June 13, 2006

Self-serving biases, Rant 1

I'm a student of the human mind, so I can't help but read things like the personals ads to get a better idea of how it works -- but I swear, if I read once more something along the lines of "I'm a 5'9 female, so my target guy is at least 5'11," I'll just puke. If she wants a tallish guy, that's perfectly fine, of course, and is no one's biz but her own. What grinds my gears is the self-serving bullshit qualifier that precedes the statement of the preference. No matter what height the girl is, she typically wants a tallish guy -- but what girl wants to think of herself as just another drone in the hive of superficial females? Enter some slapdash disclaimer to save her self-image! It's not that "I'm a slave to my bestial instincts like every other female" -- it's just that "I'm a tallish girl, so I deserve a tallish guy; it's only fair." Or maybe, "I don't deserve such a guy, but I would feel awkward and manly around a shorter guy."

All right, seems reasonable, until you consider that they're comparing apples and oranges. Being a tall girl doesn't earn you squat in the mating game -- guys may care about your waist-to-hip ratio, the geometry of your face, your skin tone, so on, but one thing we couldn't care less about is your height. But being a tall guy does earn you a lot in the mating game. So, translating: "I've got some trait that provides you w/ no information as to my mate value, but you must be highly desirable." It's like if a guy wrote, "I have full lips and lustruous hair, so you'd better be hot from the neck up too." This is idiotic since girls don't care much about male beauty -- does he have a job, if so what kind, how tall is he, etc. -- that's what inquiring female minds want to know.

And the real male counterpart ads would be worse, given that the female ads bald-facedly provide crisply quantified cut-offs (e.g., "at least 5'11"). They'd read, for example: "I have man-breasts, full C cup, so any respondents must have at least a D cup; the larger, the better." Riiiight. Except guys don't act retarded like this -- we know what qualities girls are interested in, and thus, which ones entitle us to demand good things. Perhaps it's the feminist influence in the US that's rendered many modern females clueless of sex differences in preferences, but this is the sort of stuff they should be teaching in high school health class -- anyone else remember how pointless that class was? Who was doing hard drugs and having sex then? A tiny minority of druggies or super-popular kids, and that was it. If we had a better understanding of sex differences, we'd be better prepared to deal w/ each other once we reached full adulthood. But if we've lived in ignorance all our lives, then the awful reality will only irritate us even more once it rears its head: a girl becomes incensed that guys don't value her height or brains that much, while a guy gets upset when he finds out girls really want a manly man instead of gentle stay-at-home dad.

But to get back to the self-serving biases, what of the short girl who demands a tallish guy -- surely she can't use the same disclaimer, so what's the deal in this case? "Well, I like to wear 4-inch heels / platforms, and I guess just an extra 3 inches taller than me in such shoes would be fine." Employing this flapdoodle, a 5'4 girl gets to demand the same 5'11 guy as the 5'9 girl. It's not that she's obeying her primitive instincts -- she's just a modern gal who loves to wear heels!

Now here's a case where guys act just as retardedly self-serving as girls, namely when they specify what age their ideal partner would be. Let's see, when guys are 15, their ideal girl is some hot college girl -- the greater maturity, the fact that she could teach him things a high school girl couldn't, the appeal of the slightly older girl! Then that same guy is in college, and his ideal partner is -- also a fun-loving college girl, not some 25-y.o. intern or full-time career girl, nor some immature high school girl. Later, when that same guy is in his 30s, whom does he secretly lust after, even if he realizes it's mostly in vain -- Girls Gone Wild! The charming innocence compared to his age-mates, the fact that he could teach her a thing or two, the appeal of the younger girl! In other words, there's a peak that girls hit, and pretty much guys of all walks of life want a girl in that age range, but in order to not appear like drones will make up one excuse or other, contradicting their previous reasons as they age.

Only a really cold sonofabitch would speak honestly: "Well, just before that, they're not ripe enough, and after that, they're like spoiled fruit. Who wants spoiled fruit?" All right, so you shouldn't put it so bluntly, but it's better than lying. Same goes for girls. It's fine if you house some bestial instinct; we all do. If you want to tame it and not have it play a role, that's fine, but if you're going to allow it out of its cage, don't try to disguise it as a fluffy bunny. Others will only get pissed when they try to approach it and get thrashed instead. Although you could argue that only a moron would fall for the disguise in the first place, so they deserve to pay for their stupidity.

