Note: I am testing two versions of my new post on rationality and romance.

Please upvote, downvote, or non-vote the below post as you normally would if you saw it on the front page (not the discussion section), but do not vote on the other version. Also, if your last name begins with a–k, please read and vote on this post first. If your last name begins with l–z, please stop reading and read this version instead. 


Rationality Lessons from Romance

Years ago, my first girlfriend (let's call her 'Alice') ran into her ex-boyfriend at a coffee shop. They traded anecdotes, felt connected, a spark of intimacy...

And then she left the coffee shop, quickly.

She told me later: "You have my heart now, Luke."

I felt proud, but even Luke2005 also felt a twinge of "the universe is suboptimal," because she hadn't been able to engage that connection any further. The cultural scripts defining our relationship said that only one man owned her heart. But surely that wasn't optimal for producing utilons?

This is an account of some lessons that I learned during my journey into rational romance. That journey started with a series of realizations like the one above — that I wasn't happy with the standard cultural scripts: monogamy, an assumed progression toward marriage, and ownership of another person's sexuality. I hadn't really noticed the cultural scripts up until that point. I was a victim of cached thoughts and a cached self.

Lesson: Until you explicitly notice the cached rules for what you're doing, you won't start thinking of them as something to be optimized. Ask: Which parts of romance do you currently think of as subjects of optimization? What else should you be optimizing?


Gather data

At the time, I didn't know how to optimize. I decided I needed data. How did relationships work? How did women work? How did attraction work? The value of information was high, so I decided to become a social psychology nerd. I began to spend less time with Alice so I could spend more time studying. 

Lesson: Respond to the value of information. Once you notice you might be running in the wrong direction, don't keep going that way just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in the thoughts or information you've now realized is valuable because it might change your policies, i.e., figuring out which direction to go.


Sanity-check yourself

Before long, I noticed that Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. I was unhappy, and I knew I could one day attract better mates if I had time to acquire the skills that other men had; men who were "good with women."

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty.

She asked that I kindly never speak to her again. I can't blame her. In retrospect, it's hard to think of a more damaging way to break up with someone. This gives you some idea of just how incompetent I was, at the time. I had an inkling of that myself - though I'm not sure if I realized right away, or if it only dawned on me six months later. But it was part of the motivation to solve my problems by reading books.

Lesson: Know your fields of incompetence. If you suspect you may be incompetent, sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling. (E.g. "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely", or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.)



During the next couple years, I spent no time in (what would have been) sub-par relationships, and instead invested that time optimizing for better relationships in the future. Which meant I was celibate.

Neither Intimate Relationships nor Handbook of Relationship Initiation existed at the time, but I still learned quite a bit from books like The Red Queen and The Moral Animal. I experienced a long series of 'Aha!' moments, like:

  • "Aha! It's not that women prefer jerks to nice guys, but they prefer confident, ambitious men to pushovers."
  • "Aha! Body language and fashion matter because they communicate large packets of information about me at light speed, and are harder to fake than words."
  • "Aha! Women are attracted to men with whom they have positive subjective experiences. That's why they like funny guys, for example!"

Within a few months, I had more dating-relevant head knowledge than any guy I knew.

Lesson: Use scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to gain a certain class of experience points.


Just try it / just test yourself

Scholarship was warm and comfy, so I stayed in scholar mode for too long. I hit diminishing returns in what books could teach me. Every book on dating skills told me to go talk to women, but I thought I needed a completed decision tree first: What if she does this? What if she says that? I won't know what to do if I don't have a plan! I should read 10 more books, so I know how to handle every contingency.

The dating books told me I would think that, but I told myself I was unusually analytical, and could actually benefit from completing the decision tree in advance of actually talking to women.

The dating books told me I would think that, too, and that it was just a rationalization. Really, I was just nervous about the blows that newbie mistakes (and subsequent rejections) would lay upon my ego.

Lesson: Be especially suspicious of rationalizations for not obeying the empiricist rules "try it and see what happens" or "test yourself to see what happens" or "get some concrete experience on the ground". Think of the cost of time happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider the opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now.


Use science, and maybe drugs

The dating books told me to swallow my fear and talk to women. I couldn't swallow my fear, so I tried swallowing brandy instead. That worked.

