July 31, 2013

What's the g factor of coolness?

Let me toss out an undeveloped idea: that the closest thing to a general factor in coolness is having a good sense of rhythm.  

72 comments:

Anonymous said...

And we all know what that correlates with.

Anon.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the correct response confidence? Sure, it's not the only thing, but its probably the most highty correlated. This of course if for guys. For girls it's being physically attractive.

Anonymous said...

Then why is Obama cool? From the guy's prose style you can tell he has no natural rhythm. Compare one of his droning speeches to a Tupac lyric some time.

Let me toss out another possibility: penis length.

Anonymous said...

Unperturbability

McGillicuddy said...

Jeez, I sure hope not.

Cyril said...

"For girls it's being physically attractive."

Not enough.

Jennifer Lawrence and Ann Hathaway are both physically attractive and world-class actresses, yet Lawrence is obviously way "cooler."

Why?

For girls, coolness is mostly a matter of attractiveness + sense of humor.

For guys it's different.

elvisd said...

Do we have to go down the dusty road of this topic?

Absolom Humblebug said...

"Rhythm"? I know lots of great musicians and dancers, obviously gifted rhythmically. I can't think of more than a couple of them I would call even passably 'cool.' Maybe you need to expand that thought a little, Steve.

Anonymous said...

Not giving a shit. Works for me...YMMV

Anonymous said...

I WIN!!!

Except..I don't.

Back to the drawing board Steve!

Harry Baldwin said...

Isn't the correct response confidence? . . . This of course if for guys. For girls it's being physically attractive.

I think confidence is key to a woman being cool too. A woman who is reasonably good looking but projects a lot of confidence is cooler than a better-looking woman who lacks confidence.

"Natural rhythm" (as we used to call it) is a factor in cool, but maybe "physical grace" may be more general. For example, there's something very graceful about the way Clint Eastwood moves in the Sergio Leone westerns that helps define his coolness.

Cyril said...

No, "rhythm" is pretty good as a proxy for coolness.

If you ranked nonwhites in terms of rhythm, it would run:

Blacks > East Asians > Hispanics (indigenous)

Likewise, if you ranked these races in terms of "cool" people per capita, they would likewise run:

Blacks > East Asians > Hispanics

A correlation, at least, is there.

middle aged vet said...

also, unlike the other g (the IQ one) it is usually sexually dimorphous; hence, the continuing coolness of 3 stooges, John Wayne, and Jimmy Stewart (male rhythym) and Brigitte Bardot, Karen Carpenter, and Sarah Palin (female rhythym ). The in-betweens (many method actors, many rock and pop stars, many athletes post-1970, and many stand-up comedians - I refuse to name any in case they are reading this) - are more temporarily cool. of course, the ideal human relation to time, fast and slow, has little or nothing to do with entertainment and coolness and is best described - as far as I know - by David and Solomon, etc...

Jon said...

Timing, not rhythm.

The problem with comparing "coolness" to intelligence is that there are no tests for the former.

Anonymous said...

I don't really think rhythm has anything to do with it. Coolness is obviously a fuzzy concept and the word is used in a variety of ways; e.g., as a synonym for hip, or simply to express approval of something with some cultural cachet ("that was a cool movie").

However, if we're talking about "cool" as a personal quality, I think the fundamental characteristics of the "cool" man are that he's aloof, interesting, and debonair. Though not taciturn, the cool man's parlance is measured. When he has something to say, people can't help but listen. James Bond is the paragon of cool. Jimmy Page is a great non-fictional example.

I speak of a cool man deliberately; coolness is masculine. I think this is principally because aloofness is uncharacteristic and unbecoming of a woman, though I would add that most women are, frankly, not terribly interesting. I could go on for some length as to the ultimate reasons behind that, but I'll avoid doing so here. For anyone doubting this last point, I hope to make it at least plausible to you by pointing out that the sex gap in general knowledge (favoring men) far exceeds any sex differences in cognitive abilities, with the exception of spatial skills.

And when a guy says a girl is "cool", in my experience he usually means "she's an attractive girl who doesn't break my balls and has at least a token interest in some of the stuff I like".

Peter the Shark said...

Counter examples - Flav o'flav, Liberace, really almost any gay entertainer you can think of. The key factor in coolness is being master of your emotions while still having the appropriate emotional response. Being emotionless is also not cool.

Anonymous said...

Confidence - not hesitating to do something other people watching wanted to do but hesistated.

Good rhythm comes with confidence imo.

Antioco Dascalon said...

