Why hard-to-get is attractive

For intuition on woman’s attraction heuristic, read the following thought experiment:

Imagine you’re about to choose one of three job interviews to attend. You know nothing about the job prior to the interview. You could be applying as a cashier at McDonald’s or a CEO of Intel—you have no idea. The only information you’re given is the following:

Job Interview 1 – You answer all the questions easily and feel confident you’ll get the job.

Job Interview 2 – You barely manage to answer the questions and you feel your chances of getting hired are insignificant.

Job Interview 3 You manage to answer most, but not all of the questions and feel there is about a 50% chance of being hired. Remember, you know nothing about the salary, benefits or prestige of the job you’re interviewing for.

Given what you know, which job interview would you choose and why?

Most people would easily discard the second option. After all, there is no point of wasting your opportunity to interview for attainable jobs for one you have no shot at. The difficulty of the interview is evidence you’re probably under-qualified anyways.

Now you’re left with the first and third option. This decision is a little less obvious. Most would discard the first option, but not for the same reason they discarded the second. The problem with the first interview is that it’s too easy. There are certain inferences you can make about a job whose interview process is easy for you to pass: you’re probably overqualified and can get a higher-paying and more prestigious job elsewhere.

This raises the question: For a job you believe you’re perfectly qualified for and can’t do better or worse elsewhere, how would you expect the job interview to go?

You would expect it to be challenging, but still perceived attainable. In other words, the interview has to be the hardest possible interview that doesn’t make you feel hopeless. And this is why you choose the third interview—it fits the bill.

We know we’re maximizing our payoff when we experience these kinds of challenges; in this case, it was about maximizing the amount of money and prestige from our job. We are evolutionarily designed to seek out these sorts of challenges because they indicate that we’re maximizing our potential gains. Activates that are too hard use up too much energy and time for a little payoff. Conversely, activities that are too easy are a waste because time can be spent on yielding a higher payoffs elsewhere. Think about the times you’ve most enjoyed a sport or game. I can guarantee that in almost every case you experienced a perfect blend of ease and difficulty.

Women are like job-seekers going from interview to interview without knowing the salary or prestige of the jobs. Instead of seeking jobs, they’re seeking men; and instead of trying to maximize salary, they’re trying to maximize status in men. Women are turned on by men who bring forth a “challenging interview process.”

A man’s attractiveness (his status) is not as apparent as a woman’s: her physical appearance. While women have to “discover” a man’s value, men can plainly see a woman’s value. So men know how challenging a woman will be based on her physical appearance, woman don’t. Instead, they use the challenge itself to determine attractiveness. The same reasons that make a sexy woman challenging, make a challenging man sexy – because they’re probably the best you can do.

Don’t be easy to get. Don’t be impossible to get. Be hard to get.

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