Next rant: on rosy retrospection (things were so much better when... , I hiked to school uphill both ways, etc.).


  1. I see a lot of this on personals sites too, but I understand why this has to be the case. Online dating is like the real world, in the sense that it's largely about males chasing females and females having their pick. However, this asymmetry is amplified by the fact that there is virtually no cost (risk of embarrassment) for males expressing an interest in females, so every half-decent looking female receives LOADS of responses. Hence the need for females to express some pickiness with what they're after in a male (e.g. only 5'11 plus and under 25 years old please!).

    Granted, the stupid qualifications like "because I like to wear heels!" are blatantly false. Yet it's important. It says "I know I'm superifical, but at least I realise that I have enough tact to cover it up, albeit palpably". Think about it. You probably wouldn't mind going out with a girl who thinks your mother looks like an ugly old toad, but probably not a girl who actually says to your mother "gee, you look like an ugly old toad".

  2. That's what I thought when I first starting getting irked by this stuff -- "at least it's a tactful way of phrasing it." But if it has to do w/ one's preferences, I'd rather have them stated openly so I know who I'm dealing w/. For example, if she only wants to date Latino guys, don't pussyfoot around the issue, wasting everyone's time but Latino guys. The other reason I don't like the silly qualifiers is that, over time, people start to believe their own rationalizations, preventing them from noticing & potentially correcting any character flaws. We've all go them, but to improve things, we have to be honest enough about why we do the things we do.

  3. I don't think qualifiers really waste people's time. "I only want Latino guys because [fake reason]" should still only get responses from Latino guys.

    As for "improving things".. well this presupposes a "correct" way to evaluate a potential mate. Presumably you're referring to "intelligent", "sense of humour" and "likes children" etc. rather than "tall" and "large penis". I can't see anyone (especially young people) ever trying to self-moderate their own biological urges in order to be politically correct. Actually, I CAN think of one sort of person, but she'd just be using you as a trophy to symbolise how progressive and enlightened she is be dating a black, gay, jewish amputee like yourself.

  4. I agree self-moderating biological urges is difficult, but it's important nevertheless, and the sooner we teach kids this the better. Imagine a guy follows his urges up till age 40, and so probably hasn't settled down, or has but frequently cheats. He'll either have a bad reputation by then, or will wear such a reputation on his sleeve if in a larger anonymous community. And he's not gonna be as athletic as he once was, so getting hot young chicks will be pretty difficult.

    It's a bit late to play nice and expect everything to work out. So, he should get used to moderating his bestial instincts early on. That doesn't have to go so far that he utterly supresses them, or is so open-minded he'll date absolutely anyone, but still. Same for girls -- if they don't get practice moderating their urges, they're going to be in for a rude awakening once they hit 30 and are no longer able to easily get their wishes met.

    I think the point generalizes: you don't want to totally bottle up your rage, nor be so non-violent that you'd let someone bulldoze you rather than fight back, but in general, when someone pisses us off, we have to get used to moderating the urge to tear their throat out. Or seek revenge, etc.

  5. Is having sex with lots of young women but gradually having sex with less and less women as you lose your youth and looks better or worse than finding your soulmate and growing old together? Which one would make a man happier overall in life? Hollywood would say the latter, but Darwinians might argue for the former.

    As an economist, my answer would be: it depends on if the particular male is attractive enough to have sex with enough women to compensate for not having a soulmate. Furthermore, as an economist, I would generally trust that male's ability to judge the dating market and his place in it, in order to determine if he should try to have lots of one night stands or simply find someone nice and hang on tight.

    Which takes us back to the bitch who only wants to know us if we're 5'11 or over. As she gradually finds her looks fading with age, the quality of men she can attract will lower accordingly. This would prompt her to accordingly adjust her standards (lowering them) until they reach the point where, like the unattractive man, it makes better economic sense for her to find a 'nice' longterm partner and hang on.

