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

by lukeprog18 min read5th Nov 20111554 comments


Relationships (Interpersonal)

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:

  • Asexuality. Asexuals don't experience sexual attraction. They comprise perhaps 1% of the population,1 and include notables like Paul Erdos, Morrissey, and Janeane Garofalo. There is a network (AVEN) for asexuality awareness and acceptance.
  • Celibacy. Celibates feel sexual attraction, but abstain from sex. Some choose to abstain for medical, financial, psychological, or philosophical reasons. Others choose celibacy so they have more time to achieve other goals, as I (Luke) did for a time. Others are involuntarily celibate; perhaps they can't find or attract suitable mates. This problem can often be solved by learning and practicing social skills.

One partner:

  • Monogamy. Having one sexual partner at a time is a standard cultural script, and may be over-used due to the status quo bias. Long-term monogamy should not be done on the pretense that attraction and arousal for one's partner won't fade. It will.2 Still, there may be many people for whom monogamy is optimal. 

Many partners:

  • Singlehood. Singlehood can be a good way to get to know yourself and experience a variety of short-term partners. About 78% of college students have had at least one 'one-night stand', and most such encounters were preceded by alcohol or drug use.3 Indeed, many young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4
  • Friendship 'with benefits'. Friends are often people you already enjoy and respect, and thus may also make excellent sexual partners. According to one study, 60% of undergraduates have been a 'friend with benefits' for someone at one time.5
  • Polyamory.6 In a polyamorous relationship, partners are clear about their freedom to pursue multiple partners. Couples communicate their boundaries and make agreements about what is and isn't allowed. Polyamory often requires partners to de-program jealousy. In my experience, polyamory is much more common in the rationality community than in the general population.

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:

  • Proximity and familiarity. Study after study shows that we tend to like those who live near us, partly due to availability,10 and partly because repeated exposure to almost anything increases liking.11 A Taiwanese man once demonstrated the power of proximity and repeated exposure when he wrote over 700 letters to his girlfriend, urging her to marry him. She married the mail carrier.12
  • Similarity. We tend to like people who are similar to us.13 We like people with faces similar to our own.14 We are even more likely to marry someone with a similar-sounding name.15 Similarity makes attraction endure longer.16 Also, similar people are more likely to react to events the same way, thus reducing the odds of conflict.17
  • Physical attractiveness. Both men and women prefer good-looking mates.18 Partly, this is because the halo effect: we automatically assume that more attractive people are also healthier, happier, more sensitive, more successful, and more socially skilled (but not necessarily more honest or compassionate).19 Some of these assumptions are correct: Attractive and well-dressed people are more likely to impress employers and succeed occupationally.20 But isn't beauty relative? Some standards of beauty vary from culture to culture, but many are universal.21 Men generally prefer women who exhibit signs of youth and fertility.22 Women generally prefer men who (1) display possession of abundant resources,23 (2) display high social status,24 (3) exhibit a 'manly' face (large jaw, thick eyebrows, visible beard stubble)25 and physique,26 and (4) are tall.27 Both genders generally prefer (1) agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion,28 (2) 'average' and symmetrical faces with features that are neither unusually small or large,29 (2) large smiles,30 (3) pupil dilation,31 and some other things (more on this later).
  • Liking others. Liking someone makes them more attracted to you.32
  • Arousing others. Whether aroused by fright, exercise, stand-up comedy, or erotica, we are more likely to be attracted to an attractive person when we are generally aroused than when we are not generally aroused.33 As David Myers writes, "Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder."34 This may explain why rollercoasters and horror movies are such a popular date night choice.

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




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).



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Individually very minor, petty reasons, befitting a very minor, petty action:

1) It bored me.

2) Your research skills are very impressive and I'd rather them be directed towards CEV or the like.

3) Ugh field concerning this site and sex/dating questions.

4) There's no puzzle to it; you're not illustrating any broader methodological point or coming to any new conclusions, just acting as a clearinghouse for dating advice.

5) "A Rational Approach to..."

Just to agree with the above, and expand my feelings:

I don't see a lot of new ideas here. It would surprise me if an average less wrong reader hadn't spent a little time researching this topic, and all of this is fairly mainstream information.

I have a very strong ugh field set up around instrumentally pursuing females. After a bad break up, I spent about 6 months learning PUA, I had quite good success (my physical appearance is not lacking), but found the whole thing to be so pathetically empty compared to previous "organic" relationship that I felt defeated even though I wasn't.

I realize that this can probably be accounted for, and note that it is one area that the PUA community seems to be lacking in. Lots of emotionally unfulfilling sex isn't optimal by a long shot, though it may be beneficial for a certain subset of individuals.

Anyways, one of the most important things I learned was to try and avoid too much theory, and break it down into individual actionable items. Given that with this topic especially, readers will likely come from all over the spectrum of possible skill levels, that might be a hard thing to do. But perhaps behavioral exercises... links to resources and specific suggestions for conversation, fashion, body language.

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.

In general I'm concerned with the way the community is headed - I joined for the philosophy, I'm less interested in reading about analytic people's approaches to basic social interaction. Some days I feel like this site has gone from Less Wrong to Wrong Planet.

So I guess I'm downvoting as a political stance, rather than anything to do with the quality of your writing. Sorry, I'm afraid that's not helpful.

I'd be concerned if the community failed to explore these sort of topics.

Mere "philosophy" would be kind of empty. Once the idea of instrumental rationality was held up, the idea that rationalists should win, then it's either start trying to apply it to real problems, or concede that we didn't really mean it and that we just want to talk about stuff that makes us sound intelligent and sophisticated. That "applied rationality" features prominently here adds enormously to the credibility of LW and especially of the authors who have something to say about it, at least in my eyes.

Perhaps the problem is whether this generates the perception of "self-help" as opposed to "becoming awesome". The former kinda smacks of low status and might turn some people off, while impressive success is obviously not a problem. Perhaps it's a presentation issue (I suck at PR so I can't judge), or perhaps we just haven't amassed a sufficient wealth of evidence of awesomeness to overcome the negative connotations.

[-][anonymous]9y 19

I second this position. Despite the fact that I will probably benefit from these self-help kinds of posts, I'm nonetheless more interested in posts about creating new rationality skills and dissolving philosophical dilemmas.

Also, affixing the word "rational" to everything is mildly grating.

I would also prefer more quality philosophy like the original sequences, but I prefer quality posts about relationships to low-quality posts about philosophy that present rambling thoughts or stuff that's already been covered to death.

7Jayson_Virissimo9yI joined for the same reason, but since I maintain a Stoic [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/] stance I'm actually very comfortable with my philosophy impinging on my practical considerations. Philosophy need not be impractical (although I agree that some things, like "rational gift buying for persons 8 or under", are too disconnected from the philosophy espoused here that it would be best we didn't encourage those kinds of posts).

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.

Oops fixed thanks.

I should just have my own shortcut for that. OFT or something. :)

[-][anonymous]9y 26

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.

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.

5Emile9yVery plausible, similar things could be said of racist jokes. I can't think of a negative interpretation of blonde jokes though.

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.

[-][anonymous]9y 25

Many modern PC beliefs about women first showed up in Victorian times, which beliefs were I to mention them would be get me as down voted now as much as they would get a Victorian gentlemen in trouble.

Women's motives are generally purer than men's. Women are much more often good mothers than men are good fathers. Women are nearly always more interested in committed relationships than just sex with the most attractive male. Women should be held much less accountable for their criminal and unscrupulous actions than men. Women are always the victims never the abusers. Women do not lie about rape. Women are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to virtuous men (noticeable echo's of Calvinism in this). A woman's complaints and grievances are generally reasonable, while a man's are generally not. Women's sexual instincts are benign to society while men's sexual instincts are malign. Women are more altruistic and fair than men. ect.

Most of this is obviously bunk and most of this is also obviously implicitly accepted though it may be denied.

And Sam, I don't think I will get down voted for stating this.

8[anonymous]9yIn practice however if I wasn't very careful when challenging a argument that implicitly rested on two or more of the above as an axiom I might get down voted on LW (but less so than many other places).

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?

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 ... (read more)

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.

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.

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 wou... (read more)

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
... (read more)
4John_D8yI 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 [http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-dark-triad-test-1]

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.

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.

5NancyLebovitz9yI 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.

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.

7NancyLebovitz9yHas 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.

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.