So I went out and talked to women, mostly at coffee shops or on the street. I learned all kinds of interesting details I hadn't learned in the books:

  • Politics, religion, math, and programming are basically never the right subject matter when flirting.
  • Keep up the emotional momentum. Don't stay in the same stage of the conversation (rapport, storytelling, self-disclosure, etc.) for very long.
  • Almost every gesture or line is improved by adding a big smile.
  • 'Hi. I've gotta run, but I think you're cute so we should grab a coffee sometime" totally works — as long as the other person is already attracted because my body language, fashion, and other signals have been optimized.
  • People rarely notice an abrupt change of subject if you say "Yeah, it's just like when..." and then say something completely unrelated.

After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy. And a little after that, I had my first one-night stand.

I was surprised by how much I didn't enjoy casual flings. I didn't feel engaged when I didn't know and didn't have much in common with the girl in my bed. But I kept having casual flings, mostly for their educational value. As research projects go, I guess they weren't too bad.

Lesson: Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.


Self-modify to succeed

By this time my misgivings about the idea of owning another's sexuality had grown into a full-blown endorsement of polyamory. I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right?

It turned out to be easier than I had predicted. Tactics that helped me destroy my capacity for sexual jealousy include:

  • Whenever I noticed sexual jealousy in myself, I brought to mind my moral objections to the idea of owning another's sexuality.
  • I thought in terms of sexual abundance, not sexual scarcity. When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular girl.
  • Mentally, I continually associated 'jealousy' with 'immaturity' and 'neediness' and other concepts that have negative affect for me.

This lack of sexual jealousy came in handy when I built a mutual attraction with a polyamorous girl who was already dating two of my friends.

Lesson: Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion.



I now enjoy higher-quality relationships — sexual and non-sexual — of a kind that wouldn't be possible with the social skills of Luke2005. I went for years without a partner I cared about, but it felt okay because the whole journey was seeded with frequent rewards: the thrill of figuring something out, the thrill of seeing people respond to me in a new way, the thrill of seeing myself looking better in the mirror each month.

There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm seeing an awesome poly girl, I'm free to take up other relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps, and I can build rapport with almost anyone. My hair looks great and I'm happy. If you start out as a nerd, setting out to become a nerd about romance totally works, so long as you read the right nerd books and you know the nerd rule about being empirical. Rationality for the win.

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My relationship story is almost the complete opposite of Luke's. I didn't date anyone until I met my wife through a matchmaker (mutual acquaintance), and we've been happily married for four years.

And then there's Eliezer's story of his girlfriend expressing interest over the Internet due to learning about his work.

Generalizing from three examples, my conclusion is this: in romance, as in all things, seek your comparative advantage. (Mine happens to be coming from a culture with a strong tradition of matchmaking. :)

Music (as I am quite accomplished) is my Alpha high-ground advantage. I met my (now ex-) wife through the Emerson Lake & Palmer 'Fanzine For The Common Man', and throughout my life my best relationships have usually come with people who share my musical tastes and aptitudes. Marcus Buckingham has many good ideas on the psycho-biological development of personal strengths, particularly in 'Go Put Your Strengths To Work'. He is associated with Donald Clifton and Tom Rath, the developers of 'Strengths Finder'.

Completely and clinically selfish, without apology. "I don't blame her" but no claim that her pain ever weighed upon you. Matter of fact and remorseless in admitting to having behaved foolishly (waiting too long to experiment). Bragging.

I wonder if anyone would admit to downvoting for those reasons. The reasons given in comments are more Spock-worthy.

I enjoyed it. Writing that risks such offense parses as honest to me. My reading between the lines fleshes you out quite sympathetically.

The frequency of first letter of last names in the U.S. suggests your split is probably correct.

I wonder why the number of downvotes is hidden.

To my mind, one of the advantages of being poly is that it forces you to rewrite the rules of how relationships run. This is good not only because you'll do better by explicitly thinking about these things than most people do by trying to go with the flow, but also because your assumptions about what the rules are may differ from a partner's.

Also, writing up pages and pages of definitions and parameters in excessively formal language is fun!

...Is that just me?