    As an aside, I agree with your comment about teaching kids. I think Steve Sailer mentioned somewhere that parents have much less influence in their kids' mating choices than they used to and the result of this is increasing superficality in today's dating market.

  6. but one thing we couldn't care less about is your height.

    Disagree. I think most guys want a girl who's shorter than them. It's kind of weird otherwise. Makes your own height stand out more by comparison.

    Note also that internet dating sites are enriched for tall and fat women, and short and nerdish guys. The good looking women on internet dating sites tend to be relatively tall chicks who have a relatively hard time finding dates taller than them in the real world. They are probably the best served by Match.com and so on, because there are a nontrivial number of executive type tall/busy/rich men on those sites.

    Think about it: why would a good looking chick be on Match.com otherwise? You can easily prove this by writing a script and going through a few hundred male and female Match profiles. You will find that women tend to be about 2" taller on average, and men 1" shorter (accounting for overstatement, probably 2" shorter). If you want to be anal you can account for sampling biases -- just estimate the N of match.com and use standard binomial sampling confidence intervals.

    It's interesting because in some other respects (i.e. income or IQ, to the extent IQ is attractive) men on Match are probably more desirable than the population at large.

  7. I was giving taller girls the benefit of the doubt when I said that. I actually believe that -- that guys don't really find height in any direction per se more or less attractive, but shy away from taller girls since they know the likelihood of rejection is near 1. But I could be wrong.

    To the extent that it's true that guys find shorter girls attractive, then the situation of taller girls demanding the most desirable men is even more ridiculous.

  8. To the extent that it's true that guys find shorter girls attractive, then the situation of taller girls demanding the most desirable men is even more ridiculous.

    ahh, well, I think it's true that guys generally want girls who are shorter *than them*, but have no preference beyond that point -- not "shorter" in general.

    that said, short girls tend to be "cute" at max. Tall girls allow the possibility of being really *hot* -- stacked, long legs, etc.

  9. One thing I've wondered about is how waist-to-hip ratio changes as you get taller. Aside from a few genetic freak models, most tall girls I've seen in real life or elsewhere aren't very hourglass-shaped. Makes physics sense, since having the same exaggerated hourglass shape if you were 5'9 vs. 5'3 would make your gait too wobbly. Hourglass shape is what makes women pivot their hips, and if your center of gravity is higher above the ground, such pivoting is more risky for taller girls. Short girls, though, can swoosh all they want w/o worrying about losing their balance.

    But you're right: if you're a leg-man, then tall girls are what you want.

  10. I gotta disagree about male beauty. As an ugly guy, women care a whole lot.

  11. I like tall girls, and it's just as superficial as tall girls only liking tall guys.

  12. Perhaps it's the feminist influence in the US that's rendered many modern females clueless of sex differences in preferences, but this is the sort of stuff they should be teaching in high school health class -- anyone else remember how pointless that class was?

    I think this is definitely part of it. Another part is probably that society is telling young females to follow a monogamous pair-bonding mating strategy (find a stable male to be a provider), while the biology of most young females seems to be telling them to follow a short term mating strategy (find a dominant male with good genes). In past environments where females depended on males for economic survival, they may have been happier following the pair-bonding mating strategy, but now that they can survive on their own, they can more easily afford to follow the "good genes" strategy.

    I also think that female preferences (for sexual partners) are simply more complicated than male preferences, and take many more factors into account. Or the factors in female mate preferences are harder to gauge than the factors in male mate preferences. Not only are female criteria quantitatively more stringent, but they are qualitatively more complicated. A guy can know whether he is attracted to a woman in several seconds (though he may sometimes be motivated to adjust his rating of her up or down). A woman cannot usually gauge her attraction to a guy so quickly. Consequently, females can more easily deceive themselves and others about what their actual preferences are (especially when society requires them to do so).

  13. but one thing we couldn't care less about is your height.

    Disagree. I think most guys would take a woman taller than them if given the option.

  14. Just gotta chill. I don't blame girls for choosing taller guys because I probably would do the same if I was a girl.

    (Well, I probably wouldn't to the same degree -- but I'd want someone of equal height.)


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