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. :)

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'.

7wedrifid9yAnd it is that easy. Just like becoming an engineer is as easy as "getting a degree and being better at math".
5Eugine_Nier9yThere'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.
8FiftyTwo9yI suspect a large number of upvotes were purely for this line. I approve.

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 :(

[-][anonymous]9y 18

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).

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.

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.

7DoubleReed9yThat reminds me of that game that girls sometimes play "Given three choices of guys, which would you sleep with, date, or marry?"
8Insert_Idionym_Here9yGuys play it too.

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.

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 th... (read more)

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 overlap... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 13

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.

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.

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.

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

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

(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.

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.

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.

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.

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?
8wedrifid9yReally? 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.
6HughRistik9yI 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."

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.

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.

7lionhearted9yWhoa. 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.

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

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.

6Zack_M_Davis9yConsider item g in the first chart on page 10 of "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making [http://psych.fullerton.edu/mbirnbaum/psych466/articles/Frederick_CRT_2005.pdf]" 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.
9[anonymous]9yDoes Chapter “You Just Ask Them” in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman count as academic research? :-)
7[anonymous]9yFrom what I understand Dark triad [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad] traits have been shown to be sexually attractive. Edit: Damn you gwern! [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/55zw] :)
6adamisom9yTo 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.

You write as if there is some particular horrible truth that I'd like to be able to shout from the rooftops but I'm afraid to do so. There's nothing like that. (Not about this topic, anyway.)

What does exist, however, is that real, no-nonsense advice about this topic breaks the social norms of polite discourse and offends various categories of people. ("Offends" in the sense that it lowers their status in a way that, according to the present mainstream social norms, constitutes a legitimate grievance.) This leads straight to at least three possible failure modes: (1) the discourse breaks down and turns into a quarrel over the alleged offenses, (2) the discourse turns into a pseudo-rational discussion that incorporates heavy biases that are necessary to steer it away from the unacceptable territory, or (3) the discourse accurately converges onto the correct but offensive ideas, but makes the forum look to the outsiders like a low-status breeding ground for offensive and evil ideas.

Concrete examples are easy to think of even without getting into the traditionally controversial PUA stuff. For example, one sort of advice I wish my younger self had followed is about what sorts... (read more)

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.

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.

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 ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 19

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.

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 ind... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 24

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

... (read more)

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... (read more)

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.

7[anonymous]9y"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.

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.

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?

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.

9Prismattic9yI always appreciate when someone else comes along and explains my position better than I did, so thanks.

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.

7steven04619yIf 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.
8Wei_Dai9yWhy not publish the "unsafe" arguments under a pseudonym (or an alternate pseudonym if your main identity is already a pseudonym)?
8steven04619yTo 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.
7Wei_Dai9yI 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 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.
7Vladimir_M9yI second this question.
5dlthomas9yTrying 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.
9[anonymous]9yYes, why should the heretic have the right to remain silent! If he speaks truth the good doctors of the holy mother church will surely update their theological arguments accordingly and if not, well why is he risking his immortal soul by relying only on his feeble and fallible mind?
9Vladimir_M9ySo 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?

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.

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.

8pedanterrific9yI'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.
6Vaniver9yThe most recent example would be my comment that everyone becoming bisexual might lead to a net social loss [http://lesswrong.com/lw/88b/disability_culture_meets_the_transhumanist/54ty], 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l/closet_survey_1/30hv] 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.)
5thomblake9yIn 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.

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

It sounds, then, as though you should be talking to the people punishing norm violations, not to the people responding rationally to such punishment.

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?

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 t... (read more)

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 ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 14

(And thus even if it doesn't break down the discourse here, it would make the forum look bad to the outside world.)


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!

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.

[-][anonymous]9y 16

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.

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.

8Swimmer9638yCould 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.
8[anonymous]9ySam dosen't do that. Sam trolls by stating his opinions fully. He then refuses to provide evidence. 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. 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. 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? 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.
6ArisKatsaris9yI'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. 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).
5[anonymous]9yHe really shouldn't have done that.
5Nisan9yI 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.

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.

8Nisan9yAh, 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.
[-][anonymous]9y 11

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.;) )

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.

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.

6ArisKatsaris9ySame capacity for offensiveness, perhaps -- in that some overly defensive people will surely choose to feel attacked ("be offended") just as much by either question. But same average offensiveness? I seriously doubt it. Signalling is important. "Offensiveness" functions by signalling you an enemy. If you signal strongly enough that your question is about a desire to understand neurobiological causes of a statistical phenomenon, not about an attempt to attack groups of people, fewer people will feel attacked. Now some people will surely argue that people just "ought grow tougher skins" instead. But that's an "ought"-argument, and I'm referring to an "is"-question, which choice of words and sentences leads to a better discussion.
6Anatoly_Vorobey9yYour question rests on an assumption that obscurantism must decrease information, but I see that assumption as incorrect. In fact, under this assumption I should never regard anything said to me as obscurantist, as it should never decrease the amount of information available to me. Wikipedia defines "obscurantism" as "the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known", and it seems to fit the bill. Of course, it may be useful or beneficial species of obscurantism, though I agree with Prismatic that it is not. The situation as you describe it seems pre-biased by postulating that the mainstream view is dubious. This may be obvious to you, but to me, the person who's faced with the "hints" as described, it is not - if it were, I shouldn't need the hints to begin with. I think it's incorrect to condition on the dubiousness of the mainstream view. If I am to decide on how to best to take into account hints of that nature, the possibility that the mainstream view is correct after all, and the hint entirely specious, should not be disregarded. In fact, in real-life situations where such hints are offered, this may be the more frequent scenario. The hint that says "this view is incorrect, but I will not explain why, for doing that will violate a social norm" is annoying and distracting; it engages my attention, bringing no real evidence for its claims. Because it posits a mystery, I'm likely to err on the side of giving it more attention than it deserves. The benefit is that it may cause me to investigate the view more thoroughly than I would otherwise have, and realize it is incorrect. If I precommit to ignoring such signals, I will miss some chances of that, and I will also avoid giving my attention, and more closely investigating, all those views that are correct after all, and where the signal was specious. The bargain may well be worth it.
5[anonymous]9yWhat is obscurantist exactly? What I said is perfectly clear, if you look at the context of the two preceding posts. No particular claim about male-female relations was intended (although if you want to know I endorse Roissy's view [http://heartiste.wordpress.com] of male-female relations, if not his value-set); I was objecting to the idea that "mindkilling" should be redefined as "saying things likely to offend mainstream sensibilities". Mindkilling [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller] refers to the effect of political content on human reasoning powers in general, and the suggested redefinition struck me as Orwellian.
7[anonymous]9yAn acknowledgement that something can't be said because of decency implies that practical and true things could be said in the absence of decency. This is indeed a real concern. But I would say that a sentence like : Would have a positive effect on Lesswrong.
[-][anonymous]9y 32

this is the closest I can go without touching mindkillers

The point I was making is that "mindkillers", under its original definition, refers to political content in general. If someone writes about male-female relations and excludes "politically offensive" material, this does not mean that their article has no political content. It just means that it is the mainstream political line!

In the Soviet Union, Mendelism might have been considered indecent. On the Soviet rationalist forum, Lysenkoist articles might have a caveat attached that political indecency is omitted. Nonetheless it is hardly fair to say that the Mendelism is a mindkiller and Lysenkoism is not in this context - the label "mindkilling" properly applies to the subject of heredity in general, given that it is politically controversial in this scenario.

Likewise if there is political sensitivity involved in the subject of male-female relations, then the subject in general is a mindkiller. The mainstream line is no less "mindkilling" than the dissenting position - it just happens to enjoy hegemony.

The distinction is that mindkilling argument can be avoided if dissent from the mai... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 14

mindkilling is a property of ideologically controversial subjects in general.

Ah I finally clearly see your objection now. I misused the term "mindkiller" in a way that suggested that the "indecent" explanation was the mindkilling one rather than the field or subject itself.

If mindkilling is subtly redefined to mean dissent, people might grow to believe that it is dissent that is the mindkiller, not subjects of political controversy in general, and they should therefore steer clear of it.

Indeed something like this could happen if people where not careful with the usage.

Yes you are right, a different formulation needs to be found otherwise my arguments for why such a situation might be better than pure taboo is mostly invalid in the long run.

