I touched on grounded theory as a research method in my short introduction to research methodology. To expand on it, grounded theory is an approach that turns the research paradigm on its head. Where a positivist and phenomenologist tend to start by reading exhaustively on a topic, selecting a theoretical framework and then performing experiments to see if the framework applies in the specific case they are studying in. Grounded theory starts with a question or qualitative observations.
The humble beginning
The first step in this pursuit is that a man makes an observation. He has been told all his life, by sisters, mothers, female friends, female teachers and the society he lives in, that all women want is a nice guy. Now “nice guy” is not really a concrete term, all of us have an idea of what it means, but there is no real shared definition. So he asks for examples, and gets answers like:
- “A man who listens without trying to solve my problems”
- “A man who takes care of me”
- “A man who brings me flowers”
- “A man who asks “How was your day” and actually cares about the answer”
- “A man who treats me with respect”
There are many more, but these are sufficient. So, our man in this situation, comes up with a list of things he needs to do in order to be the “Nice guy”. He becomes a great listener, he gets a solid education and a good job, he focuses on listening to women, and always being respectful.
He starts going out and meeting women actively, and no matter how much he listens, or how many bouquets of flowers he buys and how respectful he is, he keeps getting the same set of reactions:
- “Lets just be friends”
- “You are such a great friend, you are like a brother to me”
- “I don’t feel that way about you”
- “You are just too nice!”
- “There is just no spark left”
Once this happens enough times, the man starts to wonder. “Why is this approach not working?” We could actually structure this in terms of a syllogism:
Major premise: Women want nice guys
Minor premise: I am a nice guy
Conclusion: Therefore women want me.
This is a perfectly valid argument, but as our man has discovered it is not a sound argument. This is probably not how you want to learn about soundness and validity.
The theory simply does not work. It is valid, yet for some reason the first syllogism yields poor results.
This contradicts everything that the man has been told all his life, and he goes into somewhat of an existential crisis, which is then followed by observation.
He notices statements such as:
- Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen
- Nice guys finish last
- Women love jerks.
This sounds counter-intuitive based on the social programming and the information he received from all the women he asked for advice on how to attract them. His results contradict what he has been told. So he stomps back to his mother, his sisters, his female friends, and demands to know why, after he has done everything they told him, he spends months or years in dry-spells, and when he gets into a relationship he gets dumped for someone who is a complete jerk.
He gets answers such as:
- “You will find the right one for you!”
- “You’re not really a NICE GUY, you are just pretending to be NICE to get sex! Real nice guys are nice without expecting anything in return!”
- “Just be yourself, and the right one will come along”
This makes little sense, he has been himself all along, and it hasn’t worked. He’s given away his time, and his money, yet he’s being told he hasn’t been nice. He’s getting impatient with waiting for “the right one” so he decides to do some problem-solving.
He starts going out to bars and clubs every single night of the week, and just watches the guys who go home with a new woman every night, watching how they stand, how they talk, how they move, what they are saying, and makes meticulous notes after every night. After months of this embedded research in the natural mating habitat of the human species, patterns start to emerge.
So he starts to emulate the patterns he observed, copying what the other guys were saying, how they dress, walk, stand and treat women. He forms some hypotheses:
H0 :There is no correlation between acting like the men who are successful and being successful.
H1: There is a correlation between acting like the men who are successful and being successful.
He goes out every night again, and while he isn’t as successful as the men he observed, he is more successful than he has ever been before. He develops a new syllogism:
Major premise: If Women want nice guys, women should want old me.
Women did not want old me.
Conclusion: Therefore women do not want nice guys.
The theoretical framework
Encouraged by his progress, he goes forth and at first it feels liberating to behave like a total asshole, yet he sees other assholes with better results and he starts to wonder why. After all, if he looks like one and acts like one, he is one. Thus they should be equal. Yet their results differ. This is paradoxical if the theory was complete. This would indicate a variable that he differs in from the others.
At this point he has a stack of notebooks up to the ceiling of observations so he starts looking for theoretical data that could help him solve the issues. He reads about the mating rituals of animals, and comes across other primate species. He discovers that among gorillas the Alpha male has his pick of all the women and that the Beta males get the leftovers. He reads Darwin’s “The origin of species” and Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene” and starts to theorize that perhaps what he learned in school about people being “blank slates” and all our behaviors, thoughts and actions were programmed into us by society is erroneous. After all the “nice guy” schema that he was trained into by society did not work, why would they be right about this?
