Being Honest with Yourself is Hard

I remember talking to a psychologist once about the difficulties of social science. She told me that the easy thing about being a physicist is that most people aren’t very familiar with physics—stars, quarks and gamma rays—so if you’ve done the research and have good reasons to believe something to be true, people will take you at your word.

In contrast, most people are incredibly familiar with the subject of social sciences: people. They already have many beliefs and intuitions about how people are. Therefore, when you do the research and find out something about how people behave that contradicts their intuitions, they won’t believe you.

There’s a similar phenomenon with self-knowledge. Knowing things about yourself should be the easiest thing in the world. After all, each of us has a lifetime of research on the subject of ourselves. We are our own experts.

But that expertise can also be misleading. Not only do human brains suffer from a wide variety of well-documented biases: overconfidence, placebo, loss-aversion and prototype effects, it may even be that we are hard-wired to be self-deceptive.

Built to Lie

A common problem in doing research via surveys is that people will lie to create a favorable impression of themselves. Social desirability bias is so widespread that it can suggest conclusions which are mathematically impossible.

A 1994 survey of men and women asked them to count the number of sexual partners they have had. In this survey, men were found to have 74% more sexual partners than women.

Counting only heterosexual partners, however, you can demonstrate mathematically that the average number of partners for men and women has to be exactly the same (assuming an equal gender ratio). It takes two to tango, and likewise, for every man who has had a female partner there must also be a woman who has had a male partner.

Here we don’t need sophisticated methods to show people are lying, the math does it for us.

Not convinced about the math? I explain a bit more detail the mathematical proof in this comment here. I’m grateful to MIT’s discrete mathematics course for the original idea.

People don’t just lie to experimenters however, we lie to ourselves. Being willfully deceptive is hard work. There’s a chance your story will crack and the lie will be discovered. Police interviewers have long known that talking to someone long enough will often lead to them incriminating themselves because they couldn’t sustain their lie.

Lying is a lot easier if you don’t know you’re doing it. Social desirability bias doesn’t just influence what we tell other people, but what we tell ourselves. After all, if we want to maintain a rosier picture of ourselves than we actually possess, it helps if we believe that rosier picture as well.

This results in absurd statistics, such as most drivers claiming to be above average in ability. If you believe you’re the best, it’s easier to get others to believe it too.

Self-Honesty is Hard

Because we’re designed to lie to ourselves, truly knowing oneself can often be difficult. Are the motivations you pursue the genuine logic behind your actions? Or are they self-deceptions, elaborately constructed to help you pursue different goals while you can honestly claim to be pursuing something else?

One common pattern of self-deception is claiming to pursue higher motivations, while actually being driven by baser ones.

Consider drinking wine. A high motivation for only wanting to drink the finest wine is that you have well-developed and discerning taste. You, as a sophisticated, cultured individual can readily tell the difference between a bottle which costs $100 and $10. The price may be higher, but with it, comes higher quality.

Except in random, blinded taste tests, many so-called wine experts couldn’t even tell the difference between red wine and white wine.

Maybe a more cynical story is that your love of fine wine is an elaborate self-deception. The intrinsic qualities of the wine aren’t what make it taste good, but the fact that it is rare and expensive. Your brain fakes discernment on flavor, when it really cares about boosting the image that you are cultured and sophisticated.

The simple view of this story is that the two wines have no difference, and therefore you’re a gullible fool for purchasing the expensive one.

But I don’t think the simple view is correct either. When you include knowledge about the vintage and price, people will actually enjoy the expensive one more. The deception isn’t that there is no difference between the quality of the two wines, because there is. Instead, the deception is that the quality of the two wines depends solely on the flavor, omitting the knowledge surrounding it.

Picking on wine lovers is an easy target, but I believe this kind of self-deception is commonplace. Why do people prefer books to blogs? Shakespeare to soap operas? Is it actually intrinsic differences in quality or is it hidden signalling?

Untangling Self-Deception

My instinctual reaction to learning that there may be large patterns of self-deception is to correct it. After all, if we lie to ourselves constantly, how much better off would we be if we could just be honest with ourselves?

