalitarian way.

4.) Any number of other things.

You could then have objections to either the fact they stated (if it is not true), or to preferences they stated (if yours differ), or to both. Preferences can reference facts, especially if they are contingent on facts to achieve other, more central, preferences. And so sometimes you can use facts to show that someone's preferences are not in accordance with their core preferences. But a person's core preferences only convey a fact about the person holding them, not a fact about the world. The world has no preference about what happens to us. Only we do.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-07T05:48:41.343Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But a person's core preferences only convey a fact about the person holding them, not a fact about the world.

That's why people usually use other things to object with if they are available. I don't object to a critic's value judgement that an opinion is bad if spread, but the most convenient way for the critic to encourage me to disfavor the opinion is to convince me it is false. If the critic does something else, perhaps that is because the truth of the opinion is not contested.

comment by christina · 2011-11-08T08:24:04.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, my point is that an opinion = facts + preferences. First, you form a belief about the state of the world, and then you may assign a value to that state and decide on an action. Two people may have identical beliefs about a certain fact in the world, but may not assign identical value to that state. If this is the case, there is no point in trying to prove the fact being considered wrong. Sometimes it is the preferences themselves that differ. This can sometimes be resolved, but it does require thinking about the thought processes behind those preferences, and not just focusing on the facts we are assigning value to. Your last two sentences imply that opinions have a truth value. I am saying that they don't. Only the facts that opinions are based on have a truth value.

Agreement on opinions requires not just agreement on facts, but also agreement on preferences. I feel a high degree of confidence that people's preferences are not identical. Therefore, I suspect that agreeing on the facts alone rarely solves the problem. If we verify the fact that one person has one preference, and another person an opposing preference, the verification of that alone will not resolve their disagreement. The only approach is to try to understand the similarities and differences in the preferences involved, and see if anything can be worked out from there.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-10T17:20:45.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your last two sentences imply that opinions have a truth value.

I only intended that in the sense that someone's opinion may be based on a misconception. If someone in fact enjoys eating cheese, and thinks the moon is made of cheese, I'll tend to just call his opinion that he would enjoy eating a piece of the moon "wrong".

Therefore, I suspect that agreeing on the facts alone rarely solves the problem.

Disagreeing on facts is often sufficient to cause a problem.

The only approach is to try to understand the similarities and differences in the preferences involved, and see if anything can be worked out from there.

There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion. If we don't understand each other's preferences, we can still negotiate, if poorly. But if we are trading items it helps to establish common understanding of what me giving you an apple and you giving me an orange even mean.

comment by christina · 2011-11-19T21:54:05.211Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If someone in fact enjoys eating cheese, and thinks the moon is made of cheese, I'll tend to just call his opinion that he would enjoy eating a piece of the moon "wrong".

Certainly. As I said in my first post, you can have objections to a fact stated if you believe it is incorrect.

Disagreeing on facts is often sufficient to cause a problem.

This is also true. Whether two people disagree only on the facts or only on preferences, the same amount of trouble can be had. Also if people disagree on both.

There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion.

This is itself an opinion, so I cannot assign a truth value to it. The assignment of importance can only be done if preferences exist. For example, a preference may exist to gain benefit from a certain fact, but not necessarily to satisfy the preference of another person. Given such a preference, it would not, of course, be important to know what the other person's preferences are. On the other hand, if a person wanted to satisfy another person's preferences (or to go against them), then it would be very important. Are you saying that you generally prefer to discover facts about the world over facts about the preferences of other people, or that you think the statement you made is itself some fact about the world? If it is the first, then I assume you have more knowledge of your preferences than I do. If it is the second, then I think I have to disagree.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-20T09:28:53.668Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

if a person wanted to satisfy another person's preferences (or to go against them), then it would be very important.

Practically speaking, I don't think it ((ETA for clarity) doing the thing we are talking about, knowing others' preferences) is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve. If I'm trading you ice cream for flour, what we really need to nail down is that the ice cream has been in the freezer and not out in the sun, the flour is from wheat and isn't dirt or cocaine, it's not soaked in water etc. Then, we can negotiate a trade without knowing each other's preferences.

In contrast, if we only know each other's preferences, we won't get very far. I will use the word "rectangle" (which in my language would refer to what you call "ice cream") and offer you melted ice cream, etc.

There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion.

Are you saying that...you think the statement you made is itself some fact about the world?

Not logically so - there are possible minds whose only desire is to only know the other person's opinions. I meant it as an assertion of what's generally true in human interactions. Knowing the other person's preferences is far less often necessary than knowing other facts, it's never sufficient for a realistic human scenario I can think of. So as I intended it "less important" applies in a stronger sense than "I disapprove" since compared to the other type of knowledge those facts are less often necessary and less often sufficient.

comment by christina · 2011-11-20T12:07:24.861Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Practically speaking, I don't think it is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve.

Okay. You are telling me something about your preferences then.

If I'm trading you ice cream for flour, what we really need to nail down...

And why is that? Why are those facts more important than, say, that the ice cream is bubblegum-flavored or blue-colored or sweetened with aspartame or made from coconut milk? Knowing the temperature of the ice cream or the composition of the flour is important only in the sense that there can be human preferences in this direction.

Then, we can negotiate a trade without knowing each other's preferences.

Your example is not about people negotiating without knowing each other's preferences. Your example is about people negotiating with a few assumptions of the other person's preferences. Here is an example of people negotiating without knowing the other person's preferences:

Person A: Would you like some flour?

Person B: No. Would you like ice cream?

Person A: No. I have some fruit fly eggs here...

Person B: Not interested. Would you like a computer?

Person A: Why, yes. What do you have here? Never mind--I won't buy anything over ten years old.

In contrast, if we only know each other's preferences, we won't get very far.

True. If we only know the other person's preferences but not any relevant facts for achieving them, we cannot expect a mutually satisfying interaction. However, if we know the relevant facts for achieving various preferences, but not which of those preferences the other person has, the same is true.

there are possible minds whose only desire is to only know the other person's opinions.

True, but not what I'm discussing. I am discussing how to satisfy both people's preferences in an interaction between two people.

I meant it as an assertion of what's generally true in human interactions.

Since you state this is not a logical assertion but generally true, I assume you mean to say that it is true in the world we live in but would not have to be true in all possible worlds. However, what I am saying is that this statement does not have a truth value in any logically possible world since it does not specify the preference the importance relates to. Using the word important in this way is like leaving off the 'if' condition in an 'if'-'then' statement, but not leaving out the if as well. The 'then' condition has a truth value by itself, but the 'if'-'then' statement can only be evaluated if both conditions can be evaluated.

So as I intended it "less important" applies in a stronger sense than "I disapprove" since compared to the other type of knowledge those facts are less often necessary and less often sufficient.

And I disagree that it can. Less important to achieve what objective? The only way a statement of importance has meaning is to relate it to the goal it is meant to achieve. That goal is a preference.

You have been trying to argue that facts are important but that knowing another person's preferences is not very important. But important for what purpose? One possibility is that you mean that knowing other facts is more important for the goal of achieving that person's preferences than knowing that person's preferences. Another is that you mean that knowing facts are more important for achieving your preferences than knowing what the other person's preferences are (since you state you don't consider goals humans generally want to achieve as important, it seems reasonable to assume this is also a possibility). In order to say whether your statement is true, I need to know the specific preferences involved. As you have stated it here, it has no truth value.

My position is that knowing a person's preferences and the facts about how to achieve those preferences are both necessary, but by themselves insufficient, to achieve those preferences. I do not know which I find more tragic, the person who knows the goal but not the path to get there, or the person who knows perfectly all the paths, but not which one to take.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-20T19:15:47.559Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Practically speaking, I don't think it is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve.

You are telling me something about your preferences then.

Should be read as "Practically speaking, I don't think it (doing the thing we are talking about, knowing others' preferences) is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve."

English permitted me to exclude that clause and have the same wording as a phrase that conveys the exact opposite of my point. Sorry. I can imagine your confusion reading that and seeing me follow it with an example that illustrates a point opposite of how you read that.

But no, I am not saying anything about my preferences, but am describing a relationship between what people want and the world, the relationship is that in general knowing about preferences doesn't help people achieve their goals, but knowing about states of the world does.

Knowing the temperature of the ice cream or the composition of the flour is important only in the sense that there can be human preferences in this direction.

But I don't need to know them if you do and we share knowledge about states of the world.

Your example is about people negotiating with a few assumptions of the other person's preferences.

A very, very hazy idea of others' preferences is sufficient, so improved knowledge beyond that isn't too useful. Alternatively, with no idea of them, we can still trade by saying what we want and giving a preference ranking rather than trying to guess what the other wants.

Since you state ("There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion,") is not a logical assertion but generally true, I assume you mean to say that it is true in the world we live in but would not have to be true in all possible worlds.

I did not mean it is always true in this universe but not like that in other universes. Instead I meant it is almost always true in this universe. If you are in a situation in this world, such as a financial one or one in which you disagree over a joint action to take, it will almost always be better to get a unit of relevant information about consequences of actions than a unit of relevant information about the other person's preferences, particularly if you can communicate half-decently or better. Also, for random genies or whatever with random amounts of information about each other and the world, they will each usually be better able to achieve their goals by knowing more about the world.

This depends heavily on an intuitive comparison of what "random relevant" information of a certain quantity looks like. That might not be intelligible, more likely a formal treatment of "relevant" would clash with intuition to settle this decisively as tru or false, but it wouldn't fail to have a truth value.

I do not know which I find more tragic, the person who knows the goal but not the path to get there, or the person who knows perfectly all the paths, but not which one to take.

We're discussing the goals of other people. Each type might be equally tragic, but if you had the opportunity to give a random actual person (or random hypothetical being) more knowledge about their goal or knowledge about the world, pick the world and it's not a close decision!

My view on this discussion is that I have been saying "pick the world" in such a case, and not only don't I know what you would say to pick, you are saying "pick the world" isn't truth apt (when it fulfills my desires to fulfill others' desires, and those desires are best fulfilled by their getting the one type of knowledge and not the other, and that second "best" is according to their desires).

comment by christina · 2011-12-03T08:50:32.341Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Practically speaking, I don't think it is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve.

Should be read as "Practically speaking, I don't think it (doing the thing we are talking about, knowing others' preferences) is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve."

Upvoted for clarifying this point. This changes my interpretation of this sentence considerably, so perhaps I can now address your intended meaning. This statement does have a truth value (which I believe to be false). I disagree that knowing another human's preferences is not important to achieving most of their goals (ie. their preferences). Since you make a weaker statement below (that they only need to vaguely know the other's preferences), I assume you intend this statement to mean something more along the lines of needing very little preference information to achieve preferences than needing no preference information to achieve preferences (and it is probably not common for humans to have zero initial information about all relevant preferences anyway).

Knowing the temperature of the ice cream or the composition of the flour is important only in the sense that there can be human preferences in this direction.

But I don't need to know them if you do and we share knowledge about states of the world.

I disagree. If I want to buy something from you, I benefit from knowing the minimum amount of money you will sell it for. This is a preference that applies specifically to you. Indeed, other people may require more or less money than you would. It is, therefore, optimal for me to know specifically where the lower end of your preference range is. Knowing other facts about the world, such as what money looks like or how to use it, would not, by themselves, resolve this situation. Likewise, if you wish to sell me something, you must know how much money I am willing to pay for it. You must also know whether I am willing to pay for it at all.

A very, very hazy idea of others' preferences is sufficient, so improved knowledge beyond that isn't too useful. Alternatively, with no idea of them, we can still trade by saying what we want and giving a preference ranking rather than trying to guess what the other wants.

If I were trading with someone, I might not be inclined to believe that they would always tell me the minimum they are willing to accept for something. Nor would I typically divulge such information about myself to them. Sure, you can trade by just asking someone what they want, but if they say they want your item for free, that's not going to help if you want them to pay.

Since you state ("There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion,") is not a logical assertion but generally true, I assume you mean to say that it is true in the world we live in but would not have to be true in all possible worlds.

I did not mean it is always true in this universe but not like that in other universes. Instead I meant it is almost always true in this universe. If you are in a situation in this world, such as a financial one or one in which you disagree over a joint action to take, it will almost always be better to get a unit of relevant information about consequences of actions than a unit of relevant information about the other person's preferences, particularly if you can communicate half-decently or better.

By the lack of truth value, I meant that it was not clarified what preference the word important referred to. If the preference referred to is explained, then the expanded sentence has a truth value. Perhaps this is like the other sentence, and you meant it to refer to satisfying the preferences of others. Also, the consequences of actions can only be assigned a value if the preferences are known. No preferences = No consequences.

This depends heavily on an intuitive comparison of what "random relevant" information of a certain quantity looks like. That might not be intelligible, more likely a formal treatment of "relevant" would clash with intuition to settle this decisively as tru or false, but it wouldn't fail to have a truth value.

Yes, these statements lead me to believe that you were stating something similar to your original sentence, and meant something like "There are a lot of facts more important for satisfying the preferences of the other person than understanding the other person's opinion". This seems incorrect to me. Also, I believe that you will find that all pieces of relevant information relate to one or more of the preferences involved. This relation is not mutually exclusive, since these pieces of relevant information could also relate to facts external to the person. Consider your example of the unfortunate cheese-loving person who believes the moon is made of cheese. This belief gives them both a false picture of the world and a false picture of their own cheese-related preferences. A belief that Saturn was made of salami would give them a false picture of the world, but not of those same cheese-related preferences.

I do not know which I find more tragic, the person who knows the goal but not the path to get there, or the person who knows perfectly all the paths, but not which one to take.

We're discussing the goals of other people. Each type might be equally tragic, but if you had the opportunity to give a random actual person (or random hypothetical being) more knowledge about their goal or knowledge about the world, pick the world and it's not a close decision!

My view on this discussion is that I have been saying "pick the world"...

It sounds like there is some misunderstanding of what I mean. Let me try to restate my position in a completely different way.

Preferences are, of course, facts. They could even be thought of as facts about the world, in the sense that they refer to a part of the world (ie. a person). This is true in the same way that the color orange is a fact about the world, assuming that you clarify that it refers to the color of, say, a carrot, and not the color of everything in the world. If you remove the carrot, you remove its orange-ness with it. If you remove the person, you remove their preference with them. Similarly, if you remove the preference involved, then you remove its importance with it. The importance is a property of the preference, just as the preference is a property of the person. This was why I was saying that the statement of importance (referring to a preference) had no truth value—because the preference it was important to was not stated. As such, I read it as ' There are a lot of facts more important for x than understanding the other person's opinion'. Since x was unknown to me, the statement could not be evaluated to true or false any more than saying 'x is orange' could. The revision I posted above (based on your earlier revision of your other sentence) can be evaluated as true or false.

My position is that one should know the preferences involved with great precision if one wishes to maximally satisfy those preferences, since this eliminates time establishing irrelevant facts (of which there is an infinite number). Furthermore, one needs to know about the people involved, since the preferences are a property of the people. Therefore, many of the facts about the preferences will also be facts about people. There may, in any given case, be more numerous facts about the world that are relevant to these preferences than facts about the person. Nevertheless, one unit of information about the person which relates to the preferences to be satisfied can easily eliminate over a million items of irrelevant information from the search space of information to be dealt with.

Here is an example: Two programmers have a disagreement about whether they should try to program a more intelligent AI. The first programmer writes a twenty page long email to the second programmer to assure them that the more intelligent AI will not be a threat to human civilization. This person employs all the facts at their disposal to explain this and their argument is airtight. The second programmer responds that they never thought that the improved program would be a threat to civilization—just that hiring the extra programmers required to improve it would cost too much money.

The less you understand a person, the less you can satisfy their preferences. Whether that decreased satisfaction is good enough for you depends on a number of factors, including the magnitude of the decrease (which may or may not vary widely for a given unit of preference information, depending on what it is), how much time you are willing to waste with irrelevant information, and your threshold for 'good enough'.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-11-06T19:33:40.109Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You don't think it's acceptable to argue against things by saying various forms of "it has bad consequences"?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-06T19:43:43.047Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Not to speak for lessdazed, but what I understood them to be saying is that when I argue against a proposition P solely by pointing to the consequences of believing P, I am implicitly asserting the truth of P. I would agree with that.

I would say further that it's best not to implicitly assert the truth of false propositions, given a choice.

It follows that it's better for me to say "P is false, and also has bad consequences" than to say "P has bad consequences."

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-06T20:43:48.677Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It's perfectly fine, for me at least, but I prefer moral objections to be specified more clearly than "I do not agree", which seem more appropriate for the disputing of factual statements. I discuss this in further detail in a comment of mine above.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-07T19:14:26.859Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yep - this is a good point. I realise that my statement was ambiguous about how/why I disagreed. I left it up to the reader.

I did this, at the time, because I was quite angry at the things said on the website, and the way they were said. I was not in any fit state to argue my reasoning. I've since clarified in the followon comments... after sufficient time passed.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-06T19:40:30.580Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That wasn't how I saw the context here, because of the statement "I do not agree". Also, no consequences were enumerated. "I agree with the facts as stated, but think phrasing them this way has bad consequences," is a fine way to argue against a presentation of ideas.

I am very suspicious of obscuring truth in the name of positive consequences, of applying only or mostly first-order idea utilitarianism.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-06T20:41:30.692Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Am I allowed to personally respond to a site that objectifies women and rates their value as objects (and values them at literally zero) in a way that shows that I do not agree?

First of all, let me say I didn't downvote you. Or upvote you either.

Secondly, there's some confusion of terminology here.

a) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared beliefs about the state of the world. (Epistemological agreement - ("is" statements)
b) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared beliefs about how the world should be. (Moral agreement - "ought" statements)
c) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared preferences. (Agreement in taste - "like" statements)

(a)s have objective truth value.
(c)s are subjective.
(b)s have people always debate about their objectivity/subjectivity thereof.

Now the three types aren't always clearly distinct. If someone makes a statement about "attractiveness" it's both a (c) statement about preferences, but it may also be a statement about what real-life people like on average -- in which case it can be an (a) statement about the distribution of preferences in a population, which has a truth value.

So, if someone calls someone else "sexually worthless", and you say you don't agree -- do you mean that you simply have different preferences -- are you making a (c) statement? That you believe his statement factually false -- you're making an (a) statement about the distribution of attraction feelings towards such women in the real world?

Or do you mean that you consider it MORALLY WRONG for him to speak and behave in such a rude way?

If the last of these, then "I morally object to such an attitude" is obviously a clearer way of talking about your objection rather than "I do not agree" which is vague and imprecise.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-06T17:47:10.327Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

perhaps I should point out the obvious mind projection fallacy inherent in the "sexually worthless" comment, instead of leaving it as an exercise to the reader... ?

It depends. Was the context marketplace value or value to the individual who most values that person sexually? Ifthe latter, it was the MPF. If the former (which it implicitly probably was there), then I don't think marketplace valuations necessarily fail in that way.

They can still be wrong valuations.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T18:29:46.819Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I got the sense that he was actually using his personal valuation, and passing it off as a marketplace-valuation. His references to studies felt like he was trying to find facts to fit his own valuations. However - I'll freely admit that I have not read his stuff widely. This is one of those websites where I decided it would not be a good idea for me to keep going as it simply continued to fuel my anger. It was more rational simply to stop reading.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T10:57:01.515Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This dosen't deserve down votes. Roissy's style (aesthetically pleasing but quite outrageous) and persona are hard to stomach (at first?).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-06T19:01:31.221Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

at first.

Um, for many people (e.g. me) , it is hard to stomach at all, and I'm a het male, the sort of entity he is nominally writing for. The reason for this is simple: at a certain point style does reflect substance, and moreover, Sapir-Worf issues come into play.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-16T01:35:42.858Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes the persona comes across as fake and bizarre. Take this article on frame control. It's completely reasonable, and meshes well with what you'd read here or in books on social skills. Then he lazily throws in

Remember, girls don’t operate in a logical universe; they abide their emotions first and foremost.

and continues talking about framing, having reminded his readership that bitches be crazy. Maybe the equivalents reminders on LW ("Remember, humans don't operate in a logical universe; we abide by our biased emotions first and foremost") and social skills books ("Remember, humans don't operate in a logical universe; we abide by our emotions first and foremost, and that makes us wonderful beings because rationality means Spock") sound as artificial when you're not used to them?

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-11-16T01:03:27.500Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. There's a sense of futility in life there that doesn't really have an upside, or even a non-downside

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-06T22:59:11.203Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Forever.. Ok, probability one minus epsilon.

I see the "just jealous" claim as equivalent to A attempting to lower B's status, and when B says they don't like it, A says "you just don't like having your status lowered, so your point should be ignored".

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-05T10:15:56.233Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I have to say that my god but that site is chauvanistic!

You haven't heard of Roissy before have you?

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T11:53:40.334Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nope.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T11:56:15.926Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He is pretty famous for his offensive and rude style.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T12:00:44.489Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I can see why. I also note he has ready-made fully-general counterarguments for any detractors... ie "any woman that objects to what I say is just old and jealous"

comment by Larks · 2011-11-08T14:53:52.817Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not to take a stance on any of the wider issues, but that's not fully general: if all the women who objected were young, for example, it would be false.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-08T14:57:09.191Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Just call them fat. If they're skinny enough to disprove that, resort to calling them ugly.

comment by Larks · 2011-11-08T15:11:53.826Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The existance of an infinite sequence of arguments whose union is fully-general doesn't mean that any given argument is.

Additionally, those counter-arguments aren't fully general. If you admit of some objective (or inter-subjective, or whatever; collectively accessible) standard of attractiveness, all of these counterarguments would be falsified by a positive correlation between attractiveness and saying feminist things.

This isn't to say that these counter-arguments aren't a bad idea for other reasons; we probably want some way of getting information from ugly people, for example.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-08T17:50:41.018Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah but... he gets to decide how old is "old" - and from what I an tell, his idea of "old" is pretty darn young. Those women who simply cannot be manipulated into the "old" category easily fall into the "jealous" category.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T12:07:57.177Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

He is pretty well known around here, Robih Hanson at Overcoming Bias has him on his blogroll for exmaple.

I can see why. I also note he has ready-made fully-general counterarguments for any detractors... ie "any woman that objects to what I say is just old and jealous"

No, not necessarily. He often just says her hamster is doing overtime.

Also his main argument is basically that "boners don't lie". A large enough fraction of men find a specific subset of women on average more sexually desirable than others that sexual desirability may as well be a objective criteria at least when comparing averages of groups like say 20 year old vs. 50 year old women or overweight vs. slim women.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-06T18:49:23.279Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Yes - "her hamster" is an interesting way of saying "women aren't rational, they just rationalise everything away".

it's an unfalsifiable proposition. Have you had a look at the list of things that he says women say? Yep - they could indeed be rationalisations... or they could in fact be the truth... how can you tell the difference? well - you can't. That's because this, as I said, is a fully-general counterargument.

No matter what his (as he says) "screechy feminist kvetches" about... he can just say "that's just a rationalisation" and not think any further or take it into account. he never has to update on anything a woman says to him ever. Also, i note that he seem to think that female rationalisation is a totally different species to male rationalisation... and doesn't even mention instances of the latter.

As to "boners don't lie" - this is demonstrably untrue any time somebody is turned on by a picture. There are no doubt objective criteria which have high correlation with the average male's likely attraction to a woman. Studies into facial symmetry, smooth complexion etc etc have clearly shown this. yes, you can compare averages...

However - need I remind you of the alien stealing our sexy women aspect of the mind-projection fallacy? the woman is not sexy... the men are attracted to certain types of women.

You can definitely make a case to me that "the average 40 year old woman has a reduced likelihood of finding male sexual partners"... but that does not mean "sexual worth = zero"

I might also add that as yet I have never met a woman anywhere that could find literally zero partners anywhere. She may not be interested in the men that would be likely to have sex with her... but that is a different question. There is a vanishingly small percentage of women who would literally have zero "worth" on the open market. To lump in every 35YO (and older) women is to be particularly ignorant of sexual dynamics... it is this man mistaking his own preferences for reality.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T23:12:22.803Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes - "her hamster" is an interesting way of saying "women aren't rational, they just rationalise everything away".

Yes he is saying that. About as sound as the argument you characterised.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-07T19:08:53.231Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for letting me rant about it a bit :)

comment by khafra · 2011-11-08T18:15:34.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

AWYC, but

However - need I remind you of the alien stealing our sexy women aspect of the mind-projection fallacy? the woman is not sexy... the men are attracted to certain types of women.

I think you're modus tollensing a modus ponens. Eliezer's metaethical conclusion was that sexy is an objective criteria which does not mean "sexually attractive to aliens;" the word for that would be "kvy'ztar" or something.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-17T14:18:24.395Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that I am.

Are 9 year old girls "sexy" because some humans find them sexy? Or is "sexy" in the eye of the beholder here?

Sexy is a transistive verb attached to the person who considers the other person sexy, not to the subject of said attentions. It may so happen that there's more than one person who finds a certain subject sexy - it's still something that attaches to the group. What can be said about the subject is "she is symmetrical, unblemished, has large breasts and a low body fat percentage" and it so happens that a large number of men find that to be high on their sexiness-scale. There's a cluster there that has been named "sexy" - but don't forget that this cluster is in map-space, not territory-space.

comment by khafra · 2011-11-17T18:33:16.840Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think we're still in agreement. The reference post makes it clear that "sexy" is a different word for a bug-eyed monster, a normal heterosexual male, and a paedophile.

comment by taryneast · 2011-11-17T21:14:43.551Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Firstly - I hadn't read that article yet, thanks. Still making my way through the backlog.

Secondly - I don't think we are in agreement on this. You are claiming that I was making a 1-place argument.

In fact I was pointing out that roissy seems to be under the incorrect impression that his 1-place, curryed algorithm is the algorithm for determining the "sexual worth" of a woman. In my (admittedly brief) time on his site, I didn't see any reference to alternative algorithms for evaluating the sexual worth of women (based, say, on alternative preferences).

My understanding on how he sees women predicts that he would be quite surprised to find a man that honestly finds a woman to be attractive that he considers to not be attractive. ie he would be truly astonished to find that some men really and honestly find 40 YO old women perfectly good bedmates. ie he would find it hard to accept that other men used a different sexiness function than what he uses.

Of course my other understandings about him mean that I predict that if he found a man that claimed the above - roissy would think the man was not being honest and was simply "settling" for what he could get.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-06T13:02:19.586Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Also his main argument is basically that "boners don't lie". A large enough men find a specific subset of women on average more sexually desirable

Freudian slip?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T13:23:12.999Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Heh, obviously.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-13T03:12:05.234Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why did you link to Roissy rather than laying out his argument in more neutral terms?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-13T22:50:52.065Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Whatever age it takes to get past peak attractiveness and fertility.

The comment was clearly something user CharlieSheen picked up from Roissy.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2011-11-03T19:42:57.449Z · score: 14 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

Perhaps this behavior is less common among women who would rather have a 15% chance of $1,000,000 than a certainty of $500 (because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.)

Or maybe "jerk" is being used in some sense other than what I associate it with, i.e., wearing motorcycle jackets, rather than not caring about who else you hurt.

comment by lionhearted · 2011-11-06T00:58:16.999Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps this behavior is less common among women who would rather have a 15% chance of $1,000,000 than a certainty of $500 (because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.)

Whoa. A majority of people choose $500 in EV instead of $150,000?

That's scary. Have you written about this before? If not, care to give us rough numbers of how many people you've talked to about it? That blows my mind that a majority of people wouldn't get it when it's so far apart.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-06T04:38:37.170Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Keep in mind that utility isn't linear in money.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-06T04:46:48.797Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

No, but I doubt it's so non-linear for most people that it remotely justifies such a choice.

If someone e.g. urgently needs a life-saving surgery that requires 500$, then they may be justified to choose a certainty of $500 over a 15% probability of a million dollars. But outside such made-up scenarios, I very seriously doubt it.

comment by DanielVarga · 2011-11-06T16:55:08.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously, I agree. But let me ask: for what values of X would you choose X$ with 15% chance instead of 1,000,000,000$ with 100% chance?

A quite extreme, but still somewhat defensible theoretical assumption is that utility is logarithmic in money. I once heard Bernoulli already worked with this assumption, many hundred years before Neumann-Morgenstern, and it is probably not so silly to assume this near the power-law tail of the wealth distribution. Not that I think it means anything, but from this admittedly extreme starting point, we get that lg(500) = 2.7 is three times as useful as 0.15*lg(1000000) = 0.9.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2011-11-06T20:02:17.498Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That assumes someone who initially has $1, and in that case it's certainly true. If on the other hand you initially have, say, $10k...

log(10.5k) - log(10k) ≈ 0.02

0.15 * (log(1.01M) - log(10k)) ≈ 0.3

The crossover point based on this system is $191. Less than that, and you do better with $500. More than that, and you'd try for the million.

comment by jimmy · 2011-11-07T19:14:00.974Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's not quite right in practice either. Even if you took all my money, I'd still take the 15% chance at $1M and maybe sell a 15% chance of $5k for $500.

Or if that is somehow not allowed, then I'd run into a bit of debt until my next pay check. Even if I really was spending all the money I make and averaging $0, $500 is a mere blip in the noise, not a factor of infinity more money.

It makes more sense to look at the total money in over whatever time scale you plan for.

comment by Michael_Sullivan · 2011-11-27T04:37:34.597Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The present value of my expected future income stream from normal labor, plus my current estimated net worth is what I use when I do these calculations for myself as a business owner considering highly risky investments.

For most people with decent social capital (almost anyone middle class in a rich country), the minimum base number in typical situations should be something >200kUS$ even for those near bankruptcy.

Obviously, this does not cover non-typical situations involving extremely important time-sensitive opportunities requiring more cash than you can raise on short notice (such as the classic life-saving medical treatment required).

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2011-11-08T14:27:01.598Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, the prospect of other incomes makes a big difference. I neglected to include a requirement that the initial amount, whichever value it takes, is as much as you can come up with before you'll be needing money again.

comment by DanielVarga · 2011-11-06T21:24:41.012Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Very true, thanks, I missed that. Obviously I am not an economist. Maybe Eliezer has only ever asked the question from people having less than 191 dollars.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-10T01:41:19.638Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Many people are in debt. If you are, then your net worth is less than $191.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-10T12:26:09.668Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why would people downvote this? Isn't it both correct and obvious? It also has fairly significant implication as to the extent of the applicability of the simplified model.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-11-10T14:50:38.493Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on what is meant by "debt" and "net value", and as those words are usually used, it is false.

If I borrow money to buy a house, the house being security for the loan, then I am "in debt" by the ordinary use of those words -- I owe money to someone -- yet if my net worth includes the house, it should still be positive (if the lender was prudent). If I borrow money, secured only against my expectation of future income, then again assuming a prudent lender, the present expected value of that future income will exceed the value of the loan. In that case, I am "in debt", and my net worth will be positive or negative depending on whether expected future income is counted or not.

The more usual word for someone whose net worth is negative, measured by the whole of their debts and assets, is "bankrupt".

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-11T05:48:01.258Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The more usual word for someone whose net worth is negative, measured by the whole of their debts and assets, is "bankrupt".

To be precise, it's "insolvent." "Bankrupt" means that a particular kind of legal decision has been made about how the assets and liabilities of the insolvent party will be handled.

Also, there's the issue of one of the more spectacular and shameless rhetorical scams of the modern age, in which certain kinds of insolvency get to be described as "illiquidity," whereupon such insolvent parties get to claim a blank check on the rest of us to fix their problem.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-13T05:51:11.860Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To be precise, it's "insolvent."

To be more precise it is "balance sheet insolvency". "Insolvent" also commonly refers to the inability to pay debts when they fall due ("cash flow insolvency').

Also, there's the issue of one of the more spectacular and shameless rhetorical scams of the modern age, in which certain kinds of insolvency get to be described as "illiquidity," whereupon such insolvent parties get to claim a blank check on the rest of us to fix their problem.

Grrr. Yes. I am not a fan! I'd be even more averse to the idea when the blank check was coming from me.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-13T19:16:15.731Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To be more precise it is "balance sheet insolvency". "Insolvent" also commonly refers to the inability to pay debts when they fall due ("cash flow insolvency').

Frankly, I think this "cash flow insolvency" stuff is already in the territory of self-serving obscurantism. If you are balance-sheet solvent, you can always pay debts when they fall due by selling your assets or borrowing money against them. I don't see any good reason why such a simple, clear-cut, and bullshit-free notion as "insolvency" should be complicated and obscured this way.

(Of course, here I assume that the goal is to arrive at an accurate understanding of reality, not to master the present language of finance and various related areas of economics, which has a lot of such self-serving obscurantism built in, often quite intentionally. I certainly agree that if one wants to speak this language like an insider, one should be careful to make such distinctions.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-14T07:01:05.203Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Frankly, I think this "cash flow insolvency" stuff is already in the territory of self-serving obscurantism. If you are balance-sheet solvent, you can always pay debts when they fall due by selling your assets or borrowing money against them. I don't see any good reason why such a simple, clear-cut, and bullshit-free notion as "insolvency" should be complicated and obscured this way.

