Followup to: Do you have High-Functioning Asperger's Syndrome?

LW reader Madbadger uses the metaphor of a GPU and a CPU in a desktop system to think about people with Asperger's Syndrome: general intelligence is like a CPU, being universal but only mediocre at any particular task, whereas the "social coprocessor" brainware in a Neurotypical brain is like a GPU: highly specialized but great at what it does. Neurotypical people are like computers with measly Pentium IV processors, but expensive Radeon HD 4890 GPUs. A High-functioning AS person is an Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition - with on-board graphics!

This analogy also covers the spectrum view of social/empathic abilities, you can think about having a weaker social coprocessor than average if you have some of the tendencies of AS but not others. You can even think of your score on the AQ Test as being like the Tom's Hardware Rating of your Coprocessor. (Lower numbers are better!).

If you lack that powerful social coprocessor, what can you do? Well, you'll have to run your social interactions "in software", i.e. explicitly reason through the complex human social game that most people play without ever really understanding. There are several tricks that a High-functioning AS person can use in this situation:

  • (Most importantly) Find a community of others - who are trying to solve the same problem (Though be careful not to wind up with a group of people who have weaker social coprocessors and aren't doing anything about it, as you will tend to conform to this behavior). Having even a few friends who are in a similar niche to you is worth a huge amount in terms of motivating social pressure, as a sounding board to bounce ideas off, and simply for the instinctive feel of support that having a group of people "in the same boat as you" gives.
  • Cached answers - you can precompute the "right" responses to social situations. Probably the best example of this is the answer to the "buy me a drink" problem: you approach an attractive NT person who you might like as a future partner. After a short time, they ask you to buy them a drink. The logical answer to this question is "what kind of drink would you like?", because in most social situations where you want to build up a positive relationship with a person, it is best to comply with their requests; not creating explicit conflict is usually a safe heuristic. But this is the wrong answer in this context, and you can store in your cache of counter-intuitive answers. 
  • Scientific theories of social games - including game theory and especially signaling games, information economics and evolutionary psychology. Building on the "buy me a drink" problem, instead of simply storing the answer as an exception, you can use evolutionary psychology and information economics to see the underlying pattern so that you can correctly answer the "drink" problem and many other similar problems. The NT is using the drink request to solve a cheap talk problem - they don't really want the drink, they want to know if you have higher dating market value than them, for example higher social status, income, success with other partners, etc. This is because evolutionary psychology makes some people want high-status people as partners. If they just asked you directly for these facts about yourself, you would have a strong incentive to lie. So they make a request that is somewhat rude, where only a lower-status suitor who thought they were worth "sucking up to" would comply, and then reject suitors who comply. This is really a kind of screening, where ability to give the "right" answer plays the role of a credential. Neurotypicals play some devious games, and this is actually quite a tame example.
  • The wisdom of nature heuristic - the human social coprocessor is perfectly optimized for an environment that we are no longer in. The EEA has significant differences to the present environment: most prominently, we have police and laws so other humans mostly don't act on their desire to kill you. This means that you can get away with things that you have an innate fear of, and you should strongly distrust your fear of other people's disapproval. There are also some reliable proxies of fitness that are no longer reliable, for example height (can be modified by higher shoes - a trick that women have cottoned on to, but men are totally missing out on).
  • Neuroplasticity and desensitization - your brain is plastic: you can train it and you can desensitize yourself to situations that scare you. Desensitization relies most on objectifing and dis-identifying with your maladaptive gut fear of doing something scary, for example public speaking or attending a social function where you know almost no-one. Realize that your brain contains small, simple, dumb circuits that produce your emotions, and some of them are outright harmful to you. You need to ignore their output and expose yourself to the stimuli.
  • Realizing that your brain contains nonrational psychological variables - that can be reset, often through a process known as "self transformation". Examples include general outlook on life, confidence, self-estimated status, self-esteem, sense of "fun" and rational irrationalities such as vengefulness, honor and pride. Approaches to self-transformation include eastern-style "spirituality", "new age" positive psychology works such as Eckhard Tolle, and more mainstream self-help like Tony Robbins. Changing your use of self-talk and framing is critical to resetting these variables.

 

New to LessWrong?

New Comment
625 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:05 AM
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings
[-][anonymous]14y240

On the coprocessor model itself -- the phenomenon we're trying to explain here is people who are good at analytical thinking but bad at social interaction. I really think there's a tendency around here to automatically identify that pattern with Asperger's, or with being at some point on the "spectrum." It's way more parsimonious to think of it as a result of specialization. If you're kind of good at (or interested in) analytical things, and kind of bad at (or uninterested in) social things, you'll specialize your own brain in that direction. It may even be in your best interest to specialize to some extent, to play to your strengths.

In fact I'd hypothesize that a lot of this specialization happens in early childhood, from rather small chance events like being an early reader, or being nearsighted. It's a little easier and more pleasant to sit still and read than to go out and play, so you start specializing from the age of three or so. Or you're Robert Louis Stevenson and develop a rich inner life directly because of childhood illness.

Children naturally play to their own strengths. They wear their favorite pathways down smooth, and ignore the thornier, more unp... (read more)

[-]Roko14y110

Why is it most parsimonious to conclude that all variation is due to nurture/experience, rather than a mixture of nature and nurture? Placement on the analytical/social spectrum is probably due to both genetic predisposition and lifetime experience; as I said, one should take advantage of one's neuroplasticity.

4whpearson14y
I'd say there are different forms of nature that can lead to having a broken social coprocessor than just Aspergers. So I would be careful about generalising from your own example. My social coprocessor isn't very good. I think it is broken in a different way to people with Asperger's though. I have no fear about going out to places where I don't know many people. I've gone out to night clubs, events, been travelling etc on my own. I just don't talk to anyone much in night clubs and I am only good at certain types of conversation otherwise. I completely fail at set jokes, amusing anecdotes or talking about my life in general. I am relatively good at self-deprecation, surreal improvisation and amusing comments on what is going on around me or the topic at hand. So I get by. I don't find generic conversation very rewarding in itself either. But it is expected when you are around people, so I tend to go into question asking mode if I get trapped in conversation with someone generic. If it is someone that does something that I don't know much about (even stuff like marketing which is antithetical to my nature), then I can maintain conversation fairly well. I'm just gathering data about the world. And my goal at these events isn't to meet new girls (although I quite like flirting with (introverted) female friends); it is to dance or to get a feeling of being in a tribe. I don't really care about being leader of that tribe. But I don't tend to get out much so I'm bad at social niceties like introducing myself or remembering peoples name. I also react poorly to people bitching about other people I consider in my tribe. I know I am not typical of non neuro-typicals. But I thought I would give you a concrete example of someone who has trouble in social situations, but is non-aspergers. I think a certain amount of my antipathy to PUA stuff is the same as if you started talking about football a lot. I don't really care and don't want to encourage it.
2Roko14y
Can you elaborate?

Imagine if someone came to lesswrong. He was very interested in winning and knew and applied a decent amount of probability theory. However he was only interested in winning football matches. He'd do articles on picking the optimal side taking into consideration fitness of players, opponents strengths, weather etc Also articles on picking the optimal training regimen to strengthen the right muscles for football and showing the bad heuristics other trainers use to pick training regimens.

Now I'd find it moderately interesting for a bit, despite minimal interest in football, but I'd get bored of it pretty soon, but I think I would be in the minority, People would lack the background knowledge to understand it (e.g. Golden goals, how long a football game lasts etc), they would find it boring. And they would probably voice their confusion and lack of interest, which I in turn would find boring. It would decrease the signal to noise ratio of the website.

I suspect something like that might happen if you use examples from the PUA arena. An example of what happens with a lack of background knowledge can be seen by RichardKenneway's thread. So while mildly interesting it has its bad points in terms of the level of discussion, and if you are somewhat autistic, you are likely to go on about it if at all encouraged! So you won't get encouragement from me.

There is a decent sub population of lesswrong interested in it, it would be ideal for a sub reddit. But spare a thought for those of us that are female or just not that into dating.

[-]Roko14y110

Truth is entangled, and who gets to mate with whom is one of the biggest truths in human social interaction -- because mating behavior is very strongly selected by evolution. If you close your mind to the truths about human mating behavior, you'll mess up your entire map of human social interaction.

If we are going to develop rationality to the point where we see an increase in uptake of rational thinking by millions of people, we can't just ignore massively important parts of real-world human behavior.

[-]Clippy14y170

I have a question, since you seem to know a lot about human sociality. What exactly is wrong with handling the dilemmas you describe by saying to the other humans, "I am slightly more committed to this group’s welfare, particularly to that of its weakest members, than most of its members are. If you suffer a serious loss of status/well-being I will still help you in order to display affiliation to this group even though you will no longer be in a position to help me. I am substantially more kind and helpful to the people I like and substantially more vindictive and aggressive towards those I dislike. I am generally stable in who I like. I am much more capable and popular than most members of this group, demand appropriate consideration, and grant appropriate consideration to those more capable than myself. I adhere to simple taboos so that my reputation and health are secure and so that I am unlikely to contaminate the reputations or health of my friends. I currently like you and dislike your enemies but I am somewhat inclined towards ambivalence on regarding whether I like you right now so the pay-off would be very great for you if you were to expend resources pleasing me and get me into the stable 'liking you' region of my possible attitudinal space. Once there, I am likely to make a strong commitment to a friendly attitude towards you rather than wasting cognitive resources checking a predictable parameter among my set of derivative preferences."?

[-]Jack14y100

Saying this explicitly is extremely weak evidence of it being true. In fact, because it sounds pre-prepared, comprehensive and calculated most humans won't believe you. Human courtship rituals are basically ways of signaling all of this but are much harder to fake.

When human females ask "Will you buy me a drink?" they're testing to see if the male does in fact "demand appropriate consideration".

Also, relative status and genetic fitness are extremely important in human coupling decisions and your statement does not sufficiently cover those.

9Clippy14y
That's a good point. Let me try a different one. Let X be 'I am slightly more committed to this group’s welfare, particularly to that of its weakest members, than most of its members are. If you suffer a serious loss of status/well-being I will still help you in order to display affiliation to this group even though you will no longer be in a position to help me. I am substantially more kind and helpful to the people I like and substantially more vindictive and aggressive towards those I dislike. I am generally stable in who I like. I am much more capable and popular than most members of this group, demand appropriate consideration, and grant appropriate consideration to those more capable than myself. I adhere to simple taboos so that my reputation and health are secure and so that I am unlikely to contaminate the reputations or health of my friends. I currently like you and dislike your enemies but I am somewhat inclined towards ambivalence on regarding whether I like you right now so the pay-off would be very great for you if you were to expend resources pleasing me and get me into the stable 'liking you' region of my possible attitudinal space. Once there, I am likely to make a strong commitment to a friendly attitude towards you rather than wasting cognitive resources checking a predictable parameter among my set of derivative preferences.' Then, instead of saying my previous suggestion, say something like, 'I would precommit to acting in such a way that X if and only if you would precommit to acting in such a way that you could truthfully say, "X if and only if you would precommit to acting in such a way that you could truthfully say X."' (Edit: Note, if you haven't already, that the above is just a special case of the decision theory, "I would adhere to rule system R if and only if (You would adhere to R if and only if I would adhere to R)." ) Wouldn't the mere ability to recognize such a symmetric decision theory be strong evidence of X being true?
2Roko14y
If I understood you correctly, I think that people do do this kind of thing, except it's all nonverbal and implicit. E.g. Using hard to fake tests for the other person's decision theory is a way to make the other person honestly reveal what's going on inside them. Another component is use of strong emotions, which are sort of like a precommitment mechanism for people, because once activated, they are stable.
1Clippy14y
Yes, I understand the signal must be hard to fake. But if the concern is merely about optimizing signal quality, wouldn't it be an even stronger mechanism to noticeably couple your payoff profile to a credible mechanism? Just as a sketch, find some "punisher" that noticeably imposes disutility (like repurposing the signal faker's means toward paperclip production, since that's such such a terrible outcome, apparently) on you whenever you deviate from your purported decision theory. It's rather trivial to have a publicly-viewable database of who is coupled to the punisher (and by what decision theory), and to make it verifiable that any being with which you are interacting matches a specific database entry. This has the effect of elevating your signal quality to that of the punisher's. Then, it's just a problem of finding a reliable punisher. Why not just do that, for example?
1Blueberry14y
We do. That's one of the functions of reputation and gossip among humans, and also the purpose of having a legal system. But it doesn't work perfectly: we have yet to find a reliable punisher, and if we did find one it would probably need to constantly monitor everyone and invade their privacy.
1CronoDAS14y
Yet another reason why people invented religion...
0Roko14y
Well it looks like you just got yourself a job ;-0
8Clippy14y
That is good! Attention Users: please provide me with your decision theory, and what means I should use to enforce your decision theory so that you can reliably claim to adhere to it. For this job, I request 50,000 USD as compensation, and I ask that it be given to User:Kevin.
8HughRistik14y
Why is this being downvoted? Even those Clippy's proposed strategy doesn't work at all for reasons that Jack explained, he is asking an excellent question. For people (and AIs) without social experience and knowledge, it is very, very important for them to know why people can't just talk all this stuff through explicitly. They should be asking exactly these sorts of questions so they an update. Upvoted.

Why is this being downvoted?

A guess: because everything in quotes in Clippy's comment is a copy and paste of a generic comment it posted a week ago.

I don't actually know myself, though - I upvoted Clippy's comment because I thought it was funny. Copying an earlier comment and asking for feedback on it where it's semi-relevant is exactly in keeping with what I imagine the Clippy character to be.

5whpearson14y
I have little problem with the way that Robin Hanson discusses status, signalling, and human interactions including mating. He doesn't give advice to the people on OB on how to pick up chicks though. If you are not interested in the practicalities it is enough to know that women test for a variety of personality and material traits in potential mates (with different tests dependent upon the women's personality). You don't need to know what tests go with what personality. Knowing that the majority of women like dominant, smooth talking, humorous men is useful in predicting what men will cultivate in themselves. But I don't need to know how to fake it.
8Roko14y
Wouldn't it just be easier for you to ignore the posts that contain info that you don't personally need or want to know? Unless you find practical advice offensive? [Boy is that going to be a problem if rationality is about winning...]
3kodos9614y
I think it's the "faking it" part I and many other people find objectionable. ETA: you edited this post after I replied, so I don't think my original reply makes sense any more.... How is this different from "if you disagree with me, keep it to yourself"?

I think it's the "faking it" part I and many other people find objectionable.

This is where you and several other people here make a critical mistake. You view various aspects of human mating behavior exclusively in terms of signaling objective traits, and then you add a moral dimension to it by trying to judge whether these objective traits supposedly being signaled are true or fake.

In reality, however, human social behavior -- and especially mating behavior -- is about much more complex higher-order signaling strategies, which are a product of a long and complicated evolutionary interplay of strategies for signaling, counter-signaling, fake signaling, and fake signaling detection -- as well as the complex game-theoretic questions of what can ultimately be inferred from one's signaled intentions. Nobody has disentangled this whole complicated mess into a complete and coherent theory yet, though some basic principles have been established pretty conclusively, both by the academic evolutionary psychology and by people generalizing informally from practical experiences. However, the key point is that in a species practicing higher-order signaling strategies, signaling abi... (read more)

3Wei Dai14y
I agree with you, and pjeby, who made similar points: the complexity of actual social games is higher than they appear on the surface, and much signaling is about signaling ability itself. But these insights also imply that the value of "running social interactions in software" is limited. Our general purpose cognitive machinery is unlikely to be able to reproduce the throughput and latency characteristics of a dedicated social coprocessor, and can really only handle relatively simple games, or situations where you have a lot of time to think. In other words, trying to play mating games with an NT "in software" is kind of like trying to play basketball "in software".
9Vladimir_M14y
Your argument is fallacious because it rests on overstretching the software/hardware analogy. Human brain contains highly reconfigurable hardware, and if some particular computations are practiced enough, the brain will eventually start synthesizing specialized circuits for them, thus dramatically boosting their speed and accuracy. Or to say it the traditional way, practice makes perfect. Whether it's throwing darts, programming computers, speaking a foreign language, or various social interactions, if you're lacking any experience, your first attempts will be very clumsy, as your general cognitive circuits struggle ineptly to do the necessary computations. After enough practice, though, specialized hardware gradually takes over and things start going much more smoothly; you just do what it takes without much conscious thinking. You may never match someone with greater natural talent or who has much more accumulated practice initially, but the improvements can certainly be dramatic. (And even before that, you might be surprised how well some simple heuristics work.)
3Wei Dai14y
"Practice makes perfect" has a rather different emphasis from Roko's suggestion of "running social interactions in software", which is what I was addressing. But to answer your point, I agree that improvements in social skills from practice can be dramatic, but probably not for everyone, just like not everyone can learn how to program computers. It would be interesting to see some empirical data on how much improvement can be expected, and what the distribution of outcomes is, so people can make more informed choices about how much effort to put into practicing social skills. I'm also curious what the "simple heuristics" that you mention are.

Wei_Dai:

"Practice makes perfect" has a rather different emphasis from Roko's suggestion of "running social interactions in software", which is what I was addressing.

Fair enough, if you're talking only about the initial stage where you're running things purely "in software," before any skill buildup.

But to answer your point, I agree that improvements in social skills from practice can be dramatic, but probably not for everyone, just like not everyone can learn how to program computers. It would be interesting to see some empirical data on how much improvement can be expected, and what the distribution of outcomes is, so people can make more informed choices about how much effort to put into practicing social skills.

