Don’t let them give you to the women

I taught my wife Cathy how to play Conflict of Heroes this evening, and learned something of which all men (or at least all men who are wargamers) should beware.

Cathy was climbing a fairly steep learning curve on this. She’s a very capable gamer with some experience of tactical wargames, but mostly ancient-period and fantasy stuff. CoH is her first modern-period wargame, which I wanted to teach her partly to find out how much of her knowledge would transfer. Ancients and fantasy tactics differ from WWII and later tactics quite a bit because, where ancient-period weapons favor concentration of forces, modern semiautomatic and automatic weapons demand dispersion and mobility if you’re not going to get shot up to no purpose.

We played scenario 2, “The Gap”, from Awakening The Bear (the first CoH fame, covering 1941-1942 on the Russian Front). The scenario is basically a platoon-level German probe at a Russian fixed defense of a village in the Ukraine; the Germans want to push through it, the Russians to stop them, and the victory point scoring conditions favor whoever ends up in control of a large stone house that’s a natural strong point. The Russians start with control of the strong point, but seriously outnumbered; they’re holding for reinforcements. The Germans are under time pressure.

I took the Germans because we both thought Cathy would be more in her element playing defense. Since she was learning modern tactics as well as the mechanics, I helped her out early on by telling her where I would site my units if I were defending the position, explaining concepts like fire lanes and mutual support. One of her setup conditions was the ability to place two hidden units, offering her the opportunity for some tactical surprise.

My initial challenge was to take out the heavy Maxim machine gun Cathy had sited in the strong point. Not too difficult as my German platoon had a light machine gun for each for four squads; I dispersed them and laid down suppressive fire until I could get my infantry near enough to close-assault the strong point. My close assault succeeded right at the end of turn 2, leaving me in control of the strong point with no casualties and a couple of unit kills on the Russians.

The whole time this was going on, Cathy was bitching and moaning about not knowing what to do, feeling confused about the mechanics, etc, etc. The truth was, though, she’d used that Maxim to pretty good effect before I took it out, forcing my units to stay in cover and further out from the village than I was happy with in a game with a tight turn limit. The close assault only worked because my infantry ran in after Cathy’s units in line of sight had expended all their action points firing at my troops earlier in the turn, and it was a near-run thing.

Then it got ugly.

It was the end of turn 3 in 5, and I’d collected the 5 victory point bonus for being in control of the strong point at turn end. But the unit holding it, and that unit’s backup in an adjacent hex, were where the Russians might be able to cut both off and kill them, with my rear units barely in support range. And Cathy had reinforcements coming in, including another Maxim which she promptly sited in some heavy woods with a fire lane clear to my forward units.

The only thing for it was to blitz my rear units into the village, hope they didn’t get popped by the hidden Russian units on the way in, and go house to house ripping the Russian infantry out of their holes.

My wife continued to bitch and moan about not being sure what to do, not knowing the rules, getting lousy die rolls…and fought like a cornered tigress. She gacked four of my eight units in the house-to-house fighting and actually took back the strong point building…OK, so I blew her attack force away on the next turn with concentrated fire from my remaining three light machine guns, but taking it back at all was pretty impressive considering she was outnumbered.

The whole time Cathy was complaining about feeling clueless I did not see her make one single tactical error. She sited her hidden units right where they’d be maximum pains in the asses when I found them, chose her fire priorities well, deployed properly to delay and block me, used her heavy weapons as one should, and inflicted 50% casualties on my troops. OK, she did one thing that might have been disastrous, running infantry in for close assault across a fire lane for two of my LMGs…but that gamble worked – she got a Rally roll at the right time and was able to punch out the target.

I won this one, but only because I was more experienced and didn’t make any errors Cathy could jump on and used the fire/maneuver advantages of my LMGs to the hilt. I’ve known professional military officers who wouldn’t have run Cathy’s end of the action that competently, and this was her first game. I love my wife….

So, what’s the lesson here? Don’t let them give you to the women…because a woman may bitch and moan and whine about how lost she feels doing something like this, but that won’t keep necessarily keep her from kicking some pretty serious ass.

111 thoughts on “Don’t let them give you to the women

  1. I have seen similar behavior in workers new to a skill. Once they have a reasonable clue as to what they need to do, they tend to do a really good job, even compared to more experienced workers, because they know, and keep in mind, their lack of experience. As a side note, people that are experienced enough for the work to have become routine, but not experienced enough to have seen many accidents, tend to be the most dangerous people to work around, both for themselves and others.

  2. I wonder if this extends to videogame tactics as well? Because my fiancee is a Modern Warfare 2 player; she typically plays Team Deathmatch armed with a Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle (with IR scope and heartbeat monitor, preferably), and she gives a fair accounting of herself, currently being on her sixth or so “prestige,” i.e. she hit the level cap that many times and elected to start over in exchange for some benefits. Most players that play against her can’t believe she’s a 40-year-old woman, and she enjoys a decent amount of popularity, to an extent that she has to set her visibility to “Appear Offline” before signing into Xbox Live, lest she be buried in a tsunami of messages and game invites. She is presently looking forward to the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops next month.

  3. I’ve heard that women are apt to do less well than they might professionally because of underestimating their abilities– I wonder if there’s a way to teach the ability to recognize one’s competence accurately.

    I’ve read somewhat about American women being extremely perfectionistic. When I mentioned this to my therapist, he said he’d seen comparable problems with perfectionism in his male patients.

    I suggest that either men are very much less likely to talk about their self-doubts and/or that most men are also apt to undercut themselves, but the percentage that are reasonably self-assured is higher among men than among women.

  4. I had a simular thing happen with a girl I lived with for a few years many years ago. It was with the Age of Empires computer game. I had a group of friends that would get togeather, each bringing their own computer, and we would set up a network and play. I tought her how to play so that she could join in the fun (she liked the computer games too). It wasn’t long before she was kicking ass using tactics that I would have never even thought of.

    s

  5. IMO, given problems with any task a man is likely to blame external factors and/or other people, while a woman is likely to blame herself. Make of that what you will.

  6. Never underestimate the enemy and don’t believe a word of their psyops!

  7. I might ask my therapist what form(s) he sees male perfectionism take.

    Cathy, here’s what I make of what you said– blaming yourself rather than external factors is correlated with depression. Women are in fact more likely to be depressed than men. On the other hand, I’ve seen claims that depression in men is more likely to manifest as alcoholism, and thus gets underdiagnosed. So who knows?

  8. > …and this was her /first game/.

    Actually, I think this is a phenomenon itself. I’ve noticed that what some people call “beginner’s luck” actually happens more frequently than can be accounted for by “luck” in games where skill and concentration play a large role. A first-timer often puts such an incredible amount of effort in the first time around that even incredible familiarity with the ins and outs of the game cannot cope.

    (This also happens, to a lesser extent, with just-beginning players playing players they know are more advanced for the first time. My first multiplayer wesnoth game (I knew the rules and was generally familiar with strategy from the campaigns, but had not yet finished any campaigns.), I was always outnumbered almost 2:1 and felt horribly cornered, but somehow I went for over 15 turns before finally starting to loose villages. (I think there were 14 villages total, to give you an idea of the size of the game.)) And with a better dice role, I’d actually have won, even being outnumbered at the time of defeat.

    Anyone else notice this sort of thing.?

  9. @Cathy Raymond:

    IMO, given problems with any task a man is likely to blame external factors and/or other people, while a woman is likely to blame herself. Make of that what you will.