I'm with you on keeping things simple and free of bullshit but I've got to say in this case it is the cash flow insolvency that is the core of the matter. Insolvency, if it is to be described in a simple one liner, is "is the inability of a person - an individual or a corporation - to pay all their debts as and when they fall due."

Having negative net worth just isn't a big deal so long as you can keep paying the payments on your loans, keep buying the stuff you need to run your business and keep paying the employees. In fact large business often merrily operate that way and everybody is happy. It becomes a problem when they can't make the payments they are obliged to make - then they may be forced into liquidation (or bankruptcy depending on the naming convention in the jurisdiction.)

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-18T03:40:18.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are right. I have no problem if a business that is balance-sheet insolvent argues that it is still cash-flow solvent and should therefore be allowed to operate in hope of achieving balance-sheet solvency. (Of course, only as long as this doesn't involve defrauding the long-term creditors by lying about how likely that actually is.) This basically means borrowing money against the optimistic possibilities opened by the uncertainty about the future. (Without such uncertainty, balance-sheet insolvency would imply a predictable future point of cash-flow insolvency, so allowing the business to operate normally would mean favoritism towards shorter-term creditors.)

What I do have a problem with, however, is claiming to be balance-sheet solvent while being cash-flow insolvent. There is simply no good reason to grant anyone that status in any circumstances. Either money can be readily borrowed against the positive net assets, or the accounting on which the claim about the positive net worth is based is fraudulent one way or another.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-18T04:12:55.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have no problem if a business that is balance-sheet insolvent argues that it is still cash-flow solvent and should therefore be allowed to operate in hope of achieving balance-sheet solvency.

I actually have no problem with a business operating in a perpetual state of balance sheet insolvency. If the creditors are happy and getting the payments they desire, the employees are happy and the owners are happy then there just isn't any issue. No expectation of, desire for or hope that that particular number to be positive is required. It just isn't an important number.

What I do have a problem with, however, is claiming to be balance-sheet solvent while being cash-flow insolvent. There is simply no good reason to grant anyone that status in any circumstances. Either money can be readily borrowed against the positive net assets, or the accounting on which the claim about the positive net worth is based is fraudulent one way or another.

It does seem like being balance sheet solvent but cash flow insolvent should be impossible in an efficient market with optimal laws in place. And I agree that usually a discrepancy here implies dubious accounting.

Of course things being this neat essentially requires the balance sheet assets to exactly track (or never fall below) the value at which a creditor would loan money based on that asset. Yet it becomes complicated when I, as a potential creditor, expect the business to fare poorly in the future. In that case the amount I would pay to purchase the asset is greater than the amount that I would loan because of the asset (unless I can get some sort of shifty deal where I am paid back first.) Since some assets are essentially the core of the business and cannot realistically be sold while still maintaining the business at all this puts them in a position that can legitimately be described as cash flow insolvent but balance flow solvent. This is a rather strong sign that is time to disband the company and sell the pieces!

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-18T05:44:00.064Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It does seem like being balance sheet solvent but cash flow insolvent should be impossible in an efficient market with optimal laws in place. And I agree that usually a discrepancy here implies dubious accounting.

This may be of interest here (it corrects this earlier analysis, which would really have been apropos here if it hadn't been flawed).

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-14T14:51:27.624Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

liquidation (or bankruptcy depending on the naming convention in the jurisdiction.)

In at least some jurisdictions, those are different.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-14T15:07:37.176Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And are thrown in a mix with liquidation, administration and various deals where they get official help wrangling their way out of some of their debts while being restricted or get partially nationalised or somesuch thing. Whatever rules the government has made up to forcefully remedy cash flow insolvency propblems.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-10T15:18:18.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The more usual word for someone whose net worth is negative, measured by the whole of their debts and assets, is "bankrupt".

That's not the word either. Obviously simple 'debt' isn't the word: someone with a million dollars in cash who owes his mate ten bucks for the meal the other night. But 'bankrupt' means a different thing again. If you have a $1m mortgage on a house and the property prices have fallen then the value of your assets may well have fallen below that needed to cover your debt but you still aren't bankrupt. At least, not yet and not while you can keep up the payments. Unless your lawyers and accountants recommend it as an option.

I would have guessed the word for what Hugh was referring to would be "net debt" but that is a bit off too (since it doesn't take into account long term assets, just liquid assets). Just plain "deficit net worth" is the simplest description I know of but it seems to be something that deserves a word of its own. Anyone know of one?

comment by Craig_Heldreth · 2011-11-10T15:31:52.864Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is slang but the convention is "underwater".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-10T15:55:36.144Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ahh, thanks.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2011-11-08T14:29:46.550Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The math works out that he's in contact with people with more than $191 - and that makes sense.

comment by DanielVarga · 2011-11-08T22:09:07.499Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant the "random women" he was talking about.

comment by Zack_M_Davis · 2011-11-08T18:10:37.535Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Have you written about this before? If not, care to give us rough numbers of how many people you've talked to about it?

Consider item g in the first chart on page 10 of "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making" by Shane Fredrick. In this study, 31% of subjects with low scores on a "cognitive reflection test" took the 15% chance of the million dollars, whereas 60% of high-scoring subjects did. The p-value was less than 0.0001.

comment by dbaupp · 2011-11-06T01:22:03.578Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would suggest that it is very easy to concentrate on the 85% chance of getting nothing, and so ignore the difference in EV.

comment by lionhearted · 2011-11-06T01:42:29.764Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed yeah. But we're not talking $500 vs. $900, we're talking orders of magnitude...

comment by Blip · 2011-11-06T23:26:31.017Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is typical behavior in academic psych work (e.g. the Shane Frederick paper Eliezer pulled this from).

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-03T19:56:19.297Z · score: 12 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

I could name a fair number (in the "doesn't care about hurting others" sense, not the "wears motorcycle jackets" sense,) but none of them have been girls or women I would want to date me instead.

I suspect that the perceived trend owes a lot to a horns effect that guys build up around other guys who're dating girls they want to be dating.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T20:43:27.489Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Was this downvoted because someone is just downvoting every single comment on this subthread because they don't like the idea of this topic being discussed here? Because I can't see anything wrong in Desrtopa's comment.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T20:34:22.638Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.

Well, that doesn't surprise me but I don't think it's got that much to do with personality: I'd think that a person struggling to make ends meet would be a lot more likely to choose the sure $500 than a reasonably wealthy person, and I don't think there are many of the former kind among people who have enough spare time to read LessWrong, whereas there are lots of them among random people in the streets (at least in 2011 -- there probably were fewer in the 1980s, and more in the 1930s).

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T02:57:29.709Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As a substantial portion of the population doesn't play the game of thought experiments very well, it would be worthwhile to ask a second, unrelated thought-experiment question. Anyone who says something like "But a fat man wouldn't weigh enough to stop a trolley!" or "You can't keep a violinist alive by connecting them to a person!" and also doesn't ask something like "Can I have investors bet on whether or not I will receive the $1M?" is just stupid.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-05T11:04:05.843Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it just didn't occur to me that I could make such a bet.

(Or even, I might sell the lottery ticket with an auction: someone richer than me (who would assign roughly the same utility as me to $1M but much less utility than me to smaller amounts such as $500) might buy it for a lot more money.)

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T13:25:32.995Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If it wouldn't have seemed to you like a decisive refutation that a fat man might not be able stop a trolley, then you're not stupid, and didn't immediately think of auctioning off the ticket because you understand how these things are supposed to work.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T18:17:36.338Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I sometimes do think about non-LPCW answers to hypothetical dilemmas (though I don't say them aloud), but in this case I didn't even think of it. (I feel like my inclination to come up with non-LPCW answers is a function of the scenario's plausibility, but not a monotonic one.)

comment by JulianMorrison · 2011-12-20T11:13:33.426Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have a suspicion that this "effect" is exaggerated by the stickiness of abusive relationships - once a woman, by ill luck or trickery, does fall into a relationship with a jerk, she may find it difficult, even difficult in the sense of "serious physical danger", to shake permanently loose of it. The emotional reaction of "why would a woman go with that guy? he's such a jerk" is ignorance of how abuse works and "because she likes jerks" is a hypothesis being privileged because it reduces the feeling of dissonance.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-03T21:28:18.460Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Jerkiness is in the eye of the beholder.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-11T00:48:19.860Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth, I can name one. She was a not-too-bright high school student, but her on again, off again boyfriend had definite sociopathic tendencies...

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-08T02:42:47.085Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

(Caveats: Small N, college-age subjects, and WEIRD) Believe it or not, someone actually tried to test the jerk theory empirically and found support for it

Hat tip: Eric Barker.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-08T07:36:42.234Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Another caveat is surrogate behavior-- what's tested is which photographs women chose, not which men.

It's occurring to me that part of what annoys me about the "women prefer jerks" meme is the implication that women are distinctively irrational. There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

Just on the notion level, but I've wondered whether some women (especially young women) choose bad news men for the same reason that some men (especially young men) ride motorcycles-- risk and excitement. From what I've heard, one of the reasons women chose difficult men is the hope of being able to change them.

Another possibility is availability bias-- the stereotype is the woman who spends years complaining about the awful men in her life to a patient male friend who's wondering why she never chooses him. Women who are happy with their relationships aren't going to do as nearly as much complaining about them, and probably aren't going to be talking in comparable detail about how good the relationship is.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-10T11:18:03.792Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

There, now you have. According to the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, it is currently ranked #560 overall in the Books category, #1 in Dating , #2 in Mate Seeking, and #4 in Love & Romance. Surely the idea isn't unheard of.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-08T08:05:30.274Z · score: 11 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't there a stereotype whereby men prefer women who play by The Rules, which apparently consist of guidelines for emotional manipulation? That counts as bitchy in my book.

Also, can someone explain the "patient male friend" part of stereotype? I think it's one of these cases:

  • Nice Guy never expresses interest; Woman assumes he's happy with friendship, including his role as confidant. He wonders why she never chooses him... because he assumes telepathy on her part?
  • Nice Guy hits on Woman repeatedly despite constant rejections on her part. She keeps having him as a friend and telling him about her relationships... because she can't get a male friend who's genuinely happy with that?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He genuinely wants the friendship but doesn't ask "please don't tell me about your relationships while I'm carrying a torch for you"... because he doesn't know how to do that without sinking the friendship as well?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He won't be satisfied with the friendship but doesn't walk away... because he hopes Woman will magically change her mind?
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-08T16:32:31.506Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It occurs to me that a common factor might be that the two of them are both highly pessimistic about relationships-- neither of them is looking for someone they can be happy with.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-09T14:28:40.724Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Woman seems to expect to be happy with her boyfriends (after all, she doesn't date people she isn't attracted to, whom she would be unhappy with). Nice Guy may or may not be looking for someone he can be happy with in parallel with pursuing Woman.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-09T15:28:29.661Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I may be too hard on her-- I was doing the jump of assuming that if she really wanted to be happy, she'd be using more efficient selection methods, but that could be another of those bad advice schemas.

comment by pjeby · 2011-11-10T00:31:46.830Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I may be too hard on her-- I was doing the jump of assuming that if she really wanted to be happy, she'd be using more efficient selection methods, but that could be another of those bad advice schemas.

Actually, you're missing the part where her selection method may well be optimal, given her goals. She gets excitement, sex, and drama from the "jerk" boyfriends, and companionship, emotional, and other kinds of support from her orbiter(s). (PUA terminology for guys who hang around a girl hoping she'll realize he's perfect and stop dating the jerks.)

This is such a common thing that it seems evolutionarily optimized. Enough orbiters occasionally luck out to make it a viable minority strategy for males, and the win for the females is obvious.

It's only if you think idealistically ("far") that you'd even be surprised by the frequency with which this occurs.

(Also, one thing that sometimes happens is that the orbiter, after getting his lucky moment, actually becomes more confident about expressing his interest in women and quits orbiting them. Everybody wins!)

comment by shokwave · 2011-11-08T09:02:53.528Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is all of those cases, except it is also stipulated that the description must be cast in a more positive light.

comment by shokwave · 2011-11-08T09:01:31.186Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches"

Partially this is because men are less often the one whose preference is at the center of the relationship (the standard cultural trope is a man pursues a woman, attempting to make her prefer him) and so there is less scrutiny of men's preference by both parties, and much more scrutiny of women's preference by men (in order to understand better how to make a woman prefer him).

Partially this is also because male attraction is determined less strongly by personality, and the "bitch/jerk" adjective is about personality.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T08:08:44.994Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

Really? That belief isn't all that uncommon, and for reasons somewhat similar to the 'jerk' idea. Mind you the (overwhelmingly justified) belief that men are less picky than women when it comes to their mate selection makes such beliefs less emphasised.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-13T11:11:30.020Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

I think the hypothesis would be that women choose men who are "jerks" partly because they are jerks, while men choose women who are "jerks" because they just don't care so much about personality traits, and/or despite those women being jerks.

Examining this hypothesis would require an operationalization of "jerk."

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-13T14:40:16.204Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Examining this hypothesis would require an operationalization of "jerk."

Wouldn't it, though? I wish that would happen, and I wonder why at least a sketch of a definition hasn't emerged yet.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-13T15:05:55.824Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does this count? I think there are more too.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-13T14:44:28.136Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wish that would happen, and I wonder why at least a sketch of a definition hasn't emerged yet.

I'm almost certain that at least one has.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-13T16:10:57.269Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I saw a list of possible meanings somewhere in this discussion, but I don't remember a follow-up of what particular people have in mind.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T10:51:48.280Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Does Chapter “You Just Ask Them” in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman count as academic research? :-)

comment by VNKKET · 2011-11-07T02:08:38.125Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You got me reading that chapter.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T09:57:30.312Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean? What proportion of women are you talking about? Is there academic research to back this up? What have you seen in your social circle?

From what I understand Dark triad traits have been shown to be sexually attractive.

Edit: Damn you gwern! :)

comment by adamisom · 2011-11-04T04:15:35.167Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

To quote another user, Scott H Young, "superficial would be the right word to describe most aphorisms, as being merely pointers to a more nuanced set of beliefs". So I'm sure it just has to do with the fact that of the bundle of qualities aggregately known as "jerks", some of those qualities are attractive. Check out the blog Hooking Up Smart for more nuanced stuff on the idea of nice men vs jerks.

comment by zslastman · 2013-10-11T16:08:58.086Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why does this debate always assume that the causal arrow points from being a jerk to sexual success? We know that power over others tends to make you a jerk. Sexual attractiveness is power. Thus, attractive jerks.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T01:39:08.864Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I find that claim bewildering because the partnered men I know aren't jerks.

That is true. Pretty much every guy I know with a partners is quite decent,

Conversely however, the guys who score one hot chick after another, who don't have a partner except in the sense that they have half a dozen partners, those guys are jerks, Max Tucker being the infamous example.

I know a guy who is a male model and a thoroughly decent, caring and loving guy, also financially quite well off and highly intelligent. People pay him money to put his face and body on their products. Women often try to pick him up on sight. But after they get to know him a bit, they don't like him nearly so much. It does look to me that he is far too nice, and could profit from a fair bit of ruthless and cynical brutality towards women. I have put this to him, but he strenuously disagrees. He does not do that well with women, though if I had women hitting on me like he does, I know what I would do.

And while those partnered men are not jerks, they don't live up to politically correct standards for not being a jerk. Stereotypical women's work is largely done by their partner. So, yes, unlike Max Tucker, they are decent people, but our standards for a decent male person differs from that standard that one pretends to.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-09T02:56:59.875Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does the male model have any women he's spontaneously interested in, or is it all women who choose him more than him especially wanting them?

I don't know the details of enough households to be sure of the housework distribution. I can think of two where the men definitely weren't doing it. One ended in divorce (mostly for other reasons), the other seems to be stable. One household where I think it's pretty equal, but I'm not sure. Statistics back up the idea that husbands typically do less housework than their wives.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-10T04:57:17.949Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Does the male model have any women he's spontaneously interested in, or is it all women who choose him more than him especially wanting them?

He is heterosexual. I don't know if his relationships started with him hitting on the girl or the girl hitting on him. I have seen quite a few hot chicks hit on him and he brushes them off, or pretends not to notice. With his girlfriends he acts excessively needy, and respectful, as if they are very important to him. I don't act that needy, even though women never hit on me, and are frequently hitting on him.

I don't see how he can actually be needy. Girls think he is candy when they first see him. But he acts needy, leaning in to his girlfriend rather than his girlfriend leaning into him. Needy body language, even though girls somehow appear whenever he is around.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-03T19:57:04.580Z · score: -4 (18 votes) · LW · GW

It's partly Luke's fault (which was one of the reasons I downvoted the original post), but I wish you wouldn't bring up hot-button topics that create drama, add little value to the site, and displace actual rationality-relevant content.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-03T22:12:06.588Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I'm hoping that people here have gotten enough stronger that my rather non-contentious handling of this subject doesn't lead to a blow-up. So far, it hasn't.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-05T21:53:12.517Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'm hoping that people here have gotten enough stronger that my rather non-contentious handling of this subject doesn't lead to a blow-up.

Trouble is, blow-ups are in fact the less bad failure mode in discussions of this sort. A much less bad one.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-06T02:04:25.894Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

If it is indeed the case that, as you suggest, spelling out the truth on these topics requires breaking strong taboos, then there's a third failure mode, where LessWrongers actually succeed at spelling out the taboo truth, and this causes the site to be pegged as a hate site and lose influence on the cold-button topics that actually matter.

If it's a choice between 1) don't talk about these issues and risk forgoing some minor novel insights on a topic that affects most people's life decisions only very indirectly, 2) talk about these issues in an inoffensive way and risk creating a false consensus of the kind you describe, 3) talk about these issues in an offensive way and risk becoming a hate site (as well as presumably having more blowups), I really would much rather choose 1.

If you're mistaken and we can be both non-taboo and accurate, then wanting to have the discussion becomes more reasonable. But many people don't seem to think you're mistaken, and I don't understand why these people aren't helping me root for option 1.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T02:58:58.826Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If it's a choice between 1) don't talk about these issues and risk forgoing some minor novel insights on a topic that affects most people's life decisions only very indirectly, 2) talk about these issues in an inoffensive way and risk creating a false consensus of the kind you describe, 3) talk about these issues in an offensive way and risk becoming a hate site (as well as presumably having more blowups), I really would much rather choose 1.

I remember we once had a disagreement about this, but in the meantime I have moved closer to your view.

Basically, the problem is that the idea of a general forum that attempts to apply no-holds-barred rational thinking to all sorts of sundry topics is unworkable. It will either lead to people questioning all kinds of high-status ideological beliefs and purveyors of official truth, thus giving the forum a wacky extremist reputation (and inevitably generating a lot of ugly quarrels in the process) -- or it will converge towards ersatz "rationality" that incorporates all the biases inherent to the contemporary respectable high-status beliefs and institutions as its integral part. What is needed to salvage the situation is a clear statement of what constitutes on-topic discussion, and ruthlessly principled policing of off-topic content no matter what positions it advocates.

But many people don't seem to think you're mistaken, and I don't understand why these people aren't helping me root for option 1.

Basically, it's the ersatz rationality failure mode. People simply assume that the principal contemporary high-status beliefs and institutions are, if somewhat imperfect, still based on rational thinking to a sufficient degree that a rational discussion free of delusion and malice simply cannot result in any really terrible conclusions. So I do think most people think I'm mistaken. (Even if they see some validity in my concerns, they presumably believe that I'm exaggerating either the ugliness of reality or the ideological closed-mindedness and intolerance of the respectable opinion.)

I disagree, however, with your characterization of option (1) as "forgoing some minor novel insights on a topic that affects most people's life decisions only very indirectly." There is plenty of low-hanging fruit in terms of insight from applying unbiased thinking to issues where the respectable opinion is severely delusional. Also, any topic that is truly important for people's life decisions, and where accurate knowledge is of high practical value, is highly likely to involve at least some issues where respectable platitudes and effective advice will be very remote from each other, and no-nonsense talk will be against the social norms.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-06T05:50:37.788Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It will either lead to people questioning

I object to your use of "questioning" here, because it has become ambiguous. I suppose you mean "espousing low-status opinions as the result of questioning".

ruthlessly principled policing of off-topic content

Notice how and why nothing like this has been necessary for traditional politics. People post political manifestos and are often told both that the content is inappropriate because of its subject and that they have made specific severe errors of thought. I don't remember a case in which the political poster kept pushing and ultimately only the first response was given, because it isn't really true, it's just that if content is political, the outside view is that it is flawed.

the idea of a general forum that attempts to apply no-holds-barred rational thinking to all sorts of sundry topics is unworkable.

The point of the forum is to develop thinking techniques that are useful because they can be widely applicable. Apolitical examples are part of the training, but eventually one only cares about applying the system of thought when it reaches correct conclusions that otherwise would not have been reached, and it will inevitably deviate from what other systems would conclude.

Allow me to float an idea: post a disclaimer on the site that as a test and to prevent cultishness, one (or perhaps a few) deceptively wrong idea (wrong as unanimously agreed upon by a number of demonstrably masterful people) is advocated as if it were the mainstream opinion here, and aspiring rationalists are expected to reach the unpopular (here) opinion. The masters - most,but not all of them - argue for the popular (here) opinion that is low-status in society. Anyone who objects that an aspect of the site has a plurality of evilly inclined and majority of wrongly thinking people on a topic (say, PUA) can be told that that subject is suspected to be the (or one of the) ones on which the best thinkers not only disagree with the local majority opinion, but do so unanimously.

It goes without saying that...well, it really does go without saying, so I won't say it.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-26T08:20:19.060Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

College physics professor gives a weekly lecture. Toward the end of the first day, a student in the first row points out an elementary mistake in one of the equations. Prof congratulates the student, announces that every day there will be an error in the lecture. The midterm and final exams will consist of a list of lecture dates, and the only way to pass a given question is to point out the error in the corresponding day's lecture.

Prof gets into progressively more complex subjects. Everybody takes good notes. After the final, that student from the front row visits the prof's office, apologetically explains that nobody could figure out the mistake in the last lecture. Prof says "That's alright, I can't either."

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-06T03:59:33.202Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Basically, the problem is that the idea of a general forum that attempts to apply no-holds-barred rational thinking to all sorts of sundry topics is unworkable.

What's scarier, the idea of a conceptual apparatus that attempts to apply no-holds-barred rational thinking to all sorts of sundry topics may to an extent be unworkable. If the deniers of high-status-falsehood-1 all started using some catchy phrase (of the sort that LW has lots of), and then the deniers of high-status-falsehood-2 started using that phrase too, both would start smelling like the other and seem crazier for it. (This is one of the considerations that make me not want to try getting around these restrictions with pseudonyms.) On the other hand, of course, there are a number of concepts to fall back on that basically can't be corrupted because they're used all the time by e.g. probability theorists obviously lacking any agenda.

I disagree, however, with your characterization of option (1) as "forgoing some minor novel insights on a topic that affects most people's life decisions only very indirectly."

When I said that, I was thinking of the "do women like nice guys or jerks" question specifically. I wouldn't say politically-charged topics hardly affect people's lives as a blanket statement, though I think it's true in a great many cases. But your reading was the more natural one and I apologize for being unclear.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-09T03:28:20.944Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is plenty of low-hanging fruit in terms of insight from applying unbiased thinking to issues where the respectable opinion is severely delusional.

It's really hard to actually know when the "respectable" opinion is severely delusional... and even if the consensus view is indeed totally wrong, most minority opinions are usually even wronger than that. Saying the Sun orbits the Earth is much less crazy that saying that the Sun orbits the Moon half the time and Mars the other half of the time.

See also.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-09T03:49:36.916Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's really hard to actually know when the "respectable" opinion is severely delusional...

I disagree. Of course, it's hard to know this with consistent reliability across the board, but there are plenty of particular cases where this is perfectly clear. Many of these cases don't even involve topics that are ideologically charged to such extremes that contrarian conclusions would be outright scandalous. (Though of course the purveyors of the respectable opinion and the officially accredited truth wouldn't be pleased, and certainly wouldn't be willing to accept the contrarian discourse as legitimate.)

To give a concrete example, it is clear that, say, mainstream economics falls into this latter category.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-09T05:08:49.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just watch out that when you say "The experts on X are wrong; don't believe them" that you aren't telling people to sell nonapples. "Don't believe in YHVH" doesn't mean that you should go believe in Zenu.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-09T05:28:45.592Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't mean rejecting the mainstream view in favor of some existing contrarian position -- of which the majority are indeed unavoidably wrong, no matter what the merits of the mainstream view -- but merely applying the very basic tools of common sense and rational thinking to see if the justification for the mainstream view can stand up to scrutiny. My point is that often the mainstream view fails as soon as it's checked against the elementary laws of logic and the most basic and uncontroversial principles of sound epistemology. It really isn't hard.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-13T09:56:31.028Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have appreciated your non-contentious handling of these subjects, both here and elsewhere.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-13T11:12:28.639Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have to second that. NancyLebovitz comes across as positively sane and relaxing to converse with (and read) - a valuable and somewhat rare trait in this subject area.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-04T19:27:16.467Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Blowups seem like they can be quite damaging even if they occur only a fraction of the time. Even without blowups, there's still the waste of space and collective attention. As I see it, the recent comments page is to some extent a commons that a minority of LWers are tempted to spend on their pet topic, and that a majority of LWers would like to see spent on topics more directly related to the site's theme, but the minority is here in the thread voting and the majority is not.

On the other hand, the vote numbers here are extreme enough that I find them surprising. Should I conclude that, as a community, we've decided to stop having on-topic and anti-mind-killing norms? Or is it the way I said it?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T02:30:33.440Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

we've decided to stop having on-topic and anti-mind-killing norms

Obviously, mind-killingness is a joint property of an idea and a mind, and not the sole property of ideas.

This thread has gone well.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-06T02:10:07.699Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This thread has gone well.

This fails to address the comment it's replying to:

Blowups seem like they can be quite damaging even if they occur only a fraction of the time. Even without blowups, there's still the waste of space and collective attention.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-04T19:36:14.028Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure why you got so many downvotes-- I'm not one of the people who supplied them.

Since "women prefer jerks" is something which is commonly believed but which may not have a lot of evidence supporting it (especially if 'women' isn't quantified and 'jerks' isn't defined), I don't think it's off-topic to discuss it.

What topics would you like to see more of?

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-05T01:12:46.297Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

something which is commonly believed but which may not have a lot of evidence supporting it

That could describe anyone's pet issue.

What topics would you like to see more of?

The math, psychology, philosophy, and economics of rationality, careful futurism, the singularity, existential risks, optimal philanthropy, strategies for rationalists and their organizations, considerations relevant to common life decisions that human biases cause to be ignored elsewhere or that benefit unusually from using our conceptual tools.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2011-11-06T19:54:56.501Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that this topic falls squarely into the last category.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T03:05:04.746Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Since "women prefer jerks" is something which is commonly believed

I disagree insofar as it's not obvious what that phrase means. Assuming everyone who believes "it" actually has beliefs that provide predictions, it's not obvious that those believers make common predictions.

I think the phrase stands in for widely varying sets of different actual beliefs, rather than either meaning just one sort of thing or usually being just emotive, but I don't believe that too firmly.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-05T09:50:21.524Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Since "women prefer jerks" is something which is commonly believed

I disagree insofar as it's not obvious what that phrase means.

Women are, on average, more attracted to men who are more selfish and aggressive than they are compliant and cooperative.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-07T16:38:48.593Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised this comment was made and is so highly upvoted because it doesn't meet your usual standards.

Specifically, the context is "it's not obvious what that phrase means. Assuming everyone who believes "it" actually has beliefs that provide predictions, it's not obvious that those believers make common predictions," and you responded with a paraphrase that I believe is close to the truest meaning of the phrase. Some problems:

  1. It's not obvious what your comment's function is. You probably meant to assert at least that this is a true and near truest interpretation of the phrase. The context is my assertion that people mean different things by the phrase, do you (also) mean to imply that people using it are generally using it accurately?

  2. "On average" isn't specific enough.

  3. You missed saying the truer, deeper pattern behind the true statement, the {6, 6, 6, 6, 6, ...}, though it isn't something implied by the phrase. That deeper truth is that it is behaviors indicating high status that are attractive. Usually these are "selfish and aggressive", not showing concern with others' standards, but conspicuous vulnerability/non high-status behavior also shows high status by ignoring opportunities to display high status with selfishness and aggression. See e.g. John Mayer.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-07T17:33:20.820Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised this comment was made and is so highly upvoted because it doesn't meet your usual standards.

I, surprisingly enough, disagree. In the context of casual conversation the meaning is well enough understood. Normal people having conversations don't use precise technical terms but they get along fine - and often wouldn't even understand the formal and precise terminology very well anyway.

It just isn't reasonable to dismiss "'women prefer jerks' is something which is commonly believed" as undefined.

Mind you I myself don't particularly find the "women prefer jerks" belief to be all that useful (or even necessarily have an opinion on just how common the belief is). It just isn't the most practical foundation on which to self-improve (even though it does work for some). Myself I recommend "quit being a pussy" alongside the kind of deeper insight that you allude to in "3."

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-08T05:01:51.306Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I still a not sure if you are asserting that the phrase "women prefer jerks" has a single, commonly understood meaning among everyone, or among men, or what.

Normal people having conversations don't use precise technical terms but they get along fine - and often wouldn't even understand the formal and precise terminology very well anyway.

Their understanding of formal terminology is barely relevant. If a someone says that their printer "is shit", I want to know if they mean that it burns through ink cartridges, jams frequently, prints with low quality, or what. I am unsure as to what an informal phrasing means, specifically I am unsure about the extent to which it means the same thing to different people. I'm not blaming people for being informal, I'm questioning how much agreement there can be among the people around hundreds of thousands of water coolers in the world when such an imprecise phrase is used. That around any individual water cooler people communicate well enough is not in doubt.

It just isn't reasonable to dismiss "'women prefer jerks' is something which is commonly believed" as undefined.

It's not being dismissed, it's being partitioned according to my best estimation of what its speakers and listeners actually mean. There are probably different meanings because the phrase is not very specific.

Meta-statements about something like "the belief shared by people who believe this statement is true" are being dismissed.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-07T17:41:44.597Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If we must have these sorts of conversations could we while doing so please refrain from using terms for female genitalia as negative descriptors? Although the linked SMBC is amusing thist really doesn't help keeping things calm or help the signal to noise ratio.

comment by komponisto · 2011-11-07T17:58:39.523Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Eh? That term means "cat" to me.

EDIT: In fact, wedrifid's meaning has a different etymology from either yours or mine.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-07T18:20:06.131Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. Interesting. I did not realize what the etymology of that word was. The fact that it is used almost exclusively to target males rather than females suggests that there's been some etymological bleed over.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-07T18:24:21.714Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. Interesting. I did not realize what the etymology of that word was. The fact that it is used almost exclusively to target males rather than females suggests that there's been some etymological bleed over.

And at no niggardly pace, either.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-07T18:28:48.513Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that it is used almost exclusively to target males rather than females suggests that there's been some etymological bleed over.

While I don't doubt that there has been some bleed over, I am not sure this is actually suggestive of it; typical gender roles would have "pampered" or "soft" also be seen as more negative when directed at a male, and I don't think there is any related bleeding going on there.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-08T00:01:24.120Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Terms meaning cat have been slang for the female genitalia in more than one language, or so The Great Cat Massacre claims about "le chatte" in French, at any rate..

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-07T18:37:45.564Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I wasn't aware of the origins of, well, any of the various usages for that word.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-07T18:31:53.529Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If we must have these sorts of conversations

I prefer to avoid them, for approximately this reason.

Although the linked SMBC is amusing thist really doesn't help keeping things calm or help the signal to noise ratio.

Objecting to the use of unsophisticated terms is one thing - it would be pointless to argue with that. But if you are moving to a claim about "signal to noise ratio" then you are simply wrong. The signal there is extremely important.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-07T16:53:10.401Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

See e.g. John Mayer

FWIW, I have it on good authority that he was a neighborhood bully when he was little.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-07T17:38:55.836Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the comment is being upvoted in the context of it being a translation of the claim, not in the context of it being an assertion that the claim is true.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-04T19:53:04.135Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Should I conclude that, as a community, we've decided to stop having on-topic and anti-mind-killing norms?

Or disagree that it is off-topic or mind-killing.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-05T00:51:35.846Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why would anyone so disagree? If this topic isn't off-topic and mind-killing, is there any topic that is?

comment by Emile · 2011-11-05T13:01:09.861Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't find "do women dig jerks?" particularly mind-killing, or at least, not here (much less than the ethics of PUA, political parties, elections, welfare, taxes, Occupy Wall Street, race and intelligence, Israel and Palestine ...); I don't have strong opinions on the issue, and hearing someone speak on that topic doesn't allow me to categorize them into a clearly-defined group.

