Friday, December 27, 2013

D&D For Mating Games: Student Responses



 In this post I will simply give an account of the results of the "Mating System Trade-Off" questions that I described previously here.  

Next time I will give my more speculative thoughts on what happened and why these hypothetical, rationalized positions may or may not stand up to real-world scrutiny (these were self-reported survey-type questions which had embedded "socially correct answers", so obviously I would not attempt to use them as  precision forecasting tools).

This was a casual survey.  My sample sizes were very low (n=24, n=25) and there were a number of other study design problems that could have led to biased results, so obviously one should keep these limitations in mind if tempted to make definitive, generalized statements about gender politics based on these explorations.  I have no firm conclusions, but I do find the answers to be quite interesting.  

I do believe that the forced-tradeoff, point allocation, and pairwise-comparison survey design templates are going to be far superior in illuminating mate search realities when compared to standard approaches that use convenient multiple-choice response batteries and the like.  In my opinion, surveys of this type need to start imposing conditions in which desired goods are realistically scarce and trade-offs have to be actively considered and managed in a competitive marketplace.  

QUESTION #1---THE TRADE-OFF:  Dangerous Hotness vs. Bland-but-Reliable

The first question asked the students to choose a mate from between two archetypes:  one a hot, sexy individual with great charisma, but a dangerous history of relationship recklessness ("Person A"); the other a normal-looking person of average social skill, but with a kind disposition towards relationships and a stated desire to have a family ("Person B"). 


 























The Female Selections

Female students could be organized into three approximately equal cohorts.  


-1/3 said that they would always choose Person A

-1/3 said that would  always choose Person B

-1/3 said that they would choose A now, but might choose B in the future. 

...A Few Explanations from Women who would Choose Person A Now



1)  "Ideally in a perfect world you would want a mixture of A and B, but that's not how it works.  Society is to blame for the way things are.  Sadly, I would resort to 'A', which is probably why my relationships don't work out.  Eventually when I'm done with the games Person B will be the direction in which I will be focused...Our system is extremely biased.  You can have the brains but not be so hot and you might get a little attention.  You could be super attractive and say a few smart things and BOOM! on to the next level."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:   "Tall, light eyes, dark hair, fit, and a nice smile."

2)  "At this point I would prefer Person A because I prefer to be challenged and engaged by a confident person that tests social boundaries and the status quo.  I don't think the person's level of attractiveness would be the deciding factor compared to personal charisma and ability to competently and confidently communicate with others and myself.  A reserved person would not match my character traits because I am assertive in my social interactions and would want someone that compliments that...I think our fast-paced competitive environment definitely rewards the Person A."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "I think that the way someone carries himself and uses body language is more important than actual physical appearance.  I wouldn't mind a guy with a foreign look, though."

3)  "Person A, Person A.  Because that is what attracts me.  The self-confidence is highly addictive.  Dresses well and looks good are definite musts.  I would ignore the past indiscretions of A due to my own high sense of self-confidence."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:   "Physically fit.  Strong presence.  Well-dressed and self-confident."

4)  "Person A.  Only because I am at the point in my life when I cannot be in a serious or committed relationship.  I would get bored and probably develop the personality of A towards my counterpart if he was like a B.  I'm not looking for relationships at this point in my life, nor would my schedule support it.  A would be my option now.  I'm young, I have time!"

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "Hmm, a smile.  If the guy has a great smile and looks comfortable in his own skin, that attracts me.  Dressed nice---not like a bum."  

5)  "Person A.  I need a hot guy or I will get bored and probably will start to become abusive towards him."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "Light eyes, square jaw, nice smile, muscular.  Extremely well-dressed but also tough-looking and rugged."

........

...A Few Explanations from Women who would Choose Person B Now




1) "I have been attracted to A type people for the most part but now I find myself more attracted to the qualities of B as they are a compliment to my own.  ...(Society) does seem to be continuing towards system and cultural drive to reward A types."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "I would look for above average physical fitness.  It says a lot about character, discipline, etc.  Open posture and outgoing or even cheerfully pleasant.  Sense of humor."

