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Overthinking Carol
July 22, 2009 9:57 PM   Subscribe

The Carol Syndrome "Carol's perception that she scares men away is not a delusion after all. … It is not a matter of bad luck but a collateral effect of interactive rationality. A paradoxical consequence is that Carol's attractiveness acts as a repellent." Game theory (mis?)applied to dating.

Dating and 'mate selection' are a popular choice for game theorists: there's the Eligible Bachelor Paradox, Nash equilibria as an explanation for male students' keg-party behavior, and an analysis of dating strategies (including the 'Idealistic Love Strategy w/ Time Restriction' and 'Advanced Young Love Strategy'). Still, others have competing theories. (Via HN)
posted by Kadin2048 (73 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
reminder that game theory only usefully predicts the behavior of game theorists and psychopaths
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:02 PM on July 22, 2009 [33 favorites]


As an ugly, unsociable and available man, I find the eligible bachelor paradox really depressing.
posted by idiopath at 10:15 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


> game theorists and psychopaths

Am I the only one who read this and immediately pictured a Vehn diagram?
posted by mosk at 10:17 PM on July 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


er..."Venn"....
posted by mosk at 10:18 PM on July 22, 2009


Tragically, pretty girls are bad at math, so they'll never really understand this.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:21 PM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


From the first link:
The assumption that everyone behaves rationally may seem slightly unrealistic, but it's crucial in the game theoretical approach, since mathematics can't account for someone behaving irrationally or against their own interest.
"All right fellas, we've finally finished the grand unification theory. We weren't able to account for gravity, so it's pretty safe to say it doesn't exist. If anyone asks why things fall down, tell them a wizard did it."
posted by Riki tiki at 10:24 PM on July 22, 2009 [48 favorites]


If anyone asks why things fall down, tell them a wizard did it."

Well it works for Kent Hovind.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:25 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tragically, pretty girls are bad at math, so they'll never really understand this.
--Ambrosia Voyeur

What are you talking about? You're good at math.
posted by eye of newt at 10:30 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


In college I named this the "must-be-somebody's-baby syndrome," and resolved being afflicted with it by growing a pair and asking out anybody I was interested in, and not being a baby about the occasional rejection. Looks like the math holds up- I'm rarely turned down!
posted by tumbleweedjack at 10:31 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I learned the Traditional Marriage Algorithm as a freshman in a CS class, it really radicalized me in unexpected ways.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:48 PM on July 22, 2009


The Carol Syndrome wouldn't be hard to test and, I suspect, disprove.

Get a sample of women, and ask a hundred men to report how attractive they find each woman, thus generating an average-perceived-attractiveness for each woman in the sample.

Then ask each woman to go and hang out in a coffee shop or cocktail bar for an hour or two, and then count how many times men approach them. It shouldn't be hard to see if extremely attractive women get hit on significantly less, more, or the same as the other women.

In fact, next time you're in a bar, it's so easy to just observe how often the really good looking women get hit on, as opposed to women who are slightly less attractive.

The game theory in the article is an interesting mental exercise--but surely some reference to non-anecdotal evidence wouldn't be hard to gather.

From my personal observations: when I'm with a female friend who is extremely good looking, I know that if I get up to go to the bar or bathroom, it's about even money that when I come back, I'll have to chase a guy away.

One of my closest friends is sweet, intelligent and caring and would be a wonderful catch for any guy, but isn't really good-looking to most guys. She's heavier than most people and her face looks a bit masculine. It's a source of disappointment to both of us that she's almost never been hit on.

When people talk about extrememly attractive women not getting hit on, I suspect they mean that really good-looking women get hit on less than we would expect, not less than other women.
posted by surenoproblem at 10:56 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


These articles don't address the most important question, which is what the hell am I doing wrong?
posted by little e at 11:01 PM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


All I took away from that article is that Uma Thurman can't get a date.
posted by Ritchie at 11:11 PM on July 22, 2009


I would imagine this is where playaz / abusers / drug-addict guys fit in, because they don't consider the outcomes of (a), (b), and (c), so Carol has to resign herself to one night stands and dysfunctional relationships.
posted by crapmatic at 11:16 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Funny that no one has cited the 37% rule, a.k.a. the classical stopping problem. How many candidates do you examine before picking the next candidate better than any of the previous ones?