I can't clearly see any "sides" on the issue (two possible sides are of course "women are stupid and dig jerks so I hate them" and "anybody who criticizes women is stupid", but I'm not seeing either of those here, the sides are more "it's complicated" and "it's not that simple").

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T13:49:37.611Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"it's not that simple"

There's no "that" for it to be either that simple or not that simple.

(Implicit modifier A) women (implicit modifier B) dig (whatever that means exactly) jerks (whatever that means exactly).

Modifier A can be "all", or "most", or "the most attractive ones", or whatever.

Modifier B can be "most days of the week", "most years of their lives", or whatever.

"Dig" can mean "prefer ceteris paribus", "will only have one night stands with", "will stay with them even if the guy hits them", "strongly prefer at all times", "prefer for all types of relationships", or whatever.

"Jerks" can mean "people who are more assertive than average", "people who try and make them feel bad about themselves", "people who have killed a man", "people who wear motorcycle jackets", "people who frequently brag", or whatever.

"Women dig jerks" provides an opportunity to construct an obviously (or not obviously) true or false meaning to something other people say, depending on how right or wrong one wants them to be. It allows room to always easily be able to interpret an interlocutor's words to mean that they are innately evil or hopelessly misguided.

That said, people actually do disagree on the substance of the issue.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-05T01:15:06.427Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why would anyone so disagree? If this topic isn't off-topic and mind-killing, is there any topic that is?

I would say yes. I mean, it's clearly on topic relative the main post, and if instrumental rationality is going to be one of the focuses of the site, then "on topic" for top level posts is necessarily going to be pretty broad.

As for mind-killing, there are certainly topics I think it's harder to hold a productive conversation on.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-05T02:00:53.992Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think a comment can be off-topic even though it's on-topic relative to the main post and the main post is itself on-topic. I'm also worried that people are using too broad a definition of "instrumental rationality".

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T10:12:15.123Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed I've been pleasantly surprised by this so far.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-02T02:13:24.379Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Asexuals don't experience sexual or romantic attraction.

What?! Most asexuals experience romantic attraction. Some asexuals are aromantic, but that's not the same thing.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-02T04:31:58.230Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Oops fixed thanks.

I should just have my own shortcut for that. OFT or something. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T10:17:57.159Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

So basically this series will try to do this but systematically avoid any PUA references and trying to find ways to find some relevance to a few extra groups of people (besides heterosexual males) in order to avoid mind killing?

comment by fburnaby · 2011-11-05T15:44:20.621Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your comment sounds like a complaint. Is it?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-05T18:39:42.734Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Partially yes. Some PUA concepts are really neatly formulated, a fraction of LWers are familiar with them and at the end of the day the original synthesis was done by the PUA community, having a bottom line partially written by X, then searching for academic papers to help write up stuff to fill the void once X is cut out is an easy way to stumble rationality-wise once or twice along the way, and thus is bad practice, but mostly I was just curious.

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

It was mean more in a "oh I see what you did there, am I right?" way.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-05T21:42:23.726Z · score: 35 (43 votes) · LW · GW

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

I think your comment was quite appropriate. Even under the best imaginable scenario, these articles and their follow-up discussions will suffer from at least two problems.

First, there is the conspicuous omission of any references to the PUA elephant in the room. The body of insight developed by this particular sort of people, whatever its faults, is of supreme practical importance for anyone who wants to formulate practical advice in this area. Without referencing it explicitly, one can either ignore it altogether and thus inevitably talk nonsense, or pretend to speak based solely on official academic literature, which is disingenuous and unfair in its failure to attribute credit (and also misleading for those who would like to pursue their own research in the matter). It's as if someone wanted to talk about electronics but insisted that the only legitimate references should be from pure academic quantum theory, and the nuts-and-bolts work of tech entrepreneurs and industry engineers is forbidden and unmentionable.

Second, really good practical advice in this area simply cannot be inoffensive. To take a clear and obvious example, one absolutely essential sort of knowledge is what kinds of people are likely to lead to various sorts of trouble if you entangle yourself with them. In principle, this is an exercise in assigning conditional probabilities that should be greatly attractive to the LW folks fond of Bayesianism. Yet since in our culture the discussion (let alone practical use) of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people is considered immoral, discussing these things while remaining within the contemporary inoffensive bounds is as if one wanted to discuss sexual techniques while respecting the prudery norms of 17th century puritanism. (Also, on a more mundane level, LW is still far from the standards of rationality that would make people who recognize themselves in some of these conditional probabilities refrain from destroying the discourse by crying offense, and various others not to try boosting their staus by joining them in solidarity, or even complaining preemptively on their behalf.) There are of course many other important aspects of the topic where one faces similar problems.

On the whole, the article is based on the premise that an accurate and no-nonsense analysis of the topic will result in something that sounds not just inoffensive, but actually strongly in line with various fashionable and high-status norms and ideals of the broader society. This premise however is flawed, and those who believe that this has in fact been accomplished should apply the powerful debiasing heuristic that says that when a seemingly rational discussion of some deeply problematic and controversial topic sounds pleasant and reassuring, there's probably something fishy going on. There is simply no way to approach this topic without ending up with something that's either offensive to the mainstream sensibilities and apt to upset certain sorts of people, or disingenuous and inaccurate to a significant degree.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-05T22:32:47.756Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Yet since in our culture the discussion (let alone practical use) of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people is considered immoral, discussing these things while remaining within the contemporary inoffensive bounds is as if one wanted to discuss sexual techniques while respecting the prudery norms of 17th century puritanism.

And this was the reason why, I didn't expect a direct response to the original question, from any of the authors. But as well as your opinions stated here resonate with my own, I feel I do need to play the devil's (who is a thoroughly socialized chap) advocate:

People still realized when sex was talked about. And some information was distributed in this way.

While obviously this is not necessarily a stable situation, besides the euphemism treadmill people do eventually shorten the useful inference gaps. Indeed I would argue that cycles form around these sorts of things, perhaps 19th century Victorian society with its anomalous attitude to discussing sexuality is an example of such a spiral and I think in the 20th century there are also to be found potential examples of such spirals in some places.

This premise however is flawed, and those who believe that this has in fact been accomplished should apply the powerful debiasing heuristic that says that when a seemingly rational discussion of some deeply problematic and controversial topic sounds pleasant and reassuring, there's probably something fishy going on. There is simply no way to approach this topic without ending up with something that's either offensive to the mainstream sensibilities and apt to upset certain sorts of people, or disingenuous and inaccurate to a significant degree.

Generally some information is better than no information and I would say that for all intents and purposes mainstream advice on dating and relations between the sexes is more or less no information. Now I would say that what would be welcomed is a clear acknowledgement of what occurred and what the situation is. While it would be scandalous for a Victorian gentleman or lady to write up a article offering advice on sexuality, and commenting that the original was modified to preserve decency, it would not be scandalous to note that certain things can not be discussed due to decency.

I maintain that to write up such a series of articles and have a discussion such as it is here, would be a net gain and even would not mislead greatly as long as it was clearly and transparently acknowledged that certain things can not be said due to "decency". Obviously anyone interested in additional this could simply check the archives, or discreetly PM the author of the article for "indecent" advice.

We even have a passable candidate that could serve as the euphemism for the word or rather phrase that is the modern equivalent of the indecent: mindkilling.

But to not clearly acknowledge the situation will lead only to a false consensus emerging, and arguably to a certain extent it already has! That this be addressed is especially important because of the constant stream of new arrivals, who often have no experience whatsoever in thinking critically of such matters. I would argue that if that is the only kind of debate possible we should rather taboo the subject as a whole for a period of twelve months or more, not speaking of it rather than risking increasing irrationality on LessWrong. Before people flinch away from such a situation, this obviously goes for all the "sides" involved, please consider that we basically have exactly this kind of situation when it comes to politics!

Not only is sex and its associated status games as important to our monkey brains as politics, arguably in modern Western society sex is politics.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T02:15:39.947Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Generally some information is better than no information and I would say that for all intents and purposes mainstream advice on dating and relations between the sexes is more or less no information.

Actually, I'd say there's a whole lot of strongly misleading information, and the situation is much worse than in most other areas of life. For example, in the conventional wisdom about job hunting there is certainly a lot of trite and suboptimal information, and truly great advice is always a matter of insider information to which few people are privy -- but there is nothing like, say, the respectable opinion telling you that it's best to show up for the job interview drunk and puke on the interviewer's desk. Whereas in dating and inter-sex relations in general, a lot of the respectable opinion, if taken at face value, advises equivalently bad acts of self-sabotage.

Now, a body of advice whose quality is a mixed bag may be on the net either good or bad. If you're given ten tips about driving, nine of which will make you a somewhat better driver but one of which will vastly increase your probability of getting killed in an accident, we'd probably agree that the "some information is better than no information" conclusion doesn't apply. However, if the tenth one merely increases your parking fines slightly, it may well be the case.

So, what about the quality of advice that will be produced by a LW discussion on these topics operating under such constraints of respectability, where disreputable sources of accurate information are tabooed, a pretense must be maintained that the discourse is grounded in officially accredited scholarship and other high-status sources of information, and -- most important of all -- the entire discourse and its bottom line must produce a narrative that is in line with the respectable, high-status views of humanity and society? I am not at all optimistic, especially having seen what has been produced so far!

Now I would say that what would be welcomed is a clear acknowledgement of what occurred and what the situation is. [...] But to not clearly acknowledge the situation will lead only to a false consensus emerging, and arguably to a certain extent it already has!

Yes, I think this is an important issue even aside from the question of the quality of the generated advice. The whole tone of these supposedly successful LW discussions about dating, relationships, and related topics assumes that the relevant high-status ideological views and official scholarship are a product of genuine free-thinking and rationality, so that a truly rational debate about these matters simply cannot lead to anything that respectable and accredited people would frown on. (And, by extension, that people who purportedly try to break the happy death spirals and draw the discourse closer to reality must be dishonest and delusional, and are thus obnoxiously stirring up bad blood without good reason.) This represents delusional wishful thinking of a sort that would be seen as unacceptable on LW if practiced about many other topics.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-06T03:15:50.470Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So, what about the quality of advice that will be produced by a LW discussion on these topics operating under such constraints of respectability, where disreputable sources of accurate information are tabooed, a pretense must be maintained that the discourse is grounded in officially accredited scholarship and other high-status sources of information, and -- most important of all -- the entire discourse and its bottom line must produce a narrative that is in line with the respectable, high-status views of humanity and society?

In the past people have obviously retrospectively looked for academic sources to support PUA ideas. It's instrumentally fine, just a bad habit. Also, it is easy to hint at what is unsaid by saying it would be offensive, and hinting at exactly how offensive it would or wouldn't be. Imagine a map of the world where every feature north of 35 degrees latitude was only described (Canada? Way north, I can't put that on the map, it's not even close! Korea? Look, that's just not the sort of thing that can be boldly painted on the map. I'll sketch a rough outline in pencil, OK?) Such a map would not be misleading.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-06T02:59:05.726Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

certain things can not be said due to "decency".

The reason that convention is difficult to use here is that the taking of offense all goes one way. If one says "Because it is mind-killing, I will not speak of the temporal order, quantity, and relative amount of coercion involved in all property dispossessions in the Middle East since 1800," one does not thereby share much about one's opinion.

If one says "Because it is mind killing, I will not discuss the relationship between sexual attractiveness and time for men and women," it may be that one believes that they are the same, or that there isn't a steep fall for anyone, or whatever, and merely doesn't want to provoke people into speaking of a counterargument. But usually not.

Only one side takes offense regarding this issue, so to say that one's opinions are offensive, and especially the degree to which they are, is to reveal them. People are neither motivated to, nor good at, using the same language for "I will not share my opinion because people will take offense," and "I will not share my opinion because the way some people discuss the topic is offensive." In both cases, people take the opportunity to signal and communicate rather than maintain an ambiguous neutral convention to end conversations.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T00:57:07.542Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I maintain that to write up such a series of articles and have a discussion such as it is here, would be a net gain and even would not mislead greatly as long as it was clearly and transparently acknowledged that certain things can not be said due to "decency". Obviously anyone interested in additional this could simply check the archives, or discreetly PM the author of the article for "indecent" advice.

We even have a passable candidate that could serve as the euphemism for the word or rather phrase that is the modern equivalent of the indecent: mindkilling.

"Mindkilling" refers to the idea that it is particularly hard (although not impossible) for humans to discuss politically or ideologically controversial subjects without succumbing to bias. The implicit prohibition on "mindkilling" political discussion seems to have worked well here in creating a very civilised discussion forum.

On the other hand, you would redefine mindkilling as dissent from the ideological mainstream. This is unwise, because this merely priviliges a certain view of things at the expense of truth-seeking - it enshrines bias, since the ideological mainstream (American?) view of all things cannot be considered true or rational by definition.

To merely acknowledge that "indecency" (dissent) is forbidden, so caveat lector does little to counteract the inherent bias of the arrangement, since people are still going to read articles on a rationality forum expecting them to be essentially accurate, which they will not be to the extent that the dissenting view of things is the only fully accurate view. In other words this acknowledgement is hardly going to cancel out the persuasive force of a biased article unless the caveat is written in massive bold letters at the top of every such article "This Is Not True", which is clearly unsatisfactory.

In other words the choices are:

1) Allow no discussion of ideologically controversial matters (to minimise mindkilling, but limit the scope of the forum)

2) Your solution, i.e. permit only the mainstream view (also minimising the possibility of mindkilling arguments, but legitimising bias)

3) Anything goes (possibly degrading the civility and in the long term the rationality of the forum)

Since the prohibitions are in fact only implicit, luckily there is no need to actually make a choice and some kind of uneasy equilibrium between 2 and 3 can exist (in which dissent is allowed, but is only encouraged in small and perhaps euphemistic doses). But I think this clarifies the point Vladimir_M is making.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-06T01:04:26.129Z · score: 41 (51 votes) · LW · GW

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful. The former leaves the dissident view just amorphous enough to be impossible to subject to scrutiny. Given that, even in cases where the mainstream view is wrong, the implied dissident view may also be wrong in some important regard, the obscurantism is highly suboptimal.

I haven't been downvoting for this phenomenon so far, but I'm going to start doing so if it keeps happening.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-06T20:42:49.262Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

To whoever is upvoting this, it seems like you must be taking one of the following positions:

  1. It is safe to post any view on LessWrong. Doing so will not get you in trouble, or cause blowups.
  2. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, but if you hold such a view, you are morally obliged to argue for it and suffer the punishment (possibly at the hands of me or my allies).
  3. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, and you are allowed not to argue for them, but you are not allowed to suggest that this unsafety has any sort of distorting effect on the resulting discussion.

Could you guys clarify?

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-11-07T00:13:21.670Z · score: 30 (32 votes) · LW · GW

I upvoted Prismatic, and I'm taking this position: 4. It may or may not be safe to post certain views on Less Wrong, but whatever they are, I precommit that I will not be part of a blowup over them. If your views are justified, I will update on them, and if they are not, I will calmly state my objections, but I will not punish you for dissent. If other people punish you unfairly for dissent, I will punish them. I would rather you post your dissenting views than hide them, and I will support you for doing so.

If enough of Less Wrong takes this position, eventually position 1. will be correct. I hope to bring about this state of affairs.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-07T02:33:55.427Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I always appreciate when someone else comes along and explains my position better than I did, so thanks.

comment by steven0461 · 2012-02-28T04:20:24.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That looks like option 2 minus the parenthetical. "These punishments are most regrettable, and maybe one day in a utopian future they will have stopped existing, but in the mean time stick your neck out and be punished or I'm going to complain at you."

comment by Airedale · 2011-11-07T22:30:36.876Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't is possible that Prismattic's comment could be receiving so many upvotes because other people also find comments of the sort described irritating and are embracing the opportunity to signal that irritation? Like Prismattic, I don't generally downvote comments on this basis alone. But I'm definitely tired of seeing the types of comments described, especially in those instances when, at least to my eyes, the commenters seem to be affecting a certain world-weary sorrow and wisdom while hinting at the profound truths that could be freely discussed but for -alas!- the terrible tyranny of modern social norms. But because the commenters are hiding the exact substance of their own views, there's no basis on which to judge whether these views are, as Prismattic suggests, actually more correct than the mainstream view, or perhaps equally or even more wrong in some different direction.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-08T18:26:02.035Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore I win the debate", I agree that's unreasonable. If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore no real debate has taken place", I think that's far more reasonable.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-07T22:48:02.804Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Trying to put words to my own intuitions on the matter, I would stipulate a modified 3:

It may be unsafe (in terms of image/status/etc - I would certainly expect and hope not physically) to express certain views, particularly those sufficiently far from both societal mainstream and LW mainstream, and particularly those that touch too heavily on mind-killing topics.

It is reasonably within norms to acknowledge this, particularly with an eye to reducing its effect.

What is decidedly a violation of norms, I think, is to do so in a self-serving manner.

"Norms forbid honest discussion of my pet issue X, therefor X" is obviously flawed.

"Norms forbid discussion of my pet issue X, and I have strong evidence for X but can't share it because of those norms, so just trust me that X" amounts to the same thing, in terms of what kinds of discussions are possible. It is also, to some degree, inconsistent - it is unlikely that we forbid evidence for a proposition while allowing discussion otherwise implying/assuming it.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2011-11-07T00:04:52.732Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why not publish the "unsafe" arguments under a pseudonym (or an alternate pseudonym if your main identity is already a pseudonym)?

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-07T01:33:19.807Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

To do so consistently and stay safe, you'd need to take the unusual or otherwise identifiable parts of your set of concepts, favorite examples, verbal quirks, patterns of reasoning, and so on, and split everything into two: one part for use under your true identity, and one part for pseudonymous use. Even then, each of your novel ideas could taint each of your other novel ideas. There would also still be the harm to LessWrong's reputation as a whole. And what would it accomplish? It's notoriously hard to get people to change their minds on these topics, even here, and if you do there's no clear causal path from that to better long-term future outcomes. I'd rather just collectively give up.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2011-11-07T07:03:22.329Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's notoriously hard to get people to change their minds on these topics, even here, and if you do there's no clear causal path from that to better long-term future outcomes.

I do wonder why Luke puts so much effort into writing about romantic relationships, given all the other things on his to do list. Perhaps he wants to demonstrate that rationality has big concrete, immediate benefits, as a way to help expand our community?

I'd rather just collectively give up.

I think that's unlikely, unless someone who wants to see it happen makes a big push for it (e.g., get Eliezer to declare it a rule, or write a really convincing top-level post arguing for it and build the necessary consensus). My suggestion was made under the assumption of the current status quo.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T22:52:52.143Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I second this question.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-11-07T10:33:27.117Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps my view is one of 1-3, but I'm finding it difficult to categorize it:

It is ill-advised to discuss certain topics on LessWrong; if they are discussed anyway, the following choices are in the decreasing order of preference: a) not join the discussion; b) state your view clearly and be prepared to defend it; c) hint at your view but refuse to explain it or cite evidence for it, claiming that'll violate a social norm.

b) is much better than c), but a) is much better than b).

It's the same attitude that I think already exists on LW for politics (strongly influenced by the mind-killer post).

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T09:57:17.445Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am also interested in a clarification.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T02:31:28.915Z · score: 5 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful. The former leaves the dissident view just amorphous enough to be impossible to subject to scrutiny. Given that, even in cases where the mainstream view is wrong, the implied dissident view may also be wrong in some important regard, the obscurantism is highly suboptimal.

So you prefer the situation in which a dubious mainstream view remains entirely unchallenged to a situation where a doubter, instead of remaining silent, states that it is likely wrong but that spelling out an explicit argument why it is so would violate social norms? As far as I see, the information made available in the second case is a proper superset of the information available in the former. So how can this constitute "obscurantism" in any reasonable sense of the term?

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-06T02:36:08.404Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

ETA: I also see the widespread use on Lesswrong of "politically correct" as an attribution that prima facie proves something is wrong to be problematic. Society functions on polite fictions, but that does not mean that everything that is polite is inherently false.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-06T18:00:04.424Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

Do you upvote people that do?

I have mostly grown tired of making comments where I mention a contrarian position. I get asked to explain myself; it sometimes leads to an argument, and I put a lot of work into comments that often end up at negative karma. I suspect those threads add to LW, but the feedback I'm getting is that they don't.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-07T07:52:03.819Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'll understand if you refuse, but... would you mind terribly saving me the work of searching for an example of what you're talking about? Cause, see, if I'm right about what you're referring to (something I'm not sure of, hence the question) I generally do upvote things like that.

Also I've only been here, like, two months, so if you have some kind of reputation I'm not aware of it.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-07T15:26:20.617Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The most recent example would be my comment that everyone becoming bisexual might lead to a net social loss, although the karma scores have gone up since that discussion happened (and so maybe I just need to wait before updating on the karma of contrarian comments).

I spent way too long looking through other comments I've made, and only really came across this example. I suspect this was misapplying discontent caused by other arguments. I had already noticed a while back that when I made a sloppy comment it would often get downvoted, although I would be able to make up the karma by explaining myself downthread. The only other significant example I can think of was in a thread about infanticide where I accidentally implied that I could be for the criminalization of abortion, and that comment got kicked down to -3 karma, with +1 karma from my following comments. (It's hard to decide how that whole thread contributes to this question, because the person who said "well, I can't say this many places, but I'm in favor of infanticide" got upvoted to 41 karma. That suggests to me their position isn't contrarian locally, but I suspect it is contrarian globally.)

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-07T23:04:26.761Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

and so maybe I just need to wait before updating on the karma of contrarian comments

In general, it's been observed that a comment on a controversial topic will be downvoted heavily in a quick flurry but then usually recovers; high-quality such comments tend to end up significantly positive.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T02:26:21.766Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In general, it's been observed that a comment on a controversial topic will be downvoted heavily in a quick flurry but then usually recovers; high-quality such comments tend to end up significantly positive.

And now I have seen it observed by someone who isn't me. Good to hear external confirmation! :)

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T02:33:35.048Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Careful - if you've stated it out loud, the observation noted above might be your own.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-07T23:11:14.007Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By the way, +1 for noting the tension between "Is that your true rejection" and "Policy debates should not appear one-sided".

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T02:45:48.270Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

This does not answer my question. You claim that a situation in which information X and Y is made available constitutes "obscurantism" relative to the situation where only information X is provided. Now you say that you would prefer that not just X and Y, but also information Z be provided. That's fair enough, but it doesn't explain why (X and Y) is worse than just (X), if (X and Y and Z) is better than just (X and Y). What is this definition of "obscurantism," according to which the level of obscurantism can rise with the amount of information about one's beliefs that one makes available?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-06T04:12:20.051Z · score: 19 (27 votes) · LW · GW

I still consider myself relatively new here, only been around for a year -- but in that year I haven't seen any actual fact presented in LessWrong that's enflamed spirits one tenth as much as the obscure half-hints by trolls like sam and his "I can't say things, because you politically correct morons will downvote me into oblivion, but be sure that my arguments would be crushing, if I was allowed to make them, which I'm not, therefore I'm not making them" style of debate.

The "obscurantism" that Prismatic is talking about isn't yet as bad as that, but it has that same flavour, to a lesser degree. This sort of thing is... annoying -- hinting at evidence, but refusing to provide it -- and blaming this obscurity at the hypothetical actions by people who haven't actually done them yet.

If the issue is e.g. whether science seems to indicate that the statistical distribution of physical and intellectual characteristic isn't identical across racially-defined subgroups of the human race, or across genders, or across whatever, then it can be discussed politely, if the participants actually seek a polite discussion, instead of just finding the most insulting way possible to talk about them. And if the participants are willing to use words like "average" and "median" and "distribution" and things like that, instead of using phrases that are associated with the worst metaphorical Neanderthals that exist in the modern world.

What I think enflames things far far worse is when people imply that you are incapable of discussing topics, but nonetheless hint at them. If the topic can't be discussed, then don't discuss it or hint at it at all. If it can be discussed, then discuss it plainly, clearly, politely; not trollishly or deliberately offensively or carelessly offensively. Take a single minute to see if you can impart the same (or more) information in a less offensive mannere.g. "Is there a causal connection between the absence of Y chromosome and average levels of mathematical aptitude"? may need a couple seconds more to write, but it'll probably lead to a better discussion than "Why and how do women suck at math"?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T04:53:49.058Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

If the topic can't be discussed, then don't discuss it or hint at it at all.

You are presenting the situation as if such hints were coming out of the blue in discussions of unrelated topics. In reality, however, I have seen (or given) such hints only in situations where a problematic topic has already been opened and discussed by others. In such situations, the commenter giving the hint is faced with a very unpleasant choice, where each option has very serious downsides. It seems to me that the optimal choice in some situations is to announce clearly that the topic is in fact deeply problematic, and there is no way to have a no-holds-barred rational discussion about it that wouldn't offend some sensibilities. (And thus even if it doesn't break down the discourse here, it would make the forum look bad to the outside world.)

At the very least, this can have the beneficial effect of lowering people's confidence in the biased conclusions of the existing discussion, thus making their beliefs more accurate, even in a purely reactive way. However, you seem to deny that this choice could ever be optimal. Yet I really don't see how you can write off the possibility that both alternatives -- either staying silent or expressing controversial opinions about highly charged issues openly -- can sometimes lead to worse results by some reasonable measure.

You also seem to think that merely phrasing your opinion in polite, detached, and intellectual-sounding terms is enough to avoid the dangers of bad signaling inherent to certain topics. I think this is mistaken. It might lead to the topic in question being discussed rationally on LW -- and in fact, this will likely happen on LW unless the topic is gender-related and if it manages to elicit interest -- but it definitely won't escape censure by the outside world.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T10:05:07.289Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

(And thus even if it doesn't break down the discourse here, it would make the forum look bad to the outside world.)

This.

I really really don't want such discussion to be very prominent, because they attract the wrong contrarian cluster. But I don't want LW loosing ground rationality wise with debates that are based on some silly premises, especially ones that are continually reinforced by new arrivals and happy death spirals!

comment by Emile · 2011-11-06T10:28:10.730Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Attracting the wrong people, and alienating some of the "right" people is a bigger concern to me than the reputation of the site as a whole (though that counts too). Another concern is that hot-button issues might eat up the conversations and get too important (they are not issues I care that much about debating here).

The current compromise of avoiding some hot-button issue, and having some controversial things buried in comment threads or couched in indirect academese seems reasonable enough to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T10:38:47.587Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with this. But I wish to emphasise:

The current compromise of avoiding some hot-button issue, and having some controversial things buried in comment threads or couched in indirect academese seems reasonable enough to me.

Some of us look at the state of LW and fear that punishment of this appropriate behaviour is slowly escalating, while evaporative cooling is eliminating the rewards.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T22:26:28.659Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Some of us look at the state of LW and fear that punishment of this appropriate behaviour is slowly escalating, while evaporative cooling is eliminating the rewards.

I concur with this diagnosis -- and I would add that the process has already led to some huge happy death spirals of a sort that would not be allowed to develop, say, a year an a half ago when I first started commenting here. In some cases, the situation has become so bad that attacking these death spirals head-on is no longer feasible without looking like a quarrelsome and disruptive troll.

comment by Swimmer963 · 2012-11-28T14:54:14.186Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Could you give some examples? I don't like the thought of my brain being happy-death-spiralled without my noticing. I promise to upvote your comment even if it makes me angry.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-11-28T15:44:09.334Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(Eh, he's been inactive for the last three months anyway.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T10:10:17.094Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You also seem to think that merely phrasing your opinion in polite, detached, and intellectual-sounding terms is enough to avoid the dangers of bad signaling inherent to certain topics. I think this is mistaken. It might lead to the topic in question being discussed rationally on LW -- and in fact, this will likely happen on LW unless the topic is gender-related and if it manages to elicit interest -- but it definitely won't escape censure by the outside world.

Which is I think the current situation when it comes to criticism of say democracy.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-06T22:45:10.425Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, general criticism of democracy isn't such a big problem. It can make you look wacky and eccentric, but it's unlikely to get you categorized among the truly evil people who must be consistently fought and ostracized by all decent persons. There are even some respectable academic and scholarly ways to trash democracy, most notably the public choice theory.

Criticisms of democracy are really dangerous only when they touch (directly or by clear implication) on some of the central great taboos. Of course, respectable scholars who take aim at democracy would never dare touch any of these with a ten foot pole, which necessarily takes most teeth out of their criticism.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-07T01:16:40.866Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think criticism of democracy goes over less well if you have something specific that you want to replace it with.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-07T03:42:48.266Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That is true, but you get into truly dangerous territory once you drop the implicit assumption that your criticism applies to democracy in all places and times, and start analyzing what exactly correlates with it functioning better or worse.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-07T03:48:16.195Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I expect it depends on what distinctions you're using for what corelates with how democracies do. For example, claiming that there's an optimal size for democracies that's smaller than a lot of existing countries could get contentious, but I don't think it would blow up as hard as what I suspect you're thinking of.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-08T01:38:07.260Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I expect it depends on what distinctions you're using for what corelates with how democracies do.

Yes, of course, my above characterization was imprecise in this regard.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-02-28T02:33:06.080Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

but I don't think it would blow up as hard as what I suspect you're thinking of.

As a potshot, let's just fucking spell it out: genetics, and "Race" in particularly.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T09:50:58.977Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

trolls like sam and his "I can't say things, because you politically correct morons will downvote me into oblivion, but be sure that my arguments would be crushing, if I was allowed to make them, which I'm not, therefore I'm not making them" style of debate.

Sam dosen't do that. Sam trolls by stating his opinions fully. He then refuses to provide evidence.

If the issue is e.g. whether science seems to indicate that the statistical distribution of physical and intellectual characteristic isn't identical across racially-defined subgroups of the human race, or across genders, or across whatever, then it can be discussed politely, if the participants actually seek a polite discussion, instead of just finding the most insulting way possible to talk about them.

Race differences have already been explicitly discussed with little problem, if not prominently so, do a search. Gender, sexuality and sexual norms are the great unPC problem of LessWrong.

And if the participants are willing to use words like "average" and "median" and "distribution" and things like that, instead of using phrases that are associated with the worst metaphorical Neanderthals that exist in the modern world.

Dishonest generalization, find two posters in addition to Sam who do this. I will wait.

Now contrast this to the average (even average anon double log in account) pro-hereditarian LW-er who brings up such points. There are far more Quirrells than Sams here, and Sams get heavily downvoted except on the rare occasions they make more reasonable posts (though the particular poster has probably burned out some people's patience and will get downvoted no matter what he says because he has consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to adapt to our norms).

This is quickly devolving into the worst kind of politicking one finds on otherwise intelligent forums.

What I think enflames things far far worse is when people imply that you are incapable of discussing topics, but nonetheless hint at them. If the topic can't be discussed, then don't discuss it or hint at it at all.

But it is other people who keep dragging them up and discussing them. Politely stating that you disagree and they are wrong, getting then heavily up voted (which indicates a significant if far from majority fraction of LWers agree with the comment) is surely better than not interrupting what you see as a happy death spiral?

If it can be discussed, then discuss it plainly, clearly, politely; not trollishly or deliberately offensively or carelessly offensively

Have we been visiting the same forum? I have often up-voted your responses to Sam0345's posts, indeed you nearly always successfully rebuke him. But I think your extensive interactions with him may be leading you to mistake an individual for a group.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-06T22:44:07.533Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Gender, sexuality and sexual norms are the great unPC problem of LessWrong.

I've decided to bow out of this thread -- as I've not significantly studied either PUA, nor cared to read about previous PUA-related threads in LessWrong, I can barely understand what you're talking about. Perhaps you've noticed a real problem that I haven't, exactly because you're focusing on different type of threads than I do.

And if the participants are willing to use words like "average" and "median" and "distribution" and things like that, instead of using phrases that are associated with the worst metaphorical Neanderthals that exist in the modern world.

Dishonest generalization, find two posters in addition to Sam who do this.

If it can be discussed, then discuss it plainly, clearly, politely; not trollishly or deliberately offensively or carelessly offensively

Have we been visiting the same forum?

The thing I had in mind was things like e.g. the guy who repeatedly and deliberately kept using the diminutive word "girls" to refer to female rationalists but "men" to refer to the male counterparts. This by itself -- when I perceived he intended to belittle women in this fashion, or at least didn't give a damn about not insulting them -- prevented any meaningful discussion of the actual argument he was engaged in, (whether a male-only meetup would be useful or detrimental for the purposes of LessWrong).

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T23:09:56.666Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've decided to bow out of this thread -- as I've not significantly studied either PUA, nor cared to read about previous PUA-related threads in LessWrong, I can barely understand what you're talking about. Perhaps you've noticed a real problem that I haven't, exactly because you're focusing on different type of threads than I do.

