March 31, 2008

Pretty girls in traditional areas are more humble?

This pattern I'm not very confident about, since I've only spent 7 months in the Mountain Time Zone, but if I compare a girl from a more traditional area and her clone from a more modern area, the traditional girl has a smaller ego about her looks. *

By "traditional," I mean a place where females fall in love, participate in courtship, explore physical intimacy, and get married by 25, settling down after that (whether she has kids or not doesn't matter in this case). Then "modern" is a place where females keep themselves in the dating and mating market past 30, often until 40 and beyond. Let's just be clear that "traditional" describes the social environment she inhabits, not any property of the girl herself.

Here is a simple model to account for the smaller ego of the traditional girl. Girls are not born with knowledge of their attractiveness level, so figuring it out is a learning problem. Since you're only as attractive as everyone else says you are, this is a social learning problem. Your two sources of info are the responses you get from guys -- the more attention you get, the more you increase your rating -- and an assessment of your female competition -- the more you stand above the average female, the more you increase your rating.

Since I'm not concerned with really building a formal model, I'll just assume that a girl starts with an initial guess that is below her true value (since girls tend to be overly self-critical about their looks when they're teenagers), and that each episode of social interaction adds or subtracts a very small amount from her guess, as an tweak or update. Let's say she starts getting this feedback at 18, when she can go out partying, and that it ends when she's 25, the age by which most women get married or at least drop out of the dating and mating market. Concretely, let's say she goes out only one night a week for 50 weeks per year for 8 years, and she updates her value after each night out, yielding 400 updates of her value.

Now, imagine what happens to the same girl raised in the traditional and modern environments. In the traditional area, the other females who go out (not necessarily to nightclubs, but anywhere that people looking for dates and mates go) are more or less her age, the post-25 women having largely dropped out of the market. This affects both sources of feedback: since the males are viewing a group of females who are nearly all 25 or younger, a PYT of 22 years doesn't stand out as much as she would in the modern area, whose dating and mating market is much more heterogeneous for age. So, she gets more male attention in the modern area.

Moreover, since she competes within a group that has a much higher average level of attractiveness -- girls in their early to mid 20s being the most attractive -- the girl in the traditional area doesn't see herself as "standing out" as much from her peers, compared to how she would perceive herself in the modern area, where half a nightclub might consist of women over 25.

Let's say the effects of the modern area add an extra 0.0025 points to her value each night, on a 1 to 10 scale of attractiveness. ** Then after 400 updates, her self-perception will be a full 1 point higher than the self-perception of her clone in the traditional area. I'm obviously not trying to be very rigorous here, either in the choice of model (which should probably be a diminishing returns function, rather than a linear one) or the particular numbers. This is just to give a rough feel for what is going on.

Awhile ago, I suggested something similar for why pretty girls from better looking countries are more humble: they are comparing themselves to a higher average, and the men also apportion their attention based on this higher average. The same logic is at work here, only now one area is better looking because the less attractive, older females have removed themselves from the dating and mating market and are "out of sight, out of mind."

This has practical value, since it suggests making a trip to a more traditional area to pick up your girlfriend or wife, or even if you're only after a one-night stand. Pretty girls just won't think as much of themselves as they will in a more modern area. Also, it means that you won't have to "neg" as much, since that's only supposed to take a big-ego girl down a peg. Most guys would love it if circumstances allowed them to act more human and less calculating around pretty girls, after all. Add this to the previous advice to go to an area with a high average and high homogeneity, and you will find yourself courting a stunning rural Sicilian girl like Michael Corleone did -- just make sure you don't piss off the mafia and get her blown up.

* It's important to compare similar girls in different environments. Taking the average level of humbleness in the two areas doesn't tell us much.

** The most that the extra points could be is 0.025 -- imagine a 0 gaining the maximum 10 points due to living in a modern area, and divide this gain by 400 updates. So, the example assumes 1/10 of the maximum per-update gain. I could drive down the assumed extra points by assuming that she updates her value more than once a week, which seems likely.

Say she updates her value every day, based on how guys treat her throughout the day and what females she sees when she's out and about -- females who suggest that they're in the dating and mating market. A 40 y.o. woman with sweatpants and a stroller would not enter into her update, while a 40 y.o. with a $150 haircut and tight designer jeans would. Here, for the modern area girl to end up 1 full point ahead of the traditional area girl, each update would only need to add about 0.0003 points -- an order of magnitude less than what I assumed above.

