Ep. #67 The State of Evolutionary Psychology and the Mating Mind with Geoffrey Miller
You see evolutionary psychology is referenced a lot, and some of the concepts taken from this scientific discipline are not necessarily translated very well. Sometimes they’re misunderstood and miscommunicated. So sometimes you see erroneous ideas and it could be misleading, and it's attributed to research whereas it's not really well researched; the points that people will be making and kind of making a stretch and leap from what evolutionary psychology actually does prove.
So, today we're looking at what the research in evolutionary psychology actually does say, how good the research is in terms of its quality, and where it's most misunderstood, and some of it's most interesting findings to date.
Today's guest is very well positioned to comment on this topic, as he is one of the best-known researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology. And his book The Mating Mind, published in 2000, is one of the most referenced. Geoffrey Miller has had a long career in research starting with his PhD in cognitive psychology at Stanford University.
Since then, he has held evolutionary psychology positions at a variety of universities in the U.S., London, and Germany. He has 54 publications to his name including peer reviewed research papers and books. Currently, he is an associate professor at the University of New Mexico teaching human sexuality and evolutionary psychology.
He's also working on a new book to be published in the fall of 2015 with co-author Tucker Max, which is aimed at helping younger men with their dating lives. You can find both Geoffrey and Tucker on the podcast The Mating Grounds, which they've started in connection with the book.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- Geoffrey's background, and how his research and understandings filtered into his choices (04:37)
- Evolutionary Psychology: a summary and the meaning according to Geoffrey (08:26)
- Other perspectives of evolutionary psychology (10:18)
- The research of Kinsey and Masters on sexuality (11:40)
- Is evolutionary psychology the main area of science today that looks at dating, sex, and relationships? (12:57)
- The main themes of evolutionary psychology (14:17)
- An overview of evolutionary psychology and its evolution (15:20)
- What the research studies are based on and the approach (19:15)
- The quality of research studies and where evolutionary psychology is headed (23:10)
- How sex research has suffered (26:58)
- What is needed in sexual research (27:37)
- Relevant evolutionary psychology information sources besides research (28:35)
- The advantages of dating different types of women (33:21)
- The biggest mis-interpretations and mistakes people make regarding evolutionary psychology research, and how it may be undermining the dating / sexual area of their life (35:49)
- Culture differences in mating behavior in different countries based on status (39:45)
- Areas that are over emphasized in sexuality and what women care about (41:09)
- Do evolutionary psychologists look at psychological imprints? (42:43)
- Sexual ornamentation and the positive feedback effect / runaway theory (43:43)
- Highlights of The Mating Mind (47:55)
- The advantages of doing something creative and social to build sexual life skills (49:43)
- Areas that should be studied in terms of how human sexuality works (51:25)
- Geoffrey's worst and best dates (53:34)
- The benefits of developing curiosity and the skills to deal with people from various walks of life (55:42)
- Recommendations in the areas of evolutionary psychology (56:45)
- Top three recommendations to help men get results as fast as possible in dating, sex, and relationships (57:58)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
Geoffrey Miller - His Research and Current Projects
The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature: Angel mentioned Geoffrey Miller's book in the introduction as well as referring to its highlights in the interview.
- thematinggrounds.com: Geoffrey's podcast co-authored with Tucker Max at The Mating Grounds website.
- List of Geoffrey Miller's research: List of Geoffrey's published research papers and books.
- Geoffrey Miller @ University of New Mexico: His current position in the University of New Mexico – Department of Psychology.
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature: Geoffrey mentioned Steve Pinker's book when talking about how the blank slate view dominated 20 century intellectual culture.
- The Neuroscience of Sex and Sexuality with Andrea Kuszewski: Dating Skills Podcast episode 62 mentioned by Angel regarding the inner workings of the brain and how that affects behavior.
- The Smartphone Psychology Manifesto: Geoffrey's paper about smartphones and how they are used to collect behavioral data.
- Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior: Geoffrey mentioned his second pop science book about how peoples drives are driven by mating behavior.
- okcupid Trends Blog: Angel and Geoffrey discussed the analysis and data on this blog as a relevant source for insights on online dating and dating behaviors.
- DavidBuss.com or David Buss on DSR: David Buss, leading evolutionary psychology researcher and author of "The Evolution of Desire" and "The Dangerous Passion Why Jealousy is Necessary in Love and Sex".
- StevenPinker.com: Steven Pinker - Author of The Blank Slate (see reference above for link to book).
Other People and Resources Mentioned
Geoffrey's recommendations for high quality advice in the area of evolutionary psychology
Books, Courses and Training from Geoffrey Miller
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan] Hey Geoffrey, it's great to have you on the podcast. Thank you very much for making time available for this.
[Geoffrey Miller] Hey Angel, great to be here.
[Angel Donovan] So we always like to get a bit of a background on the person before. Obviously you're quite well known in the scientific domain, and because of some of your books... But a bit more personal stuff about your own experience of life and how relationships and stuff have gone.
So what is your status, in terms of relationship? Where's your life, and what age are you? What is your lifestyle, in terms of dating and relationships right now?
[Geoffrey Miller] So I'm 49. I was married. I was with a woman for sixteen years. We split four years ago, so I've been single since then. Pretty actively dating. I was a visiting professor in New York NYU Stern Business School last year. Dated then, and had a girlfriend for about a year.
Back on the market as of, particularly, this summer, so I'm trying to implement a lot of what my partner Max and I are talking about in our Mating Grounds website. And I'm not sure what the long-term holds for me, I'm kind of in a very experimental phase honestly at the moment.
[Angel Donovan] Right. So what age were you when you got first married?
[Geoffrey Miller] I got together with my ex-wife when I was really pretty young, 29. And then we had a baby quickly, so I've got an eighteen-year-old daughter who's about to go to Oxford, and honestly part of my interest in the whole dating scene is trying to create better boyfriends for my daughter! So that she's not as frustrated as some women seem to be.
[Angel Donovan] Everyone's getting frustrated I think, you know. There's actually a lot more advice for girls coming out. I mean, it kind of started with relationships, and then it went to some guys in 2000 or so, and then it's gone to girls dating more in the last couple of years, I've seen. It'd be interesting to see what your perspective is on that.
In terms of dating, did your research... I don't know where you were at in your research when you first got married. Did your research, and what you'd understood, kind of filter into your choices? And obviously you just said you're currently working on it more now, and actually integrating this stuff. So to what extent did you actually use the science, or the studies, or anything else you'd learned, in terms of changing, or evolving your own life?
