Reticular Activation System

The Reticular Activation System (RAS) is a set of connected nuclei in the human brain that is responsible for regulating arousal and sleep-wake transitions. In other words, it is the part of the brain that controls and regulates a person’s attention to certain things – typically those that are evolutionary beneficial to them, such as survival and reproduction.

How this works in practice is as thus; Say you are in a busy nightclub or street. In such environments, you have many different stimulus to contend with. People moving in different directions, hazards to negate – such as traffic or someone walking with a tray full of drinks. You have lots of noise from vehicles, road works, people talking or loud music from the club’s sound system, as well as your own thoughts! If you’re RAS is working properly and is in full flow, you will be able to seek out or spot what it is you are looking for in amongst the carnage of the environment. In a nightclub or busy high-street, your RAS will kick in so that you can pick out and identify the good looking girls from a distance, or you can hear your friends clearly when communicating. Essentially, it helps to harness your attention and focus onto that which is important to you at the time.

If the RAS is not activated or in full-flow, this can impair your ability to focus on your task (in this case, attracting girls!). In a high energy, high stimulus environment, the RAS will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed or unfocused. If you are talking to a girl and a glass breaks or a car horn sounds, you’d barely notice if your RAS was in full flow. However, if your RAS was not activated, you’d be distracted by things going on around you. You would not appear to be centred or calm when interacting with another person, which could lead to negative, unattractive traits such as poor body language, bad eye-contact and a general sense of not being at ease. In a busy environment, you’ll likely not even notice good looking girls around you (at least not as often).

A good analogy for understanding this better is to imagine the environment is like a studio mixing desk. When the RAS is not working, it’s as though all of the faders and dials have been turned up to a high level of decibels. This makes everything sound unclear and blurry, with little clarity between the different elements of the mix. However, when the RAS is activation and working properly, it’s as though the mix has been corrected – the unnecessary or less desirable/wanted elements of the track have been turned down, such as other people’s conversations, traffic, a glass breaking. They become background noise or filler. The more important aspects of the mix have been turned up so that you can hear them with complete clarity, or in this case, your awareness of girls around you, your ability to hear and focus on what a girl is saying or what friends are saying and doing and your ability to detect other people’s behaviours and situations that are happening in the room, such as being checked out by a girl, spotting girls who are with boyfriends or noticing when a girl is attracted.

Fine Tuning the Reticular Activation System

Now that we know what the RAS is, we can start to look at ways to engage it and ‘kick-start’ it so that you can utilise it in the club or bar next time you’re out. The premise is quite simple and is a lot like professional sports. The way to get your RAS up and running is essentially to ‘warm’ it up. Take a sports team, and let’s say it’s a football (soccer) team. Before every game, the players warm up – and not just physically. Yes, then do short sprints, stretches, light jogging etc… to the get the blood and oxygen flowing to the working muscles, but they also do something else. They do ball work. They pass, shoot, dribble, do tricks, skills, ‘keepy-ups’. They play little team drills and they do all of this on the very same pitch they will proceed to play the actual match on.

There’s a good reason for all of the above. What do you think would happen if the player ran straight onto the pitch, having done no preparation prior to kick off? His first touch would be sloppy, his weight of pass would be off (either too heavy or too light), his shooting would be wayward and he’d be gasping for air after 5 minutes of playing time. Not only that, but his concentration would be poor because of his environment – a big, noisy crowd, singing and chanting, with cameras everywhere and various playing conditions, be it rain, snow, blistering sun etc…

Like a sportsman, you need to ‘get your eye in’, so to speak. There a few different ways in which to do this, but a simple method to follow would be:

  • When entering the club or environment, take a little time to adjust. Soak up the vibe, hang at the bar with friends and just have fun whilst you acclimatise to the energy of the room. If you’ve been at work all day, the club scene will be a bit overwhelming at first as your state is low and your focus has been on work based tasks rather than social interaction. There’s a reason sports players don’t warm up in the changing room – they want to warm up in the same environment they will play on to better familiarise themselves with the conditions.
  • By spending time in the environment you’ll start to adjust gradually. You ‘wake up’ so to speak. Your RAS will start to kick in fairly naturally as men are biologically evolved to seek mating partners. So if the room is full of girls, your RAS will do some of the work for you just by being in the situation.
  • Once you’ve soaked up the atmosphere, you need to get interacting. This can be with anyone – the barman or bargirl, anyone else in the environment – people you know, people you don’t… Door staff… It doesn’t matter. You need to amp your state and conversational abilities.
  • Next is to simply talk to girls. Keep the interactions short and sweet. “Hey, I’m John. Who are you?”. The key here is simple; small steps with no real outcome attached. Just chit chat with girls and open and approach.
  • Leave the sets early. Don’t dwell too long on interactions during the early hours of the night. By talking to more and more girls, your focus and state will start to really kick on. Consider this the ball-playing drills stage of a footballers warm up. Focus on the basics – open, eye contact, good body language, self-amuse, basic physical game etc…

By doing these things several times during the early parts of the night, you give your Reticular Activation System a kick up the backside. Then you’ll start noticing things going on in the environment more astutely and quickly – does she have a boyfriend? How many girls is she with? Is she attracted? How is her mood? Who is having fun and who isn’t ? Once you are focused and picking up on these subtleties (because your RAS is in full flow), your interactions will be more fun and breed better results.