Elle Woods Works The Preselection

Preselection, a subset of social proof, describes the phenomenon where women will judge a man more attractive if he has displayed the ability to attract other attractive women. It is an incredibly powerful lever of influence, and its power sometimes surprises even game-educated men when they see it in action. Whether that’s in a bar flirting with groups of people, rolling with an entourage, or going to a party where the new girl you’re chatting with notices that three of your ex-girlfriends have come up to you to say hi with that twinkle in their eyes.

For laughs, I have dubbed preselection a “sexual Ponzi scheme.”

It’s worth noting that preselection works both ways. If an otherwise genial, interesting guy is seen spending a lot of time around women below his league, other women will think “what’s up with that? There must be something wrong with him that he can’t get prettier girls.” While a lot of us beta-type guys think nothing of socializing platonically with not-so-attractive women, the fact remains that the sexual marketplace is a tough customer.

Preselection is important in communicating options – just as the male mind wants a woman to unleash her inner slut for him and him alone, the female mind wants a man who could commit to other women if he so chose to commit to her.

One of the best pop-culture instances of preselection’s instant impact came in the excellent comedy Legally Blonde, where Reese Witherspoon helps a geeky guy get a date by pretending she’d had a one-night stand with him. Note that it’s not just sexual attraction she shows – she suggests that he’s evoked a multitude of emotional responses from her: ecstasy, love (as it were), anger, hurt and disappointment.

(It’s a real letdown for this post that YouTube won’t let me embed the video so you’ll have to click the link.)


Filed under beta guide, media

32 responses to “Elle Woods Works The Preselection

  1. Also see “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Patrick Dempsey, for a clear demonstration of preselection. However, the rest of the movie is what Riv would call “beta poison”.

  2. Mike C

    A classic. Herding too when they all do that crazy tribal dance. Of course, he “wins the girl” in the end by “being himself”. No wonder guys our age grew up so fucked up. That was the standard message in 80s movies. The girl always recognized and got with the “nice guy” in the end.

  3. Doug1

    Hilarious Badger.

    I’d forgotten about that moment.

  4. Michael Maier

    80’s movies also lied big time to the chicks, telling them that the hot, hunky guys want semi-cute wallflower girls instead of the Playmate quality cheerleaders.

    And frequently casting love interest couples where the guy was twice as pretty as the chick he’s supposedly lusting over.

  5. If I’m dating a guy who has been married I want his ex wife to be pretty. I feel if she was pretty then he has good taste and hence his choice in me is of high standard. If his ex (even if its a girlfriend) was unattractive – 5 and below then I wonder why and question my own looks. I’m ashamed to admit that, but its true.

  6. Preselection is worth investing in. Unless you’re famous it’s probably the only way to pick up high talent.

  7. Wudang

    THe women I talk to usually all admit that this is true for them.

  8. Beth made me watch this damn movie. And I ‘m proud to say, I don’t remember this scene. PROUD.

    And my Saint’s spanked some lion ass last night.

  9. lovelost

    so the message is, if you don’t have many female friends, then you’re chances of getting into a relationship is pretty low.

  10. Mike C,

    I actually had you in mind when I was writing this as you’ve commented on positive and negative preselection from your bouncing days.

    Michael Maier,

    Thanks for commenting.

    “And frequently casting love interest couples where the guy was twice as pretty as the chick he’s supposedly lusting over.”

    Well, that’s the hypergamous fantasy, that a prince will fall in love with a commoner.


    Shut your mouth, that movie was hilarious!


    “If I’m dating a guy who has been married I want his ex wife to be pretty.”

    Thanks for commenting. That is funny! Preselection lives.


    Yeah, when you get down to it (or watch the behaviors), it’s clear that this is a close-to-universal attraction marker. But it works best when it’s subtle – a guy who is actively hitting on other women might turn off the woman he’s with, whereas if she simply sees other women giving him the eye, or by chance meets his smoking hot ex-girlfriend, then he can add the mystery aspect to his preselection and get her mind really heated up. Roissy posted once that the best explanation to give a woman about other women is “it’s complicated.”

  11. [ Delete X — there was again wrong address. ]

    dannyfrom504 wrote at January 8, 2012 at 10:30 am:

    Beth made me watch this damn movie. And I ‘m proud to say, I don’t remember this scene.

    Can I assume that this was not a trailer ?

    I have sometimes noticed that trailers differs from actual movie.

    / Kari Hurtta

  12. lovelost,

    Well, if you have a hot female friend who will pretend to have been your past girlfriend in front of other women, that strategy can work wonders.

    But seriously, one’s chances of congress with a woman are linked to the metric “how many new women do you meet in a week?”


    Having female friends, and socializing with them in large social contexts (parties, barhops, wine tastings, dinner parties, concerts, sporting events, etc) is a great way to get put in touch with their friends who may be a good match for you. However, as I’ve discovered firsthand, you can’t make yourself a eunuch around your female friends even if you’re not interested in them directly – they have to get the message that you are a man, with sexual and emotional needs.