2)  "B!!  I'd rather have a caring, dependable, and faithful partner over physical attractiveness...Socially, physical attractiveness would win.  I don't believe this mindframe is changing.  The media encourages good looks and fit bodies."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "Height, body (I prefer buff but not extremely muscular), style, and confidence."

3) "I would rather be in a relationship with Person B than Person A.  I'm actually not overly attracted to highly self-confident people and admire modesty.  If I date someone I want him to care about my feelings and honor our commitment.  While Person A might be great eye candy, he would not be relationship material, in my opinion...as an introvert I tend to believe that our culture rewards looks and extroversion disproportionately, so someone who has a lot of charisma and personality is more likely to be viewed favorably than someone who keeps to themselves.  

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "Intellectual looking.  Cute, shy.  Lanky.  Bohemian clothes.  Facial hair."

4) "Person B.  Because I could trust Person B more, and he seems to have the maturity and responsibility to hold a long-term relationship.  (Society rewards) Person A---people pay more attention to others that are attractive."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "Nice clothes, talk, clean, charming, confident."


Two of the responses that selected Person B were driven to do so because of the description that "Person A is not known for living a responsible lifestyle."  They took this not as an indication of Person A necessarily being a cheater, but an indication that he might lack economic power.  I am not sure if they would or would not have made the same choice had Person A been described as financially successful (i.e., equivalent to Person B).   I thought that this revealed an interpretation issue that would need to be cleaned up if this process was run again (I intend to run it regularly). 
.....

The Male Selections 



The men all chose  Person A (some also attempted to bend the rules a bit, but I caught them).  A few comments from their explanations: 


1) "A.  Beauty strongly drives attractiveness, so avoid a relationship with unattractive females.  Males reward beauty.  Females reward self-confidence.  Men are polygamous.  Female are hypergamous."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "Beauty can be a good signal.  General coyness, beauty, and signals of high interest."

2) "A now, A forever!  If you settle down with someone because they are stable and want the same things you won't be happy.  I would take the risk with A.  People like to be around people that look good and have good personality."   

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "T&A, Pritchard!  It's all about those Tits and Ass.  In reality though I like girls that are built in the Athletic style, taller, and a great smile."  

3) "I'm drawn to A.  B might be the smartest for a stable relationship.  I'm bad with relationships, though.  I'm trying to hold out hope that a jaw-droppingly beautiful girl can have the personality traits of B."

Physical Description of Desired Mate:  "NOT FAT.  Pretty eyes, pretty face, and a nice body.  Smiles and looks at my lips and into my eyes."


QUESTION #2----POINT ALLOCATIONS:  Brainy Men and Hot Women

The second question asked males and females to construct a hypothetical mate by allocating 25 points between 5 different, desirable traits.  A score of  "5" in a trait could be considered average; if a student wanted a mate to be above-average in one element, there would have to be a corresponding reduction from the average in another element.

Yes, these are fairly harsh rules.  They are meant to force difficult decisions. 

How Women Allocated Their Points 



The strong tendency among the females was to take away from Looks to give to Intelligence.  In several cases, Looks were reduced to below "3"---significantly below-average---in order to raise Intelligence to 7 or 8.

The second trade-off made was to either A) increase Kindness by taking from Status and Income, or B) to increase Income by taking from Status and Kindness.  

The typical female point allocations looked like this:

Option A:  "The Good Guy"                    

Looks:   3                                                      
Intelligence:  7                                             
Kindness: 8                                                  
Status:  4                                                      
Income:  3                                                    

Option B:  "The Breadwinner"

 Looks:  3
Intelligence:  7
Kindness:  3
Status:  4
Income:  8

A sampling of some of the comments made by those who constructed an Option A man (high Intelligence + high Kindness): 




-"I would prefer a person with intelligence, kindness, and sense of humor over annual income because I can make my own money."