From what I've observed in practice, people with normal (and especially above average) intelligence and without extraordinary problems (like e.g. a severe speech disorder) who start at a low social skill level can see significant improvements with fairly modest efforts. In this regard, the situation is much better than with technical or math skills, where you have to acquire a fairly high level of mastery to be able to put them to any... (read more)

0Roko14y
why?
-4kodos9614y
why what? Why do I find "faking it" objectionable? Dude, you're talking about playing head games to trick insecure women into sleeping with you!
7Roko14y
But more to the point: the real world is full of instances where verbalized whiter-than-white morality is thrown out of the window, in some cases to such a large extent that the verbalized rules are not the actual rules, and people consider you a defective person if you actually follow verbalized rules rather than just paying lipservice to them.
3kodos9614y
I understand that this is often the case, and that this is how "pick ups" often work in the real world. The thing is, I just think that human's sexual rituals are ingrained so deeply in our little monkey brains, that I don't think generalizing from what works in that domain to the broader world of "refining the art of human rationality" is a really good idea. This particular domain of human behavior is so ridiculously irrational that I don't think it serves as a good model for ordinary, everyday human irrationality. So if you're reasoning by analogy to it, you're basically patterning against a superstimulus
7Roko14y
No! Not at all. Quite the contrary: in the original post I was careful to show that a shit-test is actually an application of an advanced concept from game theory -- using a credential to solve a cheap talk problem in a signaling game!

To put it more clearly, it's not that this domain of human behavior is actually particularly irrational. In reality, it has its well-defined rules, and men who have the knowledge and ability to behave according to these rules are, at least in a libertine society such as ours, awarded with high status in the eyes of others -- and lots of sex, of course, if they choose to employ their abilities in practice. In contrast, men who are particularly bad at it suffer an extreme low status penalty; they are are a target of derision and scorn both privately and in the popular culture. However, what complicates the situation is that this is one of those areas where humans practice extreme hypocrisy, in that you're expected not just to navigate the rules of the game cleverly, but also to pretend that they don't exist, and to discuss the topic openly only with mystical reverence and unrealistic idealizations. Realistic open discussions are perceived as offensive and sacrilegious. It's an enormous bias.

5mattnewport14y
I don't really agree but I think this describes the fear that underlies much of the hostility to discussing these controversial topics.
2Vladimir_M14y
I think you're partly correct, but some other biases are in fact more relevant here. However, going deeper into this would look too much like attacking other people's motives, which would be perceived as both unproductive and hostile, so I'd rather not delve into that line of discussion.
0tabsa14y
I would also like to know more about biases you mentioned, can PM me this too? Or just post it here for everyone to read, because it's a very big teaser on a topic which you seem to have a lot of interesting insights.
0Blueberry14y
I've enjoyed all your posts on this topic and would love to know what you mean about other biases. If you don't want to say it here, can you PM me?
0Nick_Tarleton14y
I don't think I understand the connection you're trying to make.

Have you never encountered this attitude amongst religious people over atheism? The idea that atheism is an inherently dangerous idea, that merely engaging with it risks infection. That atheism might be a kind of aqua regia for morality, capable of dissolving all that is good and right in the world into some kind of nihilistic nightmare. Even (or perhaps especially) those who think atheism might be true see it as potentially dangerous, that gazing into the abyss may permanently damage the seeker's moral core. This belief, whether implicit or explicit, seems quite common among the religious and I think explains some of the hostility born of fear that is sometimes observed in the reactions to atheism and atheists.

I'm suggesting something similar may underlie some of the reactions to discussions of the below-the-surface game theoretic realities of human social interaction. People fear that if they gaze into that abyss they risk losing or destroying things they value highly, like traditional concepts of love, loyalty or compassion. I think this fear is misguided, and personally prefer the truth be told, though the heavens fall regardless, but I can understand and to some extent sympathize with the sentiment that I think sometimes underlies it.

People fear that if they gaze into that abyss they risk losing or destroying things they value

Yes, and no. My objection to the citation of PUA tactics is motivated by fear that it could lead down the dark path... but not fear that it might be true. Rather, it's fear that something that might be true in one narrow domain might get applied as a general rule in broader domains where it is no longer applicable.

In PUA circles, "winning" is defined by getting laid. So if you go to a meat-market and try your PUA tactics all night long, you may end up getting rejected 50 times, but be successful once, and your brain records that as a "win", cause you didn't go home alone (just like audiences at psychic shows remember the "hits" and forget the "misses"). But does that really tell you that PUA theory correctly describes typical social interaction? No, it just tells you that there is a certain, small minority of people on whom PUA tactics work, but they are a non-representative sample of a non-representative sample.

So when you then take one of these PUA tactics, which isn't even effective on the vast majority of people even in the meat-market pickup ... (read more)