However, many of these self-deceptions are probably useful. They evolved because they were more adaptive than having to know the truth about yourself, and many of them likely remain adaptive to this day. Radical honesty is not the best policy.

Consider a friend of mine who enjoys drinking excellent wine. Does my careful explanation of the fact that his appreciation for good wine is heavily influenced by price and status help him enjoy the wine any more? It probably does the opposite, making him feel angry at me for revealing this truth or foolish for believing it. Both of us are worse off.

But even if a lot of self-deception probably is useful, an inconsistent theory of life makes decisions a lot harder. When you can’t be entirely sure of your own motivations for your behavior, its much harder to have a stable theory of how you should try to live in the world.

The constant popularity of life philosophy, from religion to self-help, shows that most of us grapple constantly with uncertainty over the best way to live our lives. The fact that we may be hardwired with built-in self-deception seems to make that path much foggier.

Conducting Experiments on Your Own Behavior

Science, of course, is a potent tool in helping us understand ourselves. But a science of human nature often only gives broad principles, and even those are often riddled with exceptions.

Instead, I think each of us needs to treat our own behavior and motivations as something worth investigating. Not merely through introspection, which runs the risk of bumping into the numerous hard-wired self-deceptions, but through observation.

One way to do that is to keep a journal of your thinking about things. Write down your supposed motivations, then ask what those motivations would actually predict. Then, when you’ve had more experience, look back and see whether those predictions are true.

Maybe you believe you fear switching your career because it might set you back financially. However, when you actually make the switch you are earning less money but it doesn’t bother you. Digging deeper, you realize that you were actually worried about being criticized by the people around you.

Journaling is probably one of the best tools for combating self-deception, since you aren’t able to creatively reinterpret past experiences with the benefit of hindsight. Instead, you can examine exactly what you were thinking at the time.

Getting this kind of self-understanding may be difficult, but I can’t think of a better subject to study.


  • Conclusions about ourselves are usually early to tell. Mixed with a bit of ego, self-deception is a continuous battle. Self-deception has its way with self-honesty, always. But you’re right to say that observation, though it could take time, is key to greatly knowing ourselves.

    I love your blog, Scott! Thanks for this post!

  • Ethan Bridges

    Conclusions about ourselves are usually early to tell. Mixed with a bit of ego, self-deception is a continuous battle. Self-deception has its way with self-honesty, always. But you’re right to say that observation, though it could take time, is key to greatly knowing ourselves.

    I love your blog, Scott! Thanks for this post!

  • Donna

    Good article. Journaling is a great way to figure stuff out for yourself. I would like to add that you can also find ways to test out what think you want to do. Regarding worrying about changing careers and making less money, before you switch careers, for a few months, test what it’s like to make less. Just put a chunk of your pay into a separate savings account that you can’t touch and live on the rest. See what you’ll have to give up in your daily life and how much you care about that stuff. Or if you think you want to move into a career that means you’ll have to start conversations with strangers (such as getting into sales), then start up conversations with the strangers you come across each day. You’ll get some practice and be able to see if you like doing it.
    Regarding the comment about most drivers think that they are better than average, that has a lot to do with people not understanding what abilities an average driver would have to be called average. For a similar example, I’ve worked with lots of people who considered themselves experts at Microsoft Word or Excel, yet knew barely more than the basics. They just didn’t understand what these programs can do.

  • Donna

    Good article. Journaling is a great way to figure stuff out for yourself. I would like to add that you can also find ways to test out what think you want to do. Regarding worrying about changing careers and making less money, before you switch careers, for a few months, test what it’s like to make less. Just put a chunk of your pay into a separate savings account that you can’t touch and live on the rest. See what you’ll have to give up in your daily life and how much you care about that stuff. Or if you think you want to move into a career that means you’ll have to start conversations with strangers (such as getting into sales), then start up conversations with the strangers you come across each day. You’ll get some practice and be able to see if you like doing it.
    Regarding the comment about most drivers think that they are better than average, that has a lot to do with people not understanding what abilities an average driver would have to be called average. For a similar example, I’ve worked with lots of people who considered themselves experts at Microsoft Word or Excel, yet knew barely more than the basics. They just didn’t understand what these programs can do.