-"I prioritized Intelligence because that is what I find most attractive in a man and what I look for primarily in a mate."

-"For me, it is important that someone be really nice to me and really smart."

-"I would give a person a 7 on Intelligence because without that he would be mediocre.  I would give a 6 on Looks because I don't want to be with someone who is Ugly.  A 5 on Status and a 4 on Kindness...and a 3on Income because I don't need a rich person, we can both work to make that wealth."

-"I value a partner in whom I can see long-term commitment, and therefore Intelligence and Kindness are priority.  Income circumstances may change, Looks change...  This is the trade-off a woman has to make---hot Sperm Donor vs. long-term committed union."  

-"Looks fade.  Intelligence and the ability to problem-solve is most important.  Kindness is important, but not overly kind.  Humor must be in every relationship."

-"The most important for me is the way my partner is going to treat me.  Kindness is the most important aspect.  I also want somebody to have a conversation with; I want him to be smart and educated.  Also very important is for my partner to make me laugh and to have a good attitude always.  Annual income could be below average, as long as we both make some money and we are stable, then we could have a happy life.  Looks are not the most important thing in the world, but if the guy is cute---bonus points!"

-"If you can make a girl laugh...you finish the quote.  Kindness is super important all around not just to one another...Income is whatever---more money more problems, no money and you still have problems.  Brains are important---not just book smart but street smarts, too."  

-"I am looking for someone to talk, have fun and a family with.  Not a hunk that will give me headaches in the future.  I don't need his money, even though it would be nice to have it all.  Women get to pick between Sperm Donors vs. Protector and Providers.  You usually have to pick one over the other.  However, the full package will be accepted gracefully!!:)"

-"Sense of humor is most important because I like to laugh.  A lot.  ...Kindness is a 5 because less than average could not be acceptable in that area.  Looks and $ are a four because for me at the end of the day if you have all the other aspects down, then these mean very little.  Money changes and so does Looks.  Intelligence usually doesn't and hopefully neither does personality (or we have a bigger problem on our hands)...Someone looking for just sex would probably use all 25 points on Looks (maybe not that dramatically but the intent would be different)..."

-"I gave the highest points to Intelligence and Kindness because with those personal traits you can increase your Income...go get a haircut to increase your Looks...Personality traits are more important than materialistic because these are harder to gain."

-(gave 5s across the board) "When you're fucking amazing all you need is an average person to just ride with you.  Remember:  in life you can teach a monkey anything."

-"I make great money and only have a positive future.  I based this on my real-life love story."


...and some from those who preferred an Option B (cluster:  high Intelligence, high Income, lower Kindness):




-"I would like my romantic partner to be a Provider/Protector vs. a Sperm Donor." 

-"Intelligence is obviously important and the annual Income as well, because even though I will be making good money I want a very, very good life."  


-"All of these attributes are important, but without a comfortable lifestyle most (positive aspects of a long term relationship) are not possible."

 Revenge of the Nerds?  

The big winner *in terms of these questions* was clearly the Smart Guy.  I am not suggesting that this would hold true in a real-world mating market scenario, but the findings are still quite interesting from a conceptual perspective.  At the very least, they represent who these young women think would be a good choice when the choices are selected at a certain level of abstraction. 

Between the two emergent types of Smarties---the young Reed Richards nice fellow with the heart of gold but the less impressive wallet vs. the colder Victor von Doom with strong cash flow generating capacity---Kindness won out.  These young women all wanted to earn their own money and had optimistic views of their own independent financial futures; as a result, most wanted to have partners who contributed more in the realms of intellectual stimulation and emotional support than towards the affluent lifestyle or investment account.  Those who did wish to emphasize Income cited a desire for a particularly luxurious life.