That would make drummers the coolest musicians, which is clearly untrue. And tap dancers the coolest of all dance styles. Also untrue.
I think physical coordination is necessary, but not sufficient for coolness. James Bond defines coolness, but i don't think of him as being especially rhythmic.

Anonymous said...

passion + authenticity = male cool

Anonymous said...

elvisd, thanks for that Sam & Dave clip. The audience reminded me of the discontinuity in personal appearance that happened between 1967 and 1968.

Orida said...

"Coolness" is something that is defined by our elites- it is something taught to kids through the media and entertainment fields, then mimicked by kids, who are too naive to understand what is going on.

No surprise that since they want to turn the morality on its head, that the least moral group becomes the most "cool".

Anonymous said...

Does coolness matter post-high school? Coolness is at heart, a fairly sophomoric consideration. When I think of coolness, I think of a contrived, narcissistic focus on outward appearance all the while never admitting that appearance was an object of careful study, a triumph of style over substance. And often involving drugs somehow.

Like a Johnny Depp, a Lenny Kravitz, hell, even Vanilla Ice - sometimes people are the epitome of cool one minute and a punchline the next. I think a lot has to do with media promotion, and good looks. But mostly, who is holding the megaphone.

Hubbard said...

Rhythm is probably a part of it, but certainly not all. If it were all, there wouldn't be so many jokes about drummers.

chucho said...

Only if you're trying to be a beatnik. Cue the bongos.

FredR said...

Can't be true; I have no rhythm.

Anonymous said...

g factor for "coolness"?

A summary of someone's sociopathic tendencies should suffice.

Power Child said...

I think other commenters have gotten closer to the truth (confidence, sense of humor, etc.). I've simply met too many theatre and symphony nerds with great senses of rhythm.

Anonymous said...

2Having it but not flaunting it.

candid_observer said...

I'm certainly not much inclined to think that most people with a sense of rhythm are "cool" -- I know of only too many counterexamples, go to any folk dancing event for all the counterexamples you will ever need -- but I do wonder if there are many who lack a sense of rhythm who are cool.

I wonder if anybody can come up with examples of the latter.

George Doehner said...

As far as group dynamics, coolness is mostly about confirmation bias. The cool guy is never the first with anything. He is the first to confirm that something is cool.

The cool guy is not the one leading the charge up the hill, He is the first to write about it after the fact and does so in a way the pleases the folks willing to pay him for his work.

JayZ is worth 100x of Dr. J because JayZ was the first to sell hip-hop to middle-class white kids in the suburbs. JayZ is the epitome of cool while Dr. J is mostly forgotten.

Anonymous said...

I've struggled with rhythm deficiency my entire life. I took a music appreciation class and I did very poorly because I could not grasp the practical aspects of rhythm, not even a little.

It's the only subject I've ever struggled with so badly.

Coincidentally (or not), I am uncool.

O.Y.T. said...

I'm with anon #2. I think confidence is the answer. My best friend couldn't dance a lick, but he had this air of confidence that made people believe he could.

Anonymous said...

You probably right that a sense of rhythm is a factor, a big one, in the perception of "cool" but when I see Obama dancing or movin' with the slow beat, it turns me off.

As a woman, I appreciate a good-looking man, a sexy man, a sensuous man, but I recognize a man who is "trying too hard" and that kind of behavior translates into "vain" for me. Perhaps this sounds strange to men since men want to be attractive to the opposite sex, but NOTHING is more feminizing or effeminate to me than a man who appears vain, no matter how good-looking he is.

Obama is a decent looking guy, not sexy or great looking in my estimation, but he IS hung up on "cool" and that's very off-putting, very effeminate and campy to this female.

Anonymous said...

Your Americaness is showing there, Steve. In America coolness is associated with black people, and black people are perceived as having a good sense of rhythm. Ergo coolness is associated with a good sense of rhythm.

The whole "coolness equals black" construct is one carefully manufactured by the media over the last half century. Not many people in America in the 1950's or before had the same lofty and romanticized view of blacks as we see today.

David said...

A person with good rhythm seems more attuned to his body and to the real - i.e., physical - world. (Anyone who isn't on good terms with his own heartbeat has to come across a bit odd.)

Hard to go further without a hard-limit definition of coolness.

Anonymous said...

I second 'unperturbability.' Miles Davis wasn't cool because of his "rhythm;" he was cool because he maintained control. Chuck Norris, same thing. Screaming maniacs aren't cool.

Otis McWrong said...

Riley Cooper once was cool, but isn't cool anymore. At least among the eunuchs that run the Eagles...