OB and early LW consistently blew up whenever PUA and related issues where discussed.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-06T23:08:54.557Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The thing I had in mind was things like e.g. the guy who repeatedly and deliberately kept using the diminutive word "girls" to refer to female rationalists but "men" to refer to the male counterparts.

He really shouldn't have done that.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-07T04:41:50.801Z · score: -6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Sam dosen't do that. Sam trolls by stating his opinions fully. He then refuses to provide evidence.

I provide ample evidence, which you guys vote into oblivion when you don't like it:

Examples:

  • What is the race of the overwhelming majority of people who make race hate attacks, people who physically attack people merely for being of race different from their own?

  • Who had greater freedom of speech: Modern novelists and scriptwriters, or Elizabethan novelists and playwrights?

I provided plenty of evidence, and if you claim I did not, will provide it all over again, to be voted into oblivion all over again.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-07T08:48:47.608Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Who had greater freedom of speech: Modern novelists and scriptwriters, or Elizabethan novelists and playwrights?

Modern novelists and scriptwriters do.

You never provided a single piece of evidence that Elizabethan novelists and playwrights had greater freedom of speech. It was a completely unsubstantiated claim -- and a ludicrous one given how well known the political restriction in free speech were at the time. You also completely refused to acknowledge all the detailed pieces of data for specifics bits of censorship or political pressure in Shakespeare that I provided.

Since you never acknowledge anything we say, nor ever provide any evidence to support the claims we actually dispute, and keep making further ludicrous claims instead, you're properly considered a troll.

EDIT TO ADD:

What is the race of the overwhelming majority of people who make race hate attacks, people who physically attack people merely for being of race different from their own?

That depends on whether we're discussing your nation or mine. Racial hate attacks are most definitely a white thing in Greece. Or Libya. I'm guessing in America it's the other way around, corresponding to higher black crime statistics in general (whether hate crime or otherwise).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-07T14:18:21.300Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are attacks by police and the justice system which seem likely to be racially based included under race hate attacks?

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-07T07:47:53.526Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

And when I provide evidence that I provide evidence, you also vote that into oblivion

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-07T01:35:39.495Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"Is there a causal connection between the absence of Y chromosome and average levels of mathematical aptitude"? may need a couple seconds more to write, but it'll probably lead to a better discussion than "Why and how do women suck at math"?

I appreciate your point here, but you could have chosen a better example. Those two questions have the same capacity for offensiveness. They have the same content and are compatible with the same presuppositions and connotations. They just use different language.

Now perhaps there are people who, upon seeing "women suck at math", read "boo women!", and upon seeing words like "causal" and "Y chromosome", think about causes and effects. So if you're talking to one of those people, you'll want to use the fancier language. But not everyone is like that.

I care about this because I want to be able to talk about why so few of my mathematician colleagues are female, and why they feel so weird about it, and what can be done about it, without gratuitously offending people.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-07T01:56:51.380Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Those two questions have the same capacity for offensiveness. They have the same content and are compatible with the same presuppositions and connotations. They just use different language.

I am really curious how you can demonstrate equivalence between a question that follows the pattern "Why is (X) the case?" and a question that follows the pattern "Is (Y) the case?" -- even if (Y) is arguably equivalent to (X), only phrased in more polite language.

As far as I see, the first one asks for the explanation of something that is presumed to be an established fact, while the second one expresses uncertainty about whether (arguably) the same fact is true. How on Earth can these two be said to have "the same content" and be "compatible with the same presuppositions"?

However, you are quite right that these two questions have the same potential for offensiveness, in that outside a few quirky places like LW, neither the polite phrasing nor the expression of uncertainty will get you off the hook, contrary to what Aris Katsaris seems to believe.

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-07T02:15:39.697Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I see, you're right; the content of the two questions are different. I noticed there was a substantial difference in language, and assumed that was the point of the example.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T02:08:27.824Z · score: 6 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Those two questions have the same capacity for offensiveness.

Surely that's a hyperbole. Now, I know lots of people would be offended by both questions, but I doubt most people would be equally offended by both, and plenty of people would be offended by one but not the other. As a woman who doesn't suck at math, I am down to discuss the first question, but the second one makes me want to slap you.

(Of course, by declaring myself a woman who doesn't suck at math, I have already proven my own nonexistence, so my opinion can, no doubt, safely be ignored.;) )

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-07T17:07:48.569Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

As a woman who doesn't suck at math, I am down to discuss the first question, but the second one makes me want to slap you.

Is it ok to threaten (or declare the desire to do) physical violence upon someone if you don't get your way simply because you are a woman? Careful which stereotypes you support. You don't usually get "heh. Female violence is harmless and cute!" without a whole lot of paternalism bundled in.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T17:51:46.557Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If I said something to offend you over the internet, and you said it made you feel like hitting me, I would think it was no big thing, especially if you went on to explicitly clarify that you would never actually hit me. I would not perceive it as a serious threat in any case.

If you said something like that in real life, in full public view with many onlookers, I might depending on your body language be slightly more concerned, but I would probably just raise an eyebrow and imply that you were being a creep. If I said the same to you, I wouldn't look as ridiculous, since most likely you're bigger and stronger than me, but I doubt it would win anyone over either.

If you actually physically attacked me, I would do my best to see that criminal charges were brought, and I would not physically attack anyone myself if I were unwilling to defend my actions in court. That last scenario is so far from what actually happened here that it really seems like a red herring, though.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-07T18:46:07.842Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I said something to offend you over the internet, and you said it made you feel like hitting me, I would think it was no big thing, especially if you went on to explicitly clarify that you would never actually hit me. I would not perceive it as a serious threat in any case.

Really? My instincts anticipate a significant negative response if I said I wanted to hit someone around here. On the order of a substantial faux pas not a personal security risk. But to be honest I haven't exactly calibrated that intuition all that much. Because I just don't go around saying I want to hit people.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-07T19:10:56.125Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If another data point helps, I basically agree with you... if someone told me that what I'd said made them want to hit me, I'd consider it rude, possibly funny (depending on context), and not significantly changing my estimate that they would actually hit me.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T15:40:49.207Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of thing would change your estimate of whether someone would actually hit you?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-08-25T16:26:49.246Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hitting me.
Hitting others.
Demonstrating poor impulse control in general.
Physically intimidating me (e.g., looming up in my personal space).

In general, someone using their words increases my estimate that they will continue using their words.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-07T17:10:48.956Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Slaps, generally, are relatively harmless. Unfulfilled desires to slap, even more so.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-07T17:46:01.754Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, hasn't there been some discussion of the idea that you have to believe something, however briefly, to understand it?

Even though expressing a desire to slap has no macro bodily effect [1], it still has an emotional effect which is going to affect how a conversation goes, however slightly. [2]

[1] Tentative phrasing used to respect the idea that everything is physical, including thoughts and emotions, but that some things affect people physically more than others.

[2] I believe that "just ignore it" leaves out that ignoring things is work.

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-07T04:44:40.362Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's uncalled-for. I am not asking either question. It's okay if you're offended by one but not the other.

Again, I care about this because I want to be able to talk about why so few of my colleagues are female, and why they feel so weird about it, and what can be done about it — without gratuitously offending people.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T13:38:07.364Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What, exactly, is uncalled-for? The "makes me want to slap you" part? It does. I thought that might be useful information for you to have. I will not actually slap you, even if by some improbable circumstance I ever have the opportunity.

Golly, it's too bad some people take things so personally!

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-07T17:16:40.431Z · score: 15 (21 votes) · LW · GW

On a tangential note, if a man said to a woman that he wanted to slap her as a reaction to some offensive statement she made, would you consider it acceptable?

Mind you, I have no problem in principle with social norms that set different boundaries for the behavior of men and women. (In particular, if someone wants men's threats of violence to women, even humorous and hyperbolic ones, to be judged more harshly than vice versa, I certainly find it a defensible position.) I just find it funny to see egalitarians who profess principled opposition to such norms caught in inconsistencies, like for example here, where very few (if any) of them would react to your statement with the same visceral horror and outrage as if the sexes were reversed.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T17:58:08.445Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know who you're talking about, but it isn't me. My husband sometimes jokes about beating me. I laugh.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-07T22:42:24.146Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad to hear that the two of you share a sense of humor, but the relevant comparison would be how you'd feel if a strange man mentioned slapping you in response to something you said, whether in the context of a public debate such as here or elsewhere. I would be surprised if you would be willing to take that nonchalantly. And even if you are an exception in this regard, there is no denying that the usual standards of discourse are highly asymmetric here, since there is no way that a similar statement by a man to a woman would not have caused firestorms of outrage.

Now, as I explained, I have no problem with this standard in principle. I am not expressing any condemnation of your words or attitudes. I am just using this opportunity to highlight the apparent contradiction with the general principle held by the contemporary respectable opinion that sex-asymmetric social norms are morally dubious, or worse -- and not because I wish to score a petty rhetorical point, but because I believe that if adequately considered, it would open some very important and general questions.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T03:04:24.140Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

And even if you are an exception in this regard, there is no denying that the usual standards of discourse are highly asymmetric here, since there is no way that a similar statement by a man to a woman would not have caused firestorms of outrage.

I don't consider this to be established, for one thing. For another, what I said hasn't exactly passed without comment, so I'm not very sympathetic right now to the idea that women get a free pass.

But though I think your example is weak, I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that double standards in both directions continue to flourish. I'm not sure why that's relevant here, or why people think they have to be so shady about saying this kind of thing on LW. It all seems sort of melodramatic to me; I live in the southern US, and there's probably no disreputable idea you'd dare hint at that I don't hear proudly trumpeted by many of my neighbors, and nobody seems to beat them up or fire them for it.

(On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T03:59:52.347Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

(On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

I think VM is quite open about the fact that his secret beliefs are low status. I've been wondering for a while, but I haven't been able to think of examples of ideas so reviled that they warrant secrecy besides "redneck ideas." I think it's interesting that you similarly lack examples. Maybe this is the only source of reviled beliefs, or maybe it's a US blind-spot.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-08T05:26:37.710Z · score: 11 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Well, beliefs don't even need to be in the "reviled" category for one to conclude that it might be prudent not to express them openly. One might simply conclude that they're apt to break down the discourse, as has indeed happened on LW many times with statements that might be controversial, but fall short of "reviled" in the broader society.

Also, I think you're applying some popular but grossly inaccurate heuristics here. I can easily think of several beliefs that: (1) are squarely in the "reviled" category in today's respectable discourse in Western societies, (2) have been held by a large number of people historically, or are still held by a large number of people worldwide, and (3) are practically nonexistent, or exceptionally rare, among the segment of the U.S. population that can be labeled "rednecks" by any reasonable definition. (For beliefs that make sense only given some cultural background, I mean "exceptionally" relative to other local cultures that provide this background.)

In any case, think about the following. For any human society in history about which you have some reasonably accurate picture, except the present Western ones, you'll probably be able to think of some beliefs that are true, or at least defensible enough that one shouldn't be considered as malicious or delusional for holding them, but also unacceptable in that society. (So that even if expressing them is not outright dangerous, it would face blind hostility and no chance of rational consideration.) Either there are such beliefs in the modern Western societies too, or there is something outstandingly unique and exceptional about these societies that makes such cases impossible. But what could this be?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-08T05:49:51.972Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Let's link to it again: Paul Grahm's What You Can't Say.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T07:03:49.658Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Redneck ideas" is certainly an oversimplification, but I am not sure it is such a grossly inaccurate one. The ideology behind bad treatment of women and minorities in parts of the third world also comes in for Western opprobrium, and might be likewise reviled by or at least of little consequence to rednecks depending on the instance. But it does not seem like an entirely different category -- what people despise about American rednecks, when that term is used pejoratively, is their bigotry.

In a separate category one has cruelty toward animals (which probably coincidentally I also associate with redneck stereotypes), and cruelty toward children. I can't think of any other categories of reviled ideas.

In any case, think about the following. For any human society in history about which you have some reasonably accurate picture, except the present Western ones, you'll probably be able to think of some beliefs that are true, or at least defensible enough that one shouldn't be considered as malicious or delusional for holding them, but also unacceptable in that society. (So that even if expressing them is not outright dangerous, it would face blind hostility and no chance of rational consideration.) Either there are such beliefs in the modern Western societies too, or there is something outstandingly unique and exceptional about these societies that makes such cases impossible. But what could this be?

I see what you're getting at but I don't know enough to judge. Certainly there have been many famous superstitions and manias in history, but I worry that my models of them have been too much influenced by certain parts of modern culture. (It occurs to me I have never read an account of the Salem trials that was written in the two hundred fifty years between them and the Miller play.) As to what might be exceptional about modern society, it contains huge numbers of people who are not bored by ideas and who have some basic equipment, such as literacy, for analyzing them. This might be of some consequence when thinking about the content and enforcement of the rules for respectable discourse, now and then.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T13:11:19.855Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

But it does not seem like an entirely different category -- what people despise about American rednecks, when that term is used pejoratively, is their bigotry.

Looking from the outside it seems to me "Rednecks" are despised because they are poor and dysfunctional and don't have any extenuating circumstances (at least ones modern society would find acceptable) for being so.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T13:43:43.417Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's an improvement on Sewing Machine's claim, but I don't think it goes far enough. Groups despise other groups. "Rednecks" form a group, it's predictably despised by another group. The low status are despised by the high status. Rednecks are low status, they're despised by SWPLs, who are high status. The term "redneck" refers to the condition of their neck, which is a way of referring to their occupation and therefore to their station in life. Someone with a red neck is originally probably a caucasian who works out of doors, likely to be looked down on by caucasians who work indoors. Probably rural, likely to be looked down on by the urban (who are urbane, sophisticated, in contrast to the rednecks who are rustic, unsophisticated).

People love to look down on other people. It's a pastime. It's a way to magnify one's own feeling of having high status. There's a site called "people of walmart" which is devoted to the pastime of looking down on other people. A lot of humor, possibly most humor, is devoted to ridiculing a group to which one does not belong. It's always easy to come up with rationalizations for the contempt after the fact.

Personally I prefer the humor of self-ridicule. I assume that the SWPL site is self-ridicule of high status whites. I also assume that Jeff Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck" routine is self-ridicule of rednecks. In contrast, "people of walmart" is not self-ridicule.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-08T19:41:15.933Z · score: -8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

"Rednecks" are despised because they are poor and dysfunctional

  • High Status: Unemployed and unemployable MFA (Master of Fine Arts) who is unfortunately in between arts grants and low paid teaching jobs at the moment, and has been for some considerable time.
  • Lower Status: Artist who makes decent money by selling reproductions of his art to the despised bourgeoisie, but has no MFA, never gets grants, and never holds a job in academia, in part because the pay is low, but mostly because they would not hire such an inferior and low status person anyway.
  • Lowest Status: Wealthy farmer, who was a farmer's son, and makes lots of money by feeding thousands of people, his neck turning red in the process as he works outdoors.

Farmers who own a lot of land, and their sons (though strangely not their daughters) also "rednecks", and hated and despised accordingly. They are discriminated against in university admissions. Are they poor and dysfunctional?

The hatred of rednecks is a less extreme form of the "Occupy Wall Street" demands for jobs in the virtue and cultural uplift industries. The ruling class thinks that producing value is low status, and producing value by working outside is really low status, regardless of income.

Just as an unemployed and severely dysfunctional Occupy Wall Street protestor, who has a Masters in Fine Arts and is therefore a genuine official artist, despises the mere peddler of kitsch, despite the fact that no one would pay for the MFA's "art" with their own money, and right now his grant has run out, the lesser artist, though his status is inferior due to the fact that he got his money merely from members of la bourgeoisie buying his art, rather than grants, his status is nonetheless superior to that of the even wealthier farmer's son, whose work is largely done outdoors, and whose neck is therefore red.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T19:54:46.801Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Redneck has had connotations beyond "someone who works outside", "someone who does farm work", or even "someone who is white and does farm work" for some time.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T01:14:33.419Z · score: -5 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Yet strangely, the MFA at "Occupy Wall Street" whose grant ran out long ago, and whose teaching job is extreme low pay, would not consider a better paid job that involved working out of doors.

Indeed, he is reluctant even to consider jobs outside the virtue industry.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T02:13:49.320Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How is this a response to anything I said? Do you mean to contend that any given out-of-work MFA at OWS, according to your model of reality, would turn down an outdoor job exclusively or primarily because it would be associated in their mind with the label "redneck"? But then, your last sentence seems to contradict that. They value working in their field, just like anyone else. Maybe they value it too highly, in the face of economic reality. Maybe there are other, additional pressures that are leading their decisions. Maybe they are turning their noses up at some specific jobs because they seem too "redneck" but you haven't shown evidence of it. But this isn't even the point I was making.

While I understand it's origins, by my observation "redneck" is now associated with some specific stereotypes. I think applying the label to a farmer who is feminist, left wing, and wealthy, and who dislikes NASCAR and country music, would strike people as far more jarring than the inverse who worked in a garage. Or, for that matter, an inverse with an MFA. Blue collar work - particularly non-manufacturing blue collar work - is a feature of the stereotype, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient to determine category membership.

This is not to say that I think the stereotype to be a useful generalization.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-09T02:21:14.304Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You clearly understand the reasons why sam's post was irrelevant gibberish. So why did you respond to it?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T02:36:55.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Personal edification.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T05:07:55.429Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

"While I understand it's origins, by my observation "[Jew]" is now associated with some specific stereotypes. [Such as hooked noses and penny pinching business practices]

Fixed it for you.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T05:50:52.356Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, you really love that negative karma, don't you?

As it stands, there are three meanings of "Jew" - the stereotype, the religion, and the ethnicity. If we wish to pick these apart into Jew(S), Jew(R), and Jew(E), then that would be an antiquated but reasonably accurate description of Jew(S).

There is no corresponding Redneck(R) or Redneck(E). There is a redneck as the term was originally used - Redneck(O), let's say.

My point was that when people use the term, they predominately use it to mean, and understand it to men, Redneck(S) not Redneck(O).

An attempt to reclaim it is not necessarily unreasonable, but it should be explicit. Attempting to do it implicitly is inviting confusion of the nature that originally caused me to comment.

You should now see the mismatch of your FTFY - Jew(S) is not at all the most prevalent usage of Jew.

There are nonetheless still occasions when I would recommend someone interpret "Jew" as Jew(S); if, as I recall observing in Junior high, one person asks to borrow money, is refused, and responds "You Jew!", clearly interpreting that as Jew(R) or Jew(E) would be absurd - doubly so when you are aware that the refuser is neither.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-09T23:15:44.972Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As it stands, there are three meanings of "Jew" - the stereotype, the religion, and the ethnicity.

I would say there is at least one more. Jewishness is as much a cultural association as a religious one, and there are plenty of people who identify as Jewish culturally, but not religiously.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-10T02:27:03.343Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, absolutely.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T09:32:48.079Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As it stands, there are three meanings of "Jew" - the stereotype, the religion, and the ethnicity

When someone calls a penny pincher a Jew, that is not an alternate meaning for Jew, but a metaphor, like calling an overweight woman a whale. Jew means Jew by race or religion, and Redneck means someone who does a low status job, or whose ancestors did a low status job.

My point was that when people use the term, they predominately use it to mean, and understand it to men, Redneck(S) not Redneck(O).

Yet oddly, an Master of Fine arts can never be a redneck, however poor and socially conservative he may be, even though MFAs are infamous for being poor and dysfunctional. Nor can a slush pile reader be a redneck, even though slush pile readers earn the smell of an oil rag..

Just as Jew means Jew by race or religion, not a penny pincher, redneck means a person who works in a low status job - no matter how highly paid that job may be.

And similarly, "racist" merely means person of low status, or insufficient status for the role he attempts to perform. Thus that rednecks are "racist" merely means that certain jobs are low status.

Chris Rock claimed to redefine nigga as not meaning a black man, but merely meaning a black man that fits the stereotype - and then he said that when he withdrew money from the teller machine, he looked behind him for niggas. Actual usage of the term "redneck" is similarly revealing.

Indeed, Chris Rock's famous rant about niggas begins and ends with punch lines that falsify his claim to redefinition, probably deliberately, as the falsification, combined with the claim, is comical.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T06:46:41.405Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As it stands, there are three meanings of "Jew" - the stereotype, the religion, and the ethnicity.

You are citing or inventing dubious linguistics. If you look at the meanings of "Jew" found in the dictionary, none of them are the stereotype. Definition 3 at Webster is ethnicity, and definition 4 at Webster is religion. Definitions 1 and 2 are biblical and historical. None of them are the stereotype.

When a group of people is stereotyped, this does not create a new meaning of the name of the group. Let's review what a stereotype is. Using the Cambridge Advanced Learner's dictionary, their definition of "stereotype" is:

a fixed idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong

False fixed ideas (beliefs) about group G are not new definitions for the name of the group G. G is not split into two, G(O) and G(S). The false fixed belief is a belief about G(O). The stereotype concerns the (original) group, it does not create a new group.

Imagine if it were otherwise! Imagine if, every time some false belief about some thing T popped into your head, then T split into two, T(O) and T(S). For one thing, you would never again have a false belief, because rather than being a false belief about T(O), your belief would actually be a definition for a new thing T(S) about which it was true.

To put it more briefly, a stereotype is an idea, a belief, about something. A belief can be true or false. In contrast, a definition or meaning is not the sort of thing that can be true or false. So to call a stereotype a meaning is to commit a simple category mistake.

Your whole argument is stated in terms of this category mistake, so to salvage it you would need to toss it and start from scratch.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-09T08:52:33.180Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, your post has caused me to think that a good descriptivist dictionary would include stereotypes if they're common meanings. This doesn't mean that anyone would have the guts (or possibly lack of good sense-- that lack might be equivalent to guts) to produce such a dictionary.

A concept might be in many people's minds, and yet be inaccurate. A dictionary might note that while listing the concept.

As for redneck, I'd say it consistently has a regional connotation-- it's not just about doing outdoor work.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T14:41:15.160Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, your post has caused me to think that a good descriptivist dictionary would include stereotypes if they're common meanings.

Merriam Webster and the other good descriptivist dictionaries do include meanings that match particular stereotypes when they are common meanings, which they rarely but occasionally are.

But importantly, it is only particular stereotypes of a given thing that become meanings - it has to be this way, in order to avoid confusion. For example, the verb "to jew" (which you can look up in any sufficiently comprehensive dictionary) has a meaning which matches a particular stereotype of Jews. That particular stereotype is not "the" stereotype of Jews, because to say it was "the" stereotype would be to imply that there is only one stereotype, and there are many stereotypes of Jews.

Also importantly, meanings corresponding to stereotypes are not automatically generated whenever stereotypes arise. It has to be this way, because it's common that many stereotypes of a given thing arise, and if a meaning were automatically generated for each stereotype, then it would be difficult to tell, among all the stereotypes, which stereotype was meant when the word was used. Nor does a meaning automatically arise that includes all stereotypes together, as we know from the example of the verb "to jew". Rather, on occasion, certain stereotypes are adopted as meanings. It doesn't automatically happen, and it ought not blithely be assumed to have happened.

Here's another pair of examples. Similarly to the verb "to jew", there is also the verb "to dog", which corresponds to one particular stereotype about dogs. And the verb "to wolf" (as in to wolf down) corresponds to another particular stereotype about wolves (and, as it happens, about their close relatives the dogs). Had linguistic history taken a different turn, the verbs "to dog" and "to wolf" might have had entirely different meanings, or might not have existed at all.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T20:12:04.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

your post has caused me to think that a good descriptivist dictionary would include stereotypes if they're common meanings

I seem to recall an Italian dictionary which did give something like “a miser” as one of the definition of ebreo, though with the annotation fig. before it. :-)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T20:17:42.969Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(Wait... by produce you meant “exhibit” not “manufacture”, right?)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T15:02:53.305Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As for redneck, I'd say it consistently has a regional connotation-- it's not just about doing outdoor work.

Indeed. in case there has been any confusion, I did not argue otherwise. I wrote: "Someone with a red neck is originally probably a caucasian who works out of doors." Note my use of the word "originally". This acknowledges that the term "redneck" has evolved since then. I was speculating about its origin.

It may well be - to speculate further - that the term "red neck" originally arose in the South, possibly applied by the Southern upper, indoors-dwelling (or otherwise sun-protected) classes to the Southern lower, outdoors-laboring classes.

This point does not take away from my argument as far as I can tell. Certainly I was aware of it, hence I used the word "originally".

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-10T03:18:34.509Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure we're talking past each other here. I think my usage of stereotype was actually reasonably correct, consider for instance:

In the analysis of personality, the term archetype is often broadly used to refer to a stereotype—personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of such a type[...]

from the wikipedia page on Archetype

But it is probably better to simply taboo it:

As it stands, there are four meanings of "Jew". The first three, the religion, the ethnicity, and the culture, have to do with individuals. The last is a fictional model of an individual comprised of various beliefs (true and false) that the are held, or have been held, in the community recently enough and prominently enough to be recognizable to most members of the community.

I contend that people do, in fact, make reference to these models in communication without necessarily adopting the belief that the model is valid.

This is not to say that I think they should do so; there is legitimate concern about propagating false beliefs when the models are commonly believed, and about bleeding over of associations when they are not.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T16:35:47.616Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To your mind, does it fix things if you read "model of a stereotypical X" for "stereotype"? That is closer to how I intended it.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T17:24:53.023Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It fixes part of it but I don't think you capture what's really going on. To use a fresh aspect of the concept of the redneck, as Nancy points out "redneck" has a regional component. MW's definition of "redneck" for example, is: "a white member of the Southern rural laboring class". That's an aspect of what you would call Redneck(O). So when you write:

My point was that when people use the term, they predominately use it to mean, and understand it to men, Redneck(S) not Redneck(O).

you're claiming that when people use the term, they predominantly do not use it to mean "a white member of the Southern rural laboring class", but rather, the stereotypes which we have been discussing, which were introduced by Sewing Machine, namely:

what people despise about American rednecks, when that term is used pejoratively, is their bigotry.

and elaborated or modified by konkvistador:

it seems to me "Rednecks" are despised because they are poor and dysfunctional

So here we have three stereotypes about rednecks: bigoted, poor, and dysfunctional. These are the stereotypes that were introduced, and that were given as reasons for rednecks being despised. I offered a quite different, and conflicting, theory as to why rednecks are despised, and I claimed that these stereotypes are in fact not reasons, but rationalizations, excuses, for the contempt so often and so publicly and so gleefully expressed about rednecks.

You've offered a new theory of the concept of the "redneck", distinct from that of Sewing Machine and Konkvistador (the negative stereotypes on their expressed view do not constitute the concept, but are merely associated with the category). Your new theory amounts to an almost perfect excuse for the contempt. According to you, when people use the term, they predominantly mean Redneck(S). In context, then, what your statement amounts to, is the statement that when people use the term "redneck", they mean "someone who is bigoted, poor, and dysfunctional". If it were true, this would excuse the contempt shown to rednecks, maybe not the "poor" part, but "bigoted" certainly and "dysfunctional" probably. So when people say, "rednecks are bigots" and "rednecks are dysfunctional", on your view of it, they are merely stating tautologies, i.e., "bigots are bigots" and "dysfunctional people are dysfunctional."

My view of your theory is that your theory is all too convenient. Your approach to this issue could be applied to excuse pretty much any contempt shown by any group toward any other group. Contempt shown by whites toward blacks, for example.

In fact, the comedian Chris Rock did take something like your approach to a similar issue. He has a monolog in which he takes a common derogatory term for a whole group and redefines it (for the duration of his monolog) as referring only to those members to whom common negative stereotypes apply, and not to all members of the group. This is certainly not how it is normally used, and if you don't belong to the group yourself, you would be well advised not to start using this term on the theory that it refers only to those members who satisfy the negative stereotypes. Chris Rock's monolog, from wikiquote:

There's a lot of racism going on. Who's more racist, black people or white people? It's black people! You know why? Because we hate black people too! Everything white people don't like about black people, black people really don't like about black people ,and there's two sides, there's black people and theres niggas. The niggas have got to go. You can't have shit when you around niggas, you can't have shit. You can't have no big screen TV! You can have it, but you better move it in at 3 in the morning. Paint it white, hope niggas think it's a bassinet. Can't have shit in your house! Why?! Because niggas will break into your house. Niggas that live next door to you break into your house, come over the next day and go, "I heard you got robbed." Nigga, you know you robbed me. You didn't see shit 'cause you was doing shit! You can't go see a movie, you know why? 'Cause niggas is shooting at the screen, "This movie's so good I gotta bust a cap in here!" You know the worst thing about niggas? Niggas always want credit for some shit they supposed to do. A nigga will brag about some shit a normal man just does. A nigga will say some shit like, "I take care of my kids." You're supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! What kind of ignorant shit is that? "I ain't never been to jail!" What do you want, a cookie?! You're not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!

Someone who is not black would be well advised to avoid saying:

You can't have shit when you around niggas, you can't have shit. ... Why?! Because niggas will break into your house.

If we were to apply your theory of "redneck" to "nigga", then the above statement would be an empty tautology, since it would mean essentially, "black people who break into your house, break into your house." This is indeed what this means in the context of Chris Rock's monolog. But it's not what it would mean in everyday language. It is no empty tautology.

Same applies to "redneck". Redneck means what the dictionary says it means (yes, the dictionary can be wrong, but in this case it's not). You might be able to cook up a comedy monolog in which "redneck" means "bigoted person", but it's not what it means in everyday English. Someone tweaked me for referring to a dictionary - if MW agrees with me, I must be right. I don't think that's necessarily the case, but I do think that dictionaries are usually very good evidence about what words mean.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-10T03:31:52.679Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My view of your theory is that your theory is all too convenient. Your approach to this issue could be applied to excuse pretty much any contempt shown by any group toward any other group. Contempt shown by whites toward blacks, for example.

That is a ridiculously Platonic view of language. These aren't categories that apply entirely or not at all - applicability of words is gradual. If someone fits every connotation of "redneck" except "racist", people will apply the label to them and they clearly do not deserve the portion of the contempt associated with the label on the basis of it's containing the connotation of "racist". Typically, showing contempt or praise to groups whose membership is not strict is messy enough to be a bad idea.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-09T18:44:17.154Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure Chris Rock didn't invent the pattern of people in an out-group attacking the members of their own group who most resembled the negative stereotype. I've heard of (but not heard directly) Jews complaining about "kikes".

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T19:20:51.398Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure Chris Rock didn't invent the pattern

I didn't intend to imply otherwise. The question isn't what he did or did not invent. The question is, what is the everyday, common meaning. I brought up Chris Rock to illustrate what it would be like if dlthomas's analysis of "redneck" applied to "nigga". Everybody would all the time be talking the way that Chris Rock talks in his monolog without any negative consequences since they would not be implying anything about blacks in general. But clearly, that is not the case. Furthermore, Chris Rock explains his own meaning early in his monolog where he contrasts "black people" with "niggas", which demonstrates that he does not expect his audience to apply that meaning as a default. Evidently, then, Chris Rock's meaning is not the default common, everyday meaning of "nigga".

As with your earlier response, I wonder whether there was some miscommunication, since you brought up a point that I don't recall denying explicitly or implicitly.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-09T19:28:43.174Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure about miscommunication-- I may be trying to read too fast, and doing some pattern-matching.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T19:15:26.757Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Orthodox Jewish community I grew up in didn't do this... we mostly ignored the Jewish stereotypes in the larger culture altogether. But the queer community I attached myself to as a late adolescent did have something like this.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T19:19:06.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've never heard of anything like that in my jewish community either. Though honestly I've almost never heard the term "kike" actually used before. Even anti-semites just use the word Jew as far as I know.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T22:23:16.174Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you hear from a member of group X that group X says Y, it is usually true.

If you hear that group X says Y, from those who do not like group X, it often true.

If you hear that those who don't like group X say Y, from those who don't like those who don't like group X, it is seldom true.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-09T06:54:05.133Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You are citing or inventing dubious linguistics. If you look at the meanings of "Jew" found in the dictionary, none of them are the stereotype. Definition 3 at Webster is ethnicity, and definition 4 at Webster is religion. Definitions 1 and 2 are biblical and historical. None of them are the stereotype.

Well, if Messrs. Merriam and Webster are on your side, you can't be wrong!

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T04:53:18.412Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean to contend that any given out-of-work MFA at OWS, according to your model of reality, would turn down an outdoor job exclusively or primarily because it would be associated in their mind with the label "redneck"?

Entirely the other way around. The job is not low status because associated with "redneck". Redneck is low status because associated with the job.

The MFA would turn down a job that required him to do physical work out of doors because such a job is lower status than a low pay, zero security, academic job,

The fact that the Ivy League discriminates against farmers and the sons of farmers shows that manual work is low status, regardless of income, and working outdoors is especially low status, regardless of how successful the worker is economically.