I wanted something like: "This is as far as I will go in this contribution on the subject on LessWrong for the sake of the community, but it is by no means the full rationalist approach, if anyone wants to discuss this in private or research it on their own and I would in fact encourage this/there is nothing wrong with that. This subject is pretty mindkilling and so these precautions are needed."

Further comments by you may be deleted without warning or notice. Please leave Less Wrong.

Please go away. You've earned yourself -262 Karma points in the last 30 days; you should take the hint.

(Relevant post.)

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?

Your point about agreeableness is well taken, so I looked up his reference, Figueredo et al. (2006).

First, keep in mind he's using agreeableness in the OCEAN sense, not in the sense of "a person who always agrees to everything". So it's not diametrically opposed to PUA belief, although I agree there's still a problem that has to be explained.

That brings us to the reference. Figueredo's study itself found no impact of agreeableness, but in the introduction, it cites eight previous studies that it said found "extraversion, openness, and agreeableness are reliably correlated with mating success". I looked up one of these studies, and it was on the success of long-term marital relationships, which is a whole different kettle of fish than the PUA's usual focus. So depending on the other seven studies I didn't have the energy to look up, they could both be right. It would have been nice if Luke had qualified that in his post, but really the fault was on Figueredo and not him.

Other than that, I would honestly like to hear what advice of Luke's you consider misleading. Again aside from the "Mean and Variance" section, it all seems pretty well referenced and backed up.

I downvoted for several reasons.

  1. The post is long, yet there isn't much of value here, just a lot of things that are obvious (e.g. goth dress might help success with goths, here is a graph to demonstrate that already totally intuitive bit of info). People on LW like to see obvious things restated in formal ways, with graphs and footnotes. This feels like accessing secret knowledge via x-rationalist super powers. But it isn't. It isn't even standard learning. I see this kind of thing a lot on LW.
  2. Relationship advice is outside of the LW comparative advantage (and I suspect absolute advantage as well).
  3. I get the feeling this is about to turn into a commercial for polyamory, and I don't want that to happen. There have now been several posts devoted to advocating polyamory as a "rational" relationship style. To me this feels a lot like hearing people talking about creating "rationally-planned" utopian communes. (It's no coincidence that polyamory and utopian socialism have so often been found together, from the early Christian Adamites, to the Radical Swedenborgians, to the counterculture hippies in the 1970s.) It's depressing and non-productive to see people falling into the same traps over and over.

This comment might not be popular on a quick knee-jerk level, but it's worth getting out there for accuracy.

Under "Many partners" you've got Singlehood, Friendship 'with benefits', Polyamory.

You're missing one of the most common historical kinds of relationships - monogamous commitment from woman to man, man taking care of multiple households in a committed way.

The first Tokugawa Shogun, for instance -


16 children with 11 wives and concubines.

King Ts'ao Ts'ao of Wei -


Muhammad -


It's not a Western tradition. The West has a strong romantic/platonic love ideal, that moves into monogamy under Christianity, and some non-monogamy later built on some mix of liberalism, enlightenment values, and humanism.

But still, it's been a very common family/dating/relationship through history. It still persists, though it doesn't get much media coverage.

Current Sheik of Dubai -


Current Prime Minister of Italy -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Be... (read more)

8JoachimSchipper9yHonest question: has this ever been common? All the cases you list are "king" of their time and place. I thought you were going to point out that adultery was the classical way of having multiple partners...


Indeed, Siberia today is suffering such an acute “man shortage” (due in part to massive rates of alcoholism) that both men and women have lobbied the Russian parliament to legalize polygamy. In 2009, The Guardian cited Russian politicians’ claims that polygamy would provide husbands for “10 million lonely women.” In endorsing polygamy, these women, particularly those in remote rural areas without running water, may be less concerned with loneliness than with something more pragmatic: help with the chores. Caroline Humphrey, a Cambridge University anthropologist who has studied the region, said women supporters believed the legalization of polygamy would be a “godsend,” giving them “rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”

5lix9yI am told this relationship style (polygynous with multiple households) is common in Latin America, and I do know several males there who have engaged in it. These males are middle-class - doctors and the like. Polygyny also occurs in other Western cultures, although more covertly, in the form of the prestigious man and his "bit on the side" (who is usually non-reproductive, monogamous and hoping to oust the current alpha female - in the absence of contraception this would probably end up with multiple households). So I'm inclined to think it happens whenever there are massive power inequalities both between males (such that a woman is better off with a fraction of the resources of a wealthy man than with all the resources of a poor man) - and between males and females (such that wealthy men are better off "collecting" multiple poor women than marrying one wealthy one).
5dbaupp9yI don't think "taking care" is always the best description, especially in the case of Berlusconi, for example.

I quite liked the post, I only have one niggle:

"For example, in heterosexual dating 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."

this is an extremely US-centric view of dating culture.

In Aus, women do not expect men to pay for dates, and while the bias is still weighted towards the men being more likely to ask woman out or to initiate sexual advancement... it's not the expectation.

It's only one data point, but most of my BFs I pursued, rather than the other way around - and most of my girl-friends have similar stories.

I would presume that most papers will include a number of references to sources that the authors have only briefly skimmed, only read the abstract, or not actually read at all.

I saw an article somewhere (I wish I'd remembere where) about a widely-read paper making a mistake when it cited one of its sources, claiming that the source said something which it didn't. A number of later papers by other authors then repeated this mistaken claim, presumably because their authors didn't bother checking whether the prestigious paper was correct in its cite.

I'm about .90 confident that Luke hasn't actually read all of his cites in entirety.

I'm about .90 confident that Luke hasn't actually read all of his cites in entirety.

Correct. You win some Bayes points.

7Plasmon9y"source X claims/proves statement Y" - the author should have read source X carefully "For general background information on subject A, see e.g. source B" - the author tries to make the paper more accessible to people from other fields by providing some context, but they do not need to have read source B in detail. Not reading all of your sources is not necessarily evil
6RichardKennaway9yI think it is not rare for errors in citing to be repeated because no-one bothers to go back to the original source. Not reading the paper at all can be dangerous. I once read a paper in which the authors had unwittingly rediscovered, but in inferior form, mathematical results that were already proved in one of the papers they cited. Fortunately for the authors, I was refereeing their paper, and had read the paper they cited, so I was able to save them the embarrassment of publication.
[-][anonymous]9y 16

The plans for the Death Ray are already out there. The two possible discussions are, first, whether it's ethical to kill someone with a Death Ray.

The second discussion asks whether the effectiveness of the Death Ray (compared to just punching someone) can be attributed to the placebo effect. Or maybe the Death Ray only works on the sort of people that evil villains want to kill, but when it comes time to protagonists, our opponents are mostly invulnerable to Death Rays. It's also possible that the Death Ray doesn't really work better than chance, but it gives villains the confidence to step up and shoot someone who's about to have a heart attack, anyway. Then again, maybe a lot of people prefer to be shot with Death Rays and it's hypocritical to say that the tried-and-true method of punching someone to death is better just because it doesn't involve any mechanical devices...

We've hit over 800 comments. Is it time for a new thread?

Maybe even one with a new topic? ;)

I'm not sure how much new material you cover.

New to Less Wrong? Almost all of it.

New to the scientific community? Almost none of it.

Those are the kinds of posts I generally try to write.

This doesn't mark it as a natural explanation. By the same pattern, I don't have a tail because I'm not a kangaroo.

8thomblake9yBut in fact, you don't have a tail because you're not a kangaroo. And if we were all fairly familiar with kangaroos and thought they were fairly analogous to Vladimir_Nesovs, then we would make note of the distinction.

What he advocates seems so hollow and dishonest

Be specific. Taboo "hollow". Taboo "dishonest".

The important information from that website, and from PUA materials in general, is that (heterosexual) women have sexual preferences, too. Those preferences were shaped by evolution. The preferred traits would statistically increase reproductive success in ancient environment (which is not necessarily true today).

This should not be a surprise, unless you believe that men are beasts, but women are pure angelic souls that only happen to have a body. (Problem is, that idea is implicitly present in our culture. That does not make it true.) However, many (heterosexual) men either don't understand women's preferences, or keep forgetting; simply because those are not their preferences.

