BECOME THE MAN WOMEN WANT
13th of October 2014

How To Be Attractive To Women, Pt.2: Signalling Attractive Traits

Introduction:

Signalling is one of the most important things you need to understand about communication, and in fact, it is the foundation that everything else is built upon. Almost everything that we’re going to tell you about sex and dating is about the signals you’re sending out or how you should interpret signals other people are sending out, and this episode tells you what you need to know.

Podcast:


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Key takeaways:

  • Everything you wear, everything you do, every gesture you make, your body language, the things you say, these are all perceived by women and then women make judgments about you and who you are. Everyone does this to everyone. Men to men, women to women, father to son, mother to daughter. Everyone reads the signals you send out and makes judgments and perceptions of you based on it. Signals are essentially anything you use to convey information.
  • The most important area where signals are used between animals is mating. Signals matter in mating because both women and men are looking to mate with other people of high quality, regardless of if they are looking for something short-term or long-term.
  • Almost everything that we’re going to tell you about sex and dating, all the advice in some way, shape or form, is about the signals you’re sending out or how people are interpreting them or how you should interpret signals other people are sending out. This podcast episode is foundational knowledge. It is the substrate that lays under the house that you’re going to build of your mating success or lack thereof if you don’t listen to us.
  • The best way to signal is to develop the traits and then reliably signal them. This is a fundamental difference between our approach and the standard PUA/Seduction community approach. A lot of what that community teaches is faking the signals of quality, whereas we’re about cultivating the genuine quality traits and cultivating reliable ways to show them off to women.
  • Signals are the ways people communicate traits. The best signals are the ones that are honest and very difficult to fake. Signals are said to be honest when they reliably correspond to an underlying trait or fact. Otherwise, they’re dishonest or deceptive.
  • Whenever you can signal something honestly, there’s always going to be an incentive to lie about it. So, with all signalling, you have to understand that there are signals, there are deception signals, and there is a constant arms race to evolve ways to get past a deception. Signaling is so important for us because we have a way to signal that is really easy to fake: words. Anyone can say anything. Because it’s easy to fake, it’s always better to demonstrate a trait than to claim it verbally
  • An example of a hard to fake way to signal intelligence is humor. You can’t fake humor, you’re either funny or you’re not. Humor signals mental acuity, social intelligence, emotional stability, and lack of sociopathology. Another example would be making a bunch of money or creating a company that succeeds – you can’t fake that. For a lot of women, it’s not really about the money. The money is a signal of underlying traits that matter to them. It’s the ability to make money; the intelligence, conscientiousness, imagination.
  • Another reliable signal is conspicuous waste. The point of luxury goods is not actually to bring pleasure to the wealthy. It’s to show how much money they can burn. It’s a reliable signal because if you’re poor you can’t afford it. You. That applies to houses, vehicles, clothing, jewelry, education, anything you can imagine.
  • The receivers of the signals, the audience paying attention to the signals, they’re always trying to figure out is this cheap talk? Is it fakery? Is it mimicry? Or is it the real thing? Is it the real, underlying trait? Evolution always ends up at this kind of dynamic balance point between honesty and deception. There’s always a little bit of deception around the edges, but basically, if a signal has lasted for a while in evolution, it is conveying reliable information most of the time. That’s why the best signals in nature, the most honest ones, tend to be expensive. Because an expensive signal is very hard to fake. When we say expensive, we’re talking about the biological currency of energy, calories, matter, what your body is made out of, how hard it is to get the stuff to create the ornament.
  • Signals convey status, signals convey your ability to be a partner to women, and signals convey your ability to care for her and her offspring, to be a father essentially. That’s another problem where most dating advice falls short. Most dating advice for guys only focuses on how to signal high status, and normally how to fake high status, but the main three things that women are looking for in terms of signals are status, partnership, and fatherhood. Which is why we tell guys all the time, you can be really low-status. You can be a 22-year-old with no job and not many prospects and you can still signal great partnership and great potential fatherhood and still do really well.
  • There’s many, many traits that attract women and for each given trait, there’s many, many different ways to signal it, to display it in a hard to fake way. Most guys overspecialize. They figure out in high school, “Hey, I’ve got one or two traits that I’m a little above average, and I’m going to just go with those,” and they overspecialize and they invest in developing those and then they neglect everything else. Or, they develop a certain set, a narrow stereotype of ways to display their traits, like they go, “Hey, I’m bright. I’m good at chess. I’m going to become a chess genius. That’ll get the girls.” No. They need to take some improv comedy classes and learn other ways to display their intelligence.

Links from this episode

Podcast Audio Transcription:

Tucker:
So, we’ve talked about, on previous podcasts, over and over…we’ve mentioned the word signaling. We’ve talked very specifically about how everything you wear, everything you do, every gesture you make, your body language, the things you say, these are all perceived by women and then women make judgments about you and who you are. Let’s be real clear. Everyone does this to everyone. Men to men, women to women, father to son, mother to daughter. Everyone reads the signals you send out and makes judgments and perceptions of you based on it. That’s just the way humans interact.

Geoff:
It’s not just narcissists. It’s not just extroverts. It’s everybody signaling all the time.

Tucker:
Exactly. That’s just the way that we interact. So, we’ve talked about signaling in the abstract, but I think what a lot of people don’t realize is we’re not just saying that in the abstract. There is a massive body of research about what signals are, how they’re interpreted, how people use them, how animals use them, how humans use them, and specifically mating signals in general. Right? Basically, this is foundational knowledge. Almost everything that we’re going to tell you about sex and dating, all the advice in some way, shape or form, is about the signals you’re sending out or how people are interpreting them or how you should interpret signals other people are sending out. This podcast episode is foundational knowledge. It is the substrate that lays under the house that you’re going to build of your mating success or lack thereof if you don’t listen to us. So, you need to understand this. You agree?