March 26, 2008

Coordinating clothing patterns

Reading through some of the fashion advice in the Game manual Magic Bullets, I came across a proscription against multiple patterns:

Don't clash. Don't wear two different patterns in the same outfit. Don't wear two different stripes (including pinstripes). . . .If you know what you're doing, you can break all of these rules. . .

The purpose of the book is not to help men dress better, only to interact more effectively with girls, so dumbed-down rules like this are fine in such a context. But it's really not that hard to wear different patterns, including two of the same type. To fully understand how to pull this off, your best bet is to get Alan Flusser's Dressing the Man, which has copious photographs and line drawings that illustrate the points made in the text.

The basic idea is that multiple patterns strain the eyes when they don't allow the viewer to easily draw borders between the different pieces of clothing. But there are simple ways around this obstacle. To mix two different patterns, just make sure they're not both small-scale, such as a narrow pinstripe and tiny houndstooth, since we would have to squint to tell which is which. Having one large-scale and the other small-scale requires no squinting, and even having two largish-scale patterns works because, when blown up, it's clear which pattern is which. Here's an example:


The checks on the shirt and the paisley shapes on the tie are large enough that you can easily distinguish them; also, checks have only straight lines, while paisley is made up of curves, also helping to separate them. The light-dark contrast only makes the borders clearer. Off to the side, the pocket square has very tiny checks that don't compete with those of the shirt. See? Mixing three patterns can be easy.

As for using two of the same pattern, again the key is to use very different scales so that one stands out clearly from the other. Here is a more eccentric example, using two stripes:


You could probably fit two-and-a-half to three of the tan stripes within one of the gray bands. More narrowly spaced lines appear farther away, so here we have a clear distinction based on depth between the shirt and sportcoat. And again, the light-dark contrast helps.

Men dress up as part of their strategy to get women, both in the male-male competition aspect -- where dressing more formally forces most males to defer to your will -- and the courtship of females aspect, where dressing with some flair increases your sex appeal. Your daytime clothes are mostly about dominating other males, since more formal clothing is one of the clearest non-verbal signals that you outrank another person, but mixing different patterns well gives your suit of armor some sexiness too.

March 25, 2008

At what age are females at their hottest?

OK, I haven't done a quantitative analysis of anything in awhile, and all this bickering in previous posts / comment sections about when girls are at their physically hottest requires some hard data to settle the matter. I'm going to look at pornstars since they are chosen only on the basis of raw physical and sexual appeal, unlike celebrities who need to act, sing, dance, etc., and unlike role models who exemplify motherly qualities.

The dataset consists of 120 pornstars from LA Direct Models, which manages the most high-profile stars. They must appeal to a very broad audience in order to make the most money, so they are representative of what the male sex finds attractive.

I simply took the age listed on their profile at face value -- it could be lower than the real value if they think guys like much younger girls, but I keep hearing from readers how it’s really women in their mid-late 20s or older who are more physically attractive, more comfortable with their sexuality, and so on, so they might lie upwards too. There is therefore no a priori reason to assume that they are consistently lying in one direction or the other. Data is there for almost all of the girls, but is missing for about six of them, most of whom do look older and work in the fringe MILF market.

That said, here are the frequencies of different ages in this representative sample of popular pornstars:


Not to brag, but I can’t help it if I'm more perceptive than the most bloggers or commenters. I've been saying all along that female physical attractiveness peaks at 22 - 24, and bam: the average age is 22.8 years, with 63.3% of all girls falling between 20 and 24.

You'll notice that the graph is very skewed (or not symmetric), so that there are many more below-23 stars than above-23 stars. Concretely, the skewness is 0.55, while the standard error of skewness is 0.22. Since the skewness is greater than 2 standard errors of skewness, it is no fluke that the graph is weighted more heavily toward below-23 than above-23 girls.

And obviously the graph is truncated on the left since it's illegal for companies to hire under-18 girls. But just finish drawing the curve on the left side, and you can see that if it were legal, there would be a small number of 17 year-olds, even fewer 16 year-olds, and maybe a lone 15 year-old.

The fact that the average guy would prefer watching sex with a 16 y.o. than sex with a 40 y.o. may be disconcerting, but that is the truth. Thankfully, laws prevent this. It is not a question of whether some 40 y.o. might be found who is attractive enough to qualify -- this is obvious. The question is how rare would she be among her age-mates, vs. how rare would the 16 y.o. be among her peers? Surround yourself with a random sample of females of these ages, and you will see that it is easier among the younger ones. This doesn’t mean that the typical 16 y.o. is this attractive, only that a 16 y.o. this attractive might be 1 out of 1 hundred vs. 1 out of 1 hundred-thousand in the 40 y.o. case.

