My friend Heather’s post on some stereotypes about D.C. dating provoked a thought that, while probably wrong, was at any rate amusingly counterintuitive enough that I’ll repeat it here. She’s not persuaded by the claim that D.C. women are especially unfit or unattractive (depends on your comparison city, doesn’t it?) but agrees with the notion that D.C. guys are “vanilla pansies that are scared to approach a woman in a bar.” I don’t know how true that generally is—presumably women are in a better position to judge how often they get hit on—but it occurs to me that there’s a model on which a city with more attractive women on average might actually yield a lower rate of bar-macking.
Assume there are diminishing returns to hotness. Which is to say, there’s some threshold of physical attraction below which things probably aren’t going to get off the ground whatever other good traits someone has. And there’s a range within which improvements along this dimension will get significant weight. But between potential partners sufficiently high on that dimension—say ranging from “very attractive” to “stunning”—those other traits (smart, witty, kind, fun, whatever) become relatively more important.
Now, someone considering a cold approach in a bar really only has one dimension to go on: Hotness, which differs from the others in being pretty readily apparent in a noisy, crowded room. Even for someone unfazed by the risk of rejection, the cold approach carries some probability of ending up in a tedious conversation with an otherwise unappealing person. So other things equal, the expected value of a cold approach will depend on the relative salience, given your prospective partner pool, of the hotness dimension. If, to put it bluntly, you live among trolls, that will tend to be a high-salience dimension, making a cold approach to one of the rare attractive people you encounter more appealing. But if median attractiveness is high, then hotness is cheap: The expected returns to striking up a conversation with someone about whom you know only that they’re hot are far lower. Ergo: More hotness, less macking. Thoughts?