Geoff:
Yeah. It’s absolutely fundamental. Everything you do that women pay attention to they interpret as a signal of some underlying trait that you have, and everything they do you interpret as a signal of something about the woman. So, if you understand signaling, you understand a lot of human mating.

Tucker:
Signaling is what you’re going to lay all this information we’re going to give you on top of. Let’s take a step back for a second, then. So, what are signals and why do they matter? The basic idea in literature and research is that in biology – and also in other fields; economics, any number of other fields, but we’re talking about biology – honesty is understood in terms of signals. So, basically, what animals do is they communicate about themselves to the external world, mainly other animals, through signaling. Signals are essentially anything you use to convey information. Let’s get immediately into examples. What are some really good examples of animal signaling?

Geoff:
Well, the really fundamental thing is when prey signal to predators, “Hey. I’m not worth eating because I’m poisonous or I’m so fast you can’t catch me.” So, a lot of little caterpillars crawling across a leaf, they’re toxic.

Tucker:
And the toxic ones are always super bright.

Geoff:
And they’re super bright. They’ve got warning coloration. There’s no point in being a toxic caterpillar who’s going to make a predator sick if you don’t fucking tell them to deter them from eating you. So, that’s what warning coloration is. But as soon as you get warning coloration from one caterpillar, there’s incentive for other caterpillars to fake it. To pretend to be toxic with the same warning coloration even if they’re not.

Tucker:
Almost every single poisonous snake has…

Geoff:
…A mimic.

Tucker:
A mimic snake. Right. Exactly. So, what are some other good examples? Gazelles are a really good example

Geoff:
So, on the plains of the African Savanna, where humans evolved, a lot of predators. Lions chasing gazelles, right? So, what do gazelles do if they see a lion spotted them and is stalking them? They’ll do something called stotting, which is bouncing up really high in the air. It looks bizarre. Why would they do this? Well, it’s a signal that says, “I’m healthy. I’m fit. I can jump high. I can run fast. Don’t even bother chasing me.” Then, it’s in the lion’s interest to pay attention to the signal, to go, “Oh, hey. That gazelle is conspicuously healthy and fast. I’m going to target another gazelle.”

Tucker:
Old, weak, slow.

Geoff:
Old, weak, slow, young, whatever. So, weirdly, although the predator and prey are kind of in an arm’s race, it’s actually in their mutual interest to have reliable signaling. The lion doesn’t want to waste time chasing a healthy gazelle.

Tucker:
It wastes resources. Energy.

Geoff:
Yeah. Calories, energy. And the gazelle doesn’t want to go through the whole rigmarole of being chased, even if it knows…

Tucker:
‘Cause it wastes energy. Exactly. So, they’re both better off. Understand that signals are anything used to communicate, to convey information between parties. Here’s what’s very important: honesty. Signals are the way that you convey honesty. Meaning exactly like you said. It’s a reliable, conspicuous signal for a gazelle to…what’s it called, stotting? I thought they were just prancing or whatever. But for them to hop around, because if you’ve got a broken leg or you’re weak or old, you can’t do it. It’s just not possible. So, it’s a reliable signal, because there’s no way to fake that. So, let me tell you some other categories that animals signal. So, chicks will signal to parents for investment, right?

Geoff:
Yeah. Baby birds in a nest. They’re kind of competing with their siblings to get fed the worm from mamma bird or papa bird. So, papa bird comes back to the nest with a worm, and he’s kind of making an unconscious decision, “Which of my offspring are most worth investing in? Most likely to survive?” What the chicks do is they evolve these big gapes, big mouths, bright coloration inside the mouth that basically says, “I’m big and I’m healthy and I’m going to survive, and so I’m worth investing in. My loser siblings are small and have a dull gape. They’re going to die anyway. Or I’ll kick them out of the nest, actually. So, give me the worm. Invest in me.” But a lot of what human children do is actually showing off. “Hey, Mom. Look at me. Look what I can do. I’m worth investing in.”

Tucker:
So, we’ve got predator-prey, parent-children. What about group signals? I think a good example is maybe wildebeests, the way that the big ones will be on the outside with horns out? They don’t prance. They’re just like, “Alright, lion. Come fuck with us, ‘because we’ll fuck you up.” Something like that, right?

Geoff:
Yeah. Or even better coordinated, like primate groups like baboons, where the adult alpha males will be in the front of the troop, sort of lining off to face a rival troop. If they all bare their fangs, their canines together, and they all look big and they puff out their fur, that’s a formidable group display. You can see that in human gangs, human warfare. It’s not just about the health and formidability of each individual. It’s also how well-coordinated they are with each other.

Tucker:
That’s like the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks. They do that Maori dance. Like, literally, it’s almost exactly like a baboon display. It’s pretty cool to watch and it’s pretty intimidating, like, you watch that and you’re like alright, these guys are kind of badasses.

Geoff:
Do you want to talk about signaling to individual rivals? Like, male formidability? Like, fighters or?

Tucker:
Yeah. So, that’s another way to signal. Gorillas do that. Like, a silverback has a harem, sort of a rival. Silverback without a harem comes up and so how do they signal? They run at them, pounding their chests, literally. Correct me if I’m wrong. I thought what they’re listening to, isn’t it a lot of times, the pitch of the beat? ‘Cause you can tell how essentially strong and muscular and healthy and vibrant a silverback is by the pitch of the pounding, or something like that.