Having to wade through 37% of the pool and then having only a 37% chance of picking the optimum candidate is pretty poor odds. This is why I decided to avoid pure math.

The applied mathematician's point of view is that an approximate solution is good enough. This paper, "Searching for the next best mate" shows via Monte Carlo simulation that sampling 9 to 12 applicants and choosing the next best one can get you into the top 75% to 90% of the pool, with pool size from 100 to 1000.

Very dry stuff, I know. However, this is where it gets interesting: I described both of these references in my Match.com profile [no URLs allowed], then proceeded to date several women.

A year later, the woman I'm about to move in with is the one who actually Googled for the papers, read them, and asked intelligent questions about them when answering my email.
posted by Araucaria at 11:22 PM on July 22, 2009 [22 favorites]


surenoproblem, I think you are correct, but the setting certainly plays a role. People go to bars largely to meet people. A woman advertises, implies, or suggests availability simply by being there. Potential suitors who may otherwise be scared off are less intimidated by the perception that a woman is available. Alcohol plays a role as well.

If you could apply the same test to other common meeting places, but places for whom the primary intent wasn't social, you might see the Carol Syndrome pop up. I am thinking grocery stores, laundromats.
posted by Xoebe at 11:30 PM on July 22, 2009


I have so little sympathy for this situation that some new mathematical expression needs to be invented to represent it accurately. Guys don't approach you because you're too beautiful and you scare them away? Cry me a river. All you have to do to fix this situation is approach them - and when you do it, you will have fantastic odds and be able to choose nearly anyone you want. It's like complaining about being too rich.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


Oh. So that's why I never get hit on by anyone. Intimidatingly beautiful, that's it.
posted by qvantamon at 11:45 PM on July 22, 2009


Tragically, pretty girls are bad at math, so they'll never really understand this.

Oh dear. Really? Are we really doing this here?
posted by surenoproblem at 12:18 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's what I tell myself too, qvantamon. Except I'm pretty decent at math, so by AV's lemma, I clearly can't be pretty, so maybe *that*'s the problem. Couldn't be my fault, no way.


And Riki tiki, you've hit on the precise reason I don't like mathematical economists. Really! All participants in the global marketplace are rational actors!
posted by nat at 12:22 AM on July 23, 2009


The applied mathematician's point of view is that an approximate solution is good enough. This paper, "Searching for the next best mate" shows via Monte Carlo simulation that sampling 9 to 12 applicants and choosing the next best one can get you into the top 75% to 90% of the pool, with pool size from 100 to 1000.

Why anyone would date someone who does Monte Carlo simulations instead of just doing the actual math, I do not know.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:40 AM on July 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh dear. Really? Are we really doing this here?

*points sureno to photographs of the person who said it*
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:40 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


As striking as it may appear, the syndrome is often reported by attractive women and men.

And those people are either lying or delusional.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:44 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Simple solution: Just get fat.

--

But really, why don't these girls just ask guys out? I mean, what guy would turn down a beautiful girl?

Oh dear. Really? Are we really doing this here?

Hey, she was being ironically sexist. Everyone knows that doesn't count!
posted by delmoi at 12:51 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Very dry stuff, I know. However, this is where it gets interesting: I described both of these references in my Match.com profile [no URLs allowed], then proceeded to date several women.

A year later, the woman I'm about to move in with is the one who actually Googled for the papers, read them, and asked intelligent questions about them when answering my email.


My guess is that you're very good looking.
posted by delmoi at 12:53 AM on July 23, 2009


Why anyone would date someone who does Monte Carlo simulations instead of just doing the actual math, I do not know.

They sense the rough, world-conquering charm of the Monte Carlo simulation runner. But these relationships are bound for a messy demise when the terrible truth about the random number generator is discovered.

Anyway, "Carol" is a resource that costs a certain amount to pursue, but which drops sharply to worthlessness when other people horn in on it—and you are unable to present barriers to their entry. Phrased this way, is the result at all surprising? The use of relationships as metaphors for this stuff has always seem distracting and foolish to me.
posted by fleacircus at 1:47 AM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Gee, I find this odd.

Most of the most physically attractive women I know get hit on ceaselessly. They attract the most assertive and aggressive of men.

Somewhat attractive women I know get hit on too, by everyday guys.