    That’s exactly correct. Very good observation. Many moons ago I, was working my very first job as a teenager as a computer lab assistant at the local high school,. We were one of the only high schools in the country with a Unix machine, and the students in the community education word processing class ran WordPerfect 4.2 on the green screen terminals attached to the AT&T 3B2/400. The WP instructor herself was paralegal who had recently become one after serving some years as a legal secretary. (Given the very widespread use of WordPerfect at that time in the legal profession, she was very proficient with the application and worked the night school class to help pay off her paralegal training)

    Anyway, most of the students, as you can imagine, were women looking to get jobs as legal secretaries. There was one man in the class.

    One lesson most of the students always had trouble with involved WPs mail merge functionality, which, in essence, makes and prints out form letters filled out with the appropriate name and address detailed populated from a flat-file database (cringe all you want, geeks, this was state-of-the-art technology in the 1980s!).

    When the women had trouble, they would talk about how they felt stupid and whine and complain that they didn’t know what they were doing. The man in the class, who also had trouble, complained about the given examples and said that he thought they were obviously broken and that he couldn’t possibly be doing anything wrong.

    Knowing this would be a problem, the WP instructor and I had gone through and done all the examples, so we knew there was nothing wrong with them or the instructions.

    The funny thing is that the women who had trouble were doing almost everything exactly right, but had missed a step here or there and that simply had to be pointed out to them, while the man had barely read the instructions and was doing it all wrong.

    I recall the WP instructor muttered something like “typical man” as we walked away and I simply laughed, knowing she was right.

  10. I don’t think that this is an issue with women – I think that this is the typical response you get when you have someone who is very smart, falls into the Myers-Briggs ‘J’ – type category, and does not yet have sufficient experience in a particular area to know how to whittle the number of (nearly infinite) choices down to something manageable. This results in frustration for many reasons, among which is the appearance that making a reasonable selection should be easy, and the general feeling that with their intelligence, it *should* be easy.

    I’ve seen this exact type of frustration before in a different domain of life: software usage. In more than one case I’ve been asked to show someone how to do something with computer software that I’d never seen before, they’d been using for two years and was designed specifically for their profession. It might take me 30 seconds to find a solution to their problem, when they’d been working on it for an hour, simply because I have a better understanding of how software is likely to be organized (and how to use the ‘help’ feature).

  11. IMO, given problems with any task a man is likely to blame external factors and/or other people, while a woman is likely to blame herself. Make of that what you will.

    First rule of compiler bugs is: it’s probably not a compiler bug.

    Women seem to intuit this more than men on average; although I, having a melancholic disposition, tend to be more prone to self-blame and self-doubt than most of the men I’ve worked with.

    I seem to recall some psychological research conducted recently which suggests that depressives are more prone to see things as they are…

  12. > First rule of compiler bugs is: it’s probably not a compiler bug.

    It’s probably not a database bug either. I proved one database bug (and zero compiler bugs) in my twenty plus years in IT.

    Yours,
    Tom

  13. >It’s probably not a database bug either. I proved one database bug (and zero compiler bugs) in my twenty plus years in IT.

    Three compiler and zero database bugs in 35 years. But then I’m a compiler-jock/systems-programmer type who’s never done DB work.

  14. (WBS)
    > As a side note, people that are experienced enough for the work to have become routine, but not experienced enough to have seen many accidents, tend to be the most dangerous people to work around, both for themselves and others.

    I remember hearing somewhere that a disproportionate amount of Helicopter-related accidents around grounded, spun-up copters are the ones who are experienced enough around them to get comfortable.

  15. > First rule of compiler bugs is: it’s probably not a compiler bug.

    Second rule of compiler bugs: it doesn’t matter if it’s a compiler bug because finding compiler bugs doesn’t help you do your job (unless you’re one of the few people working on a compiler). Your code should work regardless of bugs in whatever compilers you’re using and its “working” should not depend on the existence of those bugs.

  16. >I haven’t gotten a copy yet, but I thought Eric might like to know if he hadn’t heard of it yet.

    I’ve started reading it. Looks pretty good.

  17. > Second rule of compiler bugs: it doesn’t matter if it’s a compiler bug because finding compiler bugs doesn’t help you do your job (unless you’re one of the few people working on a compiler). Your code should work regardless of bugs in whatever compilers you’re using and its “working” should not depend on the existence of those bugs.

    Proving a compiler / DB / third party software bug is mainly useful so you know you don’t have a mystery bug in your own code, so it does matter a bit.

    Third rule of compiler / DB / third party software bugs: Once you have coded the worklaround, document the bug in the code so some future programmer doesn’t doesn’t optimize the strange code out and hit the bug again.

    Yours,
    Tom

  18. > As a side note, people that are experienced enough for the work to have become routine, but not experienced enough to have seen many accidents, tend to be the most dangerous people to work around, both for themselves and others.

    I remember hearing somewhere that a disproportionate amount of Helicopter-related accidents around grounded, spun-up copters are the ones who are experienced enough around them to get comfortable.

    It’s a well-known statistic that the accident rate per flight hour is highest among pilots with between 200 and 500 hours of time. That’s enough for them to get experienced and complacent, even though their experience level doesn’t really justify it yet.

  19. I’ve heard that you see “beginners luck” in shooting a lot too. Someone’s first shot with a rifle is aparently normally way more accurate than the next dozen.

    In this particular instance I’d say your wife’s skills from Fantasy and Ancient games was way more transferrable than she expected. Afterall she already would have known how to play with ranged, squishy units from playing with Archers and Wizards. The essential strategy probably isn’t that much different, but her lack of confidence would have kept her looking for any little surprise gotchas in the game as well.

  20. Nancy Lebovitz: Cathy, here’s what I make of what you said– blaming yourself rather than external factors is correlated with depression. Women are in fact more likely to be depressed than men. On the other hand, I’ve seen claims that depression in men is more likely to manifest as alcoholism, and thus gets underdiagnosed. So who knows?

    I don’t think that depression is the relevant factor here. As you noted, men are often depressed, too–they merely exhibit depression with different behaviors than women.

  21. “IMO, given problems with any task a man is likely to blame external factors and/or other people, while a woman is likely to blame herself.”

    I’ve found a third way: blame internal factors. My #1 excuse is “I didn’t get quality sleep last night so my mind is not fully functional.”

  22. As others have surmised (or at least alluded to), women seem, in general, less apt to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect. I offer the hypothesis that this is because, historically, overconfidence is more valuable for males than females.

    Because observers often blindly accept confidence as a marker for competence, the ability to project unwarranted confidence aids males both in survival and in mating.

    For females, however, it was (historically) a much different story. Neither competence nor confidence is usually required for a female to mate, and when it comes to actually insuring survival of offspring through childhood to adulthood, competence is extremely useful, while confidence is almost completely unimportant.

    So the very existence (or at least the widespread prevalence) of the Dunning-Kruger effect is probably a survival adaptation that takes advantage of others’ willingness to assume that an individual’s self-confidence is warranted by his abilities.

    Of course, one would expect this “cheating” disassociation between confidence and competence to then lead to evolutionary pressures that favor individuals who can correctly discern competence in others without relying on the false confidence marker. Alas, the adaptation driven by this pressure still seems quite rare, especially among managers; however, many (though by no means all) women do seem to carry the adaptation which allows them to avoid mating with Dunning-Kruger sufferers.

  23. IMO, given problems with any task a man is likely to blame external factors and/or other people, while a woman is likely to blame herself. Make of that what you will.

    Rita Ratner put it a different way: “If a man puts on a shirt and it’s too tight, he concludes the shirt has shrunk. If a woman puts on a blouse and it’s too tight, she thinks she’s gained weight.”