  13. Badger-
    I’d rather slam my junk in a car door than have to watch that abortion of a film again. It was awful.

    I have a few female friends. And I honestly have ZERO attraction to them. All of them are very beautiful. And I STILL throw in some sexual banter when I talk with them. They LIKE when I do it btw. It’s preselection from a man with high value in the SMP. NONE of the beta guys I work with would EVER do what I do. They can’t pull it off.

    If you’re a beta, it’s sexual harassment. If you’re an alpha, it’s “flirty banter”.

  14. Kari-
    No, I had to watch the whole damn movie.

  15. Retrenched

    @ danny

    “NONE of the beta guys I work with would EVER do what I do.”

    Incidentally, do you mean “beta” as in an average guy, or “beta” as in insecure, timid, too nice/polite around women, pedestalizing etc.? Just curious, because the word is used to mean many different things in the ‘sphere (as you well know) and I was wondering what sense of the word you meant here.

  16. Retrenched-
    Timid. I don’t consider average guys as “beta”. The guys I work with that I consider “beta” are timid, back pedaling type men. All of the more “alpha” guys i work with have put the beta’s in their place despite being out-ranked and dealing with positional authority.

  17. Retrenched

    @ danny

    Okay. That makes sense.

  18. I did something simmilar to this for my best friend husband he was with us in a concert of a group my friend didn’t liked. I saw a younger blond giving him some clear IOI, at least for me he said he didn’t noticed I was staring at her ready to give her the “bitch what is your problem?” look, but then her date came back and I managed to start chatting up my friend to cut contact and communication after all I had learned here I decided to mentioned the incident to the wife just to add a bit of “some other women find him attractive”, hoping this keeps the spark alive, my friend seems to have some shit testing tendencies that can create problems if they grow unchecked.

  19. Charm

    Hey Badger,

    What percentage of women would you say stuff like this works on? Or does it work on all women to a certain degree? I have a really hard time thinking of when this was ever true for me. I realize it probably happens subconsciously, but thinking back to when I’ve ever liked someone I can’t say it was because other/more attractive women did.

  20. Charm,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    “What percentage of women would you say stuff like this works on?”

    I wouldn’t wager an exact guess in good conscience.

    “Or does it work on all women to a certain degree?”

    Just going by back of the envelope sociology, it probably works to some degree on 80% of women, to a strong degree on a subset of that (maybe 30%) and not really a factor at all on a small corner of the set. I dated a woman who was big on hypergamy, she wanted a high-status man, but said she was no longer attracted to a man if her friend dated/slept with him.

    It does work on the subconscious level, which is why it’s so difficult to recognize and acknowledge. No rationalization hamster will allow someone to admit they’re a shallow herd-follower, especially when it’s so seductive to play the snowflake game (it sounds so romantic to say “I’m unique and not influenced by other women, and by the way I’m attracted to a unique man that no one else saw the value in.”)

    The fact is that social proof is a huge tool of influence – it’s why laugh tracks work, for one. Preselection combines social proof with sexual selection imperatives, combining two of our most massive psychological imperatives (social acceptance and reproduction) into one.

  21. It’s also notable that preselection has been recognized in other species.

  22. This was super insightful and absolutely true… I think the trick after the attraction is to keep your woman feeling like she’s the ONLY one, That she is somehow above all the others. If you can do that, then preselection has worked for you! If you can’t, preselection will only make you look like a player and possible cheat.

  23. NMH

    A paradigmatic scene for modern human pereselection, should be shown in classes of evo psych. You could probably have an entire class taught by Hollywood clips.

    When I saw the movie, I was too clueless to connect the dots to see that the stupid irrational female behavior depicted is really how women behave in real life.

  24. lovelost

    Hi Badger,
    Thanks for the advice. however it kind of sucks that women will not respond if you don’t have social proof. that’s non-sense.

  25. “Thanks for the advice. however it kind of sucks that women will not respond if you don’t have social proof. that’s non-sense.”

    Sucks? Yeah. Non-sense? Yes and no. We’re all people, and so we respond to stimuli as per our hindbrain programming. Different women are different, some want a guy who commands the respect of other men (or other women) and some aren’t really concerned with that and are turned on by other things. However, most women (more than 50%) probably respond to preselection in some way.

    Social proof and preselection are very difficult to synthesize (much harder than say social dominance which can be effectively faked for a few hours at a time). Frat guys are probably best at constructing the mutually-reinforcing fake fronts, but then again they already have real social value in their circles so it’s kind of redundant. Resource value is impossible to fake by definition in the long-term.

  26. The opposite is definitely true. I haven’t dated in a long long time and I can tell that not seeing me date anyone colors how my friend, men and women, look at me.

  27. James,

    Thanks for commenting, and good luck on your nascent blog. Preselection indeed works both ways; it can hurt you when you’re not dating anyone, and when you’re dating women your social group judges unattractive or below the quality they think you should be able to get.

    Taken to its logical conclusion, the quality of your mate IS your market value, just as the price of your car indicates how much you were willing to spend on it. On the other hand, sometimes men and women really are holding out for quality (not being too picky), and so not being with someone is simply an indicator that they haven’t landed a quality specimen yet.

  28. lovelost


    Resource value is impossible to fake by definition in the long-term.

    this is the key element here.

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