Maybe this hypothetical "Carol" exists in the mid-range between the two. Not quite hot enough to attract the most aggressive men, but maybe a little too attractive for the Average Joe.

Or another way to look at it. A lot of guys will hit on the hottest woman in the room, you know "just in case." The chance of rejection will be worth it. A lot of guys will hit also hit on women who seem approachable, since their chances are deemed better.

The woman who pretty good looking (but not crazy-hot) may have less of a chance than either to get hit on.

Of course this is all relative. It really depends who is in the room, etc. etc.

Yes, I know it's flippant and extremely shallow hypothesizing.
posted by thisperon at 2:04 AM on July 23, 2009


The assumption that everyone behaves rationally may seem slightly unrealistic, but it's crucial in the game theoretical approach, since mathematics can't account for someone behaving irrationally or against their own interest.

RikiTiki said it smarter and funnier (as usual), but let me reiterate that this sentence was the analytical equivalent of comedy gold.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:25 AM on July 23, 2009


These articles don't address the most important question, which is what the hell am I doing wrong?

Well for starters, you have stopped posting in the surrealist thread. To the barricades, sister!
posted by Meatbomb at 3:58 AM on July 23, 2009


...and this is why statistics generally stays away from predicting what a specific individual will/should do. On the other hand, lets abuse it anyway!
posted by lizarrd at 5:03 AM on July 23, 2009


Grr, stupid enter button. I meant to add, that yes he's using probability only and not statistics, but it's the same assumption of rationality etc. On second thought: What RikiTiki said.
posted by lizarrd at 5:06 AM on July 23, 2009


They should have a study which measures how many times 'Carol' gets approached by a man, and evaluates and rejects him in a fraction of a second because his looks/hair/clothes are just not up to her standards. Then she projects body language (turning her back, not making eye contact) which is just as quickly received as a rejection by the man. No contact is made and to Carol it seems as though no one ever asks her out.
posted by digsrus at 5:13 AM on July 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


Heh? If the "strong bidders" in the "eligible bachelor paradox" are constantly looking over your shoulder to see if something better has walked in, they're not so desirable in my book.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:17 AM on July 23, 2009


Can somebody just explain to me how to choose a MetaFilter spouse?
posted by Shohn at 5:28 AM on July 23, 2009


Doesn't this also assume that men are only approaching women in coffee shops/bars, essentially cold calling them? Several men I know downright refuse to use bars as a way to meet women, instead choosing to meet women through activities and friends. This tends to take the cold calling aspect out of it completely.
posted by Captaintripps at 5:36 AM on July 23, 2009


For God's sake, if you are a woman and you are moderately attractive (or more) and you make eye contact with men and smile or dress mildly suggestively, you will be hit on until you don't know what to do with yourself. If you are an attractive woman and you don't make eye contact or smile, then you will get hit on far less. Carol doesn't make eye contact with men and smile or dress mildly suggestively, therefore she does not get hit on nearly as much.

Wow, that was difficult.
posted by flarbuse at 5:46 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Am I wrong in suspecting that the stupid dynamics of this stupid model are driven by the fact that if two suitors approach carol, they both have zero probability of a positive outcome? Not that this is necessarily a bad assumption. Maybe she becomes angered if two males approach and she eats them (outcome E, the lower bound). I have a hunch that with heterogeneous males and a slightly different stupid formulation, a wildly different stupid equilibrium could be obtained.
posted by ~ at 6:02 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that Carol should stop hanging out in meat-market bars and try meeting guys in real social situations. Besides, all guys are looking for in bars is a hook-up. Is that really what Carol wants?

I would like to note that a new micro-trend is really beautiful women with nerdy guys. Maybe they did the math?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:09 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know what's interesting is that despite my careful assessment above (to wit: this is stupid) I'm sitting here thinking it would be interesting if you plugged in a distribution of suitors of differing ability to assess their own value, and find that a high-value carol gets a bifurcated distribution of high- and low- ability suitors. So I took a profoundly moronic model, made it mathier, and suddenly find it interesting. And _that_ is everything you need to know about what is wrong with microeconomic theory (and theorists).
posted by ~ at 6:13 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


A drop in the anecdote bucket, but the most attractive woman I know (who is not incidentally the most attractive woman I have ever seen) definitely intimidates men away. Sometimes a guy tries to talk to her, but they usually end up a blubbering mess within a minute or so. Less if actually looks at them.