[Geoffrey Miller] There was a lot of overlap honestly. I mean, my ex-wife met me when I gave a talk about the kind of Mating Mind material at London School of Economics, so she literally met me when I was in my, sort of, professor mode saying, "Hey look, sexual selection is important. Women have chosen their mates for a long time, not just for physical attractiveness, but for male traits like intelligence and creativity." And she went, "Wow that's interesting, I want to interview him." She was a science TV producer at the time.
I think she kind of fell in love with me, honestly, when she read my Stanford PhD dissertation. She's probably one of three people who have ever read it.
[Angel Donovan] Wow.
[Geoffrey Miller] So in a way, my own studies of sexual selection and mate choice in human evolution kind of became one of my main courtship tools. And then I was in a monogamous relationship for sixteen years, and didn't learn a whole lot about dating then, but just did my research, did my evolutionary psychology, wrote my books. And then the last four years I've kind of been back in the game.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah. Did you learn a lot from relationships? You know, sixteen years is a long relationship, and I guess it had its ups and downs as most relationships do. So did you learn anything through that process, or did you turn to research sometimes when you came across problems, or whatever?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, for sure. I think it's very hard for men to really understand women unless they've been in at least one long-term relationship, and preferably several, that last at least a year or two. Because you don't really get to know women as people until you spend quite a bit of time with one individual woman, and really kind of get inside her head, learn to resolve arguments, learn her concerns, and fears, and ambitions.
So I found it really, really helpful to kind of go from being a clueless 29-year-old guy who had maybe had relationships that lasted a year, to actually raising a kid with somebody. Worrying about finances together, buying and restoring houses together. That teaches you a lot.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah, it's like going through the challenges together is the big learning parts. The conflicts, the mini conflicts between you. She wants this house, and you want the other house, and it's kind of through resolving that stuff that you learn a lot?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. So I think, you know, there is some transfer from kind of long-term relationship experience, even to short-term dating, and a little bit vice-versa. Actually, when I got a little bit involved in giving some speaking at David DeAngelo's seminars, I realized, "Wow, some of those techniques you can actually use a little bit to kind of reinvigorate your marriage."
So it's not just relevant to dating, it's also, "How do you be attractive to women, even in a relationship where the woman's kind of known you already for ten years?" That was a surprise to me, that that worked.
[Angel Donovan] I actually think it's harder. You know, we see a lot of guys who can get okay at dating, like short-term, but as soon as it goes to something that's going on for a month, three months... It dies, because they haven't maybe learned the skills to deal with this on a constant basis. So it's more like a mask, rather than something that's actually internal to them. So, evidently, when it comes to the day-to-day, these things just falter. It's not a month, two months, or a year. So yeah, I totally agree with that.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, you can't fake it forever if all you've got is the short-term game. That's going to fall apart the fiftieth morning that you wake up next to a woman. You've got to be the kind of guy who stays interesting, and you have to have worked on yourself and done some pretty deep work at that level.
[Angel Donovan] Okay, so evolutionary psychology. Now I'm just going to read out a definition here, because I'm sure you know this better than most people. A lot of people refer to evolutionary psychology, but I'm not sure how many kind of really get it.
So this is the Wikipedia definition, "Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and languages from a modern evolutionary perspective.
"It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection."
So is that a good summary of what it is, and a reflection of the area you've worked in?
[Geoffrey Miller] It's a pretty good summary. As you know, a lot of Wikipedia is pretty good but, oh my God, it makes it sound so boring!
[Angel Donovan] Right.
[Geoffrey Miller] To me evolutionary psychology is the most fascinating thing I could possibly do, and even if I won the lottery I would still do it. We basically study human nature. We study how people think, and feel, and what they like, and what they don't like, and why.
And we try to get insights into human nature by thinking about, "How did our ancestors survive, and mate, and raise kids in prehistory under very different conditions? Small-scale hunter-gatherer societies."
So we think a lot about, "How does evolution work from biological theory?" We talk to anthropologists about, "How do hunter-gatherers live in these small-scale societies?" We learn from animal behavior how do other species survive and reproduce. And then we study people using all kinds of methods, anything that works.
And we study every imaginable aspect of people, from... Well I've worked on consumer behavior, I've worked on female orgasm, I've worked on how women are attracted to sense of humor. Anything you can imagine, we can study, and that's great for somebody who has a kind of short attention span like me.
[Angel Donovan] That's great. So are there other conflicting, or different, scientific views ... areas of science? So we have the evolutionary psychology perspective that comes onto dating and relationships, this area we're talking about. Sexuality as well. Are there other areas with different perspectives that are dotted around? Which are the most important ones, or the ones you come into contact with most?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, for sure. There's a kind of blank slate view that people are shaped mostly by parenting, and media, and their culture. And that blank slate view really dominated twentieth century intellectual culture. Steve Pinker has a great book called The Blank Slate that kind of explains how that worked.
So throughout most of the twentieth century our parents' grandparents were taught everything that people want, and desire, and think, is shaped mostly by the kind of cultural inputs that they get. And if you change the culture, change the media, you can change human nature.
That led to Stalinism. It led to Mao's Cultural Revolution. It led to gender feminism. And it led to a lot of confusion about human sexuality. I'm not a fan of blank slate. I think it's done a lot of damage, but it did highlight that, "Yeah, there are meaningful differences across cultures," as you know from living in lots of different countries.
There are cultural differences, and they're important to understand and appreciate, but evolutionary psychology also thinks there's an underlying universality. There are instincts. There are common features to male psychology and female psychology all around the world, and it's really helpful to understand those in addition to the cultural and historical differences.
[Angel Donovan] Okay. If you look at, like, Kinsey and Masters, two of the guys who studied sexuality a lot ... Kind of groundbreaking ... Are they in the same area of science, or are they in a completely different area?
[Geoffrey Miller] They'd be in kind of mainstream sex research, and that's surprisingly a little different. It's got its own concerns, mostly the fact that it's so hard to get federal grant money to study anything about sex.
For example, we could literally no longer do the studies that Kinsey or Masters and Johnson did. We're more constrained by universities now than they were fifty, seventy years ago.
There's certainly some overlap. Sex research is very physiologically oriented, though. It's kind of like, "What's up with the penis? How does the vagina work? What are the clitoral structures?"
We're more interested in the function, like, "Why is the human penis so weird compared to that of other primates? Why is there a difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasm? What are the functions of that for women?" So they tend to describe, in sex research, more the kind of "What?" and "How?" and we tend to focus more on the "Why?"
[Angel Donovan] So today it sounds to me like, other than that area where it seems pretty small, and it's pretty technical... Like you say, it's like mechanical, and it's more like hardware. So is evolutionary psychology the main area of science today that looks at dating, sex, and relationships? I mean there's social sciences, right? What kind of things do they look at, if they look at anything?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, so in terms of who actually looks at human sex, and relationships, and dating, it would be my folks, the evolutionary psychology folks. There'd be social psychologists, who tend to be a little more in that blank slate view, who look at human relationships. They tend to focus a little bit more on, kind of, how marriages work.