  24. First rule of compiler bugs is: it’s probably not a compiler bug.[*]

    [*] Unless it’s a compiler bug in INTERCAL and Donald Knuth told you it was. Then, yeah, it’s probably a compiler bug. ;)

    FWIW — One single lousy compiler bug in 24 years of coding, but I did discover it about 6 months after learning Turbo Pascal: In TP 3.0, if you pass a set as a parameter, you have to pass it as a var; passing it plain doesn’t always work.

  25. Nancy Lebovitz:

    I’m not sure if I’m missing something either, but I think perhaps I just didn’t flesh out my case well enough. I understand that there is competition among females for mates to support their offspring, but, realistically, any female can attract a mate and at least some attendant resources. Certainly, more confidence and/or competence may help in getting a better mate and more resources, and this will directly bear on the ability of the female to successfully reproduce, but any physically healthy female can arrange to get pregnant.

    However, whether that pregnant female actually successfully reproduces (where I roughly equate success with having grandchildren) historically depends not only on her ability to attract and keep a mate, but also on her ability to watch over her offspring and keep them healthy over a period of years.

    Confidence may or may not help a female to attract a mate and his resources, but from a reproductive perspective, confidence in a female is really immaterial if her competence is so low that any offspring won’t live long enough to reproduce, so that’s why I speculate that confidence without competence is not a good reproductive strategy for females.

    For males, however, there are several viable reproductive strategies, including being dashing (physically attractive and confident) enough to sweep an otherwise-mated female off her feet for an evening. No true competence at any other task than not getting caught is required for this strategy, and even “not getting caught” can often be managed by deferring to the judgment of the presumably more competent unfaithful female.

    Put another way, the base level of competence required for a female to successfully reproduce is (much) higher than the base level of competence required for a male to reproduce. The observation that the distribution of intelligence in females is grouped more tightly than the distribution of intelligence in males (which means that males dominate both the lower and higher ends of the IQ scale) is not at odds with this hypothesis, because stupid males who can attract mates can reproduce more successfully than stupid females who can attract mates.

  26. >The observation that the distribution of intelligence in females is grouped more tightly than the distribution of intelligence in males (which means that males dominate both the lower and higher ends of the IQ scale)

    …is interesting, but you need to be careful about drawing any conclusions from it because apparently it’s only true in Caucasians. That is, in the other major human racial groups male and female IQ dispersions look the same.

    No, I have no theory about why this is or what it means.

  27. For completeness’s sake: I found a runtime bug in the GridBagLayout of Java 1.0.0 that was fixed in Java 1.0.3. But it was only after rigorous testing and taking extra care to use the API exactly as it said in the manual that I concluded it was a Java runtime bug.

  28. For males, however, there are several viable reproductive strategies, including being dashing (physically attractive and confident) enough to sweep an otherwise-mated female off her feet for an evening.

    In other words, GTL works.

  29. > but you need to be careful about drawing any conclusions from [difference in IQ variance between genders] because apparently it’s only true in Caucasians.

    That’s interesting. Do you have a cite?

    But, rather than forcing a conclusion, I think this hypothesis could in fact, remove data that was being used to support a conclusion. I don’t remember the exact origin or context, but I definitely recall seeing some sort of argument that the reason for higher IQ variance among males is that, since there is almost always an excess of males (above the number required to impregnate every female), it’s OK for nature and biology to do some high-stakes gambling that will result in “throwing away” some males at the bottom of the spectrum, while females are too precious to have this sort of variability. But, if enough women can be fooled into accepting “confidence” for “competence”, then the low-IQ males aren’t necessarily being thrown away, just conditioned to fit a slightly different reproductive niche strategy.

  30. I’ve found lots of compiler and synthesizer bugs in the past. But, I used to be a fairly early adopter of a few different compilers for use with direct hardware access, so in fairness, most of the bugs I found would have no effect on the average user. (Bugs in I/O; in ‘volatile’, etc.)

  31. Patrick, definitely check out Hrdy. Competition among females isn’t just for mates/male help. It’s also for help from other females and for not being attacked by other females. I don’t know what bearing this would have on confidence as a strategy.

  32. but you need to be careful about drawing any conclusions from [difference in IQ variance between genders] because apparently it’s only true in Caucasians.

    Last year when I emailed La Griffe Du Lion about this issue (his numbers showing much wider deviation and slightly higher mean IQ for men didn’t break out by ethnic groups), he admitted it was a very good question to which he had no answers one way or the other.

  33. Last year when I emailed La Griffe Du Lion about this issue (his numbers showing much wider deviation and slightly higher mean IQ for men didn’t break out by ethnic groups), he admitted it was a very good question to which he had no answers one way or the other.

    Anyone citing La Griffe Du Lion ought to be embarrassed by his sloppiness; he does not understand the scientific method. Not that your average “social scientist” is much better.

  34. in re: La Griffe du Lion:

    Apparently Professor William D. Clinger (the guy responsible for Larceny, which is a well-known Scheme implementation.) had some not nice things to say about LGdL’s methods. I normally wouldn’t bother to cite criticism of LGdL because a lot of what I’ve seen is pretty reactionary, but this commentary seems fairly unbiased and few would argue the competency of Dr. Clinger, who is, IMHO, a very smart man.

  35. Morgan, that link doesn’t seem to question LGdL’s methods at all, but instead focuses on problems with the sources of his data.

    If you want to get deeper into the math, you
    may visit a quirky and provocative Web site,
    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com, run by someone who
    calls himself La Griffe du Lion. I surmise that
    he is an established scholar–a quantitative
    discipline seems likely–who once published on
    the fraught topic of group differences, learned
    how unpleasant and even professionally perilous
    that can be, and decided to remain anonymous
    henceforth. In any case, his technical skills
    are first rate.

  36. Morgan, that link doesn’t seem to question LGdL’s methods at all, but instead focuses on problems with the sources of his data.

    I think you have misread this post. The portion you’re quoting is a quote; the author of the post is most definitely questioning La Griffe Du Lion’s methods.

  37. I’m not particularly impressed with Dr. Clinger’s dismissal of Lynn. He appears to repudiate the entirety of his findings (which are pretty well corroborated by Rindermann) based on one error. That’s good science?

    Again, I believe you have misread the post. To my reading, he was referring to a review by Hunt and Wittmann that revealed that numerous data points were unrepresentative. He mentions this review explicitly in the post.

    See here – http://www-classic.uni-graz.at/pslgcwww/rindermann/publikationen/07EJPall.pdf

    The linked publication mentions that Lynn’s data collection was questionable. It then goes on to play down the unrepresentative nature of the data by corroboration, which is transparently bogus methodologically. Furthermore, it does not vindicate its use in any of La Griffe Du Lion’s work.

  38. @JB and Roger:

    I’m not saying that I would dismiss LGdL’s entire body work based on this comment. That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. What I’m saying is that one should definitely approach LGdL’s work with a healthy dose of skepticism. Then again, one should probably do that with any writing. Even (especially?) if it was written by someone as smart as Professor Clinger. ;)

    Dovetails nicely with that Killing the Buddha thing.

  39. What I’m saying is that one should definitely approach LGdL’s work with a healthy dose of skepticism. Then again, one should probably do that with any writing. Even (especially?) if it was written by someone as smart as Professor Clinger. ;)

    LGdL’s agenda is transparent, his methods are bad, and his conclusions are not supported by his results. He makes rookie mistakes like discounting confounding factors all over the place. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that looks like a good experiment if you want to agree with the conclusion.

  40. >LGdL’s agenda is transparent, his methods are bad, and his conclusions are not supported by his results.

    Buying the AGW statistical flimflam rather discredits you as a critic of statistical methods. You’ll have to show your work, not just assert a conclusion.

  41. Buying the AGW statistical flimflam rather discredits you as a critic of statistical methods. You’ll have to show your work, not just assert a conclusion.