At any rate, the take-home message is clear enough: it is females in their early-mid 20s who are most physically attractive, notwithstanding the wishful thinking of older females or the "sour grapes" self-deception of older males.

March 24, 2008

Some music notes

- Nelly Furtado, whose right hand can clearly be seen here, has a slightly masculine digit ratio and stands only 5'2".

- Miley Cyrus, who plays teen music idol Hannah Montana, has a YouTube channel where she and her best friend / backup dancer Mandy Jiroux record their girly goofing off and answer readers' questions. (At 2:08 in the first video, you can clearly see that Miley Cyrus' digit ratio is slightly masculine. It must take balls to be a performer.) I haven't seen her TV show or heard her music, but it's worth keeping a finger on the pulse of youth culture -- in this case, you'll breathe a sigh of relief that this is who younger teenagers look up to. It's not like if the Blonde Ambition-era Madonna had a YT channel.

- Indie bands often get too much credit for making revolutionary or pioneering music. Here's how Wikipedia describes the sound on The Jesus and Mary Chain's album Psychocandy, which is the Farah Fawcett swimsuit poster of '80s indie rock:

The album fused together the Reids' two primary influences, the guitar noise of The Stooges and The Velvet Underground with the '60s pop leanings of The Beach Boys and Phil Spector -- in fact, the album's opening song, "Just Like Honey," borrows Hal Blaine's famous drum intro from The Ronnettes 1963 classic, "Be My Baby", produced and co-written by Spector.

A whole four years before this album came out, a very similar sound -- a dark, noisy guitar take on the oldies -- was "pioneered" by 19 year-old girl pop singer Rachel Sweet, in "Then he kissed me / Be my baby". The scarequotes are there since this may go back even earlier, but it goes back at least this far. (At 0:24, you can barely make it out, but she too appears to have a slightly masculine digit ratio.)

- Speaking of noise rock, is it angry nerd rock? Take the legendary noise rock band Big Black: Steve Albini went to Northwestern for undergrad, and Santiago Durango went to law school after the band broke up. Also, Ian Mackaye, frontman of hardcore punk band Minor Threat, was born to a wealthy smarty family, and guitarist Lyle Preslar studied briefly at Northwestern (playing in Big Black while there). Indeed, the very wealthy Georgetown neighborhood was central to the DC hardcore and later "underground music" scenes. I think it was only around 1998, or a bit earlier, when most of those punk-themed stores on the otherwise ritzy M Street began relocating, except for Smash!

So what distinguishes noise rock from, say, death metal, which has lower-IQ / lower-class fans in addition to some college student fans? It can't be musical complexity or technical skill, literary sophistication, allusions to classical music, or song length.

Noise rock may have been popular among smarter people just as a fad, with no rational explanation for it, in the same way that ugly, stripped-down painting, sculpture, and movies were (and somewhat continue to be) fashion statements within the contemporary elite art world.

March 20, 2008

Food game, episode 1

I'm pretty new to Game, having only watched a ripped DVD of Mystery's on YouTube and read the e-book Magic Bullets, largely based on the Mystery Method. I'm still practicing the "Attraction" phase steps the most, since that's what newcomers evidently need the most work on. Still, it's pretty easy stuff; you just have to log a lot of practice hours to get it down (especially storytelling details).

But pretty soon this will all be automatic and I'll need to pefect the steps of the "Comfort-building" phase, which is apparently the most difficult phase, the third being "Seduction" where the only goal is "don't make a last-minute fuck up of what you've already set up well." Here's a list from Magic Bullets of what you are doing in Comfort:

- Build an emotional connection and get to know each other.

- Tone down any dismissive attitude from previous phases.

- Solidify and sustain attraction and qualification levels.

- Increase physical intimacy (touching) with appropriate pacing: neither too fast or too slow.

- Get her phone number and go on dates if appropriate.

- Manage the whole process so that she feels genuinely comfortable being in a sexual situation with you.

Right now I'm mostly planning ahead so I won't have to improvise, and I've been practicing with female "flirt friends" (we flirt and could see ourselves dating, but are not pursuing each other). In the Mystery DVD, he explains why preparing food for a girl is such an effective comfort-building method: she is hard-wired to seek out men who can provide for her, it shows talent and skill (anything above being a fumble-fingers in the kitchen will win points), and feeding it to her increases the sense of intimacy. As a less extraverted person, I can only force myself to be so talkative, so it's great to have a legitimate reason to not be very chatty, like preparing food.

