walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Liveblogging _The Science of Happily Ever After_

Liveblogging a book is often, for me, the first step in deciding the book is unmitigated crap and should not be read. So, let's see how this goes.

So far, Tashiro has told some goofily worrisome stories about helping undergraduates date. Then he summarized "being in love" as feeling a combination of liking and lust. Liking was further broken down into: fairness, kindness and loyalty (that is, we like people who have those qualities). Many of my friends have already decided Tashiro is full of it. But let's forge ahead to location 238, give or take.

"Sometimes I am asked why infatuation and the feelings that accompany it, such as butterflies in the stomach or a racing heart, cannot last. These visceral feelings are powerful feelings of lust, and they cannot lsat for a simple reason: you would die."

THAT is a strong statement. No supporting citation in sight. What's the rationale?

"Butterflies in the stomach are the result of a surge of endorphins"

Are we sure about this? Because other people are saying very different things. http://chemistry.about.com/od/valentinesdaychemistry/a/Love-Chemicals.htm

And what I understand about endorphins isn't very much like what I understand to be butterflies in the stomach.

Where were we?

"Butterflies in the stomach are the result of a surge of endorphins, but this also triggers the release of hormones, such as cortisol, that become toxic to your brain with years of chronic exposure."


Look, your brain absolutely _has_ to have glucose or you will die. But if your blood glucose gets really high and stays there, you will die. Cortisol going up and staying up is, indeed, a problem -- but there isn't anything obvious about being infatuated that has to go on 24x7. I feel like Tashiro answered this "lasting" question without getting into, what do you mean by last? The people asking wanted to know why they quit feeling powerful lust for someone after a few weeks/months years -- but Tashiro is answering a different question, which is, why powerful lust takes a break in any given multi-hour period (you may be just as infatuated tomorrow, but you'll sleep in between).

This argument against infatuation, honestly, could be used as an argument against running (elevates endorphins and cortisol, in some order). Now, I am opposed to both infatuation AND running (for very different reasons), but I also recognize that's just my personal opinion, and infatuation and running are really quite fun and safe for a lot of other people.

"Another term for a racing heart is high blood pressure."

And, if you take your blood pressure while you are running, you will notice that it is high. As long as you don't run 24/7 (okay, much lower than that), it'll be okay. "So, even though the lust component of being in love drives a very intense and visceral type of emotional experience, the intensity of passionate love is necessarily ephemeral."

I'm sticking to my, he answered the wrong question. Infatuation doesn't last, but this isn't why.

"Given our review of what happens to liking [3% annual depreciation] and lust [8% annual depreciation -- and I don't believe either of these. I think they both go up and down and sideways, rather than straight line trending down] over time, it seems that a completely rational person would invest disproportionately in liking versus lust from the start. So why is it the case that most people do the exact opposite?"

Well, here we have some evidence that in addition to failing to understand simple questions (what did the questioners mean by "last"?) and screwing up the science (butterflies != endorphins), Tashiro apparently -- and this is actually kinda shocking -- STILL BELIEVES PEOPLE ARE OR SHOULD BE RATIONAL according to his understanding of the world and a rational response to it.

That is like many, many levels of delusion deep. But I'll keep playing, because the next subhead is: "How Tinker Bell and Twilight Influence Our Romantic Beliefs".

"Most people yearn for passionate love that lasts forever"

Support for this assertion? None Given. I do recognize that there are some VERY loud individuals who want this. But there are also some VERY loud individuals who want all kinds of cray cray. I'd like some kind of representative sample.

Next, a description of how Kids These Days spend their time and where they get romantic information and advice. "they found that 90 percent of these children reported looking to television shows and movies. Other seemingly good sources of advice lagged far behind, such as"

Want To Guess?

"participants' mothers (33 percent), and fathers (17 percent)."

Who thinks that a mother or father is a good source of romantic advice? I don't mean that when you are a kid you think your parents are idiots. I mean, once you are a parent yourself, once you are over 40, do you _really fucking think_ when you look back on what your 'rents had to say about romance, that they had ANY FUCKING CLUE AT ALL?

Because as I review my (fairly extensive) sample of parents (I've been married twice, so I've gotten an up close look at in-laws opinions, and I have long-term friendships that led to getting to know friends' parents, and I dated some people whose parents I got to know), they weren't any smarter than an average television show or movie. Quite the contrary, in fact, because their experiential knowledge was generally way out of date and so not relevant in my experience of dating.

BEFORE YOU ASK: I fully expect that I, too, will be a shitty source of advice to the next generation, for the same reason: small sample of experience and way out of date.

Tashiro mentions Bjarne Holmes and Kimberly Johnson.


I feel like there is a causal arrow problem here. People with screwy ideas about relationships like romcoms. I am not sure that watching romcoms will give you screwy ideas. I think romcoms might just make people with reasonable (or no) ideas about relationships want to not watch those any more. Romcoms famously lack universal appeal, even among Women of the Target Audience Age Range.