    I do not remember coming out in support of AGW models. Are you asking me for a specific criticism of LGdL’s work?

  42. >Are you asking me for a specific criticism of LGdL’s work?

    If you have time for one, yes. I myself credit his arguments only insofar as I can confirm his methods with my own knowledge of statistics; I don’t think he’s dishonest, but I think he’s prone to zeal and occasional overreach. You are mathematically literate enough that you might be able to confirm my suspicions about a few of his arguments, but I’d like to see that done rather than merely asserted.

  43. @Roger: I’d be interesting in seeing one, too, if you’ve got the time. I’ve got just enough statistics to basically agree with esr on this one, but, OTOH, I only got a B- in each of my two statistics classes in college and, quite honestly, computer-assisted statistical analysis tools have made me very, very lazy. :)

  44. If you have time for one, yes. I myself credit his arguments only insofar as I can confirm his methods with my own knowledge of statistics; I don’t think he’s dishonest, but I think he’s prone to zeal and occasional overreach. You are mathematically literate enough that you might be able to confirm my suspicions about a few of his arguments, but I’d like to see that done rather than merely asserted.

    The technical misuse of statistics has already been noted ITT. However, he makes more fundamental mistakes. Take (http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/serial.htm) for example. He fits his model to the data, then infers from the fact that the “fit is excellent” that it is predictive; this is about as a easy as it gets for pseudoscience. This mistake is aggravated by him using it to erroneously rule out various (possibly false) narratives about the causes of black crime that he does not like.

  45. personal experience.

    teaching both male and female students to shoot.

    males already know everything. The problem is with the: gun, ammo, training, instructor, target, weather, sights, etc. It could not possibly be that they don’t have a clue.

    females listen. They concentrate, they follow directions and usually do very well. Well enough for me to not want them shooting at me, and much faster than the average male.

    just sayin’.

  46. TMR, ESR & others,

    A fairly large selection biased should be taken into account – women are far less likely to be interested in shooting, boardgaming or computer games, therefore, those who do are probably exceptional in more than one way.

    How about this: people who are interested in things untypical for their group and therefore have to fight through some prejudice in order to pursue such interests are either more intelligent or tougher than the average, and are therefore more likely to own up to their mistakes. Show me a guy who is into knitting and I’ll show you a guy rarely blames the needle and the thread.

    Another, closely related thing is that one can easily admit to be unskilled in those things that are not considered important in one’s group, but it is much harder to admit such a thing which are considered important and are important parts of one’s prestige in the group and ultimately, even one’s identity. Thus, men easily admit they suck at cooking, selecting matching colors, home decor, interior design, fashion, keeping things clean and ordered, small talk / extroversion, listening to people patiently, giving medical or other kinds of care and nurturing, appreciating art. Women easily admit they suck at things related with weapons and warfare, computers, mechanical repair, spectator sports, cars. In such cases admitting failure does not only decrease one’s prestige, but actually increases it. Saying we can’t tell the differences between different hues of red is a very macho thing that actually buys one some prestige with one’s beer buddies, because it signals that we so attractive that we can always get women even without giving a damn about things they are interested in, while for a woman saying that she has no idea how to handle a power drill signals to other women that she is attractive enough to always have a guy around who will sort such things out. The guy who says he went to a fashion show with his SO would be kinda pitied in a sports bar or looked down upon as not a real macho man, the woman who says she is good at home remodelling will be often openly pitied and mocked by women, because it almost sounds like “I’m gonna die alone, surrounded by my cats only”.

  47. “How about this: people who are interested in things untypical for their group and therefore have to fight through some prejudice in order to pursue such interests are either more intelligent or tougher than the average”

    I just realized why is that that in typically female interests, like fashion or cookery, the best of the best, the compo-winning cooks and the big name designers are often men: because when, say, Giorgio Armani as a little kid showed his first interests in fashion, he was probably mercilessly mocked, bullied and even beaten by other boys for having such gay, sissy, unmacho interests, if he persisted through all this, he was probably really dedicated. Why doesn’t that work the other way around? Because girls are way less cruel than boys, the girl into car racing will only be shunned and excluded by other girls but not bullied or beaten.

  48. >He fits his model to the data, then infers from the fact that the “fit is excellent” that it is predictive; this is about as a easy as it gets for pseudoscience.

    Are you sure you want to hold this position? It would make every AGW model pseudoscience even without the endemic problem of deliberate data fraud in that area. :-)

    Anyway, you’re on weaker methodological ground than you seem to understand. In observational sciences models are frequently justified by retrodiction when it’s difficult or impossible to do experiments – astronomy is a good example. Sometime you just have to wait to see if nature will provide an experiment for you, like a supernova going off. La Griffe du Lion is in that situation, because it’s not possible to run experiments on human population genetics. Nobody gets to write him off as pseudoscience on that account any more than one can write off astronomy; he’s subject to exactly the same sort of falsification by future data as an astrophysicist would be.

    I suspect I know where you acquired this error – Stephen J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man pushed, hard, the idea that in biology you don’t have science unless your statistical model is implied by a generative theory of the underlying biological process. But this argument, like the rest of that book, was dishonest and tendentious. It posed a standard that Gould’s own specialty almost never meets, and never mind that Gould confused that issue by jumping back and forth between molecular genetics (which does meet the test) and paleontology (which often fails to).

    (Please don’t get the idea that I’m arguing for accepting La Griffe du Lion’s theories whole; I think there are in fact some methodological issues with his stuff, just not the one you think you’ve identified.)

    If I had to make a list of books that have spread the most damaging myths about scientific method and process, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions would be the unquestioned #1, but The Mismeasure of Man would be an easy #2 pick.

  49. >females listen. They concentrate, they follow directions and usually do very well. Well enough for me to not want them shooting at me, and much faster than the average male.

    It is so. This is one reason I teach firearms and martial arts to women by preference, when I get to choose.

    To be fair, I’ve run enough Geeks with Guns events to report that male hackers (as opposed to males in general) are about as good as women that way. An effect of higher average IQ, no doubt.

  50. Anyway, you’re on weaker methodological ground than you seem to understand. In observational sciences models are frequently justified by retrodiction when it’s difficult or impossible to do experiments – astronomy is a good example.

    If an astrophysicist fits a model to some data set and then uses the quality of the fit to that data alone to measure prediction, then he is indeed engaging in pseudoscience. Obviously, if there are strong reasons to think accidental fit is unlikely then that strengthens his case somewhat, but further tests are required to reach a firm conclusion. The linked paper gives no such justification, yet it puts forth the claim that the model is highly predictive. I also am aware that models can be put forth pending falsification. That is not the position that the linked paper is taking. Rather, it jumps from corroborative results to various firm conclusions. This is bad science; if astrophysicists or climatologists do this then shame on them.

    I suspect I know where you acquired this error – Stephen J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man pushed, hard, the idea that in biology you don’t have science unless your statistical model is implied by a generative theory of the underlying biological process.

    I’m not saying this at all, merely that conclusions need to be backed up by the appropriate empirical techniques.

  51. >This is bad science; if astrophysicists or climatologists do this then shame on them.

    It’s bad science if you can actually do a predictive check without waiting for a natural event to supply your data. Some scientists can. Some cannot.

    The worst I think La Griffe du Lion can be accused of is sloppiness about what constitutes prediction vs. retrodiction. It is unclear whether this confusion is a surface feature of his terminology or whether he really doesn’t understand the difference. Either is possible; unfortunately, most scientists aren’t trained in the distinction.

  52. It’s bad science if you can actually do a predictive check without waiting for a natural event to supply your data. Some scientists can. Some cannot.