Geoff:
Yeah. Generally, larger animals produce lower-pitched sounds, whether they’re doing a vocal display like a big guy talking with a deep voice or whether it’s a gorilla pounding on the chest. They’ll fluff themselves up. A lot of primate males stand up on two legs to look taller.

Tucker:
Gorillas, they run at you on two legs, right?

Geoff:
Yeah. Also, intimidating your sexual rivals. The whole point is not to have to fight them. Animals hate fighting if they can avoid it, so there’s a lot of signaling where you’re sort of showing, “I’m formidable. Don’t fuck with me, ‘because you’ll lose.” A lot of face-offs where guys get into it at a bar is about signaling, “Hey, I don’t want to fight you really, but if we do…”

Tucker:
Anyone in self-defense will tell you this. Anyone. Anyone in self-defense will tell you the only way to know you’re going to win a fight is to not get in a fight. You never want to get in a fight, not because you can’t win it, but because in a fight, anything can happen. Once you’ve engaged in that, anything can happen and you’re at risk whereas if you’re not in a fight, there’s no risk. Your point is to minimize risk. Anyone who teaches actual effective self-defense will tell you that. No doubt.

Geoff:
Yeah. And there was a cool paper last year that looked at face-offs before MMA competitions that showed if one of the opponents kind of smiles in a slightly submissive way to the other opponent, they’re a lot more likely to lose the subsequent match. So, even the face-offs convey reliable signals about confidence.

Tucker:
The smile’s more of an indication of unconscious internal belief about your opponent. That’s less about signaling. The face-off itself is a ritualized signal. The smile’s a reflection of internal belief.

Geoff:
Yeah. Or lack of belief, in this case. Anxiety.

Tucker:
Right. Exactly. Alright, so the point of signals are to convey information, right? Of course. A signal is a function of honesty. Signals are said to be honest when they reliably correspond to an underlying trait or fact about that animal. Otherwise, they’re dishonest or deceptive, which brings us to the last point that you have to understand about signaling. Whenever you can signal something honestly, there’s always going to be an incentive to lie about it. So, like, mimic animals. If I can be a caterpillar that can look like a poisonous caterpillar but doesn’t produce a poison, I actually have an advantage over the poisonous caterpillar because I don’t allocate resources to producing poison. So, with all signaling, you have to understand that there are signals, there are deception signals, and there is a constant arms’ race to evolve ways to get past a deception, to defeat the deception. Whether you’re talking about humans, lions, it doesn’t matter. Right? Correct?

Geoff:
Yeah. The receivers of the signals, the audience paying attention to the signals, they’re always trying to figure out is this cheap talk? Is it fakery? Is it mimicry? Or is it the real thing? Is it the real, underlying trait? Evolution always ends up at this kind of dynamic balance point between honesty and deception. There’s always a little bit of deception around the edges, but basically, if a signal has lasted for a while in evolution, it is conveying reliable information most of the time.

Tucker:
That’s why the best signals in nature, the most honest ones, tend to be expensive. Because an expensive signal is very hard to fake. Precisely, I think, that they’re differentially expensive, meaning that they’re costly to produce, but even more costly to fake. What’ a really good example of a signal that’s very expensive to produce, but even more expensive to fake?

Geoff:
The peacock’s tail is the classic example here. When we’re talking about signal expense, we’re not talking about money. We’re talking about the biological currency of energy, calories, matter, what your body is made out of, how hard it is to get the stuff to create the ornament. So, think about the peacock’s tail, which is often a substantial part of the peacock’s whole body weight. That’s a lot of matter to invest in a signal. It’s hard for the peacock to go around and forage and get the calories to grow the tail. The tail requires preening, taking care of it, getting out the parasites. That takes time, which is another form of expense. Then, there’s also risk. The big tail makes the peacock more likely to be caught by the tiger. So, if you’re a peacock with a big tail and you’re still alive and a tiger hasn’t eaten you yet, that means you’ve probably escaped a lot of tigers in the past.

Tucker:
It’s an honest, reliable signal.

Geoff:
If you weren’t able to escape tigers, you wouldn’t exist. So, there’s lot of different kinds of expense. Energy, time, risk, matter. Animal signals use all of these to remain honest and hard to fake.

Tucker:
Alright. So, why the fuck does this matter to sex and dating? Well, I’ll tell you. Because probably the most important area where signals are used between animals is mating. We’ve talked about before, there’s natural selection and sexual selection. Natural selection, a lot of times, signals absolutely exist between predator-prey, but not always. Most of the time, predator-prey relationship is evade, escape, camouflage, hide…It’s almost never like that in mating. You’re trying to find and attract a mate, not get away from them. Signaling is supremely important in mating behavior. Not only that, humans are not just like animals. We are animals. We’re not just like apes. We are apes. Uniquely, we’re the most communicative species on the planet. We have the most ways to signal. Signaling is so important for us because we have a way to signal that is really easy to fake and really easy to cheat. Words. Anyone can say anything, right? Like, “Hey, I’m 7 feet tall and I used to play in the NBA.” That doesn’t cost me shit to say, except not fucking one word of it’s true.

Geoff:
Yeah. It’s what economists call cheap talk.

Tucker:
Exactly. So, the problem with words is they’re not a scarce resource, they’re easy to fake, and there’s a lot of times that the ideas you convey with words are hard to verify. Let’s start talking about human signaling. I think, probably, the first place we want to start is with Thorstein Veblen, right?

