John Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs    

Psychology using sex difference as basis

A Brief Introduction to Procedural Analysis

Some essential mechanisms and strategies


Procedural Analysis is concerned with male and female strategies but most attention is given to female strategies. This is because in prehistory and until quite recently the male’s strategy was simple: he just struck out. (Shut up woman! – followed by a slap, or at least the implicit threat of one.) There was no need for him to induce false feelings (transduction), mess with someone’s head or employ fancy tactics. His strategy was straighforward and direct.

The reason females abhor violence so much is because this is a battleground on which they invariably lose. Many subtle female behaviours have evolved to compensate for males’ greater aggressiveness and physical strength.

Females obfuscate by behaving irrationally. Perverse and illogical they may seem, but nonetheless that behaviour is purposeful, because it confuses males and masks their strategies. Plus they are more uniform than males. Once these factors are appreciated they become easier to understand. Males and females play the ‘Game of Opposites.’ Paramount in this is that females seek to raise the cost of sex, males to reduce it.

Although this page is meant as a very brief introduction to PA, some important late-stage formalizations are included. Notable among these are the major strategies Malign Encouragement, Disguised Defection and Marginal Defection. Some of the following paragraphs appear in All About Women.

Biology, Evolution and History

Most of history has not been written; it lies within us. Instincts have evolved just as organs to give us advantage in a competitive, often hostile environment. During early human history women were constantly either pregnant or breast-feeding. In the Upper Paleolithic Period (40,000 – 10,000 BC) the life-expectancy of males was 33.3 years and of females 28.7, with the major cause of female mortality being childbearing and attempts to induce abortions (e.g. putting a plank over a woman’s stomach and jumping on it until blood spurted out of her vagina). Male mortality would have been mainly due to hunting accidents and fights over women. According to Darwin the Best Man tradition derives from him being the groom’s accomplice in the act of stealing a bride from a neighbouring village. Indeed this practice continues in some regions today.

To obtain anything approaching an accurate perspective on human behaviour, and male-female interaction in particular, we have to be aware of humans’ evolutionary history: in the biological jargon, our phylogeny. The great bulk of our evolutionary conditioning took place during our two million-year prehistoric period. It is here that we find the origins of behaviour and the reasons we are what we are.

Probably the three dominant factors at the root of male-female interaction are the following, operating at the primal, the physical and the psychological level:

  1. Primal. The abundance and ready availability of sperm versus the finite supply of eggs. This is the biological origin of the different amounts of parental investment required by males and females, particularly the child-bearing and nurturing role of the female. In the biological terminology, the female is gravid: egg-bearing. (Evolutionarily, post-menopausal females are partically null.)
  2. Physical. The female is physically weaker than the male. To compensate for this handicap the female has evolved numerous mechanisms for manipulating males, and her mate in particular. Males must be unaware of these mechanisms for them to be fully effective. (An obvious long-term female strategy is to deny reproductive facilities to males who are impervious to female manipulation.)
  3. Psychological. During sexual selection, telling the female anything she doesn’t want to hear, regardless of how true it is, immediately mars a male’s chances. Since the female is inherently more perceptive than the male, and is likely to detect a conscious attempt to deceive her, the male, in order to improve his reproductive success, deceives himself. The most convincing liar is one who had deluded himself.

It is proposed that every transaction can be analysed in terms of

Signals, Markers, Tokens and Handles

Definitions and Examples

SIGNAL (F) A gesture, especially a sexual one serving to attract a mate. (Ambiguous.) The Accident Signal (e.g. spilling a drink) which is a prompt for male aid, from which a relationship and progeny may result. The Open Legs signal, the Wide Eye signal. ‘The female signals, the male responds.’ Signalling is the female strategy; it is passive, safe and ambiguous. The female manipulates the male into making an approach and can always deny her intent. Signals induce neurosis in males, making them confused and yet easier to manipulate. (Neurosis is here defined after Pavlov as the stress induced when one stimulus evokes two or more responses.) Sexual signals are advantageous and heritable.
MARKER (M) An unambiguous indication of involvement. Talking to someone; buying someone a drink. Electricity, telephones, cars and other items of utility are markers discovered, invented or created by males. A female marks a male by choosing or mending his clothes. Primordial marking is leaving scent. Other forms of territorial marking are decorating a flat or leaving something at a table intending to return.
TOKEN (F) When one thing means another. (Ambiguous.) An invitation for a cup of coffee: traditionally, this is an invitation to share in the ritual of its preparation, and to talk. ‘Do you have a light?’ Hints are commonplace examples of the token. A token has different values for the giver and the receiver. The cost of a cup of coffee in a café is a token because the cost of the drink represents the rent of the premises, wages of staff etc., and this is normally understood by both parties.
HANDLE (M) A request which evokes a fixed and predetermined response. (Unambiguous.) Calling someone’s name, having an arrangement to meet, being able to touch or hold someone. Many handles are implicit, for example the request to drive on the right side of the road. A condition in which handles are issued (e.g. knowing someone’s name, being married) is called a handle state.

Females prefer signals and tokens because they are ambiguous and therefore manipulative, while males prefer markers and handles because they are unambiguous and often involve the wealth which he creates.

The Male-Female Game

Game theory can be applied to human behaviour and here it is applied especially to the male-female game. The model is mathematical (see box), but it is possible to detail its essentials without mathematics. For a fuller discussion of games see Axelrod: The Evolution of Cooperation or Poundstone: The Prisoner’s Dilemma; the former is easier to find but Poundstone’s is more wide-ranging (and entertaining).