How Men Allocated Their Points



The men displayed an almost uniform point-allocation blueprint:  they took points from Status and Income and added them to Looks and Kindness, and left Intelligence average at "5".   A typical male allocation looked like this:

Looks:  9
Intelligence:  5
Kindness:  9
Status:  1
Income:  1

Here are snippets from a few of the explanations:

-"My reasoning is simple.  Looks are the first thing that everyone notices, and through that lens is how everyone including myself will view her...  Kindness is important, but not too kind because that will make the relationship more equal (LOL)..."

-"I want a good-looking female with an above-average personality...I'm not too concerned about her Income."

-"As a guy I want someone that has a strong degree of attractiveness but also dependability.  In a sense, I am searching for the best of both worlds as I prize them both."

-"I would spend more points on the attributes that I find most appealing and those complimentary to my own.  So my match would be homeless with above-average Looks and Kindness and a great sense of humor!"

-"I would distribute my points by giving 10 to Looks, 5 to Intelligence, 5 to Kindness, and 5 to Status.  Annual income would naturally not be important to me as a man."  (zero points were allocated to Income)

-"As a male I would distribute 10 points to Looks and Kindness and the remaining 5 to Intelligence."

-"Below an 8 in Looks, I may as well just use porn.  Below an 8 in Kindness, I would rather hang out with my friends and dog."



Several men reported that lower Status and Income were actually desirable traits because they would be associated with a woman who lacked social pretentiousness and materialistic qualities.  The reasoning continued that a woman with very high Looks ranks (8+) and low Status could gain Status much more easily than a high Status woman with a low score in Looks could gain points in Looks.  

Average Intelligence was generally sufficient for these men; two cited that they could derive significant intellectual stimulation from work, friends, and hobbies.  They did want very high scores in Kindness, saying that they wanted their home life to be serene and harmonious.  Two men independently stated that a worst-case scenario was to be in a relationship with a relatively unattractive woman who had high Intelligence and low Kindness scores.

Collision Course?

It is apparent that men and women in this cohort would do well to avoid a solipsistic pattern of thinking in which it is assumed that because a man or woman personally finds a trait to be very important in a mate, that a member of the opposite gender shares the same priorities.  If this type of uncritical self-absorption became the norm, then we might cautiously state that self-absorbed men will tend to mistakenly assume that women place as high a priority on physical attractiveness as men tend to, while self-absorbed women will tend to mistakenly assume that men place as high a priority on intellect as women tend to. 

An immediate observation about the difference between the female and male responses is the degree to which the men appeared to be operating on a traditional expectation of the male being the family's economic breadwinner, while the women appear to be operating on a more progressive expectation that they would either be the primary breadwinner or a co-breadwinner in the relationship (not a single woman wished to leave her professional track in order to be a housewife).

In a traditionalist complementary system, men would de-prioritize Status and Income while women would prioritize the same in men---these would be interlocking pieces in a relationship puzzle.  However, this nuclear family "social contract" arrangement may be breaking down somewhat.  The emerging faultline shows up in the almost delighted way in which the men will raid Status and Income to add to Looks and Kindness in a mate, while the majority of the women state that they would not require high Income and Status from a man because they plan on working and being able to contribute to the household's aggregate wealth (several young women stated an intention to make *great* money themselves).

A possible ramification might be that males enter the sexual marketplace with an assumption that displays of income-generating ability and social status trump those related to kindness and warmth.  For the majority of the women in my class, this assumption would be potentially dangerous.


 ("I can happily make my own money, thank you, but I suggest that you be kind to me.")

Perhaps what we are seeing is this:  college women are accepting that the gender imbalance on campus means that many of them will probably not be able to find an equally educated mate.  They respond by being prepared to foot much of the bill, but also wish to make Intelligence in their mates a priority because the academic gender imbalance has created a pricing premium in this area.  The women also realize that they will have to gain skills in differentiating true Intelligence from formal academic attainments; indeed, this has come up many times in my classes.

College males, on the other hand, are coming to believe that their relative scarcity will make their degrees *more valuable* in relative mating dynamics terms (because fewer men than women will boast such degrees), and they intend to leverage this in the mating market by proposing lifestyle enhancements to women in order to try to persuade them.