There'd be the clinical psychologists, who are mostly about marital therapy, and relationship therapy. Like, fixing broken relationships just before the divorce actually happens, which usually doesn't work very well.
[Angel Donovan] So there's a lot of research on that? They do research studies on this?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, yeah, there's some. I don't think it's particularly good, and I don't think relationship therapists have a particularly good track record for knowing how to fix relationships.
And then there's feminism. There's women’s studies. They're a whole political, ideological perspective on relations between the sexes, but some of what they do is kind of cool.
When I did a study of how much money lap dancers earn under different conditions, the only thing that was written about how strip clubs work was by feminists who had done observational studies in strip clubs. I'm pretty eclectic in terms of what I'll read, who I'll talk to, who I'll collaborate with.
[Angel Donovan] Great, great. Thanks for that overview. So evolutionary psychology, does it look at... What would you say are the areas it looks at? Does it cover attraction?
What we talk about here is a lot about attraction, we talk about relationships, and we talk about sexuality. These are the main themes. Do you cover... Or would you say it's pretty much similar? Evolutionary psychology covers all of those areas?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah I'd say about seventy percent of evolutionary psychology is about mating, attraction, physical attractiveness, mental attractiveness, potential conflicts between men and women, and how those play out. But then other evolutionary psych people study all kinds of other things, like the learning and memory that Wikipedia mentioned.
Food preferences. Preferences for what kind of environments and landscapes we live in. There's a whole field of studying mental illness, like, "Why do we tend to get depression, or schizophrenia, or anxiety, or phobias?"
So there's literally dozens of different areas within evolutionary psych, but if you go to the main conferences, probably about sixty or seventy percent of the talks are about human sexual relationships, and how they work.
[Angel Donovan] So you mentioned that the area of sexuality has basically suffered compared to other sciences, in terms of budgeting and research. I'm assuming that affects evolutionary psychology in some respects.
Could you give us an overview of the quality of research? Like, how extensive is it? How comprehensive? How well controlled are the studies? And what are the limitations you see in evolutionary psychology today?
It'd be nice say, "These are the areas I'd love to see more work done, and bigger budgets," or whatever is necessary to get that done.
[Geoffrey Miller] Well one thing to note is it's a pretty new field. I was literally at Stanford University when the field got invented by some of the leading people, who kind of had a joint retreat there at a place called The Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. 1989, 1990.
And they actually strategized about, "How do we create this new field? What should we call it? How do we launch it? What kind of scientific societies and journals do we establish?"
So the field's only twenty-five years old. It started out pretty strongly though, because the people who went into it were brilliant, really world-class geniuses, and that's one of the things that attracted me to the field when I was a grad student.
Since then, the quality of the research has gotten way better. It's a very progressive field in the sense that we actually build on each other's insights. Other areas of psychology, everybody wants to coin and patent their own little term, their own, almost, trademarked little theory, and try to ignore a lot of what other people do.
We tend to be in more of the tradition of mainstream biology, where you actually respect what other people have done before, and try to build on it. So I think we're really good at doing that.
The other thing to remember, apart from it being a young field, is it's a pretty small field. There's fewer than a thousand people in the world actively doing evolutionary psych research, compared to fifty thousand people doing neuroscience research, or probably a hundred thousand scientists doing cancer research.
So it's not a huge field. There's probably more science journalists trying to cover evolutionary psychology than there are evolutionary psych researchers.
[Angel Donovan] Why do you think that is? It seems like there's quite a bit of interest.
[Geoffrey Miller] Because the stuff we do is really cool, and because the field launched very consciously seeking out, and reaching out, to the public, and realizing we're never going to get academic respectability just by following the normal strategies of trying to get tenure, and get grants.
We have to reach directly out to the public, and the undergraduates, and recruit great new students, and talk to science journalists, and talk to folks like you who're giving advice to people who are dating.
And we were really successful at doing that. The downside is you get a lot of journalists kind of waiting around for us to do new studies, and frustrated with us that we're not doing them faster. But there aren't that many of us, so we do what we can.
[Angel Donovan] That's great. So I noticed you mentioned neuroscience. I guess there's another branch of science which covers this. We had a scientist, Andrea Kuszewski on, and she was talking about dopamine, oxytocin, neurons, and these kind of things, which I guess you guys don't really talk about... The inner workings of the brain, and how that reflects behavior.
[Geoffrey Miller] Some of us do. I know a fair amount of neuroscience, and I teach a bit of neuroscience. But the neuroscience is really focused on the "How?" and particularly the "Where?" in the brain. Where in the brain do certain things happen?
And that's not particularly interesting to us, because evolution doesn't really care where a particular thought or feeling happens in the brain, as long as the behavior that gets produced helps you survive, and mate, and parent. So...
[Angel Donovan] So you're interested in the resulting behavior?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, we're interested in the behavior, and the feelings, and the thoughts, and the preferences. And the details of how exactly the brain does it, even the details of which specific genes code the behavior... It's interesting, but it's not really where we get a lot of leverage, scientifically.
[Angel Donovan] So in terms of the actual studies that are done in evolutionary psychology, what are most of them based on? Are they surveys of people, with questionnaires? Are they studies of behavior?
Where does most of it take place, and what do you think are the best studies, and the weaknesses versus the others? Because we know that surveys can have their difficulties, so it'd be nice to hear how you've been approaching this as a community, and where do you think you've got to?
[Geoffrey Miller] We're really eclectic. We use any method that we think helps. So in my lab, for example, we've used everything from paper and pencil surveys, to online surveys like Amazon Mechanical Turk surveys, where you get anybody out there with a computer who can answer your stuff.
We've done lab experiments, where we literally measure the timing of how accurate somebody is in producing musical rhythm on a drum pad, to see how attractive is rhythmic creativity.
I've done studies with DNA cheek swabs, where you get DNA from folks and you ask them things like, "What ethnicity do you think you are?" and then we compare it to what is their actual genetic ancestry, in terms of what proportion of their ancestors came from Europe versus North America.
I've done studies where we integrate a lot of brain imaging data, and we look at what's the relationship between brain size in living people and their IQ scores. Or we study attractiveness, and we actually measure body symmetry with digital calipers, literally measuring right versus left ears, and fingers, and toes, and ankles, and relate that to certain psychological traits.
And then I did a paper a couple of years ago saying, "Smartphones are an amazing way to gather behavioral data," and we should all be using smartphone apps as kind of our main way to do psychology from now on, because they're just so powerful.
Knowing where people are, what they're doing, who they're communicating with. And being able to ask them questions as they go about their daily life, like, "Maybe you're on a date? What do you think about her? What do you think she thinks about you? How much energy are you putting out? Where are you, physically?" Stuff like that.