She's fun to hang out with for entertainment value. Poor men.
posted by rokusan at 6:25 AM on July 23, 2009


I would like to note that a new micro-trend is really beautiful women with nerdy guys.

In real life or in movies produced by nerdy guys?
posted by effbot at 6:42 AM on July 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


In real life or in movies produced by nerdy guys?

No! It's really more than just Seth Rogan.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:01 AM on July 23, 2009


Am I wrong in suspecting that the stupid dynamics of this stupid model are driven by the fact that if two suitors approach carol, they both have zero probability of a positive outcome?

"zero" is inaccurate but nevertheless...

so if both of 'em go for her, they're outta luck. if 1 guy goes for it & the other doesn't, he gets Carol, the other guy gets jealous and pissed. if they both stay away, they get to go someplace else & hit on women less stuck-up instead of the sitting-in-the-corner-hungry-for-attention type.

could this be?...

PD?

all roads lead to the prisoners' dilemma
posted by breadfruit at 7:01 AM on July 23, 2009


I think this is Kadin2048's subtle (or not-so-subtle) way of trying to get the ladies to ask him out.
posted by mathlete at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2009


Experimental evidence proves that this model is based on faulty premises, so I'm surprised Rey isn't embarrassed to publish this nonsense. It's like "oh I mathematically proved bees can't fly." Well, there's a flying bee right there, stupid. You are wrong.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:32 AM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


eye of newt:
What are you talking about? You're good at math.


Flagged for terrible internet flirting.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:47 AM on July 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


But is this related to Boom Syndrome, where Carol is so hot, she makes those around her sixist. Anecdotal evidence from this thread suggests yes.
posted by rusty at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2009


I've spoken to a couple of (smokin' hot IMO) female friends about this, and their conclusion was that this is why so many really attractive women are dating assholes.

Their supposition is that "nice guys" are often shy or too polite to interrupt them, etc. So they get approached by a very few confident guys and a much larger number of arrogant or cocky guys who simply don't care about setting themselves up to get knocked down, and who'll keep pursuing girls after they've said no.
posted by metaBugs at 8:00 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Am I wrong in suspecting that the stupid dynamics of this stupid model are driven by the fact that if two suitors approach carol, they both have zero probability of a positive outcome?

"zero" is inaccurate but nevertheless...


How's that? (I don't know if you think I misunderstood the model, which is eminently possible, or you're making a dumb math point about sets of measure zero or something.)

The setup seems to stipulate this:

"Assume that Guy thinks that he will get (a) only if no one else approaches Carol..."
posted by ~ at 8:14 AM on July 23, 2009


Don't hate the player -- hate the game theory.
posted by LordSludge at 8:30 AM on July 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Look, Carol, I'm just not that into you, OK?
posted by Phanx at 8:40 AM on July 23, 2009


As entertaining as this all may be, aren't we missing something? I.e., the value of the derivative of people's desirability curve over time?

Stereotypically speaking, men's stock tends to go up as they age, or at least it does far longer than women's does. If a guy waits until he's out of college/got a career/done being a jackass/what-have-you, his desirability tends to go up quite dramatically, to the point that he can be successful "picking off" "strong bidder" women who are younger than he is. This can at least theoretically continue well into a guy's thirties, as his status and material security continues to mature. The longer a guy waits, the more likely he is to find that perfect match, because the longer he waits, the "stronger" his "bid" becomes.

But the longer a "strong bidder" woman waits, the less likely she is to find that perfect guy, because the most desirable men can find someone with the same "package", as it were, but who is also younger than she is. Yeah, it's sexist, but fertility matters for a lot of people, and it starts to drop off as women pass 35.

In short: Men compete with the men who came before, guys older than they are. Women compete with the women who are coming after, girls younger than they are. This disparity should throw a serious monkey wrench in the game theories described above. At the very least, none of the theories there seem to take this into account.

Unpleasant, yeah, but that does seem to be the way it works.

Please don't shoot the messenger. I'm not arguing that this is the way it ought to be, only suggesting that it's the way things actually are.
posted by valkyryn at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why anyone would date someone who does Monte Carlo simulations instead of just doing the actual math, I do not know.

Because you can't make a typical woman's name from any anagram of "Math".