Nope. Just ask anyone who's tried to write a "theory article" for a Magic: the Gathering strategy site.
Haven't done that for relationships yet, but it does sound fun.
0Paul Crowley13y
Not done that one...
You can do it with your partner! In etherpad!
I've found similar things to be true for me of being queer. But I wouldn't generalize it quite as cavalierly as you seem to; I've met people who don't seem to do better this way. I suspect it has a lot to do with one's inclination and ability to think usefully about these things.

How did relationships work? How did women work? How did attraction work?

(reading this to Alicorn)

Me: Women! How do they work?!

Alicorn: Well, I consume food, and then it is metabolized, and...

Me: (stares at her, wide-eyed with shock) ...really?!

This kind of post symbolizes a lot of what seems wrong to me about LessWrong. Women are attracted to men who they enjoy spending time with? Fashion matters to a lot of women? Women prefer confident men? It amazes me that many extremely intelligent people are unable to make predictions that could be made by the average truck driver. It indicates, I think, that what is lacking in those people is not analytical intelligence. Because of this, I'm deeply sceptical as to what extent applying rationality techniques such as those taught on LessWrong to social interactions will really improve peoples results.

I'm a very analytical thinker; I excel at math, physics and related subjects. At the same time, I have quite poor social skills. I'd love it if I could read some social psychology books and improve my social and romantic outcomes, but I'm unconvinced, both by this post and the community as a whole. In particular, I think that there is what I'll term the 'rationalists fallacy' -- the hidden assumption, in much of thought by rationalists, that other people and the world in general are supposed to behave rationally. They're not, and by and large they don't. So, to make sense of this, ratio... (read more)

Women are attracted to men who they enjoy spending time with? Fashion matters to a lot of women? Women prefer confident men? It amazes me that many extremely intelligent people are unable to make predictions that could be made by the average truck driver.

When Luke said that, his "aha" moment wasn't that these things existed, it's why they exist. And more importantly, why it's a good idea to focus on that instead of saying "concentrating on looks is vain, a woman should like me for who I am."

the hidden assumption, in much of thought by rationalists, that other people and the world in general are supposed to behave rationally.

This assumption is not there. The assumption is that there is a reason people behave how they do, and this behavior is a logical conclusion from evo psych. I doubt anyone would say women's attraction to red is rational, but it is still used in PUA books.

And yes, you can just use the results, but there aren't many books that have all the conclusions made without any of the explanation.

I'm curious about this. What was the reason that Luke found for paying attention on fashion, that needed an insight into the reasons people care about fashion? It seems to me that fashions importance depends primarily on how much other people care about it, irrespective of why they care, but I don't understand fashion so could easily be missing something. I think that part of my post was rather unclear. Of course, people on this site don't consciously hold the view that people must make sense, but that nevertheless seems to be the direction of a lot of peoples thoughts. To clarify, what I was trying to state is that there is a tendency for many rationalists to try and look for a reason for peoples behaviour and, when failing to find it, to try and find an evo psych explanation for this behaviour. I may be wrong about this, but its something I've noticed in my own thoughts, and it seems to be echoed in what many other people here have written. Crucially, if my behaviour is similar to other peoples, a lot of the apparent benefit of learning the explanations for others behaviour is just in coming to accept it. It's a lot easier to tolerate things about people you disagree with when you know why they're doing it -- even if your wrong about the reason. But, you can also just learn to accept people. Of course, the assumption that peoples behaviour is a logical conclusion from evo psych is a much more justifiable one. But, even so, I'd challenge this one. Evolutionary psychology is not a scientific model in the same way that something like the standard model in Physics is; from what I know of it, it seems wholly unable to make any firm predictions on any aspect of human behaviour -- it can just try and explain the behaviour of humans that is already observed. So, I suppose I'm still failing to see how knowing the evo psych explanation of something will really help you in interacting with others? Having said this, I feel more optimistic about some applications of evoluti
I would imagine it would depend on the image you're trying to present. Like Luke said, it conveys "large packets of information about [him] at light speed." So, if you're trying to show you have money you would dress one way, trying to look cool would require a different style of dressing, and just hanging casually with friends requires a third. Yes, I agree. I mostly use evo psych explanations to increase my internal probability of a PUA trick actually working, though I'm conservative about the credence I give to any evo psych explanation.
Your list of objections is less compelling given that Luke explicitly claims that his approach worked extremely well for him. Unless you want to claim that Luke's approach is tailored specifically to him. My attitude towards comments below criticizing Luke for stereotyping women is similar. If the stereotype allowed him to successfully predict behavior, then it seems to be accurate, or at least accurate enough that using it seems instrumentally rational.