  • The simple fact is that most people don’t even know enough about their dishonesty to even admit to it.

    We all deceive ourselves and others in some shape or form. This is fine and dandy in most aspects of life.

    The problem really only manifests itself when we need to get down to personal and relationship issues, where a profound amount of honesty is required to build deeper rapport and intimacy.

  • The Quintessential Man

    The simple fact is that most people don’t even know enough about their dishonesty to even admit to it.

    We all deceive ourselves and others in some shape or form. This is fine and dandy in most aspects of life.

    The problem really only manifests itself when we need to get down to personal and relationship issues, where a profound amount of honesty is required to build deeper rapport and intimacy.

  • Jason

    Excellent article. I really appreciate the effort you put into these posts.

  • Jason

    Excellent article. I really appreciate the effort you put into these posts.

  • Very nicely done Scott — right on target again I think. I’m a fan of Courtney Warren (“Honest Liars”) and Tali Sharot (“optimism bias”), and your work adds to theirs. I really like that you introduce how “savor” may be influenced by our cognitive expectations — “right on” as we used to say, back in the day. But even better, you include that those expectations are often critical to the savor experience. Really nice work! And you advocate that we explore, not avoid, our certainty, the same way we do our doubts…

  • Lonny Meinecke

    Very nicely done Scott — right on target again I think. I’m a fan of Courtney Warren (“Honest Liars”) and Tali Sharot (“optimism bias”), and your work adds to theirs. I really like that you introduce how “savor” may be influenced by our cognitive expectations — “right on” as we used to say, back in the day. But even better, you include that those expectations are often critical to the savor experience. Really nice work! And you advocate that we explore, not avoid, our certainty, the same way we do our doubts…

  • You’re an excellent essayist.

    I’d comment that structured journaling is an idea that maybe can be developed further in the comments here. I interpret that as asking oneself specific questions, like “What if __?” (e.g., “What if I left my current job to do X?” which are then followed by a specific prompting question like “If that happened, what would that mean to me?”
    The structuring would also need some rules around it: You’d have to avoid providing answers that are “feelings.” (e.g. “I would feel scared” doesn’t get you very far, analysis-wise.)

    Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning have written a couple of books that touch on techniques for related types of self-inquiry, for identifying core beliefs, core self-deceptions, etc. But there are lots of other ideas out there, I’m sure.

    Also: while one should be polite and respectful of friends, wine snobbery needs to be called out, IMO. 🙂

  • Sean O’

    You’re an excellent essayist.

    I’d comment that structured journaling is an idea that maybe can be developed further in the comments here. I interpret that as asking oneself specific questions, like “What if __?” (e.g., “What if I left my current job to do X?” which are then followed by a specific prompting question like “If that happened, what would that mean to me?”
    The structuring would also need some rules around it: You’d have to avoid providing answers that are “feelings.” (e.g. “I would feel scared” doesn’t get you very far, analysis-wise.)

    Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning have written a couple of books that touch on techniques for related types of self-inquiry, for identifying core beliefs, core self-deceptions, etc. But there are lots of other ideas out there, I’m sure.

    Also: while one should be polite and respectful of friends, wine snobbery needs to be called out, IMO. 🙂

  • Fiona

    I enjoy reading your posts. I have unsubscribed to lots of people, but not yours!

    Interesting topic, honesty. It is worth considering the need to
    honestly examine our motivations because it helps us to make better
    decisions. And if they are not motivated by the highest principles at
    least we can know what it is that drives us. I am in this boat now with
    one of my decisions. I don’t want to do something because my
    motivations don’t warrant it and they are a bit weak. If I don’t do
    it I am concerned about disappointing my Mom, who means a lot to
    me and has supported my endeavors in this area. But if I press on, it wouldn’t be for the right reasons. It’s a struggle to know what to do sometimes.