    I think you’re missing my point. Regardless of whether a falsifying experiment is immediately on hand it is bad science to make a strong statement without the support of good empirical techniques. That is exactly what the linked paper does; I would not be complaining if speculation was presented as such rather than as fact. If an astrophysicist presents the predictions of his model as fact when his model’s predictive power has not been confirmed empirically then he is making a grievous error. The inconvenience of not being able to make a definite statement is irrelevant; science has to be clear about how firm its conclusions are.

    The worst I think La Griffe du Lion can be accused of is sloppiness about what constitutes prediction vs. retrodiction. It is unclear whether this confusion is a surface feature of his terminology or whether he really doesn’t understand the difference. Either is possible; unfortunately, most scientists aren’t trained in the distinction.

    Whether he’s trained in the distinction or not is uninteresting to me. The linked piece makes various claims that are not adequately supported by the evidence. It’s not as though he’s putting forth some tentative model and then not being clear about it; he makes strong (and frankly, ideologically preconceived) statements on the basis of his model. Maybe you and others think this is acceptable. I do not.

  53. Whether he’s trained in the distinction or not is uninteresting to me. The linked piece makes various claims that are not adequately supported by the evidence. It’s not as though he’s putting forth some tentative model and then not being clear about it; he makes strong (and frankly, ideologically preconceived) statements on the basis of his model. Maybe you and others think this is acceptable. I do not.

    I’m not so sure that La Griffe du Lion approached this problem with any ideological preconception. I think you’re projecting your own issues onto La Griffe. You may not like the idea that he uses retrodiction and then calls his model predictive, but retrodiction is valid science when prediction is either impossible or very inconvenient. Darwin used retrodiction in On the Origin of Species did he not?

    Coincidentally, my wife asked me the very question the paper purports to answer the other night (Why most serial killers are white men; we were watching some TV show on serial killers.) Setting the aside the question of why serial murders are (almost) always male, it seemed obvious to me that whites make up the majority of the general population, hence whites would make up the majority of serial killers. Other races would be proportionately represented.

    So when I saw La Griffe mentioned in a blog post here, I remembered that this guy answered questions like that. Sure enough, I found the article you mentioned and printed it out after having read it,

  54. >I’m not so sure that La Griffe du Lion approached this problem with any ideological preconception.

    Well, perhaps one. Like me, he clearly derives vast enjoyment from goring sacred oxen.

  55. > retrodiction is valid science when prediction is either impossible or very inconvenient.

    Very inconvenient includes too expensive to be funded. That includes a lot of good science. I’d rather have a study using retrodiction and admitting it than one which uses retrodiction plus an affordable but useless statistically insignificant sample.

    Yours,
    Tom

  56. Well, perhaps one. Like me, he clearly derives vast enjoyment from goring sacred oxen.

    That being said, I was genuinely surprised when LGdL pointed out that blacks were overrepresented among the ranks of serial murderers by a factor of two, and, though I cannot presume to know what LGdL was thinking when he wrote his statistical study, I think that perhaps even he was a little surprised by that fact.

  57. I’m not so sure that La Griffe du Lion approached this problem with any ideological preconception.

    You did not read the paper very thoroughly then. He draws various conclusions that cannot be substantiated from his results in the Q&A.

    I think you’re projecting your own issues onto La Griffe. You may not like the idea that he uses retrodiction and then calls his model predictive, but retrodiction is valid science when prediction is either impossible or very inconvenient. Darwin used retrodiction in On the Origin of Species did he not?

    You’re (deliberately or not) muddling the issue. I am not criticising retrodiction. He is not merely using retrodiction, but using it to make definite statements. Sorry, but that is bogus no matter who does it. Comparisons to Darwin are instances of either a historical fallacy or a fallacy of confirmation. Appealing to scarcity of data does not justify making definite statements without good experiments. Good scientists put forth models and judgments about how good those models are. People who use retrodiction and then present the resulting predictions as fact are not good scientists.

    Very inconvenient includes too expensive to be funded. That includes a lot of good science. I’d rather have a study using retrodiction and admitting it than one which uses retrodiction plus an affordable but useless statistically insignificant sample.

    Again, this is simply muddling the issue. LGdL’s conclusions are not supported by his retrodiction, therefore he is engaging in bad science. I am only going to repeat the fact that this is not about retrodiction so many times. It is not a mere matter of terminology; he puts forth definite statements based on a model that is unproven. This is bad science, because we know up front that the model is likely to be wrong. Appeal to the behaviour of other bad scientists is fallacious. Good scientists don’t get to hand-wave these issues away; they must admit the extent of their ignorance.

  58. Roger,

    Someone is muddling and I think it’s us, including you.

    1. You claim: Quality of the fit is not good retrodiction.
    2. You claim: He is not merely using retrodiction, but using it to make definite statements. Sorry, but that is bogus no matter who does it.
    3. You claim: I am only going to repeat the fact that this is not about retrodiction so many times.
    4. You claim: LGdL’s conclusions are not supported by his retrodiction, therefore he is engaging in bad science.

    Number one makes sense to me, although I don’t know if it’s right, but then that describes this whole comment.

    Number two seems to be wrong. Retrodiction is a hypothesis about what you will find if you look in the past, like the asteroid impact hypotheses about why there was a die off making a retrodiction that examining fossils near the K-T boundary would show a truly abrupt die off at a very thin boundary in geological time. They did more digging (the experiment) and they found a truly abrupt die off at a very thin boundary in geological time, so that retrodiction was confirmed. Right now the competing hypotheses about why there was a die off are making more retrodictions about what you will see if you dig. I thought that after enough sucessful retrodictions one of the hypotheses about why there was a die off will become a theory and people will use it to make definite statements. That seems to be a valid method, and not just for a historical science.

    Number three appears to be wrong as well, since you say it isn’t about retrodiction and then you say you can’t use retrodiction to make definite statements. That sounds like a contradiction.

    Number four is back to making sense to me, although it seems to contradict number two, since it sounds like you would accept his conclusions if they were supported by his retrodiction. Me, I’d like more than one sucessful retrodiction if I can get it. The more the merrier.

    Yours,
    Tom

  59. Number one makes sense to me, although I don’t know if it’s right, but then that describes this whole comment.

    You have misinterpreted me. I am not commenting on the quality of his hypothesis, just that it is unproven. It is an error to present totally untested statements as being firm truths in a paper that purports to be present factual information. The best that can be said is that he has a model that might be worth doing further experiments with when more data becomes available. That is not what he is saying.

    Number two seems to be wrong.

    You are not listening to me. The example you give is different to what is going on in this paper. He is not merely putting forth a hypothesis. Rather, he is advancing his unproven hypothesis as fact and drawing a bunch of conclusions from it that are presented as firm truths. There is no comparison between this and having a hypothesis that is presented as being tentative.

    Number three appears to be wrong as well, since you say it isn’t about retrodiction and then you say you can’t use retrodiction to make definite statements. That sounds like a contradiction.

    Maybe this wasn’t so clear; it is not about the validity of retrodiction as such. Rather, it is about the misuse of retrodiction. I can fit almost any model I would like to known data.

    Number four is back to making sense to me, although it seems to contradict number two, since it sounds like you would accept his conclusions if they were supported by his retrodiction. Me, I’d like more than one sucessful retrodiction if I can get it. The more the merrier.

    He is making two orthogonal errors. Firstly, by not testing his hypothesis correctly, and secondly by
    misinterpreting the model as exposing various facts about the causes of black crime. I would not accept his conclusions until they were entailed by his model, and the model had been thoroughly evaluated for predictiveness. Even then I would retain some measure of skepticism (because it is so easy to get these things wrong), but here he could have concocted any number of ridiculous models and the method would have failed to reject them. If this isn’t bad science, then we don’t give the word “science” the same denotation.