The word "redneck" has nothing to do with MFA's employment choices, or the Ivy League's selection criteria

Rather: redneck is low status in your mind, because it is associated with such low status jobs, associated with the work done by your inferiors, associated with jobs that an MFA will not do, no matter how hungry, jobs that damage your application to elite universities. Rednecks are supposedly racist because such jobs are low status, and "racist" in dialect of your group is merely another word for low status, having no relationship to a person's mode of reasoning from racial characteristics. Examples: "The tea party is racist" "Herman Cain is an uncle Tom".

Rednecks are supposedly racist for exactly the same reason as Herman Cain is supposedly an Uncle Tom - it has absolutely nothing to do with the political views of Cain or the redneck. Rather, Cain lacks the requisite ruling elite credentials.

I think applying the label to a farmer who is feminist, left wing, and wealthy, and who dislikes NASCAR and country music, would strike people as far more jarring than the inverse who worked in a garage.

True: But notice your inverse is man who works for his hands. How about an inverse who is a slush pile reader? Could he be a redneck? I don't think so, even though slush pile readers are apt to be low paid.

You are probably correct that people would feel comfortable calling a guy who works in a garage a redneck if he had the demonized redneck attitudes, but they would consider it joking or ironic to call a bookkeeper a redneck no matter what his attitudes, and there is no way they are going to call an MFA a redneck, except ironically, regardless of what that MFA's tastes and political attitudes are, and regardless of how infrequent and small the MFA's grants are.

Indeed, I use MFA as an example, because MFAs are notoriously starving, while looking down their noses at those who succeed in doing grubby inferior jobs at decent pay.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-09T05:07:44.937Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Rather: redneck is low status in your mind, because it is associated with such low status jobs, associated with the work done by your inferiors, associated with jobs that an MFA will not do, no matter how hungry, jobs that damage your application to elite universities. Rednecks are supposedly racist because such jobs are low status, and "racist" in dialect of your group is merely another word for low status, having no relationship to a person's mode of reasoning from racial characteristics. Examples: "The tea party is racist" "Herman Cain is an uncle Tom".

Neither Herman Cain (to say the very least) nor the modal tea party member are uneducated or work in low-status jobs.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T05:35:50.476Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Entirely the other way around. The job is not low status because associated with "redneck". Redneck is low status because associated with the job.

An interesting claim. I don't know enough of the socio-linguistic history to really comment. I still don't really think it was a reasonable response to my original comment. You had seemed to be using "redneck" to mean farmers, generally; I still maintain that this is an unrealistic representation of what people typically use the phrase to mean, and will likely lead to misunderstanding in both directions.

The MFA would turn down a job that required him to do physical work out of doors because such a job is lower status than a low pay, zero security, academic job,

There are unquestionably social groups wherein academia is accorded the highest status, yes. People value status, yes. Undoubtedly, some people with an MFA belong to some of those social groups, and this factored in to their decision. I have no data either way to support typicality or atypicality of MFA's in particular. I have basically no experience with Occupy Wall Street. From my limited direct observation of Occupy Oakland, however, this does not seem terribly representative of the protesters there.

The fact that the Ivy League discriminates against farmers and the sons of farmers shows that manual work is low status, regardless of income, and working outdoors is especially low status, regardless of how successful the worker is economically.

I have not seen it demonstrated that that is a fact. Nonetheless, it is certainly the case that knowledge work is accorded higher status in many circles.

Rather: redneck is low status in your mind, because it is associated with such low status jobs, associated with the work done by your inferiors, associated with jobs that an MFA will not do, no matter how hungry, jobs that damage your application to elite universities.

"Redneck" is low status in my mind because it is associated with the puerile humor of Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy. Jobs involving a lot of manual labor are not inherently low status in my mind - that stuff needs doing too, and plumbers have saved more lives than doctors. I wouldn't do it because I have a job that pays well that I find interesting.

Rednecks are supposedly racist because such jobs are low status, and "racist" in dialect of your group is merely another word for low status, having no relationship to a person's mode of reasoning from racial characteristics. Examples: "The tea party is racist" "Herman Cain is an uncle Tom".

Rednecks are supposedly racist because the term is associated predominately with the American south which has, in recent history, harbored a higher level of racism (particularly that directed toward blacks) than other regions. Yes, this is a stereotype - it doesn't even necessarily represent the typical individual from the region - but it's stereotypes we are discussing.

True: But notice your inverse is man who works for his hands.

Yes. As I said, blue collar work is a feature of the stereotype, and so an examples with that attribute are going to seem to fit better than examples without.

I don't see any reason a slush pile reader wouldn't be labeled a redneck, if he spent his off hours drinking cheap beer and making racist jokes while listening to country music and working on his truck. Unless he instead got the label "hipster" - which seems to also be low status, but I expect would be precluded by the country music.

It is conceivable that a part of this is just a regional difference in how liberally the term is applied - around here, there aren't very many white farm workers.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-09T23:05:27.209Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that the Ivy League discriminates against farmers and the sons of farmers shows that manual work is low status, regardless of income, and working outdoors is especially low status, regardless of how successful the worker is economically.

I have not seen it demonstrated that that is a fact.

Once again, my favorite and much repeated citation, favorite because it reveals the same pathology as "Occupy Wall Street" and "Joe the puppeteer" reveals, but provides statistics rather than mere anecdote:'"Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission."'

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-10T04:07:49.297Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. It would seem to be literally true, then, that "the Ivy League discriminates against farmers and the sons of farmers." I am not sure, however, whether the normative weight you give it is appropriate.

"The Ivy League discriminates" is trivially true - that's what their admission's board is for. The question is whether particular discrimination is justified. Discriminating against farmers and the sons of farmers because they will be getting less out of the institution and the institution will be getting less out of them seems perfectly appropriate, if that is what is going on. Discriminating against farmers and the sons of farmers on the grounds that they are associated with farming and we don't like that is obviously inappropriate. If the examination of the ROTC, 4-H, etc, officership and awards controlled well for other factors, then this would be evidence of the latter, and should be fixed.

I could see it simply being a correlation, however - people who take officership in these organizations or earn awards there probably have some interest and time invested there, and thus correspondingly less time invested in things more related to what the admission board is looking for; being that they are not an agricultural school, it makes sense that they prioritize other things. And if the student has a genuine interest in farming and wishes to pursue it further, they will probably benefit much more from attending UC Davis, Michigan State, or Texas A&M than they would from attending Harvard, Yale, or Brown.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-10T05:24:08.835Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Discriminating against farmers and the sons of farmers because they will be getting less out of the institution and the institution will be getting less out of them seems perfectly appropriate,

Care to produce a rationale why the institution will get less out of farmers and the sons of farmers, academic qualifications otherwise being equal?

That this is simple snobbery seems obvious, and if you doubted it, the numerous anecdotes of snobbery emanating from thoroughly dysfunctional members of "Occupy Wall Street" should have confirmed it.

and thus correspondingly less time invested in things more related to what the admission board

The comparison was on an all things considered basis - the qualifications were otherwise equal, except that they also had interests in low status activities.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-10T05:55:38.036Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Care to produce a rationale why the institution will get less out of farmers and the sons of farmers, academic qualifications otherwise being equal?

I was ambiguous - i don't know whether it confused you. If there are farmers that would get less out of it and vice-versa, then they should be discriminated against exactly like anyone else who would get less out of it and vice-versa. I did not intend to assert that this is true of farmers universally, and whether it is true statistically more often than reference populations is an open question as far as I can tell.

If you want a potential reason this could be the case, I gave one previously - someone interested in pursuing farming would find more of use at a school with more focus on agriculture.

That this is simple snobbery seems obvious, and if you doubted it, the numerous anecdotes of snobbery emanating from thoroughly dysfunctional members of "Occupy Wall Street" should have confirmed it.

"Seems obvious" leaves much room for bias. As I said - if it is "simple snobbery", it should be addressed. It is obvious that this is possible - it is not obvious that some other explanation is impossible, or even unlikely. I have no direct experience of Ivy League admissions, and limited second- or third-hand knowledge.

The comparison was on an all things considered basis - the qualifications were otherwise equal, except that they also had interests in low status activities.

On my reading, this was not stated in the article.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-10T19:52:55.308Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

someone interested in pursuing farming would find more of use at a school with more focus on agriculture.

Which presupposes that high status institutions don't bother themselves with such vulgar low status occupations as agriculture.

What then is your explanation for discrimination against ROTC members.

The comparison was on an all things considered basis - the qualifications were otherwise equal, except that they also had interests in low status activities.

On my reading, this was not stated in the article.

Your reading is very strange:

The article states: Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student's chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. "Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission."

Emphasis added

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-10T20:00:36.750Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Which presupposes that high status institutions don't bother themselves with such vulgar low status occupations as agriculture.

UC Berkeley was originally an agriculture school and still maintains an ag department (now under the name of Agricultural and Resource Economics, but that's common to several schools better known for their ag programs). Stanford's got one, too. I'm on the wrong coast to know much about the Ivy League, unfortunately.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T03:28:59.402Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

his neck turning red in the process as he works outdoors

Ahhh! That's where the name redneck comes from. I hadn't even thought about it enough to wonder.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2011-11-09T07:19:44.163Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can't think of any other categories of reviled ideas.

Reactionary elitism, for one (almost by definition not a redneck attitude).

As to what might be exceptional about modern society, it contains huge numbers of people who are not bored by ideas and who have some basic equipment, such as literacy, for analyzing them.

This seems crazily optimistic — literacy and intellectualism, however widespread, don't do much to protect people from holding ideological taboos.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-11-08T19:28:55.052Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

what people despise about American rednecks, when that term is used pejoratively, is their bigotry.

The term for racist - and anyone that is less enlightened than the wonderful ruling class - is "racist"

"redneck" literally means white guy who works outdoors, unlike their masters who work in offices, and when I see people use the term, it is clear that whatever they say they mean, that is what they do mean. For example: the discrimination of Ivy League universities against the sons of farmers. Does the Ivy League have reason to believe that the sons of farmers are more racist than others?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T06:04:16.825Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I've been wondering for a while, but I haven't been able to think of examples of ideas so reviled that they warrant secrecy besides "redneck ideas"

Cannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality.

Any open supporter of any of the above would probably do well to hide it (at least if they're using their real-life name), but I wouldn't call any of the above "redneck ideas" (by which I understand you to mean racism/sexism/homophobia/etc)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T08:00:31.792Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Cannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality.

Any open supporter of any of the above would probably do well to hide it (at least if they're using their real-life name), but I wouldn't call any of the above "redneck ideas" (by which I understand you to mean racism/sexism/homophobia/etc)

I don't have any objection to bestiality. Having sex with animals seems like a less harmful thing to do to an animal than killing it and eating it. I also don't object to other people who are consenting adults ignoring taboos regarding incest so long as they ensure that negative reproductive outcomes are avoided. For that matter cannibalism is fine by me as long as murder isn't involved (although I suggest avoiding the brain). Human sacrifice is a big no no though!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T14:56:42.665Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If we're just talking about what I have defensible objections to, I agree with most of this, except that I would also say that human sacrifice is fine as long as everyone involved consents (1).

That said, I nevertheless find the notion of human sacrifice deeply disturbing and I'm confident that my opinion of someone who participated in it would change significantly for the worse if I found out.

I also find most forms of cannibalism disturbing in much the same way, though not quite as extremely, and I can imagine fringe cases that might not disturb me much. The same is true for many forms of bestiality, though it's much easier to come up with cases that don't disturb me. (Unsurprisingly, a lot depends on how much I anthropomorphize the animal in question.)

Incest -- again, assuming consent (1) -- doesn't bug me much at all.

== (1) Admittedly, what counts as consent is not a simple question; I am assuming unambiguous examples of the category here.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T15:56:39.958Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with most of this, except that I would also say that human sacrifice is fine as long as everyone involved consents

I notice that this is something that I have instrumental reasons to support. Anybody who considers cryonics to be a rite of 'nerd religion' should thereby consider the early, voluntary preservation of someone with Alzheimers a ritual human sacrifice meant to purify them for the afterlife.

Legalize human sacrifice!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T19:35:18.744Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point.

A related observation is that, since cryonics can (as you note) be framed as a 'nerd religion' form of human sacrifice, social norms opposing human sacrifice can be framed as opposing cryonics as well. It follows that if you support cryonics, you might do well to work against those norms, all else being equal.

I suppose something similar is true of Christian Scientists other sects that reject medical care, whose practices can similarly be framed as a form of human sacrifice. Also people who perform or receive abortions, I guess. We could all band together to form the Coalition to Support Things that Can be Thought of as Resembling Human Sacrifice (Including Of Course Human Sacrifice Itself).

Well, OK, maybe we should have a catchier name.

Also, there should be a convenient term to describe the social process whereby entirely unrelated groups come to share a common cause created entirely by the fact that they are classified similarly by a powerful third party.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T19:41:29.562Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, there should be a convenient term to describe the social process whereby entirely unrelated groups come to share a common cause created entirely by the fact that they are classified similarly by a powerful third party.

Good idea!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T19:55:55.405Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I submit "social reification" in the mild hope that someone will improve on it.

comment by khafra · 2011-11-09T14:27:42.564Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the word was "politics."

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T14:51:46.666Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of things are 'politics'. More specific names are also handy.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T02:52:29.736Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think khafra's comment was intended more for snark than for a serious submission.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T18:49:51.997Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Bootleggers and baptists" is a related concept.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-09T06:08:53.800Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hell, just legalize suicide. :P

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T15:33:39.973Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you commit suicide it's not like you're going to jail.

Besides, the policy against suicide attempts is usually psychological treatment not jailtime or something.

Although assisting suicide seems to be a felony in most states in the US according to wikipedia.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T16:37:50.136Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Although assisting suicide seems to be a felony in most states in the US according to wikipedia.

Of course for the majority of people wikipedia page itself is all the assistance they would require.

My discovery of the day: Suicide by locking yourself in the garage with the car on just aint what it used to be. Apparently it was once painless and only minimally unpleasant due to the large amount of carbon monoxide produced. These days, however, we have more efficient engines and catalytic converters. This means you need an awful lot of exhaust fumes to get enough carbon monoxide to kill you - and exhaust fumes still aren't pleasant.

Evidently it is better to use a barbeque (charcoal burner) than a car if you really want to off yourself with CO.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T16:54:45.874Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(nods) My dad once attempted and failed to kill himself by the former method and reported something similar.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T07:48:20.307Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't much care if suicide is illegal just so long as those that are enabling the suicider aren't vulnerable to punishment for obvious reasons. Well, unless our legal system is expected to last as is until after recovery from cryopreservation is implemented. That'd be awkward.

Oh, and make autopsies (that include the head) illegal across the board.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T15:24:08.678Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd support this more confidently if I believed that the legal mechanisms distinguishing "enabling suicide" from "murder" would align well with my own intuitions about the distinction.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-09T16:44:06.853Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, and make autopsies (that include the head) illegal across the board.

This seems like a bad idea as long as most people aren't getting cryonicly preserved. A lot of what we've learned about Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as well as other forms of brain damage comes from autopsies and we're still learning. Similarly, in some cases the brain will be severely damaged by the form of death (such as say many cases of blunt trauma) and in some of those cases (such as murder investigations) autopsies may be necessary.

A better version might be to have strong rules about no head autopsy when the next of kin so request or when the person is signed up for some form of preservation such as cryonics or plasiticization.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T16:58:25.880Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A better version might be to have strong rules about no head autopsy when the next of kin so request or when the person is signed up for some form of preservation such as cryonics or plasiticization.

I would require that explicit consent be granted by the patient in a will or, if the will does not mention the subject, then require the consent from the next of kin as opposed to requiring the next of kin to actively request that no head-destruction be done. Because cops aren't going to make it easy for next of kin to hinder their investigation by making such a request but they are almost always going to get permission that is required so that they don't face criminal charges.

(I don't have any particular objection to donation of one's body or brain to science for them to do as they please.)

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-08T17:57:35.899Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I'm not sure I'd consider that a sacrifice as such, even if I strain myself to view it through a religious frame. Ritual sacrifice seems to cluster around giving up something physical and valuable in order to sanctify some external object or concept; essentially costly signaling of devotion. There's no external sanctification going on here, and I'm not sure how valuable I'd consider continued life under those circumstances; early cryopreservation seems more like sokushinbutsu or something similar. "Mortification of the flesh" is probably the closest Christian analogy, although it's not a perfect one.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T18:13:04.267Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Giving up the immediate prospect of a conventional life, before and during the process of the disease setting in, to demonstrate faith in future technological developments?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T10:49:54.333Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd assign a high probability (about 80%) that a random person consenting to being sacrificed would not do so if they knew more, thought faster, and were more the person they wished they were.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-09T14:52:22.631Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But clearly the person they wished they were is someone who has been sacrificed!

comment by soreff · 2011-11-09T14:55:43.601Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A relationships thread on a rationality site has become a discussion of human sacrifice? :-)

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-09T14:57:03.870Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We're anticipating the post where he talks about compromise.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T11:24:33.018Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So the objection, if based off this prediction, would be one of paternalism? ie. You think you know better about what they 'really' want than they do? (Not that I'm saying you don't.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T13:34:54.412Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, not that alone; but also the fact that sacrifice (as I understand it, at least) is irreversible, so someone who doesn't want to be sacrificed right now can change their mind, but not vice versa.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T18:53:42.483Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What about a sacrifice which takes place incrementally over a period of years?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-25T23:15:29.134Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Like what?

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-26T06:31:50.202Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?363769-nMage-the-other-99-999-Leaves&p=11220674#post11220674

They've got it wrong you see, it's not about instant sacrifice, it's about gradually giving yourself over to the Price, giving only as much as you deserve to give at any one time. There those people working at industrial jobs, seeming to be accident prone day after day and begging to keep their jobs; they don't claim workman's compensation after losing a finger or after a metal fragment pierces their eye.They splash their mouth with alcohol to cover for their "incompetence" or beg not to take a drug test because of their "habit". Notice how hard working they are, taking every over-time hour they can get. Some or religious and all are hard-working, wanting to keep their job. The upper management seem to turn a blind eye, often belonging to the same social clubs or churches with these model workers. This gradual sacrifice of a body one piece at a time, shows a continued dedication to the Prince. Much more than blindly jumping into a soup pot once.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T14:49:38.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, human sacrifice is creepy!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T14:58:48.815Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that's enormously underconfident. That said, I'm also not sure why it matters.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T12:44:16.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

== (1) Admittedly, what counts as consent is not a simple question; I am assuming unambiguous examples of the category here.

There's no way that consent could ever be simple or unambiguous here. Wanting to die might be a temporary state of mind, while death is a very permanent effect. The victim would have to be completely unable to change his/her mind ever in his/her life.

I don't think if a friend asks you to kill him, you should do it. No, clearly your friend needs mental help, and hopefully his suicidal urges are temporary.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T14:54:47.787Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you that consent is not simple... indeed, I said as much in the first place.

That said, I do believe that situations can arise where the expected value to a person of their death (1) is greater than the expected value of the other alternatives available to them. If I understood you, you disagree that such situations can arise, and therefore you believe that in all cases where a person thinks they're in such a situation they are necessarily mistaken -- either they're wrong about the facts, or they have the wrong values, or both -- and therefore it's better if they're made to choose some other alternative.

Did I understand you right?

==

(1) For conventional understandings of death. I acknowledge that many people on this site consider, for example, having my brain removed from my skull and cryogenically preserved to not be an example of death, because the potential for reconstituting me still exists. Personally, I'm inclined to still call that death, while allowing for the possibility of technologically mediated resurrection. That said, that's ultimately a disagreement about words, and not terribly important, as long as we're clear on what we're talking about.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T15:23:02.972Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That said, I do believe that situations can arise where the expected value to a person of their death (1) is greater than the expected value of the other alternatives available to them. If I understood you, you disagree that such situations can arise, and therefore you believe that in all cases where a person thinks they're in such a situation they are necessarily mistaken -- either they're wrong about the facts, or they have the wrong values, or both -- and therefore it's better if they're made to choose some other alternative.

I think people often misjudge situations, especially in relation to ending their own life. And consent in case of permanent damage is probably not sufficient to say anything about morals. If their death actually did have higher value than other options then I suppose it is just a tragic situation.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T15:57:10.902Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
  • I agree with you that people often misjudge situations. I don't agree that this is especially true about ending their own lives. People misjudge all kinds of situations.

  • I don't object to using "tragic" to describe cases where someone's death has higher value than their other options. That said, some examples of that seem far more tragic to me than others. Also, it cuts the other way too. For example, when my grandfather suffered a stroke, nobody expected him to recover, and both he and his loved ones preferred him dead rather than continuing to live bedridden, frequently delirious, and in constant pain. The law prevented us from killing him, though. I consider every day of his life after that point far more tragic than his eventual death.

  • I agree that knowledge about consent is not always sufficient to make a moral judgment.

  • I think if we switch from talking about expected-value judgements to moral judgements, we will have to back up a very long way before we can keep making progress, since I'm not sure we have a shared understanding about what a moral judgement even is.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-09T16:29:59.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you that people often misjudge situations. I don't agree that this is especially true about ending their own lives.

I have experienced a Cartesian-demon-like urge to rationalise "I should kill myself". While similar dispositions exist in e.g. anosognosics, I expect situations that cause them are rare.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T16:16:50.522Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't object to using "tragic" to describe cases where someone's death has higher value than their other options. That said, some examples of that seem far more tragic to me than others.

Sorry, I should have been clearer. I meant to say that if their death had higher value then I would agree that it would be the better decision. It is tragic that there are no positive solutions, and only negative ones.

I agree with you that people often misjudge situations. I don't agree that this is especially true about ending their own lives. People misjudge all kinds of situations.

Consider the situations where people consider suicide. They often are depressed, desperate, and mentally unstable. Sometimes there is a euphoric response when people decide that everything will be over soon. Obviously, I can't think of any statistics or anything, so I guess we just have to disagree.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T16:34:34.488Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm content to disagree, but I'm not sure we even do.

Certainly I agree with you that people often misjudge the decision to end their own lives, often for the reasons you cite.

What I'm saying is that, for example, people who are depressed, desperate, and mentally unstable also make decisions about whether to get out of bed, whether to go to work, whether to take their medication, whether to talk to friends about what's going on in their lives, whether to take psychoactive drugs, whether to get more sleep, whether to exercise regularly, whether to punch their neighbor in the head, whether to buy revolvers, and on and on and on.

I don't believe that such people are any more reliable when making those decisions than they are when making the decision to end their own lives. People misjudge all kinds of situations.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-09T17:01:35.457Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We suck at these decisions, but the consequences tend to be significantly more severe. Good defaults before the unstability starts also help; for example, "go to work" is much more likely to be on the radar at all than "punch someone out of the blue".

But to address your point: yup, there are specific bugs that are triggered solely by considering suicide. Though how you'd measure their frequency I don't know.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T17:13:05.674Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that the consequences of an incorrect decision about dying are severe compared to most of the other decisions we make.

I agree that there are specific bugs that are differentially triggered by considering suicide. There are also specific bugs that are differentially triggered by considering all kinds of other things.

I agree that existing predispositions to explicitly consider/not consider certain decisions, and to decide them in particular ways, affect how we make those decisions.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T16:47:46.452Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe that such people are any more reliable when making those decisions than they are when making the decision to end their own lives. People misjudge all kinds of situations.

And that's where we disagree. I don't think suicidal people are just as reliable in their decision-making as others.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T16:51:35.168Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I recommend that you take a break from this thread, go think about something else for a while, come back to what I said, and see if you still believe I'm making a claim about comparisons between two groups of people.

If you do, then I agree that we should end this discussion here.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T17:01:25.749Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When I was in a similar circumstance I had to try very hard to stop myself from making puns on DoubleReed.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T17:09:28.595Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That didn't even occur to me. (hat-tip)

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T17:08:23.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh snap.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T17:06:04.380Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh I see what you're saying.

I don't know. I mentioned before there is a euphoric response to having things finally end in peace. This is why so many people can believe in something like the rapture. It's not a frightening thought. They get caught up in the idea that everything will be all right. Suicide sounds like it would trigger that appeal as well, so I'm still inclined to disagree.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T17:26:13.718Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad you're now seeing what I said. It makes useful discussion much easier.

I share your belief that such an anticipation of relief might be triggered by contemplating suicide. That has certainly been my experience, at least.

I infer (though not very confidently) that you believe such anticipation is a more powerful motivator than various other feelings such people have that cause them to make unreliable decisions in other contexts. If you do in fact believe that, then yes, we disagree.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T14:48:56.490Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The meaning of this 'consent' term seems to be drifting closer and closer to 'whatever it takes for the action to be considered morally right'.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-09T15:12:38.534Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How so?

Obviously permanent and long-term effects have more issues with consent. I don't see how that's particularly wishy-washy.

Edit: If anything I'm declaring a harsh limit on how far consent goes. It is insufficient for certain moral situations.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T14:58:18.030Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have any objection to bestiality. Having sex with animals seems like a less harmful thing to do to an animal than killing it and eating it.

Er... what about pets? Not all animals we kill and eat, you know...

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T15:33:43.901Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Er... what about pets? Not all animals we kill and eat, you know...

Which would be the relevant comparison if 'bestiality' meant the quest to have sex with ALL animals. I'm against that. Kind of like a 'torture vs dust specks' for perverts.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T15:41:28.691Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm against that.

What have I ever done to you?!

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T15:48:03.848Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Comparison? It wasn't a comparison. It was a clarification. Having sex with pets is also bestiality.

You're against it? Why? You're just sounding arbitrary.

The main issue with bestiality is the notion of consent (similar to pedophilia). So far we really don't have any good solutions to the issue of consent, and that is why I would argue that we have a flat ban on it.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T16:52:36.111Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So far we really don't have any good solutions to the issue of consent, and that is why I would argue that we have a flat ban on it.

By "that we have" do you mean "that we do have" or "that we should have?" I think it would difficult to claim that existing bans on bestiality are really based on the idea of consent, which they predate. (Note that e.g. "rape" (of humans) refers to something conceptually quite different than it did back in the bad old days.)

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:18:14.326Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can you clarify this? I don't understand your point on rape. Even in the old days, I'm pretty sure rape implied not-consent...

Is the idea of consent really that modern?

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T17:53:36.393Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Deuteronomy:

22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.

22:26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:

22:27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

22:28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Note also the shockingly late dates at which marital rape has been criminalized (where it has.) As best I can tell none predate 1922, and most were much later.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T19:07:32.194Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Note also the shockingly late dates at which marital rape has been criminalized (where it has.) As best I can tell none predate 1922, and most were much later.

Indeed, in the US the last state was North Carolina in 1993, and even still it tends to be a lesser offense (assault, battery, or spousal abuse). wikipedia.

Of course, my wife and I tend to call shenanigans on the concept. Thought experiment:

At least in the case of male->female rape, it's easy to accuse someone of rape once they've had sex with you, it's a very serious charge, and courts tend to side with the alleged victim. So someone who didn't want their life ruined (jail time, permanent sex offender registry, etc.) would do well to make certain sure they can establish that consent was given. Various methods would work to some degree - signed documents, video tapes, witnesses, the presence of a government official...

As ridiculous as it would seem to get all of those things together for the recording of consent for sex, it so happens we actually do have an institution that incorporates all of those things - marriage. We actually have a tradition that involves getting the entirety of both families together, in front of a government official, with signed government documents, usually on videotape, where both parties agree (often speaking directly to their respective deities) that they will do certain things with each other, traditionally understood to prominently include sex. A bit over the top, but sometimes you have to do crazy things to avoid litigation.

Except now, even going through all that is insufficient to establish consent. It's a world gone mad.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-08T20:39:03.232Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

At least in the case of male->female rape, it's easy to accuse someone of rape once they've had sex with you, it's a very serious charge, and courts tend to side with the alleged victim.

Compared to other crimes, rape is extremely difficult to prove in court.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T21:22:30.651Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Quick sanity check: According to RAINN (disclosure: citing an organization I've supported), 58% chance of a conviction for rape. A questionable Wikipedia article claims that the conviction rate for crimes in general is "84% in Texas, 82% in California, 72% in New York, 67% in North Carolina, and 59% in Florida." (as of 2000). Thus, it seems plausible that rape is extremely difficult to prove in court.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-08T21:29:27.961Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For clarity, the RAINN stats are rape-specific and the Wikipedia stats are for all crimes, right?

Crime-specific conviction rates seem to be hard to find. A 1997 DoJ press release claims 87% conviction rates for all crimes in federal court (a skewed sample, though) and 86% for violent crime, but doesn't break it down further. The situation could plausibly have changed in the last fourteen years due to changes in culture or forensic science.

Statistics from the California DoJ (pages 49-50; PDF file) suggest that around 67% of felony arrests (not trials) in the state result in conviction, and that that rate has slowly been increasing since the Seventies (when the number was around 45%).

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T21:35:58.806Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For clarity, the RAINN stats are rape-specific and the Wikipedia stats are for all crimes, right?

Yes. Editing.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:41:23.592Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was waiting for someone to cry foul on empirical grounds. I was arguing from popular perception. Do you have a source?

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-08T21:30:08.901Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Good question.

I tried looking up statistics, but it seems like my Google-Fu has failed. I found numbers for federal court, but most of what it says is that the vast majority of federal indictments are resolved with guilty pleas, and there don't seem to be very many rape trials in federal court.

Trying to break down the numbers further:

According to the numbers given, In 2005 there were 3065 jury convictions and 430 jury acquittals in federal court, making a total of 3,495 federal jury trials and a conviction rate of 88%. Under the "sexual abuse" category, there were 24 jury trials that ended in a conviction and 8 that ended in an acquittal. The sample size is small, but it gives a conviction rate of 75%.

Which tells me... basically nothing, because the sample size is very small, most rape cases would be prosecuted in state courts rather than federal courts, and cases that actually go to trial are unusual anyway because both the prosecution and the defense have to prefer a trial to the alternatives of not taking the case to court at all or pleading guilty.

Sigh...

comment by homunq · 2011-11-08T23:09:33.583Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

it's easy to accuse someone of rape once they've had sex with you, it's a very serious charge, and courts tend to side with the alleged victim.

There are certainly those who would dispute claims 1 and 3. (And obviously, in doing so, use a broader definition of "easy" which includes cultural norms and foreseeable consequences.)

Edit: that goes double for marital rape.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T19:22:02.134Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, the traditional part of the wedding vows (in America, at least, and I assume other English-speaking countries) referring to sexual obligation - "serve" - faded into disuse well before spousal rape became criminalized, and in any event a key feature of sexual consent is that it can be withdrawn at any time.

There are of course enforcement problems which may complicate cases where there's no other physical abuse, but pertaining to my original point, at least, I'd contend that most late moderns would agree that spousal rape is both logically coherent and evil, because it meets the "consent" conception of rape, whereas most earlier peoples would not, operating as they were from a property crime framework.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T19:51:43.777Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To clarify: do you and your wife believe that the presumption of consent that marriage entails is sufficient to overcome any potential evidence of rape, or merely that it is sufficient to raise the bar significantly?

If the latter, I agree; if the former, I disagree. Your comment seems to suggest the former, but you may simply be indulging in entertaining hyperbole.

Thought experiment: suppose I accuse person X of nonconsensually forcing sex on me, and X shamefacedly admits that they in fact did so, and medical experts testify that I show medical signs of forcible sex with X, and my prior history seems to a jury of my peers inconsistent with having consented to forcible sex, would you generally consider that sufficient evidence to justify the claim that X raped me? Does that evaluation change if X is my husband?

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:02:06.013Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

suppose I accuse person X of nonconsensually forcing sex on me, and X shamefacedly admits that they in fact did so, and medical experts testify that I show medical signs of forcible sex with X, and my prior history seems to a jury of my peers inconsistent with having consented to forcible sex, would you generally consider that sufficient evidence to justify the claim that X raped me?

Yes, I'd generally consider "X shamefacedly admits that they in fact did so" or everything else severally (weakly) sufficient to justify that claim.

Does that evaluation change if X is my husband?

My presumption above is that 'nonconsentual sex' and 'marriage' are inconsistent. If X is your spouse, then X was asserting something inconsistent in X's shamefaced admission, and you were in your accusation. If you want to withdraw your consent, then get a divorce.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T20:13:34.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, thanks for clarifying.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T19:12:05.989Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, even if marriage was a contract to say "I want to have sex with you" it's a little ridiculous for it to say "I want to have sex with you whenever you want."

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T19:17:10.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

it's a little ridiculous for it to say "I want to have sex with you whenever you want."

Is it? Here I thought that was the point.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T19:38:43.352Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, that's called sex slavery. Maybe that's what marriage used to be, but it isn't anymore.

Wives aren't obligated to always be in the mood for sex (this could easily be gender swapped by the way). That is not their purpose.

It's even more ridiculous when you consider that sex is physically exhausting (for both genders). It's completely unrealistic to expect someone to do something like that whenever you want.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T19:56:36.823Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

No, that's called sex slavery.

Not unless sex slaves are able to divorce you and take most of your stuff if you piss them off.