Unlike men's preferences, which are mostly about the shape of the body, women's preferences are more behavior-based. This is a problem, because a man, despite once having been selected by a women, can simply forget to display the same behavior that made him attractive to her. He will not notice that he is doing something wrong! She will notice that something is wrong (she feels less attracted)... (read more)

Translation into usual Less Wrong language:

Men and women all have elephants and riders. While female riders are not intrinsically different from male riders, female elephants have lots of differences to male elephants, which is expected if the elephant is the animal hardware/operating system that we are run on.

Therefore, just as to understand and be successful in your own decision you must be aware of your biases and cognitive quirks, to successfully interact with others you must be aware of theirs. Most biases are shared across the human population, but sexual partner preferences are obviously not. Also, elephants can't be reasoned with: you correct elephant biases by tricking the elephant. You don't adjust well for the priming effect by trying to out-reason your instincts. You adjust for the priming effect by making sure you're primed correctly for achieving your aims.

It's important therefore to distinguish between tricking the elephant and tricking the rider. Tricking the rider is usually considered unethical, but tricking the elephant can be a case of correcting someone else's biases for them: the wife thinks (rider, or attachment part of elephant + rationalisation) she should... (read more)

7wedrifid9yMy wife really didn't appreciate this when I explained it to her. Can't work out what went wrong in that conversation...
4DaFranker9yBeisutsukai unlock Option III at level 25: Get the rider to look down and see the elephant, craft reins for the elephant, and cooperate to steer the elephant. Also, at level 45, they unlock the legendary Option IV (both riders must have this ability to use successfully): Both riders perform a combo-takedown on the elephants and develop low-maintenance long-term elephant-control plans that guarantees self-perpetuating elephant attraction and automatic steering (e.g. by training the elephants to follow the road/eachother on their own without further direction). Incidentally, all Beisutsukai unlock Option 0 at level 5: Find a mate that already knows how to ride the elephant in the first place.
5wedrifid9yIndeed, it is pseudo-endocrinology instead. (I usually take these with the same grain of alt I take the other 'layman science' explanations.)

I would like to propose that any post immediately become locked once its number of comments reaches 1337.

Having read every single one of the 1337 comments, I have concluded that there is nothing to be gained from any further comments that might be added, and that the above solution should be applied immediately so as not to waste anyone else's time or karma.

8lukeprog9yOn December 7th, your prediction was falsified [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/5eov].

Risky: If we're going to discuss "how to stick your dick in people", which is an important subtopic of PUA, and completely ignore ethics, we're going to discuss rape.

If the subject was "How to stick your dick in people" then rape would come into it. But it isn't. If you are going to rape people then you don't need PUA. It'd be kind of redundant. That this kind of disingenuous argument is tolerated in this context (parent was +1 when I encountered it, not -10) is why I am not against tabooing all related subject matter unilaterally. If people can get away with this something is wrong.

Potentially risky: A core part of PUA is creating and signalling high status. This is often done by lowering one's opinion of women. While LWers are unlikely to start endorsing the verbal belief that women who have sex on the first date are worthless

What on earth are you talking about? That's approximately the opposite of the kind of belief that is useful for a PUA. Which illustrates the problem with having the majority of any discussion dominated by 'ethics'. It is roughly speaking an excuse for people who are completely ill informed to throw opinions around that are based on an almost entirely fictional reality.

Seriously, stop feeding the troll. I am downvoting replies to sam0345's comments, and encourage others to do so as well.

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning

They write stuff on their version of ArXiv (called pick-up forums) then they go out and try it, and if it works repeatably it is incorporated into PU-lore.

What definition of science did you have in mind that this doesn't fit?

There are a significant number of methodological problems with their evidence-gathering.

PUAs don't change just one variable at a time, nor do they keep strict track of what they change and when so they can do a multivariate regression analysis. Instead they change lots of variables at once. A PUA would advocate that a "beta" change their clothes, scent, social environment(s), social signalling strategies and so forth all at once and see if their sexual success rate changed. However if this works you don't know which changes did what.

The people doing the observation are the same people conducting the experiment which is obviously incompatible with proper blinding.

The people reporting the data stand to gain social status in the PUA hierarchy if they report success, and hence have an incentive to misreport their actual data. When a PUA reports that they successfully obtained coitus on one out of six attempts using a given methodology it is reasonable to suspect that some such reports come from people who actually took sixteen attempts, or from people who failed to obtain coitus given sixteen attempts and went home to angrily masturbate and then post on a PUA forum that they ... (read more)

7steven04619yYou're assuming that there's no feedback other than a single yes/no bit per approach.
[-][anonymous]9y 15

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?

Then I think you might benefit from improving your social skills after all.

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.

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

My own pet hypothesis is that after blogs became a popular and mainstream phenomenon sometime around the early-to-mid-oughts, there was a huge outburst of enthusiasm by a lot of smart contrarians with interesting ideas, who though this would be a new medium capable of breaking the monopoly on significant and respectable public discourse held by the mainstream media and academia. This enthusiasm was naive and misguided for a number of reasons that now seem obvious in retrospect, and faced with reality it petered out fairly quickly. But while it lasted, it resulted in some very interesting output.

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 averag... (read more)

If you find that "Rational" belongs at the beginning of most posts, then it can go entirely unsaid.

Much like as I realized just recently, we really don't need a symbol for "such that" in ∃x(Px)

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.

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.)

Having certain topics discussed too openly on Lesswrong could result in several unfortunate things happening.

  1. It could make certain potential rationalists be deterred from participating in the community.

  2. It could attract the attention of certain contrarians who are less-than-rational and, for various reasons, should not necessarily be considered potential rationalists.

  3. Most importantly, from the standpoint of the Singularity Institute (or, at least, what I think is its standpoint), it could increase the probability of human extinction by harming the SI's reputation.

5[anonymous]9yMm, those reasons do make some sense. I think as far as 1 goes, it seems to me like that's already happening -- I know a few people not on this site (who discovered it independently of myself, none of whom know each other), and many more I've encountered about online, who explicitly view LW as essentially compromised by 2, hence they have no interest in being here. YMMV how much those people are reachable or desireable, of course, but it's difficult for me to disagree with their basic perception that this place is already full of contrarian-cluster types who're intellectuals but still quite biased. I also wonder about signalling now, re: "less-than-rational" -- given what I understand of rationality as it's described and the reasons humans don't tend to display that trait most of the time, it seems like it's only asymptotically-reachable -- you can reduce the frequency of incorrect decisions and amend certain biases in short or long-term ways, but you probably can't get rid of it altogether. Who here is truly "rational?" Even Eliezer Yudkowsky still has his own biases -- the most you can hope for is, well, "less wrong", and that is work to achieve. So assuming (big assumption here!) that I understand the about rationality and how LW views it, and why it's desireable and how much realistically a human being can self-optimize for that trait, it seems like "less than rational" should probably be avoided. Aren't we all? Aren't we all going to be until such time as we come up with some kind of game-breaking thing that allows a person to really just run rationality full-time if that's what they want?
[-][anonymous]9y 13

(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.

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 ... (read more)

6lessdazed9yLet's link to it again: Paul Grahm's What You Can't Say [http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html].
6ArisKatsaris9yCannibalism. 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)

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!

8Emile9yAlso: pedophilia; the Idea that the Chinese government system (technocratic dictatorship) is better (in terms of outcomes) than the US Government system.

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.

5Prismattic9yTo 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.
5Atelos9yhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia] or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia] depending on which stage of adolescence you're talking about.

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".

9Emile9yNo 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).

This guy is a hero. Okay, not a very effective hero, but still.

6TheOtherDave9yUnsurprisingly indeed. Still, somebody has to be first, and I admire his willingness to do so.
5Vaniver9yThis 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.
5steven04619yIt 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?

Eh? That term means "cat" to me.

EDIT: In fact, wedrifid's meaning has a different etymology from either yours or mine.

5Prismattic9yTerms meaning cat have been slang for the female genitalia in more than one language, or so The Great Cat Massacre [http://www.amazon.com/Great-Cat-Massacre-Episodes-Cultural/dp/0394729277] claims about "le chatte" in French, at any rate..
5JoshuaZ9yHuh. 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.
9Oligopsony9yAnd at no niggardly pace, either.
6dlthomas9yWhile 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.

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."

NOT discussing the moral implications here, but I saw this study and found it relevant. One of the arguments re: PUA is that there have been no scientific studies as to whether it works or not. Apparently, that isnt true. Here is a link to an article about a study that shows that a light non-sexual touch (what the PUA folks would call "kino") ups the chances that a woman will give you her phone number.