  • Fiona

    I enjoy reading your posts. I have unsubscribed to lots of people, but not yours!

    Interesting topic, honesty. It is worth considering the need to
    honestly examine our motivations because it helps us to make better
    decisions. And if they are not motivated by the highest principles at
    least we can know what it is that drives us. I am in this boat now with
    one of my decisions. I don’t want to do something because my
    motivations don’t warrant it and they are a bit weak. If I don’t do
    it I am concerned about disappointing my Mom, who means a lot to
    me and has supported my endeavors in this area. But if I press on, it wouldn’t be for the right reasons. It’s a struggle to know what to do sometimes.

  • Doug Washabaugh

    I just finished reading an excellent book titled “The paradox of choice” by Barry Schwartz, and it had many interesting points, some of which apply here. One example is how our game of reference changes over time. We thought that big screen TV would make us happier, and it does for awhile, but after awhile we no longer find it makes us happy. It’s not that we were lying to ourselves, it’s just our frame of reference changed. Perhaps the only lie is not accounting for the reference changes.

  • Scott Young

    I think the best time to call out wine snobbery is when your tastes are supposedly not up to snuff!

  • Doug Washabaugh

    I just finished reading an excellent book titled “The paradox of choice” by Barry Schwartz, and it had many interesting points, some of which apply here. One example is how our game of reference changes over time. We thought that big screen TV would make us happier, and it does for awhile, but after awhile we no longer find it makes us happy. It’s not that we were lying to ourselves, it’s just our frame of reference changed. Perhaps the only lie is not accounting for the reference changes.

  • Scott Young

    I think the best time to call out wine snobbery is when your tastes are supposedly not up to snuff!

  • Scott Young

    I think that’s the difficult part about much of our self-deception, is that we may not even realize we’re doing it!

  • Scott Young

    Hedonic adaptation is definitely real. I’m sure it fits into this line of thinking somehow, but I’ll have to think more about it before the connection is clear.

  • Scott Young

    Hedonic adaptation is definitely real. I’m sure it fits into this line of thinking somehow, but I’ll have to think more about it before the connection is clear.

  • Mag

    Connoisseur: http://xkcd.com/915/ (Published a few years ago…) The hover text is: “Our brains have just
    one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit.”

  • Mag

    Connoisseur: http://xkcd.com/915/ (Published a few years ago…) The hover text is: “Our brains have just
    one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit.”

  • Ken P

    We all have ‘our current single version of the truth’ that turns into ‘our current belief’. iPhone 3 will make me the happiest person in the world says a teenager, and it is the truth and a sincere belief. It only lasts until the ‘frame of reference changes’ with the new input received from the Apple commercial about iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S tablet. And, now this ‘new frame of reference’ erases the ‘single version of the truth and belief’ and ‘gets replaced with a new one’. Using technology, or cars, or university major or home or country of residence or carpet on hardwood floor, we can apply that same ‘SVoTT’ (single version of the truth’) and FoR (‘frame of reference’) as I call it in my business is a great way to see how our mind deceives us as time elapses. We start to believe the new beliefs and in there we introduce viral thoughts where what would be once considered wrong (such as taking blank 8.5 x 11 paper from office for home printing) becomes the norm, and is not wrong or lie or deceiving or theft anymore.

    Similarly, there are people who use the ‘ouda’ sisters (woulda, coulda, shoulda) to combat their inefficiencies or incapabilities or limiations to keep promising their family (and themselves) of the better life, higher grade, next degree, promotion, better job, finer home, bigger balance and other ‘better things’ of life. When years go by and their incomplete accomplishments catch-up, it is either lies about how someone else prevented them, or if-then-else steps in, or a final excuse of a health-scare that becomes the one reason why they are 60 years old and still renting a home (for example), or why their home was lost in foreclosure or why they are not married and have no kids etc.