I also believe that many young men would be surprised that women were so willing to trade off points in Looks for points in Intelligence (many studies have revealed that men probably over-estimate the female attention to male physical appearance, at least for long-term relationships).   Men should not feel that they can rely on their degrees to satisfy the female thirst for this attribute; those males who can demonstrate their intellect in more profound, creative, and socially pleasing ways will probably command much more attention than most of their peers will realize.

In the past, female students have described a difference between what they perceive as "Sexy Intelligence" or "Poetic Intelligence" (which is a sort of stylish and stimulating combination of easy cross-disciplinary fluency in the liberal arts, a literary mind, the stage presence and social confidence of the natural raconteur, a world-traveling bon vivant's mental database of quality cultural entertainments, and, above all, highly honed interpersonal/diplomatic skills), and what they less-charitably term "Idiot Savant Intelligence" or "Asperger Intelligence", which is more quantitative, mechanistic, inelegant, and introverted, and seen as being somewhat emotionally inert and capable of embarrassing social faux pas.

Sexy Intelligence is considered far more desirable, as there is general sense of frustration among the girls regarding the interpersonal finesse, cultural cultivation, and sophistication of wardrobe and style of the typical American male. Perhaps this could be a point of strategic differentiation for high "Social IQ" or high "cultural capital" men to consider when advertising their wares; certainly it appears that photos taken during exotic travel, evidence of cultural sophistication and artistic capability, a pithy and engaging writing style, wit, social grace and composure, and so on should be incorporated into a personal brand if possible.




Just as men need to understand the importance placed on Sexy Intelligence displays by their female counterparts, female college students who anticipated that their educational achievements and income generating potential were anywhere near as important to men as were their Looks and personality-related aspects (Kindness) might find themselves similarly misaligned with the truth of male mating preferences. 

I found that the men who did specify a desire for higher Intelligence simultaneously specified an even higher requirement for Kindness; perhaps men view Intelligence with lower Kindness as problematic.  A takeaway for highly intelligent women might be that they would be particularly effective if  they take pains to make sure that their Intelligence displays are paired with Kindness displays.  High Intelligence displays paired with low Kindness are to be avoided as the combination is seen as extremely obnoxious and unattractive. 

Social Media's Effects

When I have raised the question of social media's role in the mating market, students have suggested that in a past era men and women probably tended to meet at school or at work, which would generally create a closed social circle in which people of approximately the same educational attainment and income level would naturally tend to find each other.  It might be rare for, say, a museum curator to meet and date a fireman, simply because their natural social circles would have so little overlap.

However, today's almost-ubiquitous use of social media platforms has changed everything, and the critical importance of self-presentation/physical attractiveness and "sexy" intelligence displays play in such a forum should not be underestimated.

Social media may offer a sort of democratization of mating market access, allowing for more open competition among candidates and weakening traditional limitations that forced potential mates to work with what they could find in a given, highly localized social circle.  The losers here are those who would have benefited if the mating market was still composed of inflexible "gated community" enclaves---markets that were inefficient because of higher search/transaction costs that prevailed at the time---in which highly attractive men and women could be successfully isolated from their full breadth of options and forced to choose only from these less desirable mating pools.  A state of more open, transparent, and free mating market competition and mobile erotic capital does hurt this type of market participant. 

The mining engineer in Brazil may find that he has more in common with a scuba instructor in Key West than he does most of the women in his immediate  vicinity; a romance may blossom that begins online and then gradually moves to physical reality.  The female corporate attorney may find a love-connection in a sculptor because the two turn out to share a passion for fly-fishing and meet online at an enthusiasts' site. 