The ability to terminate a contract at will means that the other party can coerce you to the extent that you value the continuation of the contract more than they do. Calling a marriage contract with a rather unusual "always willing to have sex" clause sex slavery is a massive insult to sex slaves.

Within the limits of how efficiently of how divorce is set up in the contract, effectively the contract in question is actually equivalent to "have sex with me enough or the relationship is over". Basically that is how relationships work implicitly anyway. You just aren't supposed to talk about it that overtly (because that almost never works.) Basically the arrangement sounds a whole lot worse than it is because we aren't used to thinking about relationships in terms that fully account for all our game theoretic options.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T20:11:27.243Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Modulo the time that it takes to implement contract termination, I suppose. That is, the situation where my husband gets to have sex with me whenever he wants unless I say "I'm terminating our marriage!" (at which point he no longer does) is different from the situation where he gets to have sex with me whenever he wants unless I have previously spent some non-zero amount of time obtaining a divorce decree. In the latter case, my husband can coerce me regardless of our relative valuation of the contract.

It's also worth noting that, even if we posit that the marriage contract (M1) implies an obligation for sex on demand, it also involves enough other clauses as well that it is easy to imagine a second kind of contract, M2, that was almost indistinguishable from M1 except that it did not include such an obligation. One could imagine a culture that started out with a cultural norm of M1 for marriages, and later came to develop a cultural norm for M2 instead.

If that culture were truly foolish, it might even allow/encourage couples to sign a marriage contract without actually specifying what obligations it entailed... or, even more absurdly, having the contractual obligations vary as the couple moved around the country, or as time went by, based on changes in local or federal law. In such an absurd scenario, it's entirely possible that some people would think they'd signed an M1 contract while others -- perhaps even their spouses -- thought they'd signed an M2 contract. There might even be no discernible fact of the matter.

When a contractual relationship gets that implicitly defined by cultural norms and social expectations and historical remnants, and gets embedded in a culture with conflicting norms and expectations, it becomes a very non-prototypical example of a contractual relationship, and it's perhaps best to stop expecting my intuitions about contracts to apply to it cleanly.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T20:19:54.747Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When a contractual relationship gets that implicitly defined by cultural norms and social expectations and historical remnants, and gets embedded in a culture with conflicting norms and expectations, it becomes a very non-prototypical example of a contractual relationship, and it's perhaps best to stop expecting my intuitions about contracts to apply to it cleanly.

When a contractual relationship gets that implicitly defined by cultural norms and social expectations and historical remnants, and gets embedded in a culture with conflicting norms and expectations, it becomes a very non-prototypical example of a contractual relationship, and it's perhaps best to avoid getting entangled in that kind of contractual relationship. (Unless you are somehow sure that the contract is in your favor.)

Mind you in my experience actually telling a girlfriend that in the general case getting married seems to be a terrible idea meets with mixed results. Something to do with wanting to play dress-ups with white dresses and so forth. :P

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T20:39:07.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Whether it's best for me to avoid getting entangled in it depends entirely on the potential benefits of that contractual relationship, the potential costs, and the likelihood of those benefits and costs. (This includes both costs/benefits to me and costs/benefits to my partner, insofar as my partner's state is valuable.)

Personally, I judge my condition after getting entangled in such a relationship superior to my state prior to having done so. I strongly suspect my husband does the same.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T19:46:49.753Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard that in Italy wives were legally required to have sex with their husbands whenever they wanted (and husbands to economically maintain wives) until not-so-long ago (the early 20th century IIRC), so I wouldn't be very surprised if that were still the case in at least one country.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T19:47:10.313Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(this could easily be gender swapped by the way).

Okay, let's go ahead and make that correction then, since I find gender distasteful:

No, that's called sex slavery. Maybe that's what marriage used to be, but it isn't anymore.

One's spouse isn't obligated to always be in the mood for sex. That is not their purpose.

I think my earlier assertion was that they'd given consent to have sex, regardless of whether they're in the mood for it. But assuming that distinction doesn't run very deep, what do you think the purpose of marriage is?

And how is it slavery if it is entirely voluntary and can be opted-out of?

ETA: (responding to edits)

It's even more ridiculous when you consider that sex is physically exhausting (for both genders). It's completely unrealistic to expect someone to do something like that whenever you want.

That's crazy - people expect their spouses to lots of exhausting things for them on demand; cook dinner, do the laundry, work a day job, take out the garbage, help move furniture... it doesn't seem unrealistic at all.

comment by arundelo · 2011-11-08T23:46:45.327Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And how is it slavery if it is entirely voluntary and can be opted-out of?

Cold comfort for someone getting repeatedly forced to have sex while they wait for the divorce to be finalized.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T00:01:30.148Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It was my understanding that most divorce proceedings encourage separation early on in the process.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-09T00:15:48.371Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In some states, it is mandatory to have a period of separation prior to divorce, and having sex with your spouse will reset the timer.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T20:04:46.814Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And how is it slavery if it is entirely voluntary and can be opted-out of?

All right, slavery is too strong.

I think my earlier assertion was that they'd given consent to have sex, regardless of whether they're in the mood for it. But assuming that distinction doesn't run very deep, what do you think the purpose of marriage is?

Oh? How far does this go? Can you demand any kind of sex from them? What if you are physically exhausted? What if it becomes really painful (and not in a good way)? Nothing matters? Nope, you already gave consent. I have the document. Can't backtrack now!

Hell, if that's what marriage entails, then I think a lot fewer people would ever get married. I certainly wouldn't want to. And I do want to have sex all the time. But I also want the ability to say no.

That's crazy - people expect their spouses to lots of exhausting things for them on demand; cook dinner, do the laundry, work a day job, take out the garbage, help move furniture... it doesn't seem unrealistic at all.

No, I mean like physically exhausting. Like running and stuff like that. It makes you sweat, raises heartrate. It becomes painful after certain periods of time.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:10:58.531Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But I also want the ability to say no.

I can't conceive of that situation for myself. My wife and I wrote our own vows, and they roughly summed up to "I will try my hardest to do whatever you want me to do, and be whoever you want me to be, for eternity." I can't imagine wanting to marry someone who I didn't feel that way about, or who didn't feel that way about me. Though I can hardly imagine wanting to marry anyone other than my wife, so maybe it's just a failure of imagination on my part.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T20:18:01.534Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No no no. You can't do that. We're talking about consent. If you are going to say "I just want to make you happy, so even though I'm not in the mood I'll still have sex with you," then that is consent. You are consenting. We are not talking about that. If that is your thought process, then that is still consent.

What we're talking about is if you say "No, I don't want to have sex with you right now," and your wife has sex with you anyway.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-08T20:24:30.240Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What we're talking about is if you say "No, I don't want to have sex with you right now," and your wife says "I don't care," and has sex with you anyway.

Note that the premise here requires elaboration. thomblake may be stating that he would not say "No, I don't want to have sex with you right now," and instead would say something like "having sex right now would cause me to be late for work" or "having sex right now would be painful for me" (notice the lack of a 'no'). His wife could either retract the request or not, and if she doesn't he has precommitted to accepting whatever consequences come from having sex with her then.

That is, the root question is whether or not there should be a spousal sex veto, and it sounds like thomblake thinks that, for his relationship at least, there shouldn't be.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:27:02.023Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That is, the root question is whether or not there should be a spousal sex veto, and it sounds like thomblake thinks that, for his relationship at least, there shouldn't be.

Indeed. And it's nicely symmetric with the demands of monogamy. I could totally see those in less-monogamous situations going without that stipulation, but it's downright inhumane to simultaneously demand "You can't have sex with anyone but me" and "You can't have sex with me".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T20:45:42.245Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I've understood you correctly, you consider "You can't have sex with me right now" a subset of "You can't have sex with me" for purposes of that statement... yes?

If so, your understanding of "inhumane" is very different from mine.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:50:16.131Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"You can't have sex with me right now" a subset of "You can't have sex with me" for purposes of that statement... yes?

Indeed - thus "simultaneously". "You can't have sex with anyone but me except when I don't want to" is much more reasonable, if one wants to be that way.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T20:53:35.933Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Understood, but your understanding of "inhumane" is still very different from mine. "You can't have sex with anyone right this minute, including me" doesn't strike me as an inhumane thing to say to one's partner.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:58:18.297Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Understood, but your understanding of "inhumane" is still very different from mine.

Possibly. Looking up the word, "without compassion for misery or suffering; cruel" pretty much matches my meaning.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T21:16:12.288Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. In that case, we seem to actually disagree about the properties of saying "You can't have sex with anyone right this minute, including me."

At least, I believe it's possible to say that while continuing to possess compassion for misery and suffering (1) and without being cruel, and if I've understood you correctly you don't believe that's possible. This surprises me, but I'll take your word for it.

(1) EDIT: Insofar as I possess compassion for misery and suffering as a baseline, anyway. I won't defend the assertion that I do, should anyone be inclined to challenge it, merely point out that if I don't then everything I do is inhumane and it's weird to single out this example.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T21:32:17.630Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, we seem to actually disagree about the properties of saying "You can't have sex with anyone right this minute, including me."

Yes, that's probably right. It seems it has to come down to either:

  1. You don't think not having sex constitutes misery/suffering, or
  2. You don't think withholding something that would alleviate misery/suffering from a loved one is cruel / lacking compassion
comment by soreff · 2011-11-08T21:48:50.782Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd think that the expected duration of the refusal matters. From my point of view, a refusal for an evening is (barring extraordinary circumstances) a fairly minor restriction. From my point of view a refusal for a decade would count as cruel. (barring extraordinary circumstances I'd expect it to terminate most marriages).

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T21:46:45.726Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or maybe 3. He thinks that having sex when one doesn't want to constitutes misery/suffering that outweighs the misery/suffering of not having sex.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T22:10:30.618Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For the record: I think this is often true, but largely irrelevant to my current exchange with thomblake.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T22:05:14.926Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That implies 2, or else is irrelevant to the claim that it is inhumane.

ETA: For reference, I also think 3 is often true, for some reasonable methods of "weighing".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T22:07:49.302Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It certainly isn't #2.

f you are unwilling to grant that the distinction between "not having sex right this minute" and "not having sex ever" matters in this context, and act accordingly, then I'll agree with #1 and drop out of the discussion here.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T22:40:52.811Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think more typically tension arises from points on the spectrum between these extremes.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T23:37:06.219Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Absolutely agreed.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T22:12:06.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T21:22:07.814Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It would seem a little cruel to just come out with it apropos of nothing. But there are certainly times where saying it wouldn't be at all cruel. Like, for example, if your monogamous partner asks you "Should I have sex with you or go have sex with Alice?"

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T22:21:29.745Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I certainly had in mind a situation more like the latter than the former.

That said... if my husband said that to me, say, while he was dropping me off at work, I would probably (after some confusion) ask him if he thought it likely that I would have had sex with someone else that minute had he not mentioned that.

If he said he did, my primary emotional reaction would be concerned bewilderment... it would imply that we were suffering from a relationship disconnect the scope of which I needed much more data to reliably estimate. If he said he didn't, I would probably smile and say "Well, all right then" and go to work, and my primary emotional reaction would be amused puzzlement.

In neither case would I be inclined to think of it as cruel. (In the second case, I suppose I would ultimately file it as "it was probably funnier in his head")

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T03:40:04.896Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In neither case would I be inclined to think of it as cruel.

Having an overwhelmingly low prior for your husband saying something like this for reasons that are cruel certainly helps!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T15:15:00.503Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, fair enough. If someone says something like this apropos of nothing, that's (significant but not overwhelming) evidence in favor of cruelty, which is the important question; I agree with you. (I was distracted by the entertainment value of my example.)

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T20:35:39.193Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

[I]'s downright inhumane to simultaneously demand "You can't have sex with anyone but me" and "You can't have sex with me".

While this seems to be egregiously overstating the case, I think it's an important point made explicit that has thus-far (as far as I can tell) been unaddressed.

comment by DSimon · 2011-11-08T23:02:46.981Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[I]t's downright inhumane to simultaneously demand "You can't have sex with anyone but me" and "You can't have sex with me".

These aren't similar statements, in that while monogamy demands fidelity 24/7, refusing sex should generally be a temporary.

However, in a situation where the latter is permanent, then I agree that we have a problem.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T23:14:06.331Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I see no reason it should be so black and white.

If someone says, "I will have sex with you once every 20 years," that seems to fall closer to permanent given typical sex drives (and life spans) while strictly speaking being temporary, no?

On the other hand, of course, "hang on 10 seconds" is basically nothing like a permanent refusal.

comment by DSimon · 2011-11-09T04:14:01.084Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, "temporary" is more usefully applied in this case as fuzzy property, and in particular should as you say be considered in the context of the sex drives of the people involved.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T22:57:40.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ignoring morals and legality for a moment, this sounds logistically infeasible. The reason I brought up the fact that sex is physically exhausting, is sometimes it really is difficult (and painful) to have sex. Life can get in the way. Women have periods. People take vacations and business trips. People get sick. This sounds more straining on a relationship than anything. Does monogamy drop when such things occur? Maybe it could work if both people have low sex drives.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:19:20.242Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What we're talking about is if you say "No, I don't want to have sex with you right now," and your wife says "I don't care," and has sex with you anyway.

Right, and I'm saying that it doesn't make any sense to be in that position, and if you find yourself in that position and object to it, then you should get a divorce, not cry rape.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T20:30:08.756Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Because it is rape?

I mean, you do realize they will almost always get a divorce if they file rape charges...

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T20:47:12.786Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You miss the point thomblake is making entirely. In counterfactual in question it is not rape. Because there is consent - formal, legal and certified consent. For it to be rape that consent would need to be withdrawn - which is what thomblake said you do.

You can say people don't have the right to enter into a contract where they have given consent to have sex until they decide they don't want to continue in the contract. You can argue that such contracts are bad and should be illegal (like they are now). But if someone is, in fact, operating within such a contract then just isn't rape. So they don't say "No! Don't rape me!" they say "I divorce you!". Then the former partner has to stop or it is rape. Because these are grown ups who understand the contracts they have entered into and know how to make choices within that framework.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-08T20:48:37.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

they don't say ... you say

Is it "they" or "you"?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T20:49:56.235Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Missed one. They.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:36:40.546Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because it is rape?

That's precisely begging the question.

I mean, you do realize they will almost always get a divorce if they file rape charges...

Yes, I should hope so. Though I think the better solution is to say "oops, I guess I didn't really mean to be in that arrangement" and obtain a divorce as soon as possible.

Though clearly there are different ideas at play here about just what the arrangement entailed in the first place.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T21:14:44.599Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Let me put it this way. You're saying that "it doesn't make any sense to be in that position." But that is exactly and precisely the situation we're describing. So it makes me think you either misunderstand the issue or simply lack imagination about real world events.

Edit: Clearly relationships are going to be different for different people. I personally would never expect my spouse to always give in to my desires or the other way around. And the idea that I would be legally obligated to is strange to me.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T21:29:27.470Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're saying that "it doesn't make any sense to be in that position." But that is exactly and precisely the situation we're describing.

It does not make sense to be in a situation where you agreed publicly to X, and then were confused and surprised enough when X happened that you felt the need to press charges for what is considered one of the worst crimes in existence. I could see noting that a misunderstanding had occurred, even being angry if you thought you were misled deliberately, and opting out of the arrangement, but that seems to go way too far.

you ... misunderstand the issue

It's possible. I thought we already established that we were talking about different possible arrangements and there's not much more to say about it, but maybe I'm missing something important.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T20:37:52.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Probably the correct solution is to discuss with a potential spouse precisely what you are each agreeing to.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:40:20.542Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Probably the correct solution is to discuss with a potential spouse precisely what you are each agreeing to.

Agreed. Though the bottleneck here is finding a way to stipulate that sort of thing in a way that is agreeable to say in front of your grandmother.

And as long as "marital rape" is a concept that's allowed to exist, there's little you can do to eliminate its risk. Though I suppose the folly there is marrying someone you can't trust.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T20:41:51.877Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. Though the bottleneck here is finding a way to stipulate that sort of thing in a way that is agreeable to say in front of your grandmother.

I don't know that the entire contract needs to be public. If you are worried about someone playing fast and loose with that, you probably shouldn't be marrying them. If you still want to, you could recite the SHA hash or something.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:43:02.142Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

you could recite the SHA hash or something.

Brilliant! I am totally using this for private contracts in the future. Is that done already?

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T21:17:43.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think I'll prefer ECDSA for my documents. Elliptic Curves are so much sexier.

comment by JoachimSchipper · 2011-11-08T20:48:08.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There is already basically no punishment for breaking the contract that is marriage; just social pressure. Do you really think that keeping the agreement secret is desirable?

(Although I guess that "... till death do us part. Also, we will engage in 4b8cfc115af495125c084f26210ab91158f1ed34 if either spouse wants to" may work. Note that there are downsides to using a hash, like your friends trying out a few (in)appropriate words... but this is not a discussion of appropriate cryptographic techniques.)

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-08T20:52:00.460Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Although I guess that...

Yes, that's the scenario I was imagining. The hashed part presumably could be arbitrarily verbose and specific, thus rendering it indecipherable.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T21:04:59.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And need not be limited to sexuality; handling of finances is a common source of strife and may not be any business of many in the audience, for instance.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T20:46:58.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's the gist of any digital signature algorithm.

As for using it in a wedding? I've never been to such a ceremony, certainly...

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T20:21:23.401Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But you already signed the contract. Like what if it happens before you get divorced?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T19:16:22.287Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ridiculous? This seems to actually be rather similar to what wedrifid is describing (correct me if I'm wrong).

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T19:21:00.031Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's ridiculous to assume that it must mean the latter when we generally take it to mean the former (although even then, not always). I am not sure it is ridiculous to allow both options, but confusing the two is harmful.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T19:22:54.910Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, agreed.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T19:30:23.433Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. I was clarifying, more than correcting. I think the perspective you introduced (or made explicit, if that's what wedrifid was thinking) is interesting and relevant to the discussion.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:31:15.297Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What is the intended message of the Deuteronomy quote? It seems to imply that rape implies non-consent. In this case the relevance of the rape is that the betrothed rape victim is excused from punishment for the crime of adultery.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T18:58:17.129Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right, consent is relevant insofar as it determines whether the maiden is complicit in the harm to her fiance. But it's not a determinant of whether harm was done, or even the severity of it. If you have sex with another man's wife or fiance, you die. If she's not betrothed then the pottery barn rule kicks in and you make restitution to her owner. If there's contested ownership (e.g., if she's your slave but someone else's fiancee) you pay a fine (Leviticus 19:20-22.)

In all cases the person whose consentH^H^H^H^H^H injury matters is not that of the woman; it's that of the man who owns her.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T19:17:52.408Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In all cases the person whose consent matters is not that of the woman; it's that of the man who owns her.

That's certainly not the case in the passage quoted here. In fact in no place in the passage is the fiance, husband or father even able to give consent. These particular rules apply even if for some reason the fiance or husband said "go for your life, she's yours for the taking". The only consent that is mentioned at all is the consent of the betrothed damsel, the giving of which will get her killed alongside her lover - it is male consent that does not happen to matter at all.

The issues you have with sexism in these collections of religious text seem to be overshadowing what this passage has to say about rape. (And those issues may be valid and important in their own right as independent subjects!)

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T19:24:51.747Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, consent was the wrong word to use in that context. I was being sloppy and meant that the men in question were the wronged party.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T19:39:50.538Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That does seem likely to be the reason there were such strict laws against adultery. Robin Hanson explores why adultery (and so cuckoldry) is a more significant issue for males.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T17:36:49.711Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand your point on rape.

The relevant comparison would be vandalism or theft.

Is the idea of consent really that modern?

Yes.

comment by Emile · 2011-11-08T17:37:35.362Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In many traditional cultures marital rape is/was not considered as rape.

(also, even with consent you can still have statutory rape, though it's debatable whether that's a "natural" subcategory of rape)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:33:15.232Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

even with consent you can still have statutory rape, though it's debatable whether that's a "natural" subcategory of rape

Which seems ridiculous to me. And that isn't an objection with respect to people should being punished for what is called statuary rape. It is an objection to the crime against language!

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T18:46:31.668Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

And that isn't an objection with respect to people should being punished for what is called statuary rape.

Won't somebody think of the statues?!

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:50:44.133Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Won't somebody think of the statues?!

I know, the poor statues already get enough unwelcome deposits from seagulls and pigeons. They certainly don't deserve any more!

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-08T18:54:58.005Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say it falls naturally out of the construction of consent, actually. Looks pretty different from a consequential perspective, but from a deontological one the only relevant problems show up around the consent-capable/consent-incapable border, or relate to what to do when both partners are considered incapable -- none of which is much of a surprise if you're using a consent criterion. I'm pretty sure there's similar strangeness in contract law.

There's some more or less analogous stuff going on in the earlier property-crime construction, too.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T18:41:24.117Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(also, even with consent you can still have statutory rape, though it's debatable whether that's a "natural" subcategory of rape)

If I'm not mistaken statutory rape is based on the age of consent. The law is claiming that the people do not have the right to consent to such acts, much in the same way that children many times do not understand what is happening in cases of pedophilia.

Specific laws and ages of consent have problems and flaws, of course. But when you say "even with consent," that is what people are disagreeing about. Do they really have consent?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T19:00:14.506Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do they really have consent?

Not True consent. Because we want to call the sex 'rape' and rape is forcing someone to have sex with you without consent. So what they did when they said "I want you baby. #$%# me now." then tore of the clothes of the 'rapist' and forced them down on the bed couldn't have been consent. Consent in this context must mean "whatever it takes for me to not call the act rape".

Repeated disclaimer: This isn't a claim about morality or what punishment is appropriate for any given sexual act. It's about word use!

comment by Emile · 2011-11-08T16:40:16.198Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why is consent required for sex but not for killing and eating?

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T16:58:09.209Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why is consent required for sex but not for killing and eating?

I'd say that since animals (that are plausibly appropriate to eat) don't have long-term goals, it's not a harm to them that they die, while it is a harm to them that they be mistreated while living. But whether or not this is right it's clearly just a post-hoc rationalization of the fact that I/DoubleReed/most people think it's super duper gross.

comment by Emile · 2011-11-08T17:26:31.892Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say that since animals (that are plausibly appropriate to eat) don't have long-term goals, it's not a harm to them that they die, while it is a harm to them that they be mistreated while living.

If that was really the reason, people would express more outrage and disgust over the idea of factory farming than over the idea of bestiality (I suspect zoophiliacs would also argue that they treat their animals very well and that the animals enjoy it - I don't doubt some enjoy it more than what factory-farmed animals go through).

So yes, I think that that, and consent, are post-hoc rationalizations, and are not remotely related to the true reasons we find bestiality super duper gross.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:11:01.713Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You know, I agree that at first my ideas were post-hoc, but that could just be where it started.

The fact is that the old adage "Do unto others as they would have them do unto you" is actually quite a good rule when you factor in ideas of consent. It immediately rules out sadomasochism and rape issues. There are still issues of course (usually in terms of irreversible or serious harm).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T17:32:30.888Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The fact is that the old adage "Do unto others as they would have them do unto you" is actually quite a good rule when you factor in ideas of consent. It immediately rules out sadomasochism and rape issues.

On the contrary rape is exactly the example I bring up to reject that adage as a moral absurdity.

I don't go and tear a girl's clothes off and do to her just because I'd like it if she tore off my clothes and did to me!

That would be rape. And rape is bad. Therefore following the adage would make me bad.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:42:47.303Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Uhm... did you miss "is actually quite a good rule when you factor in ideas of consent."

If the girl consents to that, then there is no rape and it is not bad.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T17:40:20.322Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Did you somehow miss the "when you factor in ideas of consent" part?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:02:09.482Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The thing is I would like to have her do it without my consent. Along the lines of of "Three Worlds Collide" morality (as it applies to me and by those in the set I consider to be the pool of potential mates and without any interest in being free to do such things myself to others). That would be seriously awesome. Much more exciting!

Wait... are we talking about the old adage "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or the new adage that doesn't appear when googling for it, "Do unto others as they would have them do unto you". I was assuming the former whereas the latter is actually kind of awesome. It's kind of like pre-emptive tit for tat. If people want to kill you then you are morally obliged to kill them.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T18:08:26.102Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The thing is I would like to have her do it without my consent.

And you are not the only party in the engagement. Therefore it is not consensual. That does not defeat what I am saying. It's not like first part overrides the second part or something.

Anyway, this is getting way off topic.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T18:10:47.162Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And you are not the only party in the engagement. Therefore it is not consensual.

That is not what he said. He said, "If I did not consent and she did, I would still want her to do it." Your objection does not apply to this, but others clearly do...

Edited to add: He may be conflating "consent" and "voiced consent"?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T18:29:50.327Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More like the idea of precommitting to consent, really. After all, what is "I would really like it if someone did X to me" if not giving consent? This seems to make the other person less 'rapist' and more 'bungee jump assistant' (the person whose job it is to push you off if you have second thoughts).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:46:54.499Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

After all, what is "I would really like it if someone did X to me" if not giving consent?

Not quite. There is a difference between "I would really like it if someone did X to me" and "I might dislike it if someone did X to me without my consent but would like to be in the state where people may do X to me without my consent". The latter is included here. The benefit isn't necessarily the act itself.

This seems to make the other person less 'rapist' and more 'bungee jump assistant' (the person whose job it is to push you off if you have second thoughts).

Hmm. Provided there are lots of different 'bungee jump assistants" and some of them don't make you bungee jump, they force you to do chores instead (bad sex or sex when you really aren't in the mood). And you are allowed to fight them off if you want to with the expectation that you on average have a physical advantage in the confrontation. :)

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T19:34:33.418Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Reminds me of the idea of designated, legally-sanctioned areas where anyone in the area can use violent force against anyone else in the area without fear of prosecution for such, but which develop a social equilibrium with very little nonconsensual violence because people mostly go there to enjoy the polite-with-undetones-of-danger ambiance.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T19:09:31.039Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not quite. There is a difference between "I would really like it if someone did X to me" and "I might dislike it if someone did X to me without my consent but would like to be in the state where people may do X to me without my consent". The latter is included here. The benefit isn't necessarily the act itself.

I believe I would call this "still consent", provided the draw of the situation was the fact of the situation including such acts.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T19:04:51.191Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Provided there are lots of different 'bungee jump assistants" and some of them don't make you bungee jump, they force you to do chores instead (bad sex or sex when you really aren't in the mood).

The more you elaborate, the more I find myself intrigued by the idea.

And you are allowed to fight them off if you want to with the expectation that you on average have a physical advantage in the confrontation. :)

Are they allowed to use roofies or tasers?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T18:36:57.863Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

After all, what is "I would really like it if someone did X to me" if not giving consent?

This would be the one of the other objections I was alluding to, yes.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T18:15:30.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I understand. What I mean is:

Is it something I would like them to do to me? Yes or No.

Do all parties involved consent that this is what they want to do? Yes or No.

The first question doesn't override the second question. Both parts has to say yes. If the you don't care about consent, that only affects the first question.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:12:57.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Edited to add: He may be conflating "consent" and "voiced consent"?

FYI: Could have been but wasn't.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:17:34.116Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I begin to understand how you are including consent into the moral principle. It seems like it puts most of the moral work into the "Don't do things to people without their consent" part but that is at least safer than actually following the adage itself and does rule out any problem which includes "things are done to people without their consent." This leaves only those inefficiencies that, well, fall short of the extremes of brutal, unwelcome violations.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T18:33:25.276Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, the currently established rules of consent are really for the purposes of safety - to prevent tragedies borne out of miscommunication, to prevent plausible excuses from either party.

It's an excellent rule, but it's not the absolutely fundamental point, the goal unto itself-- the real goal is to prevent the physical and emotional suffering associated with undesired violations of one's person.

In a hypothetical world where true preferences could be determined and established without a hint of potential miscommunication or the possibility of denial-after-the-fact (e.g. by the electronic monitoring and recording of thoughts), the situation could well be different and the issue of consent might drop away to be replaced by the concept of ascertained shared preferences -- atleast in persons mature enough, well-informed enough, and in a stable enough mental state to be able to evaluate said desires/preferences in a sane manner.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T18:24:54.102Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yea, the major issues I've seen are when consent is ambiguous, like pedophilia/bestiality, but also with long term damage. After all, if something is permanent, then they may not want it later. It is impossible to give "eternal consent" as far as I've seen and that is where there are serious moral ambiguities. Like if someone asked you to kill him. That has a permanent effect of a hopefully temporary state of mind.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:00:02.047Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was referring to pets in that statement.

Clearly, we don't care about animals' consent when we kill and eat them. So I guess we can have sex with them all we want. Kind of an odd train of thought, I admit...

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T17:21:22.639Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Having sex with pets is also bestiality.

You're against it? Why? You're just sounding arbitrary.

Huh? No I don't. I didn't even mention pets until you did. Your replies in this conversation all seem non sequitur.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T17:29:27.656Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have any objection to bestiality. [...]

Er... what about pets? [...]

Which would be the relevant comparison if 'bestiality' meant the quest to have sex with ALL animals. I'm against that. [...]

[...] You're against it? Why? You're just sounding arbitrary. [...]

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T17:40:26.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Although the meaning is already unambiguous if you reread the part in your third "[...]" it should be even more clear.

I am against having sex with ALL animals (ie. a number of sex acts upon animals that is as at least as large as the number of animals) because I can multiply. This isn't a terribly important point so I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it if was going to make DoubleReed so confused. It is only relevant in as much as it was part of an explanation of why the Err... didn't make any sense in the context.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T17:51:13.877Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the quest to have sex with ALL animals. I'm against that. Kind of like a 'torture vs dust specks' for perverts.

I get it. I just think that if someone were to perhaps not understand the torture v. dust specks reference their post would make perfect sense, and would not be a non sequitur. (Though it would be more clear if "I'm against it" were quoted between "also bestiality" and "You're against it?")

Also, I wish you would stop using such hurtful terms as "pervert". I highly doubt I'll make my way through all the sponges in the next hundred years anyway.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T18:09:38.757Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I just think that if someone were to perhaps not understand the torture v. dust specks reference their post would make perfect sense, and would not be a non sequitur.

They would have to also not understand the part that is plain logic and even then requires "would seem to make perfect sense to them" since sincere misunderstanding doesn't make things logically follow.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T16:56:04.879Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The main issue with bestiality is the notion of consent

The issue of consent is probably how I'd choose to justify my objection to bestiality on the basis of rights. The concept of rights is among the highest-status deontological ethics in the world today, so may have the best chance of convincing others.

But I think my true objection may be just that I feel it horribly demeans the humans involved, lowering them to the status of (lesser) animals.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T16:39:19.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It was a clarification.

I know, the problem being that it you presented it with an "Er..." as though somehow it made my comment about bestiality incorrect... which it wouldn't unless bestiality involved having sex with any or all animals... which it doesn't.

Following along on your tangent for curiosity's sake I note that I have killed and eaten my pets. They happen to have been sheep, cows, a goat and some roosters (that we raised by hand). They tend to get fairly obnoxious at a certain age. Especially the roosters, given that the mating habit of that species is basically rape.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:03:44.179Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is what you said:

I don't have any objection to bestiality. Having sex with animals seems like a less harmful thing to do to an animal than killing it and eating it.

But you DO have objections to bestiality. Just not all cases of it.

which it wouldn't unless bestiality involved having sex with any or all animals... which it doesn't.

Having sex with any nonhuman animal is bestiality. That's literally what it is.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T17:27:51.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But you DO have objections to bestiality. Just not all cases of it.

No I don't. I have no idea why you are saying that.

Having sex with any nonhuman animal is bestiality. That's literally what it is.

Which is why I am still rejecting the relevance of pets. Since bestiality only requires that a person have sex with one animal even if someone declared or assumed sex with pets was forbidden (which you seemed to) it still wouldn't be a rejection of bestiality. Because it does not require that you have or desire to have sex with all animals including pets.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:34:16.133Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm really confused.

1) You said you had no objections to bestiality. 2) I bring up pets. 3) You say that you are against that. Therefore, (3) is a clarification of (1).

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-08T17:38:17.357Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is not a meaningful direction for debate. Let me clear things up for both of you.

He meant: "I have no objection to acts just because the label 'bestiality' can be applied."

You took him to mean: "I have no objection to any acts to which the label 'bestiality' can be applied."

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T17:40:14.448Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T17:39:36.439Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, he specifically said:

Which would be the relevant comparison if 'bestiality' meant the quest to have sex with ALL animals. I'm against that. Kind of like a 'torture vs dust specks' for perverts.

In other words, he's against an alternative, nonstandard definition of bestiality, which is not the same thing as the kind of bestiality for which he has no objections.

The allusion to torture vs. dust and his emphasis of standard bestiality "only requir[ing] that a person have sex with one animal" suggests that he is against this sort of serial bestiality because the numbers involved become large.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T17:38:36.757Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I said I'm against "the quest to have sex with ALL animals. I'm against that. Kind of like a 'torture vs dust specks' for perverts". I said that because that would be what required for your mention of pets as a reason to reject or 'clarify' my earlier declaration of non-objection to be valid.

comment by Emile · 2011-11-08T11:14:24.408Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've been wondering for a while, but I haven't been able to think of examples of ideas so reviled that they warrant secrecy besides "redneck ideas"

Cannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality.

