i. Fire works a little differently than people imagine. A great ask-science comment. See also AugustusFink-nottle’s comment in the same thread.
iii. I was very conflicted about whether to link to this because I haven’t actually spent any time looking at it myself so I don’t know if it’s any good, but according to somebody (?) who linked to it on SSC the people behind this stuff have academic backgrounds in evolutionary biology, which is something at least (whether you think this is a good thing or not will probably depend greatly on your opinion of evolutionary biologists, but I’ve definitely learned a lot more about human mating patterns, partner interaction patterns, etc. from evolutionary biologists than I have from personal experience, so I’m probably in the ‘they-sometimes-have-interesting-ideas-about-these-topics-and-those-ideas-may-not-be-terrible’-camp). I figure these guys are much more application-oriented than were some of the previous sources I’ve read on related topics, such as e.g. Kappeler et al. I add the link mostly so that if I in five years time have a stroke that obliterates most of my decision-making skills, causing me to decide that entering the dating market might be a good idea, I’ll have some idea where it might make sense to start.
“Are stereotypes accurate or inaccurate? We summarize evidence that stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable findings in social psychology. We address controversies in this literature, including the long-standing and continuing but unjustified emphasis on stereotype inaccuracy, how to define and assess stereotype accuracy, and whether stereotypic (vs. individuating) information can be used rationally in person perception. We conclude with suggestions for building theory and for future directions of stereotype (in)accuracy research.”
A few quotes from the paper:
“Demographic stereotypes are accurate. Research has consistently shown moderate to high levels of correspondence accuracy for demographic (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender) stereotypes […]. Nearly all accuracy correlations for consensual stereotypes about race/ethnicity and gender exceed .50 (compared to only 5% of social psychological findings; Richard, Bond, & Stokes-Zoota, 2003).[…] Rather than being based in cultural myths, the shared component of stereotypes is often highly accurate. This pattern cannot be easily explained by motivational or social-constructionist theories of stereotypes and probably reflects a “wisdom of crowds” effect […] personal stereotypes are also quite accurate, with correspondence accuracy for roughly half exceeding r =.50.”
“We found 34 published studies of racial-, ethnic-, and gender-stereotype accuracy. Although not every study examined discrepancy scores, when they did, a plurality or majority of all consensual stereotype judgments were accurate. […] In these 34 studies, when stereotypes were inaccurate, there was more evidence of underestimating than overestimating actual demographic group differences […] Research assessing the accuracy of miscellaneous other stereotypes (e.g., about occupations, college majors, sororities, etc.) has generally found accuracy levels comparable to those for demographic stereotypes”
“A common claim […] is that even though many stereotypes accurately capture group means, they are still not accurate because group means cannot describe every individual group member. […] If people were rational, they would use stereotypes to judge individual targets when they lack information about targets’ unique personal characteristics (i.e., individuating information), when the stereotype itself is highly diagnostic (i.e., highly informative regarding the judgment), and when available individuating information is ambiguous or incompletely useful. People’s judgments robustly conform to rational predictions. In the rare situations in which a stereotype is highly diagnostic, people rely on it (e.g., Crawford, Jussim, Madon, Cain, & Stevens, 2011). When highly diagnostic individuating information is available, people overwhelmingly rely on it (Kunda & Thagard, 1996; effect size averaging r = .70). Stereotype biases average no higher than r = .10 ( Jussim, 2012) but reach r = .25 in the absence of individuating information (Kunda & Thagard, 1996). The more diagnostic individuating information people have, the less they stereotype (Crawford et al., 2011; Krueger & Rothbart, 1988). Thus, people do not indiscriminately apply their stereotypes to all individual members of stereotyped groups.” (Funder incidentally talked about this stuff as well in his book Personality Judgment).
One thing worth mentioning in the context of stereotypes is that if you look at stuff like crime data – which sadly not many people do – and you stratify based on stuff like country of origin, then the sub-group differences you observe tend to be very large. Some of the differences you observe between subgroups are not in the order of something like 10%, which is probably the sort of difference which could easily be ignored without major consequences; some subgroup differences can easily be in the order of one or two orders of magnitude. The differences are in some contexts so large as to basically make it downright idiotic to assume there are no differences – it doesn’t make sense, it’s frankly a stupid thing to do. To give an example, in Germany the probability that a random person, about whom you know nothing, has been a suspect in a thievery case is 22% if that random person happens to be of Algerian extraction, whereas it’s only 0,27% if you’re dealing with an immigrant from China. Roughly one in 13 of those Algerians have also been involved in a case of ‘body (bodily?) harm’, which is the case for less than one in 400 of the Chinese immigrants.
v. Assessing Immigrant Integration in Sweden after the May 2013 Riots. Some data from the article:
“Today, about one-fifth of Sweden’s population has an immigrant background, defined as those who were either born abroad or born in Sweden to two immigrant parents. The foreign born comprised 15.4 percent of the Swedish population in 2012, up from 11.3 percent in 2000 and 9.2 percent in 1990 […] Of the estimated 331,975 asylum applicants registered in EU countries in 2012, 43,865 (or 13 percent) were in Sweden. […] More than half of these applications were from Syrians, Somalis, Afghanis, Serbians, and Eritreans. […] One town of about 80,000 people, Södertälje, since the mid-2000s has taken in more Iraqi refugees than the United States and Canada combined.”
“Coupled with […] macroeconomic changes, the largely humanitarian nature of immigrant arrivals since the 1970s has posed challenges of labor market integration for Sweden, as refugees often arrive with low levels of education and transferable skills […] high unemployment rates have disproportionately affected immigrant communities in Sweden. In 2009-10, Sweden had the highest gap between native and immigrant employment rates among OECD countries. Approximately 63 percent of immigrants were employed compared to 76 percent of the native-born population. This 13 percentage-point gap is significantly greater than the OECD average […] Explanations for the gap include less work experience and domestic formal qualifications such as language skills among immigrants […] Among recent immigrants, defined as those who have been in the country for less than five years, the employment rate differed from that of the native born by more than 27 percentage points. In 2011, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that 35 percent of the unemployed registered at the Swedish Public Employment Service were foreign born, up from 22 percent in 2005.”
“As immigrant populations have grown, Sweden has experienced a persistent level of segregation — among the highest in Western Europe. In 2008, 60 percent of native Swedes lived in areas where the majority of the population was also Swedish, and 20 percent lived in areas that were virtually 100 percent Swedish. In contrast, 20 percent of Sweden’s foreign born lived in areas where more than 40 percent of the population was also foreign born.”
vi. Book recommendations. Or rather, author recommendations. A while back I asked ‘the people of SSC’ if they knew of any fiction authors I hadn’t read yet which were both funny and easy to read. I got a lot of good suggestions, and the roughly 20 Dick Francis novels I’ve read during the fall I’ve read as a consequence of that thread.
“On the basis of an original survey among native Christians and Muslims of Turkish and Moroccan origin in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Sweden, this paper investigates four research questions comparing native Christians to Muslim immigrants: (1) the extent of religious fundamentalism; (2) its socio-economic determinants; (3) whether it can be distinguished from other indicators of religiosity; and (4) its relationship to hostility towards out-groups (homosexuals, Jews, the West, and Muslims). The results indicate that religious fundamentalist attitudes are much more widespread among Sunnite Muslims than among native Christians, even after controlling for the different demographic and socio-economic compositions of these groups. […] Fundamentalist believers […] show very high levels of out-group hostility, especially among Muslims.”
ix. Portal: Dinosaurs. It would have been so incredibly awesome to have had access to this kind of stuff back when I was a child. The portal includes links to articles with names like ‘Bone Wars‘ – what’s not to like? Again, awesome!
x. “you can’t determine if something is truly random from observations alone. You can only determine if something is not truly random.” (link) An important insight well expressed.
xi. Chessprogramming. If you’re interested in having a look at how chess programs work, this is a neat resource. The wiki contains lots of links with information on specific sub-topics of interest. Also chess-related: The World Championship match between Carlsen and Karjakin has started. To the extent that I’ll be following the live coverage, I’ll be following Svidler et al.’s coverage on chess24. Robin van Kampen and Eric Hansen – both 2600+ elo GMs – did quite well yesterday, in my opinion.
xii. Justified by More Than Logos Alone (Razib Khan).
“Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole. People do not believe in Catholicism as often as they are born Catholics, and the Catholic religion is rather well fitted to a range of predispositions to the typical human.”
i. Temporal view of the costs and benefits of self-deception, by Chance, Nortona, Ginob, and Ariely. The abstract:
“Researchers have documented many cases in which individuals rationalize their regrettable actions. Four experiments examine situations in which people go beyond merely explaining away their misconduct to actively deceiving themselves. We find that those who exploit opportunities to cheat on tests are likely to engage in self-deception, inferring that their elevated performance is a sign of intelligence. This short-term psychological benefit of self-deception, however, can come with longer-term costs: when predicting future performance, participants expect to perform equally well—a lack of awareness that persists even when these inflated expectations prove costly. We show that although people expect to cheat, they do not foresee self-deception, and that factors that reinforce the benefits of cheating enhance self-deception. More broadly, the findings of these experiments offer evidence that debates about the relative costs and benefits of self-deception are informed by adopting a temporal view that assesses the cumulative impact of self-deception over time.”
A bit more from the paper:
“People often rationalize their questionable behavior in an effort to maintain a positive view of themselves. We show that, beyond merely sweeping transgressions under the psychological rug, people can use the positive outcomes resulting from negative behavior to enhance their opinions of themselves—a mistake that can prove costly in the long run. We capture this form of self-deception in a series of laboratory experiments in which we give some people the opportunity to perform well on an initial test by allowing them access to the answers. We then examine whether the participants accurately attribute their inflated scores to having seen the answers, or whether they deceive themselves into believing that their high scores reflect new-found intelligence, and therefore expect to perform similarly well on future tests without the answer key.
Previous theorists have modeled self-deception after interpersonal deception, proposing that self-deception—one part of the self deceiving another part of the self—evolved in the service of deceiving others, since a lie can be harder to detect if the liar believes it to be true (1, 2). This interpersonal account reflects the calculated nature of lying; the liar is assumed to balance the immediate advantages of deceit against the risk of subsequent exposure. For example, people frequently lie in matchmaking contexts by exaggerating their own physical attributes, and though such deception might initially prove beneficial in convincing an attractive prospect to meet for coffee, the ensuing disenchantment during that rendezvous demonstrates the risks (3, 4). Thus, the benefits of deceiving others (e.g., getting a date, getting a job) often accrue in the short term, and the costs of deception (e.g., rejection, punishment) accrue over time.
The relative costs and benefits of self-deception, however, are less clear, and have spurred a theoretical debate across disciplines (5–10). […]
As we had expected, social recognition exacerbated self-deception: those who were commended for their answers-aided performance were even more likely to inflate their beliefs about their subsequent performance. The fact that social recognition, which so often accompanies self-deception in the real world, enhances self-deception has troubling implications for the prevalence and magnitude of self-deception in everyday life.”
ii. Nonverbal Communication, by Albert Mehrabian. Some time ago I decided that I wanted to know more about this stuff, but I haven’t really gotten around to it until now. It’s old stuff, but it’s quite interesting. Some quotes:
“The work of Condon and Ogston (1966, 1967) has dealt with the synchronous relations of a speaker’s verbal cues to his own and his addressee’s nonverbal behaviors. One implication of their work is the existence of a kind of coactive regulation of communicator-addressee behaviors which is an intrinsic part of social interaction and which is certainly not exhausted through a consideration of speech alone. Kendon (1967a) recognized these and other functions that are also served by implicit behaviors, particularly eye contact. He noted that looking at another person helps in getting information about how that person is behaving (that is, to monitor), in regulating the initiation and termination of speech, and in conveying emotionality or intimacy. With regard to the regulatory function, Kendon’s (1967a) findings showed that when the speaker and his listener are baout to change roles, the speaker looks in the direction of his listener as he stops talking, and his listener in turn looks away as he starts speaking. Further, when speech is fluent, the speaker looks more in the direction of his listener than when his speech is disrupted with errors and hesitations. Looking away during these awkward moments implies recognition by the speaker that he has less to say, and is demanding less attention from his listener. It also provides the speaker with some relief to organize his thoughts.
The concept of regulation has also been studied by Scheflen (1964, 1965). According to him, a communicator may use changes in posture, eye contact, or position to indicate that (1) he is about to make a new point, (2) he is assuming an attitude relative to several points being made by himself or his addresse, or (3) he wishes to temporarily remove himself from the communication situation, as would be the case if he were to select a great distance from the addressee or begin to turn his back on him. There are many interesting aspects of this regulative function of nonverbal cues that have been dealt with only informally. […]
One of the first attempts for a more general characterization of the referents of implicit behavior and, therefore, possibly of the behaviors themselves, was made by Schlosberg (1954). He suggested a three-dimensional framework involving pleasantness-unpleasantness, sleep-tension, and attention-rejection. Any feeling could be assigned a value on each of these three dimensions, and different feelings would correspond to different points in this three-dimensional space. This shift away from the study of isolated feelings and their corresponding nonverbal cues and toward a characterization of the general referents of nonverbal behavior on a limited set of dimensions was seen as beneficial. It was hoped that it could aid in the identification of large classes of interrelated nonverbal behaviors.
Recent factor-analytic work by Williams and Sundene (1965) and Osgood (1966) provided further impetus for characterizing the referents of implicit behavior in terms of a limited set of dimensions. Williams and Sundene (1965) found that facial, vocal, or facial-vocal cues can be categorized primarily in terms of three orthogonal factors: general evalution, social control, and activity.
For facial expression of emotion, Osgood (1966) suggested the following dimensions as primary referents: pleasantness (joy and glee versus dread and anxiety), control (annoyance, disgust, contempt, scorn, and loathing versus dismay, bewilderment, surprise, amazement, and excitement), and activation (sullen anger, rage, disgust, scorn, and loathing versus despair, pity, dreamy sadness, boredom, quiet pleasure, complacency, and adoration). […]
Scheflen (1964, 1965, 1966) provided detailed observations of an informal quality on the significance of postures and positions in interpersonal situations. Along similar lines, Kendon (1967a) and Exline and his colleagues explored the many-faceted significance of eye contact with, or observation of, another […] These investigations consistently found, among same-sexed pairs of communicators, that females generally had more eye contact with each other than did males; also, members of both sexes had less eye contact with one another when the interaction between them was aversive […] In generally positive exchanges, males had a tendency to decrease their eye contact over a period of time, whereas females tended to increase it (Exline and Winters, 1965). […]
extensive data provided by Kendon (1967a) showed that observation of another person duing a social exchange varied from about 30 per cent of 70 per cent, and that corresponding figures for eye contact ranged from 10 per cent to 40 per cent. […]
Physical proximity, touching, eye contact, a forward lean rather than a reclining position, and an orientation of the torso toward rather than away from an addressee have all been found to communicate a more positive attitude toward him. A second set of cues that indicates postural relaxation includes asymmetrical placement of the limbs, a sideways lean and/or reclining position by the seated communicator, and specific relaxation measures of the hands or neck. This second set of cues relates primarily to status differences between the communicator and his addressee: there is more relaxation with an addressee of lower status, and less relaxation with one of higher status. […]
In sum, the findings from studies of posture and position and subtle variations in verbal statements […] show that immediacy cues primarily denote evaluation, and postural relaxation ues denote status or potency in a relationship. It is interesting to note a weaker effect: less relaxation of one’s posture also conveys a more positive attitude toward another. One way to interpret this overlap of the referential significance of less relaxation and more immediacy in communicating a more positive feeling is in terms of the implied positive connotations of higher status in our culture. A respectful attitude (that is, when one conveys that the other is of higher status) does indeed have implied positive connotations. Therefore it is not surprising that the communication of respect and of positive attitude exhibits some similarity in the nonverbal cues that they require. However, whereas the communication of liking is more heavily weighted by variations in immediacy, that of respect is weighted more by variations in relaxation.”
