The 19th century saw a debate about the nature of light. It had wave-like features and particle-like features. The particle-favoring people pointed out a major failing of the wave people: all known waves propagated in a medium, like waves moving on the surface of a pond. What was the medium in which light would vibrate to cross space? Theorists postulated the existence of a substance, luminiferous ether, that was pervasive, and formed the medium through which light propagated. The Michelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that no such substance existed, and is one of the hallmarks of 19th century physics.
The Rationalization Hamster is Roissy’s magnificent creation, as Dalrock showed in his hilarious Rationalization Hamster 500 post (Another great exposition of the concept is Mentu on Hamsterbating). I prefer Solomon II’s description:
If you’re a woman reading this, please note I’m talking about every woman but you, so no worries. Let’s start with the Rationalization Hamster, Whorus justifyus.
Whorus justifyus is believed to be the single most powerful creature on earth.
Scientists theorize the creature evolved from the cells of a busted hymen approximately 200 million years ago when a meteor crashed into the planet bringing with it radiation that increased estrogen levels in unborn fetuses. Over time, the rationalization hamster grew stronger until it completely took over the left side of the female brain, rendering women unable to be reasonable or logical regarding anything that goes against their wants, wishes or desires regardless of evidence to the contrary.
Now, there is a problem with this description: men make rationalizations, too. Men will typically rationalize any number of things that they do. Consider the classic lines from The Big Chill:
Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.
Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.
Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?
Women might make more rationalizations of bad choices than men do. There is a reason for this. As Roissy writes: When a woman has an incentive to lie, she will choose dishonesty over truth EVERY SINGLE TIME. There is no lie worse than the lie to the self.
The objection to the concept of the rationalization hamster has to do with this: it is a form of pedestalization of women. Implicit in this concept is the idea that women would make the good choice, but a rationalization hamster leads them astray. But the truth of the matter is…
Women are perverse
We take this insight from the paper that Roissy calls the NY Beta Times. Oh, in the months before I found Roissy, I was reading stories like this one, bits of examination of the female psych in the mainstream media. Titled “What Do Women Want?”, it’s an article that traces the work of Meredith Chivers, “a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior.”
Chivers created what author Daniel Bergner called “Bonobo Pornography.”
“The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated… She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.
While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers… measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively. …The genitals of the volunteers were connected to plethysmographs — for the men, an apparatus that fits over the penis and gauges its swelling; for the women, a little plastic probe that sits in the vagina and, by bouncing light off the vaginal walls, measures genital blood flow. An engorgement of blood spurs a lubricating process called vaginal transudation: the seeping of moisture through the walls. The participants were also given a keypad so that they could rate how aroused they felt.”
Literally, she was testing for what it is that makes women wet. What were the findings? Well, men…
“on average, responded genitally in what Chivers terms ‘category specific’ ways. Males who identified themselves as straight swelled while gazing at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while watching the masturbating and exercising women. They were mostly unmoved when the screen displayed only men. Gay males were aroused in the opposite categorical pattern. Any expectation that the animal sex would speak to something primitive within the men seemed to be mistaken; neither straights nor gays were stirred by the bonobos. And for the male participants, the subjective ratings on the keypad matched the readings of the plethysmograph. The men’s minds and genitals were in agreement.”
I would think this is categorically true about men. If they are not into fatty porn, it will not excite them. What about the women?
“All was different with the women. No matter what their self-proclaimed sexual orientation, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. They responded objectively much more to the exercising woman than to the strolling man, and their blood flow rose quickly — and markedly, though to a lesser degree than during all the human scenes except the footage of the ambling, strapping man — as they watched the apes.”
So the human female is turned on by a wide range of stimuli, and she often does not KNOW what turns her on, or cannot admit it. The article continues:
“(W)ith the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded. Whether straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while staring at the bonobos.”