5cousin_it14y
You make a fair point that PUA probably doesn't explain all of human interaction - it explains just the bare minimum needed to get that 1 in 50 hit rate, so the majority of girls could be PUA-invulnerable and we wouldn't know it. But you also claim that a hit rate of 1 in 50 is bad and shouldn't be considered a "win", and I take objection to this. Do you also think that a good mathematician should be able to solve any problem in the world or give up their title? Or do you have an alternative theory that can beat PUA at PUA's game? (Then you should head over to their forums and if you're right, they will adopt your theory en masse.) If not, why should we suppress the best theory we've got at the moment?
3kodos9614y
If your goal is to pick up women, then yes, absolutely 1 in 50 is a "win". But if your goal is to refine the art of human rationality, I just don't see how it's relevant.
9HughRistik14y
The thing is, with any model (PUA or otherwise), there are many reasons you could lose out on the 49 in 50 (to go with your terminology for now): 1. They aren't into your body type, facial structure, height, race, or some other superficial characteristic 2. They have preferences that are explained by your model, but you messed up or otherwise failed to fulfill them (Similarly: they have preferences that are explained by your model, but you didn't go far enough in following the model.) This is exacerbated by the tendency of people to go for partners at the edge of what they can realistically expect to attract, which makes it really easy to fall just a tiny bit short of fulfilling their preferences. Even when your improve your attractiveness, then you may set your sights on a higher tier of partners, and you will still be on the edge of being accepted. P(rejection | you go for a random person in the population you are into) is much less than P(rejection | you go after the most desirable person in that population who you still consider a realistic prospect). 3. They have preferences that are explained by your model, but someone else around fulfilled them better (or they weren't single) Taking into account these factors, from the start we know that there is a ceiling for success of under 50. Let's say that at least one of these factors apply 50% of the time. Then we are really seeing a max success rate of 1 in 25. 1 in 10 max success rate out of 50 is even plausible. If you only pursue people on the higher edge of your attractiveness bracket, then the number could go even lower, and one success looks more and more impressive. When you expect to meet rejection >50% of the time via your model, using rejection to test your model is difficult. It's hard to test such theories in isolation. At what point do you abandon or modify your model, and at what point to you protect it with an ad hoc hypothesis? A protective belt of ad hoc hypotheses isn't always bad. Sometimes
2kodos9614y
I actually agree with this completely, and I think your analysis is rather insightful. Your conclusion seems to be that PUA topics are deserving of further study and analysis, and I have no problem with that... I only have a problem with assuming PUA-isms to be true, and citing them as "everybody knows that..." examples when illustrating completely unrelated points.
0Tyrrell_McAllister14y
This is well put. The issue you raise is why I tried to be a little more explicit about the priors that I was using here. Obviously it's a long way from giving the explicit probabilities that would be necessary to automate the Bayesian updating, but at least we can make a start at identifying where our priors differ.
0pjeby14y
Sure... maybe for when you're starting out as a rank beginner, doing "cold approach" and "night game". But my success rate at "social circle game" was an order of magnitude better than that before I knew any PUA stuff in the first place... and in retrospect I can easily see how that success was based on me accidentally doing a lot of things that are explicitly taught to PUAs for that type of game. Hell, even during the brief period where I went to nightclubs and danced with girls, there are times that I realize in retrospect I was getting major IOIs and would've gotten laid if I'd simply had even a single ounce of clue or game in my entire body... and at a better success rate than 1 in 50. So, I'm not sure where you pulled the 1 in 50 number from, but in my experience it's not even remotely credible as a "success" for a PUA, if you mean that the PUA has to ask 50 to get 1 yes. However, if you mean that a PUA can take 50 women who are attracted to him, and then chooses from them only the one or two that he finds most desirable, then I would agree that that's indeed a success from his POV. ;-) (And I would also guess that most PUAs would agree that this is much closer to their idea of "winning", and that even a PUA of modest or average ability should be able to do much better than your original estimate, even for nightclub game.)
0kodos9614y
AAARGH! You're still totally responding to this as if we were having this discussion on a PUA forum, rather than on LW. The 1 in 50 number was totally pulled out of my ass, a hypothetical intended to illustrate the idea that if a given technique works only 1 in X times, but that's enough to result in getting laid, your brain is likely to count that as a "win", and ignore the (X - 1) times it failed, leading you to incorrectly assume that the technique illustrates some universally applicable principle of human behavior, where none in fact exists.
5pjeby14y
That seems to me to be a less appropriate way to do things on LW, personally. Certainly, arguing that you pulled a number out of your ass in order to refute empirical information providing an inside view of a phenomenon is really inappropriate here. IOW, your hypothesis is based on a total and utter incomprehension of what PUAs do or value, and is therefore empirically without merit. Actual PUAs are not only aware of the concept you are describing, but they most emphatically do not consider it success, and one guru even calls it "fool's mate" in order to ridicule those who practice it. (In particular, Mystery ridicules it as relying on chance instead of skill.) In short, you are simply wrong, and you're probably getting downvoted (not by me, mind you) not because of disagreement, but because you're failing to update on the evidence.
-5kodos9614y
2kodos9614y
No, I'm just saying that a 1 in 50 hit rate is more likely to be explained by a peculiarity of the particular people involved in the interaction, rather than a universal truth of all human social interaction.
2cousin_it14y
Yep, I certainly got that point. (See the edited comment.) But today the real choice is between PUA that yieds little but positive results in the field, and alternative theories that yield no results.
1kodos9614y
OK, fair enough. But I'm not arguing that PUA is bad. I'm arguing that the lessons learned from PUA aren't generally applicable outside that arena, and are not good examples to use when illustrating a point on an unrelated human-rationality topic.
1Tyrrell_McAllister14y
If I apply the same methods for the same amount of time to many problems, and I solve only 1 in 50 of them, then I should seriously consider the possibility that there was something special about that 1 in 50 that made them especially accessible to my methods. I should not conclude that the 1 in 50 were typical of all the problems that I considered. I expect that a man can maximize his number of sexual partners by focusing his attentions on women who will be especially receptive to his advances. But it would be a mistake to infer that such women are typical.
4pjeby14y
That's exactly what cousin_it has described himself doing, at least in the case of women who ask him to buy them drinks. His hug test (for lack of a better word) very quickly identifies which women are receptive to being physically companionable with him. In PUA terminology, he's taking her opener and screening it. Other relevant PUA terminology in this space: * AI (Approach Invitation) - reading signals that indicate a woman wants you to approach * Forced IOI (Indicator Of Interest) opener - engaging in a behavior that forces a woman's body language to immediately reveal her interest or lack thereof, such as by gazing directly into her eyes while approaching, in order to see whether she looks down, away, or back at you, and whether she smiles. Some men swear by these things as the essence of their game; others, however, want to be able to meet women who will neither AI nor accept a forced IOI, such as women who get approached by dozens of men a night and therefore have their "shields up" against being approached. Anyway, your hypothesis isn't a better PUA than PUA; but practical methods for actually applying that hypothesis are part of the overall body of knowledge that is PUA.
0Tyrrell_McAllister14y
But my question is, does PUA theorizing help him get an accurate model of what women in general are actually like? More generally, does it give him tools to get a better understanding of what reality is like? Or is it just giving him tools that help him to focus his attentions on a certain small subset of women? If I go into a library, I can easily tell the English books from the books in Chinese, so I can quickly narrow my attention to the books that I can get something out of. But that doesn't mean that I know anything about what's going on inside the Chinese books. And, if the vast majority of the books in the library are Chinese, then I actually know very little about the "typical" book in the library. I'm having trouble parsing this sentence. What's the "hypothesis" here?
7cousin_it14y
I thought about it some more and honestly can't tell if you're right or not. On one hand, I never do cold approaches - there's always some eye contact and smiling beforehand - so the women I interact with are already very self-selected. On the other hand, I know from experience that a girl who rejected me in one setting (e.g. a party) may often turn out to be receptive in another setting (e.g. a walk), so it's not like I'm facing some immutable attribute of this girl. So every interaction with a woman has many variables beyond my control that could make it or break it, but my gut feeling is that most of those variables are environmental (current mood, presence of other people, etc.) rather than inborn.
5HughRistik14y
Yes, I agree. In this particularly case, though, we have no idea whether your "if" clause is satisfied, and what the proportion of English to Chinese books really is. To make an analogy with my previous post where I explain that the ceiling on success rate is actually rather low, most of the books you read either burst into flame when you read them, or their text disappears or turns into gibberish. Sometimes, even forensic inspection can't tell you what language the book was originally in. All you can know is that learning English helps you read some of the books in the library. Absent the knowledge of what was in the text that was destroyed before you could read it, you have no idea of the typicality or atypicality of the English books you are capable of reading. Yet if your forensic inspection of the destroyed books reveals more English characters than Chinese characters, or you have some additional theoretical or empirical knowledge on the distribution of languages in the books, then you may have to upgrade your estimate of the proportion of English books. (This assumes that the hypotheses of books being in English or Chinese are both locateable.) Even if your estimate is wrong, it can still be very valuable to know how to read the typical English book in the library, especially if the alternative is not being able to read any. You still know very little, of course, about the population of books (or people) you are trying to model. Yet in the case of people, you are often faced with competing hypothesizes about how to behave, and even a small preference for one hypothesis over the other can have great practical significance. That's why stereotypically we see women picking over their interactions with men with their female friends, and PUAs doing exactly the same thing on internet forums. They have tough decisions to make under uncertainty. Does a preference for one theory over another, and seeming practical results mean that the preferred theory is "true?" I
0Tyrrell_McAllister14y
Well put. This is a good delineation of the issues.
3pjeby14y
The portion of your comment that I quoted, i.e.: I was saying that PUAs don't entirely agree with your hypothesis (and incidentally, don't necessarily value the "maximize his number of sexual partners" part)... but they do have tools for taking advantage of attuning to women who will be especially receptive. Both. As I mentioned earlier, PUA models of social behavior have been successfully applied in and out of pubs, with people who the PUA is not even trying to sleep with, both male and female. Anecdotally, PUAs who focus on learning social interaction skills find that those skills are just as useful in other contexts. (For example, Neil Strauss noted in The Game that learning PUA social skills actually helped his celebrity-interviewing technique, as it gave him tools for pepping up conversations that were starting to go stale.) Most of the criticism here about PUA has been claiming that it has poor applicability to women, but this is the result of a severe misapprehension about both the goals and methods of PUA-developed social models. PUA social signaling models are actually applicable to humans in general, even though the means of effecting the signals will vary. My impression is that the typical LWer has little familiarity with these models, and has only heard about a few bits of (highly context-sensitive) specific advice or techniques. Are you familiar with microloop theory? Frames? Pinging? There's a metric ton of of systematization attempts by PUA theorists, some of which is very insightful. Also, a lot of practical advice for dealing with a wide variety of social situations. I would predict that if you took an experienced social-game theorist PUA trainer and threw him into a random physical social environment with a goal to make as many friends as possible, vs. an untrained male of similar geekiness (I'm assuming the social game theorist will be a geek, present or former) and similar unfamiliarity with the group or its rules/topics/etc., and the PUA wi
2kodos9614y
Ok, I swore to myself I wasn't going to comment on this thread anymore, but now you've made me think of something that hadn't occurred to me before: Assuming for the moment that it's true that a skilled PUA trainer would beat an untrained person at this test, how much of that effect do you think is attributable to simply being more confident vs actually having a more accurate model of human social behavior? I.e. you could, in principle, test for what I'm talking about by replacing the untrained geek with a geek trained with a different, completely fabricated set of PUA rules and theories, which he'd been led to believe were the real, PUA methods.... tell him these methods have been extensively experimentally tested, maybe even fake some tests with some actors to convince him that his bogus PUA skills actually work, just to give him the confidence of thinking he knows the secrets of the PUA masters. Then test him against someone given an equal amount of training on the "real" PUA techniques. Oh, and for bonus points, for the fabricated set of techniques, you could use stuff taught by Scientology, just to make sure there's consensus that it's bogus ;) How do you think that test would turn out? (I'm taking no position on the issue - I honestly don't know)
4HughRistik14y
It's hard to create and maintain confidence that isn't based on actual results. I predict that the confident geeky guy would go barreling into interactions and just as easily alienate people as engage them. Without any competence to back up the confidence, the latter wouldn't last very long, unless the guy was totally oblivious to negative signals from others. It is a good question, whether a PUA could be matched by a control guy of the same level of confidence. But if we are talking any real sort of confidence, the main way it develops is through success, which requires manifesting attractive behaviors in the first place.
0kodos9614y
Exactly. But in the version of the experiment I proposed, both groups are composed of (initially) inexperienced geeks, as opposed to pjeby's protocol, which involved an untrained newbie and a PUA trainer (who, despite having trained on, IMHO, potentially invalid methods, has likely acquired a great deal of real confidence via experience). Which is why, now that I've had some time to think about it, I now predict that if this experiment were performed, both trainee groups would "go barreling into interactions and just as easily alienate people as engage them". For it to mean much, you would have to iterate the experiment over a period of weeks or months and see which group improves faster. I remain agnostic on what the outcome of that would be.
0HughRistik14y
I was thinking along our lines, where both groups involve newbies. I predict that the confidence will collapse in whichever groups lack some actual practical knowledge that can achieve success to keep the confidence boosted.
0kodos9614y
Do you have any prediction as to which group would come out ahead after a sufficient number of iterations? And as an aside, wouldn't it be awesome if LW had a prediction market built into it where we could resolve these things?
3Vladimir_M14y
kodos96: In PUA circles, this question has been addressed very extensively, both theoretically and practically. There is in fact a whole subfield of study there, called "inner game," which deals with the issues of confidence and self-image. The answer is that yes, unsurprisingly, confidence matters a great deal, but its relative importance in individual PUA's techniques varies, and it doesn't explain everything in their success, not even by a long shot. Generally, regardless of your overall opinion of the people in the PUA scene, and for all their flaws, you definitely underestimate the breadth, intensity, and thoroughness of the debates that take place there. There are of course lots of snake oil salesmen around, but when it comes to the informal, non-commercial discourse in the community at all levels, these folks really are serious about weeding out bullshit and distilling stuff that works.
5HughRistik14y
To be fair, I can't blame people first encountering this subject to have an initial negative reaction. They don't know the breadth of what goes on, and that it would take a college-course-worth of knowledge to even begin to have an idea of what it's really about. What interests me is that they update when exposed to new evidence.
6Vladimir_M14y
The problem is not only that the topic runs afoul of moralistic biases, but also that it triggers failure in high-quality anti-bullshit heuristics commonly used by math/tech/science-savvy people. When you first hear about it, it's exactly the kind of thing that will set off a well-calibrated bullshit detector. It promises impossible-seeming results that sound tailored to appeal to naive wishful thinking, and stories about its success sound like they just must be explicable by selection effects, self-delusions, false boasting, etc. So I definitely don't blame people for excessive skepticism either. A personal anecdote: I remember when I first came across ASF long ago, when I was around 20. I quickly dismissed it as bullshit, and it didn't catch my attention again until several years later. In retrospect, this miscalculation should probably be one of my major regrets in life, and not just for failures with women that could have been prevented; it would have likely opened my perspectives on many other issues too, as it actually happened the next time around.
6kodos9614y
Very true. To me (and my bullshit detector), it sounds strikingly similar to any number of other self-help programs offered through the ages. In fact, it sounds to me a lot like Scientology - or at least the elevator pitch version that they give to lower level people before they start introducing them to the really strange stuff. And the endorsement you give it in your second paragraph sounds a lot like the way adherents to these kinds of absolutely-for-legal-reasons-definitely-not-a-cults will breathlessly talk about them to outsiders. Now of course I realize that superficial similarity to snake oil doesn't actually count as valid evidence. But I do think it's fair to put PUA into the same reference class with them, and base my priors on that. Would you not agree?
4Vladimir_M14y
kodos96: If you see PUA-like techniques being marketed without any additional knowledge about the matter, then yes, your snake oil/bullshit detector should hit the red end of the scale, and stay that way until some very strong evidence is presented otherwise. Thing is, when it comes to a certain subset of such techniques that pjeby, HughRistik, me, and various others have been discussing, there is actually such strong evidence. You just have to delve into the matter without any fatally blinding biases and see it. That's pretty much the point I've been hammering on. The problem is not that your prior is low, which it should be. The problem is that an accurate estimate of posteriors is obscured by very severe biases that push them downward.
1kodos9614y
What evidence? PUAs may use a lot of trial and error in developing their techniques, but do their tests count as valid experimental evidence, or just anecdotes? Where are their control groups? What is their null hypothesis? Was subject selection randomized? Were the data gathered and analyzed by independent parties? Would you accept this kind of evidence if we were talking about physics? Would you accept this kind of evidence if we were evaluating someone who claimed to have psychic powers?
8mattnewport14y
One of the reasons this topic is of interest to rationalists is that it is an example of an area where rational evidence is available but scientific evidence is in short supply. It is not in general rational to postpone judgment until scientific evidence is available. Learning how to make maximal use of rational evidence without succumbing to the pitfalls of cognitive biases is a topic of much interest to many LWers.
1kodos9614y
Yes, that's true. I've been phrasing my more recent comments in terms of scientific evidence, because several people I've been butting heads with have made assertions about PUA that seemed to imply it had a scientific-level base of supporting evidence. I'm still not sure though what the rational evidence is that I'm supposed to be updating on. Numerous other self improvement programs make similar claims, based on similar reasoning, and offer similar anecdotal evidence. So I consider such evidence to be equally likely to appear regardless of whether PUA's claims are true or false, leaving me with nothing but my priors.
6Vladimir_M14y
kodos96: Well, as I said, if you study the discourse in the PUA community at its best in a non-biased and detached way, desensitized to the language and attitudes you might find instinctively off-putting, you'll actually find the epistemological standards surprisingly high. But you just have to see that for yourself. A good comparison for the PUA milieu would be a high-quality community of hobbyist amateurs who engage in some technical work with passion and enthusiasm. In their discussions, they probably won't apply the same formal standards of discourse and evidence that are used in academic research and corporate R&D, but it's nevertheless likely that they know what they're talking about and their body of established knowledge is as reliable as any other -- and even though there are no formal qualifications for joining, those bringing bullshit rather than insight will soon be identified and ostracized. Now, if you don't know at first sight whether you're dealing with such an epistemologically healthy community, the first test would be to see how its main body of established knowledge conforms to your own experiences and observations. (In a non-biased way, of course, which is harder when it comes to the PUA stuff than some ordinary technical skill.) In my case, and not just mine, the result was a definite pass. The further test is to observe the actual manner of discourse practiced and its epistemological quality. Again, it's harder to do when biased reactions to various signals of disrespectability are standing in the way. Even in physics, not all evidence comes from reproducible experiments. Sometimes you just have to make the best out of observations gathered at random opportune moments, for example when it comes to unusual astronomical or geophysical events. You're biasing your skepticism way upward now. The correct level of initial skepticism with which to meet the PUA stuff is the skepticism you apply to people claiming to have solved difficult problems
0kodos9614y
That's a good point - the priors for PUA, though low, are nowhere near as low as for psychic phenomena. But that just means that you need a smaller amount of evidence to overcome those priors - it doesn't lower the bar for what qualifies as valid evidence.
5whpearson14y
I think part of my problem is there is no easy way to signal you are a white hat PUA rather than a black hat. If I am interested in honest and long term relationships, I don't want to be signalling that I have the potential to be manipulative. Especially as the name PUA implies that you are interested in picking up girls in general rather than one lady in particular. This also applies somewhat to non-sexual relations. If someone studies human interaction to a significant degree, how do I know that they will only use their powers for good? Say in an intellectual field or political for that matter. I'm sure the knowledge is useful for spin doctors and people coaching political leaders in debates. This comment, in itself, is probably signalling an overly reflective mind on the nature of signalling though.
3Vladimir_M14y
whpearson: That's unfortunately a problem that women face with men in general, PUA or no PUA. Why do you think the signaling games naturally played by men are any different? The difference is ultimately like between a musical prodigy who learned to play the piano spontaneously as a kid, and a player with a similar level of skill who was however tone-deaf and learned it only much later with lots of painstaking practice. But they're still playing the same notes. There is absolutely nothing in the whole PUA arsenal that wouldn't ultimately represent reverse-engineering of techniques spontaneously applied by various types of natural ladies' men. There is no extra "manipulation" of any sort added on top of that. Even the most callous, sly, and dishonest PUA techniques ever proposed are essentially the same behavior as that practiced by certain types of naturally occurring dark personality types of men that women often, much as they loathe to admit it, find themselves wildly attracted to. (Google "dark triad," or see the paper I linked in one of my other comments.) It's a name that stuck from the old days, which isn't representative of the whole area any more (and in fact never fully was). The more modern term is "game."
2HughRistik14y
In the marginal Roissysphere, maybe. I've seen many attempt to get away from words like "pickup" or "seduction" though I haven't seen any consensus on an alternative. The problem is that our culture simply has no value-neutral or positive terms for, uh, how do I put it... systematically investigating how people induce each other to want sex and relationships, and how one can practically make use of that knowledge oneself. (It took me about four tries to write the part in italics after thinking about this subject for years, and it's still really clunky. I could have said "understand the mating process and act on that understanding," but that's a bit too watered-down. My other best attempt was systematically investigating the process by which people create contexts that raise the chances of other people wanting to have sex and relationships with them, and how one can practically make use of this knowledge oneself. That phrasing is clunkier, but gets rid of the word "induce," which a bunch of feminists once told me is "mechanical" and "objectifying.") "Game" has its own problems, of course. What I like about the term is that it implies that social interaction should be playful and fun. "Game" also highlights certain game-theoretic and competitive aspects of human interaction, but it might risk leading people to overstate those aspects. What I don't like is the connotation that a game isn't "serious" (e.g. "you think this is just a game, huh?") and that PUAs (or critics of PUAs) may believe that "game" involves not taking other people's feelings and interests seriously. As I'm sure you know, some gurus (e.g. TylerDurden) have advocated viewing the process of learning pickup like learning a videogame. A similar frame is the "experiment frame," where you think of yourself as a scientist engaging in social experiments. Such frames can be extremely valuable for beginners who need to protect themselves emotionally during the early stages of the learning process, when most
6Vladimir_M14y
I have the impression that "game" is used much more widely even as the primary general term, let alone when people talk about specific skill subsets and applications ("phone game," "day game," etc.). But I'm sure you've seen a much broader sample of all sorts of PUA-related stuff, so I'll defer to your opinion. That said, I see game primarily as a way of overcoming the biases and false beliefs held about male-female interactions in the contemporary culture. I would say that by historical standards, our culture is exceptionally bad in this regard. While the prevailing respectable views and popular wisdom on the matters of human pairing and sexual behavior have always been affected by biases in every culture that ever existed, my impression is that ours is exceptionally out of touch with reality when it comes to these issues. This is a special case of what I see as a much broader general trend -- namely, that in contrast to hard sciences and technology, which have been making continuous and uninterrupted progress for centuries, in many areas of human interest that are not amenable to a no-nonsense hard-scientific way of filtering truth from bullshit, the dominant views have actually been drifting away from reality and into increasing biases and delusions for quite a while now. To understand this, it is necessary to be able to completely decouple normative from factual parts in one's beliefs about human sexual and pairing behaviors -- a feat of unbiased thinking that is harder in this matter than almost any other. Once this has been done, however, a curious pattern emerges: modern people perceive the normative beliefs of old times and faraway cultures about pairing and sex as alien, strange, and repulsive, and conclude that this is because their factual beliefs were (or are) deluded and biased. Yet it seems to me that whatever one thinks about the normative part, the prevailing factual beliefs have, in many ways, become more remote from reality in modern times. (The
1whpearson14y
I don't. I wouldn't want to associate myself with naturally skilled playas either.
2pjeby14y
Actually, it's fairly simple to signal whether you're a white-hat or black-hat PUA trainer -- all you need to do is write your marketing materials for the audience you want. White hats write things that will turn black hats off, and vice versa. I.e., white hats will talk about direct game, inner game, honesty, respect, relating to women, "relationship game", and so on. Black hats will talk about banging sluts and wrapping them around your finger with your persuasive and hypnotic powers, and how much of a chump they used to be before they wised up to the conspiracy keeping men down. (Sadly, I'm not exaggerating.) On the bright side, though, if you're definitely looking for one hat or the other, they're not too hard to find. Most PUA material is somewhere in between though... mostly white-ish hat, with a bit too much tolerance for using false stories and excuses in order to meet people (e.g. "I'm buying a gift for my sister and can I get your opinion on this blah blah") , even though they're not endorsing continuing such pretenses past the time required to get into an actual conversation. It certainly would be nice to be able to screen off the portion of PUA that involves even such minor dishonesty, and have a term that just applied to purely white-hat, deception-free strategies.
2HughRistik14y
Yup. It doesn't help that a lot of people in the seduction community are so crappy at PR and present their ideas a socially unintelligent way that makes it sound much worse than it actually is. I don't have a solution to this problem, except to hope that people will judge me by the way that I treat them, not by the stereotypes triggered by the negative first impression of some of my knowledge sources. Again, I agree. I've been thinking about the ethics of social influence and persuasion for a while.
1kodos9614y
OK, this is, admittedly, a totally cheap shot, but........ if PUA tactics are so effective, and so generally applicable to the broader world of social interactions beyond just picking up women, then how come they aren't better at "seducing" people into buying in to their way of thinking?
2HughRistik14y
My hypothesis: because so much stuff in the seduction community is incorrectly sneered at even when neutrally explained, many PUAs stop bothering and revel in the political incorrectness of their private discourse. Hence you see terminology like "lair" for a seduction meetup group. Why bother with PR if you think you will be unfairly demonized either way? That's not my perspective, but it's a guess.
3pjeby14y
PUAs themselves will admit to confidence being important... in meeting people, and in its being a foundation for everything they do. But it's not a magic bullet. I've seen an excerpt of a talk that one gave who explained that when he started, he actually attained some success at opening (i.e. initiating contact) through delusional self-confidence... however, this wasn't enough to improve his success at "closing" (i.e., getting numbers, kisses, dates, etc.), because he still made too many mistakes at understanding what he was supposed to do to "make a move", or how he was supposed to respond to certain challenges, etc. Remember, if the signal is too easy to fake, it's not very useful as a signal. I think it would be a better test to reverse the PUA recommendations, i.e., teach them things that the PUAs predict would flop. If they succeed anyway, it's a slam dunk for the confidence hypothesis. But I doubt they would. Actually, one thing I saw on Mystery's show suggests to me that it might be sufficient to train someone poorly -- one trainee on the show couldn't get it through his head as to tthe proper use of negging, and went around insulting women with what, as far as I could tell, was total confidence. And of course, It didn't work, at all, while the other guys who both understood the idea and applied it with careful calibration, achieved much greater success. In other words, I think confidence alone is insufficient to replace social calibration -- the PUA term for having awareness (or reasonably accurate internal predictions) of what other people are thinking or feeling about you, each other, and the overall social situation. The principal value of PUA social dynamic theories to PUA practice is to train the socially ill-calibrated to notice the cues that more socially adept people notice instinctively (or at least intuitively). In other words, having a theory of "status" or "value" helps you to to know what to pay attention to, to help tune in on the music o
1Sniffnoy14y
But it certainly is fun!
0kodos9614y
I don't think that would be a fair test. Techniques that PUAs think would flop, I would probably agree with them in predicting they'd flop - It's easier to know that something doesn't work, than that it does work. So they would actually end up at a disadvantage relative to a person with natural confidence and no PUA training. I would want my control group to be given techniques that are entirely harmless and neutral, or as close to it as is reasonably possible.
5HughRistik14y
While that would be an interesting test, being entirely harmless and neutral is how to flop, PUAs predict. People don't want to date people they feel neutral towards; they want to date people they are excited about. Since women are more selective, this principle applies even more to women, and makes for some interesting problem-solving. Since there a bunch of different taxa in female preferences (yes, my model of the preferences of the female population accounts for significant differences in female preferences in certain dimensions), and these taxa have strong, differing, mutually-exclusive preferences (e.g. the preference to definitely kiss on the first date, vs. the preference to definitely not kiss on the first date), and which preference taxon a woman belongs to in advance is not always reasonably predictable, certain behaviors will have a polarizing response. There is only a certain set of behaviors that is universally attractive to women (e.g. confidence), and outside that set, behaviors that attract one woman might annoy or repulse another (cousin_it's arm around the waist example falls into this category). Unfortunately, you can't always explicitly ask what preference taxon a woman is in; your ability to guess based on either strong or weak cues may be one of her filters. And asking too much about someone else's preferences can signal that you consider her higher status, which many women may find unattractive. It might also signal that you think something in particular is going to happen, when she hasn't decided if she wants it to happen yet. Even if a woman could have an explicit discussion of her preferences and not consider your obsequious for doing so, you can't really know this in advance. And you can't ask her if she is part of the taxon of women who can discuss their preferences explicitly without docking status points from men for raising the subject; nor can you ask her if she part of the taxon of women who can be asked which taxon of women she i