I should probably note here that whereas it makes a lot of sense to be skeptical of some of the reported findings in the book, simply to get an awareness of some of the key variables and some proposed dynamics may actually be helpful. I don’t know how deficient I am in these areas because I haven’t really given body language and similar stuff much thought; I assume most people haven’t/don’t, but I may be mistaken.
iii. A friend let me know about this ressource and I thought I should share it here. It’s a collection of free online courses/lectures provided by Yale University.
iv. Prevalence, Heritability, and Prospective Risk Factors for Anorexia Nervosa. It’s a pretty neat setup: “During a 4-year period ending in 2002, all living, contactable, interviewable, and consenting twins in the Swedish Twin Registry (N = 31 406) born between January 1, 1935, and December 31, 1958, underwent screening for a range of disorders, including AN. Information collected systematically in 1972 to 1973, before the onset of AN, was used to examine prospective risk factors for AN.”
“Results The overall prevalence of AN was 1.20% and 0.29% for female and male participants, respectively. The prevalence of AN in both sexes was greater among those born after 1945. Individuals with lifetime AN reported lower body mass index, greater physical activity, and better health satisfaction than those without lifetime AN. […]
This study represents, to our knowledge, the largest twin study conducted to date of individuals with rigorously diagnosed AN. Our results confirm and extend the findings of previous studies on prevalence, risk factors, and heritability.
Consistent with several studies, the lifetime prevalence of AN identified by all sources was 1.20% in female participants and 0.29% in male participants, reflecting the typically observed disproportionate sex ratio. Similarly, our data show a clear increase in prevalence of DSM-IV AN (broadly and narrowly defined) with historical time in Swedish twins. The increase was apparent for both sexes. Hoek and van Hoeken3 also reported a consistent increase in prevalence, with a leveling out of the trajectory around the 1970s. Future studies in younger STR participants will allow verification of this observation.
Several observed differences between individuals with and without AN were expected, ie, more frequent endorsement of symptoms of eating disorders. Other differences are noteworthy. Consistent with previous observations, individuals with lifetime AN reported lower BMIs at the time of interview than did individuals with no history of AN. Although this could be partially accounted for by the presence of currently symptomatic individuals in the sample, our results remained unchanged when we excluded individuals likely to have current AN (ie, current BMI, ≤17.5). Previous studies have shown that, even after recovery, individuals with a history of AN have a low BMI.59 Although perhaps obvious, a history of AN appears to offer protection against becoming overweight. The protective effect also holds for obesity (BMI, ≥30), although there were too few individuals in the sample with histories of AN who had become obese for meaningful analyses. Despite the obvious nature of this observation, the mechanism whereby protection against overweight is afforded is not immediately clear. Those with a history of AN reported greater current exercise and a perception of being in better physical health. One possible interpretation of this pattern of findings is that individuals with a history of AN continue to display subthreshold symptoms of AN (ie, excessive exercise and caloric restriction) that contribute to their low BMIs. Alternatively, symptoms that were pathologic during acute phases of AN, such as excessive exercise and decreased caloric intake, may resolve over time into healthy behaviors, such as consistent exercise patterns and a healthful diet, that result in better weight control and self-rated health.
Regardless of which of these hypotheses is true, another intriguing difference is that individuals with lifetime AN report a lower age at highest BMI, although the magnitude of the highest lifetime BMI does not differ in those with and without a history of AN. Those with AN report their highest lifetime BMIs early in their fourth decade of life on average, whereas those without AN report their highest BMIs in the middle of their fifth decade of life (close to the age at interview). On a population level, adults tend to gain on average 2.25 kg (5 lb) per decade until reaching their eighth decade of life.60 Although more detailed data are necessary to make definitive statements about different weight trajectories, our results suggest not only that individuals with AN may maintain low BMIs but also that they may not follow the typical adult weight gain trajectories. These data are particularly intriguing in light of recent reports of AN being associated with reduced risk of certain cancers61 – 62 and protective against mortality due to diseases of the circulatory system.63 – 64 Energy intake is closely related to fat intake and obesity, both of which have also been related to cancer development65 – 66 and both of which are reduced in AN. Further detailed studies of the weight trajectories and health of individuals with histories of AN are required to explicate the nature and magnitude of these intriguing findings.
Of the variables assessed in 1972 to 1973, neuroticism emerged as the only significant prospective predictor of AN. This is notable because there have been few truly prospective risk factor studies of AN.”
v. The music is a bit much for me towards the end, but this is just an awesome video. I think I’d really have liked to know that guy:
vi. Political Sorting in Social Relationships: Evidence from an Online Dating Community, by Huber and Malhotra.
I found these data surprising (and I’m skeptical about the latter finding):
“Among paid content, online dating is the third largest driver of Internet traffic behind music and games (Jupiter Research 2011).A substantial number of marriages also result from interactions started online. For instance, a Harris Interactive study conducted in 2007 found that 2% of U.S. marriages could be traced back to relationships formed on eHarmony.com, a single online dating site (Bialik 2009).”
Anyway I’ll just post some data/results below and leave out the discussion (click to view tables in full size). Note that there are a lot of significant results here:
The last few figures are also interesting (people really care about that black/white thing when they date (online)…). but you can go have a look for yourself. As I’ve already mentioned there are a lot of significant results – they had a huge number of data to work with (170,413 men and 132,081 women).
“In their seminal study, Rose and Frieze (1989) examined the content and sequence of the behaviors of a first [traditional, not based on online interaction – US] date to determine if they reflected traditional gender roles. Ninety-seven undergraduate students were asked to rank order at least 20 actions that would occur as someone prepared for a first date, went on the date, and ended the date. An action was considered a script if it was listed by more than 25% of participants. Results indicated the male script had 27 actions whereas women had 19 actions. A woman’s first date script included: tell friends and family, groom and dress, be nervous, worry about or change appearance, check appearance, wait for date, welcome date to home, introduce to parents or roommates, leave, confirm plans, get to know date, compliment date, joke/laugh/talk, try to impress date, go to movies/show/party, eat, go home, tell date she had a good time, and kiss goodnight. A man’s first date included: ask for a date, decide what to do, groom and dress, be nervous, worry about or change appearance, prepare car/apartment, check money, go to date’s house, meet parents or roommates, leave, open car door, confirm plans, get to know date, compliment date, joke/laugh/talk, try to impress date, go to movies/show/party, eat, pay, be polite, initiate physical contact, take date home, tell date he had a good time, ask for another date, tell date will be in touch, kiss goodnight, and go home. [I have written about these aspects of dating here on the blog before.]
Findings indicated traditional gender roles still existed. Women more frequently included in scripts waiting to be asked on a date, being concerned about appearance, rejecting physical contact, and maintaining the conversation (Rose & Frieze, 1989, p. 265). Men were supposed to ask for and plan the date, pick up his date, initiate and pay for date activities, and initiate physical contact. […] Actual dating scripts and hypothetical dating scripts are very similar, demonstrating the connection between cultural scripts and interpersonal scripts for dating.”
A few of the scripts have changed over time (e.g. males are less likely to be expected to pay for the food than they used to be), but they still drive behaviour to a very significant extent.
