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Semiformalishmaybe

Being Cool

This is an elaboration of a (light) stance I took in a philosophy meeting tonight, where we were hashing out the meaning of coolness.

I (lightly) hold that coolness is an impression and awe that people feel towards people with a particular social strategy; this impression is a cousin to respect for leadership, filling some of the same ends.

There are various social strategies for success; being strong, being sneaky, being clever, being a consensus-builder. For prominent members in society (that is, who stand out), they will adopt one or more of these strategies; being cool is a recognition of a certain pairing of being confident and being practical, usually in the context of someone who represents a (strong or weak) alternative or fallback to the existing order. A cool person shares some characteristics of a leader; being prone to making decisions rapidly when needed, not depending frequently on others for support, not being excessively theoretical or principled when doing so would harm his/her posse, and having sparks of potential.

Being cool is not necessarily a good thing; it tends against moral and intellectual development.

Comments

I happen to know someone who has done some scientific research on the meaning of cool. Luckily, he's recently written two blog posts about it:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/who-me/201206/the-birth-cool-research
Neat! And kind of surprisingly, the discussion quickly ferreted apart two notions of coolness as well (neither of which were mine), one the group called "high-school coolness" which focused on counterculture, and the other the facilitator of the group pinned loosely to philosophical stoicism.

I think I was approaching the problem trying to feel out an ev.psych explanation.
Hrm. An ev psych explanation is easiest for males - they need to be special in some way in order to attract mates, hence why the bell curve for males has a bit fatter tails and shorter hump than that for females on most all traits. So coolness is adaptive in that it involves being special or different - counterculture makes sense. The other side, the confidence, etc., is also just generally found to be attractive in men (social presence, leadership, etc.) especially by ovulating women.

As to why women are cool...well, I don't know. Did your discussion touch on any gender differences?
I posed the question, but they didn't give it a lot of consideration.

I would guess it comes down to two factors:
1) Heredity of whatever selective traits coolness is a signifier of
2) A merker of traits useful for external (versus environment) rather than internal (versus others of same mating role) competition