Perhaps, some things are rooted deep inside human beings and he starts to think that if being homosexual is genetic, heterosexuality is genetic as well. If men as feminists claim are attracted to women they are programmed to be attracted to by the media and society, then how did gay men know who to be attracted to when there was no media and society murdered them for being gay?
How do our primate ancestors and modern relatives know what to be attracted to, and he remembers that the goal of any organism is survival, which means that from a pragmatic stance, it makes more sense to be attracted to that which gives a survival advantage.
He starts to think to himself, “If women are look for the optimal survival advantage for offspring, that means genetics, what displays quality genetics in modern humans?” Would we really differ that much from our genetic ancestors? After all evolution has worked over millions of years, civilization is at best 10000 years old.
Height is genetic, but there is also a dietary component, if you are malnourished as a child and teenager, you tend to be shorter than your genetic potential.
Muscle-mass is expensive, it costs extra calories to carry around extra mass.
Good teeth and hair tends to reflect on diet and lifestyle.
He starts to wonder, “is this all we are creatures ran by biology?
The mental aspect
Human beings are primates, but (some of us at least) have the ability to plan, to reason abstractly, and the brain is an expensive organ to maintain so for it to be selected for by evolution must mean that it supplies a survival advantage. This would indicate that demonstrations of a superior brain would also be a sign of “quality genetics” in a human.
After all, throughout human history intellectual pursuits of varying kinds have been highly rewarded. From the creation of new weapons to to great works of art. Human beings can learn, they can control their ID and favor their ego, to put short term satisfaction off, in order to develop further.
Persuasion, influence and manipulation are the cognitive variants of ruffling your feathers and punching someone’s teeth in, after all, if you can pay for an army, why fight yourself?
Maybe, he thinks women are more about looks than they let on. Height, teeth, hair and muscle are all visual. After all, many of them put enormous amounts of time into make-up, hair, clothes, working out and dieting, so it would be strange if they notice every little imperfection in themselves and every other woman, but when they look at a man they only see that big, bulging, brain.
So, he comes across a law enforcement training manual, and he notices a chapter on “command presence” and notices the same kind of “take up space”, “make yourself look bigger” and other power poses, that he’d seen in the bars and clubs. He starts to notice that his clothes do not fit as well as some of the men with more success, paying attention to hair was never a priority for him, so he starts paying attention and he welcomes more success.
Pulling it together:
Mating for animals is fairly straight forward, humans have analyzed mating behaviors in animals for centuries if not longer. The Strongest and biggest gorilla, the peacock with the brightest feathers or in the case of a black widow the male who is willing to sacrifice himself to procreate.
So, we can call this Strategy A, and Strategy B. A seeks to obtain mating rights by “show of force” and B seeks to obtain mating rights through “show of sacrifice”
Each strategy seeks to obtain the goal of mating through either showing superior qualities in terms of genetics, or superior qualities in terms of submission.
If he makes an assumption that biological instincts are tempered by society and our cognition, that Freud was right that only two things temper the ID, namely force or bribery. Conclusion is that the Gorilla works of force, and the male in the case of the black widow, bribes the female with the calories of his own body in exchange for mating rights
He starts to analyze it by himself, that at first he didn’t really change anything except he modeled his interactions with women on the successful men in the bars and clubs. The interactions are obviously social, so the social traits he adopted at obviously a display of quality genetics. Humans are a social species, so it makes sense that the ability to interact with other human beings would be an evolutionary advantage.
Taking a hint from the strong and powerful Gorilla male, he builds his body, and taking a feather from the peacock, he dares to stand out, to be audacious. What is little known about the peacock male, is that the more he stands out, the more vulnerable he is to predators, yet he chooses to stand out.
The man has to go to the dentist and sees a copy of “The Economist” on the table, and reads an article about the principal-agent issues in modern corporate governance. It dawns on him, the Schrodinger’s statement is real, it just means two things, be yourself means; “Openly show whether you are Strategy A or Strategy B so that I may decide“.
Understanding that human cognition gives the ability to plan, to analyse, and to control our ID in favor of our Ego, he builds his mind, and uses his strength of will to achieve his goals, the final understanding dawning on him, that everything he accomplished was Yggdrasil grown from the seed in the grounded theory.