Having the theory down, let's get to some concrete things you can do. I don't read pickup artist forums, so some of this may already be common knowledge. I expect that some or most of what this series discusses will be new, though.

First, make your own meals, don't go to restaurants. In restaurants, at worst, you signal that you only have money to offer and that you expect something in return, and at best you can signal high-status by establishing a good relationship with the owner beforehand, who can then say impressive things about you in front of your date.

Making your own meals avoids the pitfalls of restaurants -- even if you're spending a lot of money, it's at a grocery store or butcher or wherever you would normally get your food supply, so it never looks unusual and flashy, and she won't think that you expect anything from her if you eat during the afternoon or early evening. Moreover, since you'll see the manager at the grocery store or the butcher much more frequently than a restaurant owner, you can more easily establish a good relationship that will lead him to talk you up if you bring your date along. Also, restaurateurs are in a much more financially insecure business than upscale grocery stores, so they are more likely to have a car salesman vibe to them, whereas praise from the grocer sounds less forced.

To put numbers on the difference, it's socially acceptable to pop into a food store and only spend $10 or a bit less -- so $100 buys you 10 trips or more, which is plenty to become "familiar" there if you make the rounds talking to people. At a nice restaurant, $100 gets you maybe 3 trips, and since it's difficult to socialize with the owner or workers (who are paid to kiss your ass, making their words untrustworthy), you'll go unnoticed.

Next, buy most of the ingredients ahead of time -- she'll interpret a well-stocked fridge much more favorably than an expensive sports car. It makes the occasion look normal to you, although she will of course find it special, not being used to eating such things. You won't look like you're going out of your way to impress her, in other words, which would broadcast eagerness.

However, make sure to leave a few things for the last minute: that way, you can make a trip together to the grocer's to pick them up (fresh bread is a no-brainer here). This gives you some banter time in the car / on foot, lets you look at home picking out expensive food, and perhaps allow you to run into the manager or owner for a pat on the back. It's a mini-date before the real date, and the Mystery Method is pretty keen on "multiple-venue dates" so that you two go through a wider range of experiences and emotions within the same amount of time as going out to a movie.

If she isn't comfortable coming over to your house just yet, invite her on a less threatening shopping date where you tell her you're going to pick up some things at the supermarket, and why doesn't she tag along to help? Girls love fantasizing about expensive food that's spread before their eyes, even more than trying on shoes. And since she's not going there for herself, for once she can browse Dean & DeLuca without that annoying voice telling her, "You know you can't afford that. You should put that back if you want this. Are you trying to turn yourself into a blimp?" Just don't veer far away from what you'd normally buy -- just like you wouldn't let her dress you head to toe.

Next episode: bouncing from the grocer's to the importer's.

March 18, 2008

The four stages of man in relation to girls

Human beings have "long" life histories, whereby we mature in lengthy stages rather than pop out of the womb fully formed, fuck like mad, and then drop dead. (Although the fate of doing the last two in succession has befallen a man or two.) Ultimately, all of our efforts are unconsciously geared toward surviving and reproducing, assuming we are adapted to our environment. Male mating effort can be roughly broken down into male-male competition and courtship of females. Below is a rough but useful guide to categorizing a male as a child, adolescent, younger adult, or elder adult simply by determining his overall reaction to girls.

Girl-ignorers, ages 1 - 12. Before puberty, male children are too busy engaging in male-male competition, such as rough-and-tumble play, to pursue girls. Allocating almost all of their effort to male-male competition probably serves to build up a boy's status before he gets around to approaching girls. At most, a boy feels occasional disgust toward a girl, but they are largely out of sight and out of mind.

Girl-haters, ages 13 - 24. During this phase, males become magnetically drawn to girls, only to discover that the attraction is nearly never mutual. It does not augur well when you hate something so badly and yet want to stick your dick in it even more. "Goddamned girls!" mutters the exasperated teenager.

Typical causes of girls not reciprocating the feeling are:

- That boys don't possess enough social savvy to approach and treat girls the way they want to be approached and treated.

- That boys are so helplessly attracted to girls that their eagerness and desperation turn girls off.

- That boys have only a crude idea of what girls like -- they believe that driving a flashy sports car will work better than practicing how to flirt better.

- And that boys are more given to magical thinking, believing that if only girls would act like boys and share the same interests and leisure activities as boys, the problem would be solved! * This innate tendency is only exacerbated by moronic feminists telling boys that "girls have the same thoughts, feelings, and actions as you do." But in the same proportions?