Geoff:
Yeah.

Tucker:
So, Thorstein Veblen wrote a book called The Theory of the Leisure Class. So, why don’t you explain to people what it said?

Geoff:
Veblen was fascinated by the Guilded Age: America suddenly becoming rich and wealthy, all these magnates, railroad barons, building huge houses…

Tucker:
Right. Like, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt. Those guys.

Geoff:
Right. Like, the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. Amazing displays of wealth, and Veblen wanted to understand why. Why do these guys get into these arms’ races of showing off to each other when you don’t need a house that big to raise any conceivable family, right? It’s a real white elephant. It’s a burden. So, Veblen said the point of luxury goods is not actually to bring pleasure to the wealthy. It’s to show how much money they can burn. It’s a conspicuous waste.

Tucker:
It’s to signal status.

Geoff:
And it’s a reliable signal, because if you’re poor you cannot afford it. You literally can’t afford it. That applies to houses, vehicles, clothing, jewelry, education, anything you can imagine. Veblen even talked about college education as a form of conspicuous waste of time and money.

Tucker:
This is in 1899, people, by the way. Not 1999. 1899.

Geoff:
When tuition was a lot less. So, Veblen did this amazing analysis. Guys, if you’re into really dry, Norwegian humor, you should read this, Theory of the Leisure Class. It’s kind of hilarious and way ahead of its time. So, that was Veblen. He said, look. Consumerism, materialism is not really about the pleasure of the consumer. It’s about signaling your wealth and your taste to others.

Tucker:
So, the last hundred years have not just proven his theory right, but that idea…Weirdly, that idea was kind of lost. Let’s come up with a few more examples. So, for instance, in economics, you signal status not by being right, but by being highly mathematical, or in statistics. In our history, you signal status by using big words and very complicated sentences that don’t make any fucking sense. In engineering, it’s done by being highly theoretical. In many areas of research sciences, status signaling is done by using expensive equipment, having a large lab, and even doing pure research over applied research. For people who don’t understand academia, you’d be shocked how many people in academia look down on applied research, shit that actually matters because it’s higher status in academia to do research that doesn’t have any application. Literally, that’s no different than producing a peacock’s tail. It’s literally the same thing, except applied to a different field. It’s ridiculous.

Geoff:
The more useless, the more impressive, just like a lot of consumerists’ goods.

Tucker:
Exactly. So, that’s one of the ways that signaling is applied to humans. Back to how it matters to us. Veblen’s ideas are very threatening to a lot of people, ‘cause it essentially…for most people, it destroys their identity. It’s like; Veblen’s idea is you’re not doing anything for a real purpose. You’re just doing it to show off and say that you’re high status, which is very threatening to most people. Most people like to think that what they do has value, even if it fucking doesn’t. His idea was sort of lost for a long time, or ignored. Then, this guy came along. This Israeli biologist, Zahavi. He wrote a book called The Handicap Principle. So, what does that say?

Geoff:
Back in 1975, Zahavi dropped this bombshell theory paper in biology that said, “Hey. A lot of animal communication is kind of like Veblen.” I don’t think he actually read Veblen. He kind of reinvented the same idea, but he said look, animals waste a lot of energy to produce hard-to-fake signals, and you can’t understand animal mating or predator-prey interactions or parent-offspring interactions without understanding the importance of conspicuous waste. That was really weird for biologists to wrap their heads around, because they had this notion that evolution produces efficiency and survival of the fittest, and Zahavi comes along and says no. Massive inefficiency and waste is what you need for good signaling.

Tucker:
Well, it depends on what the goal is. It’s not inefficient if you’re a man trying to show women that you have the best genes so that they will mate with you, a peacock’s tail is not inefficient. It’s only inefficient if you’re looking at it from the perspective of survival and not of mating. They’re different goals. They often align, but they are not the same goal. It’s only inefficient from that perspective. You’re right. For almost 150 years, biologists basically ignored sexual selection.

Geoff:
And guys, Zahavi’s principle is so counter-intuitive and weird that it really took literally twenty years for other biologists to kind of accept it and go, “Oh, my god, he’s right.”

Tucker:
So, I’ll brag on you since it’s low status for someone to brag on themselves, at least in our culture. First off, your entire book, Mating Mind, is really about showing the primacy of sexual selection in, at least, the development of intelligence, which at the time it came out, people were like, this is crazy. Now it’s basically accepted as super mainstream. Also, you were the one who organized one of the very first conferences on animal signaling and biology and mating, right?

Geoff:
Yeah. Back in ’99, when I was working in the Economics Department, University College London, I organized a conference called Signs of Quality on signaling and biology and economics that actually brought together, like, Zahavi, for example, and a bunch of the other animal communication people and the economists, who had been interested in issues from Veblen and also Michael Spence.

Tucker:
Michael Spence, who wrote a paper that won a Nobel Prize on this subject.

Geoff:
Yeah. It was really cool, ‘cause the biologists and economists realized they’d kind of been independently working on signaling theory and hadn’t really read each other’s stuff. The cool thing is, in the fifteen years since then, there’s been a real integration where evolutionary psychology and anthropology and biology and economics, they’ve all kind of converged on going, “Wow. Signaling theory’s real powerful to explain both animal communication and human communication and mating.” Even geopolitics, even things like the space race back in the sixties between America and the Soviet Union was basically America and Russia going, “We shouldn’t have an arms’ race with regard to nuclear missiles that can destroy each other…”

Tucker:
“But we have to compete.”