I was delivered from fear, fear of man, of heart, from rejection from a woman when I was 29 years old. The ministry team gave a word of knowledge regarding my birthday, May 26, confirmed the calling on my life and what was holding me back. No more timidity. I was delivered from self and was told I would be buried in Him and wake up in Christ. I was just reading Romans 6. Blessings and thank you for your obedience to God!

From Spiritual Healing Testimonies

Testimonials are not strong evidence. I don't know Luke, so don't know in any detail what he did, but based on his post it seems like he did a lot of things over a several year period. Peoples personality can change significantly, especially at a young age, in the absence of any external factors over a period of a few years. If Luke was also, as he indicates in his post, trying to spend substantially more time around women, then I don't see how we can conclude that it was his scholarship that helped him. And, if it was, then it could easily have been that he gained confidence by believing that he understood people.

This isn't evidence against scholarship helping, of course. It may well have done. But I don't think we can take Luke claiming that it helped him as particularly strong evidence that it actually did.

Often true, but note that if you do not understand the reason for some rule, you run the risk of getting into a situation where you think it should apply but it doesn't, or vice versa. I agree with your overall point, however.

Down-voted for being a "Just-so story". I don't see any evidence that rationality was actually a major factor here. How much time did you spend practicing (i.e. the "use science and drugs" section)? Do you believe that a "control group" that read a random self help book and then just practiced for the same time would do significantly worse?

I think this may be one of the weirdest posts I have ever read on LW. Deconstructing that feeling it's probably because it's combining near and far mode subjects, relationships and scholarship. Examining that it's unlikely because I've been reading around the PUA subculture for a while, so it might be the framing, the tone and description of your intellectual learning is like nothing I've read in that. The style is also different from HughRistik's writing on PUA on this site, which is also markedly different in tone to normal PUA stuff but doesn't push the weird button.

The description of your breakup filled me with awe-struck horror. I'm not sure at what point I would have been able to say why that was such an awful idea but even before I could explain then I wouldn't have done it, more because I have had the misfortune never to have had a relationship with someone who was all that interested in discussing abstract ideas than anything else, but also because it's been obvious to me for a long time that the supermajority of people aren't into intellectual conversation ever.

It's extremely clear, coherent and provides actionable advice all the way through. The finale ends with a hip, hip hooray! that's good although I dislike the "by golly" and am ambivalent on "Rationality for the win"

I'm neither upvoting nor downvoting this, because a lot of it meshes too well with my preconceptions on the subject and I don't trust myself to make an objective decision on its quality. From that quite-probably-biased perspective it seems sane, and I particularly like the emphasis on being willing to modify deep parameters, but gender politics is such a volatile subject around here that I very strongly suspect any substantial analysis of dating behavior would benefit from having at least one cowriter of a different gender and/or orientation, if only for signaling purposes.


By this time my misgivings about the idea of owning another's sexuality had grown into a full-blown endorsement of polyamory. I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right?

How did you determine that monogamy and jealousy are not terminal values of yours? How is this not a simplification of value, or at least an exchange of terminal value? What safety measures did you use?

