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Tinder to make couples happier and longer-lasting

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A large number of couples end up in disaster or are not happy. A new computational model could fix it and predict how your future relationships will evolve

A group of scientists believe they are on track to finding the key to (almost) perfect and lasting relationships. Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have developed a new computational model that, in the not too distant future, could make Tinder finish being a Russian roulette and become a useful tool for us much quieter life.

According to Dan Conroy-Beam — an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara — how humans choose a mate is still one of the great mysteries of science. There are many theories that attempt to describe why we are attracted to each other, why we select a partner, and how we navigate a relationship.

Some scientists argue that there are physical and psychological pull factors. Others claim that couples are created based on a series of previous expectations, a kind of minimum bar – the one that you have ever left at home when you have gone out dancing. There are also those who say that, as in the ballroom dances of the 18th century, some get together waiting to find something better and change partners, like someone who goes from iPhone 8 to iPhone 12.

Conroy-Beam claims that all of these models fail because it is a much more complex process in which many parameters interact with unpredictable effects. And, if you’re lucky, you might last an average couple of decades. If you are extremely lucky and have infinite patience, your whole life. But in a large number of cases, the partridges are finished at some point and there is nothing left to scratch.

An algorithm to defoliate the daisy

To try to find the clue, Conroy-Beam’s team pulled what many scientists throw away today: the algorithm. They created a computational model that contemplated several theories, from classical ones such as the Gale-Shapley Algorithm, which tries to explain the optimization of stable pairs, to a new one created by Conroy-Beam called the Resource Allocation Model (RAM or resource allocation model).

The latter says that we choose a partner constantly evaluating the resources that we will need to get and keep it. Resources such as time, money, physical energy and emotions that we are going to invest in the other person. According to him, it is a very flexible algorithm that is not binary and that assumes that a couple’s circumstances change over time.

To see which algorithm works best, Conroy-Beam designed an experiment in which he collected a multitude of data from hundreds of pairs. With that data, he created virtual avatars for each individual and put them in a simulated world. Knowing the real state of these people, the team of scientists ran their simulation with the different algorithms to see how the avatars matched on their own and thus check if the results coincided with real life.

Conroy-Beam found that the most accurate algorithm was RAM, with a 45% hit rate. The number is a long way from what is actually needed to predict a couple’s future with complete certainty, but the other models were only slightly more accurate than random matching.

According to Conroy-Beam, we are still at the beginning of the simulation but the results are impressive for a first try. In fact, according to their study, that 45% success rate was largely consistent with real couples who claimed to have a good relationship and were more satisfied with their partner.

The team says they hope to increase the precision of the couple simulation as the number of data on each individual increases and the complexity of the avatars, which right now “are primitive sketches.” Their next goal will be to expand the simulation to see if they can accurately predict the duration of the pairs.

If they are successful, it is logical to imagine that practical applications will follow in the form of an app similar to Tinder.

End of divorce or marriage?

But maybe none of this matters. A great majority of anthropologists affirm that the problem of the couple is in the idea that we must be with a partner for life to be happy. They assure that the human being is not monogamous by nature, as other species are. In fact, only 9% of mammals have a life partner. In primates, only 29% are monogamous.

We know that before the establishment of sedentary societies, the human being was polygamous. Monogamy arises largely as a necessity and convention derived from the sedentary lifestyle. Even the American Institute for Family Studies, a conservative organization, recognizes that “human beings do not tend to monogamy” and that the best we can aspire to is to be “serial monogamous.” Before Western colonization, and without counting same-sex relationships, the data suggest that 83% of indigenous societies were polygynous (one man, several women), 16% monogamous, and 1% polyandrous (one woman, several men).

All this seems also corroborated by all current statistical indicators. Life as a couple “for life” has fallen dramatically (not counting the infidelities in supposedly happy couples for life, of course) after the introduction and progressive implementation of women’s rights; mainly their education and financial independence.

It is difficult to predict where we are going. But it is not difficult to imagine that, just as there was a shift toward monogamous relationships largely motivated by the shift to sedentary society, we may be witnessing another transition in the opposite direction. What does seem impossible is that we can continue to deny our true biological nature for another 10,000 years.

Be that as it may, it would not be a bad thing for Tinder of the future to give an index of the possibility of success when choosing a partner. At least to get lovers to have a greater chance of success, peace and lust for as long as possible. Above all to avoid unnecessary inconveniences and vital expenses.

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