[Angel Donovan] You're reminding me of... You know OkCupid was publishing some of their stats a while back. What did you think of that kind of analysis, based on basically a huge database? Big data?
[Geoffrey Miller] I think it's really cool. One thing that we, that academic scientists kind of envy, is I have days where I feel like I'd rather be working for Google, or Facebook, or OkCupid, in terms of the amount of data they have. And I've consulted on some big data projects, and the great thing about what Facebook or OkCupid has access to is just the volume of data, and the detail about every client.
The weakness is they don't publish this stuff in a peer-reviewed way that kind of links up to the rest of science. So the kind of people publishing the OkCupid blogs... That's great, but I see really basic errors sometimes in what they publish, that would never pass academic peer review.
So what I hope is that they'll be more of a merger between the private companies that have these amazing datasets, and academics like me who would, like... We would kill to have that data.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah. Have you tried to approach any of these companies?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. The problem is a lot of the people in those companies doing the big data kind of have a background in computer science. They haven't really studied psychology or anthropology. They know what they're doing in terms of data, but they've got no idea what they're doing at the kind of theoretical level.
And then folks like me are pretty strong on the theory and the science, but we're not used to analyzing datasets that have a billion customers. So I think that your listeners are probably going to see in the next five or ten years, I hope, a kind of amazing synergy between what those companies are doing, and what the academic research is doing. I hope.
[Angel Donovan] That's great, thanks. So coming back to quality... I'm a little bit aware of some of the issues in the discussion of health science. So it can be biology and other areas, where the quality of the studies is... Often people are attacking different studies, or supporting different studies, and saying it's epidemiological, you know, it's not as relevant.
And I'm aware that there's many different levels of quality of studies in that area. So I was just wondering, in your view, or in your area, how good is the quality of the studies? And, I don't know, where's it going in the next five years or ten years, for example?
[Geoffrey Miller] The quality is variable. I've reviewed journal papers for like fifty-three or fifty-four different journals over twenty years, and you see some really shitty papers, and you reject them. And you see some other papers that are just so awesome, you almost become, like, their passionate advocates. You're emailing the journal editors saying, "You've got to publish this! This is amazing!"
So it varies a lot. Generally the quality in evolutionary psychology has increased quite a bit over the last twenty years. There was stuff published in the mid-nineties that would not get published anymore.
In the rest of the social sciences, and particularly health sciences, it's important to be a skeptical, informed consumer. For example, we were told for how many years, "Saturated fat is bad for you, salt is bad for you?" And then the recent meta-analyses, the reviews of the research, come out and go, "Whoops! We were wrong. Doesn't really matter how much salt you eat. Probably saturated fats are either neutral or good for you." The dietary recommendations that Americans have been getting have been just fundamentally misguided.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah. So that's a big example of where it's gone wrong for a long period. Maybe people are building on each other? Building on the false assumptions of the first paper? In the cholesterol area as well.
I guess it can happen everywhere, we're all human. So I'm just wondering, is there a progression from surveys to... Is there kind of more a push to some of the other things you've been mentioning, because of this? What are the, kind of, reigning ideas on improving quality?
[Geoffrey Miller] Well I'll tell you what areas of science really impress me at the moment, in terms of being super high-quality and sophisticated. One is behavior genetics. Twin studies. So I did a sabbatical in Brisbane, Australia with one of the big twin research groups, back in 2007.
And they were just making this shift. They had tracked thirty thousand pairs of twins in Australia for the previous twenty years, and given them literally hundreds of surveys, and measurements, and experiments over the years. And they were just starting to collect DNA from all these twin pairs.
And what you have now is big international networks of people working in behavior genetics, sharing their data, publishing papers with fifty or a hundred scientists on the paper, working together and being able to identify, "Hey, here's where the genes for, like, how sexually promiscuous you are overlap with the genes for this personality trait, or the genes for this physical health trait."
And it's amazingly sophisticated. It's powerful. The datasets are huge. The problem is a lot of that stuff is very politically incorrect, and it makes people uncomfortable. And people are like, "You can't say that propensities for murdering people are genetic. Or, propensities for having a lot of musical creativity are genetic," people don't want to hear that. So there's a big kind of ideological problem there. But honestly that's where some of the best research is being done in the behavioral sciences.
[Angel Donovan] So there's kind of this little bump to get over, in political correctness?
[Geoffrey Miller] It's a pretty big bump! It's a big bump.
[Angel Donovan] Because the area of sex has suffered from this since the beginning.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. Sex research is the other area where we have amazing methods, in principle, to study how people have sex, and what influences female orgasms and sexual satisfaction. But take a guess at how many labs in North America are actually studying that. What would you think?
[Angel Donovan] Five.
[Geoffrey Miller] You're right, it's about five.
[Angel Donovan] Wow.
[Geoffrey Miller] And most of the people out there think, "Oh, well Kinsey did that work seventy years ago, so there must be hundreds of sex labs." No. The Federal Government generally won't be caught dead funding that research.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah, it's just too politically challenging, right? So I guess you don't see any way past that? I guess the mediazation, like the film with Kinsey, and the series with Masters and Johnson can help a little bit with public opinion? I don't know.
[Geoffrey Miller] I think honestly what we need are billionaire philanthropists who have some eccentric little interest in, "I want to understand the deep structures of the clitoris and vestibular bulbs." We need philanthropists, we need Kickstarter campaigns, we need crowdsourced funding for some of these studies.
And we need other countries that are more liberal and progressive-minded. European countries, even Canada. Canada's way more advanced in sex research than America is.
Eventually China's going to figure out, "We have such an excess of young males, and it's going to be a massive social problem, that we had better fund a lot of Chinese research on sex and relationships, or else we're going to have a massive problem with social unrest."
[Angel Donovan] Right. They already have problems with that. I was living in China for a bit, you know. It's common. I think the gay stats... I mean, homosexual stats... That'll be interesting to study that aspect, how many converted to homosexuality because of it. Interesting study in itself.
Okay, so we covered a bit about the research. What other information sources do you think are relevant for guys at home. So you've got a podcast and so on, and you're giving advice. Besides research, what other information sources would you deem useful to use?
[Geoffrey Miller] Well I was looking at your website, and it's pretty awesome.
[Angel Donovan] Thank you!
[Geoffrey Miller] I mean the idea of having a clearinghouse where you actually rate e-books, and videos, and training series in terms of how useful, and informative, and credible they are, I think is really valuable.
When I teach human sexuality, I have students watch a lot of movies. High quality movies. If they had time, I'd have them also watch high quality TV drama series, because I think you can learn a lot about human behavior from good scriptwriters, actors, directors, who've got valuable insights.
