July 1, 2008

Social psychology and Game: Predictors of obedience and conformity

A major complaint about pickup artist manuals is that they could simply be written to enhance the authors' reputations, to profit financially from desperate and gullible readers, and so on. I don't doubt that the authors do have these motives, but remember what Adam Smith said about ulterior motives: who cares? The question is whether or not they do what they're supposed to do. The social psychology literature has discovered several "laws" of social behavior that bear on the advice that PUAs give, and here I'll look at some research on obedience and conformity, and how to apply it in real life.

Much of a guy's in-field work consists of persuading the girl to comply with his wishes. After you two make a real connection, you do not need to worry about persuading her so much, but before that happens, a lot of your requests could be met with skepticism by most people, even something as harmless as playing thumb-war. So it is highly worthwhile to know how to persuade others into complying, especially when they would prefer not to.

The experiments

The single most famous set of experiments on obedience are those of Milgram. In brief, an Orderer tells the Target (the person whose behavior is being studied) to administer painful punishments to a Sufferer who has made mistakes in some task. Milgram wanted to see how varying certain parameters affected how often the Targets would comply with the Orderer's instructions. Here is a summary chart of all of his experiments (adapted from Figure 14.10 of Peter Gray's Psychology):

In the first four conditions, there are only the Orderer, the Target, and the Sufferer. You can see that people are less likely to obey when the Orderer is farther away (like in another room, communicating by phone), and when the Sufferer is closer (like right next to the Target). However, look at the last two conditions. These represent what happens when an additional "companion" Target is being instructed by the Orderer. In reality, this companion is in on the experiment too. The chart shows that the real Target essentially does what his companion does: if the companion disobeys, so does he, and if he complies, so does he.

Moreover, the action of the companion is the strongest predictor of obedience (a change from 10% to 90% obedience) -- even changing both of the distance parameters does not cause such a divergent result (at best, a change from 22% to 65% obedience). Clearly, you should care what other females in your target's position are doing, probably more than most other aspects of the situation. (Milgram also found that the presence of symbols of authority increased obedience rates -- more obeyed when the experiment was done at Yale compared to a non-descript building downtown. This is another benefit of wearing a jacket and tie when you're among strangers.)

Another famous sets of experiments by Asch studied conformity instead of obedience. Here, there was no authority figure instructing the target what to do. In brief, there is an incredibly easy perceptual task for the target to complete, and Asch wanted to see how the presence of others who gave incorrect answers would influence the target's answer. A group of people are in on the experiment and purposefully give wrong answers. Does the target believe his lying eyes or conform? Most people give at least one incorrect answer, in contrast to nearly never doing so when they are alone.

Ah, but what if one of the others dissents? They could either give the correct answer, or a different incorrect answer. In either case, this causes the target to go with their gut and give the correct answer after all. It only takes one dissenter in a large group to cause this change. Clearly, if you want her to conform, you had better be worried about whether there's even one bad apple in her group.

Applications to Game

First, Asch's experiments explain the cockblock phenomenon. Everyone else in the group, including the target girl, could be going along with what you say -- but even a single dissenter makes the others very likely to ignore your wishes, and you irrevocably lose the pursuit at that point. This justifies the advice to not work on the target girl first, but to charm over and defuse any potential dissenters first. This doesn't ensure that the fat, ugly friend, or the bitter man-hating friend won't pipe up later on, but it's the best you can do.

Milgram's experiments support the importance of being physically close to your target girl when making any request of her, other than perhaps asking her opinion as part of your opener. For example, if you want her to dance with you, don't stand two arm-lengths away and extend your hand -- get close to her and take her hand. And for the love of god, don't try to wave her over to you when she's a good 20 feet away or more.

They also explain why having female wingmen (or "pivots") is more important than having male wingmen. Your target girl is less likely to perceive your male wingman as another version of herself, while she could easily see your female wingman as her counterpart. And since your female wingman is going to do what you say (within reason), your target girl is almost guaranteed to play along with any compliance tests. Shit, I'll bet if you had an adventuresome female wing, you could make up an "ass-reading" compliance test, where you claim to read her personality and life prospects from cupping her ass in your hands, as long as you demonstrated it first on your comfortable, laughing female wing.

So, based on Milgram's and Asch's findings, I would suggest that you should always include at least one female wingman in your group, with guy friends being optional. And don't worry if she's not a model -- hell, you could even talk to a plain but compliant girl when you first get there and recruit her as your friend for the night: she will serve the purpose well enough for when you find a target girl. The key thing is just having a female who will go along with your compliance tests, laugh at your jokes, fondle any squeezable props you've brought along, and so on.

Final thought

Milgram's and Asch's experiments tested how people behave when they find themselves in highly unusual circumstances -- being ordered to nearly kill a person for making mistakes, and being surrounded by people who claim that two clearly different lines are of the same length. Don't expect their results to generalize to when you need to persuade people in ordinary circumstances, like taking out the trash. But when you're gaming a girl, a lot of it will be pretty unusual to her -- like asking her if she's smart, baiting her into touching you, etc. -- and so she will look to see how others like her are responding.