“According to Valkenburg and Peter (2007), “about 37% of single American Internet users who are looking for a romantic partner have gone to a dating web site” (p. 849). Another study found 56.2% of all Internet users had visited at least one online personal site (Lever et al., 2008). A Pew research study estimated that out of 10 million single Internet users, 74% have used the Internet to try to find a partner (Rosen et al., 2008).” […]
“While individuals in relationships and in general want to highlight their positive attributes, online daters have the ability to manipulate those attributes (Ellison et al., 2006). Because daters have potential to meet face-to-face, they do not want to exaggerate their positive attributes too much. Daters in one study indicated only including information in their profiles if they believed their family or friends would also agree; an example could be a good sense of humor (Yurchinsin et al., 2005). Some online daters even have friends or family members read their profiles to make sure they are accurate representations (Whitty, 2008). However, while individuals do not necessarily exaggerate their positive traits online, there may be an issue of the foggy mirror: a gap between self-perceptions and the assessments made by others (Ellison et al., 2006). While daters were not trying to deceive others, their evaluations of themselves did not match those shared by others. Daters sometimes include aspects of their identities that they do not necessarily possess but that they would be interested in cultivating (Yurchinsin et al., 2005). […] The most common profile misrepresentations admitted by online daters were looks, details about their own relationships/children, age, weight, socioeconomic status, and interests (Whitty, 2008). […]
While attraction is still important, the way in which potential partners are filtered out is different online. It is easier to learn about a person and quickly move on without much concern, whereas it is more time- and emotionally- consuming to do the same face-to-face. Further, individuals may have different filters for potential mates met online versus face-to-face. Clearly, this is different from traditional dating scripts. […] Viewing profiles of others and deciding to contact another member is a complex process. In their Australian online dating study, Whitty and Carr’s (2006) participants indicated they viewed profiles as if they had a shopping list to check what products met what they were looking for in terms of physical attributes, similar interests/values, socioeconomic status, and personality. Once again, in traditional dating circumstances, this information is usually not available in advance. While we may base opinions on available information, such as appearance, online dating provides much more detail. Online daters can also engage in a compensatory model in which certain positive attributes of matches make up for shortcomings in other areas (Kambara, 2005).
Because of the options available in the search functions, such as checkboxes for particular criteria, the dating process can seem like shopping. The function may allow too many or not enough options depending on the search criteria or location searched. Kambara (2005) further noted daters learn how to read profiles to make judgments about them more easily. For instance, if someone had several misspelled words in a profile, it may be interpreted as that person having a lack of education (Ellison et al., 2006). Thus, smaller cues were important such as spelling, the time responses were sent, and the length of time between responses. These results are demonstrative of Social Information Processing Theory (SIPT; Walther, 2008), or using available cues to draw inferences about people met online. For instance, if someone sent an email in the middle of the night, the recipient can make judgments about the lifestyle of the sender and his/her staying up late. If an individual responds very quickly, it may signal interest or desperation. Daters explained they find users who have clichés (e.g. enjoys long walks on the beach) in their profiles to be less real and avoided those users’ profiles (Whitty, 2008).
Whitty and Carr (2006) summarized the aspects online daters were looking for in a partner online. The most attractive qualities were looks, similar interests/values, socioeconomic status (education, intelligence, occupation, income, being professional), and personality. Other aspects looked for in a partner were honesty/being genuine, age, height, proximity, size/weight, and being a non-smoker (Whitty, 2008). […] Online daters may place more importance on physical characteristics, because when meeting someone on a dating site they are presented with a photograph, not just text, and because there are so many choices, individuals can simply move on to more attractive potential partners (Whitty & Carr, 2006). Because the pool of available partners is larger online, individuals filter partners out quickly. As Vangelisti (2002) explained, romantic relationship initiation is constrained by physical (e.g., geographic location) and social contexts. However, for online dating these constraints are less apparent and there are more available potential partners. […] There are thousands of potential partners available to browse so online daters can add more to their wish lists for a partner and quickly move on when someone does not fit. Offline dating, however, does not have this abundance of potential partners (Whitty, 2008) and so individuals may not be so judgmental.”
The quotes are from the first two chapters. I may post more later on.
Click to view full-size (the same goes for the data posted below). The figure is from Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary, by Rosenfeld and Thomas.
“we show that gays, lesbians, and middle aged heterosexuals- three groups who inhabit thin markets for romantic partners- are particularly likely to have found their partners online. Individuals are in a thin market for potential partners when the cost of identifying multiple potential partners who meet minimum criteria may be large enough to present a barrier to relationship formation. We propose that for single adults in thin dating markets, improvements in the efficiency of Internet search may be especially useful and important. Conversely, single people (college students, for example) who are fortunate enough to inhabit an environment full of eligible potential partners may not need to actively search for partners at all.”
The last part of that sentence had me laughing, but it’s an interesting paper. Of course in general they’re probably right – in the discussion they note that:
“Young heterosexual adults, who we presume to be among the most technologically savvy people in society, are among the least likely to meet partners online. Young adults have single others all around them which renders the search advantages of the Internet mostly irrelevant. In environments rich with potential partners, old fashioned face-to-face socializing still trumps online search.”
Here’s another interesting observation:
“Searching the personal advertisements in the pre-Internet era meant thumbing through the newspaper classified section by hand. Print advertisements could only be examined one issue at a time. Perhaps that is why only 4 out of 3,009 couples in the dataset reported meeting through the newspaper classifieds (even though a majority of the sample met before the Internet era).”
Lastly, some tables from the paper:
(there’s basically no difference)
Note that there’s again pretty much no difference. Only the ‘met-through-friends’-variable was significant for the adjusted odds ratio measure and maybe that’s just a fluke. The raw ‘met-in-church’ odds ratio is highly significant, but once you control for relationship duration, children, race, religion and other stuff, the effect disappears completely.
I really don’t know what the literature has to say about this stuff (there has to be a literature on this, even though I didn’t find much while looking for it..), but I had a discussion earlier today where some things related to the stuff below came up. Here are some thoughts that developed in my mind while I was grocery shopping a little while ago. I added a few other points as well at the bottom. I’m sure this is all very basic, but it’s easy to miss the obvious if you don’t actively think about stuff like this every now and then:
i. When it comes to income and relationships, my assumption would be that the potential set of partners available to an individual is more or less strictly increasing in the income of that individual. The richer you are, the more potential partners are available to you. This is because a marginal increase in income will pretty much never cause you to be considered less desirable on average (ceteris paribus). Even if this for some reason should not hold at the relevant boundary point, it’s trivial to show that in case the wealth of an individual is so high as to somehow harm the relationship opportunities of said individual, the decrease in relationship opportunities caused by this wealth level should be considered an entirely voluntary cost of being so rich; one can always get rid of ‘extra money’ in case it harms one’s opportunities. The wealth level should always have a positive impact on the relationship opportunities of a financially unrestrained optimizing agent.
ii. One thing worth noting is that whereas in some contexts income is a perfectly reasonable variable to work with, in other contexts it makes more sense to work with income differentials between potential partners because these will sometimes be more important. If the potential partner is a billionaire, she’ll not be impressed by his money when a mere millionaire approaches her. Also, I remember having read at one point that there’s an increased risk of divorce if the female earns more than the male (but I’m too lazy to look for the study right now).
iii. The effect of money on relationship opportunities is much stronger for men than for women.
iv. Threshold effects matter both at the lower end and at the upper end of the income distribution. In Denmark income inequality is low, so this part of the equation is probably less relevant than it is a lot of other places. Nevertheless, the jump from ‘uncertain unemployment situation’ or similar to ‘stable long-term provider’ I assume will normally add a lot of relationship brownie points, at least when considering the situation of a single male. On the other hand, the difference between ‘incredibly rich’ and ‘insanely rich’ isn’t that big of a deal.
v. The more potential partners are available to you, and/or the more potential partners you believe are available to you, the more you adjust your criteria for what constitutes an acceptable mate; i.e. the more options you have, the more picky you get.
vi. People, especially but not only females, who believe themselves to be high-quality partner material often forget about v. They like to tell themselves that they have few options, whereas in reality they have a lot of options, options which they are disregarding. A big part of what constrains their choice sets seems to be their own preferences. Cultural mores seem to encourage and enforce such behaviour.
vii. Education has become a much more important signalling device than it was in the past. Again, female preferences seem to matter more than do those of the males, so education is a more important variable for a male looking for a partner than for a female. Females generally seem to dislike the idea of marrying males with a lower level of education. See also v. When it comes to relationship dynamics, the difference in education level between two potential partners is arguably an even more important variable than is the income differential.
viii. In the relationship context, BMI and similar metrics matter significantly more for females than males. It therefore makes good sense that far more males than females are overweight. I’m sure that’s not the only reason, but…
ix. In general, age matters a lot more when it comes to the relationship opportunities of young and middle-aged females than when it comes to -ll- males.
x. In general, when people think they have more options they become less likely to commit and more likely to break up a relationship which does not match their expectations. High self-perceived relationship potential might actually cause behaviour which is most often associated with people at the opposite end of the relationship potential spectrum. This is of course again closely related to v.
