Now any attack on moral grounds could be justifiable (as could any defence), it is just about personal value judgments. But both authours mention that they see the neg as a suboptimal strategy. On these theoretical grounds I do not think they are quite right.
There are a myriad of areas where the “neg” could be applied, but for the self-styled “pick-up artists” that established the idea the main area is – of course – picking up a girl.
A neg is defined as a mildly negative comment that is supposed to function in picking up (examples provided by one of the guys I think drove this irriation from Tyler and Andrew). I suspect it would function along multiple levels:
- Makes the guy seem more fussy (increasing his perceived dating value),
- Disarms the girl or makes her lower her own view of her value,
- Signals that the guy believes he is in a stronger bargaining position,
- Signals greater gains from trade.
However it functions, these guys say that when trying to pick someone up (either for a relationship or a one night stand) a “neg” functions as a dominant strategy. As a result, we can’t say that they aren’t doing the right thing for what they are interested in – it is a dominant strategy, and that is that.
Even in broadered terms although I may people may not like the concept of the neg we have to ask: if its proponents find that it is a dominant strategy where is the issue?
We may say that there is an externality, but is this really the case? Sure there is no explicit price, but if there are gains from trade in a relationship the “cost” of the neg will be internalised during said relationship.
The only “externality” that may exist will be when the girl rejects the neg – but if the girl gets to reject the guy do we really think the externality from the guys attitude would be very large?
Think of it this way. The neg is a slight offhand negative/neutral comment, not a ripping insult. It is mean’t to be so small that the girl doesn’t think the guy is a complete cock – so BY ASSUMPTION the comment in itself isn’t sufficient to make the girl reject the guy!!! Given this, any girl that rejects the guy would have even if the comment had not occurred as she views her “value” sufficiently above his. As a result, the comment is unlikely to have had much (if any) negative impact on the happiness of the girl involved.
Overall, this implies that any “externality” argument against the neg is very weak.
But there must be something wrong with it!
The one way the “neg” strategy might be suboptimal is if it involves a small cost and is a dominant strategy. In this case there would be an “arms race” of negging amount guys trying to pull. If we think this is the case it may be socially preferable not to have negs. However, we also have to be honest that this is still a dominant strategy for individuals.
If the neg is only an issue because of “multiple equilibrium” (and thereby institutional setting) I really don’t see why it would cause such a strong reaction.
Possibly we have evolved in such a way that we find the neg game abhorent in order to ensure that we reach the “pareto superior” low amount of neg equilibrium. If this is the case, the reaction of people too it may signal a genetic disposition – rather than it being some function of objective analysis.
Disclaimer: You will not see me involved in any game (other than drinking too much), it is one of the things you are unable to do as an incredibly nerdy economist like myself. I am looking at this from a purely theoretical standpoint, and felt that Tyler’s and Andrew’s dual dismisal of the concept was stronger than I felt was appropriate 😉
Update: An expert in the field defends the neg here. I found this interesting:
- Newflash: The mating market is inherently selfish.
- Newsflash #2: Negs aren’t insults. They are edgy teasing. Is this distinction so difficult to grasp?
- Newsflash #3: If “putting down” women is so wrong, why does it feel so right to them?
Now we covered the first two points here. However the third point, the it actually adds value and that women have a preference for this type of action is something we did not cover. If this is indeed the case, then that is an additional argument defending the neg.