Girl-lovers, ages 25 - late 30s. Guys finally get over the expectation that girls are only worth dating if they like hardcore punk, extreme sports, and James Bond movies. Their levels of the personality trait Neuroticism settle down, so that they are less touchy and desperate. Not being as socially adept as girls, they require more experience to figure these things out, and they have enough experience by the mid-20s to better understand how to treat girls.


Also, because male-male competition is considerably less macho than it is from 15 - 24 (when males are most likely to commit violent crimes), they feel more at ease learning how to cook or prepare a few things that will excite girls, how to dance well enough to feel at ease in a club, and similar things that girls are truly attracted to. For one thing, they invest more money in professional clothing and a "good zip code" than in sports cars or expensive athletic shoes.

I haven't seen the numbers, but I'd bet that 99.9% of pickup artists are between 25 and 40. It is odd that their writings never refer to what a guy in college should do -- presumably, under-25 guys are chemically incapable of getting into the right mindset. **

Girl-piners, early 40s - death. I've been referring to how males react to "girls," and that's deliberate -- as in, females who are roughly 16 to 25, and particularly 18 to 23. *** By their early 40s, only the richest, gorgeous, and most powerful men can hope to date or be intimate with a girl. Mankind's trusty deus ex machina emotion, self-deception, swoops in to rescue him from becoming depressed over what he can no longer enjoy, even in principle. He tells himself that he's "too old to bother with the drama of younger women," that he's "been there, done that," or has simply "grown wise enough to perceive the beauty of older women," which youthful lust had blinded him to up till then.

Horseshit.

As the movie Lost in Translation illustrates perfectly, once men enter their girl-loving phase, they never want to leave it. They only realize this, though, if they meet someone unusual who lifts the veil of self-deception, and they find out they'd been pining for girls all along. Not having spoken to many men who have had an encounter with such an unusual someone, I can't say how long the awareness lasts. Those who continued to observe reality with their by now delicate eyes, without a softening filter, would surely be ruined. To mix metaphors, I'd expect the sensation to decay, as the taste of honey diminishes once the spoon's been removed from your mouth, and for healthy self-deception to habituate him back into his girl-less existence, like saliva that breaks down the honey's remaining traces, restoring the taste of nothing in particular.

Scarlett Johansson is 18 in that movie, by the way.

Now, clearly the age ranges above are schematic and represent averages. There is still variance: some males may become suave earlier than usual, or bloom later, while some never leave the girl-hating stage. In the last case, either a propensity to hate girls throughout the lifespan has a negligible genetic component, so that natural selection is unable to weed these males out of the genepool, or girl-hating is heritable but such men somehow find a way to reproduce. Being undesirable, they could only hope to attract undesirable females. That, or they would have to excel at something and find unbelievably forgiving females, in the same way that shorter men find mates if they stand out (in a good way).

* The personality trait Openness to Experience shows an upside-down U shape over the lifespan: it increases during adolescence, reaches a peak during college, and declines after 25 - 30. I'm sure I wasn't the only retarded college student who thought of polyamory as a solution to the problem of pairing off. "Gee, if only we all had multiple boyfriends or girlfriends, then we wouldn't feel so nervous asking someone out or rejecting them, since that's easier to do when you've already got several partners. Plus it makes you more likely to kick bad partners to the curb if you've got a reserve." For some reason, girls never bought into this idea (though I never proposed it to them!).

** Based on my observations of under-25 guys -- I eat one meal a day in the college dining hall and attend a weekly 80s night, where almost no one is older than 25 -- their natural reaction is to stare at a girl they like, to show too intense of a demeanor if they manage to approach her, to brag often without softening the blow via self-deprecation, and worst of all, to be utterly inept at interacting with her once she starts flirting. He takes a playful tease personally, proceeding to puff up his chest in defense, and sends her a cluelessly cutting remark in return. And as I pointed out here, college guys will do the most humiliating things, in public, as long as a pretty girl tells them too, in the despicable hope that it will win them points with her. All of these examples show why it would be futile to design a pickup manual for college guys.

*** The evolutionary reasons for this are not hard to understand. For one thing, girls are more fecund than much younger or older females. Apart from ability to conceive, they are naturally more healthy, and this is as important as conceiving in the first place. In fitness terms, always miscarrying is tantamount to infertility. Finally, a girl's expected contribution to a man's fitness is higher than is that of a much older woman, for the simple reason that she has decades longer to live, during which to help him out.