The relevant part is #7 "Touch for a Date". Excerpt:

Perhaps more surprisingly women also responded well to a light touch on the arm when being asked for their phone number by a man in the street (Gueguen, 2007). This may be because women associated a light 1 or 2-second touch with greater dominance. (Bear in mind, though, that this research was in France again!)

I can't access the full text of the actual study, but maybe some of the university students here can read and summarize.

By giving us no reason to think that you're capable of non-motivated cognition.

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.

9dlthomas9yWhen 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.

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.

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.

9TheOtherDave9yModulo 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.

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?

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.)

For rationality's sake, people.

I think you probably should have used the conditional: "would make me want to slap you".

[-][anonymous]9y 10

Probably, but then I would have missed out on the surreal experience of getting jumped all over for admitting that I am offended by a statement that was intended as an example of something offensive, in a thread about how impossible it is to have a conversation about these things without getting jumped all over. It's been great so far!

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.

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.

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.

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 sta... (read more)

5lessdazed9yI 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". 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 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.
5steven04619yWhat'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. 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.
6HughRistik9yI have appreciated your non-contentious handling of these subjects, both here and elsewhere.

"Indeed, most young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4"

Can you provide more back up on the "most" here? I tried to find more information, and while I could only locate reviews of the Bogle book online, none of them even mentioned any numbers. However they did make it sound like Bogle did not get a representative sample of "young people today." If there is not sufficient empirical back up to say " most," you might instead say "many" or "a growing portion."

I suppose that this misconception might be present in cultures where women are considered little more than chattel, but if you live in a culture where women freely choose their partners, you would have to be stupid or delusional to think they don't have sexual preferences.

The idea of individual female sexual preferences is OK, as long as they remain mysterious.

The outrage starts at the moment when someone suggests that they are statistically predictable, and gives specific examples. This is quickly labeled as "offensive to women". And in some sense, the label is correct -- being unpredictable is higher status than being predictable. On the other hand, there is no harm in saying that male sexual preferences are statistically predictable.

I suggest a thought experiment -- imagine starting a discussion in LW Open Thread about which female sexual preferences are most frequent, and what is the easiest way to trigger them. Then, watch the downvotes and offended complaints. (This is just a thought experiment, don't do it really.) The topic is probably instrumentally important to majority of LW readers, yet it will never get the same space as e.g. a rational toothpaste choice. So there is some kind of a taboo, isn't it?

4V_V9yI'm under the impression that hypergamy is common knowledge, but I suppose that it may be politically incorrect to discuss it in public in certain subcultures. Other aspects of female sexual preferences, like social intelligence, athletic physique, masculine facial bone structure, deep voice, etc. are also well known and not so controversial to discuss.

You may consider offering money in exchange for good feedback. A while ago, I agreed to pay a friend of mine $5 per individual piece of feedback that I judged to be sufficiently valuable. I learned a lot about myself as a result.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

(..., but nagging too much will make people so desperate to be left alone they may well agree to sex)

I have a very hard time imagining this working. Women and men of high social status have very effective ways of getting rid of people that fall short of sex. Also constant "nagging" signals horrible things about you in pure fitness terms, it much reduces one's attractiveness, I can't see why this would be rewarded with sex.

Sex with a woman might happen in spite of nagging, not because of it.

You make a very good point here. But you see, women don't find men who try to be nice to them attractive. They call it "clingy", "creepy" behavior. Human male-female interaction is actually a signalling game, where the man being nice simply sends a signal of weakness. Women are genetically programmed to only let alpha sperm in, and the alpha is not a character who goes around being nice to strangers.

Oversimplified to the extent that it is basically not true.

I think the most important question is "Is it ethical to obtain sex by deliberately faking social signals, given what we know of the consequences for both parties of this behaviour?".

"Deliberately faking social signals"? But, but, that barely makes any sense. They are signals. You give the best ones you can. Everybody else knows that you are trying to give the best signals that you can and so can make conclusions about your ability to send signals and also what other signals you will most likely give to them and others in the future. That is more or less what socializing is. I suppose blatant lies in a context where lying isn't appropriate and elaborate creation of false high status identities could be qualify - but in those case I would probably use a more specific description.

A close second would be "Is it ethical to engage in dominance-seeking behaviour in a romantic relationship?".

A third would be "could the majority of humans have a romantic relationship without dominance-seeking behavior?" and the fourth : "would most people find romantic relationships anywhere near as satisfying without dominance-seeking behavior?" (My money is on the "No"s.)

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.

Well, on the one hand, Vladimir_M believes that his beliefs are so heretical that they can cause society -- any society, if I understand him correctly -- to turn against him in a really intense way.

Where on Earth did you read anything like that anywhere in my comments? Please provide a citation. (Which you should be able to do if you assert it as a known fact that person X believes Y.)

This, by the way, is another way in which expressing opinions about controversial and charged topics can be more dangerous than one might assume. Already in the second- or third-hand retelling, your opinion is not at all unlikely to be distorted and amplified into a caricatured soundbite that sounds far more crude and awful than anything you ever meant to say or actually said. If such things happen even on the "meta" level, what can one expect to happen when concrete topics are broached?

There's no such thing as a hate-speech basilisk! Don't be sill-



This is starting to remind me of what happened to nutritional advice in the 1980s:

In nutrition "complex carbohydrates good! fats bad!" was widely promulgated

In dating "niceness/agreeableness good! alpha behavior bad!" was widely promulgated

in about the same time frame - and looks like it was comparably bad advice...

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning

Not something you have shown (or something that appears remotely credible).

and their attitudes incompatible with maximising global utility for all sentient stakeholders,

Not much better and also not a particularly good reason to exclude an information source from an analysis. (An example of a good reason would be "people say a bunch of prejudicial nonsense for all sorts of reasons and everybody concerned ends up finding it really, really annoying").

Lukeprog, you have produced exactly that which we have been warned against: an article and a paradigm which has all the appearances and dressings of rationality (lots of citations, links to articles on decision theory, rationalist lingo), but which spectacularly fails to actually pursue the truth.

Vladimir_M puts it better than I could:

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.....

he continues:

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-sta

... (read more)

Thank you for the positive mention, but I'm afraid I disagree with your model of me. Luke is a far braver man than I to even enter this minefield; I won't condemn him for not dancing a merry jig on top of it too.

Luke originally tried to write an article referring to PUA. People told him this was controversial, not just among ignorant people but among long-time readers of this site, that it had always led to unpleasant flame wars in the past, and that it was making us look bad "abroad".

Now he seems to be writing more or less the same thing, but communicating it in a less offensive way. I don't fault him for leaving anything out yet because it's only been one post in a series. I don't think anything he wrote is actually false (well, I have issues with the 'Mean and Variance' section, but he retracted the meat of that). And I think he made the right decision in trying to pitch it to a wider audience.

Luke is a far braver man than I to even enter this minefield; I won't condemn him for not dancing a merry jig on top of it too.

He's not entering a minefield so much as dragging it back to his village.

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.

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?

There are different degrees of severity. Being perceived as weird in a nerdy way is low-status, but it's nothing compared to being perceived as harboring fundamentally evil views. Most notably, the former sort of low status isn't infectious; you can associate with weird nerdy people without any consequence for the other aspects of your life. Not so when it comes to associating with the latter sort of people.

That's because people of mixed European and African ancestry are called "black".

[-][anonymous]9y 13

And upper class people of European and native American ancestry are called "white" in many places in Latin America.

The majority and minority group, by definition are called different if they consider themselves different, otherwise there is no minority.

But consider the toy model of a society made up 90% of group C and 10% of group D. There is no discrimination, no class differences, no differential birth rates, no selection pressures, no gene expression complications, no differences in cultural norms. I don't know why in the world they call themselves C and D then or why any researcher would divide them into two groups for the purposes of a study, but lets say for the sake of argument they do.

Lets say you have X generations later, purely from a genetic perspective a 80% group C, 5% group D and 15% hybrid CD. Lets say you have x+n generations after 60% group C and 40% group CD.

Regardless of whether Hybrid group CD identifies as "C" or as "D", biologically speaking the minority population is the one that hybridised, perhaps even vanished if they where tiny enough.

7DoubleReed9yThe point is the minority population becomes the hybrid, and the majority population changes relatively less.
[-][anonymous]9y 11

Don't want to be rude, but are you American?