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/sensitivity-training-set-eagles-wr-181200710--nfl.html

pat said...

First define terms. Is Bill Gates cool?

Albertosaurus

Silver said...

Stevo, hate to break it to you, but if you can non-ironically talk about a "g-factor of coolness" you're not cool.

Reread the geeks' discussion in "Charlotte Simmons." It can't be denied. I paid a steep price for my ignorance of these factors as a young man. The great pity of it is I had a lot of "natural coolness": good face, good body, good fashion sense, rebellious attitude; but I could never tame my intellectual curiosity enough to prevent it shining through at the wrong moments, with the result that most of the cool people who were attracted to me eventually saw me as "kinda weird" and distanced themselves.

"Unperturbability" is the best response yet and I don't think it will be topped. In fact, it's so good I bet the person who posted it had given some serious thought to it before the topic came up.

Anonymous said...

I think I remember hearing somewhere (from a pretty cool guy mind you) that coolness is having courage.

Jake-the_rake said...

Cool is: if you don't know what cool is you'll never know.

Rhythm helps, but the groove can be completely cerebral.

When an astrophysicist mutters: "cool" over something he's noticed... he might not be tapping his foot.

Cool is a rational white thing. Something is cool when you're detached and judging.

The beat or the music is NOT "cool" when you're really into it and taking the magic carpet ride.

When the dancer IS the dance... that's cool, except in that moment he is a million miles from cool.

Cool is a million things... but it's in the "if you remember you weren't there category"... and that's why if you need to ask, you'll never know.

biff said...

Sange froid.


For the Blood is the Life, and Cold is Death.


Opposites attract.

MKP said...

"Rhythm"? I know lots of great musicians and dancers, obviously gifted rhythmically. I can't think of more than a couple of them I would call even passably 'cool.' Maybe you need to expand that thought a little, Steve."

Agreed. I've known some musicians who are straight-up nerds. Good musicians, too.

You ever hang around jazz clubs where young jazz musicians play? It's the lamest fucking scene ever. They sound like geeks desperately trying to fit in at a party, they can't talk about anything other than jazz music, and there are hardly ever any good-looking girls there.

I would posit that insincerity correlates strongly to the g-factor of coolness, at least among younger people. That's much more depressing, but that's my take.

Anonymous said...

Rhythm, yes. But more than this, an attitude. When people say "too cool for school", they have in mind someone with en peu d'insouciance--someone saying "I don't care about any of this stuff you care about, I'm centered somewhere so much better than here." Where might that be? Well certainly no Protestant-Ethic-support-yourself kind of BS!

Mugatu said...

That's Hansel--so hot right now. Hansel

Anonymous said...

"JayZ is worth 100x of Dr. J because JayZ was the first to sell hip-hop to middle-class white kids in the suburbs. JayZ is the epitome of cool while Dr. J is mostly forgotten."

I'm assuming you're 12 years old. There were literally hundreds of hip hip artists to have top 40 hits before jay z hit it big.

anonyias said...


"I would posit that insincerity correlates strongly to the g-factor of coolness, at least among younger people. That's much more depressing, but that's my take."

Not so much insincerity but cynicism. Sincere people are considered cool so long as they are also cynical.

It is also possible for someone to be both insincere and a try-hard, which results in an uncool persona.

heartiste said...

State control. (aka grace under pressure or, if you want a g analogue, emotional prepossession)

Amused detachment is cool.

Cool is kind of an amalgam of charisma, integrity, mild narcissism and perceptiveness. Cool is the opposite of try-hard.

Just Another Guy With a 1911 said...

Steve, my brother from another mother - you are WAY off in this particular case. My guess: a young Steve, or early middle aged Steve, getting a night of from dad duties shows up at a, let's say,an Everclear concert at some out of the way venue. He observes young women screaming, undulating, etc. The only logical conclusion: women go crazy for alpha male musicians. Alas, that is not the case. Here's the deal: I have been playing in bands since high school. The most female interest I ever had was a lesbian who said she liked my playing. I wish it was not true, but there you are. What ever the X factor is that makes you a super stud alpha male dude, being in a band, on its face, is not it

vetr said...

a few thoughts - unlike general g, rhthym g is sexually dimorphous. (I.e. any actress riding a horse like John Wayne used to do would be considered eccentric, any actor seductively moving across the screen like Elizabeth Taylor used to do would be considered even more eccentric). Also, it is clear that it is much less genetic than general g, witness the rhthym savants of the NFL kicking world, the equestrian world, the British pop worlds, and the political speechifying world, all populated almost exclusively by more or less rich kids (or kids with extremely self-sacrificing parents). Rhythm is also historically determined - the nagging and stumbling timing and accents of Lincoln's speeches do not bother most of us sad orwellized denizens of Lincoln's far future, but anyone older than Lincoln would have wondered why that tall fellow droned on like an ancient nag; where was his individualism, his virility, his pep, his vigor? (I could be wrong but if you don't believe me imagine dropping a Lincoln speech into the middle of Moby Dick or the House of the Seven Gables..)