7pjeby14y
I think you've highlighted an important difference between the inside view and outside view of PUA. Outsiders think that for PUA to be valid, it has to have techniques that work on "most women". However, for insiders, it simply has to have a set of techniques that work on women they are personally interested in. Outsiders, though, tend to think that the set of "women PUAs are personally interested in" is much more homogeneous than it really is. The women that say, Decker of AMP goes for, are orders of magnitude more introspective than those that say, Mystery goes for. David D seems to like ambitious professional women. Johnny Soporno seems to dig women with depth of emotion who'll all be a big happy family in his harem. Some gurus seem to like women they can boss around. Juggler seems to value good conversation. (And notice that none of these preferences are, "who I can get to sleep with me tonight". Even Mystery's preference for models and strippers is much more about status than it is about sex.) Granted - these are all superficial personal impressions of mine, based on random bits of information, but it's helpful to point out that men's preferences vary just as much as women's do. PUA is not a single unified field aimed at claiming a uniform set of women for a uniform set of men. It is a set of interlinked and related fields of what works for specific groups of women in specific situations... Conditioned on the preferences of the men who are interested in them. That is, successful PUAs intentionally choose (or invent) behaviors and sets of techniques that will screen out women that they are not interested in. And they don't engage in a search for what technique will work on the woman they're with -- they do what the kind of woman they want would like. Now, there are certainly schools of thought who think the goal is to figure out whatever woman is in front of them, but my observation of what the people in PUA who seem happy with their life and work say, is
4kodos9614y
No, you misunderstood what I was saying. I meant that for the purposes of maintaining a valid control group, they be given instructions which neither help nor harm their chances, i.e. have a completely neutral effect on their innate "game" or lack thereof.
1HughRistik14y
I appreciate the idea of this test; my point is that is that it might be hard to set up a group with instructions that have a completely neutral effect on their results. Maybe with a pilot study? I also choose to use your post as a jumping off point for some rambling of my own.
0pwno14y
What are we testing for? Whether there's a placebo effect in believing you have good instructions? If yes, it seems obvious there is one - especially in a domain where confidence is highly correlated with positive results.
0kodos9614y
Hmmmmmm.... is anyone here on LW experienced at writing grant proposals? ;)
3pjeby14y
The problem is that then you're not cleanly comparing methods any more. Remember: much of PUA is the result of modeling the beliefs and behaviors of "naturally confident" and socially-skillful people. The PUA claim is that these beliefs and behaviors can be taught and learned, not that they have invented something which is different from what people are already capable of doing. So, if you take "a person with natural confidence", how do you know they won't be doing exactly what the PUA will? By the way, please remember that the test I proposed was befriending and social climbing, not seducing women. The PUA trainer's relevant experience is strategic manipulation of social groups -- something that an individual PUA need not necessarily master in order to get laid. It is the field of strategic social manipulation that has the most relevance to applications outside dating and mating, anyway.
4kodos9614y
I'm not sure I understand why you think so. They might - that's what I want to test. I'm proposing to take two randomly selected groups, with randomly varying amounts of natural confidence and "game", and train one group with PUA techniques, the other with equally confidence-building yet counter-theoretical non-PUA techniques (which have been validated, perhaps via a pilot study, to have no effect one way or the other), and see which group improves faster. The test could be either picking up women, or any other non-pickup social game that PUA claims to help with. If it's true that PUA is an accurate model of how people with natural game operate, then people in each group on the high end of the natural game spectrum should be relatively unchanged, but the geekier subjects should improve more in the PUA group than the control group. Now of course this is all just hypothetical, since we don't have the resources to actually run such a rigorous study. So my motivation in trying to negotiate a test protocol like this is really just that here on LW, we should all be in agreement that beliefs require evidence, and we should be able to agree on what that evidence should look like. Until we reach such an agreement, we're not really having a rational debate. So, do you think the above protocol would generate valid, update-worthy evidence? If not, why not?
0pjeby14y
Because if the two groups are doing the same things, what is it that you're testing?
3Nick_Tarleton14y
I don't understand this question. The two experimental groups get different training, and the ones in each group who actually follow the training are doing different things.
2kodos9614y
Actually, now that I think about it, I don't understand why you think the two groups would be doing the same thing, even given your assumption that PUA is an accurate model. If PUA is accurate, then the people in the PUA trained group would end up behaving more like naturally socially successful people, and the control group would go on being geeky (or average, or whatever you select the groups to initially be), and hence the two groups' results would diverge. Maybe you need to re-read the experimental protocol I suggested.
2pjeby14y
I'm confused - I thought you wanted to match the PUAs against naturally confident people, which AFAICT wouldn't be comparing anything. What I was concerned about is the possibility that the group that was given neutral instruction might disregard the instruction and simply fall back to whatever they already do, which might be something successful. (Thinking about it a bit more, I have a sneaking suspicion that giving people almost any instruction (whether good, bad, or neutral) may induce a temporary increase in self-consciousness, and a corresponding decrease in performance. But that's another study altogether!)
2kodos9614y
No - initially I said to use geeky, socially unsuccessful subjects, but I later realized that a random sample, including all kinds of people, would work just as well. Which wouldn't be a problem, since they're supposed to be the control group. Unless of course they lost their confidence boost in the process as well. But as long as they are at least initially convinced their training will be effective (see below), then it wouldn't invalidate the experiment, since the same effect would apply to the PUA group as well, if PUA turns out to be ineffective. Yes, that is a possibility I'd considered, which is why I said you may need to go so far as to fake some tests, undergrad psych experiment style, using actors, to actually convince everyone their newly acquired skills are working.
2kodos9614y
THAT'S what we're testing: whether the two groups are doing the same thing! Your assumption that they are is based on the belief that PUA trains people to do the same things that socially successful people do naturally, which is based on the assumption that PUA theory is an accurate model of human social interactions.... which is the hypothesis that we're trying to test with this experiment.
2pjeby14y
"PUA theory" is not a single thing. The PUA field contains numerous models of human social interactions, with varying scopes of applicability. For example, high-level theories would include Mystery's M3 model of the phases of human courtship, and Mehow's "microloop theory" of value/compliance transactions. And then, there are straightforward minor models like, "people will be less defensive about engaging with you if they don't think they'll be stuck with you" -- a rather uncontroversial principle that leads "indirect game" PUAs to "body rock" and give FTCs ("false time constraint" - creating the impression that you will need to leave soon) when approaching groups of people. This particular idea is applicable to more situations than just that, of course -- a couple decades ago when I was in a software company's booth at some trade shows, we strategically arranged both our booth furniture and our positions within the booth to convey the impression that a person walking in would have equal ease in walking back out, without being pounced on by a lurking sales person and backed into a corner. And Joel Spolsky (of Joel On Software fame) has pointed out that people don't like to put their data into places where they're afraid they won't be able to get it back out of. Anyway... "PUA Theory" is way too broad, which is why I proposed narrowing the proposed area of testing to "rapidly manipulating social groups to form alliances and accomplish objectively observable goals". Still pretty broad, and limited to testing the social models of indirect-game schools, but easiest to accomplish in a relatively ethical manner. OTOH, if you wanted to test certain "inner game" theories (like the "AMP holarchy"), you could probably create a much simpler experiment, having guys just go up and introduce themselves to a wide variety of women, and then have the women complete questionnaires about the men they met, rating them on various perceived qualities such as trustworthiness, masculin
1Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I don't think that you should compare social-skills trainer geeks to average geeks. Of course the trainers will be much more charismatic. Otherwise they wouldn't have elected to become trainers. But that doesn't mean that the trainers' specific theory has much to do with why they're charismatic. The relevant test would be this: Compare a successful PUA social-skill's trainer to a successful non-PUA social-skills trainer. I'm sure that almost all social-skills trainers broadly agree on all sorts of principles. The question is, do PUAs in particular have access to better knowledge? Furthermore, do the methods used by either trainer work on the typical person? Or do they work selectively on certain types of people? Of course, instrumentally, you can have good reasons for caring only about certain types of people. But, if you are making claims about the typical person, you should demonstrate that your models reflect the typical person. ETA: There's an analogy to dieting gurus. I'm sure that dieting gurus are better than the average person at losing weight. That is, if you forced dieting gurus to gain weight, they could probably lose the extra weight quicker than an average person of the same weight. However, my understanding is that all the dieting theories out there perform pretty much equally well. There are probably some principles that most diets share and which are good advice. But, as I understand it, there is little evidence that any particular diet has struck upon the truth. Whatever it is that makes a given diet distinct doesn't seem to contribute significantly to its success. This is despite the fact that many diets have legions of followers who gather into communities to poor over their successes and failures in meticulous detail. The analogy with the PUA community seems pretty strong on that count, too.
3pjeby14y
I think the specific dimensions of performance on which PUA trainers would outscore general social skills trainers would be in short-term/immediate manipulation of social groups to achieve specified objective and tactical results. General social skills trainers tend to focus on longer-term and "softer", less-specific objectives, although this could vary quite a bit. They're unlikely to have skills that would be useful at more Machiavellian objectives like, "get people in the group to compete with each other for your attention" or "make the group single out a person for ridicule", or "get everyone in the room to think you're a VIP who everyone else already knows". Granted, not every PUA trainer would have all those skills either, and that last one might be doable by some non-PUA trainers. But if you could come up with novel challenges within the scope of what a PUA social theory would predict to be doable, it would be a good test of that theory. (Also, I predict that PUA theorists who agree to such a challenge as being within scope of their theory, will generally update their theory if it bombs. It's an unusual PUA social theorist who hasn't done a lot of updating and refinement already, so they are already selected for being open to experimentation, refinement, and objective criteria for success.)
1cousin_it14y
I'm not sure about that... It's actually a mathematical question, but the proper formalization escapes me at the moment. (Maybe someone could help?) At first glance, any value of hit rate can be equally well-explained by hidden characteristics or by simple randomness. Right now I believe you have to notice some visible characteristic that determines the success of your method before you can conclude that it's not just randomness. But I can't prove that with numbers yet.
4Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I should be a little clearer about the priors on which my claims are based. What I am saying is that the observed level of PUA success is very likely on the hypothesis that the PUA description of the "typical woman" reflects only a small subset within a very heterogeneous population. If I furthermore take into account my prior that women are a heterogeneous population, the observed PUA success is not sufficient evidence that their description is accurate of the "typical woman". To be a little more precise: Let * H = "Traits vary among women with a certain kind of distribution such that the population of women is heterogeneous. Moreover, insofar as there is a typical woman, the PUA description of her is not accurate." * T = "The PUA description of the typical woman is accurate. That is, PUA methods can be expected to 'work' on the typical woman." * S = "PUAs have the success that we have observed them to have." * X = Prior knowledge I grant that p(S | T & X) > p(S | H & X). That is, PUAs would be more likely to have their observed success if their model of the typical woman were accurate. However, I think that p(S | H & X) is still fairly large. Furthermore, I think that p(H | X) is sufficiently larger than p(T | X) to imply that p(H | S & X) = [ p(H | X) / p(S | X) ] p(S | H & X*) > [ p(T | X) / p(S | X) ] p(S | T & X*) = p(T | S & X). [ETA: I'm not sure why that ">" sign is not escaping properly.] That is, the PUA model of the typical woman is probably inaccurate.
4cousin_it14y
Isn't this begging the question? You haven't really given me any reason to update towards your point of view.
2Tyrrell_McAllister14y
No, it's localizing the source of disagreement :P. You brought the evidence of pickup artist success to the table. I'm telling you something about the priors that were already on the table. (Here, the table's contents are my beliefs about the world.) In particular, I'm saying something about why your new evidence isn't enough to change what I think is probably true. It's too difficult to give you exact values for all of the relevant probabilities. But this is a start. For example, now you know that I already grant that p(S | T & X) > p(S | H & X), so you could try to increase my estimation of their difference. Or you could try to show me that p(H | X) doesn't exceed p(T | X) by as much as I thought. That is, you could try to show me that, even without the evidence of PUA success, I shouldn't have thought that women are so likely to be heterogeneous. I don't expect you to consider all of this work to be worth your time. But at least maybe you have a better sense of what it would take than you had before.
3cousin_it14y
Damn, so this is how Aumann agreement works in the real world. You update! No, you update! Even without knowing S, the hypothesis T comes with a nifty biological explanation - all those alphas and betas. Does H have anything like that? Why would it be genetically useful for different women to prefer highly different traits in men?
2Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I don't think that the biology predicts that much psychological unity among humans.
5cousin_it14y
That link argues that each individual interbreeding population does have psychological unity, but there are differences between populations. So PUA techniques should work or fail depending on ethnicity. (Yeah! I win the Non-PC Award!) Is that what you believe?
2Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I see an argument that different populations could have different means for certain quantifiable traits. I don't see an argument that a single population will be homogeneous. Moreover, the link claims that populations have diverged on these metrics in fairly short amounts of time. I think that that is evidence for a fair amount of diversity within populations to serve as the raw material for that divergence. I should clarify that I'm not convinced by the link's claim that populations differ on those metrics for genetic reasons. But I certainly allow that it's possible. It's not ruled out by what we know about biology. I presented the link only as evidence that the case for psychological unity is not a slam-dunk.
1Roko14y
cousin_it, I hereby award you the un-PC silver medal for offending both feminists and politically correct race-difference deniers in one sentence.
0HughRistik14y
Different mating practices in different cultures is a piece of data consistent with your hypothesis.
2pjeby14y
For characteristics that we share with other primates, what would be your evidence that we would not be so heterogeneous in our inner workings? Yes, people are pretty varied in their cultural trappings and acquired values (i.e. choices of signal expression), but we're ridiculously common in the mental/emotional machinery by which we obtain that acculturation.
2Tyrrell_McAllister14y
Did you mean, what would be my evidence that we would be so heterogeneous? Assuming that you did, it's not clear to me that we share the relevant characteristics with the other primates at the relevant level of abstraction. It's not known to me that a female chimpanzee would react well to a male she'd never met before putting his arm around her waist. My understanding is that mating practices vary pretty widely among the primates. They have greater and lesser sexual dimorphism. They are more or less inclined to have harem-type arrangements.
1pjeby14y
Oops, I temporarily confused homogeneous and heterogeneous, actually. ;-) Based on your examples, I'd say that where we disagree is on what the correct level of abstraction is. I would expect "arm around the waist" to vary in attractiveness by culture, but the attractiveness of "comfortable initiating touch" to vary a good bit less.
1Tyrrell_McAllister14y
Yes, I think that's right. I too would expect most women to like men who evince confidence, and who act as though they're used to being liked rather than disliked. But it's less clear to me that initiating touch conveys that attitude without giving 49 out of 50 women the impression that you have other undesirable qualities. For example, perhaps, by rushing to touch, you give the impression that you are in a hurry to be physically intimate as quickly as possible. She might infer that you lack the confidence or security to pursue courtship at a leisurely pace. Perhaps you are some zero-status interloper who's trying to get in and out as fast as you can before the local alpha male catches you. And, given the level of inter-tribe violence in the EEA, she might be leery of interlopers. Maybe they present too high a threat of violence or rape to her personally, especially if they seem eager to get intimate quickly.
4pwno14y
You're not imagining the same thing as pjeby when you think of "comfortable initiating touch". If you appear to be rushing/eager, you're not appearing comfortable and, as you've predicted, will appear less attractive.
0Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I'm considering the possibility that initiating touch a few minutes after meeting a woman for the first time, in and of itself, could convey that you are in a hurry.
4pwno14y
That's the best time to initiate touch. Any later and it will seem out of character or contrived.
0Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I understand that that's the theory.
0cousin_it14y
What you're saying sounds weird to me. If there is such a thing as a "local alpha male", he certainly wouldn't "pursue courtship at a leisurely pace".
1Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I'm not convinced of that. The local alpha male might have so many irons in the fire that no one woman should expect to see him in a particular rush to court her. But it doesn't really matter what the local alpha male would be expected to do. The local alpha male in the EEA ought to be well known, not a stranger. It doesn't seem plausible to me that you could fool someone into thinking that you're him just by initiating some touch. As I understand it, strangers in the EEA were so dangerous that a woman would be very leery about admitting a stranger into her personal space. Here's another point: As you know, there's a whole line of theory in PUA circles about feigning disinterest, so that the woman thinks that you must have higher market value than her. Part of my argument is appealing to that line of thinking. Touching shortly after meeting may imply that you are too eager to be intimate with her. Let me make a few meta remarks about what I'm arguing and how I've argued it. The above account may not be what is going in with women who profess that they don't like to be touched by strangers. What I'm trying to do is to make it plausible that the PUA-constructed "typical woman" is not typical by (1) showing that PUA success does not prove that their models of women are generally accurate, and (2) showing that even PUA theory itself has room for women who don't like to be touched, for the above reasons. Argument (2) is just to open up a "line of retreat" by making the existence of such women seem plausible to a PUA proponent. I'm making the additional claim that such women may in fact be much more common than what the PUA view as I understand it would allow. The upshot is that PUAs mistakenly think that their success implies that the woman with whom they succeed are typical.
1Tyrrell_McAllister14y
I grant that. Aside from the Aumann-type evidence that I hold my point of view, I've given you little else. However, my position is closer to the null hypothesis, the extreme version of which would posit that women correlate no more with each other than is implied by the definition of "woman". Unless I misunderstand you, you are asserting that they tend to conform to a certain model of the typical woman espoused by PUAs. Since my view is closer to the null hypothesis, you should be the one presenting evidence for your position. My obligation is just to say what I can about what evidence would convince me.
0kodos9614y
OK, now we're getting somewhere. Counterpoint: whether it's due to hidden variables, or simple randomness, in either case, what general principle are you able to extract from the example which can be usefully applied to topics other than male/female mating interactions?
4NancyLebovitz14y
Do you think the costs to women are negligible in a utilitarian sense, or just not of interest to you?
1kodos9614y
I'm not sure really. I just meant that I file it under "things about the world that are beyond my power to control"
0Richard_Kennaway14y
Maybe we should be working on the FHI problem.
1kodos9614y
FHI?
0Richard_Kennaway14y
Friendly Human Intelligence.
0kodos9614y
Sorry, I'm not following...
1cupholder14y
See the problem of Friendly AI; that is, if humans are going to make a powerful AI, we should make sure it doesn't do something to wreck our shit, like turn the whole universe into paperclips or some other crazy thing - i.e. it should be Friendly. RichardKennaway was putting a jokey spin on the idea by suggesting that we solve the problem of designing Friendly Human Intelligence, by analogy to the problem of designing Friendly Artificial Intelligence. (Edited last sentence for accuracy.)
1Richard_Kennaway14y
Exactly. Well, not instead of FAI, but FHI is an important problem, as old as humanity: how to bring up your kids right and stop them wrecking the place. I'll take this to the open thread.
0cupholder14y
You're right, 'instead of' was sloppy phrasing on my side, I've edited my comment.
9Richard_Kennaway14y
Rationalism, which leads to atheism, is just such an aqua regia. Contact with it can destroy any and all of one's beliefs. The result is not necessarily an improvement: http://chesterton.org/qmeister2/any-everything.htm It is. It can.
0Jonathan_Graehl14y
I agree that in principle it's possible that someone will do worse (or become more harmful to others) by becoming more rational. But do you take it to be likely?
3Richard_Kennaway14y
I've no basis for attaching numbers. But some of the things some people have said right here on LW or on OB make me wonder. We are dealing with fire here. Most people learn to use matches safely. That does not mean that matches are safe.
1Blueberry14y
I'd love to hear an elaboration of this. How can rationality be so dangerous?
4Richard_Kennaway14y
Perfect rationality is, by definition, perfect and can never go wrong, for if it went wrong, it would not be perfect rationality. But none of us is perfect. When an imperfect person comes into contact with this ultimate solvent of unexamined beliefs, the ways they could go wrong outnumber the ways they could go right. "There is no such thing as morality, therefore I can lie and steal all I like and you're a chump if you don't!" "There is no afterlife, therefore all is meaningless and I should just cut my throat now! Or yours! It doesn't matter!" "Everything that people say is self-serving lies and if you say you don't agree you're just another self-serving liar!" "At last, I see the truth, while everyone else is just another slave of the Matrix!" That last is a hazard on any path to enlightenment, rationalistic or otherwise. Belief in one's own enlightenment -- even an accurate one -- provides a fully general counterargument to anyone else: they're not as enlightened. ETA: Those aren't actual quotations, but I'm not making them up out of thin air. On the first, compare pjeby's recent description of black-hat PUAs. On the second, a while back (but I can't find the actual messages) someone here was arguing that unless he could live forever, nothing could matter to him. On the third, black-hat PUAs and people seeing status games at the root of all interaction are going that way. On the last, as I said above, this is a well-known hazard on many paths. There's even an xkcd on the subject.
1JoshuaZ14y
Perfect rationality can still go wrong. Consider for example a perfectly rational player playing the Monty Hall game. The rational thing to do is to switch doors. But that can still turn out to be wrong. A perfectly rational individual can still be wrong.
3Richard_Kennaway14y
The rational thing to do might be to look behind the doors, but in any case, perfect rationality is not perfect omniscience.
1byrnema14y
I hope that my reply does not in any way discourage Richard Kennaway's reply. I am curious about different responses. But mine: rationalism intends to find better ways to satisfy values, but finds in the process that values are negated, or that it would be more rational to modify values. Some time ago, I had grand hopes that as a human being embedded in reality, I could just look around and think about things and with some steady effort I might find a world view -- at least an epistemology -- that would bring everything together, or that I could be involved in a process of bringing things together. Kind of the way religion would do, if it was believable and not a bunch of nonsense. However, the continued application of thought and reason to life just seems to negate the value of life. Intellectually, I'm in a place where life presents as meaningless. While I can't "go back" to religious thinking -- in fact, I suspect I was never actually there, I've only ever been looking for a comprehensive paradigm -- I think religions have the right idea; they are wise to the fact that intellectualism/objectivity is not the way to go when it comes to experiencing "cosmic meaning". Many people never think about the double think that is required in religion. But I suspect many more people have thought about things both ways ... a lifetime is a long time, with space for lots of thoughts ... and found that "intellectualism" requires double think as well (compartmentalization) but in a way that is immensely less satisfying. In the latter, you intellectually know that "nothing matters" but that you are powerless to experience and apply this viscerally due to biology. Viscerally, you continue to seek comfort and avoid pain, while your intellect tells you there's no purpose to your movements. A shorter way of saying all of this: Being rational is supposed to help humans pursue their values. But it's pretty obvious that having faith is something that humans value. -------------------
7pjeby14y
I think the "mental muscles" model I use is helpful here. We have different ways of thinking that are useful for different things -- mental muscles, if you will. But, the muscles used in critical thinking are, well, critical. They involve finding counterexamples and things that are wrong. While this is useful in certain contexts, it has negative side effects on one's direct quality of life, just as using one physical muscle to the exclusion of all others would create problems. Some of the mental muscles used by religion, OTOH, are appreciation, gratitude, acceptance, awe, compassion... all of which have more positive direct effects on quality of life. In short, even though reason has applications that indirectly lead to improved circumstances of living, its overuse is directly detrimental to the quality of experience that occurs in that life. And while exclusive use of certain mental muscles used in religion can indirectly lead to worsened circumstances of living, they nonetheless contribute directly to an improved quality of experience. I've pretty much always felt that the problem with LessWrong is that it consists of an effort by people who are already overusing their critical faculties, seeking to improve their quality of experience, by employing those faculties even more. In your case, the search for a comprehensive world view is an example of this: i.e., believing that if your critical faculty was satisfied, then you would be happy. Instead, you've discovered that using the critical faculty simply produces more of the same dissatisfaction that using the critical faculty always produces. In a very real sense, the emotion of dissatisfaction is the critical faculty. In fact, I got the idea of mental muscles from Minsky's book The Emotion Machine, wherein he proposes mental "resources" organized into larger activation patterns by emotion. That is, he proposes that emotions are actually modes of thought, that determine which resources (muscles) are activated
4pwno14y
I've always suspected that introspection was tied to negative emotions. It's more of a tool to help figure out solutions to problems rather than a happy state like 'being in flow'. People can get addicted to introspection because it feels productive, but remains depressing if no positive action is taken from it. Do you think this is related to the mental muscles model?
0pjeby14y
Yep - Minsky actually uses something like it as an example.
2byrnema14y
I agree and this is insightful: thinking in certain types of ways results in specific predictable emotions. The way I feel about reality is the result of the state of my mind, which is a choice. However, exercising the other set of muscles does not seem to be epistemically neutral. They generate thoughts that my critical faculty would be .. critical of. For me, many of these muscles seem to require some extent of magical thinking. They generate a belief in a presence that is taking care of me or at least a feeling for the interconnectedness and self-organization of reality. Is this dependency unusual? Am I mistaken about the dependence? Consider a concrete example: enjoying the sunshine. Enjoyment seems neutral. However, if I want to feel grateful, it seems I feel grateful towards something. I can personify the sun itself, or reality. It seems silly to personify the sun, but I find it quite natural to personify reality. I currently repress personifying reality with my critical muscles, after a while I suspect it would also feel silly. I'm not sure what I mean by 'personify', but while false (or silly) it also seems harmless. Being grateful for the sun never caused me to make -- say -- a biased prediction about future experience with the sun. But while I've argued a few times here that one should be "allowed" false beliefs if they increase quality of life without penalty, I find that I am currently in a mode of preferring "rational" emotions over allowing impressions that would feel silly. Is this conflict "real"?
5pjeby14y
Nope. The idea that your brain's entire contents need to be self-consistent is just the opinion of the part of you that finds inconsistencies and insists they're bad. Of course they are... to that part of your brain. I teach people these questions for noticing and redirecting mental muscles: 1. What am I paying attention to? (e.g. inconsistencies) 2. Is that useful? (yes, if you're debugging a program, doing an engineering task, etc. -- no if you're socializing or doing something fun) 3. What would it be useful for me to pay attention to? Is that really necessary? I have not personally observed that gratitude must be towards something in particular, or that it needs to be personified. One can be grateful in the abstract -- thank luck or probability or the Tegmark level IV multiverse if you must. Or "thank Bayes!". ;-) Sure, there's a link. I think that Einstein's question about whether the universe is a friendly place is related. I also think that this is the one place where an emphasis on epistemic truth and decompartmentalization is potentially a serious threat to one's long-term quality of life. I think that our brains and bodies more or less have an inner setting for "how friendly/hostile is my environment" -- and believing that it's friendly has enormous positive impact, which is why religious people who believe in a personally caring deity score so high on various quality of life measures, including recovery from illness. So, this is one place where you need to choose carefully about which truths you're going to pay attention to, and worry much more about whether you're going to let too much critical faculty leak over into your basic satisfaction with and enjoyment of life. Much more than you should worry about whether your uncritical enjoyment is going to leak over and ruin your critical thinking. Trust me, if you're worrying about that, then it's a pretty good sign that the reverse is the problem. (i.e., your critical faculty already has too muc
2Jonathan_Graehl14y
Without really being able to make a case that I have successfully done so, I believe it's possible to improve my life by thinking accurately and making wise choices. It's hard to think clearly about areas of painful failure, and it's hard to motivate myself to search for invalidating experiences, rather than self-protectively circumscribing my efforts, but on the other hand I love the feeling of facing and knowing reality.
0thomblake14y
That reminds me - I'd been intending to add more applause lights to my comments.
2mattnewport14y
I think if you look at the original source for that phrase it reflects the double-edged sword concerns raised by this comment:
0Roko14y
Yep.
0whpearson14y
I think perhaps discussion of the topic is also seen as low status. And you giving advice to us is implying we are low status. Because a high status confidant man would just expect the world to conform to them because of their manifest qualities, rather than trying to adapt to the world.
2Vladimir_M14y
Well, even if Geoffrey Miller's theories are overshooting it a bit, the role of sexual selection in the evolution of the human mind should not be underestimated. Rather than being some isolated dark corner or irrationality that can be safely corralled and ignored, it seems to me that various inclinations and biases related to the mating behaviors, whether directly or indirectly, are very much all-pervasive in the workings of human minds. Therefore, careful dissection of these behaviors can reveal a lot about human nature that is applicable more widely.
0[anonymous]14y
No one wants to take the rules or methods for playing status games or encouraging sexual attraction and generalize from them lessons for how to be rational. What people want to do is (a) apply rationality techniques to this field to better understand how it works and (b) take the techniques people used to learn about this field, specify them, and see if they are applicable more generally.
6Roko14y
Women who shit test are typically quite secure, not insecure. You seem to be in a muddle surrounding the subject. That is not to say that I condone everything that everyone on the internet ever says about dating and psychology -- but the example quoted is a clear case -- passing a shit test is not doing a bad thing. If anything, the person who uses such a test is in more questionable territory, as they are probing you for insecurity.
-2whpearson14y
See previous comment about signal to noise ratio. Edit: Practical advice that is appropriate for the majority of people on this site is fine, it doesn't create the noise of confusion and boredom. Akrasia being a good example of appropriate practical advice. As is advice about sleeping, eating, teaching, communicating ideas. Look at it from the flip side. Should we do make up tips for nerdy girls?