  1. Suppose that two players, a Protagonist and an Opponent, transact. The transaction may be social, in which case the benefits (payoffs) may be difficult to measure, or they may be monetary, in which case numbers are already available: the winner is the player with the highest payoff at game-end. In the evolutionary game the only important payoff is the number of progeny. In this male-female model the female is often cast as Protagonist (the main player, who starts the game) because most sexual games are instigated by females, whether the male is aware of it or not.
  2. Both players cooperate, in which case each gets a Reward payoff. (One example of this is a distributor selling to a retailer: each takes his profit from the transaction.)
  3. One player cheats: he defects. If the other player is attempting to cooperate, the defector gets the highest payoff of all, the Temptation payoff (in the case of a distributor selling to a retailer, the retailer doesn’t pay his bill; he can then sell the goods and pocket all). However a defector will normally collect the Temptation payoff only once: only a fool will continue to cooperate when the other player is cheating. For this reason, cooperative behaviour (reciprocal altruism) only evolves when there are to be repeated transactions. Then the cumulative Reward payoffs are worth more than a single, large Temptation payoff.
  4. Disguised Defection. In the male-female game, interactions between the players are inevitable. For this reason subtle behaviour is employed by the female to maximize her payoff. Normally if a player cheats they only collect the Temptation payoff once. However if the female were to erode the discrimination of the male bring him to a state of such confusion that he is no longer able to recognise defection when it occurs, she can then collect the Temptation payoff repeatedly. She thus obtains the maximum achievable payoff from the game.

Disguised Defection models the female imitating the male, adopting roles and exploiting technologies which males have defined and developed once they become sufficiently facile, in order to disguise her defection from her natural functions.

The Payoff Array

The Protagonist is the main player, who starts the game. In the first array below the payoffs are shown for the Protagonist:–

PROTAGONIST Cooperate Defect
Cooperate Reward
Sucker’s Payoff
Defect Temptation Payoff

Real-life games are often asymmetric: cooperation and defection take different forms for each player, as may the payoffs. The female can often be cast as Protagonist, because most games are started by females, even if the male is frequently unaware of it. More accurate is the following array, which shows the payoffs for each player:–

Cooperate R, R′ S, T′
Defect T, S′ P, P′

The highest payoff (Temptation) is received by a player who defects while the other is cooperating. The lowest payoff goes to the sucker who cooperates while the other defects. (In the celebrated Prisoner’s Dilemma, a symmetric game, T > R > P > S.)

Females play the Tit For Tat (TFT) strategy, a strategy which is good at eliciting cooperation. Formally, TFT is ‘Cooperate on the first move, thereafter do as the opponent last did.’ TFT is imitative, it copies the other player and any attempt to improve upon it.

In Disguised Defection the female disguises her defection and collects the Temptation payoff repeatedly.

In Marginal Defection the female acquires power surreptitiously, continually testing the male, seeking to establish a new base from which her power can be further incremented. The female optimally proceeds just below the threshold at which the male is provoked. If she miscalculates in her power-seeking manoeuvres she may provoke a violent reaction and other serious consequences.

Female Policies Involving Perception-Distortion

  1. Increase the population, reducing the probability of a further encounter and disrupting male territorial instincts.
  2. Employ wide variations in dress and style, disrupting male targeting mechanisms and his ability to recognize the protagonist.
  3. Erode the discrimination of the opponent, reducing his ability to identify the protagonist’s strategies or her defection.
  4. Impose taboos and emotionalize language. Once a topic cannot be openly and rationally discussed the perception of it can be altered to suit unstated and hidden goals.
  5. Stigmatize the opponent (transduction).
  6. Exploit humans’ capacity for selective perception, such as turning off attention when an embarrassing event occurs, or being unable to fully comprehend an event because it is inconsistent with established stereotypes.
  7. Foster irrational and anti-scientific perception (belief in astrology, UFO’s, the supernatural etc.).
  8. Reduce an opponent’s prospects in subsequent encounters by attributing less significance to the material interactions (markers and handles) which have already taken place.
  9. Promote a false expectation of a payoff in the future (e.g. a female maintaining a circle of hopeful suitors while she selects a single best match).


Discrimination is an essential human function. To discriminate is ‘to see the difference.’ It is obvious that someone who cannot see the difference between a small opponent and a large one, or between an enemy sneaking up in disguise and a friend, is at a disadvantage. If one kind (sex, race, species, genotype) is exploiting another it is to their advantage to erode their opponent’s discrimination – to discourage discrimination on the basis of kind. This is the Malign Encouragement strategy: encouraging an opponent to pursue an adverse policy. Collectively employed it is ‘What’s bad for them is good for us.’

One of the most important discoveries was that it is the male instinct to be racially aware. Anyone who says they are “anti-racist” is really saying they are anti-male.

Table: Policy Choices for a Protagonist

MINIMIZE OWN PAYOFF loser pure altruism
MAXIMIZE OWN PAYOFF Malign Encouragement perfect symbiosis

The most astonishing thing about the Malign Encouragement strategy is that despite its obviousness and ubiquity it seems hitherto never to have been formally defined.

Procedural Analysis, presented very incompletely here, is a supremely powerful tool which is capable of distinguishing normal from abnormal behaviour and predicting, within natural variation, normal human behaviour.

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