    All in all, deceiving one-self starts at a very young age, and if these thoughts are fed with good carbs, then they become lies that compound itself to saying 100 lies for each lie that is challenged, and life becomes a failure for many, unless caught, and shaken inside-out. Does not happen in many, but does happen in enough people. We are 7B+ people, so there are no exceptions anymore to anything. We can have enough in every category to call it 100’s or 1000’s or millions, depending on which country and which environment you grow up, or have visited, or lived around.

    Scott, has been to a lot of places, and so have I. There are societies where daily wage is $1.25 and there are millions that live this lifestyle of deceit and it is simply cause of their environment, circumstances, and the opportunities they have been exposed to, or given (or snatched away). Either way, such is life for them, and even if they read this article a 100 times, there is nothing they can do about it cause they are caught in that small island of no-opportunity, limited resources. I met many of these in my recent trip, and after lecturing them about the possibilities, it turned out to be all a ‘good wishful thinking story to them’. It seemed real after I evaluated the environment, and I think about Khalid a lot who is living of his SVoTT and has very little chance to change his FoR.

    Sorry for the long writeup but I loved the article and it got me to thinking about it a lot……

    Ken P

  • Ken P

    We all have ‘our current single version of the truth’ that turns into ‘our current belief’. iPhone 3 will make me the happiest person in the world says a teenager, and it is the truth and a sincere belief. It only lasts until the ‘frame of reference changes’ with the new input received from the Apple commercial about iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S tablet. And, now this ‘new frame of reference’ erases the ‘single version of the truth and belief’ and ‘gets replaced with a new one’. Using technology, or cars, or university major or home or country of residence or carpet on hardwood floor, we can apply that same ‘SVoTT’ (single version of the truth’) and FoR (‘frame of reference’) as I call it in my business is a great way to see how our mind deceives us as time elapses. We start to believe the new beliefs and in there we introduce viral thoughts where what would be once considered wrong (such as taking blank 8.5 x 11 paper from office for home printing) becomes the norm, and is not wrong or lie or deceiving or theft anymore.

    Similarly, there are people who use the ‘ouda’ sisters (woulda, coulda, shoulda) to combat their inefficiencies or incapabilities or limiations to keep promising their family (and themselves) of the better life, higher grade, next degree, promotion, better job, finer home, bigger balance and other ‘better things’ of life. When years go by and their incomplete accomplishments catch-up, it is either lies about how someone else prevented them, or if-then-else steps in, or a final excuse of a health-scare that becomes the one reason why they are 60 years old and still renting a home (for example), or why their home was lost in foreclosure or why they are not married and have no kids etc.

    All in all, deceiving one-self starts at a very young age, and if these thoughts are fed with good carbs, then they become lies that compound itself to saying 100 lies for each lie that is challenged, and life becomes a failure for many, unless caught, and shaken inside-out. Does not happen in many, but does happen in enough people. We are 7B+ people, so there are no exceptions anymore to anything. We can have enough in every category to call it 100’s or 1000’s or millions, depending on which country and which environment you grow up, or have visited, or lived around.

    Scott, has been to a lot of places, and so have I. There are societies where daily wage is $1.25 and there are millions that live this lifestyle of deceit and it is simply cause of their environment, circumstances, and the opportunities they have been exposed to, or given (or snatched away). Either way, such is life for them, and even if they read this article a 100 times, there is nothing they can do about it cause they are caught in that small island of no-opportunity, limited resources. I met many of these in my recent trip, and after lecturing them about the possibilities, it turned out to be all a ‘good wishful thinking story to them’. It seemed real after I evaluated the environment, and I think about Khalid a lot who is living of his SVoTT and has very little chance to change his FoR.

    Sorry for the long writeup but I loved the article and it got me to thinking about it a lot……

    Ken P

  • Leo Toribio

    Scott,

    As others have pointed out, your writing is excellent. But I must take issue with your pseudo statistics regarding the distribution of male/female relationships. It does not take into account polygamy, for example. And let us not forget that the when one looks at the divorce rate, comparing it to the either the total population or to the number of people who have engaged in matrimony, the figures are misleading, since many individuals are divorced many times. Similarly, if a man has intimate relationships with a dozen women in his lifetime, or a woman has intimate relationships with a dozen men, that tells us nothing about their partners (who might, as a result of the “breakup,” have been discouraged from having future relationships or encouraged toward profligacy, or anything in between).