Both genders are able to cast a much wider mate-search net and this has some asymmetrical ramifications for men and women:  the male emphasis on Looks can more easily be immediately assessed than can the female emphasis on Intelligence, and both sexes will have to find ways to rapidly determine Kindness levels.  It appears to me that most women are probably quite realistic about what men find attractive and are forced to contend with this on Facebook and the like, but I am not quite as sure that men are doing everything they can to try to display "Sexy Intelligence" in their own online profiles.

It seems to me that women seeking to determine culturally-enriched "Sexy Intelligence" can and should make use of instant messaging and other conversational media to determine a prospect's ability to communicate with the requisite effectiveness and flair. 

Social media probably does lead to greater levels of real and perceived inequality; the online economy has become associated with non-Gaussian "long tail" distributions in which a few big winners capture most of the market share.  A "hot" Facebook page enables much of the same phenomena, as it allows one highly attractive female to quasi-flirt with thousands of men simultaneously (with virtually no transaction cost differential between having a single online fan and having 25,000).

 I have received ample anecdotal reports that this upward pressure on physical appearance is very real; in the past it may have been possible to enjoy a captive audience, but now a market participant may be theoretically competing for attention with people from all over the world.

If there was an equivalent to a Gini coefficient for a woman's sexual market value as perceived by men, it is growing closer to "1", or a winner-take-all society. 

Porn Effects



The other major technological factor that is completely overhauling the mating market is the near-universal and heavy use of online porn by males ("there are two kinds of men:  men who use porn and admit it, and men who use porn and lie about it").  

Those who believe that this use is confined to low-achievement slackers should be disabused of this notion immediately---I attended graduate school at Magdalen College, Oxford, an ancient institution which in comparatively recent years has produced such luminary and influential public intellectuals as Niall Ferguson and Matt Ridley.  Old Etonians with aristocratic double-taps stroll around the college's deer park while sipping Pimm's and Bollinger.  The place is a haven for Rhodes, Marshall, and Hichens scholars.   C.S. Lewis and Tolkien would meet to share a pint in the SCR, which is located close to Oscar Wilde's old rooms.  The male students at Oxford's most prestigious colleges---including Magdalen and Christ Church---spoke openly, even competitively, about their online porn masturbation habits. 

 Pornification has had several important effects: 

1.  The benchmarks for physical attractiveness and technical prowess in the bedroom are being set by a relatively small group of highly downloaded, elite adult film stars.  Many Millennial men had their first experiences of sexuality via internet porn, and the performers provide the benchmark for what "correct" sex should look like.  Many real-life sexual interactions will no doubt appear quite tame in comparison.

Imagine that pop culture provides a sort of background noise and the real-world relationship would provide the signal.  The background noise created by a daily intake of online porn is quite loud and exciting; a real sexual relationship may struggle to be heard above this. 





(many Millennial men were first exposed to sexual fantasy by this woman)



2.  Men will probably invest less in a relationship in the pursuit of sexual release.  Assume that sex requires a negotiation between a man and a woman over the subject of commitment:   not only is the man carrying a different hand these days because his Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement---"BATNA"---is now higher (as porn quality and quantity has increased at the same time as its costs have dropped), but his desire to even get into the negotiation may have decreased because his libido has been at least partially satisfied by chronic masturbation to porn.  Intellectually he may be able to differentiate between virtual and real sex, but his ability to become energetic about courtship could still be suppressed because he's been fapping to porn several times a day.  He could just become rather blase about the whole thing. 

Some therapists subscribe to a "sandwich" theory of a couple's sexuality.  The idea is that women tend to be most pleased about the *before sex* (Courtship, male investment, feeling desired) and *after sex* (emotional vulnerability expressed in a non-judgmental "safe zone") aspects of a given sexual encounter, while men are primarily interested in the sex itself---hence the difference between romance novels and male-oriented porn.

If a man achieves release to porn regularly, it may work to systematically reduce his tolerance for the romantic "pursuit" and "after-care" components that women may particularly enjoy.  The man's physical need for release is being met by a different stimulus, one which requires no courtship and which does not want to hang out and talk about relationships afterwards. 