Anonymous said...

"en peu d'insouciance"

I hope you get your cut when the nevertouchaboobi tribe gets their casino.


Coolest president ever was first term W that's simply a fact.

Auntie Analogue said...


The word is not "unperturbability." It's "imperturbability."

And I don't care if pointing that out is cool, or not. At least, from now on, my Sailermates won't speak so that they'd be mistaken for Jesse Jackson.

Silver said...

" There were literally hundreds of hip hip artists to have top 40 hits before jay z hit it big."

Calling rap "hip hop" is bad enough, but calling rappers "hip hop artists" screams try-hard.

I can just imagine you with hipster horn-rim glasses and tatts down your forearms.

Silver said...

"The word is not "unperturbability." It's "imperturbability.""

Meh, I'm not perturbed.

Actually, I am. I'm definitely not imperturbible. That's gotta be a big reason why people who initially think I am a really cool guy eventually reconsider. I get perturbed, things perturb me. Maybe the best I can do is become "unperturbable," which is when, unlike being imperturbable, you actually do get perturbed, but under no circumstances do you show it. If I could pull that off I could keep the ruse running indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Then why is Obama cool?

He isn't to everyone and to the degree he is cool surely it's the most obvious one of all - he's cool because the people who matter keep telling us he's cool.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the best I can do is become "unperturbable," which is when, unlike being imperturbable, you actually do get perturbed, but under no circumstances do you show it. If I could pull that off I could keep the ruse running indefinitely.

Which reminds me of that line: Sincerity is the key, if you can fake that, you've got it made.

Anonymous said...

Coolness is at its most powerful when undefined. Right now the cool kids just 'know' that mass immigration and white minority status is a wonderful thing - its cool. Getting stuck into the million and one reasons why thats a bunch of crap isnt cool at all. Coolness is about feelings not about anything measurable.

I suppose Im saying its ultimately a fairly feminine thing.

Saw a cartoon recently where the main (male) character is trying to ingratiate himself with the cool kid. He's trying to defend himself in the eyes of the cool kid, who just laughs at him and says "Ha ha you're using words". Because of course coolness stands outside words.

Dave Pinsen said...

"I second 'unperturbability.' Miles Davis wasn't cool because of his "rhythm;" he was cool because he maintained control. Chuck Norris, same thing. Screaming maniacs aren't cool."

Speaking of Miles Davis and coolness, here is a cool scene from Michael Mann's Collateral featuring both.

Anonymous said...

"Calling rap "hip hop" is bad enough, but calling rappers "hip hop artists" screams try-hard.

I can just imagine you with hipster horn-rim glasses and tatts down your forearms."

Lol. I'm just an old guy who isn't sure what today's kids are calling rappers

Anonymous said...

Is "cool" for men distinct from being sexually attractive?

Can an attractive man be uncool?

Can a cool man be unattractive?

pat said...

It came to me. I figured out what being cool means.

It means acting like Steve McQueen in: Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape or The Thomas Crown Affair.

McQueen who was not particularly large or good looking was the operational definition of cool.

Notice he did not display any particular sense of rhythm. It is generally true that movie dancers were cooler than movie singers - e.g. Fred Astaire versus Gordon McRae. But in an all dance show like West Side Story there where everyone presumably had good rhythm there are still large differences in the coolness of the characters. Russ Tamblin was far less cool than George Chakiris.

Chakiris had more of that elusive Steve MecQueeness.

McQueen played essentially the same character in all his 'cool' movies just as Jimmy Stewart always wore the same hat when he played a cowboy. The essential cool quality of McQueen is that he is always very competent. He is a real good gun hand, a real good escape artist and a real good corporate magnate. Cool guys do not bumble. He is self confident but quiet about it. He is not tortured by self doubt. He is not a leader in the take charge sense or the make a fiery speech sense. Nor is he a follower. He is more of a tag-alonger. He is inner directed but not looking for followers.

The least cool man ever was probably Nelson Eddy singing 'Stouthearted Men' while marching to the call. Mickey Rooney was another very successful non-cool actor. Both seemed to have decent rhythm.

