Alpha Males

The election will raise the those on the Alt-Right to a new prominence, which will bring their heavy commitment to Game Theory along for the ride.  As I understand the Theory, the central figure is the Alpha Male (AM), who will also gain a new prominence in the wake of the latest election.

The AM personality is pretty straightforward. They’re extreme extroverts and so possessed by boundless surgency and energy, while also having high desire for independence which can give them a tendency to narcissism or authoritarianism. They are attractive, well-kept, live in nice homes and marry Barbie-grade wives. They favor abstract and impersonal evaluation of persons to interpersonal warmth and social cohesion, which often makes them take it as a point of pride that they are blunt and willing to offend, meaning that those who are more sensitive to the delicacies of interpersonal structures will often find the AM an intolerable ass. AM’s often have a strong intuitive sense that is attuned to opportunities and weaknesses but can also be channeled into creative endeavors, and the majority of the AM’s I’ve known personally have been artists of some distinction, though no one would describe them as possessed by an artistic temperament. Dialogue is frequently difficult for them as they are often confident that their opinions do not need to be modified or called into question, but they can be very good partners in dialogue with someone who they consider to be elite or expert. AM’s have IQ’s of 130+ and have better than average writing ability.

I write all this from personal experience. Though I’m very decidedly non-Alpha, I’ve known five different AM’s in my life, and all as different social relations: they’ve been my boss, colleague, acquaintance, close friend, and student. The personality type is clear and probably has the sort of Don Juan potency that Game Theory seems to value. But that’s where Game Theory becomes baffling to me. The AM is simply another human personality, nothing less, nothing more. It is not a paradigm of masculinity or the keystone of a socio-sexual hierarchy. Presenting the life of the AM to someone makes for an interesting case study, and it might make someone more sensitive to the diverse needs and idiosyncrasies of human life, but asking someone to model the behaviors of an AM is both impossible and a road to unhappiness. You might as well try to train someone to be an introvert or to feel less negative emotion. Even if one could walk the Alpha walk and, say, win a Barbie wife, he’d then have to suffer though what would be, for him, the intolerable state of having to live with her. And multiplying sexual conquests isn’t going to make anyone happy, whether Alpha or not. If I understand Game Theory, it takes AM’s as paradigms or models for emulation, but it is a fundamentally wrongheaded approach to human personalities to take them as articulating traits one should emulate. They are simply finite perfections of human essence with their own consolations and crosses, virtues and characteristic vices.


  1. Allen Hazen said,

    November 11, 2016 at 12:44 am

    This refers to “Game Theory” in some bastardized, pop-psych sense: not “game theory” in the sense of the mathematical theory of strategy founded by John von Neumann. And, of course, “alpha male” has a technical sense in the study of animal behaviour which is at best being used metaphorically.
    There are people who have nothing to say, but use big words to say it in.

    • November 11, 2016 at 11:12 am

      The coincidence with Von Neumann was probably an accident, the borrowing of Alpha Male probably wasn’t. Still, I think (human) Alpha Males can be described pretty well with bona fide scientific categories borrowed from the Five Factor model, Eysenck, and the more successful elements in Jungian psychology (though this is a hypothesis that I have confirmed only in my own experience of AM’s). My problem is with the attempt to parlay a description of AM’s into theory of sexual hierarchy or into a broadly ethical/behavioral model of how one should act to achieve certain ends, which continues to strike me as undesirable, impossible, and (so far as one could make it work) as a path to either unhappiness or spiritual vacuity.

  2. T. Chan said,

    November 11, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Game theory refers to the way of being successful with women. Alpha male is defined within that context, in contrast with the alpha male as defined in male hierarchical structure. The Alt Right is more than the world of pick-up artists and Game theory but it is pro-men and against feminism. Not all of the alt-right is currently on board with upholding patriarchy but it is getting there.

    For more on Alt Right or Game theory check out Theodore Beale/Vox Day.

  3. Zippy said,

    November 11, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    As a way of categorizing social interactions I think things like the “Alpha Male/Beta Male” distinction are about on par with things like Meyers-Briggs. These power point models can be somewhat useful; but they have the paradoxical feature that, past a certain rather shallow point of initial insight, their usefulness is inversely proportional to how seriously you take them.

    • November 12, 2016 at 11:46 am

      I think most of this is from the vacuity of the concept of “beta”. While Alphas seem to me to be an identifiable group, “beta” seems like nothing but “non-Alpha” and doesn’t describe any personality or range of behavior. There isn’t a whole lot of information in a name that includes, say, the strong-silent Gary Cooper type, the flaming homosexual, a reserved and dutiful soldier, the introverted thinker, a phlegmatic surfer, reclusive backwoods men, jolly Santa-types, or a hundred other personalities that can be distinctively masculine.

      • Zippy said,

        November 12, 2016 at 12:01 pm

        Some of them do have more elaborate non-binary models, e.g. here:

        I expect these models might be a useful tool for authors attempting to write characters according to reader-recognizable tropes, or what have you. Or even for leaders of organizations trying to organize work by lots of different sorts of people he can’t possibly get to know personally.

        But again the usefulness of the model is (like Meyers-Briggs) paradoxically inverse to how seriously we take it.

      • November 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        That’s a fun post. Still, this game theory strikes me like someone trying to become more successful at engineering my mimicking the behavior of a thinking introvert or become more jolly by behaving like an endomorph. It all promises to be as believable and non-clumsy as Denise Richards trying to convince me she’s a nuclear physicist.

      • Zippy said,

        November 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

        Agreed. It ‘works’ more in the construction of fictional realities than it does in dealing with actual reality. (The author of that post is a science fiction writer).

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