That's not to say everything they portray is going to be accurate, but if you learn a little bit of evolutionary psychology, read some books from the seduction community, or the pickup artist community, and then you watch high quality TV and movies with those new eyes, that can help quite a bit.
[Angel Donovan] That's an interesting one. I think a lot of people bash the love stories in a lot of the films. I love some of the love stories, especially love comedies. I found them great for watching. But they have a kind of predictable pattern, and it's kind of trying to manipulate your emotions. I mean, I think that's where film has got to these days, they're getting very good at it.
What do you think about the relevance of that kind of thing? Could that give them some bad ideas? I think often what's bashed is it's a bit too lovey-dovey for the guys. There's always this emotional, like... The girl pushes him away, or something happens to push them apart, and then the guy comes back, and he saves the day by telling her exactly how he feels or something. You know, it's very kind of typical in that style. So what do you think about that stereotype kind of model?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, I think romantic comedies... You should not watch. I think the more romantic comedies you watch, the dumber you'll get at dating.
[Angel Donovan] Right.
[Geoffrey Miller] I'm talking more about serious adult dramas that have a very unsentimental view of relationships, and particularly where guys can get some insights into the challenges, and fears, and frustrations that women face. So if you're watching a drama that's got some strong female characters, where they're articulate and smart, that's valuable.
And I think long-form TV drama is really great, because instead of having that simplistic story arc, or, like, boy-meets-girl, and then they fall in love, and then there's a moral crisis, and they get back together. The End. They live happily ever after... Long-form TV drama reminds you, "Dudes, life just keeps going on, and on, and on, until your series is canceled!" And that's a lot more realistic.
[Angel Donovan] Right.
[Geoffrey Miller] So that's one source. I think, looking at the OkCupid blogs, and their data, that's pretty cool. That's a good place to start. And what we're advising young guys to do in Mating Grounds is also do leisure activities that get you out of your comfort zone. Take jobs that require social interaction.
[Angel Donovan] Right, the emphasis is on social there, I'm assuming. Leisure and...
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, social. Yeah, yeah. So, go to improv comedy classes. Do some theater. Go work in a bar, or as a bartender or bouncer. You'll learn more psychology working as a bouncer for three months than taking a psych class for three months.
Live in different countries, like you're doing. That gives you amazing insights into mating. I lived in Britain for eight years, I lived in Germany for a year, I lived in Australia for a year. You don't really understand your own culture until you go to other cultures. And then you come back, and you can see what's going on with new eyes.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah. So it sounds like you're saying it's great to get more varied social experience, as much as you possibly can, rather than... If you're in a small town, and you always go to the same places, and you always hang out with the same people, that's obviously going to be very restrictive on your own development, your own understanding of what's going on around you.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, and date different kinds of women. Different personality types, different ages, different professions.
[Angel Donovan] That's a great point.
[Geoffrey Miller] When I was dating in New York last year, I dated everybody from models, to dominatrixes, to bankers, to lawyers, to public relations people, to scientists, to entrepreneurs, and it's really eye opening. It's valuable.
[Angel Donovan] I would say that's amazingly... It's an adventure. I mean, it changes... Like some people will date the same person twenty times, or you can date all the different profiles you're given. It's just going to be a completely different experience each time. It's going to make you look at yourself, look at what you're doing, as well.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, and the cool thing about different women from different professions is even if there's no chemistry on the date, even if there's no chemistry, if you can converse well, you can still learn an amazing amount.
If you date a vice president from Goldman Sachs, it's like, "Oh, now I know a little more about the financial system than I did before this dinner date, even if I never see her again." Whereas if I only dated evolutionary psychology women...
[Angel Donovan] Or the people who come to your conferences or whatever, that wouldn't be so useful to you, right? That would be easier, probably, but it's not going to be that interesting in the end.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. So I think consciously varying your experiences, in terms of your women you date, the jobs you do, the leisure activities you do, where you live... That's all super valuable.
[Angel Donovan] One of the things we say is, "Look for someone with a lot of experience." So, like, some of the people we've had on the show have got very extreme lifestyles, sexualities... So we've had porn stars, we've had strippers, people with just a wide variety...
But they tend to have a lot of success in one kind of niche area. Not to say, "Copy those guys," but you can definitely learn from something, from what they're doing, because whatever they're doing, it's working.
It's working in an extreme way, and they've obviously learned something from the amount of specialization and, just like, specialized time investment, all in this area. They've probably learned some things, just like you were saying, it's, "Go out and experience the world, and you're going to notice things," if you've done it a thousand times... Does that make sense to you?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, I think you want both breadth and depth. If you're listening to an expert, you really want them to be an expert about what they claim to know about. But in my experience, for example in science, the best experts are the people who have a pretty adventurous private life, and have done stuff, and had different kinds of relationships, and lived different places.
Honestly, some of the best evolutionary psychology researchers that focus on sexuality have done jobs, like... They've been strippers, or they've done phone sex work, or they've... They've done something where their livelihood depended on their insights into sexuality.
And so I think the old view that your science is your science, and your private life is your private life, and they need to be completely separate... It just doesn't work when you're dealing with topics like human social behavior, dating, and sexuality.
[Angel Donovan] Okay, so I know that evolutionary psychology is a topic brought up for dating, sex, and relationships. As you were saying, it's a lot in the media, and the media are calling out for this stuff.
Where would you say the biggest misinterpretations and mistakes are that are made, that make you go, "Argh! I hate it when people misinterpret all of that research, or what I said in my book?" Where would you say are the biggest areas where people go wrong, and it could be undermining the way they look at this area of their life?
[Geoffrey Miller] Well one big thing is I think a lot of the pickup artist guys who quote The Mating Mind book, or refer to evolutionary psychology, get all obsessed with status, and they talk about alpha males, and beta males, and gamma males, and omega males, and whatever. Status, status, status. And that's fine. Status is important, no doubt.
But the idea that you can simply categorize human males into, "Oh, you're an alpha. You're a beta." That works for gorillas. It works for orangutans, where the different statuses are actually associated with different body sizes. Like an alpha orangutan is literally twice as heavy as a beta orangutan, and has huge cheek pads, and the beta doesn't. And they have completely different mating strategies.
But for humans, status is way more complicated. It's fluid, it depends on context. And it's also not very helpful for young guys, because status in humans is heavily age-dependent. I have more status than I did twenty years ago. More money, more influence, more people have heard of me.
So if you're a twenty-year-old guy, and everybody's saying, "You've got to be an alpha male, man. You've got to increase your status. You've got to act confident. You've got to act like a fifty-year-old who’s done something," it's not going to work.
