Wednesday, August 20, 2008

hostile metrics...

While countering a blog post (#25) about men's involuntary glances at women, I raised an equally involuntary tendency of women to "test" men.   

The primary goal of such tests seems to be to present a problem that appears to have a simple logical answer, but in fact has no correct logical answer (i.e. a trap). A simple example would be the notorious question "Does this make me look fat?"

I started thinking about evolutionary advantages and motivations for such behavior...

Assume that reproductive resources are scarce and they have high cost and intrinsic value for both sexes.  Anytime there are scare resources worth having, there are at least a few general success-strategies: fight, lie or wait.  

Let's focus on "lying" as a strategy.  Imagine a selection environment rich with liars who are trying to misrepresent their true value. Women who can't detect the liars from the nonliars are selected against evolutionarily speaking.   So the goal is to find a metric that can distinguish liars from non-liars.  But how could we do this?

We can't test with simple logic, because they'll lie ("Are you a liar?" "No. Of course not.").   But what about attacking the premise of a lie instead?   The general premise of a lie in this context would be to please the prospective mate. 

So here's an interesting idea... frame the concept of a "test" so that any logical answer or pleasing answer by definition fails. Now, apply the "test" to prospective mates and watch the reaction according to the following:

1) If the male responds with logic, there is always a negative answer that will assert he is wrong, i.e. this allows the test to be chained -- continue testing until he doesn't.  

2) If the male ignores the test, he's not interested or not attentive enough.  This lowers confidence -- test again.

3) However, if the male doesn't ignore the test, but responds without logic (non-sequitor, humorous response) in an unexpected but interesting way, this is interesting. He's potentially demonstrated that he is attentive, but is not saying things simply to please his mate.   This raises confidence -- test again.

What's interesting about this idea is that it doesn't define an end.  This is a continual testing process that merely raises or lowers confidence.  It can adapt over time.  Of course, I don't know that women really use this process, but it is an interesting hypothesis.

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