  60. I think fandom is less extreme about gender roles than the larger society (though it’s less extreme than it used to be) because fandom is a hedonistic subculture– it’s built around people doing things they like, and existed for a long time when the things that fans liked in common were very unrespectable.

    Since men and women are as different as the sex roles require, it follows that people doing what they like will tend to go outside the roles.

    In a recent study of whether first-person shooter games have beneficial neurological effects, they wanted to see the effects of people learning to play them. It was just about impossible to find men in college who hadn’t already played the games, but easy to find women who hadn’t. However, women who tried them were reasonably likely to find they liked them.

    ShenPen, I really don’t trust tight evolutionary arguments for human behavior. We’re top of the food chain– tigers have to be protected from us. We don’t have to be efficient, and we aren’t.

    In particular, I believe that people are much crueler than can be explained evolutionarily, and one of the ways this manifests is as socially enforced rules that have no apparent purpose other than having an excuse to be nasty to people.

  61. @Roger:

    The ‘hypothesis’ you’re referring to, I think, is this:

    1. In any population, a range of criminality is observed. Criminality is not a one-zero attribute.

    2. Insofar as criminality is the result of many independent factors, its distribution will be approximately Gaussian in accord with the central limit theorem.

    3. Criminality distributions in men and women, and in racial and ethnic groups differ from one another.

    La Griffe isn’t offering those as an hypothesis: he considers those to be settled science — or at least prevailing theory — and criminologists and sociologists would tend to agree with him there. The Gaussian normal distribution is widely used in those fields and in psychology to map out ranges in human behavior.

    Or are you referring to something else?

  62. tigers have to be protected from us. We don’t have to be efficient, and we aren’t.

    Tigers are not a threat to the survival of H. sapiens as a species, but damned well are to the survival of individual humans that interact with them. Furthermore, the ability of members of our species to consistently survive those encounters at the expense of the tigers is fairly recent; very little genetic* evolution has taken place since the invention of the repeating rifle. To whatever extent genes inform behavior, we are “apes with car keys”.

    *Whether there has been significant memetic evolution in that same period, and the extent to which memes inform behavior, is another question.

  63. Roger,

    That wasn’t muddled. I haven’t read the paper. I’m just reading the thread and trying to understand the conversation. It’s like a lot of technical conversations – hard to follow sometimes. I had to look up retrodiction for example – it wasn’t clear from the context.

    > The example you give is different to what is going on in this paper

    I know it is different. It’s an example of the known proper use of retrodiction, given so we would have a basis to speak about it.

    > Rather, it is about the misuse of retrodiction. I can fit almost any model I would like to known data.

    Retrodiction is not the same thing as fitting a model to known data. A retrodiction is made about unknown data, including data that is available but you don’t have. My example was intended to make that clear. The best way to use retrodiction to falsify a model created by fitting is to us the model to make a retrodiction about data that wasn’t used to fit the model. Then you check that data. The new data should be newly uncovered or should be of a type which was not used to fit the model.

    For example, let’s say you are creating a model about risk taking and criminal behavior using 18th century England. Let’s say your model produces some interesting results about risk taking. You make a retrodiction that these results will be reflected in gambling debts among the aristocracy. The experiment is performed by gathering known data (but unknown to you) about gambling debts among the aristocracy. If your retrodiction is false you shouldn’t use your model to make definite statements – just as you say. But if it is true you make the next retrodiction. The more retrodictions you can make, the better your model. In this case, if you want to apply the model outside 18th century England, say in 21st century America, you should make some successful retrodictions using data from the last decade, and maybe even some successful predictions about the next.

    Yours,
    Tom

  64. >In particular, I believe that people are much crueler than can be explained evolutionarily, and one of the ways this manifests is as socially enforced rules that have no apparent purpose other than having an excuse to be nasty to people.

    Huh? What part of this is not readily explicable in evolutionary terms as a form of status competition?

  65. @Tom DeGisi:

    And, in fact, La Griffe du Lion, in the serial killer paper, does exactly that. He makes the prediction that there will be a per capita drop in serial murder over the next 40 years based on the population growth estimates from the Census Bureau.

    BTW, this report on serial murder from the FBI states something similar to La Griffe’s conclusions: “The racial diversification of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population.”

  66. Nancy,

    “as socially enforced rules that have no apparent purpose other than having an excuse to be nasty to people”

    I wasn’t trying to form an argument based on biological evolution and natural selection, rather one on social selection: that people who persist in doing their thing despite of strong social pressure not to do so tend to be exceptional ones, smart, tough, probably both, because those who aren’t sooner or later give up and conform. Note that social pressure is to be understood as pressure in one’s immediate group, such as classmates, and not pressure by society on the whole, because the immediate group matters a lot more. Kids considered deviant by teachers and parents but popular and supported in their school class are not necessarily smart or tough, but those who are ridiculed by the whole of their school class and yet persist on doing their stuff usually are. This might be easy to mix up, because the math nerd can be approved by teachers and parents and yet be an outcast in the class and this is what matters.

    On nastiness, care to elaborate? My views on human nature, I can assure you, are not as simplistic as biological determinism, in fact I believe in a kind of a non-theistic version of original sin, that life is all about a struggle to defeat or contain or if we can, dissolve our on natural self-centeredness (not the same as selfishness), without which neither the happy life nor the moral life are possible. However, because my whole approach is openly pessimistic, I often find some forms of apparent nastiness somewhat excusable or at least explainable, as half-bad attempts to solve problems that are extremely difficult to solve right.

    What I mentioned here, the tendency of children to be nasty towards those other children who don’t conform to group norms comes from the fact that when one has limited life experience, it is very hard to predict the behaviour of others. And an unpredictable person is of course a dangerous one, there is always a certain risk when you don’t know what the other person will do tomorrow, it might be something that hurts you. Thus children often have no other means to predict each others behaviour than to check if they behave in most matters like everybody else, and punish those behaviours that don’t fit in.

    I gave a lot of thought to it, because elementary school for me was a nightmare, always having to find roundabout ways to walk home because the bullies were waiting for me on the direct routes. Partially was my fault though, I always enjoyed humiliating them intellectually during the classes, I was just as much a a little sadist as they, only more sophisticated and non-violent. Anyway, what I figured out about the whole thing is that from their point of view I must have been seen as an extremely dangerous kid, wholly unpredictable, because having very different interests, and generally liked by people with power, namely, teachers, they had to figure out some ways to mitigate the threat and the fact that some stupid 9-year olds with strong muscles could figure out no better way to do it than to use those muscles is something I have to admit to be understandable. I realized the root of the problem is that we simply didn’t belong to the same school. The lesson I took aways from it is never force working-class kids and intellectual-class, middle-class kids to integrate if there is a way to avoid that, because the later will be bullied by the former.

  67. @Shenpen

    >The lesson I took aways from it is never force working-class kids and intellectual-class, middle-class kids to integrate if there is a way to avoid that, because the later will be bullied by the former.

    I moved around a lot and attended varied school environments. I have to say that some of the most vicious bullies I ever encountered were middle to upper class. Most of the working class types were far more accepting of outsiders as long as you did not act like you were better than them. Chet whose daddy owned the car dealership was usually much more of a problem.

    My take away from all the moving around is that your place in the pecking order happens the first week. You WILL have to deal with the bully/bullies. You don’t have to win. You just have to impose enough pain to make you not worth the trouble, preferably in a very public setting. Things have changed so much now that I would probably be put in jail if I behaved in the same manner. When facing Lord of the Flies, a vicious and violent response to the first ape that challenges you usually results in smooth sailing after the wounds heal. Normally we live in our heads and want to intellectualize everything. When facing these types of situations, you have to go to “the other place”. I don’t know how else to describe it. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about.