[Angel Donovan] So that's kind of the context. There's things going on in your life... If you take college for example, would you say there's kind of like a status hierarchy there? But it's not necessarily based on some of the things you were just talking about that reflect status. It's other aspects of the college life that are the more determinant of it.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, I mean there are status hierarchies, in terms of some people are popular, and respected, and imitated, and get a lot of attention. You can literally measure where eyeballs swivel, who gets eyeball time, and who doesn't. And that's super important in high school.
But then, once you get to college, and young adult life, young working life, it's often hard to tell what somebody's status is. If you're not in the same profession, or you're not in the same social circle, it's hard to tell.
And that's good news for guys, because it means you can cultivate any skills, or talents, that are sexually attractive to women, and you don't really have to worry about whether you're an alpha or beta. All you have to worry about is, "What traits do I have that are attractive, and how confidently do I display them?" Status, alpha-beta, that's one big...
[Angel Donovan] Too much emphasis, it sounds like you're saying.
[Geoffrey Miller] Too much emphasis, yeah. Too much emphasis on money, probably.
[Angel Donovan] Do you think that's ... Are we all chasing money just because of our sexual drive, basically, for men?
[Geoffrey Miller] For mean, yeah, mostly. Yeah. My second pop science book was called Spent - Sex Evolution and Consumer Behavior, and it was all about people's economic drives, and conspicuous consumption, and prestige goods, and how for men a lot of that is driven by mating effort. And a lot of it doesn't work as well as guys think it will.
[Angel Donovan] I've had some interesting experiences, because I've lived in a few countries. Like China. I've lived in Thailand, I've lived... Eastern Europe, I know a bit about. And other places... South America. And it does seem that money takes higher precedence in some of those places.
I've seen it in the clubs a lot. I've experienced it myself. I've seen where women with agendas, which I wasn't used to in the West... They kind of pass you through these filters of asking you these questions to figure out how much you earn and stuff.
It all seems kind of pretty crude and fake when you're watching it in front of you. So I've seen a lot of that in other countries, and it changes across cultures. And I was wondering if you... I think once you get to a certain level of financial security, maybe that stops a bit.
It's not necessarily cultural, it's more like it's socio-economic safety or security and stuff, and once you go beyond that, then it doesn't become such a big issue. But it does still exist. I mean we have Russian brides, we have Filipino brides, and these kinds of things as well of course.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, Angel I think you're exactly right about that. If you're in a rich country, like most of Western Europe or the US, Australia... Women are mostly pretty confident that if they're gainfully employed, and you've got a job, that they could potentially raise kids with you and the kids would do fine.
Above that level, excess wealth is kind of fun. It's glamorous, some women care a lot about it, but a lot of women honestly don't care that much. Whereas if you're in India or China, and you're a woman trying to have a family, you need a guy who's got an apartment. And most guys don't. And that means they're not Mister Right. You literally can't have a family with him. He's not a viable mate. So it depends a lot.
[Angel Donovan] Just to touch on that, what I saw a lot in China is that the women will be dating someone like you as the boyfriend, and then they'll have the guy who they're going to get married to later, and they see him, and they have this relationship with him ongoing. You know all about that. Obviously you're just the boyfriend. I've seen that a lot more in those countries as well.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, women are very strategically flexible about getting what they need. If they can get it all from one guy, that's great. if they need to get different things from different guys, they'll do that too. And there's a deep evolutionary history to that as well.
So, as a guy, you just have to figure out, "What do I offer that women want, and how does that kind of slot in to what women need, given my culture, and given the kind of economic and demographic context of where we live?"
[Angel Donovan] Okay, so money's a thing that you think is over-emphasized, especially in Western countries where there's security and everything. What other areas do you think are a bit too emphasized, or?
[Geoffrey Miller] Well there's a lot of evidence that guys don't really understand things like what is physically attractive to women.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah.
[Geoffrey Miller] If you look at a typical men’s health, men’s fitness magazine, those guys are really bulked-up in terms of the amount of muscle they have. They're pretty shredded in terms of super low body fat. But there's a lot of evidence that's not really what women find most attractive.
Women look at that, and they don't go, "Awesome fit Spartan," they go, "Fucking narcissist. He's going to spend all his time in the gym ignoring me." And they don't like it.
Women want guys who are fairly slender, have some muscle, look like they're capable and they can do things, but, like, who have enough body fat that if they got sick they could survive. That's important. If you've got no body fat, you don't look healthy.
Women care about stuff like height, but not as much as guys think they do. Whether you've got hair, whether you've got a big penis... Yeah, that kind of matters, but not as much as guys think it does.
[Angel Donovan] Right. As you see I got my head shaved, and it's been like that for about two years. And honestly, I was surprised at the lack of difference it made. I generally thought, "This is probably going to make a bit of a difference." Went out the first night after I shaved it, absolutely nothing. It was just life as usual.
And it was kind of lucky for me because I could have had some thought in my head, as anyone would. I don't know what you think about psychological imprints... So if you think something, do evolutionary psychologists... Do they look at this kind of stuff? If you're thinking something, it kind of becomes your reality just because of the way you're acting and reacting.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, for sure. I mean particularly in terms of confidence and perceived status, and your own perceived mate value. That's going to depend a lot on your expectations, and the way you frame things, and what your experience of interacting with people is.
So we don't believe in some kind of woo-woo law of attraction thing, but certainly you want to manage your social experiences so that you get the impression you're being successful. And that's one reason Tucker Max and I, in the Mating Ground stuff, emphasize again, and again, and again, when you go out, you should think of your goal as, "Have fun and meet new people," and not think of your goal as, "Get laid."
[Angel Donovan] Yeah, because then it becomes something that's undermining your confidence. Like, "Argh, I've got to perform." Yeah.
[Geoffrey Miller] So just set goals that are achievable, and then achieve them. And then your confidence will go up.
[Angel Donovan] So you mentioned the bodybuilders, and from your book, Mating Mind, one of the things you talk about a bit is sexual ornamentation. And you also talk about the positive feedback effect, like runaway theory. So you'll probably want to give some background to that before we answer this question for the guys at home.
But the interesting thing, I thought, when I was reading that, I was like, "Well you have the bodybuilders who are over-sized." You have extreme porn fetishes. When people get into porn, they start going for weirder and weirder bodies, that kind of stuff. There's many...
And then you have, like, Nicki Minaj, and you have Lady Gaga, who dress up way more crazy than people a hundred years ago. So I was just wondering how you could relate... Is that a runaway theory in itself, which is taking place in our society, and we don't know where it's going?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. So in biology you get kind of runaway sexual selection, where the females in a species, like the peahens, desire a peacock with a bigger and bigger, more colorful, more symmetric tail.
And the males are kind of forced to evolve that sexual ornament, like the peacock's tail, in a kind of runaway fashion, a positive feedback loop, where they get a tail that eventually gets so big that a lot of them start getting eaten by tigers, or they starve to death, and they just can't afford a tail that's any bigger than that.