There is debate in the social psych lit about whether this is due to "informational" or "normative" influences -- whether she says, "the others must know something I don't," or "I don't want to stand out as a weirdo," respectively. But for improving your game, it doesn't matter why they conform or obey, as long as they do.


  1. Anonymous7:32 AM

    Great post.

  2. Anonymous12:12 PM


    The "Game", with its trite little rites like 'the cube', the 'marry-fuck-kill', 'negs', peackocking', 'turning your back', 'paying attention to other females in the group rather than the target female initially', asking a woman to discuss things about herself not related to her appearance, 'pushing her away', 'qualifying', 'backspinning', 'sets',
    AND ALL OF THAT JAZZ........

    is going to be clichesqe and trite in a few years. Everyone, due to the loudblabbermouths on the internet, are going to know what scam is being pulled on them within a few minutes of a guy pulling it. Make no mistake, if you walk up to a woman in a hot bar in Miami and pull the "nice nails, are they real?, no? well, they are nice anyway" schtick........you will be called on it and she will spread the word.

    Nobody, even dumb, young, hotties, like for anyone to pull a mind/mood scam like the game really is, on them.

    The men who invented this screwed up when they allowed sessions to be taped, and for the word to "get out", and they really screwed up by having the VH1 television series on it. Now the girls know, and other men know, and will call you on it.

    The bad thing is, that if you are just playful and are trying to have a conversation and slip in something goofy like "lets thumb wrestle so I can see just how aggressive you are" (because you want to check out her digit ratio, and see how entusiastically she plays as sign of how intense she might be in other ways), a lot of women are going to suspect that thumb wrestling being unusual is some sort of "game-like" scam---and so will she.

    Make no mistake Dusk, among the over 21-set, and especially the over-25 set, the word about "the game" is definitely out there. Think about that the next time you challenge a girl to do the robot because you tell her that you bet she cant dance that well (hence she fells like she has something to prove to you, mindfucking her into thinking she has to please you to be a success, etc.). They are going to be, more and more, knowing what is up--------and hence are likely to lead you on and fuck with YOU for fun, while telling all their friends your name and what you tried to pull.

    I think that whole thing will be over in a few more years.

    What is -sad- about the 'game' to men who will employ it, is the fact that it doesn't change his situation. He still has the same job he had, he still looks like he did, he is still as either well-read, or not, as he was before. These are the things he can improve to make himself an authentic "catch" for females: earnings, intellect, and his physique. You can get a degree that makes you a high earner, hit the gym and build a great bod, and turn the TV off and read and become super-knowledgeable on tons of subjects (including dimestore psychology like the game) and all of this will overwhelm 'game' tricks in competing dates.

  3. Anonymous3:10 AM

    Anon@1212pm, I disagree and I think you are quite wrong, as you use the exact premises that makes 'the game' work so well. You state that intellect, earnings, and physique are sufficient and necessary conditions for being 'an authentic catch'.

    You can have all those facets and still not be considered an authentic catch. Von Neumann was one of the most brilliant intellects of the last 100 years, but was an absolute ass to women (to the point of women going out of their way to avoid him).

    You can also be rich and have a good body but that doesn't mean you are a 'good catch'. Look at the billionaire Henry Nicholas. The guy had cocaine-fueled orgies with prostitutes. Sure, he can pull women we could only dream about due to his money, but is he a 'good catch'?. I highly doubt sex-crazed drug-users are considered 'good catches'. Look at the recent Christie Brinkley debacle. Her now ex-husband is a good looking and rich man, but is he a 'good catch'? Again, if you define a sex-addicted, drug user as a 'good catch' perhaps.

    So that leaves us with the fundamental conditional for success in 'the game': social interaction. If you can't, or won't, socially interact with the opposite sex, then you have put yourself out of playing the game.

    Rich, smart, and good looking males can suck at social interaction as they are fallible humans. Social interaction is also based on the same evolutionary premises that you are using to put forth the smart, rich, good looking argument. Given that these social interactions are fundamental, both at a psychological level and a social level, then 'the game' is going to be played and adapted to at this level.

    So, it's competitive adaptation in action. First generation PUAs had a competitive advantage. They acted on information and field experience and exploited psychological weaknesses in social interactions and female psychological biases. Now that information they use is spreading across social networks, females will adapt and second generation PUAs will adapt to whatever environment it presents. The techniques and methods may change, but the same social interactions, the same social persuasive processes, the same deceptive practices, will all be there and continue as it is part of the human experience. Does wide-spread societal knowledge of scams and forgeries stop people being scammed? Not at all. Even the best counter-forgerers can be fooled by the best forgerers (look in the world of Israeli archaeology for examples).

    The biggest flaw in your argument is that it ignores asymmetric information markets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_asymmetry). You assume that everyone will have perfect information, which in the real world is ludicrous. Your argument is just a re-hash of George Akerlof's 'The Market for Lemons' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Market_for_Lemons) i.e. PUAs are faking their social interactions and people with perfect information will see through them.