Geoff:
“We have to compete somehow. So, let’s ritualize it in terms of seeing who gets to the moon first.” The American people were like, “What a massive waste of billions of dollars!” But that is the point. The conspicuous waste is what makes it a reliable signal.

Tucker:
Right. Listen, I could talk all day about this. Robin Hanson writes a great blog called Overcoming Bias. His idea, basically, is almost all things that people do are signaling, are not really about quality. Altruism is not about giving. It’s about signaling who you are. Education’s not about learning. It’s about signaling. He writes amazing stuff. I think we’ll probably go…I don’t know how much in detail we’ll go about that in the book, but we’ll link to all this sort of stuff. If you really care about it, there’s a lot to read. What matters for the purposes of this podcast and the book is why does signals matter in mating? So, signals matter, basically, in mating because – we’ve talked about this before, we’re going to talk about it again – women and men are looking to mate with, whether short- or long-term, other people of high quality. Or, at least, the highest quality they can get. Very little changes, though, if you’re looking for short- or long-term mating. We’ve said that before. We’re going to say it again. Things do change, but not much. For the most part, everything we’re going to teach you guys is how to signal quality that matters to women, how to signal traits that mean that you’re high quality and that become attractive to women. Preferably, the best way to signal is to develop the traits and then reliably signal them. There are some you could fake, some things you could hint at, you could minimize things you’re not good at. We’ll talk about all that stuff specifically, but the point of this podcast is explaining why this matters.

Geoff:
This is also a fundamental difference between our approach versus a standard Pick-Up Artist/Seduction community approach. A lot of what that community teaches is “Here’s how to try to fake the signals of quality.” We’re a lot more about cultivate the genuine quality traits and cultivate the reliable ways to show them off to women that are genuinely attractive.

Tucker:
Right. Exactly. So, let’s talk for a second about why signals matter. We understand why signals matter in communication. So, why do signals matter in mating specifically? Women are looking for signals that convey three basic categories that break out. We’ve already done a podcast talking about what women find attractive, and you want to signal those things, but how do those break out? Basically, I think they break out into three categories. Signals convey status, signals convey your ability to be a partner to women, and signals convey your ability to care for her and her offspring, to be a father essentially. That’s another problem where most dating advice falls short. You said this yesterday, actually. I’m stealing your idea. I didn’t actually realize this until you pointed it out. It’s pretty obvious, though, once you pointed it out. Most dating advice for guys only focuses on how to signal high status, and normally how to fake high status. If you want an example of someone faking status, the iconic example is the $30,000 Millionaire. That’s sort of, like, a name for this class of guy who is generally young, right out of school, has a crappy job, but leases a BMW and wears kind of designer clothes, but not really. He’s trying to look like a guy who makes $150,000 a year, but he makes $30,000 a year. It doesn’t ever work. Everyone laughs at those dudes because that’s like a peacock with a ratty tail. You’re fucking up, dude. I always tell those guys don’t try and signal that. Compete in a different sort of status hierarchy, but that’s a different discussion. The point is, there are three general categories that you’re signaling towards: status, partnership, or fatherhood. Correct?

Geoff:
Yeah. Status is kind of wrapped up with good genes, so signaling genetic quality…

Tucker:
These things overlap, no doubt. So, being intelligent actually applies to all three. Being healthy applies to at least two of the three, etc. It’s not like everything fits neatly in one category, but the main three things that women are looking for in terms of signals are status, partnership, and fatherhood. Which is why we tell guys all the time, you can be really low-status. You can be a 22-year-old with no job and not many prospects and you can still signal great partnership and great potential fatherhood and still do really well. You’re not going to do as well as me, but you’re going to do well. You’re going to get girls. Here’s a great example. You and I disagree about some of Sapolsky’s research. Robert Sapolsky. He’s kind of the iconic guy who did a lot of the hormone research with baboons. I know you know, but some of our listeners don’t. He has really good books, The Trouble With Testosterone, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Monkeyluv. He basically spent two decades in the plains of Africa, not just watching baboons, but also darting them and taking their blood and measuring their hormone levels. He’s kind of a crazy person, but he provided us with a lot of amazing data. He saw in baboons two main mating strategies. Either you need to be the alpha male or have an alliance that basically makes you on par with an alpha. If you’re at the top of the status, you’re getting a lot of ass and you’re having a lot of kids. There’s another strategy, though, ‘cause everyone can’t be an alpha. The other strategy is to pay a lot of attention to, especially, the lower status women. I don’t really fully understand baboon society, but a lot of the higher status men don’t want to fuck the low status women in baboon society. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe you know. But, it’s kind of funny. If you’re a lower status guy, you can essentially be what we would call…I don’t know if we have a good name for it, but they pay a lot of attention to lower status women, groom them, may protect them, provide them with resources. They’re not going to mate with twenty women like the alpha, but they’re going to get a woman and she’s going to be a solid woman. She’s not retarded or anything. I’m talking about baboons, obviously. I don’t even know what a retarded baboon would be. But you’re going to get a woman, and it’s a mating strategy that works.

Geoff:
Yeah. They’re the nice guys of the baboon world.

Tucker:
Right. Except the difference is they’re not passive-aggressive shitheads. Don’t map western America nice guy to baboon nice guy. Those dudes are actually effective. Most “nice guys” in America are ineffective and they’re awful. That’s a separate discussion that we’re definitely going to have. Let’s talk more about what are some things guys need to think about, just generally, in terms of signals and mating? We’re going to get very specifically into how to signal health, how to signal intelligence, how to signal…Literally, that’s what the next fifteen podcasts basically are. Here are all the things women care about, here’s how to develop them and here’s how to signal them. I think that’s actually an important point. Let’s talk about that. Having a trait…Let’s say you’re really smart. Intelligence is uniformly attractive in all cultures to women. It’s usually one of the top three traits. Being smart is not worthless if you don’t display it, but it doesn’t help you in mating if you have a trait and don’t display it, correct?