Should we do make up tips for nerdy girls?

Sure, why not? If a nerdy girl feels she has learned something about rationality from exploring makeup techniques, I would absolutely be interested to hear about it on LessWrong. If other people don't care about makeup, they don't have to read her posts.

9Jack14y
There are females who are interested. And I don't just mean for academic reasons.
4whpearson14y
I suspect but can't prove that picking up girls as a girl would be different than picking up girls as a guy. Oh and that girls would have different problems with the picking up than men, even if it was the same process.

Self Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back-- an account by a lesbian of living as a man in four different male social groups. One of her experiments includes dating women, but I don't remember the details.

I read Self Made Man a couple years ago, and I highly recommend it. The author is to be commended for such an extensive debiasing project. Vincent found living as a man to have a lot more challenges than she thought. I'll post some excerpts or articles about her that might be interesting for people here.

From here:

I caught one woman's eye and held her gaze for a second, smiling. She returned the smile and looked away. This was signal enough for me, so I stood up, made my way over to their table and asked them whether they wanted to join us for a drink. "No, thanks," one of them said, "we're on our way out in a minute."

Simple enough, right? A brush-off. No biggie. But as I turned away and slumped back across the room toward our table, I felt like the outcast kid in the lunchroom who trips and dumps his tray on the linoleum in front of the whole school.

"Rejection is a staple for guys," said Curtis, laughing as I crumpled into my seat with a humiliated sigh. "Get used to it." ...

On dates with men I felt physically appraised in a way that I never did by women, and, while this made me more sympathetic to the suspicions women were bringing to thei

... (read more)
3Blueberry14y
Yes, and girls would have different problems with picking up (and maintaining relationships with) guys, but the same general social principles apply. "PUA" is just dating and relationship advice.
8HughRistik14y
I understand this sentiment, but I'm not quite sure about your analogy between football and mating. Football is a sport; mating is a species-typical task. Articles on mating are relevant to a wider audience than articles about football. A better analogy would be between mating and another challenge that almost everyone deals with, such as akrasia. Not everyone is equally interested in akrasia, but the community seems to find it worth discussing as an example of applying rationality to personal development. Why is mating different? I see rationality as relevant for females to improve their dating and relationship success, also. As for those who are just not that into dating, I think this population may contain heterogenous groups: 1. People who are already in satisfying relationships 2. People who genuinely aren't interested in dating, or in relationships that can be achieved by dating. 3. People who want relationships, but aren't interested in the dating steps necessary to get there. 4. People who want relationships and would want to be dating, but have challenges in those areas, and have suppressed or denied their desires. For people in groups #1 and #2, I can indeed see how they would quickly become bored by discussions of rationality applied to mating, just as someone who has their akrasia issues handled would become bored by continued discussion of akrasia. Individuals in groups #3 and #4 might benefit from such discussions, even if they found them initially uncomfortable. It may be hard to distinguish people in the last three groups from each other.
1whpearson14y
Hmm, it might be worth doing a questionnaire to try and distinguish between these and find out the demographics on this site. Questions about how well they interact with women etc. The sorts of relationships I'm interested might possibly be achieved by dating/going to clubs. But most standard relationships don't appeal. There is a probability of low pay off for me for learning about standard techniques. I'm better off seeing if I mesh well with people on a shared task/problem.
5JanetK14y
Voted up. You got away from the bar room chat and said something about the heart of the post. I am sure that many people have their adult lives fenced in by decision about themselves taken in childhood. It is always a good idea to challenge yourself to overcome such fences.
0John_D11y
"If you're kind of good at (or interested in) analytical things, and kind of bad at (or uninterested in) social things, you'll specialize your own brain in that direction. It may even be in your best interest to specialize to some extent, to play to your strengths." I agree with this. I would also like to add, especially with higher-functioning autistics , that they are quite aware of the practicality of social skills and status, and if wrongplanet users are any indicator, many if not most want to be genuinely socially adept. Regarding the NT vs. AS model, here are a couple possible reasons as to why NTs have better social skills: 1) It is unconscious and hard-wired, or 2) due to being more vigilant for social cues and body-language, learn the rules of the game earlier in life and reap the benefits as a result. I prefer the latter explanation, because it means one can be socially competent once these rules are taught.

What about the other side of the same coin: how can we get neurotypicals to use more of their cognitive resources to solve non-social (e.g., technical) problems? When I look at people who seem to spend almost all of their time and energy playing social games that largely don't matter, I can't help but think "what a waste."

To use myself as an example, I think I'm neurotypical, but lost interest in making friends and socializing in my teenage years due to negative feedback (not "fitting in" after immigrating from China and having different interests from my peers). As a result, I now have a lot more time to think about technical and philosophical problems. And while perhaps not quite GPGPU, I speculate that due to neuroplasticity, some of my neurons that would have gone into running social interactions are now being used for other purposes instead.

What about the other side of the same coin: how can we get neurotypicals to use more of their cognitive resources to solve non-social (e.g., technical) problems

Let's use them to simulate an economy!

5pjeby14y
LOLed and upvoted. (Well, it was more like I made a wheezing screeching noise than an actual "laugh" out loud, but still...)
5HughRistik14y
I've thought a bit about this question, and what I've come up with so far is that neurotypicals will become more interested in developing technical abilities when doing so is considered cool, and all their friends are doing it.
3pwno14y
Since when do social games not matter?
5sketerpot14y
When your utility function assigns little weight to them. Social games matter quite a bit to a lot of people, and less to others. I know that sounds almost tautological, but the point is that people differ here.

Even if you don't like or care about social games, other things you may care about can depend on them, such as:

  • Not getting bullied or pushed around by other people
  • Finding mates outside a narrow nerdy minority of people
  • Networking
  • Business and job negotiation

For social games to truly not matter, you need to have a very narrow preference set where you not only don't care for social games, but you don't need or want anything that can be achieved by them. It would be like not caring about money, and also not caring about anything money can buy you. It's possible to have that preference set; it's just a tall order.

A large amount of doors in neurotypical society are closed to you if you can't play social games at some level. I would speculate that for many people who think they don't care about silly things like social games, those very social games actually do impact other things they care about, and they are either unaware of that impact or in denial about it.

I think social games do matter, just not nearly to the degree that most people seem to think, judging from how they spend their time. I think the explanation for this is that social games mattered much more in the past than they do now, but most people don't realize this yet. And on the other side, there are a lot more opportunities for technical problem solving, which weren't available in the past.

  • Not getting bullied or pushed around by other people

I was bullied in school, but eventually graduated, and I don't think anyone tried to push me around after starting work. If they did, I would have complained to my boss or changed jobs. In a less mobile society, if you didn't know how to "handle yourself", you were probably stuck with low status for life.

  • Finding mates outside a narrow nerdy minority of people

Being single isn't that bad. I imagine it was a lot worse in the past, where there was much less you could do to entertain yourself.

  • Networking

I spent most of my spare time in college writing an open source C++ library, which led to plenty of business and job opportunities. I really doubt that I would have gotten more opportunities if I had spent most of m... (read more)

0A1987dM12y
Even if they don't matter as terminal values, it doesn't mean they don't matter as instrumental values either.

The comments to this post and most of the other literature I've read assumes that the problem with poorly social people is that they're afraid, not sure how to carry out a conversation effectively, or make poor decisions when confronted with social dilemmas.

Anecdotally, my experience isn't like this at all. I'm pretty good, maybe even better than average, at talking to people in one-to-one conversations, at home, at cafes, on the bus, before class, and pretty much any time other than at deliberately social events. But at bars or parties, the constantly shifting conversations of dozens of people trying to all talk to each other at once at a mile a minute, about nothing in particular, in a loud and overstimulating environment completely discombobulates me, and I usually end up either ignored, unable to break into a conversation more than once every few minutes, or just plain bored with having nothing to say but the same small talk everyone else is making.

Maybe I'm atypical of non-social people, but I also give a bit of credence to the possibility that all this "not knowing how to give the right reply in a conversation" stuff is what neurotypical people imagine being bad at ... (read more)

[-]Roko14y150

just plain bored with having nothing to say but the same small talk everyone else is making.

this is indicative that you are paying attention to the topic/words of the conversation, rather than the sub-communication, which is often the interesting bit for these kinds of conversations. People who can't read social cues and sub-communication typically don't get why others find small talk so "interesting", but this is rather like a radio that sends the carrier wave rather than the signal to the loudspeaker. The topics are just there as a "carrier wave" which is then modulated to encode social signals.

