Thursday, September 06, 2007

Games and Perception

Dating has many variables in which each person plays in different ways whether we think about those decisions consciously, or sub-consciously. One specific type, I have linked to before thanks to Ben Casnocha.

What Casnocha did not know at the time was that his observation and reading of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, by Neil Strauss would gain more notoriety even to the point where Stephen Dubner at the Freakonomics blog would make mention of it as well.

Dubner wrote entirely on the concept of “negging,” which Casnocha mentioned, but did not go too far in depth because he was writing an entire book review. Negging essentially is Neil Strauss’ term for providing what is not exactly an insult or a compliment per se, but rather an accidental insult, or a back-handed compliment. I dare anyone who is not a practiced pick up artist to try that.

According to Strauss and others, negging works. In fact, in the post Dubner wrote, he also cited research that showed many males will flat-out insult their partners in what is described as some sort of “mate-retention.” That is to say, the men make derogatory comments or insults so that their female counterparts will not (or never) have the confidence to leave them.

We can assume that any sane woman (please, don’t start writing me that there is no such thing; that joke has been done ad nauseum) would proclaim that “negging” is not something she would enjoy having done to her. On the other hand, the problem with that assumption possibility is that women like playing the game as much as men do, and would therefore want to be disarmed and “negged” to a certain extent.

As much as you can try, the game is never ending.

Also, how we look, and how we see ourselves concerns almost everyone. This post from Megan McArdle describes that we are not as hot as we think we are.


A cognitive scientist at the University of Chicago explained why to me last winter. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, in any given session we tend to anchor on the time slice image that makes us look our best. That, we decide, is the "real" us.



You're also biased by the fact that no one ever tells you you're ugly. It's not merely that people inflate what they tell you (they almost certainly do); it's also that people who think you're ugly tend to drop out of the sample. They may not cultivate an acquaintance with you, and those that do will probably not spontaneously let you know that they find you kind of repulsive.

You're stuck in a web of cognitive biases and a positive feedback loop. It's a wonder anyone does get married.

This phenomenon, believe it or not was discussed by musician, Mike Doughty, while looking at some self-portraits. He wrote that while he eyed over the photographs he wondered what had happened to the man whom he saw in the mirror.


Within our relationships, the differing perceptions and games played that come from you or other people continue to play pivotal roles no matter what their intended lasting value.

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