[ExI] Colours

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun May 5 09:29:53 UTC 2013

On 05/05/2013 04:57, Harvey Newstrom wrote:
> Makes sense to me.  People would remember compliments or complaints 
> from their target audience.  The only feedback they would hear or pay 
> attention to would be those.  They may not even realize that different 
> targets could have different color preferences.  They may be merely 
> going with what "everybody" seems to tell them about colors.  If they 
> never hear the non-target audience feedback, they may not really be 
> making choices at all.

This probably also explains a lot of non-sexual clothing selection like 
dressing to fit with a workplace. You pay attention to signals from the 
boss or social trendsetter since their approval is important. Which 
incidentally fits in with a piece of advice in Dress for Success that 
notes that businessmen should not let their wives or mothers select 
their clothes: if the goal is to send signals to work-mates (and the 
wife does not work in the same environment) then her advice is likely to 
be slightly off-target.

Of course, workplace clothing is often utilitarian and more about 
signalling conformism. I felt like a dangerous outsider in my pinstripe 
*grey* suit last week when I was exploring the insurance district of 
London: everybody could tell I was not one of them. (Seeing a horde of 
identically dressed insurance underwriters emerge from Lloyds at exactly 
one o'clock and making their way to the nearest sushi take-away is one 
of the great natural wonders of the world.)

On 05/05/2013 05:13, Andrew Mckee wrote:
> It might be a cute idea, but I tend to follow the medical research 
> suggesting gay, lesbian and trans-gender people really do have a brain 
> that is gender opposite to the rest of their body. Following the 
> correct dress sense for a woman trapped in a male body trying to 
> attract a straight man or another female brain trapped in a mans body, 
> gives me a headache. :-)

Well, the evidence is mildly complicated. It seems that some 
hypothalamic systems of gay men and straight women are somewhat similar 
in the hypothalamus region, limbic functional connectivity and brain 
asymmetry ( 
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/06/13/0801566105.abstract ) but 
various studies (especially olfactory and pharmacological ones, 
http://www.pnas.org/content/103/21/8269.abstract ) seem to suggest that 
lesbian women do not have exactly male brains. I think it is likely that 
there are basic developmental differences at the bottom, but then these 
get expressed in a highly learning-specific way. Things are not terribly 
deterministic, and one should not be overly essentialist about sexual 
orientation. It is more about what people tend to do and feel than a 
particular well-defined state.

So my first order guess is that if you want to figure out what group X 
likes, you should try asking group X (or watch revealed preferences in 
their behaviour). If you cannot or dare not, asking group Y that has 
somewhat similar preferences might work, but introduces noise. If you go 
to group Z that is also trying to impress group X, they might have 
figured out tricks you do not know. Of course, it might be that they are 
actually trying to impress an actually different group (like gay men 
being mostly concerned with gay men), so there is some reason to be 
sceptical there. So my second order approach would be to listen to 
advice or information from all these groups and combine it: there are 
probably robust patterns that would be true despite the filtering 
effects, and these are strong enough to care about. Combined expert sets 
typically outperform individuals on messy pattern matching. 
Inter-individual differences in what people like are anyway pretty big, 
so trying to exactly match advice or what some example person likes is 
bound to be biasing (except if you have a particular person in mind you 
want to impress, of course).

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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