Geoff:
Yeah. And a lot of guys who are really bright…Like, I was bright in high school, but I had no idea how to reliably signal my intelligence. Literally, this is kind of embarrassing, I thought being on Math Team was the right way to do it.

Tucker:
Well, no one tells you!

Geoff:
And partly because girl I had a massive crush on was on Math Team. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. But, if you want to display intelligence, that’s the trait, but there’s romantically attractive ways to display it. Naturally attractive signals of intelligence. Then, there’s a whole bunch of ways to display intelligence that are not romantically attractive to women. It’s really important to know the difference. There’s also cheap talk, where you can claim to have an IQ of 150, but that’s…

Tucker:
And if people figure out that you don’t, then that’s how, actually, your status is lowered. Oh, he’s a liar. He’s a deceiver. There’s no culture around where being a liar is attractive. There are cultures where using Machiavellian tactics is seen as attractive, but only if they’re effective.

Geoff:
Yeah. And it’s almost always better to demonstrate a trait than to claim it verbally.

Tucker:
Yes. Of course. Show me, don’t tell me.

Geoff:
Yeah. So, in my human research, for example, we found a really powerful way to display intelligence is through humor. If you get women to rate how funny is a guy, they’ll make an inference. If he’s funny, then he’s bright.

Tucker:
We’ve talked about this before. No one understood why humor evolved in humans until signaling theory came about, and then people realized oh, humor is an honest signal of intelligence…of mental acuity, social intelligence, emotional stability, lack of sociopathology, things like that. Because think about it. You can’t fake humor. Anyone can stand up and say, “I’ve got cancer,” and get a rise out of people whether it’s true or not. Eventually people are going to figure it out. You can’t get up and fake five minutes of stand-up. I don’t know how to do it. It’s not possible. It’s impossible to fake humor. That’s what’s funny. You’ll see people try it, and it’s always like…people have, like, the polite laugh, and then their status goes down. Everyone thinks people who try too hard and aren’t funny are fucking losers. That’s the worst, is to try to be funny. If you’re not funny, you’re better off not trying to be funny.

Geoff:
Yeah. This is the tricky thing about signaling. If you produce a signal, it is risky. A really good signal is a signal where you can fail and there’s a downside. It could result in shame and embarrassment. That’s what makes it honest. So, whenever you’re doing something that’s risky, that could result in social failure that’s conspicuous, that’s kind of what you should be doing in mating. That’s what really conveys reliable information to women.

Tucker:
Exactly. So, I want to dig into status and signaling, because a lot of times people say “status signaling” as if they’re the same thing. Status and signaling are not the same thing. They’re very closely aligned, but here’s why status matters. There are scarce resources: food, sex, whatever. In mammals especially, especially hominids, status is essentially how you compete for resources. As apes, we are evolved to associate higher status with higher reproductive capabilities, better access to food, and better access to resources. You know, the shadier tree if you’re a baboon on the Savannah or the taller building if you’re in Austin. That’s why higher floors are more expensive, etc. Status does matter. It definitely matters on a biological level. Now, how does status and signals connect? Social status is not arbitrary. A lot of people look at someone like Jonah Hill or Justin Bieber, and it’s like, why is this guy famous? What the fuck? They feel like it’s arbitrary, but it’s not. It’s really not arbitrary. Don’t get me wrong: luck exists in life, but status is not arbitrary. Status is tied very concretely to the biology of signaling specifically honest signals. You may think Jonah Hill’s a fat piece of shit and you might even be right, but the reality is, he’s a very famous, very rich actor. Women don’t care what you think ‘cause they know the truth that he is these things. Now, if he were not rich and famous, how would he be doing with women? Real bad. If he were a barista at Starbucks, he’d be horse fucked, right? But you can be a fat piece of shit if you have these other honest signals. You can’t fake being famous. You can fake being rich sort of, but not really. I remember one time, I was reading this article about Apple retail stores, and this person was writing a review of them and all upset. “They have so many people working there and they have all this wasted space. This is so inefficient.” I’m like, you’ve missed the entire point. What’s the point of that?

Geoff:
Apple’s whole brand is kind of conspicuous design, aesthetic style, right? Yeah. Tucker’s got a little iPad here and it’s so beautifully crafted and in the case of Apple, it’s not so much conspicuous waste except in the stores, but it’s conspicuous precision and style. The stores, and this is true for every premium prestige brand, right? They all have to have a flagship store, preferably on 5th Avenue, with crazy high rent and way too many sales staff.

Tucker:
Most of those lose money.

Geoff:
And they lose money, but they signal that this is a powerful brand…Apple or Louis Vuitton or even J. Crew. Whatever. That’s a way that corporations can kind of burn money in public, as it were.

Tucker:
It’s advertising in a way. It’s advertising your brand name, which is…We could have a whole podcast on how signaling, and that’s what branding is, is signaling. I advise a lot of companies, and I always tell companies that your branding, if done right, is a way that you tell the world the story about your brand. But no one cares about your brand. People use your brand as a way for them to tell themselves stories about themselves or tell the world stories about them. Let’s tie that back to mating. Why do women pay $20,000 for a Birkin bag which is really not fundamentally different than a $1,000 Coach bag?