I mean, I suppose it's possible there could be a hot model from Nairobi named Maht, but who would ever hit on a girl named Thma?
posted by rokusan at 9:01 AM on July 23, 2009


I mean, I suppose it's possible there could be a hot model from Nairobi named Maht, but who would ever hit on a girl named Thma?

Did I ever tell you about my girlfriend, Htam?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:20 AM on July 23, 2009


I think a lot of people skipped the part of the article where it said Carol was both beautiful AND intelligent. It's not doing the math of drunken hookups with the hottest chick in the bar, it's men assessing their chances with a woman who is perceived as extremely desirable in the context of society as a whole.
posted by fshgrl at 9:41 AM on July 23, 2009


So, wait, if I start with false premises I can mathematically prove that my irrational behavior is rational?
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on July 23, 2009


I'm smart, funny, gorgeous. The total package. And yet I'm single! How paradoxical! My awesomosity must be too intimidating. It's really the only explanation.
posted by Zed at 9:48 AM on July 23, 2009


So...it turns out that studies on who gets approached in singles bars have been done. And, guess what? "Attractive women were not approached more often--or for longer periods of time--than unattractive women."

So, score one for game theory, nil for Metafilter anecdata.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


The setup seems to stipulate this:

"Assume that Guy thinks that he will get (a) only if no one else approaches Carol..."


Seems more like:
"Assume that Guy thinks that he will get (a) only if no one else BETTER approaches Carol..."

...which I can personally refute -- even when I'm in the mood to think very highly of myself AND I'm getting overt invitations (smiles, glances, strong eye contact, the works), I'll *still* usually just chill with my friends rather than deal with the approach anxiety. I think David DeAngelo & Co. explain this much better via the lens of evolutionary psychology.

Yeah, read through this article again, and... really not feelin' the theory... It's chock full of lousy assumptions and misses about 99% the reality. The good ole "Mystery Method" model is light-years beyond this. But, hey, always fun to talk about this stuff, and great to see such a hugely important aspect of human relations getting more study.
posted by LordSludge at 9:56 AM on July 23, 2009


Can somebody just explain to me how to choose a MetaFilter spouse?

Right here, baby.

Seriously, though, I've seen this happen my entire life, where once a woman passes some arbitrary threshold of attractiveness, then the only guys who'll be willing to hit on her are assholes from the Jersey Shore and the like. (Note: I'm sure that there are some decent guys who grew up on the Jersey Shore, and I hope to one day meet at least just one of them.)

I would like to note that a new micro-trend is really beautiful women with nerdy guys. Maybe they did the math?

Nope (well, maybe a few of us did). Shortly before leaving office, Pres. Clinton signed an Executive Order which finally permitted nerds, dorks, geeks and dweebs access to the nation's Confidence Warehouses, which had previously been denied to us. The same Order allowed attractive women to be actively and openly interested in geeky things, and so the two groups met and were able to hit it off.

Alternatively, women stopped marrying at 20 so much, and so disrespect and fart jokes moved significantly down the list of what they look for from a mate. Just a thought.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 AM on July 23, 2009


...I actually came up with a better explanation for myself for why I'm still single and do not often get hit on. To wit: I am unlucky in love on a cosmically epic level. No matter what I do or don't do, and no matter what anyone else does or doesn't do, it just plain won't matter because fate is already aligned against it, because I'm just that plumb unlucky. If Aphrodite were real, she'd be mooning me.

Ironically, this has been a liberating attitude to take, because rather than fretting about what I should and shouldn't do, or what someone is or isn't going to do, or trying to apply this theory or that theory to try to predict behavior and increase my odds, I've been able to just shrug and say, "fuck it, I'll do what I want because it's not gonna matter anyway and I may as well have some fun."

It's worked a hell of a lot better for me than trying to apply game theory to the situation, and it makes about as much damn sense....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:22 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The relevant scene from A Beautiful Mind, which I suppose could be considered a kind of rebuttal.
posted by dhartung at 11:14 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Relevant xkcd as a rebuttal to A Beautiful Fucking Mind*

disclaimer: A Beautiful Mind is a terrible, terrible film. No offense intended towards dhartung.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2009


Rational fools!
posted by munchbunch at 12:01 PM on July 23, 2009


The reason this fails is not because it is wrong, but because it assumes two things that are wrong: a) all the men have an identical value to Carol, and b) men behave rationally with respect to assessing their value to Carol.