Its always fascinating to me how American minds rush so quickly to race with any mention of appearance (and indeed often any topic whatsoever), from the outside it seems like a society wide obsession.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

While xenophobia and racism is so much of a part of history and so many cultures, why is all this mixing happening if we are attracted to similar people?

This is really sloppy thinking.

Suppose I on average found category X of dissimilar people, less attractive because they are different, this would not mean I would find every member less attractive than average.

In fact I'll go a step further, while I may find category X on average less attractive because they are different (which is a penalty groups A, B, C, D, ... share), they may more commonly have a specific trait or set of traits (which A, B, C, D may not share) that makes them on average more attractive to me.

Also historically, people really haven't been that picky, its amazing to what extent we chose those that are available. While barriers between populations that coexist on the same territory do exist, they are not absolute. And all else being equal the smaller group will quickly become basically a hybrid population, while the larger population will still have a bunch of people who match their previous genetic profile. To give an extreme example If you are the last member of your tribe, the only way you get to mate is to find a partner outside your tribe.

.... (wall of references at the end).... I am mystified by this. How the how the heck do you even skim all of that? I think it's awesome to have all these references, but can somebody enlighten me as to how one can do this?

9Nominull9ySome people read faster than others, and there's a skill to reading academic writing that can improve your speed on that particular genre.

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.

I have made comments about this topic on LW on several occasions, but the part about me "ha[ving] said the same things openly," the "same things" referring to the views characterized in the last paragraph of the same post, is pure confabulation. (In fact, I'd find it surprising if this relatively new commenter is even aware of what I wrote about the topic in the past, since I don't remember mentioning it in quite a while.)

Moreover, the claim about "hyper-focusing" is particularly absurd, given that nobody mentioned this concrete topic at all, until Jandila brought it up and attributed it to me in bizarre fashion, clearly striving to bring this topic into focus. This attribution started with the statement "I would be unsurprised to learn you believe " -- and after a few comments, in which I made no specific mention of , it morphed into "[V.M.] has already said the same things [referring to a caricatured version of ] openly." Surely it is not unreasonable to demand higher standards of discourse than that -- and here, of all places?

But even aside from all that, the analysis is full of various other more or less subtle misleading claims and rhetorical tricks. Unless the standards on LW have really deteriorated, finding these should be a fairly simple exercise for the reader.

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.

Please don't use the word "rationality" or "rational" simply as a buzzword or applause light.

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.

I think criticism of democracy goes over less well if you have something specific that you want to replace it with.

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.

5NancyLebovitz9yI 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.

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?

[-][anonymous]9y 10

Actually it is introgression that is an excellent reason to mix if you want to maximise genetic fitness (because of kin selection effects if your group gets some new genes), you just don't need a whole lot of mixing to acheive it.

And hybrid vigour is a reason in its favour if you want to just make people with neat traits, while outbreeding depression is a reason against.

The effects I mention as colourfully illustrated by Oligopsony change the overall effect of mixing. Under different selective pressures (which may well be caused by dominant cultural preference for visible phenotype!) group A and B may mix at about the same rate in all universes, yet in one universe group A may be 80% of the population (with a few introgressed genes from B) several generations later, while under a different set of pressures it may be 5% of the population, and an AB hybrid could be anything from 1% to 90%. Indeed mixing would not nesecarilly be created equal, it is perfectly possible that 400 years later, even if marriage between the groups was symmetrical 95% of Y chromosomes are variants that group B possessed and 80% of the mDNA is that which was possessed by A. It is even possible that group A... (read more)

I would if he asked. Until then I can't be sure he wants to know.

The notion that there is information to be gained by categorizing things after they are fully described is useless from a utilitarian perspective.

For example, if we know exactly what the process of waterboarding is, and how unpleasant it is, the answer to the question "Is waterboarding really torture," tells us nothing about the morality of doing it. At least that question might have some relevance when posed to presidential candidates, since "torture" is a legal category and saying "Yes, it is torture," might imply an obligat... (read more)

6cousin_it9yRelevant LW posts: How An Algorithm Feels From Inside [http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/], Diseased Thinking [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_questions_about/]. Kudos for noticing that the dangling categorization mistake sometimes also serves as a rhetorical trick. Do other biases also double as rhetorical tricks?
7lessdazed9yI'm going to skim the transcript from the Republican Presidential candidates' debate a few days ago for five minutes and see what biases I find that aren't prominent logical fallacies. I might find none, but I'm writing this now so that a later statement on what I found or didn't find will be more meaningful. Wish me luck, I'm going in! ETA: What a disaster. Most problems look simply like classic fallacies, but not all. I'll elaborate later.

My cursor was literally hovering over the upvote button from the first paragraph on... and then I got to the last sentence, which completely reversed my view of it. Then I went back and parsed it more carefully, and now it looks to me like there's some pretty sketchy rhetoric in there.

Specifically: there's mindkilling ideas and then there's ideas which represent a physical propagation risk, and while PUA is undoubtedly the former, framing it with rape and genocide implies the latter. Now, I suppose it might look like that to some of its more extreme oppo... (read more)

mixed groups

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

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... (read more)

8NancyLebovitz9yI 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?

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.

I would have voted it down were it not for the rest of the paragraph cited, which basically comes down to "anecdotes are Bayesian evidence, but with caveats related to the base rate, and not always positive evidence". Which is, as best I can tell, correct. In isolation, the opening sentence does seem to incorrectly imply that anecdotes don't count at all, and so I'd have phrased it differently if I was trying to make the same point, but a false start isn't enough for a downvote if the full post is well-argued and not obviously wrong.

that the outcomes of the combined arsenal of PUA tips and techniques cannot currently be distinguished from the outcomes of a change of clothes, a little personal grooming and asking a bunch of women to go out with you.

Even if that were true (and I don't think that's anywhere near the case), you keep dropping out the critical meta-level for actual human beings to achieve instrumental results: i.e., motivation.

That is, even if "a change of clothes, a little grooming, and asking a bunch of women out" were actually the best possible approach, it'... (read more)

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 categori... (read more)

5[anonymous]9yI 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.

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.

This isn't really true. To give the most prominent example, Holocaust denial is heavily suppressed in Western societies, in many even with criminal penalties, although its falsity is not in any doubt whatsoever outside of the small fringe scene of people who espouse it. (And indeed, it really doesn't stand up even to the most basic scrutiny.) For most beliefs that the respectable opinion regards as deserving of suppression, respectable people are similarly convinced in their falsity with equal confidence, regardless of how much truth there might actually b... (read more)

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 wit... (read more)

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.

7ArisKatsaris9yI'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. You can click my name and see I'm from Athens, Greece, no need to assume anything. 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-miscegenation_laws_in_the_United_States#Anti-miscegenation_laws_enacted_in_the_Thirteen_Colonies_and_the_United_States] , here are maps for estimated same-sex marriage opposition [http://www.bilerico.com/2010/08/fun_maps_on_marriage_public_opinion_by_state.php] , here is which states didn't ratify the Equal Rights Amendment [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment#In_the_state_legislatures_and_the_courts] 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.
[-][anonymous]9y 9

It's hard not to take something personally when the pronoun in the direct object is "you".

For the purposes of anyone reading: When someone makes a list of two dozen supposed "rules", then they must also offer a method to prioritize between them -- or their claims become unfalsifiable and "not even wrong", since by cherrypicking rules, one can then explain anything.

E.g. sam says people are not allowed to "criticize blacks, women, homosexuals" -- and yet at other times he accuses people of only being allowed to praise Romney (a white man), but attack Cain (a black man) and Palin (a woman). To explain this he can appl... (read more)

Oooh, ooh, can we call it the Political Conspiracy?

That would be cool. I'd prefer the Apolitical Conspiracy, or perhaps the Contrarian Conspiracy.

Those are more literally correct, but the acronyms don't work out as ironically.

"Contrarian Conspiracy for Correcting Politics"

"New Association for Apolitically Criticizing Politics"

"New Society for Discussing, Apolitically, Politics"

7Bugmaster9yThe problem with setting up such a society is that it's about as secure as a house of cards. If I was a potential attacker, all I'd need to do would be, * Create a new account on Less Wrong (or just use my existing one if I was willing to burn it) * Act really open-minded and gain a lot of karma * Join the Contrarian Conspiracy * Archive all its messages for a few months, then publish them on Slashdot, 4chan, and the National Enquirer In fact, the first three steps aren't even necessary, if you assume that instead of being an outside attacker, I'm an internal member who'd gone rogue. There doesn't seem to be any mechanism in place for stopping a person like that.

