PPFF #131: Happiness

Good morning,

Unless you have been sworn into a religious order, anti-sex cult or self-imposed celibacy for the rest of your life, chances are that you have at some point wondered whether your current/future relationship with that special/imaginary person would be a lasting one or not. Perhaps you are/were in a relationship that seem(s/ed) to be going nowhere or it was going so well that it made you wonder how long it would last. In any case you are not alone. Many an hour has been spent by individuals wondering, as well as scientists in research toiling to figure out how to predict the future of relationships, based on observations of individuals’ interactions and psycho-metrics etc. but no one has ever come close to being as uniquely simple, and/or controversially simplistic as the conclusion of this research.

Published in 1976, Linear Prediction of Marital Happiness, by John Howard and Robyn Dawes from University of Oregon went on to explain a pretty accurate way of predicting whether a relationship would last or not; they came up with the following formula.

  • (Frequency of Sex) –  (Frequency of Querrels)
  • +ve = marital happiness
  • -ve = unhappiness

This might be misleading as it does not imply that if your relationship is already on the rocks and suddenly you bring yourself to have unpleasant intercourse with your partner that it will fix all problems and bring about happiness; the authors suggest that this is only a quantifiable self-monitoring technique and a mere indicator. Remember; correlation does not imply causation.

As frivolous as the result might seem, this was actually a part of a wider body of serious studies and discourses with regard to clinical (intuitive) vs statistical methods in psychology, medicine and linear models, whereby the (shockingly) definitive conclusion was that pretty much professional intuition (e.g. physicians, and later, stock market traders) can be dangerously inaccurate,and often so-called professional intuition is easily surpassed by simple linear formulae in terms of accuracy. This conclusion was again corroborated by further subsequent researches, which leads me to believe that a Huxleyan brave new world has finally arrived.

In any case, for those of you brave enough to try to reverse the negative trend in your relationship, please report back to me how that pans out for you.

Happy Friday!