3.  Sex is less of a bargaining chip and more of an assumed by-product of any type of relationship.   Sexual compatibility is no longer a relatively easy assumption; insofar as sex is critical to the relationship and male desires have become more exotic and volatile, there is pressure to determine if the couple is sexually compatible prior to investing significantly in the relationship. 

4.  There will be upwards pressure on male desires for sexual variety in both dyadic (within relationship---i.e., positions, sex acts) and extra-dyadic (other partners) domains.  The good news for women is that some of this desire for variety may be satiated by porn, thus making the man less likely to feel energized to go out and pursue such antics in real life. 

Readers will have no doubt noticed that there may be a bit of a discrepancy when we examine female student responses to the first question and their responses to the second question.  While this could reflect a complicated tension between two different female mating strategies, I think that there may not be an inconsistency here at all:  it is *possible* that "Person A" from the trade-off was judged to have higher "Sexy Intelligence"---a much-valued asset that signals expert social/influence competence---than was "Person B."   The fact that he was also described as good-looking and charismatic could have been just bonuses for most of the girls.  Males may have a cognitive blind spot on this because it appears that we (men) have a tendency to project our own preference sets---in which physical appearance is so highly ranked---onto women. 

NEXT POST:  INTERDEPENDENCE AND ANALYSIS

13 comments:

  1. I noticed that "sense of humor" was mentioned several times in the responses. I wonder to what effect humor would of had if added that into the personas of A vs B and the Point-Allocation.

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  2. Great insight, Matt. Sense of humor appears to be a key component of so-called "Sexy Intelligence"; during discussion, it came up again and again. "Well-dressed", "physically fit", "confident", "smart", and "funny" were recurring themes in terms of female mate preferences---I would submit that Sexy Intelligence is probably a combination of the last three applied in a socially effective way.

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  3. Humor is huge. It's one of the first things that attracted me to my husband. (incidentally, I did submit an answer on the forum to your questions but haven't heard back and I sort of fear my answer was too sappy or inappropriate for that forum...I'll leave it up to their discretion, as I explained when I sent it).

    Humor is an intellectual process (comedy appeals to the intellect, tragedy to the emotions). Humor and intelligence are linked (I fear this might be why fewer women are funny, and why it isn't as important to men).
    Of course, there are different levels of sophistication: some will find Jack*ss hilarious, others will prefer the humor of Godsford Park. But a good sense of humor - the ability to tell a joke, rather than simply laugh at one, the ability to engage in a bit of repartee - is pretty important.

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    1. Liz again, btw....so weird to see my child's name up there.

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  4. Liz, one of the things that interests me about the regular expositions on the value of humor is this differentiation made between A) "socially useful" intelligence and B) more traditionally quantitative-analytical smarts.

    It *seems* to me that women may be highly attracted to the perceived benefits of a man with analytical capability (i.e., wealth-generation in a knowledge economy, improved strategic decision-making), but less obviously attracted to the associated traits themselves.

    However, demonstrations of intelligence that involve interpersonal skill and style---humor, creative displays, charm, conversational ability---are routinely listed as highly desirable, and combined with physical confidence to form a one-two punch.

    In other words, premium levels of social-strategic intelligence seems to be highly liquid in terms of quick conversion to erotic capital, while "mathy" analytical intelligence must frequently first be converted to signs of worldly success or status markers, which can then be converted to erotic capital. (hypothesis)

    What do you think?

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  5. I've read that there is a higher correlation between social intelligence and success than any other single variable.
    Perhaps this is perceived intuitively, and that's why social intelligence is more likely to be considered a priority from the "get go" and analytical intelligence without the "charisma" lower priority (unless and until it is "proven profitable")?

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  6. Just thinking further, it might also be a 'status' thing. For instance, a charismatic male mate who "performs well" in public situations and people respond to positively is a sort of 'displayable asset'. Much like a woman who is arm-candy for the man.