[Angel Donovan] So you call that a handicap, right? A fitness handicap? Or?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, and it becomes a kind of handicap, where it helps your reproduction, but it hurts your survival. And that happens all the time, in terms of big antlers on some hoofed animals. Big muscle mass in terms of, like, male gorillas. Big brains in terms of humans.
And you can also get cultural forms of runaway. Like Katy Perry's costumes, or Lady Gaga's costumes, where just to keep getting attention from the media, they have to keep upping the bizarreness, and the color, and the cost and all that.
So there's some pretty close analogies between what happens in biology, and what happens in culture, in terms of ornamentation, and attention seeking, and display, and signaling.
[Angel Donovan] Great. And also, I mean the other thing is I think our society is getting more varied, in terms of small communities. There's the hipsters dress this way, and the rappers... There are all these little areas, and people are getting more extreme within them.
So one of the things you talk about is sexual variety, and variety, it's kind of a good thing. You're trying to stand out from the crowd, right? But what I don't see is they don't seem to interact. So Nicki Minaj isn't relevant to someone who's not into that kind of music, not into that kind of style. They're into a completely other... One of these other niches.
It seems like contained within each of the niches, most of the time... There are people who jump across and are a bit more open-minded, but it seems like a lot of people are looking towards those social structures, those social hierarchies. Does that fit with what you look at in evolutionary psychology, or?
[Geoffrey Miller] It should, but honestly we don't study that enough. We don't study what we call Mating Markets... Little groups of males and females interacting. Like, I dated kind of a Brooklyn hipster who's like a Queen of hipster style and decor, and, you know, really got into that for about a year.
It's a really cool sub-culture, but it can get a little bit inbred, in terms of the hipster girls and guys going, "Oh I'd never date a goth," or, "I'd never date someone who's into rap music." Why not?! And you can get these cultural runaway effects, where people, like, have to have exactly the right hairstyle, and the right beard, and the right kind of plaid shirt, and whatever.
I think the important thing for young guys, for your listeners, is don't close off your options too early. Just because you were a goth in high school doesn't mean you have to stay a goth in college. Just because you're a hipster in Brooklyn, if you move out to San Francisco or whatever, figure out, "What are my traits that I have an advantage with, compared to my rivals? And how can I display them best? How can I choose the sub-culture where what I have to offer is going to be most valuable?"
[Angel Donovan] That sounds right because we can be born anywhere, and you're born in one town or another, or in one group you're going to have cultural traits that you just pick up from them. But they're not necessarily the best fit for you.
So just for your life, not just dating... I mean, for dating and relationships it's probably going to work better as well, but your life in general... If you go out exploring, at least a bit, and get a bit more exposure, and try out different things, you're going to be better off in the long run.
So one thing I wanted to make sure we talk about is... You talk about... Basically The Mating Mind is about art, music, and why we even have developed some of these abilities. And your argument is that this is all for our sexuality, our sexual drive. Could you just kind of give us the highlights of that?
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. The basic idea in The Mating Mind book is that a lot of animals pay attention to physical appearance when they're choosing a mate. They want an animal with a big, healthy body and a lot of sexual ornaments, like horns, or antlers, or tails, or plumage, or whatever. But even animals, like birds, also pay attention to behavioral displays.
How many songs can you produce? If you're a bowerbird, how well do you decorate your bower to attract female mates? And The Mating Mind idea is human brains got big in part to attract mates, both in women and in men.
And a lot of the things that we do that are uniquely human, like our capacities for language, and art, and humor, and music, are there mainly as sexual ornaments. They evolve not just to promote survival, but they evolve because they're attractive, and romantic, and people are into them.
And they're not arbitrary, either. To produce those things well, your brain has to work right. You have to be pretty smart. You can't have a lot of mutations that would mess up how your brain works. So if you choose a man, or a woman who's got amazing verbal skills, or musical talent, it's kind of a guarantee that they've got a good brain, they've got pretty good genes.
If you mated with them, your kids would do pretty well. And that's the basic evolutionary logic of that argument, that there's all these behavioral ornaments that we have. And honestly most young people today don't cultivate them.
[Angel Donovan] This was going to be my next question. Should we be targeting these areas? Like, if you take the stereotypical software developer today, maybe they're very focused on maths, and software, and in their niche. But they haven't looked at the arts, and all of these other different areas.
You've been talking about languages, foreign languages, for example. Do you think that's basically a disadvantage in terms of attraction for them? Is it something they really should try to have, at least one hobby or something? What would be your advice in respect of that?
[Geoffrey Miller] Absolutely. There's a brutal, brutal trade-off now between the skills that are useful in capitalism to your employers, versus the skills that are attractive to the opposite sex. So, yeah, if you want to maximize your earnings, major in computer science and learn how to do Big Data analysis, and web design, and direct marketing, and blah blah blah.
Are those skills going to make you a good living? Yes. Are they going to be romantically compelling to women? No. What does public education tend to favor? Well basically the arts, all the stuff that's romantically compelling to the other sex, is always the first thing to get cut if the budgets are cut.
And the core topics that are considered important by the government, and by corporations: math, science, literacy... That's all fine, but it's not equipping young people to be attractive to each other.
So I think it's really important for young people to realize the pressures that you're under from your parents, your government, future employers, are not pushing you in the direction that's going to be maximally attractive to women.
So you've got to go learn guitar. Learn how to draw a woman's portrait. Learn to do improv comedy. Learn to converse with anybody you meet. Those are the skills that are going to matter in terms of your sexual life.
[Angel Donovan] Are there any particular areas you think should be studied which are getting a lack of... I mean you mentioned some that are politically incorrect. What would be your dream areas, if you could get any budget you want, and you can publish it without any problems in peer review and so on? It's all going to be critical, and it's going to be well done. What would be the areas that you would like to do some studies, in this area?
[Geoffrey Miller] One thing I would love to know, in terms of how human sexuality works, is in terms of female arousal and orgasm in bed with a guy, how important are these mental traits? So for example, apart from penis size, and how much muscle a guy has, how much difference does it make in terms of a woman reaching orgasm, whether she's been laughing for the previous two hours because he's really fucking funny? Or whether he's just not that funny, but okay in other ways?
How much difference does it make whether she's just seen him do a public performance as a singer in a band, versus they just had a dinner date? We have no idea how female sexual response connects to these mental traits that I've emphasized ever since The Mating Mind. No idea at all.
And that would be really cool to know, because I think a lot of guys have sexual anxiety, right? They think, "Okay, the dinner went well. We had a good talk. She laughed a little bit. But oh my God, now we're going to bed." And they think of the sexual experience in bed as being totally disconnected from the conversation that happened before that.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah. And there's a lot of emphasis on penis size, and techniques. Whereas my bet would be on the mental.