    Keep up your good work!

    Leo

  • Leo Toribio

    Scott,

    As others have pointed out, your writing is excellent. But I must take issue with your pseudo statistics regarding the distribution of male/female relationships. It does not take into account polygamy, for example. And let us not forget that the when one looks at the divorce rate, comparing it to the either the total population or to the number of people who have engaged in matrimony, the figures are misleading, since many individuals are divorced many times. Similarly, if a man has intimate relationships with a dozen women in his lifetime, or a woman has intimate relationships with a dozen men, that tells us nothing about their partners (who might, as a result of the “breakup,” have been discouraged from having future relationships or encouraged toward profligacy, or anything in between).

    Keep up your good work!

    Leo

  • Laure

    This article is very well written and the examples you give are well describing the cognitive biases we experience everyday. Observation is the best tool I’ve found so far to get to know oneself better. However, I have a question : in the case of changing a habit or an attitude towards life, some might need to use positive affirmations in order to at least put their goal into words. At the begining, it may feel like we lie to ourselves on purpose, until we actually believe the affirmation. How could we manage self-honesty and self-improvement which may imply a small gap between reality and our goal ?

    It’s always a pleasure reading your articles !

    PS : I apologise for any english mistake or odd formulations, it isn’t my native language.

    Laure

  • Laure

    This article is very well written and the examples you give are well describing the cognitive biases we experience everyday. Observation is the best tool I’ve found so far to get to know oneself better. However, I have a question : in the case of changing a habit or an attitude towards life, some might need to use positive affirmations in order to at least put their goal into words. At the begining, it may feel like we lie to ourselves on purpose, until we actually believe the affirmation. How could we manage self-honesty and self-improvement which may imply a small gap between reality and our goal ?

    It’s always a pleasure reading your articles !

    PS : I apologise for any english mistake or odd formulations, it isn’t my native language.

    Laure

  • Ionut Toma

    My spam email filter sent your mail to spam. I had to review my spam folder as I myself posted my first post on Linkedin. Something about monetary economics or financial education. I recognize honesty is not a self-sufficient policy but you in my opinion should not bogle too far from it. With time you can refilter or adjust in order to fit current situations.

  • Ionut Toma

    My spam email filter sent your mail to spam. I had to review my spam folder as I myself posted my first post on Linkedin. Something about monetary economics or financial education. I recognize honesty is not a self-sufficient policy but you in my opinion should not bogle too far from it. With time you can refilter or adjust in order to fit current situations.

  • Sebastian

    We have seen your MIT challenge, The year without English project.
    Are you going to take a new challenge in the near future 😉 ?

  • Sebastian

    We have seen your MIT challenge, The year without English project.
    Are you going to take a new challenge in the near future 😉 ?

  • Kenyatta University

    Whats is true is what is legit. Being self honest is a virtue to go by. – Isaac

  • Kenyatta University

    Whats is true is what is legit. Being self honest is a virtue to go by. – Isaac

  • Scott Young

    Taking some time to think about. I’ll be sure to announce on the blog sometime if I decide on anything.

  • Scott Young

    Taking some time to think about. I’ll be sure to announce on the blog sometime if I decide on anything.

  • Scott Young

    Leo,

    It’s not pseuostatistics, it’s mathematical fact. It doesn’t imply monogomy, polygamy or any other possible sexual paradigm. As long as we’re only talking about heterosexual partners, the ONLY thing that can deviate the average in the number of men and women’s total sexual partners are different ratios of men and women.

    The math is easier to explain, not as an average, but as a total. Let me demonstrate:

    Imagine we pooled all the men together and all the women together. Imagine again we had a special truth ray which could accurately assess how many sexual partners they had (no honest confabulations or lying possible).

    Now, let’s say a man and women have sex (again, we’re only counting heterosexual couplings in this tally). The man in question now has one more sexual partner, so the total for all men goes up by one. The woman in question, however, ALSO has to have had one more sexual partner, so the total for all women must go up by one as well.

