Plausible deniability is probably the dominant factor in the sum total of social interactions. I once defined Game as “kino escalation with plausible deniability”, and I still think this is a pretty good summary. (In retrospect, I’d add a little bit of agency on the girl’s end of things, expressing the scale of her desire to be seduced. Probably in a way analogous to the gravitational constant or something, because I’m a thard :-P.) Warfare is conducted under the auspice of plausible deniability because the true psychological aims of war are generally at odds with the stated, self-conscious aims of the average ground-pounder. And those are just the two most important examples.
Anyway, what is plausible deniability? When a man takes a girl’s hand and says he’s going to read her palm, he may or may not have the eventual intention of sleeping with her. This first breach of her comfort zone is either due to his hidden intent, or it’s all in good fun. He certainly claims it’s all in good fun, and it is believable in either case (unless he says it quickly and apologetically- by this he would betray the dirty state of his mind). Leaving aside self-deception for the moment, we see that there are two actors in play: A, the man, and B, the woman. Each has a certain state of knowledge about the situation, based on their individual perceptive qualities, and we will simplify this by saying merely
B(x) or “B knows that x is true”
~B(x) or “B doesn’t know that x is true”
B(~x) or “B knows that x is not true”
~B(~x) or “B doesn’t know that x is not true”
This is a recreation of doxastic logic, which has apparently been around for a bit, so I won’t go into much detail here except to state that plausible deniability from A to B occurs whenever A(x) and ~(B(x)), which includes all three of the latter cases above.
A(x) and ~B(x), A knows x and B doesn’t.
A(x) and B(~x), A knows x and B has concluded otherwise.
A(x) and ~B(~x), A knows x and B is off in la-la land.
I’d like to translate this into the vocabulary of conditional probability, although it must be stressed that this is far from a scientific treatment of the situation.
When I say that B(x), I am assuming a certain relation between B’s perceptions of reality, and B’s ability to draw inferences in the way I’ve recently described. Summary: “The sensations of my eyes and ears are interpreted as a fire truck, which is to say a large, red, truck-like vehicle with ladders and a siren”. This is a lot like in mathematical regression, where we see a pattern in some data and think “that looks like an exponential function with a little bit of noise on it” and thereafter choose to apply exponential regression rather than linear regression. I’m not really up on things, but it seems we’re still generally better at this than computers, presuming we have previously assimilated the necessary forms (exponential curves and linear regression lines and such).
Okay, back to what approaches reality around these parts.
Say that B is receiving the set of sensory information S. This may be interpreted according to pre-existing forms (analogous to the exponential curve above) f and g, where f is “seduction attempt” and g is “we’re all just having a good time”. The probability P of form f given S has a certain value, which may or may not trigger the belief x, depending on the certainty required by the girl to think she “knows” what’s going on. In symbolic terms, this is P(f|S). If P(f|S) is much greater than P(g|S), then the girl may spurn the awkward seduction attempt in order to avoid feeling like a slut. That’s the essence of plausible deniability.
Bringing the whole thing around to be hopelessly esoteric, plausible deniability fails when B(x) because P(f|S) >> P(g|S).
We can make this even more complicated by adding a third party to the interaction: the audience :-D. This is because the girl is concerned with whether the community at large thinks she’s a slut. So, add some of the girl’s friends to your visualization of the situation at hand, and I’ll recapitulate. The man is reading the girl’s palm and in doing so has trespassed, ever so slightly, on her physical space. The girl’s friends look for her reaction- is she reacting as if it’s all in good fun, or is she giving off the tell-tale body language of sexual arousal? Again, even if the girl wants to be seduced she must put on an act (it’s all in good fun) to maintain the plausible deniability that she is not a venal creature who will sleep with a stranger for passing pleasure. She must do this even if the seduction is awkward and easily perceived by her friends, because at the worst she’ll be seen as stupid rather than slutty. “He was trying to seduce me? How funny! I never even noticed.”
This latter case illustrates plausible deniability from A and B directed toward C, the group. A(x) and B(x), but ~(C(x)).