It would seem that women rationalize away their arousal, even when it is objectively measured and present. In other words, they do not rationalize a reason to BE aroused, they rationalize a reason NOT to be aroused. In the clinical environment of a researcher’s lab, they knew better than to admit that hot monkey sex had turned them on. The reason for this is clear:
You don’t have Free Will
What is going on in the female brain is the same process that goes on in the male brain. Women think they are making a conscious decision FOR something, while in fact the motivation to do something has bubbled up from the hindbrain. As this article in Psychology Today tells us:
“There is an interesting and hotly debated line of research focused on the neuroscience of conscious choice. This research explores the relation between brain activity and voluntary motion. The most prominent of this work was a series of experiments in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s by Benjamin Libet (1916-2007).
The paradigm involves research participants flexing their wrists or fingers (at a moment that they choose) while the researchers measured the timing of three things:
- the moment of conscious awareness of an urge to flex the wrist (noted by the participant on a special clock),
- the moment that electrical activity is recorded in the brain (EEG of the motor cortex) indicating the brain’s initiation of action (known as a “readiness potential”), and
- the moment that electrical activity is recorded in the muscles of the wrist (Electromyogram, EMG), indicating that the voluntary flex was being enacted.
Given our common sense notion of how our actions work, we might expect that we first have a conscious awareness of an intention or urge to act, then the brain activates the motor area that sends a signal to the muscles of the wrist or fingers. The surprising thing is this is not what Libet found.
The not-too-surprising finding was that when averaged across participants the results revealed that activity in the motor area of the brain preceded the electrical activity in the muscle by 550 ms (milliseconds). Our brain activity precedes our muscle activity. Surprisingly, the participants’ reports of their conscious awareness of the urge to move were only 200 ms prior to the electrical activity recorded in the muscle. Brain activity preceded conscious awareness by about a third of a second! What does this imply?
The brain unconsciously initiates the process of “voluntary” action. Subsequently we become aware of this. On the basis of these results, some researchers concluded that free will is an illusion.” (emphasis in original)
It seems, then, like we are naught but automata, obeying the programming of our deep hindbrains. However, there is some bright light. We might not possess the ability to consciously decide to DO something, but we do have the capability to suppress the urge to do something: Free Won’t. The article continues:
“Libet had participants in the same basic paradigm, but he instructed the participants that once you become aware of your urge to flex, then stop it. Don’t flex your fingers or wrist. Libet believed that there was a window of about 150 ms in which the participant could do this (note that the whole 200 ms between conscious awareness and muscle movement is not available, because once the spinal nerves are activated, somewhere around 50 ms before the muscle movement, this can not be stopped). The results indicated that the cortical readiness potential did develop (even earlier than in the past experiments), but this brain activity flattened out just before the muscle action, which indicated the vetoing effects of conscious choice. Libet concluded that participants were using conscious choice to veto the muscle flex at the last moment.
We have free will to abort an action. So, we may better think of volitional action in this case not as free will, but as “free won’t.” We can stop an action initiated by our brain nonconsciously.
This capacity of “free won’t” is generated by free choice. This is our conscious will at work.” (emphasis in original)
What the experimental psychologists are discovering here is empirical support for a Victorian concept,
The book of that same title was reviewed by Free Northerner on this site. It is an overview of recent work in experimental psychology by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, a popularizer of science in the New York Times. There are a few takeaways from the book, and one of them is that the Freudian concept of willpower is, in fact, well-grounded. Without referencing the idea of “free won’t,” they talk about “decision fatigue” in the actions of an Israeli parole board considering parole for two Arabs and one Jew, only one of whom, we are told, received parole:
“There was a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it wasn’t related to the men’s ethnic backgrounds, crimes or sentences. It was all about timing, as researchers discovered by analyzing more than 1,100 decisions over the course of a year. Judges, who would hear the prisoners’ appeals and then get advice from the other members of the board, approved parole in about a third of the cases, but the probability of being paroled fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.
The odds favored the prisoner who appeared at 8:50 a.m. — and he did in fact receive parole. But even though the other Arab Israeli prisoner was serving the same sentence for the same crime — fraud — the odds were against him when he appeared (on a different day) at 4:25 in the afternoon. He was denied parole, as was the Jewish Israeli prisoner at 3:10 p.m, whose sentence was shorter than that of the man who was released. They were just asking for parole at the wrong time of day.
There was nothing malicious or even unusual about the judges’ behavior… The judges’ erratic judgment was due to the occupational hazard of being, as George W. Bush once put it, ‘the decider.’ The mental work of ruling on case after case, whatever the individual merits, wore them down. …
It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing.”