Given that the person who wrote the post to which I’m linking did not manage to convince me to change my mind about this even after a relatively long discussion earlier today, the advice will probably not be of much relevance to me, at least not if I’m successful. But maybe you’ll be able to make use of it, and even if you’re not dating some of it can also be applied in other social contexts as well (link):
“If you want my opinion, I think everything can actually be very simple (though perhaps I’ll be disillusioned once I become more acquainted with the dating scene). You can pare things down to just a few friendly maxims; they don’t have to be so complicated. Now, please brace yourself for some hackneyed words of ‘wisdom’, coming from yours truly:
If you want to appear totally awesome in front of someone for whom you have non-platonic feelings, then just strive to be awesome at all times. If you want to be able to engage in meaningful and intelligent conversations, then just cultivate a habit to read more, watch more news and documentaries, ask more meaningful questions and learn more. If you want to show how attuned and sensitive you are to artistic endeavours and perspectives, then just open your eyes wider and try to seek beauty in all the corners of your everyday life. If you want to establish yourself as a connoisseur of the good things in life, it would be ideal to start being more appreciative of the little luxuries you enjoy. If you want to portray yourself as a thoughtful and patient person, then just keep reminding yourself to distribute more kindness to others whenever possible, and to be more empathetic towards other people’s suffering. If you want to exuberate confidence, then just try your very best to develop the courage to stand up for your own principles when necessary, and to have more self-esteem. In daily life you should always aim for perfection, so that you don’t have to go through any charade when you are hanging out with someone in whom you are interested.
Being intellectual isn’t about going to great lengths to find out the other party’s areas of interest and then to read up furiously on the relevant subjects so that you can regurgitate everything during your conservations. Being artistic isn’t about memorising all the names of famous artists and masterpieces without being able to be sincerely moved by the ingenuity and emotions that went into the creative processes involved in crafting these works. Being caring isn’t about being chivalrous, and neither is being polite about dining in a certain fashion. Being confident isn’t about employing your diaphragm when speaking, or about moving in a deliberately slow and smooth motion. Being attractive isn’t about following hard-and-fast rules. Falling in love isn’t about losing your own individuality; it is about being accepted for who you are, it is about being a better person for your partner. (Yes, I sound so clichéd, I know.)
If you think I make more sense than Dr Philanderer, then just keep these in mind: 1) Extend your efforts to be brilliant to every single part of your life, such that you eventually internalise all these amazing qualities, such that they naturally come to form your character; and 2) don’t try too hard to impress, because it is revolting.”
I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have met and become a friend of the author of the words above, and I consider it highly unlikely that this is the last quote I’ll post from that site.
“Today, I told my boyfriend I was leaving him because he’s cheating on me. He then told me he will die without me. When I said that I didn’t care, he said ‘OK. I’ll kill myself!’ and then held his breath in attempt to suffocate himself. I can’t believe I dated this idiot.”
“Today, I had to take an emergency contraceptive. I was talking to my boyfriend about it, and I told him that my stomach really hurt. His response? “Aw. That’s just the baby dying.”
“Today, I finally found out whether or not my boyfriend is cheating on me. Turns out he isn’t. He is cheating on his wife, with me.”
“Today, I told my boyfriend I wanted to see more of his passionate side. He pushed my head down towards his lap.”
“Today, my 21 year old boyfriend asked me what foreplay is.”
“Today, my boyfriend confessed that he felt so insecure he submerged my $80 vibrator in water to eliminate the competition.”
“Today, I had to cancel my wedding because my fiancé is so hungover from his bachelor party, he’s throwing up all over the place, can’t stand up straight and is calling me by the stripper’s name he met yesterday night.”
All the quotes are from FML. Or what about this guy, he’s a real catch too:
Here’s a somewhat related post from the past. Of course this is somewhat hyperbolic, but it doesn’t really change the fact that actually, compared to a lot of males I’m a real catch.
I think a majority of the people whom I consider reasonably close friends in real life are in the IQ-130+ category. Granted, there aren’t all that many of them and there’s some uncertainty, but I’m reasonably sure about this. They’re also mostly pleasant people who behave well. Educated. Almost exclusively male.
Of course I’m biased – these are people who like spending time with me and whom I consider agreeable, and as Rochefoucauld would say: We hardly find any persons of good sense, save those who agree with us. But either way, in a social setting/sphere like this it is easy to get a messed up perspective when it comes to what other people are generally like, and about stuff like whom you are competing against in the dating/partnership setting. Sure, I do implicitly compete against some of these kinds of people too; but it’s worth always having in mind that most people aren’t like that. This is an easy thing to forget, and forgetting it might mean that you are drawing faulty inferences about other stuff. Faulty inferences you’re not even aware you’ve ever drawn.
Incidentally, on another note I think a lot of smart people sometimes behave as if they are not in fact very smart around people who are not very smart; social skills take time and effort to develop and maintain, and it is highly context-dependent which factors are actually important in the social equation. The fact that there does not just exist one single, all-encompassing social learning curve, but rather a variety of different social learning curves for different population segments, is an underappreciated insight. Sometimes the slopes are different. Sometimes the variables affecting the slopes are.
In general, it is “the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple.” I’ll limit the following to the ‘go have something to eat together’-variation, but many of these considerations are general enough to be applied in other contexts as well. I’ve been thinking a bit about this stuff now, and I thought it’d be a good idea to just write down some of the ideas I’ve had. This is not well-known territory to me, so I’d not be surprised if most of it is stuff you guys have already internalized.
So anyway: The basic idea is that you meet, you go have a meal together (or do some other activity, but let’s stick with the meal for now). While you’re having the meal you talk, and after you’re done you either go someplace else to talk some more or you go your separate ways right away. I know that some dates end differently, but let’s disregard those here. It should be easy, right? Not too complicated. Then you start to think about it.
It’s very easy to forget how complex human social interaction is.
Before the date ever starts X […one of the daters; Y denotes the other dater – the terms are not gender-specific] needs to think about a few things. The good old: What to wear? Clothes are signalling devices, whether used consciously that way or not. Worth remembering here is that signals can be misinterpreted, so the concept of risk and how an individual deals with it enters the equation long before the date actually starts. The weights of many of the relevant variables here are somewhat gender-specific – it seems that women spend more time getting ready than do men on average. Clothes is but one element: A male will for instance be likely to ask himself whether he should shave, or whether to put on a deodorant or aftershave; females will on the other hand often think about whether to put on make-up, how much -ll-, how to set their hair, whether to use nail-polish or not, which earrings, if any, to wear – and lots of other things I haven’t thought about. Note that not taking a conscious decision about these variables is itself a decision, a signal. There is no way to opt out of the signalling game even though perhaps you’d like to do that.
There are a few other considerations which are of relevance to the date but enter the equation before the date ever takes place: Where and when to meet, who gets to decide that/-what, which mode of transport to use to get there? There’s hidden complexity behind all these variables: The decisions about where to meet and who decides confer information about the price of the date, which can be thought of as both a signal related to willingness to spend and income. Willingness to spend can easily be interpreted as a signal of the commitment level from the outset. This pre-date variable can also confer information about traits like aggressiveness and dominance (if one partner really wants to go somewhere specific or refuses to go to one specific restaurant), which again relates to status (an individual that considers him/herself lower status than the other is ceteris paribus less likely to make demands). Willingness- and ability to compromise, variables which tend to be quite important when it comes to long-term relationship success, also indirectly enter the equation at this point. Mode of transport relates to distance, which again might in some cases relate to commitment, but it also relates to the risk profile; how much trouble does/did an individual go through to avoid being late? Which again can, but needn’t necessarily, be interpreted as a signal regarding the initial commitment level. Note here that a signal conferring a high initial commitment level need not necessarily be interpreted by the other party in a positive way: If X puts a lot of time/effort into a date, X might do it because X really likes Y or want to get to know Y – but perhaps it might also be the case that X has limited options, a factor which most often will impact Y’s evaluation of X negatively.