If you would choose to self modify to get rid of your jealousy or monogamy, I think that in itself is strong evidence that jealousy or monogamy are not terminal values for you. That doesn't mean they won't be terminal values for anyone else though. I think I now understand why Luke was comfortable changing himself in such a way that he expressed as modifying himself into polyamory. I've willingly self modified to reduce my own jealousy before, but it wasn't jealousy related to my romantic partners having other romantic partners. I suppose if I differed from myself only in such a way that I had that jealousy, I might want it removed. But I think many people would not, because it supports something they actually want out of relationships, and I'm confused as to what Luke means by his "support of polyamory" if not that other people should also not have that jealousy. Personally, I am not comfortable with being in a relationship with multiple people who are not also in a relationship with each other. I would not want to self modify to change this, even though it's more difficult to find relationships that meet this additional specification, because that would mean changing what I actually want about relationships (it helps that I'm not dissatisfied with being in a two person relationship.) I suspect that for many, perhaps most people, modifying to become polyamorous is of this unwanted kind, rather than the former kind.
Personally, I've known enough people who are monogamous in one context and polyamorous in another context (some but not all of whom describe themselves as "becoming polyamorous" and "no longer being polyamorous", as though the context were irrelevant) that I've become somewhat skeptical of the "modifying to become" formulation in this context. E.g., I've been in a monogamous romantic relationship for ~20 years, and have no particular desire to become romantically involved with anyone else, so I generally describe myself as monogamous. But I can imagine situations in which I would become romantically involved with a second partner. I would change my self-description in that case, but I wouldn't consider it a particularly significant self-modification. The map is not the territory, etc. Regardless, yes, many people can be happy in certain kinds of polyamorous relationships (for example, closed polyads as you describe), and not others. This should not be surprising.

I agree with your ultimate points - I have recently traveled a similar self-improvement journey. But somehow your presentation is slightly off-putting. It seems just right to draw in someone like myself but leave a bad taste afterwards despite being objectively good advice.

On further reflection, I think it may be entirely due to the feeling that attraction is being reduced to an algorithm which can be run to draw in a female of the species. It's extremely emotionally alienating. I much prefer the method employed by The Last Psychiatrist, which gives the sa... (read more)



So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked.

I do not get this but it would be immediately clear if you were more specific, e. g. you said you decided she is too fat.

So, what was it?

(I am not going to comment on this thread again because I am curious and I am going to go read the l-z version right now.)

It doesn't matter. Any conversation in which you tell a partner how evolution has built you not to be attracted to them will be offensive, even if they've said they value honesty. It could be that she's too fat, or it could be that her elbows aren't creased enough, or it could be that she sets her salad fork on the inside instead of the outside. It just isn't the breakup conversation to have.

Well, now this is going to make my post on hacking myself poly, which I was going to publish after confirming success with a month or two of field-testing, look redundant.

Also, I register disapproval for trying to split the audience of the post this way.

I would love to see a post on hacking yourself poly from a woman's perspective. To be honest, I'm a little frustrated with the extent to which all dating advice on LessWrong is aimed at those attracted to females. (Luke's post is great and well considered, though).

I'm actually staggered by the amount of so-called "dating advice" on LW in the first place.

Hey, I'm attracted to females. Females are pretty. But yes, I am also one.
Well, you'd know better than me if your post would be redundant. (And I wasn't trying to make assumptions, sorry). But if you can write it in a way that doesn't assume your audience is universally attracted to women, that's what I'd appreciate. I'm not criticizing Luke's post, to make that clear; the rationality takeaways are very well universalized and the topic material is highly personal so he couldn't really have written it differently.
I have no need to hack myself poly, but I'm curious about what separates this kind of preference hacking from the kinds we tend to treat as taboo here.
You obviously wouldn't want to hack yourself to change your terminal preferences (Gandhi and the murder pill), but hacking yourself to change your behavior to help you maximize terminal preferences is fine.(Gandhi taking a pill that would allow him to go without sleep indefinitely, freeing up 6+ hours a day for peaceful protesting). Hacking other people is usually bad. I can't think of an example of self-hacking to change behaviors being treated as taboo, but I'd be interested if you can think of one.
Hacking oneself to be polyamorous seems itself like preference rather than behavior hacking, which is why I'm confused. I would have to change what I want out of relationships to become uncomfortable with being in romantic relationships containing more than two people (my case is a bit more complicated than that, there are different types of polyamory, but the specifics aren't relevant to the main point.) Similarly, I find it doubtful that a person hard wired for monogamy (and some people seem to be intensely monogamous by nature,) could be hacked into polyamory without altering their values with regards to relationships.