Gilbert and Sullivan, Rudolf Friml and Rogers and Hammerstein are all uncool while Steven Sondheim while often unlistenable is always cool.

Finally the greatest reality TV show in the world 'Top Gear' periodically has a segment where they judge cars on their "Cool Wall'. The essence of coolness according to them is that it's arbitrary and counterintuitive. A Yugo may be cool one day and a Lamborghini uncool depending on God know's what.

Time to rethink Nelson Eddy?

Albertosaurus

Gene Berman said...

Auntie Analogue:

Whether "pointing it out" is cool or not in any objective sense, YOU're cool (which lends a certain presupposition of coolness to whatever you might point out).

Silver said...

"Can an attractive man be uncool?"

Yes, but people will always consider him to have "potential," so he'll never sink as low as the unattractive uncool guy.

"Can a cool man be unattractive?"

Yes, but he'll never reach the same heights of coolness as an attractive cool guy.

crtsy said...

McQueen was pretty cool, but the coolest of all (I assume it was a guy) was the guy who wrote the line Nicholson delivered in "As Good As it Gets:

Q: How do you write women so well?

A: I think of a man - then I take away reason and responsibility.

677 said...

Coolness is a masculine combination of charm, confidence and physical/social grace. Klutzes are not cool. Guys who mumble aren't. Annoying hotheads aren't. Guys who smell like BO or cheap cologne aren't.

Its also being fashionable and glib, which is what young people are good at. A cool guy in 1955 wouldn't have hair down his back. A cool guy in 1978 wouldn't have a crew cut. As men age they usually become more responsible and reflective. Being cool doesn't matter as much as being a fully developed human being.

Also, there's a reason Jersey Shore Guidos and the male midlife crisis are ridiculed: you can't try too hard to be cool if you're uncool to begin with. It's pathetic watching someone try to be something they are not.

Anononymous said...

Sweeping, rythmic motions of the limbs could be a more ancient form of movement, with the whole muscle being contracted forcefully under the control of fewer nerves.

This is contrasted with a muscle that has more nerves allowing finer, precise and softer movements.

The latter kind of muscle will help when you are threading a needle, but will hinder when banging on drums.


sciencedaily.com

Our surplus motor neurons allow us to engage smaller portions of our muscles at any given time. We can engage just a few muscle fibers for delicate tasks like threading a needle, ...

since chimps have fewer motor neurons, each neuron triggers a higher number of muscle fibers. So using a muscle becomes more of an all-or-nothing proposition for chimps. ...

Great apes, with their all-or-nothing muscle usage, are explosive sprinters, climbers and fighters, but not nearly as good at complex motor tasks.

Dave Pinsen said...

"It came to me. I figured out what being cool means.

It means acting like Steve McQueen"


That was the premise of this movie: The Tao Of Steve.

uncool nerd who reads iSteve said...

Presumably the term originates with "coolness under pressure" or suchlike, i.e. not becoming hot - literally - in stressful situations, acting rationally, decisively and effectively when not to do so could have

"Nonchalant" =, literally, "not heating". A nonchalant person (really man - when is a woman ever described as such?) does not get hot under the collar when placed in a difficult situation. That is cool, literally.

When you get flustered, or agitated, your temperature rises. You colour up and sweat. Hyperactivity or antsiness isn't cool, is it? People in these states generate heat.

So yes, James Bond is cool. He exemplifies literal coolness - under pressure - and shows us how this developed into the figurative, vulgar meaning of the word.

You can be temporarily "cool", I suppose, in a cheap sense of the word. But what 1980s rapper seems "cool" today? Whereas Bond in any of his films, going back more than half a century, is as cool today as he ever was, if not more so.

Anonymous said...

Then why is Obama cool?

He isn't. He is just a fraud waiting to be found out for the son of a cracka' mom that he is.

Truth said...

'I'm assuming you're 12 years old. There were literally hundreds of hip hip artists to have top 40 hits before jay z hit it big.'

And hundreds of guys slam-dunking before "Dr. J."

gubbler of the church of reformed chechenism said...

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/girls-commit-dating-violence-often-boys-studies-show-6C10809607

Micro-aggressions move aside. New thing is 'dating violence'.

Hail said...

"Your Americaness is showing there, Steve. In America coolness is associated with black people, and black people are perceived as having a good sense of rhythm. Ergo coolness is associated with a good sense of rhythm.

The whole "coolness equals black" construct is one carefully manufactured by the media over the last half century. Not many people in America in the 1950's or before had the same lofty and romanticized view of blacks as we see today.
"

Great comment.