  68. “Normally we live in our heads and want to intellectualize everything. When facing these types of situations, you have to go to “the other place”. I don’t know how else to describe it. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about.”

    Not sure. I remember situation of red fog coming down – don’t know what happened after – red fog lifting – bully has one tooth less and is visibly scared – being left alone for a few weeks. If it is “the other place”, it might be occasionally useful but I doubt a complete shutdown of consciousness and cognitive functions I experienced at that time is any sort of a reliable strategy.

  69. @shenpen:

    As Nietsche said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

    He may have overstated the case a bit, but “That which does not cripple us for life makes us stronger” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. In any case, a study has apparently shown this concept holds true in the context of bullying.

  70. Thanks, Morgan. It’s important for me to emphasize that I don’t know what I am talking about. I am working from the definition of retrodiction and the little I know about the scientific method.

    Yours,
    Tom

  71. And, in fact, La Griffe du Lion, in the serial killer paper, does exactly that. He makes the prediction that there will be a per capita drop in serial murder over the next 40 years based on the population growth estimates from the Census Bureau.

    This prediction is yet to be confirmed, and so it does not contribute to the predictive power of the model.

    Nonetheless, I’ve probably confused things by implicitly dismissing what he probably regards as the test of his model, which is to attempt to infer the ratio of Hispanics-to-Whites in the population of serial killers from the ratio of Blacks-to-Whites in said population. I do not regard this as a good attempt at falsification, since the prediction is visible from his original fit and the author is likely to have had some idea about the measured value ahead of time. I will concede that there is some attempt at falsification; as before, I am not suggesting the model is broken, rather that we do not know one way or another, and neither does the author. Furthermore, some of his conclusions are not supported by the model. E.g.:

    “None of this had anything to do with bias, racism, repressive injustice, racial profiling, political repression or the economy. It was an inevitable consequence of underlying group criminality distributions.”

    There is nothing in the model that rules out all of these factors. There is furthermore no proof that the “criminality distributions” are “underlying”, nor that their consequences are inevitable.

    I suppose I am prone to exaggeration in these matters. No doubt there is some worthwhile science buried in this paper, and I would be interested to see the model tested with future data sets. However, as a complete product it is flawed and its conclusions should be viewed with great skepticism.

  72. @Shenpen

    >If it is “the other place”, it might be occasionally useful but I doubt a complete shutdown of consciousness and cognitive functions I experienced at that time is any sort of a reliable strategy.

    You have been there. Interestingly, your experience is very different from mine. I have read about others experiencing what you did. The fogging vision and blanking out.

    Actually, shut down of conscious control is very important and is the only thing you can rely on in such a situation. Some people just freeze. Others experience it like you. I get tunnel vision, but my senses seem heightened, except for pain. I recall observing situations in a detached manner, doing things without thought and receiving blows without pain. Conscious control is definitely on vacation however.

  73. There is nothing in the model that rules out all of these factors. There is furthermore no proof that the “criminality distributions” are “underlying”, nor that their consequences are
    inevitable.

    I’m wondering if you understand criminology at all. Criminality, as used in this paper, is a technical term in criminology that describes “a behavioral predisposition that disproportionately favors criminal activity.” So by definition, criminality is “underlying”. When La Griffe describes criminality distributions, he is stating that incarceration rates are indicative of underlying criminality. This view is hardly controversial among criminologists or sociologists from other branches of sociology; recidivism rates show that people who are criminals are likely to continue to commit crimes even after they are caught. Harder crimes carry harsher sentences, so rates and length of incarceration are fairly good indicators of the underlying criminality of any population distribution.

    I realize that psychology and sociology — and by extension criminology — are often viewed with disdain by those in the hard sciences, but these fields’ use of such statistical models has generally shown itself to be useful.

  74. Eric, I know two women who’s parents made considerable efforts to convince them (as children) that they were ugly. This doesn’t sound like a pattern of behavior which leads to reproductive success, and in fact, it did not. Of course, they were lucky– there are children who are slowly killed by their parents, which doesn’t exactly contribute to having grandchildren.

    It’s plausible that bullying is part of status assertion– my claim is that it goes compulsive to an extent which is very far beyond a net win. On the lighter side, the prevalence of trolling shows that hurting people is powerfully reinforcing for a good-sized minority. I’m not sure what proportion of people spend much time trolling– something between 1% and 5%, I’m guessing.

    It’s interesting that children who stand up to bullies might do better than average– but they might do better than average even in a non-bullying environment. Bullying can do long-term damage, and I’ve heard that bullies are more likely than most to end up in prison– not surprising, since at least the violent sort of bully wasn’t taught impulse control.

  75. >It’s plausible that bullying is part of status assertion– my claim is that it goes compulsive to an extent which is very far beyond a net win.

    It wouldn’t be the first time an evolved behavior showed a tendency to overshoot into a self-destructive extreme under post-Neolithic conditions.

  76. It wouldn’t be the first time an evolved behavior showed a tendency to overshoot into a self-destructive extreme under post-Neolithic conditions

    But is it really self-destructive? From what I’ve seen, bullies don’t have much trouble reproducing. No matter how much women claim to want sensitive, caring mates, they seem to go for the “bad boy” far too often. In fact, if you turn your TV on during the day, you’re likely to see several shows featuring two or more women fighting over a complete asshole.

  77. >In fact, if you turn your TV on during the day, you’re likely to see several shows featuring two or more women fighting over a complete asshole.

    Well, then, you’ve answered your own previous question. Being a bully and an asshole is grounded in sexual selection – it’s not clear that the extremes we see are “more than necessary” at all.

  78. May I suggest some actual information before you conclude that being a bully contributes to reproductive success? Like tracking the number of grandchildren, for example.

    Are bad boys the same as bullies? I honestly have no idea, but this is the first I’ve seen the idea proposed.

  79. >Are bad boys the same as bullies? I honestly have no idea, but this is the first I’ve seen the idea proposed.

    Maybe not the same, but what the categories “bad boy” and “bully” have in common is that both kinds have a shortage of traits conducive to stable parental investment and are good at dominating their social environment. They look pretty similar from the point of view of womens’ reproductive strategies in the environment of ancestral adaptation. Google “sexy-son hypothesis” for discussion.

    You began this subthread by supposing that the incidence of social nastiness is greater than can be explained by an evolutionary account. I don’t think this is the case at all; social nastiness unpacks as a tool for (a) gaining status, and (b) getting others to do what you want. Bullying has the same rewards; explain one, explain the other.

  80. “sexy-son hypothesis”

    Looked it up, sounds like a tautology – or am I missing something? Essentially the same story as the Keynesian analysis of the stock market, that investors trying to pick stocks that other people will find attractive in the future, but of course other people do the same and find some stocks attractive because they think others will find them attractive, and thus whole idea is just one self-referential tautology. The sane explanation of the stock market is that at the end of the day, there are fundamentals that matter, like P/E, and that self-referential psychological game matters only in the short run. I think the same could be said for sexual selection, that there are some fundamental traits that matter.

  81. @esr:

    I think the “sexy-son hypothesis” also explains why younger women (“maiden” stage) tend to be attracted to “bad boys,” but as they mature (“mother” stage) their tastes tend towards men who would make better caregivers — men with more feminine qualities, greater intellect, etc. This explains not only infidelity, but also, to some extent, divorce.

  82. bullies are more likely than most to end up in prison–

    Both as inmates and as guards.

  83. The Monster Says:
    > No matter how much women claim to want sensitive, caring
    > mates, they seem to go for the “bad boy” far too often.