Sub-communication includes agreement/disagreement (someone agrees with you to signal alliance, disagrees to signal enmity), tone of voice (tone that rises towards the end of the sentence indicates submission, tone that falls towards the end conflict/assertiveness/dominance), body language, who gets to talk most/who listens most. Once you tune your radio in, you may find such occasions more exciting.

Tuning in to the carrier wave in social situations is a common failure mode for smart people, because we feel comfortable assessing factual statements.

Once you tune your radio in, you may find such occasions more exciting.

For me, understanding "what's really going on" in typical social interactions made them even less interesting than when I didn't. At least back then it was a big mystery to be solved. Now I just think, what a big waste of brain cells.

Roko, do you personally find these status and alliance games interesting? Why? I mean, if you play them really well, you'll end up with lots of allies and high status among your friends and acquaintances, but what does that matter in the larger scheme of things? And what do you think of the idea that allies and status were much more important in our EEA (i.e., tribal societies) than today, and as a result we are biased to overestimate their importance?

[-]Roko14y120

but what does that matter in the larger scheme of things?

Well, that depends upon your axiology.

If you are concerned with existential risk, then it is worth noting that the movement has an undersupply of "people people", a big gender imbalance and an undersupply of money. (I think that ability to make money is determined, to some extent, by your ability at these social games)

You may feel that status within a social group is an end in itself.

If you are concerned with academic learning, discovering new mathematics/philosophy, then getting better at these social games is probably not so important.

I mean, if you play them really well, you'll end up with lots of allies and high status among your friends and acquaintances, but what does that matter in the larger scheme of things? And what do you think of the idea that allies and status were much more important in our EEA (i.e., tribal societies) than today, and as a result we are biased to overestimate their importance?

Their importance is a function of our values, which came from the EEA and are not so easily changed. Those values, like wanting friendship, community, relationships, and respect, are a part of what make us human.

I actually don't interpret social interactions as "status and alliance games," which is kind of cynical and seems to miss the point. Instead, I try to recognize that people have certain emotional requirements that need to be met in order to gain their trust, friendship, and attraction, and that typical social interactions are about building that type of trust and connection.

8Wei Dai14y
Most of what we call values seem to respond to arguments, so they're not really the kind of fixed values that a utility maximizer would have. I would be wary about calling some cognitive feature "values that came from the EEA and are not easily changed". Given the right argument or insight, they probably can be changed. So, granted that it's human to want friendship, community, etc., I'm still curious whether it's also human to care less about these things after realizing that they boil down to status and alliance games, and that the outcomes of these games don't count for much in the larger scheme of things.
7Vladimir_M14y
Well, is it also human to stop desiring tasty food once you realize that it boils down to super-stimulation of hardware that evolved as a device for impromptu chemical analysis to sort out nutritionally adequate stuff from the rest? As for the "larger scheme of things," that's one of those emotionally-appealing sweeping arguments that can be applied to literally anything to make it seem pointless and unworthy of effort. Selectively applying it is a common human bias. (In fact, I'd say it's a powerful general technique for producing biased argumentation.)
6Wei Dai14y
Not to stop desiring it entirely, but to care less about it than if I didn't realize, yes. (I only have a sample size of one here, namely myself, so I'm curious if others have the same experience.) I don't think I'm applying it selectively... we're human and we can only talk about one thing at a time, but other than that I think I do realize that this is a general argument that can be applied to all of our values. It doesn't seem to affect all of them equally though. Some values, such as wanting to be immortal, and wanting to understand the nature of reality, consciousness, etc., seem to survive the argument much better than others. :)
4Vladimir_M14y
Honestly, I don't see what you're basing that conclusion on. What, according to you, determines which human values survive that argument and which not?
2Wei Dai14y
I'm surprised that you find the conclusion surprising or controversial. (The conclusion being that some some values survive the "larger scheme of things" argument much better than others.) I know that you wrote earlier: but I didn't think those words reflected your actual beliefs (I thought you just weren't paying enough attention to what you were writing). Do you really think that people like me, who do not think that literally everything is pointless and unworthy of effort, have just avoided applying the argument to some of our values? It seems obvious to me that some values (e.g., avoiding great pain) survive the argument by being hardwired to not respond to any arguments, while others (saving humanity so we can develop an intergalactic civilization, or being the first person in an eventually intergalactic civilization to really understand how decisions are supposed to be made) are grand enough that "larger scheme of things" just don't apply. (I'm not totally sure I'm interpreting your question correctly, so let me know if that doesn't answer it.)
5Vladimir_M14y
Wei_Dai: As the only logical possibilities, it's either that, or you have thought about it and concluded that the argument is not applicable to some values. I don't find the reasons for this conclusion obvious, and I do see many selective applications of this argument as a common bias in practice, which is why I asked. Yes, that answers my question, thanks. I do have disagreements with your conclusion, but I grant that you are not committing the above mentioned fallacy outright. In particular, my objections are that: (1) for many people, social isolation and lack of status is in fact a hardwired source of great pain (though this may not apply to you, so there is no disagreement here if you're not making claims about other people), (2) I find the future large-scale developments you speculate about highly unlikely, even assuming technology won't be the limiting factor, and finally (3) even an intergalactic civilization will matter nothing in the "larger scheme of things" assuming the eventual heat death of the universe. But each of these, except perhaps (1), would be a complex topic for a whole another discussion, so I think we can leave our disagreements rest at this point now that we've clarified them.
1Roko14y
Agreed: this is an instance of the Godshatter concept
6Wei Dai14y
What makes the desire to obtain high status within some small group a legitimate piece of Godshatter (good), as opposed to a kind of scope insensitivity (bad)? Or to put it another way, why isn't scope insensitivity (the non-linear way that a typical human being values other people's suffering) also considered Godshatter?
3Roko14y
Voted up as this is an important and general question about converting human intuitions into a formal utility function. Do we have a general criterion for deciding these things? Or is it still unresolved in general? In this specific case, it seems to me that there are many aspects of social interaction that are zero-sum or even negative sum. For the purpose of Coherent Extrapolated Volition, zero sum or negative sum elements are like scope insensitivity, i.e. bad. There are clearly some social status games that are positive sum.
3Wei Dai14y
I think it's unresolved in general. I brought up scope insensitivity as a counter-example to the "Godshatter" argument, or at least a strong form of it which says we should keep all of the values that evolution has handed down to us. It seems likely that we shouldn't, but exactly where to draw the line is unclear to me. Still, to me, desire for high status in some small group seems to be the same kind of "crazy" value as scope insensitivity. I wasn't talking about CEV, I was mainly talking about what you or I should value, now, as individuals. I'm not sure that positive-sum/zero-sum has much to do with that.
2Vladimir_Nesov14y
Deciding which psychological drives to keep, and which to abandon, is the same as figuring out full formal preference (assuming you have more expressive power than just keeping/abandoning), so there is no heuristic for doing that simpler than full formal preference. This problem isn't just unresolved, it's almost FAI-complete (preference theory, as opposed to efficient implementation).
0Roko14y
Can you expand on this? It isn't logically inconsistent to want to have status...
2whpearson14y
My guess: Status should be about gaining allies and mates, correct? Just as charity is about helping people. Gaining more allies and mates (especially for a male) should be better than gaining fewer agreed? If so, why do maths professors spend so much time and effort trying to gain status in the small world of maths? They would be better off appealing to the lowest common denominator and using their intellect to wow people in something more accessible.
2Stille14y
The quality of the allies also matters. Having allies that can't help you in your chosen goals is a drain on resources.
9Vladimir_M14y
Wei_Dai: However, that's not how human brains work. It's not like someone who on an average day spends, say, eight hours doing intellectual work and four hours socializing could do 50% more useful intellectual work by spending 12 hours working instead of socializing. For the overwhelming majority of people, it's impossible to employ their brains productively for more than a few hours a day. You get tired and lose focus to the point where you're just making a mess instead of progress. Similarly, if you develop skills independent of your main intellectual pursuits, it's not like they will automatically steal resources and make you less productive. Human brain just doesn't work that way. On the contrary, a suitable schedule of entertaining diversions can increase your productivity in your main pursuit. Of course, there are exceptions. Some people really can spend nearly all their waking hours intensely focused and fully productive, without the need or want for anything more in their lives. However, this is a very small minority, even among people working in math, hard science, and technical professions. That argument can be used to deny the importance of absolutely everything you do. Unless you believe that some part of you came into existence supernaturally, or you're carrying some highly consequential recent mutation, absolutely everything in your thoughts and deeds is a result of some impulse that evolved in the EEA (although of course it might be manifesting itself in a way very different from the original in today's environment).
0A1987dM11y
I agree with everything, except: -- unless you're using “impulse” in a very broad sense. Plenty of thoughts and deeds (even in the System 1) are the result of your brain's inputs in your life so far.
6BenAlbahari14y
Merely "tuning in" to a social interaction isn't enough. Subtextual conversations are often tedious if they're not about you. You have to inject your ego into the conversation for things to get interesting.
4eirenicon14y
They're way more interesting than video games, for example. Or watching television. Or numerous other activities people find fun and engaging. Of course, if you're bad at them you aren't going to enjoy them; the same goes for people who can't get past the first stage of Pac-Man.
5Nanani14y
Terrible analogy. Video games have a lot of diversity to them and different genres engage very different skills. Small talk all seems to encompass the same stuff, namely social ranking. Some of us know how to do it but just don't -care-, and that doesn't mean we're in fact bad at it. I think that is the point this comment thread is going for.

Be careful when you notice more diversity in subject matter you're a fan of than in subject matter that you're not. I'm not sure if there's a name for this bias, but there should be.

7Sniffnoy14y
I would expect this people are just more familiar with what they're a fan of, but it could also be related to outgroup homogeneity bias.
5NancyLebovitz14y
That's definitely it. I suspect it's too much like work for most people to pay attention to the details of things they aren't fond of. Your link is broken.
0Sniffnoy14y
Oops, fixed.
5CronoDAS14y
My father disparages all video games as being "little men running around on a screen".
2NancyLebovitz14y
When you do that sort of thing to people, it's called stereotyping of the group you don't like. I don't know of a word for noticing distinctions in the thing or people you do like.
0Airedale14y
Could it just be characterized as a specific example of the halo effect?

There's also the fact that video games ... have a freaking rule book, which tells you things that aren't complete fabrications designed to make you fail the game if you're stupid enough to follow them.

[-]Jack14y110

I really like the idea of creating a video game with a deceptive rulebook.

[-]RobinZ14y180

I thought for a bit that it would be interesting to have, say, a WWI game where the tutorial teaches you nineteenth-century tactics and then lets you start the game by throwing massed troops against barbed wire, machineguns, and twentieth-century artillery. The slaughter would be epic.

2Nisan14y
I really like this idea too. Portal does this to some extent, but the idea could be taken much farther.
5HughRistik14y
Not disagreeing with your general point, but... ...with video games, the printed, widely available strategy guides often tend to be lacking. For adventure games or Final Fantasy-type games, you can often get decent walkthroughs. But for many games, like say, Diablo II (thinking of the last strategy guide I read), the strategy guide sold in mainstream bookstores can't get you much farther than a n00b level of play. To actually get good, the best thing to do is to go to online forums and listen to what people who are actually experienced at the game are saying. In the case of both social skills and video games, the best way to learn is to practice, and to get advice from the source: people who already broke down the task and are experienced and successful at it, not the watered-down crap in mainstream bookstores.
5Nanani14y
You effectively answered your own comment, but to clarify - Strategy guides on dead tree have been obsolete for more than a decade. GameFAQs is over a decade old, and it's the best place to go for strategies, walkthroughs, and message boards full of analysis by armies of deticated fans. People are still finding new and inventive strategies to optimize their first-generation Pokemon games, after all. Games have long passed the point on the complexity axis where the developper's summary of the point of the game is enough to convey an optimal strategy. Your last paragraph is gold.
5SilasBarta14y
Right, but at least with video games, the rule book tells you what the game is, and what it is you're judged on. That gives you enough to make sense of all the other advice people throw at you and in-game experience you get, which is a lot more than you can say of social life.
4Blueberry14y
This is something that's been discussed a few times on LW, but I don't think it's accurate. I don't think there are two sets of rules, a "real" one and a "fake" one. Rather, I think that the rules for social interaction are very complicated and have a lot of exceptions, and any attempt to discuss it will inevitably be oversimplified. Temple Grandin's book discusses this idea: all social rules have exceptions that can't be spelled out in full. The status test (actually a social skills test) isn't to see if you fail by being stupid enough to follow the "fake" rules rather than the "real ones". It's to see if you're savvy enough to understand all the nuances and exceptions to the rules.
6eirenicon14y
It's a bad analogy because there are different kinds of games, but only one kind of small talk? If you don't think pub talk is a different game than a black tie dinner, well, you've obviously never played. Why do people do it? Well, when you beat a video game, you've beat a video game. When you win at social interaction, you're winning at life - social dominance improves your chances of reproducing. As for rule books: the fact that the 'real' rules are unwritten is part of the fun. Of course, that's true for most video games. Pretty much any modern game's real tactics come from players, not developers. You think you can win a single StarCraft match by reading the manual? Please.
6Nanani14y
No, pub talk is not exactly the same as a black tie dinner. The -small talk- aspect, though, very much is. It all comes down to social ranking of the participants. In the former, it skews to word assortative mating and in the latter presumably toward power and resources in the buisness world. If you have a need or desire to win at social interaction, good for you. Please consider that for other people, it -really- isn't that important. There is more to life than attracting mates and business partners. Those things are often a means to an end, and it is preferable to some of us to pursue the ends directly when possible. The video game analogy is just plain bad.
5Mass_Driver14y
What I usually dislike about the small talk game is that it's often played by people who don't know each other well and/or by people who are so conformist as to be intrinsically boring. It's one thing to measure alliances among fascinating, dynamic people who are out in the world doing and being things. I would be more than happy to listen to say, Dan Savage, Janet Napolitano, and Max Tegmark make small talk. Ditto people in their 20s who were correspondingly less accomplished but who look likely to get to that kind of exciting impact level later in life. But when the people sitting around a table are pushing papers in (say) the finance industry by day, watching cable TV in the evening, having vanilla sex at night, and going to see a national rock band and a national sports team over the weekend, what's the attraction? Or when the people have all just met each other, and are making their strategic decisions about dominance and alliances based on nothing subtler than who they find attractive and who shares their opinion about a piece of pop-culture or current-events trivia? Why should I care how the alliances ultimately break down among a group of people who, as individuals, hold no dramatic interest for me in the first place? I get that small talk can be practically useful, so I have successfully made an effort to acquire a moderate level of skill at it. But I don't see why I'm supposed to enjoy it, whether I'm at a pub or a black-tie gala award ceremony.
[-]pjeby14y130

But I don't see why I'm supposed to enjoy it

Because people can tell when you don't, even if they're too polite to mention it.

That's why, btw, "How To Win Friends And Influence People" advises cultivating a genuine interest in people, and PUAs advise more or less the same thing. By becoming a connoisseur of the finer (in the sense of more finely-graded) distinctions between people, and cultivating your curiosity about "what people are like", you gain more enjoyment.

And genuinely enjoying a person's company is the hardest, most expensive signal to fake... which might be why people evolved to value it so much.

I know a couple who embody this principle, btw -- Garin and Vanessa Bader. I met them at a series of marketing workshops, actually. By their second time there, practically everybody would line up to talk to them during breaks. Not because they were presenters or anything, but just because they radiated such enjoyment to everyone they spoke with, that people could hardly help but want to spend more time with them.

