India Uncut

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Books as a signaling device

Sarah Crown writes in Culture Vulture about a survey that has concluded:
... books play a crucial role in influencing our opinions of strangers. Half of those asked admitted that they would look again or smile at someone on the basis of what they were reading ... A third of those surveyed said that they "would consider flirting with someone based on their choice of literature".
With me, the graph is simple: I'm reading a book at a public place; hot brown woman with short hair comes into sight, looks at my book; she notes that it is suitably highbrow, nods in approval, puts on her most charming smile, and looks up to check me out; the next moment she's rushing away, amazed that this messy slob of a man is actually literate.

Nah, reading books has never helped me in these matters.

But I guess in a situation where two strangers know nothing about the other person, what kind of book they're reading could serve as what economists call a signaling device. One of the things we look for in potential mates is shared interests, or values, and their choice of book can indicate just that. There are loads of other signalling devices in the human mating dance, and I shall save an elaboration on that fascinating subject, from my severely limited experience, for another time.

Ah, wait, you have a question, I see, at least the ladies among you. What should I catch a woman reading if I am to be impressed by her? That's easy. India Uncut.

(Crown link via email from Gaurav Mishra.)

Update: A blogger who wishes to remain anonymous writes in:
Quite an interesting point - many a nerd has sat with a tome hoping to be noticed by a literary-minded belle, not many have been successful.

To share a tale, though, I once encountered a lady in a Dallas pub who was reading Michel Foucault, and my recognition of the author was beneficial, to put it thus. Thus, the approach cuts both ways, it seems.
Beneficial? I would have liked some graphic detail, but still. And let's see, if you see a chica reading Foucault, what's a good opening line? Hmm, you could try this:
[In a sleazy French accent, with a drawl] Good evening mademoiselle. Are you aware that Monsieur Foucault was once paid for a television debate with a chunk of hashish? Well, I have a chunk of hashish with me as well. What say we partake some of it while we discuss Monsieur Foucault's work? I would love to tell you all about my forthcoming illustrated version of The History of Sexuality. He he he.
Hmm, wasn't that nifty? Strange how my pick-up lines never work.

Update 2 (August 4): Frigging 'ell, Falstaff's had a hard life.
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