In reality, some men are more likely to be accepted by Carol than others, and men assess their value to her incorrectly most of the time. If this model was deeper with respect to how men see their chances, I'm sure it would be correct. Super-valuable women will only be approached by men who deem themselves super-valuable (correctly or not).

That's hot.
posted by bone machine at 12:22 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


bone machine knows the math for this sort of thing.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:27 PM on July 23, 2009


The reason this fails is not because it is wrong, but because it assumes two things that are wrong: a) all the men have an identical value to Carol, and b) men behave rationally with respect to assessing their value to Carol.

There's oodles of real-world observational data to show that both of those assumptions are broadly correct. That is, people's perceptions of "attractiveness" agree far more than they disagree (endless internet "really? You think she's hot? I see way hotter people in the supermarket every day!" arguments notwithstanding). And yes, by and large men are motivated slightly more by the fear of rejection than they are by the possible rewards of getting a date with a woman who is "out of their league."

That's part of why there is, in fact, a very strong correlation between the attractiveness of spouses. Of course, we all know of Aphrodite/Hephaistos counterexamples, but overall, people who are regarded as highly attractive end up with other highly attractive people and people who are regarded as unattractive end up with unattractive people.
posted by yoink at 12:34 PM on July 23, 2009


@yoink:

Carol will likely find man A more acceptable for dating than man B. Show me a woman who doesn't have dating preferences, and I'll show you a girl who doesn't exist.

Additionally, men may be generally motivated more by fear of rejection than possible rewards, I won't argue that. When I said "behave rationally" I meant specifically with regards to their assessment of her preferences. They may either assume that their qualities are less valuable to her than they are (undervaluing themselves), and make the chances of approaching even weaker, or assume that they are more valuable (overvalue themselves) and make the chances stronger. Find me a man who can accurately assess what the pretty girl sitting at the end of the bar wants, and how well he fits that mold, without actually speaking to her, and... yah. Not happening.

I was particularly thinking of what @metaBugs was talking about upthread - the decreased likelihood of being approached by guys who are less confident and the increased likelihood of being approached by asshats who think they're all that. And the occasional approach by guys who are all that.

The dual assumptions that Carol will pick randomly from among the men who approach her, and that men approaching her are also assuming this, is monstrously shallow.

It's a fun thing to contemplate though.
posted by bone machine at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2009


See also: requisite xkcd strip on dating
posted by Lush at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2009


And the ridiculous thing is that, at least among many of the economists I've seen, the theorist would think that the confusing part of this, demanding explanation, is not why the model they made doesn't explain people, but why people don't act like the model predicts they would.
posted by Schismatic at 2:05 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord. I totally linked to the wrong youtube above, and now it's way too irrelevant to fix, but leaving it alone gives the impression that I am completely insane.

I don't know what to do!

Ok, here: Anyone that got my Conchords reference and didn't click the link because you already knew what the video was, pretend it was that one. Anyone who clicked the link, please understand that I am completely insane.
posted by rusty at 2:09 PM on July 23, 2009


The dual assumptions that Carol will pick randomly from among the men who approach her, and that men approaching her are also assuming this, is monstrously shallow.

No one is assuming that she "picks randomly." What the model assumes is that men will rate their chances of success with Carol based on an assessment of her attractiveness and their own attractiveness. What real-world observation (you know, lots of grad students sitting in singles bars scribbling surreptitiously in notebooks) shows is that, in fact, women who--on average--are rated as highly attractive will be approached by men who--on average--are rated as highly attractive. In other words, the model here is basically correct. Men who might, in fact, have a shot with Carol if she got to know them, will assess her as "out of their league" and protect themselves from the unpleasantness of being shot down rather than approach her.

Does Carol have preferences not related to attractiveness? Of course. She loves country and western or she won't go out with anyone who isn't a fellow Birther or whatever--but those things are basically random. The "matching principle"--as it is known--asserts itself pretty steadily and predictably over the field as a whole.

I know we all like to think that we're above such things or that what really bonds us together is our deep mutual love of spelunking or whatever, but these patterns obviously don't emerge at random.
posted by yoink at 2:12 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


yoink: she won't go out with anyone who isn't a fellow Birther

So that's what they mean when they say the mathematics can't account for irrational actors!
posted by Riki tiki at 2:41 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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