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah, mine too.
[Angel Donovan] Definitely the mental side.
[Geoffrey Miller] But I think if we had research showing that, I bet most women would say, "Obviously! Foreplay begins the morning before the date, right? The whole experience over several hours with the guy influences how relaxed, and comfortable, and safe, and free I feel when I'm having sex with him." But we know very little about that.
[Angel Donovan] We talked a little about this with Andrea Kuszewski, the neuroscience background, talking about anticipation and the role that can play in orgasm. So they've done a little bit of work there, just on the dopamine connection there, which was interesting.
Okay, so we like to get to know you a little bit better as a person. What was your worst date ever? Or your best date? Whichever you feel most comfortable...
[Geoffrey Miller] The worst dates are where you just know within the first three minutes that there is zero chemistry, and you both know it. And you're both polite enough not to just say, "Oh fuck it, let's just give up now." And then you try to make conversation, but then not only is there zero sexual chemistry, if the woman can't converse, that's excruciating. And those hours over coffee can seem like they last a week, so that's tough.
[Angel Donovan] Right, right. I've done some pretty extreme things in those cases. Like, I remember walking, just like cutting it after about five minutes. What would be your suggestion?
There's a bit of a teaching point here. I don't think you necessarily have to sit there for an hour. You can approach the subject and say, "Look, this really isn't going to work between us. I think you can probably see that too, so let's call our friends and do something different," or?
[Geoffrey Miller] I think in future I'd probably take more that approach. The advantage for me, being a psychologist, is almost any interaction with any person has some little grain of interest for me, even as an observer, right?
So if I meet a woman and, like, she's got a lot of scars from self-cutting on her arms, I'll be like, "Oh, what's up with that?" I don't know much about cutting, I'll learn more about that. Whereas most guys would go, "Nope, I'm out of here." So I have a kind of unfair advantage that I find almost anybody more interesting than most guys might.
But yeah, I think cutting your losses is okay. The thing is, if you've already invested the time and effort to go somewhere, you might as well kind of get what you can out of the person. If they're able to converse in an interesting way, even if there's no chemistry, even if you both know you're not going to see each other again.
[Angel Donovan] Onto your point, what value is in it? Just socializing, being with someone different... They're obviously not in your usual area if there's no chemistry, right? So that can be beneficial. And also...
[Geoffrey Miller] Yeah. Practicing interacting with awkward people can be valuable if you just think of it as practice, and like, "Oh, in my career I'm going to meet awkward people, including some awkward women, and I might as well at least learn how to deal with that."
[Angel Donovan] Sometimes you do have to deal with it, the situation. But the other thing I was going to say was that I think developing a curiosity towards people in general is going to be beneficial to you. And going back to what we were talking about...
You kind of grew up in one area and one style, and you were a hipster or whatever, and you're going to have a lack of curiosity just by kind of the nature of that. And you have to kind of make a bit of an effort to develop your curiosity so that you can break out of that and learn more about other areas.
I think that's kind of... It's like a force keeping you... A comfort zone that's keeping you in place. You need to develop a kind of curiosity to be able to get out of it. And for all you know, that girl might end up to be really interesting once you've just taken a few steps and, you know, tried the conversation a little bit.
[Geoffrey Miller] And she might have really cool friends.
[Angel Donovan] Right, totally.
[Geoffrey Miller] Right, that's... Yeah. And the other things is, you know, if you ever develop a medium or long-term relationship with a woman, you're going to have to deal with her relatives, your potential in-laws.
And whatever you love about that woman is unlikely to be shared by all of her siblings and her parents. And if you can have the skills to deal with awkward people who come from a different walk of life, and different values, and different political attitudes, that's really helpful in long-term relationships.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah, great point. Okay, so in the area of evolutionary psychology, besides yourself, who else would you recommend? You respect their work... Other people that are worth looking into what they've done? The books they've written, or potentially their research papers and stuff? Who's the people doing great work at the moment?
[Geoffrey Miller] Well no doubt the single most influential guy in mating is David Buss, at University of Texas at Austin. He's a friend of mine, and he's trained a lot of amazing PhDs in his own right. He's written a bunch of great books. Evolution of Desire, The Murderer Next Door, The Dangerous Passion about sexual jealousy. He's really good.
Steven Pinker at Harvard, although he doesn't do a lot of empirical research himself, all of his books are worth reading, they're really good. Like The Blank Slate.
There's a lot of women now in evolutionary psychology doing pretty school stuff about female mating strategies, and a lot of them we're having on our Mating Grounds podcast, and you might want to have some of them on yours too.
And it's becoming a much more international field. There used to be basically America and Britain, and now it's really expanding into Brazil, South Korea, Japan. And it'll be fascinating to see how that kind of plays out as people start studying different kinds of mating markets in those different countries.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah, yeah that'll be very interesting. Okay, we ask this question of everyone who comes on the show. Your top three recommendations to men... Say they're starting out, you know, they're newbies, and they're not really sure about this dating stuff and whatever. So what would be your top three recommendations to get some results as fast as possible, start getting better at this?
[Geoffrey Miller] Eat Paleo!
[Angel Donovan] Okay, that's an interesting one I've never had before!
[Geoffrey Miller] Stop eating carbs. Eat a lot of saturated fat, and meat, and vegetables, and it'll boost your testosterone. You'll feel better, you'll lose fat, you'll gain muscle, you'll sleep better. Since I started eating Paleo a couple of years ago, it's dramatically helped both physically, and in terms of my mood.
Second easiest thing, buy clothes that fit. This was a real pet peeve of my last serious girlfriend, the Queen of hipster style, is most guys have no idea how to buy shirts and trousers. Given whatever your body shape is, women really notice what you're wearing and how it fits. It doesn't have to be expensive, but just learn how to dress given whatever your body type is.
Third thing would be build some romantically attractive skills, and I think the main things there would be, honestly, musical and artistic talent. Learn to draw portraits of women. Learn how to sing. Learn how to play guitar. Those are never turn-offs. You might not always have occasion to use them, but those are instinctive, natural skills.
We've been doing cave paintings for thirty thousand years. We've been singing probably for more than a hundred thousand years. Music, and drumming, and dance are universal practices of almost every human culture, and yet they're totally neglected by most young people today. So learn that stuff.
[Angel Donovan] Great. Well those are some great points, because we haven't had those before. Especially the Paleo one. I'm a huge fan, stamp of approval! I've been doing that for many years too, it made a difference for me.
So, yeah, thanks for those. It's been great, and it's been awesome having you on the show. Thank you very much for making the time.
[Angel Donovan] Yeah, you too Angel. Take care.
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