Geoff:
Well, mostly for women, consumerism is about signaling to other women.

Tucker:
Still, that’s female-female…

Geoff:
It’s female-female competition. It’s really important to women. And you can question it and make fun of it and be like, “That makes no sense. Why would you compete on the basis of your handbag and your shoes and how often you get manicures?”

Tucker:
Especially when men don’t care! That’s not how female brains work. That’s not how human, mammalian brains work.

Geoff:
Again, status among their peers matters as much to women as status among our peers matters to men.

Tucker:
Because in the brain, it codes status among…Listen, I’m not piling on women. Men do the same thing. Status among peers codes to reproductive success in the unconscious mammalian brain. That’s the way our brains are biologically designed.

Geoff:
Yeah. It’s signaling mate value. So, if a woman has a $20,000 handbag, she got it one of two ways. Either she’s highly successful professionally, and this tends to be particularly what you see in New York or LA. That’s a very competitive market. If you’re highly professional in a very competitive market niche, that means you’re bright, you’re hardworking, you’ve got all sorts of awesome traits.

Tucker:
Socially connected.

Geoff:
Yeah. Either the woman herself is successful or she’s gotten a really rich guy to invest heavily in her.

Tucker:
An asshole would say she earned it on her back. I didn’t say that.

Geoff:
But it’s actually kind of hard to get a guy to…A guy will take you out to dinner, but to give you a $20,000 handbag or even better, a $50,000 engagement ring? That’s conspicuous commitment from the guy and that’s impressive to the woman’s peers.

Tucker:
Well, it’s funny. That’s why so many guys are obsessed with making money, is because that’s tied in their minds to status, which is tied to reproductive success. You know what I found? I know so many rich guys, and in their private moments, every single one of them – some of them will do it publically but very few – will admit, “I thought having money would get me girls.” It doesn’t, though. What it will do is it will get you a certain type of girl. They’re called gold diggers, and Kanye West has a great song about them. That type of girl will absolutely flock to the type of guys with money, but they’re essentially – I don’t want to call them female sociopaths. That’s unfair, but…those are not girls you’re ever going to have a relationship with, at least one that doesn’t revolve around money. I’m not going to call it a prostitute relationship, ‘cause that’s not what it is. But they’re very shallow and they have not much meaning and I don’t know a lot of guys who have gold digger girlfriends or wives who are happy.

Geoff:
On the other hand, from a woman’s point of view, once a woman has a certain experience of dating poor men and rich men, she’ll realize it’s as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man.

Tucker:
All things considered equal, absolutely. You want a guy who has shit going for him, no doubt. But that’s the thing. It’s sort of like what we talked about a few podcasts ago. Going for things directly versus indirectly. If you’re a woman and you’re looking for a rich guy, if you go out with that being your goal, you’re already a gold digger. But if you’re a woman who goes out looking for a great guy and you put yourself around a lot of people with a lot of money, then assuming you’re attractive, you’re going to meet a great guy with money, which is not the same thing. It’s really not. I know it sounds like a mental gymnastics, but in practice, it’s really not. It’s the same thing we talked about a few podcasts ago when it was like guys. Don’t go out looking for sex. Go out with the goal of having fun and meeting new people and then sex comes. That’s the female equivalent.

Geoff:
Also, for a lot of women, it’s not really about the money. The money is a signal of underlying traits that matter to them. For example, Martie Haselton and I at UCLA did a study where we explicitly compared women’s attraction to men who were rich but they were adopted into a rich family and they inherited the money through no merit of their own versus a guy who was an entrepreneur who made a bunch of money but then lost it ‘cause the company failed for reasons beyond his control. For a lot of women, the entrepreneur who made it and then lost it was actually way more attractive than the guy who inherits money from his adopted family. What that says is it’s the ability to make money; the intelligence, conscientious, imagination.

Tucker:
Hold on. I didn’t know that. That’s a really cool study. Did you control for the guys? Because here’s the thing, is I know a lot of people and my guess is the dudes were very different, too. If you’ve inherited money, you’ve never had to work, you develop into a different type of person than if you’ve had to work and earn it.

Geoff:
Yeah. These were just little short, verbal descriptions. They don’t even see pictures of the guys, meet these guys. These are, like, hypothetical things. Still, the point is if you think women are attracted to rich men just because they want a lifestyle, you’re missing the point. They’re attracted to the fundamental capabilities that he’s showing through the ability to get that money in a competitive, rough and tumble world of capitalism and marketing.

Tucker:
That’s a great point. Let’s bring that back around to signaling. The point is, all of these things we’re talking about signal underlying traits that is actually what the women are into, not the thing itself. Although, quite often you’ll see people who confuse the map for the territory, so to speak. There are plenty of women who just care about money, just like there are plenty of dudes who just care about tits and nothing else. The point, I think you’re making, and the point we’re making in this specific podcast is signals are the way people communicate traits. The best signals are the ones that are honest and very difficult to fake. Making a bunch of money or creating a company that succeeds that makes a bunch of money is…you can’t fake that. You do it or not. I guess you could write it on a resume, that’s the way to fake it, but those signals are almost impossible to fake, so they’re very valuable. Geoff, I think your point is super important. Most women I know, above a certain amount of money, don’t care about money anymore. You put me in a room full of billionaires with a bunch of women. I’m not a billionaire. All of them flew there on their own jets; I had to fly first class, at best. But I’m still flying commercial, which sucks. I’m going to outcompete for women, almost all of them, unless these women are like, “Okay. I want a billionaire.” If that’s her goal, then I’m not going to do so well. But if she’s a normal woman who’s like, “Oh, this is a room full of rich guys,” those dudes have no shot against me because all they know how to do is become a billionaire. I know how to deal with women. They’re very different things. That being said, if Mark Cuban’s in that room, he’s pretty funny and charismatic and attractive, too, so I’ve got some competition. But most people who only focus on money are super fucking boring and awful, and the only reason they’re getting girls is they’re using their money, essentially, as a piece of leverage. They get a certain type of girl that probably fits them pretty well. They’re pretty boring, the girl’s a gold digger, it’s actually not a bad match. But if you’re a normal guy looking to get a good girl, trust me. If I hand you a check for a million bucks tomorrow, it will not help that much. It’ll help way less than you think it will.