The way Vanessa explained it to me, when I interviewed her for one of my own CD products, was that people are so constantly worried about what... (read more)

9cousin_it14y
Yes yes yes, a million times yes. This is so true for me. My (successful) attempts to modify myself to be more social were sparked off by meeting just such a person. It was a girl I met on the street three years ago. We started talking, then went to her place and spent the night talking. There was no sexual tension at all (though we did have sex much later), I just sat there thinking "holy crap, I've been sitting in a box my whole life, I have to learn this." It was absolutely glorious to feel not judged in the least. I have since learned to project a similar vibe when I try really hard.
0Nanani14y
Allow me to express polite but strong skepticism on this point. I would be very much surprised to find that they accept literally EVERYONE. Do they acknowledge panhandlers the same way as attendees to marketing conferences? How about leading politicians from the opposite party as theirs? Religious leaders from a different religion? It's easy to say "just genuinely accept everyone" when you don't even see most of the people around you. In fact, really acknowledging and accepting -everyone- would probably ruin them in short order as they would find all their time and resources wasted on people that they are quite right to filter. No one has the time and resources to -actually- do what they are advocating. It's empty advice. EDIT: fixed some typos after having a nice, stimulating cup of coffee.
5pjeby14y
[shrug] I observed them at least treating wait staff, valets, hotel personnel, etc. with the same warm glow they did everyone else. Also, it's not like there weren't some obnoxious people at these conferences -- but even when they maintained their personal boundaries, I didn't see them get judgmental or even show any disapproval. They smiled just as warmly, and bid their farewells. I didn't say they didn't filter people. They just didn't judge people. In other words, they didn't confuse a conflict of goals with meaning that somebody else was bad, wrong, or unworthy for having those different goals, nor did they confuse accepting people with having to agree with them or give anything that was asked of them. They simply said "no" as warmly as they said "yes", and often with a sense of reluctance that made you feel as though they genuinely wished the no could have been a yes, but that alas, it was simply not to be.
0Nanani14y
How does one acknowledge and accept everybody without filtering people? What I have seen of people who hold non-judgmentalism as a aspiration has led me to believe that it is a deeply anti-rational ideal. The net result is repeating the same mistakes over and over, such as associating with people who will will take advantage of the non-judger, or not correcting a critical failure because it's judgemental to consider it a failure. By critical failure I mean things like dropping out of the workforce out of sheer laziness; it would be judgemental to say that this is wrong so therefore it's wrong to stop anyone, including yourself, from doing so. So they judged people and their needs or wants, then proceeded to claim they were non-judgemental. Either somebody isn't thinking through the meaning of "judgement", or doesn't care about the actual implications of that advice if it is really followed 100%.
9Nick_Tarleton14y
Er, pjeby said that they did filter people. Taboo judge. They decided whether to say "yes" or "no" to a request, and they (allegedly) didn't enter into some class of cognitive states associated with negative affect or disapproval.
6pjeby14y
Right - where the specific states involved are the ones that we use to signal lowered status or withdrawal of friendly interaction on the basis of a personal inadequacy or moral failing. In the vernacular, they didn't "look down their noses" on anybody, but instead treated them as if they were worthy of appreciation. I just went back to listen to parts of the interview again to refresh my memory (it's been three years), and some of the key points Vanessa made were: * It feels good to experience being approved of, and paid attention to * It also feels good when you make other people feel good, by approving of and listening to them (which is a big part of why she and Garin do it) * Both only happen if you're sincere, rather than faking it * She says she tries to remember that she can learn something from everyone, as a way of evoking a state of genuine interest in herself * When you proactively project approval towards people before they even do or say anything, they start the conversation relaxed and feeling better -- and attribute this to you. * People often confuse arrogance and confidence -- they think they have to put on a big show in order to impress people, but really this is just another form of approval seeking. * She described the more useful attitude as "humble, but not apologetic", i.e., her openness to learn something from anyone, while at the same time not apologizing for her own choices, opinions, or personal boundaries. These are just quick summaries from a ten-minute excerpt of the full interview, but I think this was the only section where we really talked about approval seeking or the process by which she and Garin "proactively approved of" people before meeting them.
-1Nanani14y
I have a problem here. Filtering implies that some judgement has been made, and the person has been found wanting. It is harmful to advise against filtering, and therefore also harmful to advise against judging. Advising people not to judge others is not the same as what you said. My point is only that this constitues bad advice.
6pjeby14y
Wow. You really are adding a lot of baggage to this... and it has nothing to do with what Vanessa said about how to treat people, or how I saw her and Garin treating people. I never saw them let anybody walk all over them -- they just didn't get upset by people trying. There's a difference between accepting a person, and accepting their behavior. Clearly, you are using a different definition of "judge" than I am. For example, if I were to "judge" you in this interaction, I would say you're being rude, nasty, and massively projecting your experiences onto something that has nothing to do with them... and I would attribute this as a personal characteristic of you... e.g. you are irrational, you are projecting, etc. If I were, on the other hand, following Garin and Vanessa's example, I would probably say something like, "wow, you really had a painful experience with that, didn't you?" and then either change the subject or drop the conversation if I didn't want to pursue it any further. IOW, not judging you, but rather paying attention to your experience and communication, and accepting you as a person worthy of compassion, rather than someone who should be written off as a matter of moral assessment. (vs. simply personally not wanting to continue the interaction). I hope that that's enough information for you to be able to separate whatever definition of "judgment" you're using, from the one I'm talking about here. (Attempting to make another link with LW references, you might say that Vanessa's advice was to avoid indulging our human tendency towards fundamental attribution error.)
1Nanani14y
Let me sum it up more simply: Telling people not to judge is not an accurate reflection of what they actually do. I tried to explain why non-judgmentalism is a bad value to uphold. I have nothing to say about Garin and Vanessa, only about the value of the advice proffered.
4pjeby14y
As I said, you can judge behavior without judging a person. i.e., I can say, "I don't like what you're doing", without it meaning "I don't like you". The advice was about judging people, not about refraining from judgment in the abstract.
2cupholder14y
I doubt they meant literally EVERYONE. I'm guessing Garin and Vanessa just meant that they're in the top percent of non-judgmentally accepting people. Just as if someone says to me 'I get along with everyone,' I don't interpret it as meaning they get along with literally every single person on the planet, I interpret it as something weaker like 'Of the people I know, I get along with almost all of them, and have a good chance of clicking with random people I meet.' You make a valid point that the comfort zone of even the most tolerant people is unlikely to extend to random panhandlers, and if Garin and Vanessa spend 99% of their time with self help gurus and marketing conference attendees, they're probably overestimating their acceptance-ness. I don't think this is fatal to pjeby's main point, though; it sounds likely to me that a lot of people who dislike small talk could probably improve their social hit rate by turning up their acceptance-ness knob. (Edited to fix Garin's (not Gavin's!) name. Note to self: read what's on the screen, not what I think is on the screen.)
3pjeby14y
At the time of those conferences, they spent 99% of their time on cruise ships, working as entertainers. So I they spent a lot more time with tourists and ship staff than with their internet marketing colleagues. And I find it difficult to imagine that they didn't mean it. I had the impression that for Vanessa at least (I haven't interviewed Garin for anything, at least not yet), it was a matter of principle. I don't mean that they're saints or that I don't think they'd ever have a bad day and lose their temper or anything, but I do believe they sincerely look for the (potential) good in literally everyone they encounter, even if there's some distinct possibility that they might miss it or that it might not be there to be found. Think of it like being a rationalist aspiration to always tell the truth and never self-decieve: setting that as your aspiration does not mean you always can or will accomplish it, but at the same time, it doesn't mean your aspiration should be downgraded to "being in the top percentage" of truth-telling and non self-deception!
0cupholder14y
Ah, fair enough. !
0Nanani14y
It also doesn't mean you get to claim that you always tell the truth and never self decieve. Having known some people who made "accepting everyone" and "being non-judgemental" a point of honour and seen the results, I find it very hard to believe that is possible to be successful and really live up to those ideals. I also don't think they're very good ideals.
7mattnewport14y
How do you think most of these people ended up in the position where people like you are aware of them as representing these traits? Very often it will have been in large part through greater mastery of social dynamics. Generally the best known/most successful people in any given field won't have got there purely through ability in their field but through a combination of ability in their field and mastery of the social dynamics of that field.
4Scott Alexander14y
So if I'm with a bunch of people from my class, and I already know who's considered "high status", and none of us have any major conflict of interest that would make us want to assess whether or not the others are allies or not, wouldn't we all just be broadcasting generic "I like you well enough and consider you pretty much an equal, except in the context of this and this and this fact which we already both know quite well" signals? Go to a party with thirty people, and unless someone's committed the faux pas of inviting my arch-enemy, I do this thirty times. If anything, this seems even less interesting than literally talking about the weather. If you can recommend a good free source of information that explains this (or a book that's worth the money), even better. EDIT: Yeah, what Wei Dai said.

So if I'm with a bunch of people from my class ... and none of us have any major conflict of interest...

If you were a character in a sitcom I was writing, I'd have your dream girl walk in just as you were saying that.

2Roko14y
BenAlbahari, that is mean -- but funny!
6Roko14y
If you're in a social situation that is without drama, then the social subcommunications will be relatively uninteresting. However, there are many interactions where this will not be the case, e.g. dating/romance, probably business events that involve alliance and conflicting interest.
2Scott Alexander14y
This mirrors my experience, but then how come other people, whose lives are generally just as boring as mine, seem to like parties?
2Roko14y
Innate need to socialize, probably?
9Airedale14y
What you're describing seems like the introversion/extroversion distinction, which is probably different from, although possibly overlapping and somewhat correlated with, the autism spectrum/NT distinction. The introversion/extroversion literature seems to capture the difference pretty well; just about everything I've read about introversion recognizes that introverts can be competent to excellent at one-on-one or small group socializing, but that they are probably less good and certainly uncomfortable in large group settings. But I don't recall reading much about introverts that suggests they're unable to read social cues (although they may have less practice at it as well as less interest). I haven't seen a breakdown on introversion/extroversion numbers in the population (my own quick Google search found an article in the Atlantic with this passage: "How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—'a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.'"), and as NancyLebovitz also suggests, I believe it varies between cultures, but what numbers I have seen seem to suggest that the percentage of people who fall more on the introverted side of the scale is probably considerably greater than the percentage of people who fall on the autism spectrum. It's certainly possible that neurotypical people misunderstand autism spectrum people, and that extroverts misunderstand introverts (the Atlantic article makes that argument), but the autism spectrum descriptions about not understanding social cues seem to be getting at something real and different than introversion. Your description makes you sound like an introvert but not particularly far along (if at all) on the autism spectrum. It does seem like some of our commentary here may sometimes be casually conflating extroversion with neurotypicalness and introvers
4NancyLebovitz14y
I didn't quite say that. There's social pressure to be extroverted in the US-- but there are a lot of unhappy introverts. There's social pressure to be introverted in other places (Great Britain?), but for all I know there are a lot of squelched-feeling, lonely extroverts.
9JohannesDahlstrom14y
Finns (disclaimer: I am one) are probably the archetypal introverts. -- You know you've been too long in Finland when...
5whpearson14y
Alas no, there is no social pressure to be introverted here in the UK, at least not in my generation and younger. We have the same celebrity culture which idolises the loud and outgoing as does America. Middle class, middle aged British people are a bit more reserved than the younger generation.
4Scott Alexander14y
I live in Ireland, and the social pressure in favor of extraversion is at least as great as in the United States.
0[anonymous]14y
Finns (disclaimer: I am one) are probably the archetypal introverts.
0Airedale14y
I apologize for misreading your comment. When you wrote: and I had thought you were suggesting that cultural pressure would influence people to become extroverts (or introverts as the case may be in some cultures). Actually, I would guess that the dominant social culture would cause both these things: 1) some people, probably influenced from an early age, would be more likely to become extroverts in an extrovert-dominated culture (or vice versa); and 2) some people would feel unhappy because they didn't fit into the dominant culture.
1NancyLebovitz14y
No biggis. I agree it's plausible those who have some flexibility between introversion and extroversion will probably become what fits in their culture, but not everyone can do that. It occurs to me that we're putting a lot of thought into how people can be more like extroverts, but I haven't heard anything about how people can become more comfortable with their own company. Meditation presumably helps, but is there anything more specific?
0Peterdjones11y
I believe that is a US-specific figure
0A1987dM11y
Indeed, I have slightly higher AQ than him but nearly median extroversion, and my experience is the opposite of his. Isn't introversion/extroversion a continuum? If so, what would that question even mean? How many people are tall?
8fiddlemath14y
For what it's worth, you've echoed my experience precisely. It's easy and good to talk in one-on-one or small groups of people. It's also easy for me to speak publicly or in front of an audience. But interaction in strictly social settings - parties, bars, clubs - is almost painful. I don't know how to begin. The impression is just that of trying to start climbing a wall that admits no footholds. I'm pretty certain I don't fall very far on the Asperger's spectrum. In particular, I can read body language and subtext pretty well, and I'm considerate of others to a degree I haven't seen in people I know who actually have Asperger's. I suspect that, as others have said, we're conflating distinct causes under a single banner.
3NullA14y
Your comments sound as if I wrote it myself =) But wait, do you have Asperger's? If so, I should really get checked. Growing up, my social skills were fairly slow to develop, but at this point in my life, I've practiced enough to actually be quite socially savvy with people. I can easily weave humour, emotional intelligence, facial expressions, deep comprehension, etc into my conversations. I'm always making new friends. But, I've never been able to handle environments with too much stimulus (bars/clubs), when someone's voice is overlapping with a dozen other voices in the room: I can't understand them. When there's constant noises, light displays, many events around me: I feel a sort of confusion / cognitive dissonance. This is not a matter of introversion/extroversion in my case: my ability to comprehend people in these environments just drops. Sometimes to the point where I seem deaf. However in 1-on-1 situations, there's no issues. I can be quite extroverted, an initiator.
4tut14y
If this is your only or primary problem I would recommend having your hearing checked before you start on the neuro stuff.
0NullA14y
Okay, I'll keep this in mind, but is this potentially a hearing problem when I can hear people whispering to me 1-on-1?
[-]tut14y100

"When many people talk at once I can't distinguish their voices" is a common first symptom of hearing damage. "I can't hear when somebody is whispering" is unusual as first symptom. So I would guess that the answer to your question is yes. And in any case, if you go to an ear doctor they can find out for certain whether or not you have a hearing problem.

0NancyLebovitz14y
I think sensitivity to faint sounds and the ability to sort signal from background noise are separate abilities.
2HumanFlesh14y
That's true, however people with severe hearing loss can often hear faint sounds provided the sounds contain frequencies that stimulate the cilia in their cochlea that remain undamaged. A person with normal hearing will tend to tolerate more audio interference than a hearing impaired person.
3Blueberry14y
Doesn't sound like a hearing problem to me. It sounds more like you're easily overwhelmed, which is pretty common, and may mean you have a very very slight amount of sensory integration difficulties, which is one symptom of the autism spectrum.
1NancyLebovitz14y
Also, culture affects how social people are expected to be. I've been in a discussion of introversion where it was clear that extroversion is much more compulsory in the US than in a lot of other places.
0A1987dM11y
In my case, it's mostly the other way round. I enjoy talking to groups of people and even entertaining them, but in one-to-one conversations I quickly lose interest or run out of things to say unless the other person is someone I particularly like or we have interests in common (such people comprising maybe 30% of the population or less).
[-]neq114y120

The thing that I have been most surprised by is how much NTs like symbols and gestures.

Here are some examples:

  • Suppose you think your significant other should have a cake on his/her birthday. You are not good at baking. Aspie logic: "It's better to buy a cake from a bakery than to make it myself, since the better the cake tastes the happier they'll be." Of course, the correct answer is that the effort you put into it is what matters (to an NT).

  • Suppose you are walking through a doorway and you are aware that there is someone about 20 feet behind you. Aspie logic: "If I hold the door for them they will feel obligated to speed up a little, so that I'm not waiting too long. That will just inconvenience them. Plus, it's not hard to open a door. Thus, it's better for them if I let the door close." To the NT, you are just inconsiderate.

  • Suppose you are sending out invitations to a graduation party. You know that one of your close friends is going to be out of town that weekend. Aspie logic: "There is no reason to send them an invitation, since I already know they can't go. In fact, sending them an invitation might make them feel bad." If your friend is an NT, it's the wrong answer. They want to know they are wanted. Plus, it's always possible their travel plans will get canceled.

In each of these 3 examples the person with AS is actually being considerate, but would not appear that way to an NT.

[-]pjeby14y110

In each of these 3 examples the person with AS is actually being considerate

I agreed with all of your comment but this: the person with AS is not "being considerate", when "being considerate" is defined to include modeling the likely preferences of the person you are supposedly "considering."

In each case, the "consideration" is considering themselves, in the other person's shoes, falling prey to availability bias.

Personally, I am very torn on the doorway example -- I usually make an effort to hold the door, but am very uncomfortable. I think it will help to remember in future that the availability bias of my own preferences shouldn't rule out being considerate of what the likely preference of the other person is... and to change my SASS rules so that I feel good about holding the door, so it's self-reinforcing.

9Nanani14y
It's worth pointing out that all three examples are highly culturally variable. The "aspie logic" example behaviour is far more common where I live (urban Japan). In the first, most people lack the facilities to bake, especially young adults in small apartments or dorms. Buying a cake is the obvious thing to do. That or taking the SO to a cake-serving cafe. In the second, -no one- here holds doors for strangers. I had to train myself out of the habit because it was getting me very strange looks. Similarly, no one says "bless you" or equivalent when strangers sneeze. The rules of courtesy are different. In the third, it's normal here to expect repeated invitations for any occasion. One invitation will be for show, so you invite people you don't expect to make it as well. The key is that people won't actually make plans to attend until two or more invitations have been received. (This is locally variable; some regions and demographics expect three or four invites. Think of it as a pre-event version of the British quirk where one says "We must do this again sometime" while having no actual desire to repeat the encounter.) The bottom line is that the other person's expectations ought to be factored into the logic. Beware generalizing from a sample of one and all that.
3pwno14y
Your time and effort can be used to give status. By sending a reliable signal you've wasted time and effort for a friend, you're giving your friend good evidence they have some power over you - a feeling much sweeter than a store-bought cake.
1A1987dM11y
There's also a difference between Ask and Guess cultures in this kind of things.
0[anonymous]14y
I have the feeling you are talking about quite untypical NT people here (except maybe for example 3). Around me you would have defined "NT people" (even the term sounds strange to me) as being Aspies. That doesn't add up.
1neq114y
My NT 'data' are from conversations I've had over the years with people who I have noticed are particularly good socially. But of course, there is plenty of between person variability even within NT and AS groups.
[-]JanetK14y120

I have had drinks with friends and friends of friends in bars, pubs and beverage rooms in UK, Canada and US. I am almost 70 years old. I have never asked for a drink, I have never been asked for one. If I saw this happen, I would assume that the asker either wanted to have a favour done for them because they were feeling low or was out of money. I would not suspect that it was some sort of test. I would expect the response to be buying the drink, making a joke about the request or avoiding further conversation (or maybe all of them). I am used to people buying drinks for one another in some situation but not asking for a drink.

In my experience, people are by and large not testing; they have good will towards others; and they like company. This includes Aspergers and NTs. Why start out suspicious?

8Richard_Kennaway14y
Then maybe it's a generation thing. I am over 50. La, what curious customs these young things invent!

After a short time, they ask you to buy them a drink.

I have never encountered or heard of this behaviour. I would be rather startled if someone I had just met asked me to buy them a drink. I'd guess they were too poor to get their own (and with all respect to poor people, my interest in pursuing a relationship with them would substantially diminish).