March 13, 2008

Why we irrationally care about disgusting hypocrisy

Whether or not someone lives up to the standards they set for themselves is irrelevant to the worthiness of those standards. No one is perfect, nor perfectable, so the occasional slip-up doesn't matter. However, if everyone frequently fails to meet the standard, that may mean that it's too high to realistically set for ourselves. This "soft" form of hypocrisy drives Blank Slate believers crazy since they don't believe in inherent biases toward deviance, though it won't bother any clear-thinking person.

But we treat the "hard" form of hypocrisy very differently: even some who believe in the imperfectability of man still think it's untenable to tell everyone else to live up to a standard that you have no intention of trying to meet yourself. Since you're no one special, why are you exempt from your own advice?

Both forms of hypocrisy are pervasive in everyone's daily lives -- we eat a donut we know we shouldn't have ("soft"), or scream obscenities when a driver breaks traffic laws that we break just as frequently ("hard"). However, we ignore this sewage flow of hypocrisy that we are always mired in, and to which we ourselves contribute continually, attending only to the hypocrisy of leaders. The overall trend is that spiritual or moral leaders commit more soft hypocrisy, while elected political leaders commit more hard hypocrisy.

We've already established that soft hypocrisy is of no concern, so we shouldn't care about whether or not a religious leader falters and commits adultery. But what about when a politician happily and guiltlessly breaks a law he has helped to make? * This triggers a reaction in most people that is probably derived from our disgust mechanism, one of the most basic and powerful of human emotions. We have ingested the person's advice, and taken them into our personal sphere, only to find out later that their words and body were polluted by hard hypocrisy. As if we had swallowed a sugar-coated turd, we struggle to expel the person from our sphere and throw up their bundle of advice.

But is this a rational response? Perhaps. If a politician were seeking our vote and we discovered their hard hypocrisy, we might rationally vote against them for fear of being betrayed once they gained office. In reality, though, the moral panics generated by hard hypocrisy are nearly all after the politician has been serving as our elected official. Surely by that time, their track record of getting the job done is a better measure of their reliability; we don't need to forecast once they've been in office for awhile.

Returning to the disgust analogy, suppose that someone snuck a fried cricket into a chocolate bar, we ate it, and the person reveals the next day or week that they secretly fed us a fried cricket. Well, by that time either we're sick or we aren't -- and since fried crickets are edible and healthy (although I don't know about tasty), we'll be fine. Rejecting the disgusting before we've ingested it makes sense, since we could rationally be risk-averse about the unknown, but once we have better data, we should use it instead of our vague, initial impression of disgust.

In the timely case of former Governor Spitzer, he either got results or he didn't. ** If he was elected because his constituents wanted a crackdown on prostitution, and if his policies achieved a satisfying decrease in prostitution -- using means we find acceptable (i.e., not hiring the mafia, etc.) -- then who cares if he paid for prostitutes in his private life? To mix in another metaphor, would you really care if your maid's own house was a pig-sty, assuming she'd already proven her ability to make your house spotless? (Again, if you inspected her house before letting her clean yours, you might take her house's filthiness into consideration -- "how good of a job could she possibly do?" -- and rejecting her could be rational. But not after she'd earned a good objective track record.)

So why do even clear-headed people get so angry about the hard hypocrisy of politicians? Let's set aside those who just like seeing the powerful suffer; for them, it meets the need of entertainment. I suggest that this comes from the fact that electoral polities are very recent, too recent for our brains to have adapted to them by natural selection, unless the selective pressure were high. But responding rationally to the private shenanigans of elected leaders couldn't have much affected our survival and reproduction abilities over the past couple hundred years.

Our reaction likely reflects an earlier state, during which humans have spent most of our time, where there were no elected leaders in the modern sense. Those who convinced others what to do used either charisma and persuasion, like contemporary spiritual and advertising leaders, or brute force, like contemporary totalitarian leaders. We couldn't have cared about hypocrisy in the latter case since they never pretended to promote a moral code in the first place -- they only said, "I have better aim than you do, so what I say goes." But in the former case, we would have voluntarily ingested their advice and taken them into our personal sphere, so that if we found out they practiced hard hypocrisy, we'd feel the disgust reaction described above.

The civilized world has recently introduced a third type of leader -- the one elected to carry out the will of the electorate, using acceptable means. They did not gain office and make laws by brute force, but neither did they get elected in virtue of promoting a moral code and promising to serve as a moral role model. Therefore, they have a legitimate "out" when they come under fire for hard hypocrisy -- "You all elected me to make, enforce, or adjudicate laws that you wanted, in order to make life better."