Also: pedophilia; the Idea that the Chinese government system (technocratic dictatorship) is better (in terms of outcomes) than the US Government system.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-09T05:54:34.208Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Also: pedophilia

"Sex between adults and young teenagers, as long as there is no obvious coercion involved, is not nearly as harmful as generally supposed" is definitely something that you can't say - and the fact that you can't say it has been demonstrated experimentally.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-09T05:57:28.538Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To clarify terminology here, pedophilia is sexual attraction to prepubescent children. There is a different word, which is escaping me at the moment, for a sexual preference for adolescents.

comment by Atelos · 2011-11-09T06:10:13.850Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia depending on which stage of adolescence you're talking about.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T10:47:27.120Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've no disagreement with your comment Atelos, but - why do those words exist?

Is there a cluster of human minds in thingspace that have "sexual preference of adults for mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19"? Do they share any other properties in common?

Eliezer on the subject of words that should not exist:

Telling someone, "I define the word 'wiggin' to mean a person with green eyes and black hair", by Gricean implication, asserts that the word "wiggin" will somehow help you make inferences / shorten your messages.

If green-eyes and black hair have no greater than default probability to be found together, nor does any other property occur at greater than default probability along with them, then the word "wiggin" is a lie: The word claims that certain people are worth distinguishing as a group, but they're not.

In this case the word "wiggin" does not help describe reality more compactly - it is not defined by someone sending the shortest message - it has no role in the simplest explanation. Equivalently, the word "wiggin" will be of no help to you in doing any Bayesian inference. Even if you do not call the word a lie, it is surely an error.

And the way to carve reality at its joints, is to draw your boundaries around concentrations of unusually high probability density in Thingspace.

Eliezer also suggests a reason why someone might coin such a word: in order to sneak in connotations. Also note that 15-25 and 18-21 are typically given as the prime age ranges of female physical attractiveness by Roissy and his commenters (although since these are arbitrary cut-offs, there's no need to give them a name). The 15-19 age range of "ephebophilia" cuts across this age range seemingly at random.

The same goes for hebephilia, attraction to 11-14 year-olds. There is no discontinuity in the characteristics of a typical human between 14 and 15 years of age, and I don't see why hebephiles should form a compact cluster in thingspace either.

On the other hand paedophilia does seem a valid word, because attraction to pre-pubescents seems qualititatively different from attraction to fertile human beings (there are evolutionary considerations at play, and there are great physical changes in a short space of time during puberty). Properties shared in common by paedophiles are presumably qualitative differences in "brain wiring" in comparison to humans of typical sexuality.

Interestingly, Robin Hanson misuses the word pedophile in this post. The regular conflation of attraction to young fertile humans and attraction to prepubescent children in this way is another strange definitional phenomenon that calls for explanation.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T12:16:09.819Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

why do those words exist?

There are people with a sexual preference for people from the age of their birth right up to and even past the age of their death. Since there are many such people it is easier to have words that give a ballpark to their sexual preference than to say "someone with a specific sexual preference for humans between the ages of X and Y" every single time.

Is there a cluster of human minds in thingspace that have "sexual preference of adults for mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19"? Do they share any other properties in common?

The sexual preference for people of a given age is more than enough to make the word relevant. That detail is predictive of all sorts of things. Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with. The terms are defined in terms of physical development rather than age and are as good a division as you can expect for a process of transition which is gradual yet clearly does represent a change. There really is a place for a word (ephebophilia) that means "not particularly sexually attracted to adults but definitely sexually attracted to people that have only recently reached the stage where they are obviously reproductively viable".

(With the caveat that it is stupid to use the same word for the preference for males and females at this stage. Both groups are more similar to adults of their sex than they are to each other!)

Eliezer also suggests a reason why someone might coin such a word: in order to sneak in connotations.

Or, in this case, the opposite. In most cases injecting the word ephebophile into a context will expunge connotations rather than introducing them. In the case of a sexually active ephobophile using the word ensures that all "people who have sex with those who are under the age at which it is legally permissible to have sex with them" aren't lumped in together. Because they aren't @#@%ing pedophiles and because while both practices are illegal they have entirely different moral connotations. For that matter the active practice of the various illegal chronophilias also have different practical implications. Counter-intuitively (unless you think about it) in the case of rape I seem to recall that a rape of a girl that is sexually mature does greater psychological damage on average than than the rape of a younger girl (probably something Robin Hanson cited).

Interestingly, Robin Hanson misuses the word pedophile in this post. The regular conflation of attraction to young fertile humans and attraction to prepubescent children in this way is another strange definitional phenomenon that calls for explanation.

The obvious explanation: People don't know the word ephebophile so they get all confused and use pedophile instead. Rah 'Ephebophilia'!

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T13:25:16.523Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The sexual preference for people of a given age is more than enough to make the word relevant. That detail is predictive of all sorts of things. Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with. The terms are defined in terms of physical development rather than age and are as good a division as you can expect for a process of transition which is gradual yet clearly does represent a change. There really is a place for a word (ephebophilia) that means "not particularly sexually attracted to adults but definitely sexually attracted to people that have only recently reached the stage where they are obviously reproductively viable".

Confining the discussion to females (which seems sensible given that the terms ephebophilia, paedophilia etc. seem to be most often used in the context of male attraction to females) the age range 15-19 is rather close to the widely agreed-upon (by men) 5-year age range of females in their physical prime of roughly 18-22. 15-year olds have been reproductively viable for about 4 years on average. 19-year-old women are about as attractive as they’ll ever be!

I struggle to imagine when someone would really want to use this word ephebophilia. “He’s an ephebophile; I bet he wants to have sex with that cute 19-year-old” – absurd. There’s just too much overlap between ephebophilia and normal male sexuality for it to be a useful predictor.

Even if the girl in quesiton is 15, it seems that the extent to which an older man might target her as a mate in today’s society depends more on how up-tight, how scrupulous or how socialised he is – whether he prefers slightly younger (by 3 years) women than the average man would generally be difficult to tell from outside, and being “normal” in this regard doesn’t preclude attraction to a 15-year-old any more than it does attraction to a 25-year-old in any case.

There are words like “creeper” and “pervert” that might be used to describe the type of person who appears to pay undue attention to younger teenage girls. This seems to exhaust the social utility of having a word for someone who prefers slightly younger women than does the average man. Note that this concept is also highly contingent; plenty of human societies would consider overt sexual attraction to young teenage girls, insofar as sexual attraction is acceptable in general, to be unremarkable (as Hanson’s piece points out).

Ephebophilia therefore appears to be useful, if at all, as a scientific term only. And in that case, where is the evidence that ephebophiles form a meaningful category? Why not have special words for adults who are attracted to 22-25 year-olds in particular (equally unusual), and so forth? Why name a specific age range at all, rather than having a general word for “prefers fertile women, but of unusually young age”, if not just to lend the term a bogus scientific air?

By way of analogy, it’s useful to have a concept of “short” men. On the other hand if some group of scientists started inventing various words like “shortman” (1.5m-1.6m) and “veryshortman” (1.4m-1.5m) I would question the usefulness of these terms. I would also wonder why there are not similarly specific terms “tallman” and “verytallman”. On the other hand achondroplasia dwarfism is a term that cleaves reality at its joints. (NB: no offense intended by this analogy, which implies no similarity beyond the use of words to refer to variations in some characteristic of humans).

The obvious explanation: People don't know the word ephebophile so they get all confused and use pedophile instead. Rah 'Ephebophilia'!

In most cases that's probably true, but the more discriminating question might be why this confusion exists so widely. After all it's quite a severe accusation.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T14:32:49.532Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I struggle to imagine when someone would really want to use this word ephebophilia. “He’s an ephebophile; I bet he wants to have sex with that cute 19-year-old” – absurd. There’s just too much overlap between ephebophilia and normal male sexuality for it to be a useful predictor.

Have you read the wikipedia article behind the link? Apart from giving examples of where the word is actually useful it also makes clear that your example would be a misunderstanding. Being attracted to cute 19 year old girls - or even cute 15 year old girls - isn't the point. It is being attracted to young adolescent girls to the exclusion of or with strong dominance over any attraction to adults. So a prediction that would be somewhat more reasonable to make would be that the ephebophiliac would be less attracted to a 23 year old supermodel than to a fairly average 15 year old girl.

By way of analogy, it’s useful to have a concept of “short” men. On the other hand if some group of scientists started inventing various words like “shortman” (1.5m-1.6m) and “veryshortman” (1.4m-1.5m) I would question the usefulness of these terms.

fat. veryfat. obese. Reference class tennis. I reject the argument by analogy.

I would also wonder why there are not similarly specific terms “tallman” and “verytallman”.

If you actually did wonder that back through the analogy you would probably look at the third sentence of the wikipedia article and follow the link.

If a matter of sexual preference is significant enough that it ensures that someone will never be able to legally satisfy his (or her) preferences anywhere within our entire culture then it is @#%@ well worth a word too.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T16:45:09.984Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

fat. veryfat. obese. Reference class tennis. I reject the argument by analogy.

The point is about arbitrary "scientific" gradings pulled out of thin air. Short, very short, diminutive - they are vague context-dependent categorisations that are suitable given the continuous nature and contingent relevance of the variation in question. This is not comparable to rigid, highly specific classifications like my putative "veryshortman", which is how I would characterise words like ephebophilia. There should be a good reason for the existence of such a term, and that reason is not apparent.

The other problem with the specificity of “ephebophilia” is also that it overlaps with the typical 5-year window in which an average male would find a female most physically attractive. Therefore it can’t even be justified on the grounds that the psychologists are binning males into continuous but arbitrarily demarcated categories of “normal”, “ephebophile” and “hebephile”.

Have you read the wikipedia article behind the link? Apart from giving examples of where the word is actually useful it also makes clear that your example would be a misunderstanding. Being attracted to cute 19 year old girls - or even cute 15 year old girls - isn't the point. It is being attracted to young adolescent girls to the exclusion of or with strong dominance over any attraction to adults.

You said: "Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with". I pointed out that this alleged use to which the word might be put is redundant, since 15-19 year-old women are among the most attractive to men in any case. Generally the large majority of heterosexual men would want to have sex, if the conditions were right, with an attractive girl of this age, particularly a 19-year-old!

I went on to point out that if we look at the other extreme (15-year-olds) scrupulousness and other character traits probably play a bigger role than ephebophilia in assessing the likelihood of a man attempting to mate with a girl of that age, in this society.

So a prediction that would be somewhat more reasonable to make would be that the ephebophiliac would be less attracted to a 23 year old supermodel than to a fairly average 15 year old girl.

That sounds about as reasonable, given the definition of ephebophile, as suggesting that an average man would be more attracted to a plain 18-year-old than to a 27-year-old supermodel. I.e. unreasonable, unless I missed the part where it is defined as exlusive attraction to 15-19 year-olds (in which case I would ask for some evidence that such people even exist).

If you actually did wonder that back through the analogy you would probably look at the third sentence of the wikipedia article and follow the link.

I did so already, and noticed that teleiophilia and gerontophilia are not specified by age range. If ephebophilia and hebephilia were likewise merged into a word that meant "particularly attracted to fertile females of a significantly younger age range than is typical" (I agree with you that having the same word for female-male and male-female attraction is also foolish) then I would admit the legitimacy of that word. It is the pretense to specificity, or having idenitified some actual clusters in thingspace that I object to.

If a matter of sexual preference is significant enough that it ensures that someone will never be able to legally satisfy his (or her) preferences anywhere within our entire culture then it is @#%@ well worth a word too.

Such a word could be the word meaning "particularly attracted to fertile females of a significantly younger age range than is typical". No need to pretend that there is clustering into the groups “sexually normal men”, “ephebophiles” and “hebephiles” rather than a continuum.

The only example of 'ephobophilia' which was mentioned on the wikipedia page was using it by preference over 'homosexual' for describing common behaviour of adult males in various historical cultures.

I don’t see why another word apart from pederasty is needed for that.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T13:50:15.865Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Confining the discussion to females (which seems sensible given that the terms ephebophilia, paedophilia etc. seem to be most often used in the context of male attraction to females)

The only example of 'ephobophilia' which was mentioned on the wikipedia page was using it by preference over 'homosexual' for describing common behaviour of adult males in various historical cultures. Paedophilia... I would have put that one as an even split with perhaps the most notorious sterotypical applications being with respect to male attraction to young boys (eg. 'priests').

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T13:50:04.958Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say it depends on the man's age, too. A 22-year-old man wanting sex with a 16-year-old girl would sound a lot less remarkable than a 70-year-old man wanting the same, to me. And, while most men prefer younger women, it's not like the typical man prefers women between 18 and 22 no matter how old he is -- see http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-case-for-an-older-woman/.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T16:53:43.155Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That link demonstrates the opposite of what you claim, as far as I can see. The writer is advocating the idea that men should target older women, because they'll face less competition.

A 22-year-old man wanting sex with a 16-year-old girl would sound a lot less remarkable than a 70-year-old man wanting the same, to me.

I'm sure the 70-year-old, given the opportunity to be transported into a younger attractive body with his mind in-tact, would be just as keen on the 16-year-old as the 22-year-old is. You are probably trying to imagine a 70-year-old hitting on a 16-year-old, which would indeed be remarkable but is beside the point.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T18:17:36.169Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That link demonstrates the opposite of what you claim, as far as I can see.

The median 23-year-old man sets 18 years as the least possible age for a match, whereas the median 48-year-old man sets 32 years for the same. This effect is much smaller if you see who people write messages to, but it's still there (see the red in the bottom right corner of the relevant graph).

Imagine asking a lot of men of different ages if, all other things being equal, they'd prefer a 16-year-old woman (assuming the men are from somewhere the age of consent is less than that -- tweak if necessary) or a 26-year-old one. Do you really believe that many more men from any given age range would choose the former? (Heck, I would choose the latter, and I'm 24.)

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-09T21:56:56.385Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that the difference between messaging behavior and the minimum age setting is related to the fact that those settings are publicly available. That adds a signaling component to the game, and for 48-year-old straight males I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be the dominant one: I don't have any actual data here, but it seems likely that a middle-aged man setting the age of consent as his threshold sends a clear "dirty old man" signal that a 32yo threshold wouldn't. Not a signal that a hypothetical dirty old man wants to send, I think; meanwhile, you can send messages to whoever you like, and large-scale messaging preferences are opaque to everyone but password holders. Actually, messaging someone below your nominal age limit might send a weak positive signal: "I like you enough to make an exception".

The smaller of the effects discussed is probably genuine, though.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-09T23:03:48.074Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

okCupid data. Of interest is the third graph.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T09:50:58.386Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fascinating. Following those links I just discovered I'm a teleiophile. Also a gynephile but I probably could have guessed that one myself.

I'm somewhat nonplussed with having the word ephebophilia refer to a preference for either females of approximately 14-16 or for males of an equivalent level of development (so slightly older). Unless for some reason people with one preference have a particularly high chance of also having the other preference. Because by this age it is an entirely different kind of preference so if you are going to go to all the trouble of making up names for various categories you may as well have "likes young men" different to "likes young women". Having just one word for pedophilia and perhaps hebophilia makes somewhat more sense given the much smaller difference between sexes at the younger ages.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-08T11:38:35.375Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's very bad to have a single word that many people will interpret as "being attracted to people you can't have sex with, and having to live with a lot of fear and shame and stigma", and many other people interpret as "raping particularly vulnerable people".

comment by Emile · 2011-11-08T13:34:25.993Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

No disagreement on that, though I suspect that even if everybody understood the first meaning, it would still be reviled.

(I know a (non-practicing) pedophile who attempted to "reclaim the word" by outing himself and distancing himself from child molesters. It - unsurprisingly - still didn't go well for him).

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-08T13:43:01.950Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This guy is a hero. Okay, not a very effective hero, but still.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T18:07:26.161Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Heroism in the classical sense (as I understand it) means being great, and has little if anything to do with being good or getting good results.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-08T14:38:40.348Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Unsurprisingly indeed. Still, somebody has to be first, and I admire his willingness to do so.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T13:07:37.530Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which word is this?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T13:13:53.400Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't it perfectly clear which one MixedNuts means?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T13:49:33.067Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Err... no? That's why I asked. Could you write the word please?

Oh, wait. I read "can't" literally. As opposed to "it is illegal to". The meaning was entirely changed.

comment by DSimon · 2011-11-08T13:57:59.062Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What person would it be physically impossible to have sex with? Though, that depends on what qualifies as "real sex" vs. what is merely foreplay/Xth base/etc., which is a whole other issue.

Then again, it occurs to me that the "can't" in the original sentence might refer to a situation that applies more specifically to the subject rather than the object: that is, if A wants to have sex with B and C and D, but A is unfortunately trapped inside a giant transparent hamster ball, with B-Z all on the outside looking in.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T14:14:12.100Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You would achieve the same effect if A were attracted to people trapped inside giant transparent hamster balls. Now we just need a single word for this kind of attraction.

comment by DSimon · 2011-11-08T14:31:24.742Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ahaptophilia? (Attraction to people whom you cannot touch)

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T14:44:21.022Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Pushing Daisies had both its protagonists suffer from this.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T14:39:40.825Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Then again, it occurs to me that the "can't" in the original sentence might refer to a situation that applies more specifically to the subject rather than the object

Yes, I was primed to think in terms of the subject - and the kind of subject that people are inclined to shame. That is, pathetic people. As in, "pathetic people who can't get laid".

To translate into the language of physical impossibility would, I suppose, require observing that humans are not black boxes that can freely do anything within the realms of human possibility. Going against instinct and indoctrination really is hard and for the kind of people I was primed to think about (pathetic people) they just couldn't. Because being proactively vile and evil requires initiative and the ability to overcome inhibitions so most people in that hypothetical category couldn't have sex with the people they wanted to (due to their pathetic nature).

It seemed entirely plausible to me that there was a jargon term for "being attracted to people you can't have sex with [because you're a pathetic loser], and having to live with a lot of fear and shame and stigma" that people also used as an indicator that the subject is more likely to be a rapist. That is exactly the kind of prejudice that humans tend to enjoy engaging in. What surprised me was that I wasn't familiar with the jargon in question. My confusion is now resolved.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-08T17:38:15.294Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard of people getting crushes on historical figures. I don't know if there are people with a strong preference for famous dead people.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T06:10:49.531Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

pedophilia; the Idea that the Chinese government system [...]

I briefly read that as a colon...

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-08T11:27:30.685Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

the Idea that the Chinese government system (technocratic dictatorship) is better (in terms of outcomes) than the US Government system.

This opinion is widely held by many active participants in mainstream US culture. "Reviled" should be replaced with "reviled by ___" in order for this conversation to be precise.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-09T00:10:35.473Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I downvoted this for mindkilling. I often see this view attributed to members of tribe USleft by members of tribe USright, but I've rarely encountered members of tribe USleft actually taking this position.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-09T00:46:09.873Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was going to raise a similar objection, then observed that his claim was that people who believe this are typically "lefty types," not that "lefty types" typically believe this. The former might even be true, for all I know. (Though I can't quite see why anyone should care.)

I know exactly one person who has expressed an opinion even remotely like this; he is an ethnically Chinese American who identified as a Republican for most of his life but changed that identification in the last decade or so. I wouldn't call him a "lefty type" personally, but Vaniver might. Then again, I suspect he only expresses this opinion to screw with people in the first place. In any case, one case isn't much to draw on.

That said, I certainly agree that specifying who's doing the reviling usefully increases precision.

While I'm here, I will note that eliminating the comma between "types" and "who" would make the sentence noticeably less wrong.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-09T01:08:16.743Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have deleted the relevant section. I went to a liberal university for undergrad and I got the sense that most of my classmates and professors held that position, and I often see comments to that effect on the xkcd forums (where the typical person is progressive and technocratic), but as I know more USleft types than USright types (and the USright types I know are typically libertarians, and thus anti-technocrats) and have rarely asked people about it directly, I can see that my experience may not be sufficient to identify the types of people who hold that opinion.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2011-11-09T07:02:06.612Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I went to a liberal university for undergrad and I got the sense that most of my classmates and professors held that position

Are you including anti-democracy in "that position"? I wouldn't be surprised to see people in the US mainstream endorsing what amounts to technocracy; I would be very surprised to see many people endorsing Chinese levels of political freedom. I'm fairly sure that this is both the main thing that Emile meant when he was thinking of what you can't say, and the first property of "the Chinese government system" that would come to mind for most Americans and came to mind for the other commenters here.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-09T13:50:27.311Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you including anti-democracy in "that position"?

Consider someone who wants judicial fiat to impose some policy they approve of- like, say, gay marriage. Is that anti-democracy? That's the extent to which I'm including anti-democracy in that position.

The desire for a progressive regulatory state is conditioned on the idea that some people know what should be done better than others, which is an inherently anti-democratic notion; democratic opposition to things in the people's best interest is an obstacle to be overcome not an objection to be heard out.

That said, I think most of the people I know would at least complain if they had to move to a Singapore-style "democracy" (well-run but lacking rights like free speech). People have inconsistent political preferences all the time.

I would be very surprised to see many people endorsing Chinese levels of political freedom.

A number of people I know take overpopulation and environmental threats very seriously. Many of them approve of the results of China's multiple-child tax, though many of them complain about the implementation and the limitation on freedom. I don't remember any of them acknowledging that the only way to get Chinese levels of results was with Chinese levels of political freedom, but I'm sure at least one made that connection.

the first property of "the Chinese government system" that would come to mind for most Americans and came to mind for the other commenters here.

Ah. The first thing that comes to mind for me, when comparing the Chinese government and the American government, is that the Chinese government is comprised of engineers and the American government is comprised of lawyers, and I suspect that is true for most people who would hold some version of that opinion.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-11T02:47:16.992Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the Chinese government is comprised of engineers and the American government is comprised of lawyers

That's not necessarily a win for China.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-11T02:53:43.308Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Engineers may not be a great pool to select political authority figures from, but I have to say that lawyers strike me as an even worse option.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-09T01:51:33.647Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. I appear to have lost 3 karma for agreeing that the offending text should not be part of my comment. Anyone have an explanation?

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-09T01:53:33.600Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No idea -- I revoked my downvote from the grandparent after you changed it.

Edit: On further reflection, I suspect you are getting dinged for positing a technocratic-democratic dichotomy. It is possible to be a technocrat and a small-d democrat. A more accurate opposition would be technocratic-populist, which is not the same thing.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T00:20:16.426Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He's not exactly left (and not exactly right or centrist or...), but Scott Adams seems to take this tack. I am not sure just how much it is genuine, and how much it is "dance, monkeys, dance".

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T02:50:00.018Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'll come out and say I have no problem with cannibalism if the individual being cannibalized consented to it before they died. (Otherwise one is using property from their estate without permission and that's theft.) An argument can be made that in societies without abundant food, a cannibalism taboo is more useful, but that obviously doesn't apply today.

Incest I have more mixed views on, but assuming one is talking about adult siblings who are consenting and not going to have children, I don't see an issue, even though I personally find it disgusting. Parent-offspring incest even when they are both adults isn't ok because it is extremely difficult to remove the power-imbalance issues.

Bestiality.

In practice, difficult to tell when an animal is consenting. But if we could confirm consent then I'd be ok with it. But, my view here isn't really fully consistent in that by this logic I should be worried about ducks not consenting to each other (a very large fraction of duck sex is rape). Regardless, whether or not I find it disgusting, consenting individuals should be allowed to do it.

Human sacrifice

Willing victim, sure why not? If we think it is ok for a Jehovah Witness to refuse blood transfusions or an Orthodox Jew to refuse a heart transplant, why not allow active sacrifice? In this case it might even have positive results. As Ellie Arroway observed, celibate clergy could help reduce inherited predispositions to fanaticism, and this might have a similar selective effect.

comment by Strange7 · 2012-08-25T17:50:00.226Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cannibalism comes with some very nasty disease-transmission issues.

But, my view here isn't really fully consistent in that by this logic I should be worried about ducks not consenting to each other (a very large fraction of duck sex is rape).

It's possible to be consistent about considering duck-on-duck rape bad and still assigning a relatively low priority to preventing it, compared to other societal problems, or more personal objectives.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-08T18:30:50.022Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds to me like you picked ideas that were maximally superficially offensive under the constraint that at least one person might defend them, rather than ideas that were maximally defensible under the constraint that they were offensive.

Focusing on the ideas that are held by people stupid enough to blurt them out leaves you vulnerable to a selection effect. If there were classes of political ideas such that anyone rational enough to believe them was also rational enough not to tell, how would you know?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-09T12:07:03.834Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds to me like you picked ideas that were maximally superficially offensive under the constraint that at least one person might defend them, rather than ideas that were maximally defensible under the constraint that they were offensive.

Was the latter what was desired? Then I could mention ideas like eugenics, weighting voting power by IQ, banning theism in general or monotheism in particular, panopticon cities (or other means for global surveillance).

I don't support the last two, but I bet I could make some good arguments about them. The first two I'd probably actually approve of, depending on the specific implementation.

But are these ideas really so offensive that it'd be dangerous for people to reveal them? I don't think so.

Right now the maximally defensible political idea that I'd not feel very safe to discuss in Greece is that my country should recognize the Republic of Macedonia under that name. I don't think that idea is offensive to anyone here, even though it's synonymous with treason in Greece.

If there were classes of political ideas such that anyone rational enough to believe them was also rational enough not to tell, how would you know?

Science fiction is useful in allowing people to describe political ideas but maintain plausible deniability.

Building Weirdtopia may be a relevant thread, though it'd be wrong for people to think that I actually support the weird ideas I mentioned there.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T16:31:51.083Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't call any of the above "ideas" at all. You are listing outlawed practices, not tabooed beliefs. True, "support for incest" is an idea, but if there is a covert ideology behind it it is not nearly as extensive and widespread as the ideology behind e.g. sexism.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-08T16:03:06.173Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Aw, no mention of Necrophilia? It's even a victimless crime!

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-08T16:42:17.391Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Aw, no mention of Necrophilia? It's even a victimless crime!

Lifeist! (There are credible reasons why dead people can be considered victims - even if I don't happen to share them as values.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T03:43:49.388Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's one way to pay the rent while you're in cryonic suspension.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-11-11T02:22:28.512Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless of whether dead people can be considered victims or not, it's still really, really upsetting to a lot of living people. Whether it ought to be upsetting is another matter, but it is.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T03:09:14.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see why not. If we consider the corpses of dead relatives to have reverted to just objects then necrophilarizing means having sex with our stuff. I would still find that somewhat upsetting!

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-11T03:14:22.441Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Necrophilandering, not "necrophilarizing".

(Note to self: don't have sex with any of wedrifid's stuff.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T03:23:16.001Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Note to self: don't have sex with any of wedrifid's stuff.

Feel free to buy it off me if you are really want to. It's a territorial thing, not a moral judgement! :P

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T06:13:44.158Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Incest

Yeah, no redneck would be caught dead marryin' his sister. Nosirree!

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T06:24:00.202Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If you have statistics about sibling incest being prominent to "rednecks" in a significantly higher degree than other populations, let me know. If not, I don't approve of unsubstantiated stereotyping.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T06:54:40.513Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's absolutely hilarious. I suppose you have a file of peer-reviewed studies showing that racism, sexism and homophobia are significantly more prominent in redneck populations, then? Oh wait, you can't, because "redneck" isn't an acknowledged sociological distinction. It's a stereotype. Anyone who gestures toward vaguely "redneck ideas" should not be surprised when incest comes up. The fact that you did not know this makes me assume that you, unlike me, are not from the Appalachians.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T10:24:58.920Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that you did not know this

I've heard the jokes about cousin incest, and even made an initial reply to your pre-edited post, saying that cousin marriage didn't count as incest for most of Western civilization and still doesn't count as such in many non-Western countries -- when you edited your post to refer specifically to sibling marriage, I deleted that answer which no longer applied.

makes me assume that you, unlike me, are not from the Appalachians.

You can click my name and see I'm from Athens, Greece, no need to assume anything.

I suppose you have a file of peer-reviewed studies showing that racism, sexism and homophobia are significantly more prominent in redneck populations, then? Oh wait, you can't,

Wikipedia tells me that "redneck" is a term that refers to rural southern whites and then got connotations of all-around bigotry. But if you want data about these topics, here's the map that shows South was the last to repeal antimiscegenetion laws, here are maps for estimated same-sex marriage opposition, here is which states didn't ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

To forestall objections, I understand these maps don't specifically condemn redneck population. "redneck" wasn't my own choice of words, but I didn't feel the need to object to its correlation with established Southern trends.

I've not been able to locate incest statistics by state though.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-08T17:05:19.340Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard the jokes about cousin incest

Perhaps I exaggerated a little too far for the sake of the joke, then.

saying that cousin marriage didn't count as incest for most of Western civilization and still doesn't count as such in many non-Western countries

I actually didn't know this, interestingly.

You can click my name and see I'm from Athens, Greece

I did that a lot for a while, but it seemed like hardly anyone put anything there so I eventually stopped bothering. Also, I'm surprised (and a bit disturbed) that someone in Greece knows anything about 'rednecks', so nevermind.

Wikipedia tells me that "redneck" is a term that refers to rural southern whites

I guess I must be a redneck then!

But if you want data about these topics, here's

I knew all this already, and am not disputing it. That's not the point.

To forestall objections, I understand these maps don't specifically condemn redneck population. "redneck" wasn't my own choice of words, but I didn't feel the need to object to its correlation with established Southern trends.

Look: there is a difference between "green-eyed black-haired ideas" and "wiggin ideas".

I've not been able to locate incest statistics by state though.

They seem not to exist; apparently the best indicators would be some unreported fraction of general child abuse, but no leads on what the fraction might be.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-08T06:19:02.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I know the jokes about cousin marriages -- but frankly such didn't even count as incest in most Western societies until relatively recently, and it still doesn't count as such in some non-Western societies.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-08T16:33:47.288Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

From now on I shall assume Vladimir is a NAMBLA member who tends a small shrine to Pol Pot, regardless of the evidence.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T02:53:16.303Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, p(Vladimir is a NAMBLA member who tends a small shrine to Pol Pot) = 1, as far as you're concerned?

Uh oh... I must quickly decide that you are not a truth-seeking agent, lest I be forced by Aumann to agree!

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-09T03:39:29.502Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

forced by Aumann to agree

Whenever I see people say things like this, I always imagine Old Man Aumann standing behind them with a gun.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-09T03:44:50.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's more or less what I was going for, yes.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-09T03:59:30.414Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I almost said "great minds think alike" before I realized that might be taken as a restatement of AAT.

comment by DSimon · 2011-11-09T04:16:10.473Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Old Man Aumann says: Great minds think alike... or else.

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-09T02:50:14.014Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, the hipster's genocidal tyrant.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-08T04:25:23.699Z · score: 5 (8 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks.

Haha, I think you're displaying some serious prejudice (in multiple directions) by thinking that I'm supposed to mind this so badly.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T16:18:13.459Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Prejudice" may not be the mot juste. If I filled one pickup truck with rednecks, and another with members of my own family, I'm not sure you'd be able to tell the difference. Hell, a few people would probably have to go in both trucks.

It wasn't so much that I expected you to be viscerally horrified by the association with low-SES rural Southern whites, as that being pattern-matched to rednecks has what I thought were obvious drawbacks. Just for one: this being Less Wrong, I'm pretty confident you don't think zygotes have souls. No doubt there are many other, less obviously incongruent beliefs in the redneck belief cluster you wouldn't remotely endorse.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-08T13:08:39.234Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

Not being American or part of the Anglosphere or Western European derived culture I read this as:

(On the other hand, if you gesture towards [low status] ideas but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to [low status poor person from ethnic group we defeated in war]. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T00:22:24.465Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Noticed you assumed I'm a Yankee, considered challenging you to a duel, decided with this crowd it probably wouldn't go over.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T00:30:20.112Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ah sorry, then it was just classism! :)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-09T09:34:56.699Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Noticed you assumed I'm a Yankee, considered challenging you to a duel, decided with this crowd it probably wouldn't go over.

I think the crowd would love the idea. But I'm biased.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T08:59:12.512Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

There's a certain subset of mostly Western, white men, largely middle-class rather than extremely wealthy or poor, who see the existence of civil rights activism on behalf of various minorities and the fact that it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company, and quite a bit moreso to do so openly in an institutional capacity, and conclude that this therefore means that it is now beyond the pale to do anything other than adhere to rigid standards of political correctness for the sake of controlling thought.