I can understand your explanation, but I would find an opposite explanation just as plausible (they are trying to determine if the cost of a drink is a mere trifle to you, hence buying them one = good).

Is this a culturally specific thing? Where is this action, with this meaning, a standard pattern of behaviour?

6knb14y
Lily Allen has. The relevant section: Cut to the pub on our last night out, Man at the bar cos it was his shout, Clocks this bird and she looks OK, Caught him looking and she walks his way, "Alright darling, you gonna buy us a drink then?" "Err no, but I was thinking of buying one for your friend.
6thomblake14y
It seems very weird to me that this seems unfamiliar to you. It's a cliche in movies and the like.
2Blueberry14y
It's a cliche in movies but it's actually rare in real life, in my experience, except as a joke.
8Blueberry14y
I just realized that one person's joke is another person's status test, of course.
5mattnewport14y
In bars and clubs in the UK, US and Canada at least.
5Roko14y
How often do you approach attractive people of your preferred gender in, e.g. bars with the intention of having some kind of romantic interaction?
7Richard_Kennaway14y
Never. That could explain it. I don't watch romantic movies either, or any TV. So, how does the script normally play out? * "No."? * "No, we don't know each other well enough yet?" * "snort Too poor to get your own, are you?" * Ignore or somehow deflect the request and talk about something else? * None of the above? If I had to guess I'd go with the fourth, but I'm only guessing. ETA: I don't mind getting the karma, but I'm curious about why I'm getting several upvotes within minutes of posting this.
6Roko14y
What you would do if one of your little sister's sixteen year old-still has braces friends saw you in a bar and said "well, are you going to buy me a drink now?" (or substitute any other person who is obviously lower perceived statusvalue than you, e.g. gay man if you're straight, fat/ugly/dumb/smelly person, anyone who you basically see as unworthy of you). Take that, add some mocking humor/banter, and there's your response.
4Jack14y
Well hang on. It isn't that simple. The man buying the woman a drink is more or less the courtship norm. They haven't actually stepped that far out of line by asking for a drink so the way you respond has to be calibrated to their status. If their status isn't that high and it was something of a gutsy move to ask for one, there is nothing wrong with letting them down softly with a "Nope. It isn't anything personal, you seem cool. I just don't buy drinks for women I just met" and you can segue into a conversation about how silly the norm is if you like. If the person has really high status then something more along the lines of lightly mocking them for being a spoiled brat who won't buy their own drinks can go over fine.
1Roko14y
Is this speculation or have you tried it?
1Jack14y
Umm, only with someone with whom I was already acquainted and I think the way I phrased it sounds worse than I meant it to sound. Spoiled is a bit much, I meant it to describe the extreme end of the possible responses you were suggesting. My point was more (1) when someone asks you to buy them a drink while they are testing your status they're also putting themselves at risk for rejection. So if your status is fairly equal already, be nice about it. And (2) the greater the initial status differential between you and the other person, the more confident you need to be (which, as I understand it has been well tested, I can anecdotally testify to and which is consistent with dominance hierarchy theory.)
3Psychohistorian14y
This was not a particularly constructive example to use in the original post, for several reasons. There are basically two situations that lead to this: First, the other person is interested in you, but is somewhat awkward and uses this as a rather blunt test to measure your interest in them. Second, if person is not interested in you, but sees you as a means of getting a free drink. As the latter tends to be more likely, and in the former, there are still ways you can show interest without buying them a drink, you should not buy them a drink. However, buying them a drink is not wrong insofar as no unpleasant social consequences result from it (as they might result from, for example, an unflattering comment about a person's weight or appearance). All that happens is you're out $3-10, depending on the bar. It's also worth noting that with certain people and in certain circumstances, you may actually be seeking someone with the qualities indicated by this request. If I were a rich and not particularly attractive older man, and the subject were a much-younger and attractive woman, this comment may actually suggest we could establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Our response to the request is really a response to the person making the request, and your hypothetical assumes we should a negative response, which is generally but not invariably true. Your description of the
5Douglas_Knight14y
That doesn't cover Mallah's story. I think the free drinks explanation is largely a confabulation by girls who don't know why they do it.
5Psychohistorian14y
I believe that covers that story perfectly. he approached an attractive woman, who saw him as a sucker who'd buy her an expensive drink, which he did, whereupon she promptly ignored him. If that's not exactly what I said, I don't know what is.
2Psychohistorian14y
It covers the story up to the point of her not taking the drink. Perhaps she just wanted to see if she could. I agree that getting him to buy the drink may be more significant than actually consuming it. Or it could simply be a way of chastising someone she didn't believe should be talking to her. Or, perhaps, she simply forgot. For practical purposes, she's not different whether she takes the drink or not. It's still a waste of money. If she didn't forget, it's likely she simply got a kick out of ordering some guy around. Not a situation I anticipated, but certainly deserving the same response as the selfish drinker.
1kodos9614y
This seems very odd to me. You seem to be suggesting that this is the typical way a socially successful NT responds to being asked for a drink, and that just seems truly, bizarrely wrong to me. Where did you learn this? Is it a PUA thing? I'm not necessarily saying it wouldn't work - it might, in the same way that weird PUA crap like "peacocking" might work, but it definitely isn't normal behavior, even for NTs
5Blueberry14y
I'm confused why you think this is so bizarrely wrong. I mean, yes, some inexperienced guys are easily manipulated by attractive women, but I think that more successful and more experienced people would just make a joke of it, and not allow themselves to be manipulated easily. And everyone "peacocks" every time they dress for an occasion or buy clothes because they like how they look. That's not weird or bizarre either.
2NancyLebovitz14y
Roko explicitly wrote about using a status-lowering level of teasing. Part of the problem may be that a lot of play is inhibited attack, and it can be hard to judge just how much of a verbal attack is either intended or received.

I think that the emphasis on status here is misplaced. Here's an analogy:

Imagine that you, dear reader, are very smart, and when you get into conversations about intellectual topics, people almost always say "Wow, you're smart," based on superficial indicators, and seem impressed. Now imagine that you meet someone who reacts differently: they take it for granted that you're smart, and actually try to engage with you intellectually, rather than being awed and amazed by your intellect.

Can you see that your reaction might be very different? You might be more likely to like and be interested in talking to this person, intrigued that they weren't so easily won over, and possibly a little motivated to prove your intelligence to them.

That's what's going on in the example with attractive girls, except with looks and sexuality rather than intelligence. It's less of a "Oh wow you have high status" reaction on the girl's part, and more of "Hey, finally someone who isn't a pushover just cause I'm hot. He might actually be fun to talk to." This is communicated all the time with little things like body language, the way you turn to look at someone, the way you stand, and how you speak. It usually isn't as direct as "Will you buy me a drink?"

Yes, I like this analogy between intellectual interaction and social (status) interaction. Both types of interaction have "I'll push you until you stop me" behavior, that would be considered offensive or attacking if it was manifested in the other form of interaction.

A common mode of interaction for intellectuals is to argue for positions that you aren't sure of in order to figure out if they believe in, or even to argue for positions that they don't believe just to play devil's advocate. These debate styles push against people, expecting them to push back, analogous to the social styles of many neurotypical extraverts.

Just as introverts on the autistic spectrum hate it when neurotypical extraverts try to turn everything into a status game, neurotypical extraverts hate it when autistic spectrum introverts try to turn everything into a debate.

In a group of neurotypical extraverts, saying something like "you're such a dork" to someone else is not necessarily considered rude or an attack. They expect the other person to handle it and fire back. Likewise, in a group of autistic spectrum introverts, saying something like "you're wrong" is not necessarily considered rude or an attack. They expect the other person to be able to handle it, and either defend or concede their position.

Both groups have different norms for showing assertiveness, and an assertiveness display in one group could be considered an attack if it was performed in the other group.

4Blueberry14y
Good point about "you're wrong," which has unnerved me a few times. Also, especially on this site: "you're unethical" or "that's unethical."

In intellectual circles, it often seems to be considered acceptable to communicate intellectual disagreement in an assertive way, the assumption being that everyone knows that disagreement isn't personal. This communication style jars some intellectuals, and it enjoyed by others. Non-intellectual people universally hate this communication style.

-1kodos9614y
It just runs counter to my own experience and observation. Deflecting the request with a joke would be an effective way to avoid getting played for free drinks, if you think that's what's going on, or of politely declining if you're just not interested, but it doesn't seem like a generally effective, or commonly practiced, method of actually parlaying the interaction into a "score" - not unless you happen to be dealing with the kind of person who's attracted to assholes. My impression is that these kind of PUA style techniques are geared towards successfully picking up people with low self esteem. That may work, but I think it's a mistake to draw conclusions from that about "normal" social interaction.
3Blueberry14y
I am very confused by this comment. Who are you talking about as the "asshole" in this scenario? I think you may be misunderstanding it. The idea is that two people are talking and flirting, and the girl asks the guy for something (like a drink, but it could be anything: taking a picture, helping her with something) at which point the guy teases her about it. I'm not seeing anything about low self esteem here.
0kodos9614y
The guy who says "no" when, in the middle of flirting, a girl asks for a drink. This just doesn't happen IRL unless the guy is intentionally trying to shut down the interaction.
1HughRistik14y
Could you explain your basis for this claim a little more?
0kodos9614y
Just my own personal experience. I guess maybe I phrased that a little strongly for something based entirely on anecdotal evidence. And I guess I should have added a caveat like "This just doesn't happen unless the guy is intentionally trying to shut down the interaction, or has studied PUA techniques, or is Richard Feynman".
0A1987dM12y
I guess the kind of person who is not attracted to assholes wouldn't ask a stranger for a drink in the first place, would they?
0Richard_Kennaway14y
Decline, but the conversation would never have got that far anyway, and isn't going to get any further. I'm not very good at maintaining a conversation, but when I deliberately put out the "please shut up and go away" vibes it has no chance. :-) I'm not sure what this has to do with the original scenario, where the two people are still trying to assess each other. Or what status has to do with those examples.
3Roko14y
Ah, the confusing world of NT social games... Basically, imagine each person P has a number X, called their "statusvalue", and the way we respond to others is a function of the statusvalue difference between us and the person we respond to. Suppose that your number is, say, 5, and the person you are approaching is single, sought-after and attractive, and therefore has a statusvalue of 8. Therefore your body's automatic response will be a "+3" type response, i.e. you will defer to the person you are talking to, attempt to please them, etc. In order to work out the correct response, you need to think what your response would be if the person asking you for the drink were a 2 on the statusvalue scale. This will be a "-3" type response, i.e. you will assert your desires over theirs, and interpret their behavior in terms of whether it meets your expectations. Then, you gradually condition yourself to always give "-3" type responses, i.e. give off signals that you are three statusvalue points above everyone.
4Richard_Kennaway14y
The way we respond to others has a lot more to it than that. If I'm approached by someone of the wrong sexual orientation for me, then my declining their advances has nothing to do with status. The same with 15-year-old girls (the only example in the original version of your comment). My response to these people will be whatever is necessary to get them to give up on the sexual advances. This does not strike me as a useful response to someone that I would like to get together with. Perhaps the idea you are trying to get across is that you should begin by trying to put the other person off, but (if you still want to get together with them) take care not to do so too effectively? I am familiar with the custom of ritually refusing a gift before accepting it -- is this something similar? Are you speaking from personal experience or is this something you have only worked out on paper?
4Roko14y
That's why I said statusvalue - i.e. something that is a combination of their overall status and their value to you. Not really - as I said, it is more abstract than that - the idea is to approach the interaction from a higher-statusvalue frame, because ultimately (in this case) that is what the other person is testing for. This particular example is taken from the world of pick-up, which has been tested more extensively than you can imagine. EDIT: though the idea of a "social coprocessor" is speculation.
1kodos9614y
On a very narrow and self-selecting sample, i.e. people who show up at bars and clubs with the express intention of getting "picked up"
4Roko14y
You think it's abnormal to ever show up at bars and clubs? Most young people go to either a bar or a club (or party, cafe, music gig, etc) at least, say, once a month.
0kodos9614y
I think a lot of people, when they first turn 21 (or whatever the legal drinking age is in their jurisdiction) go through a phase of going to meat-markety type places, but eventually become disillusioned with that 'scene' and grow out of it.
0Richard_Kennaway14y
I would call that simply value. If their status matters to me, it is part of their value to me; if it does not, it is irrelevant. Tested by you? Ok, maybe that's too personal a question, but I'm aware in general terms of the PUA stuff, and I have only a limited interest in soup of the soup.
0Roko14y
soup of the soup?
0Richard_Kennaway14y
On the first day, you have a delicious chicken. The next day you make soup with the bones and leftovers. On the third day you make soup from the leftover soup. In other words, an exposition only indirectly connected with the source, unrefreshed by contact with real life.
1Roko14y
This is a legitimate concern -- but there are plenty of people here who have used such methods successfully.
0HughRistik14y
I'm one of them. I'm not committed to the view that the rather crude theory Roko outlines is true, but acting as if it's true indeed seems to be useful. I'm not a PUArtist, I'm a PUInstrumentalist.
0Roko14y
Indeed the instrumentality of certain worldviews is an interesting topic in rationality...
0Roko14y
Sure -- though the two are very strongly linked, value is really the key.
2110phil14y
Sorry, what is "NT"? I read this blog often enough that I feel like I should know, but I don't.
5Alicorn14y
"Neurotypical" - in context, not being significantly autistic.
1110phil14y
Thank you.
1kodos9614y
I completely understand the general idea here, I just think the drink-buying thing is a bad example. In my experience, refusal to buy a drink for someone who's flirting with you doesn't send the signal "you're X statusvalue lower than me", it sends the signal "I'm not interested in playing this game at all"

I think you're misunderstanding the "refusal." It's not a "No, go away," it's more like "you buy me one first, I'm cuter" said playfully.

1[anonymous]14y
I've never understood why people think that's effective. What good does it do to act like you're higher status if you're not? You can't change your face or your income by signaling. Is everybody really so gullible? And also -- I've not spent a huge amount of time in bars, but I've never seen anyone ask a stranger for a drink.

What good does it do to act like you're higher status if you're not? You can't change your face or your income by signaling. Is everybody really so gullible?

Income and looks are only one component of status. Other components are determined by signaling and other forms of implicit communication in actual interactions. So, merely acting like you are high status will go a long way to convince people that you are, as long as you aren't giving off contradictory low status signals also.

One of the reason that people play status games (of which "buy me a drink" often is), is because there is a margin of error in status perception, and poking the other person with a status ploy is a way to confirm or disconfirm your initial impression of their status. If you believe that you are higher status that someone, and you attempt a successful status grab that they submit to, then it confirms that you are higher status.

As I've hypothesized, the way normal people tend to interact (or at least, a typical mode for certain types of extraverts to interact) is to constantly bump up against each other socially in mini-dominance battles and figure out the pecking order by seeing who can away ... (read more)

7pjeby14y
Yep. And depending on the way you opt out of the negotiation, you may be perceived as either very low self-esteem, or as an arrogant bastard. The latter category (which I personally have been categorized as a lot) tends to happen when you assume that all people are supposed to be equal, dammit, and refuse to give ground to anything that isn't Right with a capital R. This results in the problem of causing others to have to lose face when you win... and people don't like it. (Later in life, I've realized that it generally works better to arrange things so that other people can receive status strokes by siding with you, and they then tend to return the strokes.)
7cupholder14y
I've heard this before, but framed as 'Ask Culture meets Guess Culture'.
3gwern14y
Even guess cultures have that distinction; look up the etymology of otaku sometime.
4Roko14y
Yeah this is a good analysis. Important for more rational/AS people is to realize that more emotion-driven NTs run their social interaction in hardware ==> they do things like little status grabs almost without thinking about it.
[-]Roko14y130

Is everybody really so gullible?

No, people are godshatter , they value signals of status in and of themselves.

4Kaj_Sotala14y
Status isn't something you have, it's something you do.
0thomblake14y
As long as we're piling on anecdotes, I've asked folks for drinks on numerous occasions. And the bartender at a club I frequented back in the day used to give me my drinks for free.
0LucasSloan14y
I voted you up because I wanted to attract attention to your comment, because I also wanted the questions contained within answered as well.
1byrnema14y
Indeed, this pattern seems totally strange to me. While on the dating scene, if a woman brazenly asked a man to get her a drink, I would consider it a test to see if he can handle assertiveness. That is, if he is fun and easy-going. If he said no, I would think she could consider him either not interested in her enough to part with a few dollars AND too cheap to satisfy a small request, or insecure about his status in the company of a woman. Hopefully, he would say yes, and they could enjoy a drink together. Do men really say, 'no, I won't' and find success with that?? [Apologies for the editing and then un-editing; I commented naively and then realized I'm kind of over my head here with the inferential distance; culture and values-wise. I think things have changed since I was dating, or I noticed different things.]
[-]pjeby14y200

I would consider it a test to see if he can handle assertiveness. That is, if he is fun and easy-going.

The above is correct but this part would depend a lot on how the "no" is delivered:

If he said no, I would think she could consider him either not interested in her enough to part with a few dollars (and too cheap to satisfy a small request), or insecure about his status in the company of a woman.

The real status test is about whether he considers his company to be as valuable as hers. If he complies with the request (without any quid pro quo), then he's ceded her the higher social status -- which was what the question was testing (either intentionally or unintentionally), in the common case.

Declining the request, reversing it (you buy me one), or insisting on a quid pro quo, are the only ways to maintain equivalent or higher status in the interaction (absent an ongoing equal relationship wherein the quid pro quo is assumptive). Also, skillfully handling any of these options raises the observer's estimate of your social coprocessor's power rating as well. ;-)

There are a wide variety of context-sensitive ways to decline or redirect such a request, depending on th... (read more)

[-][anonymous]14y140