The reason that others are supposed to follow the leader's laws now is that the electorate has decided that life would be better if they were followed -- not because the leader claimed to practice them in his own life, and since his life is so great, others should follow his example. (Here again we see how outta-whack our brains are with the environment, since most voters behave like disciples searching for a guru.)

Now, the elected leader is subject to his own laws, and he ceremonially promises to uphold the laws when he's being sworn in, although in this case we understand that he will undoubtedly and forgivably break some of them (jaywalking, for instance). So, he should be punished like anyone else who breaks the law, but there's no cause for everyone to get their panties in a giant twist about it. Just focus on whether or not the politician is doing a good job of making, enforcing, and adjudicating the laws we want.

* I'm writing this as former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigns after being busted for paying for prostitutes, even though he campaigned to crack down on solicitation.

** I'm not interested in arguing over whether he did or didn't, which is an empirical matter. I'm just showing what is relevant to a debate about whether or not a politician should resign, should be impeached, and so on.

March 8, 2008

Are songbirds pretty? Data from indie babes

A running debate I've been having with blogger Thursday is whether musically talented females tend to be good-looking or not. His main objection is that I'm getting most of my data from popular music, where record label moguls may consciously or unconsciously screen for good looks in addition to musical ability. However, my obsession with this topic started when I noted some beautiful classical musicians, although this may be confined to piano and violin (maybe cello). They are not screened for good looks. But I don't want to stake too much on them, since I didn't search classical musicians at random and get an impression of their looks -- I visited a site that catalogued "babes in classical music," whose representativeness I don't know.

So I then looked at the performers at the inaugural Lilith Fair -- a feminist carnival -- and showed they were good-looking, although Thursday objected that these had already been screened by record moguls before they were signed up to play the show. As an aside, there is at least one case of a songbird who has a model mother and musician father: Linda Perry. The pattern holds even among low-power ethnic groups such as Gypsy chanteuses, though again the screening issue may play a role in their pop music too.

All right, I've got a new dataset that I think settles the matter in my favor, when combined with the above data as well. Being ignorant of the currents in pop or indie music for the past five years, I consulted my 18 year-old indie chick friend, who directed me to the website Music for Ants. This frequently updated blog focuses on indie bands of the week, and I checked the entries on the similar websites Stereogum and Fluxblog (as suggested by the SWPL entry on indie music) to make sure the same bands were featured, to ensure representativeness. But Music for Ants also has lots of pictures of the bands, allowing us to see what the average indie guy or girl rocker looks like.

I checked the latest 20 pages of the website looking for pictures of females, and though I didn't keep count, there were a fair number of them -- maybe 20 to 30. I don't recall more than one or two being ugly, with a small minority being average, but a modest majority being above-average. They're not quite as good-looking as pop music stars, but the majority are "cute" or better. I'd say the average American female scores 4 or 5 out of 10, while the average female indie rocker is 6.5 or 7, and the average pop star an 8 or higher. Pop music moguls may therefore be exploiting (and exaggerating) a pre-existing tendency for musical females to be good-looking.

Indie band-of-the-week rockers are deliberately not screened according to "mainstream" criteria, such as how good-looking they are. They serve mainly as brands that Whiterpeople can use to show off how unique they are, rather than serve as sex fantasy icons, so their looks do not matter. As long as they have some musical ability and are committed to remaining obscurish, they'll do. Sure, they may not represent the pinnacle of musical genius, but we'd classify them as having clearly above-average musical ability (though they may lack drive, originality, and so on).

So, this pretty much settles whether or not females with greater musical ability also tend to be better looking. I don't claim the trend is perfect (the correlation r is probably modest, around 0.4 or 0.5), nor do I claim that the trend is perfectly linear (at the very highest levels of musical ability, their looks may be average or below-average -- I'll try to find out later). This fits into a larger pattern of artistically talented females who are good-looking, such as attractive fashion designers. Even fashion models are smart, which admittedly isn't the same as having artistic talent.

I outlined in previous posts what I think accounts for the pattern: cross-assortative mating between talented males and attractive females. I've outlined simple tests for this, such as doing a study of families to see if looks correlate with musical ability within families, which would go against my theory and would suggest something like genes that affect both looks and musical ability. I do, however, think genes that affect both looks and talent are at work in ballet dancers, since I don't think ugly or average-looking male dancers enjoy the same sex appeal through their talent that ugly or average musicians do, so cross-assortative mating is unlikely here.