Having all that stuff out of the way: So now you meet, you sit down somewhere, you order food and you start to talk. Before getting to the whole interaction part it’s worth noting that this social exchange does not take place in a vacuum. There are other people around, perhaps many people. How close do you sit to the next table, how often will a waiter or owner intrude upon your conversation, what’s the noise level, is it at an ‘exposed’ location or somewhat private? In cases where the venue was decided upon by one party and the other party did not know anything about the venue, what the place is like both relates to what will be going on during the date (some subjects will probably not come up during the discussion if there are 10 other strangers sitting within 20 feet..) and it also enters the equation in relation to which variables the deciding party might have emphasized in the pre-date phase, and what this tells the other party. Some people don’t handle lots of people very well and others do, some people perhaps don’t handle background noise (like music playing in the background) very well. There can be multiple reasons for such differences in the ability to deal with the environment and they need not all relate to innate personality traits; perhaps the difference is rather due to a factor like hearing impairment. It’s actually quite easy for a deciding party to send a signal he or she is not even remotely aware of, especially on a first date where neither party will have an extensive knowledge about the other party’s preferences. Which sort of venue is chosen will probably generally depend on the number of dates; if it’s a first date, the most convenient place to meet for most people will be somewhere very public, close to a lot of people and a place where it is easy to get away quite fast. Females in particular will focus on these aspects to have easy exit routes in case it turns out the guy is a creep; other steps to minimize risk that might deserve consideration, particularly for a female on her way to a first date with a stranger, would be to share information like time and place about the date with a friend or family member and/or have someone call during or after the date to make sure nothing bad has happened. On subsequent dates such considerations will of course carry less weight. Note that past experiences can have a significant impact on the evaluation of the date, especially if the other party has had a bad experience in the past.
When evaluating the course of the date it is important to note that there are many things besides external environmental factors that potentially need to be taken into account; multiple other factors more or less completely outside the control of an individual can impact the experience positively or negatively: X might be stressed from work, X might be tired because s/he didn’t sleep well the day before, X might have a cold. Biological factors which neither individual perhaps knows about can even impact behaviour during the date: Female ovulation impacts both the behaviour of the female herself and the behaviour of nearby males.
Next, the interaction part. Before going into the verbal exchanges that take place during such an encounter, remember that a lot of human communication is non-verbal. Does the other person initiate eye contact, and if not what does this mean – does it mean that the person in front of you is a convicted serial killer on the run from the law, or is the explanation perhaps that the person is just insecure? Recall here that there can be many reasons for insecurity, and that not all of them are equally impermissible in the status game. Recall also that there is a double standard at work here, because female insecurity is less likely to have a negative impact on (/potential) partner evaluation than is male insecurity. A few other examples of body language that might be important to pick up on: Does Y tilt the head while X is talking, and does X pick up on it? What does head tilting mean – that Y is bored, that Y is interested or that Y did not have a lot of sleep last night? Does X slouch and if so, what does that mean? When Y frequently looks at his or her watch, that’s probably most often a bad sign indicating boredom. Body language is usually very dynamic and it conveys important information, but when you don’t know the other party very well, it can be hard to interpret. Sometimes commenting on body language can be risky, especially if it indicates that the date is perhaps not going very well; in those cases, it will sometimes be preferable to make a mental note of the non-verbal signal and try to change the subject or in some other way engage the problem. Some people have a harder time interpreting body language than others, something one might wish to take into account when evaluating later on – social skills will often be important when evaluating partner potential, but trouble with body language need not equate or indicate lack of interest.
When it comes to verbal interaction, there are a few key variables here. One is the total information supplied during the date. Another is the total time spent talking. A third is communication efficiency (information/unit of time spent talking). Some people are more efficient communicators than others and in some cases this variable will be of interest to the other dater. If a person talks a lot but doesn’t say much, it can be an indicator of insecurity, it can be an indicator of below-average communication skills or perhaps it can be an indicator of egocentrism and/or inconsideration. It is possible to interpret behaviour like that in a positive light (‘he’s already falling in love with me and that’s why he behaves like a third-grader!), but most often such behaviour will probably be considered a liability rather than an asset. If X spends a lot of time talking about himself, something most people love to do if given the chance, it might indicate that he doesn’t have a great deal of interest in Y (or he would ask questions about Y). If Y keeps asking X questions and seems unwilling to share much information about him-/herself, that might also be a signal of insecurity. Or it might be a signal that X is very interested in Y. Or it might be a signal that Y considers him/herself higher status than X, and is entitled to more information than X. Having the evolutionary context of human mating behaviour in mind, it’s probably the case that females will on average share less information about themselves and demand more information about the other than will males, especially over the course of the first dates. If the male is low-quality, the female will want to know as soon as possible and screening requires information.
What to talk about? That question is opening up a whole can of worms and I will not go into much detail here. It will generally depend on the education level of the parties present, the (/shared?) interests, the feedback supplied over the course of the date (including non-verbal cues), the age, etc. Path dependence can turn out to be important, which is another way of saying that people should be careful about what to share and what to ask about, perhaps particularly when on a first date with a person one doesn’t know. This brings me to another key variable: What not to say. This one is very context-dependent, but in general a male is probably required to share a bit more information than is a female and thus he is less likely to ‘get a free pass’ on a particular question. Even though the information requirements are not symmetric, there are still some norms regarding what constitutes a ‘proper ratio’ of information exchange. Diverging from the norms and the proper information exchange ratios can be risky, as I alluded to earlier. In a similar vein, it’s important to give some thought as to how to deal with a refusal to answer a specific question. It might be a red flag. It might be nothing. Perhaps it’s something, but something Y is not comfortable talking about. If Y says that talking about a particular subject makes him/her uncomfortable, in my mind it would be beyond inconsiderate for X to refuse to change the subject. Some people however would consider the efficiency argument more important; they’d weigh the value of getting a dealbreaking red flag out into the open right away, regardless of the feelings of the other party, higher than the risk that the other partner would lose interest because of bad manners. Either way, naturally it’s impossible to avoid all ‘unpleasant questions’, as many implicit screening questions will necessarily be somewhat unpleasant to answer for people who do not meet the criteria required (and an important part of the dating process is precisely to weed out the incompatible matches).
When dating, there’s always stuff you don’t want the other party to know (/now, /yet, /ever?). There’s stuff you want to emphasize and stuff you don’t want to talk about. People who date are never fully committed to the ‘just be yourself’-advice. At best, people commit to a ‘be who I think I am’ or a ‘be who I’d like to be’-strategy. Sometimes people lie more or less openly when they are dating. This is a risky strategy which probably decreases the likelihood of a successful long-term relationship but might be an effective strategy when it comes to increasing the potential for short-term success. But nobody is completely honest during a date – either with themselves or with the partner – and that’s worth remembering when you find out something about the other person that makes the other individual look less trustworthy. The funny thing is that most people who lie to themselves about who they are before they meet the partner and then act in a deceitful manner while they are dating because of the lies they’ve told themselves, probably most often think that they are behaving in a perfectly honest manner. Some people are better liars than others and the best lie is the lie that you yourself believe to be true.
If you wanted a conclusion of some sort, I know very well that the above considerations amount to little more than just saying that ‘dating is complex’. That was part of the whole point. Here’s xkcd on related matters. If you haven’t already read it, I also encourage you to read this previous post on ‘Rational romantic relationships‘.
“This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it. Now let me join in.
The research on this topic is split into “completely useless” and “mostly useless”. In the former category we have studies that, with a straight face, purport to show that women like nice guys by asking women to self-report on their preferences. To illuminate just how silly this is, consider the mirror case of asking men “So, do you like witty charming girls with good personalities, or supermodels with big breasts?” When this was actually done, men rated “physical attractiveness” only their 22nd most important criterion for a mate – number one was “sincerity”, and number nineteen was “good manners”. And yet there are no websites where you can spend $9.95 per month to stream videos of well-mannered girls asking men to please pass the salad fork, and there are no spinster apartments full of broken-hearted supermodels who just didn’t have enough sincerity. So self-reports are right out.