"Importantly, consuming more television was also linked with less relationship satisfaction in the subjects' actual romantic relationships."

[Stunned silence.]

Okay, CAUSAL ARROW DIRECTIONALITY ISSUE. If you are unhappy with your (lack of a) relationship, OF COURSE YOU ARE GONNA WATCH MORE TV. Primary mechanism of avoidance in our society. Cheap. Easy. Pervasively available.

Well, at least he is now attacking the pervasiveness and wrongness of "one and only" soulmate thinking. Yay! I can get behind that.

Alas! Tashiro totes misrepresented the Gallup poll he used!

"In a 2010 Gallup survey of more than one thousand adults, respondents were asked if they believed there is a soul mate, which most people define as a "one and only" partner whom they are fated to be with forever and who is waiting for them."

2001, actually, and that's not how it was defined in the survey. It was actually about the depth and quality of the relationship, not the one-and-only-ness.

"Although there is nothing wrong with believing that a spiritual connection in love can be worked toward, counting on fate to magically provide the right partner and a relationship high in satisfaction and stability is a shot in the dark." People in the survey had confidence they would find a "soul mate" but they didn't (as near as I can tell) assume fate or magic would be involved.

I would argue there are some serious issues with putting this much weight on a romantic relationship. You like this person. You want to have sexy times with this person. Don't make them also be your connection to the goddess. You can go get a high priestess for that. Or whatever.

He has a great description of figure out what you want -- three wishes -- and then has a chart of "percentage of those who meet each criterion". It's sort of a big deal to me that I only want a partner on the left hand side of the political spectrum and the numbers for Republican/Democrat/Independent are roughly correct. But then I took a look at the religious affiliation line, and he lists Catholic 24%, Protestant 40%, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Other ALL < 5% individually. AND YET Pew lists "Nones" (no affiliation, including atheist and agnostic) as 20%, with 6% atheist/agnostic as of 2012.

The argument that "you only get 3 wishes" because each one reduces your pool also isn't entirely true, as should be fairly obvious in my example. Nones trend heavily left of center, making the left of center requirement sort of a freebie on top of the Nones requirement. It _is_ useful to think about one's criteria and observe their frequency in the population (and whether they cluster or are independent or, worse, basically incompatible) and factor that into one's search strategy for a partner.

In the "three wishes" example given, hot, athletic, Catholic, it isn't even three wishes. It's four: she wants a man [boy, technically]. And Tashiro doesn't figure that that merits comment? Okay. He does say, "This simplified example does not take into account at least three factors that are always in play during Partner Selection: (1) 3 to 6 percent of those boys are attracted to other boys, (2) 30 percent of those high school boys are already in relationships, and (3) it is unknown how many of the remaining heterosexual [what, cause bi guys don't exist?], single boys would be mutually attracted to Anna as a romantic partner". But she didn't want a romantic partner. She wanted to have sex.

I would also point out that Anna was 18 when she picked 15 year old Jake. I don't know Minnesota laws at the time, but this could have been some sort of problem for her. She's in the clear in 2014, because she's within 48 months of his age.

He then treats hot, athletic and Catholic as independent variables. THEY PROBABLY ARE NOT. The hot guys from Anna's perspective are probably disproportionately athletic and vice versa. Instead of multiplying Catholic by tenth percentile attractiveness and on a varsity sports team, he should have just identified the number of Catholics on varsity sports teams and figured that was the pool. And that pool was probably more than 1.2.

"I explored the following question, ... "how do so many people not find what they are looking for?"

Better question: why is it so hard to figure out what it is that people are ultimately going to pick? Why don't they know ahead of time? Why are they so bad at describing what will ultimately seal the deal?

"Choosing someone average (fiftieth percentile) on three different traits would narrow a field of one hundred potential mates down to thirteen potential mates." IF THEY WERE FULLY INDEPENDENT VARIABLES.

You may not think this is a big deal, but even on something as simple as height and income (his next table in the book), THEY ARE HIGHLY CORRELATED IN MEN. And this has been known for a while. (Also, intelligence may be correlated to height and income, but I'd be a little suspicious of that since it's wicked hard to measure in a meaningful way.)


Also, I keep waiting for any indication that Ty Tashiro has heard of bounded rationality. Any. Indication. At. All.

Back to Jake and Anna. Anna, the 18 year old and thus the adult and def the instigator in this scenario, forgot to use contraception (and since she totes got on board with contraception later, we can't completely blame her religion for this, as much as I might like to). She tells Jake she might be pregnant; he starts avoiding her. Tashiro summarizes this as follows:

"She also learned that Jake could not be relied upon during times of stress."