The only real problem I have with Luke's post is that thus far, this type of post has been very male-centric, and I think a pair of articles would have helped alleviate that. (It might even make sense to deliberately collaborate, and it could be interesting to initially hide your identities and keep gender references neutral [I currently don't know whether you prefer women exclusively] and see if people can tell the difference).

(Breaking the rules on version reading, but I read the other one first, and this one has more relevant discussion.) The OP almost made me cry because of my current romantic situation. This comment didn't help (I mean that in a good way). I realized during my first (and so far, only major) romantic relationship in college that while there was enormous value for me in having such a relationship, I couldn't stand the exclusivity. I said so and it didn't go over particularly well, but I continued trying to compromise. Our relationship was on-and-off in college. Now we've graduated and live in different cities but for over six months until recently had a happy open relationship (or sexual friendship, or whatever you want to call it), in which we visit when we can and talk by phone the rest of the time (we're both busy grad students comfortable with low communication frequency and high average conversation quality). As of the beginning of the summer I was trying to start a romance with someone at my current university. We hit it off right away after meeting each other, and there was no question about chemistry. Things seemed to be going well, though they were complicated by the fact that she was away for most of the summer. I made my views on polyamory clear from the beginning, and she didn't like them at first, but seemed to be warming up to the idea. As of this week my first lover took up a religion out of nowhere and want to excise sex from our relationship (hardly mindful of the massive collateral damage that will cause, even without the other problems with religion). (I will probably want to write about this separately, but I need to pull myself together first.) And my second lover has pronounced having second thoughts about the idea of polyamory and will not touch me. The timing is coincidental (I'm pretty sure), but it hurts just the same. After years of reflection, I think that I'm about as natively poly as it's possible to be. I have focused my efforts on seri
I would encourage you to publish it anyway, even if it looks redundant to you -- additional datapoints are always welcome; and more specifically I just am interested in your perspective to the subject.
Is your disapproval a reflective equilibrium? Does it remain after thinking about the advantages of A/B testing approaches to a controversial topic?
Yes. I don't think the differences in the posts are significant enough to be worth the inconvenience to the audience, and it splits the discussion, too.
After reading the other version, I agree that the differences seem trivial. It's interesting that the scores are an order of magnitude apart, though.
Can you elaborate on why you dislike splitting the audience (which I assume is for testing)?
Caused a flare of uncomfortable curiosity between the moment when I realized I'd been instructed not to look at something and the moment when I realized I didn't care.
In the grand scheme of things, do you actually consider that a big deal?
I'll pretend you asked that question without loading it with the phrase "in the grand scheme of things". Yes. I do think it is a big deal. Curiosity is pain.
More specifically, I meant "were you actually genuinely upset, or were you mildly upset in a way that you decided to milk for comedic value." Both seemed plausible. (And I wasn't attaching judgement to either of them) But I consider the questioned answered. Apologies for the loading.

I felt proud, but even Luke2005 also felt a twinge of "the universe is suboptimal," because she hadn't been able to engage that connection any further. The cultural scripts defining our relationship said that only one man owned her heart. But surely that wasn't optimal for producing utilons?

I think you're too quick to ascribe to poorly optimized social norms behaviors that are entirely sensible as preference optimization. If an individual is wired for monogamy by nature, then social behaviors that protect the monogamy of their relationships wi... (read more)

Neither upvoting nor downvoting, prior to reading the other post. Most of this lines up with other things I've heard rationalists say about romance. I don't have enough experience to know for sure what I think about it.

upvoted because it was an enjoyable read and I definitely don't want it to fall under karma-barricade. I'm now going to go read the other post, but before I do I'd say this is really not particularly new information, and feels to me like just a testimonial about the effectiveness of PUA-like thinking.

The most interesting part to me is the mind-hacking into polyamory, and I think work on choosing your own preferences could be expanded usefully.

I like this post. I also wish that it had a more explicit list of books to read (though there is a small list in the center, the post doesn't make it as explicitly clear as I would like it to whether you think these are the best.)

I'd also welcome a post from you on fashion.

I have non-voted, because there's something unclear from the text. I appreciate the retelling of the journey taken and the lessons learned, I took a similar path myself. However: you've learned to signal extremely well the things that women are attracted to, like confidence and humour, or you have confidence and are a humourous person? You learned to dress well to impress women, but are you dressing the way you like to dress? You have taken a suboptimal social norm and substituted it with a more optimal norm.