Other-reports may be slightly less silly. Herold and Milhausen, 1999, found that 56% of university women believed that women in general were more likely to date jerks than nice guys. But although women may have less emotional investment in the issue than men, their opinions are still just opinions.
The few studies that earn the coveted accolade of “only mostly useless” are those that try to analyze actual behavior. Bogart and Fisher typify a group of studies that show that good predictors of a man’s number of sexual partners include disinhibitedness, high testosterone levels, “hypermasculinity”, “sensation seeking”, antisocial personality, and extraversion. Meston et al typify a separate group of studies on sex and the Big Five traits when she says that “agreeableness was the most consistent predictor of behavior…disagreeable men and women were more likely to have had sexual intercourse and with a greater number of partners than agreeable men and women. Nonvirgins of both sexes were more likely to be calculating, stubborn, and arrogant in their interpersonal behavior than virgins. Neuroticism predicted sexual experience in males only; timid, unassertive men were less sexually experienced than emotionally stable men…the above findings were all statistically significant at p<.01”
These studies certainly show that jerkishness is associated with high number of sexual partners, but they’re not quite a victory for the “nice guys finish last” camp for a couple of reasons. First, men seem to come off almost as bad as women do. Second, there’s no reason to think that any particular “nice” woman will like jerks; many of the findings could be explained by disagreeable men hooking up with disagreeable women, disagreeing with them about things (as they do) and then breaking up and hooking up with other disagreeable women, while the agreeable people form stable pair bonds. Boom – disagreeable people showing more sexual partners than agreeable people.
I find more interesting the literature about intelligence and sexual partners. In high-schoolers, each extra IQ point increases chance of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% by females. 87% of 19-year old US college students have had sex, yet only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex. There’s conflicting research about whether this reflects lower sex drive in these people or less sexual success; it’s probably a combination of both. See linked article for more information.
The basic summary of the research seems to be that smart, agreeable people complaining that they have less sex than their stupid, disagreeable counterparts are probably right, and that this phenomenon occurs both in men and women but is a little more common in men.
Moving from research to my own observations, I do think there are a lot of really kind, decent, shy, nerdy men who can’t find anyone who will love them because they radiate submissiveness and non-assertiveness, and women don’t find this attractive. Most women do find dominant, high-testosterone people attractive, and dominance and testosterone are risk factors for jerkishness, but not at all the same thing and women can’t be blamed for liking people with these admittedly attractive characteristics.
There are also a lot of really kind, decent, shy, nerdy women who can’t find anyone who will love them because they’re not very pretty. Men can’t be blamed for liking people they find attractive either, but this is also sad.
But although these two situations are both sad, at the risk of being preachy I will say one thing. When a girl is charming and kind but not so conventionally attractive, and men avoid her, and this makes her sad…well, imagine telling her that only ugly people would think that, and since she’s ugly she doesn’t deserve a man, and she probably just wants to use him for his money anyway because of course ugly women can’t genuinely want love in the same way anyone else would (…that would be unfair!) This would be somewhere between bullying and full on emotional abuse, the sort of thing that would earn you a special place in Hell.
Whereas when men make the same complaint, that they are nice and compassionate but not so good at projecting dominance, there is a very large contingent of people, getting quite a lot of respect and validation from the parts of society that should know better, who immediately leap out to do their best to make them feel miserable – to tell that they don’t deserve a relationship, that they’re probably creeps who are only in it for the sex and that if they were a real man they’d stop whining about being “entitled to sex”.
I hate this attitude with the same part of my brain that hates racism and homophobia, because I feel like it has the same root: kicking a low-status person while he’s down in order to show how high-status you are. It is abominable when done to women and abominable when done to men and I hate that this has become the sort of thing where some people feel they have to cheer one on in order to reject the other.”
Here’s some data from the main post that I found interesting:
“About 78% of college students have had at least one ‘one-night stand’, and most such encounters were preceded by alcohol or drug use.3 Indeed, many young people today no longer go on ‘dates’ to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, ‘hook up’, and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4” [I had no idea]
“According to one study, 60% of undergraduates have been a ‘friend with benefits’ for someone at one time.5”
When I went to that party at uni a little while ago (I tweeted it at the time, but no blog posts) I felt a bit like Jane Goodall. At least during the time periods of it where I was not caught up in social interactions, but perhaps also during the rest of it – I was very aware of the social context. I came to realize that I’ll probably never feel the same way about being at a party as I did when I was younger (I’m not actually that old now, just ‘older’). I also came to realize that this particular method of meeting people of the opposite sex, though inefficient, is not actually necessarily as bad as I’ve been telling myself. Exposure rate is high, you have the potential to meet a lot of people over a short amount of time, and the likelihood of ‘something happening’ goes up quite a bit with the consumption of alcohol, some of the (party-related?) effects of which I’d forgotten all about. As a standard selection and pairing-mechanism, parties like these aren’t really totally stupid, though some people deal better with the setting than others and thus have higher returns from participating – from my own experience I conclude that my expected returns from participating are probably low, however given the right social setting participating in such a thing needn’t be a boring and unpleasant, or perhaps even painful, experience. Though I continue to believe that it’s a far from optimal method. Traditional dating is costly, but those costs could also be considered part of an implicit selection mechanism weeding out non-serious candidates – but a major problem with traditional dating is that you need to meet the potential partner first, which is (certainly part of) the whole point of (these kinds of) parties.
Anyway, below a little random stuff on the beer goggles phenomenon, alcohol and sexual behaviour, partnership and obesity risk ect.:
i. From Beer goggles: blood alcohol concentration in relation to attractiveness ratings for unfamiliar opposite sex faces in naturalistic settings, by Lyvers, Cholakians, Puorro & Sundram:
“The popular notion that alcohol intoxication enhances perceptions of the physical attractiveness of the opposite sex has been inconsistently supported. The current study tested intoxicated and non-intoxicated persons of both genders in naturalistic settings after measuring their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by a breath test. A sample of 80 heterosexual university student social drinkers was recruited at a campus pub and campus parties over a 3 month period to take a survey rating the attractiveness of unfamiliar faces of the opposite gender presented in photographs. Attractiveness ratings were positively correlated with BAC. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted on attractiveness ratings with independent variables of gender and BAC group, with three levels of the latter: non-intoxicated (BAC = 0), moderately intoxicated (BAC .01%-.09%), and highly intoxicated (BAC .10%-.19%). Both intoxicated groups gave significantly higher attractiveness ratings than non-intoxicated controls. The findings confirm the “beer goggles” phenomenon of folk psychology for both genders, although the mechanism remains unclear.”
I think it’s interesting that the ‘beer goggles’ start kicking in at BACs well below .1% (if they did not, the evaluations of the ‘moderately intoxicated’ group would match those of the non-intoxicated group).
“Objective: The present investigation examined the relationship between alcohol intoxication and risky sex intentions in naturalistic settings.
Methods: Heterosexual young adults (n == 72) were approached at a campus pub and at campus parties. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured by a breath test and ranged from 0 to 0.18%%. Participants rated their likely intent to have sex with 10 highly attractive unfamiliar models of the opposite gender, as depicted in photographs, if the opportunity arose. Photos varied in terms of accompanying information regarding risk, with three levels: slight risk, moderate risk and high risk.