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.

What am referring to as obscurantism are (usually implied) claims that "I possess information that refutes a mainstream view, but I'm not going to share it, because most people can't handle the truth in a nonmindkilling fashion."

That's not necessarily the claim (explicit or implied). It can also be that even if the information were to be handled in a non-mind-killing fashion, the resulting conclusions would be beyond the pale of what is acceptable under the current social norms.

As for the definition of obscurantism you gave, this is definitel... (read more)

9RomanDavis9yIt'd be interesting to see some sort of dumping ground of allegedly useful, but socially unacceptable ideas, which may or may not be true, and then have a group of people discuss and test them. Doesn't seem completely outside the territority of lesswrong, but if you think these subjects are that hazardous, and that lesswrong is too useful to be risked, then a different site that did something along those lines is something I'd like to see.
[-][anonymous]9y 14

A invitation based mailing list of a group of high karma non-ideological LWers seems the better route.

A site devoted to discussing impolite but probable ideas will well... disappoint very quickly. Have you ever seen the comment section of a major news site?

9Nick_Tarleton9yA non-archived mailing list, I think, to greatly reduce the potential cost of adding new members.
5Vladimir_M9yTrouble is, everything transported over the internet is archived one way or another. That is actually the main reason why I've been reluctant to push forward with this initiative lately.
8wedrifid9yEverything? I don't believe that. I am highly confident that I have transported plenty of things over the internet that were never archived and could not have been archived without my knowledge. Unless someone is a whole lot better with large primes than I believe possible.
6Vladimir_M9yYes, of course, it's not literally true. But working under that assumption is a useful heuristic for avoiding all sorts of trouble, unless you have very detailed and reliable technical knowledge of what exactly is going on under the hood.
7Bugmaster9yI agree with you completely regarding privacy. If you feel that you must absolutely prevent some piece of information from leaking out into the world for all to see, you must treat every communication medium -- and the Internet specifically -- as insecure. The world is littered with dead political careers of people who did not heed this warning. That said though (to paraphrase the old adage), are we rationalists or are we mice ? If you hold some beliefs that can get you burned at the stake (figuratively speaking... hopefully...), then isn't it all the more important to determine if these beliefs are true ? And how are you going to do that all by yourself, with no one to critique your ideas and to expose your biases ?
5Nick_Tarleton9yDo you mean in users' inboxes, or something else?
6Vladimir_M9yYes, in this case the inboxes would be the obvious problem, but there might be others too, depending on the implementation. In any case, I don't think it would be possible to assume lack of permanent record, the way it would be possible with non-recorded private conversation.
8Normal_Anomaly9yI support this proposal and would like to join the mailing list if one becomes available. But why do you think a mailing list would fare better than a website? Because of restricted access?
6pedanterrific9yI guess it has more of a "secret society" vibe to it. Oooh, ooh, can we call it the Political Conspiracy? Is 1100 enough karma? I've tried to stay out of ideological debates, but I don't know precisely what the criteria would be. (And who would decide, anyway?)

I guess it has more of a "secret society" vibe to it.

Yes, that's another way in which it just doesn't look like a good idea. When you're organizing people in a way that has a secret society vibe, chances are you're doing something either really childish or really dangerous.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

Come now LWers don't make more of this proposal than there is.

I didn't perceive a secret society vibe at all in what amounts to a bunch of people having a topic restricted private correspondence.

Everyone has some email correspondences he wouldn't be comfortable posting in public. Private correspondences as well as physical meetings restricted to friends or colleagues have been a staple of intellectual life for centuries and are nothing to be a priori discouraged. In effect nearly every LW meet up is a private affair, since people don't seem to be recording them. Privacy matters in order to preserve the signal to noise ration (technical mailing lists) and so that people feel more comfortable saying things that can be taken out of context as well as be somewhat protected from ideological or religious persecution.

Also quite frankly lots of the people in such a mailing list have probably written on such ideas in some digital format or another before, either corresponding with friends, commenting in a shady on-line community or just writing out some notes for their own use.

Everyone has some email correspondences he wouldn't be comfortable posting in public.

Yes, but having semi-public statements on the record is a very different situation, where the set of people who may get to see them is open-ended.

This thread certainly hasn't made me more optimistic. Observe that even though I have made the utmost effort to avoid making any concrete controversial statements, there is already a poster -- and a decently upvoted LW poster, not some random individual -- who has confabulated that I have made such statements about an extremely charged topic ("openly," at that), and is presently conducting a subthread under this premise. Makes you think twice on what may happen if you are actually on the record for having made such statements.

7Emile9yThe comment sections on iSteve and Roissy are not great places either.

In the period roughly from 2006 until 2009, there was a flourishing scene of a number of loosely connected contrarian blogs with excellent comment sections. This includes the early years of Roissy's blog. (Curiously, the golden age of Overcoming Bias also occurred within this time period, although I don't count it as a part of this scene.)

All of these blogs, however, have shut down or gone completely downhill since then (or, at best, become nearly abandoned), and I can't think of anything remotely comparable nowadays. I can also only speculate on what lucky confluence led to their brief flourishing and whether all such places on the internet are doomed to a fairly quick decay and disintegration. I can certainly think of some plausible reasons why this might be so.

I'm inclined to think that unusual goodness in social groups is very fragile, partly because it takes people being unhabitual so that there's freshness to the interactions.

I can believe that this is more fragile online than in person-- a happy family has more incentives and more kinds of interaction to help maintain itself.

5[anonymous]9yIndeed, that's my point.
5steven04619yThis was previously discussed here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6vq/on_the_unpopularity_of_cryonics_life_sucks_but_at/4ktd] . Right now, it's sounding like whatever (if anything) comes out of this will fail by being overly inclusive. My guess is that if this sort of thing ends up working well, it will be because some small group of people who happen to have good taste end up making decisions on a "trust me" basis, rather than because LessWrong as a community successfully applies some attempt at a transparently fair algorithm.

23andme says "the average proportion of European ancestry that African Americans have . . . is from 20 percent to 25 percent." I'd call that a lot.

I don't know if this sort of information is wanted, but your post keeps setting off my sarcasm detector.

We humans compartmentalize by default, because brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation.

Belief propagation is an exact computation that brains can't be expected to perform (or even represent a problem statement for). Pointing to (absence of) it as an explanation for compartmentalization feels rather arbitrary (similarly with the reference to decision theory).

Frankly, I think I'd rather be alone forever than relate to people in the way he seems to, because I would feel just as alone either way.

If that is what you really want then by all means go ahead. To the external observer that just looks like someone sitting in the corner sulking because the universe doesn't give them what they want.

I didn't really look at much of MMSL either, but I did notice an encouraging sign: the author's wife is listed as a coauthor and adds occasional remarks to the posts, which if nothing else suggests that she reads them. This puts an upper bound on how dishonest it can possibly be.

This might come out a little harsh, but...

whining about having been rejected, in public, in front of the woman who rejected you, is not exactly a turn on, I suppose.

Not that I think it would save this thread at this point, but I suggest that you and everyone you are arguing with here would benefit from dropping the question of "Are some PUA tactics rape" and sticking to the question "Are some PUA tactics wrong". This conversation has totally derailed (if it hadn't already) on semantic issues about rape. You can argue that obtaining sex by deception or bullying is immoral regardless of whether or not it is rape.

Obtaining sex by deception, or bullying which does not involve physical violence or the threat thereof, for example, is still going to get you charged with rape in most places.

This is not an accurate statement of the law in common-law jurisdictions, nor, I suspect, of the law in most other Western countries. With some narrow exceptions -- such as impersonating the victim's husband, performing sexual acts under a false pretense of medical treatment, or failing to disclose a sexually transmitted disease -- enticing people into sex by false pretenses is us... (read more)

I still don't really get it.

It's a lighthearted cultural reference (which does have something of a useful moral embedded within). A common form is "I'm strong willed, you're stubborn and she's pig headed". It is just a comment about the same thing being labelled differently depending on how closely we associate with it. It tends to be approximately neutral to the subject matter.