I did not upvote or downvote, because I thought it was a decent post as anecdotes go, but too scattered and kitchen-sinky to be really useful. It also plays into stereotypes about LessWrong, but that's just you being you, so I'm not worried about it.

This passage is really funny, because I would find this unbelievable behavior in a fictional character, but here a fully adult intelligent man is doing it:

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection h

... (read more)

I'm not voting on this because, um, well, okay. I completely understand your point about how "monogamy good, non-monogamy bad" is largely a cached thought, but a part of my current beliefs it is nonetheless. Does it pay rent? Well, in our current monogamy-dominated society, it does pay in the form that "if you are a faithful partner you will be appreciated and if you are an 'unfaithful' partner you experience negative consequences", but whether polygamy is actually optimal is another question entirely. Whether "relationships that a... (read more)

But what REALLY puts a bad taste into my mouth is the casual mention that you basically slept with several different women for research purposes. This is due to a combination of the aforementioned cached thoughts, and... seriously, dude? I mean, are you down with animal testing? Because if you are that's cool, but... gosh. Seriously. It just bothers me and... I can't really be coherent here, it's a cached reaction but damn.

The only part I agree with is that you are not being coherent. Having sexual experiences for the sake of growth and experience is approximately what most people do throughout their teens as a part of natural human development. It is certainly not harmful to others, all else being equal.

For me "research purposes" implies something completely different from the "experiences for the sake of growth and experience" you describe. A lot of his terminology implied to me that he was using these fancy new techniques of his to get women to sleep with him on pretenses, some of which seemed to be false to me (e.x. claiming he has to go so he can get the woman interested in coffee later, etc).

But what REALLY puts a bad taste into my mouth is the casual mention that you basically slept with several different women for research purposes.

I would be interested to know why this comment leaves such a bad impression. Some people have casual flings primarily for pleasure. Some people have them to raise their self-esteem. lukeprog had them mostly for research purposes. Are any of these goals incompatible with the other person enjoying themselves?

Is your intuition that empirically, if people are pursuing casual flings for the conscious goal of research, then it is likely that they won't treat their partner in a beneficial way?

I have seen cases where this happens, but merely an experimental motivation isn't enough. I've seen some cases of people experimenting on others and being a jerk, but that's mainly because experimenting merely amplified some pre-existing negative traits, like lack of empathy, resentment of others, or a desire for revenge on other people.

Personally, I'm consciously trying to learn something from my interactions with everyone, all the time. I don't feel that this attitude is counter to recognizing their personhood, or that it entails viewing people as lab... (read more)

This is hysterical. :) Very entertainingly told, with excellent self-awareness.

What does my last name count as for purposes of determining which post to read? Clippy? Or Paperclips? (My Google handle is clippy.paperclips.)

I always assumed you were mononymous like Teller, in which case you'd just go with C for Clippy. (Or flip a coin.)

I think I've seen parts of this before on LW somewhere, but I don't remember where. V ibgrq va na hcjneq qverpgvba, if you want to screen out my contribution to the results.

I am impressed that you seem to have written a non-creepy post on essentially the same skillset as PUA.

Upvoting for being an interesting life-story that a good chunk of the LessWrong demographic can probably relate to, though I'm not sure I agree with all the conclusions you draw. I wouldn't mind seeing more posts in this vein from different perspectives.

I also like the idea of splitting up the two versions of the post, I don't know what it's for (I haven't read the other version), but it can be interesting to compare responses to the same story with different spins (though I'm not sure you'll get enough responses to have a sufficiently significant differen... (read more)

Upvoted for the first lesson.

The obvious fix for the gender-related drama these posts tend to cause, and the uncertainty caused by small smaples sizes, is for people interested in that kind of topics to co-write posts.

"Aha! It's not that women prefer jerks to nice guys, but they prefer confident, ambitious men to pushovers."

This whole chunk skeeves me out, since it seems to treat women as something "other" than men, all built to a specific template.

Politics, religion, math, and programming are basically never the right subject matter when flirting.