    In mathematical speak, sexual partnerships form a bijective relation, which is a fancy way of saying that every single object in column A has one and only one connection in column B. Never more than one, never zero.

    What this means is that the TOTAL number of heterosexual partners for all men and the TOTAL number of heterosexual partners for all women must be EXACTLY equal. If the number, worldwide, for men, is 13,786,895,231, then it must be exactly 13,786,895,231 for women. It can’t be 13,786,895,230 or 13,786,895,232, only 13,786,895,231.

    This isn’t a sociological fact. The only thing it requires is the definition of sex to mean that every time a man has sex with a woman the woman has sex with the man as well.

    So now that we know the totals must be the same, then if the number of men and women are the same, the averages must be the same as well. Average, of course, is just the total divided by the number of people. Since men and women aren’t exactly in the same ratio (off by a few tenths of a percentage point) the average number of sexual partners won’t be exactly the same as the total, but it will be so close as to exceed the uncertainty of a simple survey.

    (Another possible deviation has to do with people dying out of the sample. However this problem is resolved if you consider the total to mean all human beings who have ever lived. In practice, I don’t think this would influence the statistics much unless you postulate a huge number of deceased people who had sex with currently living people of only one particular gender.)

  • Scott Young

    Leo,

    It’s not pseuostatistics, it’s mathematical fact. It doesn’t imply monogomy, polygamy or any other possible sexual paradigm. As long as we’re only talking about heterosexual partners, the ONLY thing that can deviate the average in the number of men and women’s total sexual partners are different ratios of men and women.

    The math is easier to explain, not as an average, but as a total. Let me demonstrate:

    Imagine we pooled all the men together and all the women together. Imagine again we had a special truth ray which could accurately assess how many sexual partners they had (no honest confabulations or lying possible).

    Now, let’s say a man and women have sex (again, we’re only counting heterosexual couplings in this tally). The man in question now has one more sexual partner, so the total for all men goes up by one. The woman in question, however, ALSO has to have had one more sexual partner, so the total for all women must go up by one as well.

    In mathematical speak, sexual partnerships form a bijective relation, which is a fancy way of saying that every single object in column A has one and only one connection in column B. Never more than one, never zero.

    What this means is that the TOTAL number of heterosexual partners for all men and the TOTAL number of heterosexual partners for all women must be EXACTLY equal. If the number, worldwide, for men, is 13,786,895,231, then it must be exactly 13,786,895,231 for women. It can’t be 13,786,895,230 or 13,786,895,232, only 13,786,895,231.

    This isn’t a sociological fact. The only thing it requires is the definition of sex to mean that every time a man has sex with a woman the woman has sex with the man as well.

    So now that we know the totals must be the same, then if the number of men and women are the same, the averages must be the same as well. Average, of course, is just the total divided by the number of people. Since men and women aren’t exactly in the same ratio (off by a few tenths of a percentage point) the average number of sexual partners won’t be exactly the same as the total, but it will be so close as to exceed the uncertainty of a simple survey.

    (Another possible deviation has to do with people dying out of the sample. However this problem is resolved if you consider the total to mean all human beings who have ever lived. In practice, I don’t think this would influence the statistics much unless you postulate a huge number of deceased people who had sex with currently living people of only one particular gender.)

  • fashionflatirons.com

    For anyone looking to start a decoration job on their homes, you will likely find that getting the right kind of design is very important. No doubt you will find that the variety of choices – from wallpaper to paint – can be quite a hard one to decide with. home performance 360

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    For anyone looking to start a decoration job on their homes, you will likely find that getting the right kind of design is very important. No doubt you will find that the variety of choices – from wallpaper to paint – can be quite a hard one to decide with. home performance 360

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  • fashionflatirons.com

    Buying the right RV cover may baffle you as you are not much familiar with its types and usages. But, believe me, it’s not at all a hard job though it may be a little bit time-consuming. You just have to keep certain things in your mind while shopping for it. travel agent profits

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