What causes this lowered mental power? It is as simple as this: lowered blood glucose.
“(R)esearchers set out to test something called the Mardi Gras theory — the notion that you could build up willpower by first indulging yourself in pleasure, the way Mardi Gras feasters do just before the rigors of Lent. In place of a Fat Tuesday breakfast, the chefs in the lab at Florida State whipped up lusciously thick milkshakes for a group of subjects who were resting in between two laboratory tasks requiring willpower. Sure enough, the delicious shakes seemed to strengthen willpower by helping people perform better than expected on the next task. So far, so good. But the experiment also included a control group of people who were fed a tasteless concoction of low-fat dairy glop. It provided them with no pleasure, yet it produced similar improvements in self-control.”
Where did the improved willpower from the tasteless, non-reward drinks come from?
“Even the tasteless glop had done the job, but how? If it wasn’t the pleasure, could it be the calories? …For decades, psychologists … liked to envision the human mind as a computer, focusing on the way it processed information. In their eagerness to chart the human equivalent of the computer’s chips and circuits, most psychologists neglected one mundane but essential part of the machine: the power supply. The brain, like the rest of the body, derived energy from glucose, the simple sugar manufactured from all kinds of foods. To establish cause and effect, researchers at Baumeister’s lab tried refueling the brain in a series of experiments involving lemonade mixed either with sugar or with a diet sweetener. The sugary lemonade provided a burst of glucose, the effects of which could be observed right away in the lab; the sugarless variety tasted quite similar without providing the same burst of glucose. Again and again, the sugar restored willpower, but the artificial sweetener had no effect.” (emphasis added)
So it would seem unfair to characterize female “choices” as due to rationalizations. What is happening is exactly OPPOSITE, and helps explain…
Why Game Works
As evidenced from the above, women are turned on by pretty much anything. Yes, even that neck-bearded cretin might spur a fantasy in the female brain. She literally has NO control over these ideas bubbling up from the hindbrain; they are always present. What she can decide to do is NOT act on her impulses, which requires an assertion of willpower.
Now, this is where game comes in. Roissy describes one element of game, as derived from Mystery, as “flipping the script.” In a sense, women stereotype men who approach them for the same reason WE ALL stereotype: it is a way to avoid making a conscious decision (or to suppress an unconscious desire), and thus conserve the blood glucose that helps preserve willpower. By running the script of male pursuer, woman denier, they can save the mental effort that it requires to evaluate their many offers.
Flipping the script now forces them to think, to decide, to become the pursuer. As this is NOT a subroutine they can easily run, they need to dedicate mental energy to it. This effort depletes their supply of brain glucose, and so they are less able to control their urges. This, I believe, is the ultimate science behind game, exploiting neurochemical energy pathways.
When Women are Most Vulnerable
Much of the PUA scene focuses on getting girls in bars. The “drunk slut” has a basis in willpower. There is the direct effect of alcohol on the brain, but there is another effect, more subtle, but perhaps more important. Diabetics are discouraged from drinking heavily because the liver is the main site of alcohol processing in the body. The liver is also the source of glucagon, a chemical that can be used in times of stress (like a low-blood-sugar incident caused by too much insulin) to raise blood sugar rapidly. A liver stressed by processing alcohol cannot also produce as much glucagon, and so heavy drinking can be literally life-threatening in the diabetic.
In a woman in a bar, the alcohol has a similar effect on the liver. They are less able to generate the blood glucose that would strengthen their willpower, and more susceptible to pickup.
There is another time when this applies. It has been noted that “women are also more likely to cheat when they’re ovulating.” We need not wonder why. Women are constantly aroused by things they cannot explain, but ones with self-discipline keep it under control through an exertion of willpower. However, the effort to prepare an internal bassinet for a fertilized egg to grow in, on a monthly basis, requires a TREMENDOUS investment of energy. This energy investment naturally lowers blood glucose levels, making women less likely to resist the temptation to cheat when ovulating, and more unable to resist the grouchy, nasty, bitchy impulses the hindbrain throws up during PMS.