This also felt like an unsupported generalization. I think the post would benefit a lot if you framed these as "worked for me to accomplish X". i.e. "When trying to pick up attractive ... (read more)

This whole chunk skeeves me out, since it seems to treat women as something "other" than men, all built to a specific template.

But they are, on average, reliably different from average men in certain predictable ways.

And yes, it sucks for non-gender-typical women that the best set of priors that men can achieve fails to describe how those women actually work. But when you think about it, the situation is that both gender-atypical women and PUAs are languishing under the statistical tyranny of gender-typical women. Original

I don't know what your experience is mixing flirting with "Politics, religion, math, and programming" but given that these are all Far mode subjects and flirting is Near, mixing them seems likely to be on average sub-optimal. If you can think of a way of mixing the two besides puns I'd be grateful to hear it.

I'm skeeved exactly because it felt like an assertion that women are mythical "other" objects without actually providing any evidence that this is one of those "reliably different" situations. Men value confidence, notice clothing, and I'm pretty sure they're attracted to positive subjective experiences. I'll concede I have no clue about male vs female body language - maybe men are genuinely oblivious to it, but I doubt it. So unless there's some extremely shocking studies I'm not aware of, calling any of these "female" traits is bullshit. ---------------------------------------- And right here is why it skeeves me out: It treats women as a single-purpose object, and if you just have the right priors, you can do anything. The right priors for "casual sex with the hot women at the bar" are different from the priors you want to use when forming a healthy, long-term relationship. Lukeprog has here, a post about relationships. The priors for a relationship are not the priors for a pick up artist. Yet he diverges in to PUA territory, apparently without even realizing that he's made that mistake. There is not a Universally Compelling Pick-Up Line.

I didn't say there was a universally compelling pickup line. I didn't mention PUA.

I did link directly to two summaries of the most recent mainstream scientific research on intimate relationships and relationship initiation.

So unless there's some extremely shocking studies I'm not aware of, calling any of these "female" traits is bullshit.

I won't take the time to respond to all your concerns, but here's just a sampling from the book I linked to above. On women preferring confidence (p. 17):

What approaches work best as conversational openers? Much of the research examining the effectiveness of openers has focused on those deployed to initiate male–female encounters in meeting places. The best openers for men, this research shows, appear to be those that are not seen as “lines” by women: Confident, direct, or innocuous overtures are more likely to get a conversation off to a good start than are indirect, cute, or clever gambits (Clark et al., 1999; Cunningham, 1989; Kleinke & Dean, 1990).

On status (partially displayed by confidence), and ambition (p. 58):

Although [sexual strategies theory (SST), the mainstream view] views both sexes as having long-term and shor

... (read more)
I believe my point has been missed: Are you claiming that men don't enjoy "positive subjective experiences"? If yes, what studies and evidence. If no, why are you calling out women specifically as enjoying this, instead of just saying "people enjoy X in a mate"? ---------------------------------------- I'm not saying you're wrong about women liking these things. I'm not saying men and women are the same. I'm saying in this particular case, it seems like you've found a human universal, not a female universal, and thus it would make more sense to say "Aha! People like confidence in a mate!" Your first study addresses confidence, but not gender disparity. The other two suggest gender disparity, but not in any of the specific traits your post cited.

In my post I said:

Aha! It's not that women prefer jerks to nice guys, but they prefer confident, ambitious men to pushovers.

This doesn't suggest a gender disparity, merely that I now understood something about how the 'women love jerks' meme had been started, and what was actually going on.

But, as it turns out, there is a gender disparity here. Women place a higher premium on status and ambition than men do (see the studies cited in my comment above). Women also place a higher premium than men do on confidence. See here.

Next, I said:

Aha! Body language and fashion matter because they communicate large packets of information about me at light speed, and are harder to fake than words.

This suggests no gender disparity. It merely says that body language and fashion are powerful signaling tools, which they are.

Aha! Women are attracted to men with whom they have positive subjective experiences. That's why they like funny guys, for example!

You're right, this does imply a gender disparity that isn't clearly supported by any studies I know about. Correction accepted. Oops. Perhaps a better example would have been the importance of touching during relationship initiation - for bot... (read more)


Okay, I don't want to be excessively rude, but...

What the hell, Luke?!