Results: BAC was significantly positively correlated with self-reported likelihood of young adult men engaging in risky sex with highly attractive unfamiliar models at all risk levels, whereas in young adult women the relationship was significant only at the slight risk level. Men reported significantly higher intent to have risky sex than women did at all risk levels.”
iii. From Entry Into Romantic Partnership Is Associated With Obesity, by Natalie S. The & Penny Gordon-Larsen:
“BMI is highly correlated between spouses; however, less is understood about the underlying mechanism(s) by which the development of obesity in one individual increases the risk of obesity in his/her spouse. The objective of this study is to investigate whether romantic partnership and duration of cohabitation are related to incident obesity and obesity-promoting behaviors. We used two data sets from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: (i) 6,949 US adolescents (wave II, 1996) followed into adulthood (wave III, 2001–2002) and (ii) 1,293 dating, cohabiting, and married romantic couples from wave III, including measured anthropometry and self-report behavior data. In the longitudinal cohort, we used sex-stratified logistic regression models to examine the risk of incident obesity by longitudinal romantic relationship status and duration of time spent living with a romantic partner. In the Couples Sample, we used multinomial logistic regression to predict concordance in outcomes: obesity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and screen time by romantic partnership and duration of time living with a romantic partner. Individuals who transitioned from single/dating to cohabiting or married were more likely to become obese than those who were dating at both waves. Partner concordance for negative, obesity-related behaviors was strongest for married couples and couples who lived together greater than or equal to 2 years. The shared household environment may increase the likelihood of becoming obese, influence partner concordance, and may be an important target for obesity intervention.”
Some more details:
“Men living with a romantic partner for 1.00–1.99 years were twice as likely to become obese, compared to men not living with a romantic partner.” […]
“Concordant obesity was over threefold higher (prevalence ratio (PR) = 3.30, 95% CI: 1.97–5.55), and discordant obesity twofold higher (PR = 1.90, 95% CI: 1.37–2.63) than concordant nonobesity in married vs. dating partners (Figure 1a). Similarly, married couples were more likely to consist of one or two less physically active partners than dating couples (PR = 2.00, 95% CI: 1.29–3.12 and PR = 2.15, 95% CI: 1.39–3.31, respectively) (Figure 1b), while cohabiting couples were more likely to consist of two sedentary partners (PR = 1.98, 95% CI: 1.37–2.87) (Figure 1c).” […]
“Duration of relationship was strongly associated with concordant obesity. Romantic partners who lived together greater than or equal to 2 years were significantly more likely to consist of one or two obese, less physically active, and more sedentary partners” [To take an example, the Odds Ratio of both partners being obese is 1.18 for a couple that’s been together less than a year (1.0 corresponds to the obesity risk of individuals who’re not living together with a partner), whereas it’s 4.31 for a couple that’s been together for more than 2 years, US]” […]
“Several studies examining longitudinal changes in romantic relationship status report a differential sex effect of entry into marriage, with greater weight gain in women (9,10,30). Women may be differentially impacted by transitions in romantic relationship status; for example, through increased social obligations encouraging consumption of regular meals (31,32) and larger portion sizes (33), resulting in increased energy intake (30). Further, entry into cohabitation or marriage is associated with decreased physical activity (34) and a decline in desire to maintain weight for the purpose of attracting a mate (6). In contrast, obese women may be less likely to marry (35). Our longitudinal findings suggest that both men and women who enter marriage are more likely to become obese, consistent with findings from another large, racially diverse sample of young adults (36). Moreover, we found that individuals who lived with romantic partners for a longer duration had higher likelihood of incident obesity suggesting that shared household environmental factors may contribute to changes in obesity.”
It’s an American study, but I’m pretty sure some of the mechanisms driving the results apply as well in other parts of the world.
Not a lot of time spent developing these ideas, just some things that popped into my mind.
i. Most people like living their own lives less than they’d like living the lives of others. That’s why most of them spend a not insignificant amount of the time they have more or less complete control over (leisure) watching made-up people’s lives and their progress – or they read about them in books. A big part of why TV-soaps and fictional accounts of made-up people’s lives are very popular is that most people have a strong wish that they were living some other person’s life, a life far more interesting than their own. Because face it, most people’s lives aren’t that interesting. And even for people who’ve done very well for themselves, reality can’t compete with fantasy. Everybody implicitly know this and when we consider societal norms we usually find that taking the fictional stuff too seriously is considered immature, bordering on childish – but strangely enough, spending quite a bit of time in fictional worlds is not. That’s interesting, it’s okay to try to escape reality on a regular basis but only if you’re not too serious about it.
ii. People are extremely good at coming up with plausible sounding reasons for not parting voluntarily with their money. When I say money people just think ‘money’. But money is a claim on resources. And in a biological evolutionary framework resources really matter, bigtime. A big part of most people’s moral philosophy is stuff that they make up on the go, or perhaps their grandparents did. Their ideas about what is moral usually turn out to be ideas that make them look good and make it okay for them to not part with their ressources. Perhaps the ideas that make it through even make it okay for them to cheat others – like the guy on the right:
That’s because other people (and organisms, this process has been implicitly going on since the time before sexual reproduction) have tried to coax and cheat them for millions of years. When your date demands that you pay for her dinner, she’s engaging in the latest of a very long series of battles about limited ressources between the sexes.
iii. When people think about major threats to humanity (perhaps not extinction risk, most people don’t give that one much thought – but at least major risks), most people either think in terms of environmental parameters (climate, asteroids) or in terms of intraspecific competition (we’ll all kill each other in a nuclear holocaust). We like to think that humans are really important, and we like to think that we’re important enough for other life-forms not to matter all that much in the big picture; we like to think that humans are by now beyond the point where interspecific competition even matters. The funny thing is that a disease like smallpox alone was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century – a death toll high enough to wipe out the entire human race just a thousand years ago. Roughly a third of the world’s population has been infected with tuberculosis. People who think we don’t still compete with other lifeforms all the time don’t think big enough – or rather ‘small enough’, as it were.
Players: i,j (think: male, female)
Preferences: U(IO, II),
IO: Interest overlap.
II: Interest Intensity.
(i,j) have (n,m) interests (they don’t necessarily have equally many), (ni,mj). Let (ki) be the subset of individual i’s interests from the total interest set (ni) which is non-overlapping with the interests set (mj) (non-shared interests), and let (li) be the subset of interests from (ni) which do overlap with (mj) (shared interests). Assume that individual i’s total (negative) utility contribution from the interest set (ki) is equal to [-ki*(aiNO*qiNO)] – where II here enters the model as a scaling vector aiNO with 0 < aiNO < 1, where 0 denotes no interest and 1 denotes high interest, where the NO-part denotes ‘Non-Overlapping’ interests and where q is a relevance factor – some interests are intense but we don’t care if the partner shares them. To get a model one can always solve you probably need to assume q is bounded, but in the real world it often isn’t (‘dealbreakers’). Similarly, the interest set (li) which enter both utility functions Ui and Uj contributes individual i with a utility of [li*(aiO*qiO)] to total utility from entering the relationship, where Oi denotes the interests of individual i which ‘Overlaps’ with interests from the interest set (mj). Let the reservation utility be zero and total utility from entering the relationsship for individual i be li*(aiO*qiO) – ki*(aiNO*qiNO). Do note that the problem is not perfectly symmetric as the scaling parameter qi is in general not equal to qj, even if (li) = (lj). There’s also the problem that the common interest factor might enter (at least in part) the utility function as a share of total interest space – 2 common interests out of 4 might be better than 2 common interests out of 30. Though you might in some cases be able to let this effect enter the model via q.
Utility matters but we need a matching likelihood (ML) as well. Let the likelihood that (i,j) meet be a function of l*(aC), where dML/dl and dML/daC are both positive – so people are more likely to meet if they have many common interests and they are more likely to meet the more intense the interests are (the latter is more dubious than the former, ie. compare internet chess with ballet). Arguably one might include qC in the ML, because some people’s interests choices are ‘potential partner-relevant’, but it’s easier if we leave that out for now. Assume further that…
The model I was beginning to outline above had zero dynamics, no risk, no ‘family preferences’, ‘income/status’-variables, ‘age/looks’ -ll-, geography, beliefs… You might want to remember this model outline next time you hear a social scientist talk about this or that. A very simple model like the one above with few variables and simple relations between the variables can still be quite difficult to solve because you have to think very hard about what’s going on, what you’re assuming along the way and how to implement decision rules in the model that make the resulting equilibrium(/a) appear plausible (and how to get rid of implausible equilibria). Social behaviour is difficult to model and it’s hard to get good results in micro setups like these because there are too many variables at play and way too much interaction going on.