These are people, by and large, who in coming of age and seeking to support themselves, didn't break through all their barriers to self-actualization or realize their wildest dreams of success, but managed to get some kind of payoff for their effort in terms of making ends meet (even if it's difficult and provides no insulation from suffering or strife in their lives), and certainly don't feel like they directly benefitted from any unethical practices or prejudices (even passively-conferred ones common in society). Since humans tend to model the emotions of others from their own baseline, they find it difficult to believe that anyone could genuinely have it that much worse, and conclude that activist groups of women and minorities are out to demonize them and censor them. They find it difficult to conceive that anybody else's life, at least in their own cultural sphere, could really be that bad, unless the person had just failed on merits, and wanted to blame someone else or hijack the fruits of their own effort out of laziness.

Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it might happen to them.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-10T02:07:16.328Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

There's a certain subset of mostly Western, white men, largely middle-class rather than extremely wealthy or poor, who see the existence of civil rights activism on behalf of various minorities and the fact that it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company, and quite a bit moreso to do so openly in an institutional capacity, and conclude that this therefore means that it is now beyond the pale to do anything other than adhere to rigid standards of political correctness for the sake of controlling thought.

The rhetorical sleight of hand here is that "prejudice" is used with an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, this word is used for any application of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people, which are deemed to be immoral according to a certain ideological view. On the other hand, it is supposed to refer to the use of conditional probabilities about people that are inaccurate due to biases caused by ignorance or malice. Now, it is logically possible that the latter category just happens to subsume the former -- but the real world, of course, is never so convenient.

And if the latter category does not subsume the former, as it clearly does not, then approving of penalties (of whatever sort) for expressing beliefs in the former category means that you approve of penalties for expressing at least some true beliefs. Even if you can make a good case for that, it requires much more than dismissing them as "prejudice" with all the ambiguity and rhetorical trickery that this term introduces -- and no matter how good a case you have, "controlling thought" will be a completely accurate description for what you advocate. (And for the record, I am completely open to the idea that some ways of controlling thought may be beneficial by some reasonable criteria, or even necessary for the functioning of human society. But if we're going to advocate this view on a forum like this, let's call it what it is.)

Note also that even without any idealistic pursuit of truth for its own sake, it is a non-trivial question what the practical consequences will be of suppressing the expression and use of certain correct beliefs about conditional probabilities. Wrong probabilities lead to wrong decisions, from the pettiest personal ones, up to and including decisions about grand projects by the government and other powerful institutions that are based on theories that assume these probabilities. On LW, of all places, the importance of this point should be clear.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-10T03:47:22.399Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I apologize for the confusion -- you seem to think that my using the noun constitutes an attempt to bill some unspecified set of statements and ideas as examples of the first thing you listed.

What I'm actually doing, just so you can read my post accurately, is saying that prejudice is a thing (as per your second definition which you apparently thought I was being sneaky about), that it exists (I presume this at least is uncontentious to you?), and that in general it's a true statement it's now more costly to signal certain forms of that openly, according to prevailing social mores.

In other words, if you have no objection to the assertion: "An employer in the US these days cannot generally refuse a job applicant by openly referring to the applicant's race as a disqualifying factor, without expecting some form of social reprisal", then you now understand what I meant when I used the word prejudice in that sentence.

So, just to be sure I'm absolutely clear, since this is apparently confusing:

When I say

it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company

I mean that it is now more difficult to signal certain forms of prejudice (not specific as to what particular things constitute prejudice; pick an example you find unobjectionable) casually or irrespective of one's audience, without garnering some social risk.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-10T04:10:44.584Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What I'm actually doing, just so you can read my post accurately, is saying that prejudice is a thing (as per your second definition which you apparently thought I was being sneaky about), that it exists (I presume this at least is uncontentious to you?), and that in general it's a true statement it's now more costly to signal certain forms of that openly, according to prevailing social mores.

You are still obscuring the issue. Yes, of course that people frequently hold prejudiced beliefs that are biased due to ignorance or malice, and that some categories of such beliefs (though by no means all) have become more costly to signal in recent history. The question, however, is whether there are also some true beliefs, or uncertain beliefs that may turn out to be true given the present state of knowledge, that are also costly to express (or even just to signal indirectly) nowadays. Would you really assert that the answer to that question is no?

And if your answer to that question is yes, then what basis do you have for asserting that "a broader social pattern into which [you] see [my] behavior falling" consists of people who are unhappy because they find it costly to express prejudiced beliefs that are biased due to ignorance or malice?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-10T05:24:27.507Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The question, however, is whether there are also some true beliefs, or uncertain beliefs that may turn out to be true given the present state of knowledge, that are also costly to express (or even just to signal indirectly) nowadays. Would you really assert that the answer to that question is no?

I would not.

I am doubting your claim that your beliefs are really so beyond the pale to the social mores of your peers here, that you'd be unfairly suppressed and/or censored, or otherwise hurt "the cause" of LW any moreso than you might be saying what you already do freely.

I could be wrong about that, but I also have different estimates of the real, net social cost to signalling something unpopular, especially for someone who consistently signal-boosts in your observed patterns in this environment.

I would be unsurprised to learn you believe that IQ represents general intelligence and that it is primarily genetic, and that all personality traits are ultimately genetic or inconsequential in the scheme of things, and that they are linked to race, and that this could get people upset at you if you just said it at random at a party.

I would be very surprised if it got you successfully sued, persecuted in a tangible way, or indeed anything worse than flamed on the internet for voicing this openly. Or arrested, or fired from your job, or targeted by a group like Anonymous for ongoing harassment...

However, based on what you've said about your reasons for not revealing some subset of your beliefs here, you appear to fear consequences considerably more significant than just someone being mad at something you said on the internet, and this seems...disproportionate, incorrect, biased -- a skewed misunderstanding of the reality of your likely risks and costs.

comment by MadDrNesbit · 2011-11-10T07:36:57.012Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I would be very surprised if it got you successfully sued, persecuted in a tangible way, or indeed anything worse than flamed on the internet for voicing this openly.

What do you think happened to Stephanie Grace - don't you think a private email sent to a few friends has affected her career prospects ? James Watson and Lawrence Summers also got lynched for their opinions.

I don't think anybody risks getting sued or arrested, but they can have their careers harmed.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-10T08:41:45.232Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(vilified)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-10T08:25:50.437Z · score: -14 (34 votes) · LW · GW

You know what "lynch" actually means, right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching

James Watson, Lawrence Summers and Stephanie Grace did not get lynched for their opinions.

As to what actually happened to Stephanie Grace:

She spoke an opinion that sounds pretty calm and not hateful, but certainly controversial, that is frequently interpreted as far more loaded with those things due to historical associations.

She also evidently posed the discussion as though it were a matter of some legitimate scientific consensus, relatively unobjectionable from a theoretical standpoint.

This despite the fact that the statistical significance of IQ heritability and its mechanisms of inheritance are still matters of significant debate and little consensus has emerged as yet -- let alone the degree to which IQ represents "General intelligence" in fact (to say nothing of the ongoing difficulties of defining that term), the ongoing Flynn Effect (still not adequately explained), the substantial effects of postnatal nutrition (protein supplementation even in the children of the rural poor producing significant increases; longer breastfeeding periods improve scores, exposure to prenatal drug use or environmental pollutants can significantly impact them negatively) and environmental stimulation on the development of the brain and its results for IQ scores, the dearth of actual replicated studies showing genetic mechanisms for IQ, the difficulty of determining whether a difference is innate versus not...this stuff is still up in the air.

Basically the strong push to interpret these IQ differences along race lines as principally genetic is massively overstated next to the evidence favoring that claim -- to treat the question as a matter of simple fact whose implications might need to be discussed more soberly is to so blatantly favor the hypothesis that it speaks poorly of her critical thinking and levels of information about this.

It's not that it's impossible that there are signficant gaps clustering around race (indeed, it seems pretty straightforward and established that this is the case); it's also not that it's impossible this is primarily a genetic thing (although there's little evidence to bolster that claim so strongly that it should be the default assumption, let alone the null hypothesis, and much evidence that conflicts with it). It's that hyper-focusing on this particular fact and this particular attempt to account for it, usually in the same breath as public policy discussions, is often a great big indicator of what that person perceives as the implications.

In other words, a charitable assumption is that Stephanie Grace is guilty only of ignorant or uncritical reasoning about the topic, staggeringly bad timing and social signalling, and even worse spin control. But there are lots of venues -- like LessWrong itself, where the idea that IQ is general intelligence and the gap is genetic and all other interpretations are PC revisionist hogwash gets so much traction that I find it difficult to believe Vladimir_M, who is posting anonymously, will suffer consequences more unpleasant than a lengthy argument he doesn't want to have with somebody who does not agree with him. Indeed, he has already said the same things openly, and no jackbooted thugs, no PC police, no lynch mobs have extracted reprisal against him.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-11-11T02:36:17.998Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

How on Earth do you come up with this stuff?

First you misrepresent the statements of this woman, whose name I don't even want to mention in such an ugly context in a public discussion. Rather than claiming that the problematic beliefs are a matter of consensus, she expressed a mere lack of certainty that the opposite is the case, and this takes only a few seconds to check by googling. Making incorrect attributions to people in public on such a sensitive topic and under their real names is, at best, callously irresponsible.

Then you go on and say that I have "said the same things openly," thus dragging me into this controversy, about which I have said nothing at all in this thread -- and about which I have never written anything here, to the best of my recollection, that would make this characterization correct under any reasonable interpretation. That this nonsense has been upvoted has lowered my opinion of LW more than probably anything else I ever saw here before.

And then people wonder why I may be reluctant to speak openly on controversial matters.

comment by MadDrNesbit · 2011-11-10T15:58:03.525Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, "lynch" is hyperbole, probably unnecessary ("vilified" seems a bit weak. You might want to tell off these websites for incorrect use of the term "lynching").

You spend a lot of time addressing the issue of Race and IQ; I am mostly concerned of how Stephanie Grace was treated for what was a quite reasonable private email. In an ancestor comment you wrote:

Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it might happen to them.

To me, it's very clear "what": what happened to Stephanie Grace. It's unlikely, but a small chance of having your career ruined is not a risk most people are willing to take. Those chances increase if one of the people involved becomes somewhat famous, or if some well meaning anti-racist (or other) activist takes interest in the discussion. Nobody wants a Google search of their name return a hate page on the first page of results.

What surprises me the most is that you find this unclear, that you don't understand how that can be a concern for somebody.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-10T21:45:31.472Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

To me, it's very clear "what": what happened to Stephanie Grace.

Some people she didn't know said she was a bad person, and then her life went on. She got the job she was intending to get, and hardly anyone will remember the 'scandal'.

Recent story mentioning her

comment by MadDrNesbit · 2011-11-11T09:53:27.569Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, thanks; I had briefly googled for that kind of info but hadn't found any. She is probably somewhat helped by having a pretty common name and surname, but I'm still updating my estimate of "negative consequences for being target of a hate campaign" downwards a bit.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-11T01:33:32.016Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some people she didn't know said she was a bad person,

So basically she pulled a Galileo.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T01:38:29.296Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, without the threatened torture, house arrest and other problems. On the other hand, she was treated the way she was without trying publish her views and or trying to spread them to the general public. Overall, a Galileo comparison doesn't work very well.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T02:10:11.932Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nobody wants a Google search of their name return a on the first page of results.

Is a word missing there? 'scandal'?

comment by MadDrNesbit · 2011-11-11T09:44:58.538Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Whoops, I screwed up the formatting, fixed, thanks.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T09:53:50.160Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ahh, it's annoying that messed up links just fail to show anything at all. Especially when typing in what is in the imperfectly formatted link (ie. missing http://) into the browser sometimes would work just fine!

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-10T17:19:00.192Z · score: -8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

You spend a lot of time addressing the issue of Race and IQ;

I was trying to unpack what she actually did -- she didn't just say something unpopular and get burned for it, she said something seriously, massively unwarranted in a sensitive situation where people decided they didn't like it, and furthermore something that for many people is rather close to a hot-button issue. It is difficult nigh unto impossible to signal effectively in that situation, and even if it shouldn't be the case that just saying something brings on associations to other, otherwise-unrelated situations, people signalling what she did and how she did it frequently have some really nasty agendas for doing so.

She's been vilified for it, yes -- I'm not downplaying that, but you're downplaying the actual situation.

What surprises me the most is that you find this unclear, that you don't understand how that can be a concern for somebody.

Because frankly? Stephanie Grace was a law school student at Harvard University, a high-profile institution, and it seems to be a whole lot more focused on when people do this in situations like that, than when some random person off the street, or in an internet forum, or whatever, just says There are so many venues in which the cost of signalling that is minimal, and this rather-homogenous website in which Vladimir_M is a fairly typical member seems like one of them.

comment by MadDrNesbit · 2011-11-10T20:31:59.563Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How does your original description not cover the Stephanie Grace case?

Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it might happen to them.

It's clear to me that Stephanie Grace should have been aware that even if in her environment people think like her, voicing a belief that doesn't reflect well upon blacks is dangerous. No, she won't be censored or sued, but her prospects will take a sharp turn downwards. She should have been afraid, and maybe angry about what might happen to her if she dared speak honestly, even in a private email.

And yet, you seem to think that she had nothing to be afraid of, and that her being afraid or angry would have been kind of silly and stupid on her behalf (or at least, that's the impression I get from the way you write).

(Note that I'm not saying this is the main reason sensitive topics should be avoided on LessWrong. There are better reasons to avoid those topics.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T04:31:42.054Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I find it difficult to believe Vladimir_M, who is posting anonymously, will suffer consequences more unpleasant than a lengthy argument he doesn't want to have with somebody who does not agree with him.

As far as anonymity goes Vladimir_M isn't really really up there. Enough comments to earn 7k karma gives away rather a lot of information. And I wasn't aware Vladimir_M was a pseudonym.

Writing stuff you don't want associated with you on the internet is a terrible idea.

comment by komponisto · 2011-11-10T16:51:20.815Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

She also evidently posed the discussion as though it were a matter of some legitimate scientific consensus, relatively unobjectionable from a theoretical standpoint.

No -- that's what the blogger linked to in the grandparent did.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-11T12:49:34.481Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I may get down-voted for saying this but, I can't help but feel this is politicking-inspired misrepresentation.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T04:28:15.891Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the idea that IQ is general intelligence and the gap is genetic

It's often a good idea to point directly to statements people have made. This is particularly true when the claim is about "LessWrong itself". If an idea is common, one can surely find multiple people espousing or assuming it, and if the idea is part of the LW consensus, that would be reflected in comments to the cited sources.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T04:44:43.533Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If an idea is common, one can surely find multiple people espousing or assuming it, and if the idea is part of the LW consensus, that would be reflected in comments to the cited sources.

Ooh, here we go, I found one.

There is probably a difference in IQ between different groups with any significant historical causal relationship between the members. Race certainly qualifies. It would be astounding if some difference between the IQ of various races was not present. I don't know or particularly care which groups are higher than other groups.

EDIT: If the meaning isn't clear I was just reassuring lessdazed that lesswrong does, in fact, have examples of people accepting that prior to any observations of any race we should expect there to be some degree of genetically based IQ difference between races or genetically related populations. Since it was links to examples that were requested not examples themselves I fulfilled the technicality with a wry self-reference. This was not intended to offend anyone or suggest anything about anything anyone had said beyond answering lessdazed's request.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T06:45:45.470Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that phrased that way that Jandila necessarily will disagree with you that much.

I'm curious which of the following statements you agree with and which Jandila agrees with:

  1. It is likely that there are genes in the human gene pool which effectively code for tendencies in IQ and are not fixed throughout all humans, and where the non-fixed versions aren't things that lead to what is normally classed as mental retardation or something similar.

  2. It is likely that some of those genes either through causal historical issues, or random drift and founder effects are distributed through different human populations in different ways, where populations in question include various groups often classified as "ethnic" or "racial" groups.

  1. There are groups in society which have been historically mistreated and may still be mistreated. This can lead to environmental impacts on IQ. Similarly, different cultures have different norms about learning, test-taking and child-raising that can with a decent probability impact IQ.

I suspect that both of you will agree on all three of those points. I suspect more disagreement is really occurring on how 2 and 3 interact implicitly. In particular, Jandila believes that the environmental issues likely swamp any genetic effect. Moreover, there's an apparent disagreement in whether IQ is an effective proxy for the general notion of "intelligence".

I'm also going to use this to interject from minor factual issue that may be relevant: In multiple cultures where there is a minority that has been historically persecuted, the minority does not do as well on many forms of tests. One example that will likely be not mindkilling for most English speakers are the Ainu in Japan. Why this pattern exists is a distinct issue but this data point does seem to be relevant.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T11:04:43.862Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that phrased that way that Jandila necessarily will disagree with you that much.

I disagree on the word 'the'. It's a surprisingly big deal - for me at least. It may be a disagreement that is significantly influenced by mere careless presentation of ideas but then I think details of communication are what Jandila's comment was most criticized for by others too.

I haven't looked closely with what Jandila has said beyond that which is quoted by lessdazed. I'm not especially interested in Stephanie Grace. I did follow the 'Lynching' link and learned all sorts of things about various forms of vigilante social sanction. Then some interesting facts about bitumen and pine tar (via the association with feathers).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T14:26:41.204Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, which use of "the" are you referring to?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T14:44:51.277Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

see

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T14:52:03.099Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah yes, that makes sense. I get the feeling that a lot of the arguments occurring here are over view clusters rather than actual views. No one for example has stated explicitly that the "racial group X" has more or less genetic intelligence in this thread, but given the discussion in the thread about Stephanie Grace and others it isn't unreasonable to suspect that that's only marginally below the surface.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T14:59:55.265Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No one for example has stated explicitly that the "racial group X" has more or less genetic intelligence in this thread

I've been told Jews are smarter on average than most races. But I was told that by Jews so it is conceivable that self serving bias could apply. I mention this because if what the pop-theory suggested was accurate (not something I would particularly support) it would be a case where environmental pressures and all sorts of discrimination of a specific group of people actually increased relative IQ.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T15:13:06.817Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Tangent: The data is actually about Ashkenazic Jews only. The result is consistent across a wide range of tests, including not just IQ but also Wonderlic and others. It is deeply unclear if this is due to environmental, genetic or other effects. There's also been some suggestion that the Ashkenazic population for some reason has a lot of outliers that are what is actually causing the result. There's a disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners who fit in that category. However, it is important to note that Ashkenazic Jews are one of the most widely studied groups in the world when it comes to genetics and so far no alleles that seem to have to do with intelligence have been discovered in the population.

comment by drc500free · 2011-11-11T17:51:16.288Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I think that, for many centuries, the Ashkenazi environment rewarded establishing a rigid social structure that studies and followed strict rules (preventing assimilation), but selected very strongly for individuals that could step outside the status quo at the right time. I can see how that would lead to Nobel prize winners.

Given the time scale involved, it doesn't seem like genetic selection could change more than how well you integrate successful memes. Some anecdotes from my own genealogy about relevant selection pressures:

  • Marriages were usually arranged by parents to get the best possible match. My great, great grandfather was wealthy for the village they were in. When he needed a husband for his daughter, he asked around for the most promising yeshiva student, and gave him a ten year stipend to continue study for marrying her (apparently the standard was more like 2 years).

  • When Poland got jumped, my grandparents ended up on the Soviet side of the line. My grandmother went back to the Nazi side twice to try to convince her friends and family that they had a better chance of surviving with the Soviets, but they didn't want to leave the cities to go somewhere unknown. They were all trapped in the Ghetto system, and liquidated within four years.

  • My grandfather escaped the soviets twice - the first time, he noticed that his transport train was picking up stowaways who would jump off around curves (turned out they were farmers who lived near the tracks but not a station), and he just pretended to be one of them while everyone else stayed on the train to Siberia. The second time he drank all night with the guards, and convinced them that they would never get in trouble for letting him go to find his wife. Shortly after his third capture, Hitler double-crossed Stalin, and all the Poles were released to go fight the Germans. He always said that you need an escape plan for everything in life, and refused to enter any room with only one exit.

comment by Bill_McGrath · 2011-11-11T22:08:25.707Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My grandfather escaped the soviets twice - the first time, he noticed that his transport train was picking up stowaways who would jump off around curves (turned out they were farmers who lived near the tracks but not a station), and he just pretended to be one of them while everyone else stayed on the train to Siberia. The second time he drank all night with the guards, and convinced them that they would never get in trouble for letting him go to find his wife. Shortly after his third capture, Hitler double-crossed Stalin, and all the Poles were released to go fight the Germans. He always said that you need an escape plan for everything in life, and refused to enter any room with only one exit.

Your grandfather sounds like a badass.

comment by drc500free · 2011-11-14T01:56:04.079Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He emigrated to Israel in 1948 with a wife, two kids, and no money. He worked as a day laborer, claiming various construction skills to whoever pulled up and asked. One time he claimed he was a plumber in the old country, and spent two days installing an outdoor toilet. He finally saved up enough to buy a small grocery, so that he could run his own business. He walked out back after buying the place to find - the outhouse he had built years before.

He was definitely a badass, but the cancer was pretty far along by the time I knew him and I didn't speak Hebrew.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-11-12T03:58:34.314Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's also been some suggestion that the Ashkenazic population for some reason has a lot of outliers that are what is actually causing the result.

That does not seem to me a very plausible suggestion. Outliers could explain the Nobel prizes, but would not affect the mean, which is measured to be different. It is conceivable that some non-gaussian distribution would explain both, but larger populations that have been studied in more detail exhibit bell curves, or at least thin tails (ie, not affecting the mean).

comment by PhilosophyTutor · 2011-11-12T04:12:37.701Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

However, it is important to note that Ashkenazic Jews are one of the most widely studied groups in the world when it comes to genetics and so far no alleles that seem to have to do with intelligence have been discovered in the population.

This fact alone leads me to think that the most parsimonious explanation is just that Ashkenazi Jews have a cultural tradition of scholarship, whereas public-school culture in the English-speaking world is often starkly anti-intellectual. If we've turned over the genetic rock and had a good look under it without finding anything interesting, we should update to think it more likely that the explanation is under a different rock.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T05:50:27.601Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Jandila said:

It's not that it's impossible that there are signficant gaps clustering around race (indeed, it seems pretty straightforward and established that this is the case)...the gap is genetic

That was describing the measured gap in which certain race clusters are measured at higher IQs than others.

wedrifid said:

It would be astounding if some difference between the IQ of various races was not present.

This is a point that I have made several times, but that does not qualify as a counterexample because it is not the claim that is supposedly consensus on LW.

I don't know or particularly care which groups are higher than other groups.

One of the straw men in Jandila's argument was that the specific measured gaps in IQ scores among racial groups was caused primarily by genetics (that is reading charitably, for a very plausible interpretation is that the supposed belief is that it is exclusively caused by genetics, which is just silly). As you claim not to know "which groups are higher than other groups," you did not find an example supporting the argument.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T06:24:16.042Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with your point entirely and hope my comment is not taken as support of whatever Jandila is saying. I meant only to give a prototypical example of what people (including myself) do actually say on the subject. As you no doubt picked up I was careful to avoid what would be an absurd claim - that genetics was the only factor and even the merely controversial claims about which way such genetic factors would be an influence.

I unequivocally affirm the use of my testimony about what credible lesswrongians have tended to say now or in the past as evidence in support of your argument. :)

Tangent: I'm actually not sure which way the intelligence difference would go between Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens sapiens. Michael Vassar actually boasts that he may have saved the world by convincing a genetic biologist to stop trying to go all "Jurassic Park" on Neanderthal DNA. After all they are an apex predator that have comparable intelligence to us and could plausibly be more intelligent in some aspects.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T06:37:38.924Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I meant only to give a prototypical example of what people (including myself) do actually say on the subject.

I've said the same.

I'm actually not sure which way the intelligence difference would go

Or which group would have more deviation from its mean.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T06:55:34.219Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've said the same.

I applaud you on your sanity.

Or which group would have more deviation from its mean.

That's probably a more interesting question - and perhaps even harder to filter out from environmental influences.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T05:10:13.123Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Confused. Your link seems to go to this post itself.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T05:13:43.223Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Confused. Your link seems to go to this post itself.

In fact it goes specifically to the comment itself. And the comment itself contains an example of that which is required in such a link. Fancy that. ;)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T05:17:36.471Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Technically impressive. Unamusing given the serious nature of what is being discussed and the fairly obnoxious way this apparently expresses a point in a passive-aggressive way that is on the passive enough side that it isn't fully clear what the point is. This damages the signal to noise ratio.

(ETA: Ah, you made the comment in two edits so you'd know the comments permanent link. Clever.)

(ETA: In case it isn't clear, the more controversial an issue the more reason to try not to be a dick if the conversation has a remote chance of being productive.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T05:28:55.223Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Passive aggressive? Obnoxious? WHAT? I gave an example of the kind requested so that whatever conversation may be taking place wouldn't be derailed by "Where are your links?" demands. It gives confirmation that people (or, technically, at least one person) understands basic probability and how to form priors. ie. There are differences in traits between different populations, IQ is a trait.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T05:46:06.388Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Passive aggressive? Obnoxious? WHAT? I gave an example of the kind so that whatever conversation wouldn't be derailed by "Where are your links?" demands.

The implied point seems to be some sort of claim that the type of statement had not been made in the thread up to that point. Rather than asserting that explicitly or even just upvoting lessdazed's remark you made it harder for people to wade through this conversation.

This is the second time you have leveled that charge at me inappropriately in the last few days.

Most humans will generally not be very good evaluators of whether their comments contribute well to signal/noise issues. So the assertion that they are inappropriate isn't that helpful. Although the fact that your earlier comment where I did make that remark is currently at +2 tentatively suggests that more people than not disagree with my assessment in that context. In that context, it does strongly look like you were using inflammatory language whether or not you realized that it would be so.

I can only assume it is personal (and passive aggressive) because otherwise it makes no sense.

It isn't personal. Until you pointed it out I didn't even remember that my other comment in the context of the SMBC cartoon was to you. I suppose it could have been occurring in some sort of back of my mind, but I don't think so. Also, I don't think there's anything that passive aggressive about those sorts of remarks, I'd consider my comments to be missing the "passive" bit and being pretty aggressive statements of noting when things are not helpful for rational discussion here.

But if you want even more blunt I can do so: You are coming across as a dick. Your earlier "pussy" remark made you come across as a sexist dick. When one is having a conversation about a controversial issue involving sex and gender issues it is generally a good idea to not come across as a sexist dick because it will a) emotionally inflame people who don't agree with you and make them less likely to listen to you and b) turn away from Less Wrong people who might otherwise be interested in seeing what Less Wrong is about.

In general, calm interaction is better than hot interaction. Explicitly stated points are better than implicit and vague points. Polite statements are better than uncivil statements. I've been repeatedly tempted to go through most of this thread and just downvote everyone for making Less Wrong resemble the areas of the internet I try to avoid. It is very clear that the issues being touched on here are mindkillers for many people, and that the karma scores involved reflect to a large extent which mindkilled tribalistic groups happen to have more people around here not in any substantial way a reflection of the arguments (except to a very weak level). None of these are good things. You are, along with other people, acting in a way that makes these problems more, not less extreme. None of this is good if one is trying to actually have rational dialogue.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T06:35:51.822Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You are coming across as a dick. Your earlier "pussy" remark made you come across as a sexist dick.

It just occurred to me now and I don't believe I missed the irony when reading the first time. I don't want to imply I consider this to be particularly offensive (well, except the part where you called me a dick) but do you realize that you called me a dick both earlier (about something unrelated) and also here because I used a word for genitalia as a negative descriptor?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T06:52:20.920Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I did realize that. (Although note that I didn't say you are a dick, I said you were coming across as a dick. These aren't the same thing.) Two issues guided that word choice: First, it was an attempt (possibly a poor one) to speak in a language closer to the sort you were using so the point might come across better. Second, in this particular context, the relevant point is that in a highly male environment you were using a negative term for the genitalia of the other gender. That said, neither of these were probably very good arguments. While one could potentially argue that in our society "dick" is more gender neutral as an negative term than "pussy", that argument seems to be more of a rationalization than a genuinely useful argument. I suspect that there may have also been some degree of priming occurring given that I had earlier today had a conversation with a female homo sapiens who expressed disinterest in Less Wrong because it "looked like a sausage-fest" (and also apparently that this thread as well as some of the other relationship related threads were "creepy"). Some amount of Phil Plait's speech was also floating around. But even that is an explanation more than a good reason. So I'll just say that I was aware of what I was doing, made a conscious decision to do so, but in retrospect had poor reasons for doing it.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T11:34:37.029Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that there may have also been some degree of priming occurring given that

Given that wedrifid said this less than a day ago:

In short you in 5 sec do not consist of the same set of atoms at present you. Does that make you think that 5 sec you is not really you?

The five seconds in the future guy is me. The guy from 5 seconds ago... nah, he was kind of a dick.

That's priming.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T06:44:59.647Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Rule 1 was incomplete. Judgments that things are of equal value are obviously suspect as well.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T08:04:48.954Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It should also mention that judgement about whether something is subject to to Rule 1 interpretation should be particularly suspect. Recursive inclusiveness is implicit. For this reason It is also a charge nearly impossible to defend oneself from directly.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-11-13T12:53:14.497Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If "pussy" is a sexist slur, isn't "dick", also?

comment by demented · 2011-11-13T14:45:59.663Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It should be, but compared to women, most men are relatively less offended at the slur. Double standards; go figure.

comment by komponisto · 2011-11-11T06:54:10.691Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The implied point seems to be some sort of claim that the type of statement had not been made in the thread up to that point.

That wasn't the point at all, as far as I can tell. The point seemed to be that wedrifid was volunteering to be a representative of the point of view in question (while engaging in some nonverbal humor of the sort that is only possible in online forums).

Your [wedrifid's] earlier "pussy" remark made you come across as a sexist dick.

Did you forget to update on the new information that was provided?

EDIT: I seem to have missed this.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T06:58:31.876Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That wasn't the point at all, as far as I can tell.

Yes, I think reasonable individuals can read the statement differently. I suspect that my reading was on the more negative end of the spectrum, and I do have to wonder what primed me to think of it, and I don't have a good explanation for that. That said, it doesn't seem like an unreasonable interpretation. It seems that the difficulty of reading what other humans mean in a text medium is really quite difficult. While this is a known fact, I apparently don't compensate for it as well as I should. That said, I suspect that I am very likely not the only person who read the comment in the way I read it.

Did you forget to update on the new information that was provided to you?

No. I did update, but see elsewhere in this subthread where I discussed the relevance of that remark.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T05:53:37.541Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I downvoted that comment for confusing levels, not for inappropriate language. Maybe other downvotes are attributable to that problem with it. Maybe upvotes are in spite of the language. Hard to tell.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T05:55:03.395Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good point. I'm making a bad assumption that other humans will focus on the same issues in a comment that I will especially when it is long and contains a variety of different points.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T05:59:55.031Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Note: JoshuaZ must have caught the comment before I removed the part replying to 'signal to noise' (and the second two quotes are selected from that part). While I would stand by everything I said there would accomplish anything useful. I did not wish to edit the history of the conversation to distort the flow or to leave the parent making no sense - more to prevent the conversation altogether.

You are coming across as a dick. Your earlier "pussy" remark made you come across as a sexist dick.

I had hoped the reply to you by komponisto would have resolved that feeling for you. It came with a wikipedia link!

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-11T06:08:07.159Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I had hoped the reply to you by komponisto would have resolved that feeling for you. It came with a wikipedia link!

Komponisto's comment there and the ensuing discussion was etymologically fascinating. I doubt the vast majority of readers were already aware of the relevant etymology (indeed, you were unaware of the etymology). Remember, rationalists should win. If something has a connotation that is likely to be extremely distracting and trigger strong emotional reactions, then using the excuse that a sufficiently intelligent, educated and rational reader would not have that reaction is not helpful.

I think, incidentally, that one of the issues that may be occurring in our disagreement of how your remarks contributed to the signal/noise is what constitutes signal and noise. In particular, it is possible that I'm using a broader notion of what information is being conveyed in some sense, so I consider emotional triggers to be noise even if they aren't denotatively part of a message.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-11T19:18:04.254Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Obnoxious? WHAT? I gave an example of the kind requested

Downvoted -- yes, obnoxious, because you could have just said "this comment here", but you sought to amuse yourself by providing a link that leads back to itself and thus obfuscating, and when tensions are high, amusing yourself and not communicating clearly sends all the wrong signals that you are disrespecting the other person.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-11T20:03:18.117Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A contrary view: I'm broadly in favor of people amusing themselves.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-11T06:22:40.037Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Reasonable expressions of genuine confusion should not be downvoted.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-11-11T02:16:52.217Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, randomized controlled studies show that breastfeeding has no effect on IQ. More generally, decades of RCT have failed to demonstrate a causal basis of any of breastfeeding's correlates.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-11T02:21:34.849Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, randomized controlled studies show that breastfeeding has no effect on IQ. More generally, decades of RCT have failed to demonstrate a causal basis of any of breastfeeding's correlates.

Really? Not even immune system response? This 'colostrum' stuff is a scam?