I have purposefully stayed out of the PUA discussion so far, but as it is still going on and no one seems to have taken a macro view, I am going to just this once give some of my opinion on it:

I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a general egalitarianism between the sexes. I’m not saying that I think men and women are completely equal in all ways, but rather that I think that women making 80 cents to the dollar is bad. Males growing up being taught to be ashamed to talk about feelings (especially in cases like PTSD or suicide) is bad... (read more)

8lessdazed9yThat phrase doesn't mean just one thing. I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a fair system of college admissions. That just means the label "fair", like "general egalitarianism" points inward at the speaker towards the speaker's values. "General" backs away from meaning anything too specific, and its use provides the opportunity for readers to insert their own idea of reasonableness.
[-][anonymous]9y 12

I can talk to anyone, you're engaging, he's a creepy PUA?

[-][anonymous]9y 8

Obviously pressured sex happens.

I am simply saying its not a good tactic in the context of situations that PUA usually focuses on.

Note that pressure =/= nagging. For it to be pressure you need to have some social or physical leverage over the other person. Nagging dosen't imply you have either and in their absence the word brings up associations of begging. It is hard to gain great leverage on people of high social status.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to go further and say that in large part the whole point of PUA is to bed Carols. Alices are up for a one night stand anyway, so manipulating them to suspend their usual protective strategies and engage in a one night stand with you would be as pointless as peeling a banana twice.

That sounds wrong. I dabbled in pickup a little bit and I would gladly accept a 2x boost in my attractiveness to Alices in exchange for total loss of attractiveness to Carols. If you think success with Alices is easy, I'd guess that either you didn't try a lot, or you're extremely attractive and don't know it :-)

When you click on the envelope underneath your karma score in the right sidebar, you are taken to a page that displays both private messages as well as replies to your comments.

Also, please stop posting. It has become clear that the Less Wrong community is not interested in what you have to say. You might consider seeking out another internet forum that will be more receptive to your contributions; I expect this will be more satisfying from both your perspective and ours.

Now that this thread has gathered around a thousand comments, and with presumably two more such threads ahead of us, let's have a poll to help us figure out whether deciding to discuss such subjects as gender and politics was a good idea.

All things considered, has this comment thread made LessWrong more or less valuable to you? (ETA: This is excluding Luke's original post, and relative to what you would have expected the site to be like if the comment thread had not taken place, not relative to what it would be like if the comment thread disappeared now.)

See the child comments for the poll options. If neither applies, don't vote.

Vote this comment up if this comment thread has made LessWrong less valuable to you.

All things considered, has this comment thread made LessWrong more or less valuable to you? (ETA: This is excluding Luke's original post, and relative to what you would have expected the site to be like if the comment thread had not taken place, not relative to what it would be like if the comment thread disappeared now.)

Less. A bunch of bickering about ethics with almost no actual practical content describing the world. Basically it is embarrassing to be associated with.

Thank you for this poll!

I would like to endorse an idea that there should be a separate PUA discussion post. It's acceptable if LW-ers want to discuss PUA at length, but the main disutility I get from it, is that it seems to constantly rear its head in posts that aren't explicitly about PUA (such as this one.)

I would have loved to have been involved in a discussion on the original post topic, and do not at all think that the subjects of gender and relationships should be discouraged. I just think it would make more sense if there were a separate thread for PUA-related discussion, and any time someone tried to bring up PUA in a non-PUA post they were referred to the PUA post.

I would post it myself, but I doubt I have the karma to handle the inevitable downvoting that would ensue without going deep into the negatives.

EDITED: see below

I got to agree here. having a single discussion thread with PUA would let out some steam, and if some people feel wierded out/ threatened by it, they can just not read the thread. As it is, avoiding the topic seems very hard, since it comes up almost every time relationships, polyamory. dark arts, or rational social skills are mentioned. This makes the tabooing of PUA pretty moot.

I'm pretty okay with modding posts with PUA outside of the designated area, though, if only because it's so damn mindkilling.

[-][anonymous]9y 15

got to agree here. having a single discussion thread with PUA would let out some steam, and if some people feel wierded out/ threatened by it, they can just not read the thread. As it is, avoiding the topic seems very hard, since it comes up almost every time relationships, polyamory. dark arts, or rational social skills are mentioned. This makes the tabooing of PUA pretty moot.

Indeed PUA discussion has proven impossible to avoid without tabooing relationship/romance to the same extent as politics (which is something I advocated should be done in a different comment here).

I like this suggestion. One thread where the beliefs, practice and theory of PUA can be discussed. Actually to make any progress whatsoever, I think we need to go further, lets make that thread explicitly devoid of any ethical recommendations implied or explicit.

A thread that just discusses the theories, practices and beliefs of the PUA community. First establish what they are, then how well they map to reality.

Only after this is done open a separate thread where we discuss ethical implications and recommendations related to PUA. It has been demonstrated time and time again since at least 2008, that LW/OB b... (read more)

8pjeby9yI'd almost as soon we just banned the ethical discussion entirely; as that's the part that's actually mindkilling. People with "PUA=bad" or "PUA=good" labels basically trash the place over that argument, and neither are particularly interested in listening to the "PUA=lots of different stuff with varying levels of good, bad, and effective-ness" folks. All in all, we might get rid of some of the need for the "PUA=evil misogynist manipulation" rants by banning the "PUA=good, righteous savior of downtrodden oppressed men" ones (and vice versa). There are plenty enough people here who've shown themselves capable of avoiding either trap; we just need someone who can be trusted to swing the banhammer hard on comments that are more about signaling who they're for and against, than they are about informing or problem-solving. Actually, I suppose it's not really a problem of ethics discussion per se, just that ethics is a useful wedge topic for partisans on either side to get their foot in the door. Hm. Maybe we'd be better off just not answering partisan posts. I suspect that (counter to my intention), trying to moderate partisans on either side just prolongs the amount of ranting the forum is subjected to. If I'd just downvoted people (instead of trying to educate them), it might've been better for all concerned.
5cousin_it9yI like the idea of having a designated PUA discussion thread, and I absolutely love the idea of making that thread explicitly ethics-free. The idea seems good enough to just try it and see what happens! Do you want to write that post (in the discussion area, I guess) and lay down the rules?
7RomanDavis9yYou've got the karma for it. Why not you?
[-][anonymous]9y 11

Meh. It's not like anyone forced me to read the whole thread (which I haven't done).

Vote this comment up if this comment thread has made LessWrong more valuable to you.

5TheOtherDave9yIf you're going to conduct such a poll, I'd recommend asking a similar question about some other thread on some other topic (or possibly several) to act as a control group. (I would also recommend these be staggered in time in the hopes of simulating independent measurement, and the results reported as ratios to the number of posts in the thread.)

Now I'm wondering if there there are any mythical creatures who are known to cause anyone who sets eyes upon them to attack them.

There's the Troll, obviously.

5wedrifid9yIf only those were mythological!

I was trying to explain a broader social pattern into which I see his [i.e. mine - V.] behavior falling, to the person who'd expressed skepticism about his concerns.

For someone who wields the word "prejudice" as derogatory, you tend to assume an awful lot about people whom you don't know at all except for a few paragraphs of their writing about impersonal and abstract topics.

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 ... (read more)

Only in the same sense that the placebo effect is a "feature" of evidence-based medicine.

It's okay if evidence-based medicine gets a tiny, tiny additional boost from the placebo effect. It's good, in fact.

However when we are trying to figure out whether or not a treatment works we have to be absolutely sure we have ruled out the placebo effect as the causative factor. If we don't do that then we can never find out which are the good treatments that have a real effect plus a placebo effect, and which are the fake treatments that only have a placeb... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 8

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 te... (read more)

it seems obvious to me that an ethical rationalist's goals in relationship-seeking should be to seek a relationship that creates maximal utility for both parties

It is not clear to me that utilities can be easily compared. What tradeoff between my satisfaction and my partner's satisfaction should I be willing to accept? I can see how to elicit my preferences (for things like partner happiness, relationship duration, and so on) and try to predict how the consequences of my actions will impact my preferences, but I don't quite see how to add utilities, or ... (read more)

Trent Lott's Senate career was destroyed because he praised Strom Thurmond. I'm not saying that sort of thing happens often, but it's not nothing.

I wish more people would extrapolate from their own vulnerability to insults to the idea that people in general are vulnerable to insults, but this doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.

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.

5[anonymous]9yMerriam 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.

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.

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... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 8

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.

[-][anonymous]9y 17

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.