Reification much? HE WAS 15!! 3 year age difference. Etc. "Although nothing would excuse Jake's behavior" WHAT THE BEING 15 DOES NOT COUNT? I feel bad for Jake, but Tashiro goes on to gleefully document how he folded on his football team also. WHICH HAD ZIP TO DO WITH WORRYING ABOUT WHETHER HE HAD A SPROUT ON THE WAY AND WHEN THE RENTS WOULD FIND OUT. I do not disagree with Tashiro's conclusion that Anna and Jake were not compatible (yeah, but duh. They didn't need to be. She just wanted to have sex). I will also note that she was smart to start dating non-Catholics, once she figured out what a good idea contraception was.

Stupendously bizarre description of Sand/Chopin, which completely leaves out all the drama.

Overselling the idea that romantic love as a reason to marry is Brand Spanking New Never Before Seen in the History of Whatever the Fuck.

Terrible summary of how horrible it used to be, trying to get enough food to eat. Nasty, brutish, short. Here's his list of the kind of partner you should look for: above average height, as a marker for health. Dude, that's a dumb criteria. Tall people eat more. You are better off using much more detailed knowledge. Like, is this one of your cousins or not, and if so, how close of a cousin are they. You also want to know what kind of assistance their family can provide -- not just what kind of work your mate can do. Wouldn't you rather have a short, healthy person with a bunch of short, healthy siblings who all traded work -- over some lone wolf tall guy who can work hard but has no relatives?

About reality shows: "they put small groups of horny singles into tight spaces. Then they wait for the inevitable and delicious growth of interpersonal drama that unfolds as sexual tensions give rise to spectacular collisions of romantic self-interests". D'oh. They withhold food and oversupply alcohol. They don't just wait, cause they'd be waiting forever. He thinks this is why arranged marriages happened. I have an alternative theory. Nasty, brutish and short tends to really make for reduced libido. So the biddies (that would be: women like me) sit around and watch the kids and hatch plans for who goes well together (because that's what middle-aged women like to do, "they'd make such pretty babies!!!"). And then they maneuver to make sure they spend extra time together and assuming they don't bounce off, they pair up. I like my theory better. Also, while he quotes Coontz, he apparently has completely failed to internalize how wildly different marriage looks across time and space, at least according to her (I mean, not really a one man one woman thing).

"Although both sexes view kindness as desirable women [wow, commas, they are helpful], who are faced with the "burden" of pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing, would be more inclined to select kind mates who are more likely to form an emotional interest in their well-being and the well-being of their children."

So, so, so many problems here. Let's start with, there really are circumstances where "kindness" is a handicap, and a physically insecure environment is pretty high on the list. Tashiro has been focused on food scarcity as a historical issue and a problem for raising the kiddos, but violence is right up there, too. Loyalty might look _way_ more important in a physically insecure environment, vs. kindness.

"Choosing a mate primarily based on reproductive fitness does not sound very romantic"

Okay, there is something seriously wrong with the entire publishing team that no one called a halt and said, uh, _I_ think that's kinda hot, actually.

CURRENT pop culture is larded with references to reproductive fitness being appealing/romantic/wtf. "I want to have your baby" as a way of telling someone how wonderful they are (ah, ukeleles).

It is so weird that he doesn't mention the reduction in the number of kids per reproductive pair. Because that's what you do when kids all survive reliably: you have fewer of them. And I would argue that it's a lot more likely that you'll back off on trying to control your kids' marriages after the first or second one, so letting the next generation pick their own spouse was probably an artifact of families with 4+ kids who made it to adulthood.

A promising heading! "What People Say They Want and What They Actually Do"

"At a buffet, patrons are guaranteed to get everything they want" Wha-? Guaranteed to get as much of whatever there is at the buffet that they can stand, YES. What they want? Hardly. What buffet is this guy going to?

"so they are not forced to think about what they put on their plates"

Wow. It's like he's from another planet. Also, putting salad on the plate to look good? No. And he has failed to factor in social repercussions associated with too many return trips, leading to massive plate overloading. I could go on.

His example of what happens when you give someone a chart to pick a mate's attributes from (yeah, that's realistic) with a lot of buying power, you get different results from when you have little buying power, is just comparing two different versions of What People Say They Want. And then some idiot with Sexual Strategies Theory (idiot's name: David Buss, UT evolutionary psychologist) draws a line between women picking mate money and men picking mate attractiveness has something to do with sperm and eggs. BECAUSE CULTURE IS IRRELEVANT. I know why women pick mate's with money -- that's because women make seventy odd cents on the male dollar. I'm less clear on why men pick hot women. My guess is that all the participants' in this game are in college and don't know shit, and the boys are all obsessed with physical attractiveness and at some point it is going to dawn on them that it helps if she has a check coming in every coupla weeks, too, and if you used 30ish people to play the game you'd get slightly different results.

But that's pure speculation.

I do sort of wonder what would happen if you had some forty or fifty something year olds -- raising kids -- play this game. Would all the people worried about paying for their kids' college result in both sides picking money first?
Tags: not-a-book-review
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