Social psychology deals extensively with (sexual, erotic, friendly) human-to-human attraction. If you understand attraction, you know how to seduce.
It is true that social psychology does not provide a manual for seduction, and in my opinion this may have two reasons. Social psychology is not an applied, but a basic science, interested in understanding human behavior, not directing it. And there may be ethical objections to providing scientifically proven methods for maliciously manipulating the most intimate emotions, thus providing "weapons" in the "war of the sexes" and causing further discontent in an area of human interaction that is already rife with accusations of abuse. Economic psychology, an applied psychological field, provides manuals of seduction for human-to-product attraction. This is called "persuasive communication". It seems to me that human dating behavior is dysfunctional enough as it is, and does not need more manipulative methods – and what else is seduction if not manipulating someone who would not be attracted to you as you are into being attracted? –, but rather to be freed from them so that we could approach each other with more honesty and mutual understanding and less fear.
Dysfunctions are the speciality of clinical psychology, and in fact clinical psychology has developed treatments (and manuals) for what is commonly (among psychologists) called "dating anxiety" or "heterosocial anxiety".
A short introduction into dating anxiety is provided by Grover, Esterline and Nangle (2014); a conprehensive description of the concept and research (up to their publication) is provided by Hope and Heimberg (1990). A related concept is "courtship disorder" (Freund, 1983).
The treatment of dating anxiety is similar to that of phobias:
- Psychoeducation and modification of (false) cognitive biases: The therapist explains that dating anxiety is a common occurence, why it happens, and how dating works, including the perspective (and fears) of the "other side", thus reducing shame and increasing self- and mutual understanding.
- Social skills training: Many people suffering from dating anxiety lack in social skills, so a part of the therapy is training how to more successfully interact with other people in general, outside of dating.
- Practice dating: Patients train dating with the therapist or with other patients in a group setting.
- Systematic desensibilisation: Confronting the patient with desirable persons and frightening situations will cause his fears to abate with habituation. There is a case study of using surrogate partners for this (Zentner & Knox, 2013), but usually the patient has to do this as a homework.
Much of this is similar to what "Pick-Up Artists" teach to the "Seduction Community".
Pick-Up Artists and the Seduction Community
There are only about a handful (psychological, linguistic and sociological) research publications dealing with the seduction community and pick-up artists. Looking at all publications that came up through a Google Scholar search for the phrase "'pick up artist' OR 'pickup artist'" and similar searches on PsychINFO, I found the following:
- Pick-up artists use verbal techniques to establish inequality in social status (the authors of the paper call this "doing inequality"), which they then immediately overcome by showing affiliation and affection and making compliments. In this way pick-up artists avoid the impression of threat and dishonor that many women have when men approach them in an openly positive way (Hambling-Jones & Merrision, 2012).
- Pick-up artists "perform on a stage", where they are critically judged by an audience, and in the face of this high social risk many techniques only indirectly serve to "pick up" the woman, or not at all, but rather serve to "save face" (Lee, 2009).
- The three phases of human courtship behavior – attraction, building comfort and trust, and seduction – have been confirmed by social, physiological and evolutionary psychology (Oesch & Miklousic, 2011).
- The assertive and negative (e.g. devaluing the prospective partner) courting methods propagated in pick-up are being used more by men who show high scores in the dark triad of personality traits (narcissism, machiavellism, psychopathy), an "unrestricted" sociosexual orientation (i.e. they tend to sexual contacts without emotional involvement), and a high need for sex and dominance (Crecelius, 2013). Women with low self-esteem, high interpersonal dependence, a strong desire for affiliation and an "unrestricted" sociosexual orientation are more receptive to these negative courtship methods (ibd.).
- Tales of failed pick-ups serve to establish homosocial cohesion among male adolescents (Korobov, 2009).
- The sexual conquests serve to prove heterosexuality and masculinity and establish "alpha male status" among pick-up artists (Larsen, Kyselova, Monari & Sørensen, 2012).
There are some more publications, mostly sociological, but they are all essayistic and not based on empirical studies. They deal mostly with defective male self-schemata and male degradation of women. In my eyes they don't provide anything new to an already over-emotional and mostly destructive discussion, so I don't list or summarize them here.
- Crecelius, E. (2013). Dispositional factors that predict the use and success of negative short-term mating tactics (Dissertation). California State University, Fullerton.
- Freund, K., Scher, H., & Hucker, S. (1983). The courtship disorders. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12(5), 369-379.
- Grover, R. L., Esterline, K. M., & Nangle, D. W. (2014). Dating anxiety in adolescents. In L. Grossman & S. Walfish (Eds.), Translating Psychological Research into Practice (pp. 405-407). New York: Springer.
- Hambling-Jones, O., & Merrison, A. J. (2012). Inequity in the pursuit of intimacy: An analysis of British pick-up artist interactions. Journal of Pragmatics, 44, 1115-1127.
- Hope, D. A., & Heimberg, R. G. (1990). Dating anxiety. In H. Leitenberg (Ed.), Handbook of Social and Evaluation Anxiety (S. 217–246). New York: Plenum.
- Korobov, N. (2009). ‘He's got no game’: young men's stories about failed romantic and sexual experiences. Journal of Gender Studies, 18(2), 99-114.
- Larsen, V., Kyselova, M., Monari, K., & Sørensen, S. (2012). Beyond ›The Game‹:
Performing masculinity (Dissertation). Roskilde University, Dänemark.
- Lee, J. (2009). Escaping embarrassment: Face-work in the rap cipher. Social Psychology Quarterly, 72(4), 306-324.
- Oesch, N., & Miklousic, I. (2011). The dating mind: Evolutionary psychology and the emerging science of human courtship. Evolutionary Psychology, 10(5), 899-909.
- Zentner, M., & Knox, D. (2013). Surrogates in relationship therapy: A case study in learning how to talk, touch, and kiss. Psychology Journal, 10(2), 63-68.