An additional reason I'm skeptical of genes that influence both looks and music skill is that I don't think male musicians tend to be above-average in looks, although I'm not a very good judge of male looks. Still, flipping through Music for Ants, the guys looked pretty average, with many more ugly guys than girls. Under my view, they represent the talented fathers who would pair up with attractive groupies (or whoever) to produce pretty, musical daughters.

March 5, 2008

The scientific study of body language

Beatrice de Gelder has a nice webpage with many free PDFs of her peer-reviewed work on what she calls EBL -- Emotional Body Language. I haven't read through it all, so we'll see how much "newz u can uze" it contains.

Flipping through some review articles, though, it seems that we're not at the same stage of understanding how emotions are expressed by body language as we are for understanding how they're expressed by the face, where Paul Ekman and his colleagues have broken down the nuances of human emotion into fine-grained analysis of muscle movements. At least it looks like the research has been picking up within the past five years.

One neat finding: people notice when the emotion conveyed by body language doesn't match that conveyed by facial expression. For instance, it's jarring to see a figure with their arms back and shoulders pointed forward, as though they were angry, while their face has the eyebrows pointing upwards, as though they were afraid.

I mention this since pickup artist enthusiasts write a lot about body language, but if it is not congruent with facial expression, people will probably notice this and think the person is lying. They need to work on controlling their face too. I'm actually surprised that pickup artists haven't bought Paul Ekman's facial expression analysis kit and incorporated some of its basics into their knowledge base -- since the science is light-years ahead of the study of body language, you'd likely get more out of it. You'd be more aware of how to fake certain emotions, as well as read the emotions of others.

March 3, 2008

Hot girls can make guys eat garbage

No, I don't mean when a guy converts to veganism just to have something in common with her.

I still can't believe what I witnessed at the dining hall tonight. An attractive friend * and I were sitting together, and perhaps because word had gotten around that she'd just broken up with her boyfriend, guys were approaching her frequently as opposed to rarely. (Little did they know she's already got another boyfriend lined up.) Now, I've seen or heard about the desperate things guys do pro-actively to gain favor with hot girls -- one guy bought this one $80 boots during a completely casual trip to the mall (they are both 18, so that's a big deal) -- as well as hot girls' defensive capabilities, such as the ability to dodge oncoming traffic tickets.

But that's small potatoes compared to what the hot girl herself can convince beta suitors to do, assuming she has enough of a sociopathic streak to get a rush from controlling others like puppets.

There we were when some guy stops by. She called his name, but just wanted to chat for a second or two. Eager to prolong his stay next to Hot Girl, he eyed a bowl on her tray and asked, "What's that?" She had eaten a bunch of bean sprouts before, and in the bowl were the tiny inedible bits at either end of the sprout, and some other unidentifiable but still inedible pieces of sprout stuff -- like a bowl of potato peel shavings.

She jumped at the opportunity and said, "Oh, do you want some?" To make it more absurd, there were hardly any bits there to choose from. It was like offering someone a bowl with seven grape seeds. He stared at it and cracked a nervous smile but finally caved and picked at some of the bits and ate them. She couldn't believe it: "Oh my god," she said when he'd left. "Did you see that? That was, like, my trash!"

Later on, a group of betas sat down when I got up, and since I've got a deep prankster streak too, I egged her on by shooting a glance at the bowl, and then at the guy next to her, raising my eyebrows to say, "Go ahead, do it." After we laughed for awhile just at the thought of it, she offered the guy the bowl, and sure enough he stared like the previous one but soon began picking at the pieces and ate them. We could not stop laughing when it happened, and on our way out of the dining hall (without them), we talked and laughed about it again to relive the thrill.

We know from psychological experiments on conformity -- performed before ethics committees banned them -- that perfectly normal people will administer what they believe to be painful and even near-fatal shocks to unseen strangers, provided there is an authority figure in a white lab coat telling them to do so. Well, add "some random hot girl" to the list of persuasive figures.

That gives me the idea to encourage her to see how far her superpower extends -- would guys pinch themselves really hard on the webbing between their thumb and forefinger? Or slap themselves hard across the face? Peel gum off the bottom of her shoe? As long as she did it first (while faking the intensity) and gave some bullshit backstory -- "we learned the coolest thing in class today..." -- I'll bet she could. Witnessing stuff like this is definitely not something I could do if I ate with people my own age.

* She's about 8 out of 10, which because variance is lower in the Mountain Time Zone, probably puts her at or above the 99th percentile among local girls, rather than at about the 95th percentile back East.