Geoff:
Yeah. This is going to be a crucial point that we repeat again and again throughout Mating Grounds and the Mate Book. There’s many, many traits that attract women and for each given trait, there’s many, many different ways to signal it, to display it in a hard to fake way. Most guys overspecialize. They figure out in high school, “Hey, I’ve got one or two traits that I’m a little above average, and I’m going to just go with those,” and they overspecialize and they invest in developing those and then they neglect everything else. Or, they develop a certain set, a narrow stereotype of ways to display their traits, like they go, “Hey, I’m bright. I’m good at chess. I’m going to become a chess genius. That’ll get the girls.” No. They need to take some improv comedy classes and learn other ways to display their intelligence. It’s just like Tucker in a room full of billionaires. Those guys are overspecialized in entrepreneurship and probably became workaholics, runaway consumerism…That’s attractive up to a point, but if they neglect everything else, like their physical health, their hygiene, their sense of humor, their world knowledge, their foreplay skills, then they’ll fail, ‘cause they have one arrow in their quiver.

Tucker:
I’ll finish the podcast with this story, which exemplifies this exact situation. About two years ago, we’re in Charleston at this sort of Davos TED type thing. It’s a bunch of rich people: Bill Clinton, Al Franken, federal senators, federal judges, Ellen Degeneres, like that sort of celebrity. Somehow, I got invited. One of the guys who invented G-Mail. He’s, like, employee number 50 at Google or something. Probably worth a hundred million dollars or more, whatever. Kind of famous in tech circles, I forget the dude’s name, but tech people care who this guy is. I was single at the time. One of the girls working the conference was really, really hot and twenty-one, twenty-two, college volleyball player, just graduated or is about to graduate, whatever. She knew who I was and she actually knew who he was. In terms of knowing who we are, competing that way, we were fine. Maybe if all my investments in everything cash in and whatever…I’m definitely a millionaire, but I don’t think I’ve reached 10 million. In fact, I know I don’t. I’m way under that. He’s worth at least ten times, probably twenty or thirty times what I am. The dude literally did fly there on his own jet. He hit on her all weekend, just could not get over this girl, and she’s really hot. I don’t blame him. He’s talking about, “Oh, my jet and my this and my house…St. Barts and blah blah blah…” I’m like, I don’t have any of this shit. I was pretty polite to her. I spent 30 minutes at one point talking to her. She mentioned how she wanted to be a writer or something, so I literally spent 30 minutes, 45 minutes sitting with her, talking to her about her interest in writing. I actually didn’t even think about sex talking to her or whatever, because for some reason I thought she had a boyfriend. She didn’t. I was just talking to her like a normal person, giving her great advice, whatever. She was super appreciative, so that the last event at the end of the thing, she comes up to me and this dude’s been following her around like a puppy, she comes up to me. She’s like, “Will you please take me back to my hotel room and fuck the shit out of me so this dude will leave me alone?” It wasn’t just that she wanted to fuck me to get away from him. She also wanted to fuck me, and I was like, “Yeah, of course. I thought you had a boyfriend.” “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.” I’m like, “Well, I wish I had known that. I would have hit on you more.” He, like, stood ten feet away. This dude’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he stood ten feet away staring at us, at her flirt with me. In a way, I felt bad for this dude. On the other hand, I was like, well, look, man. If you don’t spend any time thinking about relationships and about women and understanding what matters to them, having 100 million dollars isn’t going to help you, man. You’re just going to watch the hot girls fuck me. You know?

Geoff:
Women would rather be having a great time in a second-class hotel room than being bored in St. Bart’s.

Tucker:
All day long.

Geoff:
And they know this perfectly well. Even if they get a billionaire, they’re going to have to live with that guy. So, it’s not just about status. As Tucker says, it’s also about being good partner, good boyfriend, good potential dad.

Tucker:
It’s not even like we’re dating, man. And I know what you’re saying. Like, I had one 30, 40-minute conversation with her and probably two or three other jokes. I had done enough that she, in addition to knowing who I was, was attracted to the way I acted around her. This dude and I started at the same point with her. In fact, he started ahead of me. She knew who he was, and he’s got way more money than me. He started, essentially, ahead of me, and I passed him not because I did anything good. But because he was so fucked up. He didn’t piss her off. He wasn’t an asshole to her. He was just so fucking lame in every single way. She works for this organization, so she deals with billionaires and rich people all the time. She wanted to hook up with a guy who was fun and interesting and connected with her. I wasn’t even trying to connect with her, man. I had a conversation with her about shit she cared about. Instead of trying to impress her…Everyone there was already impressive! Don’t try and be impressive if you’re already impressive. Deal with them as people, and then it’s like a whole separate thing. Alright. We’re going to end this or it’s going to be another hour. Yeah. Good podcast.

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