    Given that 'the game' is a competitive adaptative process, which you have admitted yourself by saying some women will start to adapt to first generation PUA practices, then you can also expect second generation PUAs to adapt to these counter-processes, as that is how complex adaptive systems work. Social interaction is a fundamental condition for picking up women and current PUA techniques exploit the biases inherent to what women want (and to persuasion in humans in general). Some women may be informed by current techniques, but the techniques will change and the psychological biases and persuasion strategies will remain the same. To say they'll see through everything a PUA throws at them is to start questioning the very mating and relationship process itself. Should women start questioning 'naturals' because they are suave and confident? (OMIGOD PERHAPS THEY ARE PUAS, ERGO I SHOULDN'T GO OUT WITH THEM). How do women start distinguishing between confident, funny guys and PUAs after you start moving away from the techniques? They can't, it'd assume they have superior information, are superior readers of body language, have access to the history of the male who has approached them.

  4. roissy10:40 AM

    it doesn't matter if the woman knows what's up. as long as her attraction buttons are being pressed she will respond. i've TOLD girls i'm running game on them and they've still surrendered their bodies to me.

    analogy: a girl can tell a guy she is wearing a push-up bra to visually excite him, and that knowledge won't stop him from trying to get in her pants.

  5. Anonymous9:18 PM

    Anonymous 3:10

    I have to admit you make a very eloquent defense of game, and make some good points. The biggest advantage of game seems to be that it gets shy guys to actually initiate contact with women at bars.

    I suppose Im dubious to "game" because back in the day........we (me and the two close pals I ran with) had ample dates by just hitting on so many women that if even only 5% said "yes", I was in high cotton. That was the first thing my "mentor", an older bodybuilder who was my first roomate, told me: "This is a numbers game, hit on every girl you'd want to fuck if you can establish even two second's eye contact. Walk around the bar (we all pumped a ton of iron back then) and let everybody see you and go friggin' after them like you were hunting them with dogs." Like I said.........I hit on so many, that it didn't bother me for fuck if even 10 in a row blew me off after a couple of minutes conversation. I was intentionally likeable, would happily laugh at myself, never arrogant, and tried hard to come off as a girl-crazy-good-time-Charlie with a lot of humor (heavy in the jokes department----with at least 20 memorized, as you can always tell a good joke). I did it this way because even if they weren't interested in me, they'd tell their friends "well, he IS nice and seemed like fun, and did tell us those funny blonde jokes, etc." It worked for me in the phone number department quite well, but I freely admit that I wasn't nearly good at getting many one night stands. Its was much easier for me to get phone numbers than to ask them if they wanted to come back to our place to watch a movie (video cassettes back in that era) or have a drink. My two pals were good at this though.........but hell, they would take home anybody for a one-nighter. I mean dayum.....you get below a 4 or a 3.....and I'd rather jerk off, but not them. I was paranoid about AIDS back in the day also.....and that played a role. I had a few one-nighters, but mostly dates. I'll have a funny story for you and Roissy tangentially related to this.....

    Needless to say, I didn't save a great amount of money as I should have in my twenties. Two or three dinner dates and movies a week gets expensive. Bar tabs (I liked to drink, still do) also got expensive. I woke up at 30, got engaged and all that jazz......was dissapointed at how much I had to put down on my house, and spent the next few years slavishly devoted to my job trying to get financially up to snuff, out of debt, etc. So its been a long while since Ive been out there. Im in a relationship, she lives here...........but guys I admit.....there are times I sure wish I was ten years younger and could be back out there talking to those women. I loved it....

    I think I know why you want men to know Game, and its demographic. You dont have to answer that, but I agree with it if it is. The future in certain parts of this nation is terrifying.

    Funny story:
    My pal used to go out in the late seventies (this is before AIDS guys) with his friends in East Tennessee on Tuesday nights. No bars were open there on that night back then. They'd go "hoggin". During the week, they'd get phone numbers from Waffle House and Shoney's waitresses and several local truck stops, and convienience stores around the Knoxville area on their breaks (he was a plain street cop back then). They would COMPETE goddammit to see who could fuck the biggest, fattest gal with bonus points if you could get a polaroid. He'd win many of these contests (according to him). I could never go this low. He was a tit man and would fuck them just to suck their boobs. This was a very good looking, big man. I cannot imagine being able to objectify another human being (or hell, a dog or cat) in this manner but he could. He could fuck a fat, ugly gal just because she had big tits. Amazing. Money was sometimes involved in these competitions. I'll never forget R____. Few people ever meet someone like this man was. He is now (finally) happily married...............but he waited until he was close to fifty to do it.

  6. Fair_For_Who5:14 PM

    You know, all the anti-game anti-PUA people seem to expect men to show up to a gun-fight without even a knife.

    This is "fair".

    Fair for who?

    Oh, you. Yes, quite.

    Oh, and the 'attitude' of people like Roissy, CAN be imitiated, and it works just fine.

    Yes, simple, linear, tricks can be seen, but wildly over-optimistic vs. realistically pessimistic is a tactic that is quite undectable.


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