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  7. I think you are absolutely right---an intelligence which can be readily transmogrified into socially impressive, audience-pleasing, performative displays or private conversational delights is judged to be creative, sexy, and fun. An intelligence which is less socially applied may need to first be used to acquire resources and status or it runs the risk of being associated with geeks.

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  8. This isn't a blog entry, it's the outline of an entire book.

    In the interim, I will suggest that humor is a fantastic attribute, but it's really beside the point. Humor in a low-status male is worthless. When girls say "Make me laugh (tee-hee-hee)" what they're saying is, make me giggle because I want you. The dependent variable is not the laughing part. It's the "because I want you" part. Making a girl laugh doesn't work if she doesn't want you. Sorry, Liz.

    Anyway.

    Thus one must be a polymath, have invented something the whole world uses, played strong safety (or killed bad guys for a living) -- and *then* have a sense of humor. I'm just curious: does Scarlett Johansson have to accomplish all this before 25? Or, is she even 25 yet?

    I will send you (SP) an entire case of the best American rye if you will make your columns wider and the background white or gray. I'm not joking. The best rye in America was discovered and selected by Al Capone, for his illegal saloons, and remains in production in Templeton, Iowa. But I'm writing into a 3" box aginst a black background.

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  9. "The dependent variable is not the laughing part. It's the "because I want you" part. Making a girl laugh doesn't work if she doesn't want you. Sorry, Liz."

    Fair enough....I agree that laughing alone won't get one there. But I do think humor has a lot to do with desire. I wasn't attracted to my husband on a physical level at first, that quickly changed and he really didn't have much to offer at that time outside of big dreams, good grades, and conversation.

    "I'm just curious: does Scarlett Johansson have to accomplish all this before 25? Or, is she even 25 yet?
    She's pushing 30. :-) Alternate question...would anyone care much about her accomplishments if she wasn't hot at all? Does anyone really care anyway? The world is a very nice place for hot young women, but it's largely a one-trick pony world for them, and that flame expires quickly.

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    1. Got a g mail account. Very sneakily changed my last name to an alias....I'm sure no one caught that. :P

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  10. All I know is that all women over 30, when they specify their 37 required attributes in a man, rank "You must make me laugh" even higher than "Must love dogs!" or "Must love your mother!" or "Must like random international tourism as much as I do!!!!"

    Thing is, all women who like me ... laugh. A lot. (Well, except the psychos, they don't laugh unless they're bleeding or something, but we can elide that diversion.) The women who don't like me? They don't laugh. Ever.

    Therefore women laugh as a kind of attraction effect. I don't know what they're thinking about, when they're laughing like embarrassed schoolgirls. But I doubt I would be far off if they're thinking, Are those size 11 feet? Or 12?

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  11. Incidentally, my airport car is a V240 wagon. Thing is awesome. This year I replaced the ball joints, tie rods, distributor/points, plug wires, water pump, alternator and starter; bought a set of true snows on steel rims; I have not had a single minute of downtime. The odometer quit five years ago at 155,XXX. I drive that thing up and down the eastern seaboard and it's more reliable than the Acela. When I head to Brooklyn it makes me a hipster, and when I go out on a date in DC, I find out REAL FAST who is in it for the dough. It smells great with a Bolivar stub in the ash tray and I moved 400 s.f. of flooring in the back last spring. Next step is to drop a small block Ford in the front, as it has a Dana rear that can handle the torque.

    My 'Bugatti' has wings and an empennage, so my respectable car is just a German thing with 2.2 seats and a flat six. I do think, as in the case of the HFG, that accoutrements reveal much. But I am here today to defend the breadbox Volvo. I'm up to about 800,000 miles in these humorless, and the only greater utility to be had is in a diesel Super Duty -- which is a little large for the Kennedy Center.

    Also, once one realizes how hard-coded most women are to automobile archetypes, it's amusing to see what happens when one plays *against* type. Successful dating is just a) risk management; and b) arbitrage a vis the thundering herd.

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