    FWIW, I actually think you are incorrect here. I think you are looking at the wrong characteristics. Based on my discussions with women, the things that women find attractive are quite different than most men think they are. Let me give you the core list: number one is always confidence. This is probably more important than most other things put together, much the same as physical attractiveness is a dominant feature men look for. Second are things like being different, not just more of the same. Being funny, or at least entertaining. Being exciting. These are the sort of things that women generally find attractive, especially when they are younger. Women, young women in particular, are suckers for drama.

    The fact is that “bad boys” have these sorts of qualities in spades, “nice guys” often don’t. So, again in my opinion, it is not the badness that is attractive, so much as certain positive qualities that tend to cluster in bad boys.

    But that is just my opinion, and that of my friends. Sorry Dr. Roger. I haven’t done a carefully controlled experiment, so I probably shouldn’t even express an opinion.

  84. >The fact is that “bad boys” have these sorts of qualities in spades, “nice guys” often don’t. So, again in my opinion, it is not the badness that is attractive, so much as certain positive qualities that tend to cluster in bad boys.

    Men with any decent grasp of psychology understand this, Jessica. Monster may be among them; his phrasing doesn’t exclude the possibility.

  85. The fact is that “bad boys” have these sorts of qualities in spades, “nice guys” often don’t. So, again in my opinion, it is not the badness that is attractive, so much as certain positive qualities that tend to cluster in bad boys.

    No doubt. In fact, it’s important to understand that many sorts of things that men and women each find attractive aren’t really that different. Confidence tends to be high on the list for both men and for women, along with physical attractiveness. People are attracted to other people they find interesting. What men and women find interesting, of course, may differ significantly. :)

    I’ve been happily married for five years and women still flirt with me all the time, though I may not be a perfect physical specimen, nor do I exude the “bad boy” image. I’m just quirky, different, funny, and most importantly self-confident.

  86. >I’m just quirky, different, funny, and most importantly self-confident.

    One of the things I get reminded of when I do speaking gigs at colleges is that for some women, “quirky, different, funny, and most importantly self-confident” plus “high-status visiting speaker” can combine in a sufficiently potent way to override the social norm that you’re not supposed to be flirtatious at someone old enough to be your daddy. Can’t say how common this is, as my sample exhibits obvious selection biases.

  87. “high-status visiting speaker”

    This. I held some trainings for beginner ERP consultants, mostly twenty-something gals right out of an accounting school and felt myself blushing all the time from all the flirtatious stares I got. A friend of mine called it the “elder monkey effect”: a teacher, lecturer, trainer gains a temporary status boost as long as the attention of the audience is focused on the topic at hand, i.e. they are interested in the lecture. He might be a beta male before and after the lecture but during the lecture he automatically assumes super-alpha status, he temporarily becomes elder monkey and pack leader, because the whole social dynamics or situation of N people sitting in room or hall for no other reason than to listen to what he has to say. This effect is enchanced in the hands-on lab kinds of trainings, where students don’t just listen but actually do stuff and the stuff they do is an imitation of what the teacher showed them.

    But this is only true when people are actually interested in the lecture – in the average high school, where most students couldn’t give less damn about math, a math teacher usually has to fight hard go gain even a tiny bit of respect. (Well either that or break the rules and hand out bad grades as a tool of intimidation – but that’s a wholly different topic…)

  88. > I’ve been happily married for five years and women still flirt with me all the time, though I may not be a perfect physical specimen, nor do I exude the “bad boy” image. I’m just quirky, different, funny, and most importantly self-confident.

    Absurdly I get this reversed. I don’t act self-confident around my wife, because I know she knows all my flaws, but I do act self-confident around women at work, because I know my stuff there. I’ve got to remember to reverse that. The best result for me is to be wildly attractive to my wife and not at all attractive to any other woman.

    Yours,
    Tom

  89. Men with any decent grasp of psychology understand this, Jessica. Monster may be among them; his phrasing doesn’t exclude the possibility.

    Indeed:

    No matter how much women claim to want sensitive, caring mates, they seem to go for the “bad boy” far too often.

    My point is that women will say that they want certain things above others, but their actions belie those claims. They are programmed by their genes and memes (again, not specifying how much of each) to go for men that we would consider to be bad for them.

  90. >He might be a beta male before and after the lecture but during the lecture he automatically assumes super-alpha status, he temporarily becomes elder monkey and pack leader

    I like the term “elder monkey effect” and will adopt it. I get a slightly different and perhaps stronger version than you’re seeing, because I don’t revert to beta male after my lectures.

  91. The best result for me is to be wildly attractive to my wife and not at all attractive to any other woman.

    Why? There is nothing wrong with being attractive to other women, even if your intentions are to be completely monogamous. unless you entirely lack self-control, that is. ;)

  92. > Why? There is nothing wrong with being attractive to other women, even if your intentions are to be completely monogamous. unless you entirely lack self-control, that is. ;)

    A divorce would ruin my life. Being not at all attractive to other women costs me nothing I want and dramatically reduces the risk of something I don’t want.

    Yours,
    Tom

  93. There is nothing wrong with being attractive to other women, even if your intentions are to be completely monogamous. unless you entirely lack self-control, that is

    You clearly have never had to deal with a woman with an imagination. If she sees that other women are attracted to you, she can figure out the rest. Whether you actually do anything won’t matter if she’s made up her mind you’re guilty.

  94. @Shenpen

    Because girls are way less cruel than boys, the girl into car racing will only be shunned and excluded by other girls but not bullied or beaten.

    I must disagree. Girls engage in the same status-competition behaviors as boys, but the expression of those behaviors is typically more subtle. Whereas men will engage in various chest-beating rituals, women tend to undercut each other and exclude them from the group, which is much more psychologically damaging to the target of derision.

    I always find it humorous when I read some of the more radical feminist literature that laments, “If there only no men…” Women are just as mean to each other, possible more so, based on personal observation.

  95. esr Says:

    > One of the things I get reminded of when I do speaking gigs at colleges is that for some women, “quirky, different, funny,
    > and most importantly self-confident” plus “high-status visiting speaker” can combine in a sufficiently potent way to
    > override the social norm that you’re not supposed to be flirtatious at someone old enough to be your daddy. Can’t say
    > how common this is, as my sample exhibits obvious selection biases.

    Tom Wolfe has said the same thing (sorry I cannot find the citation in a 30-second search), and he is old enough to be _your_ father.

  96. You clearly have never had to deal with a woman with an imagination. If she sees that other women are attracted to you, she can figure out the rest. Whether you actually do anything won’t matter if she’s made up her mind you’re guilty.

    My wife has an imagination. She simply trusts me.

  97. The best response to the “If only there were no men…” whine that I have seen is Fred Reed’s, “Without men, civilization would last until the oil needed changing.”

  98. @Matt

    “will only be shunned and excluded by other girls but not bullied or beaten”

    “tend to undercut each other and exclude them from the group”

    Good, so you disagree with my opinion by repeating almost exactly what I wrote? :-)

    BTW yes, nevertheless I think I grok what you were driving at and kind of agree: replace “less cruel” with “less violent”.

  99. @ Nancy:
    “I’ve read somewhat about American women being extremely perfectionistic. When I mentioned this to my therapist, he said he’d seen comparable problems with perfectionism in his male patients.”

    That says more about the kind of guy that is willing to go to a shrink voluntarily, than anything else.

    @Re: compiler bugs

    Reminds me of the one time I did find a bug in the version of perl I had. It treated null characters in the code as characters. Null characters however do not appear in the text. Took me a couple days to figure out what was wrong, as the code “should have worked perfectly.”

  100. For someone who is slightly intrigued in trying a tabletop war game (especially one of the crunchy-stat-oriented kind from the good old days), what would be a good (preferably inexpensive) introduction to the genre?

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