Thursday, 26 Mar, 2009 Science

Mathematical Model to Answer if a Relationship Can Last


A maths expert from Oxford University, together with his team managed to come up with a mathematical model that calculates whether a relationship will be successful. The team of researchers carried out a study on 700 couples and was able to predict the divorce rate with an accuracy of 94 percent.

Professor James Murray based his calculations on a 15-minute chat between a couple. He asked the couple to sit opposite to each other. Then each couple was asked to start a conversation on a debatable issue. Researchers told all participants to talk for 15 minutes about a topic that they were arguing on for a long time. All chats were recorded. Then, depending on the conversation, scientists informed each couple about the positive and negative points that ranged between "+ 4" and "- 4" respectively.

Maximum points were offered to the partner who expresses affection, humor or happiness. Minimum points received the person who showed contempt or hostility. According to Prof Murray, a Fellow of The Royal Society, contempt is believed to be more negative than disgust, sadness and even anger. All scores were introduced into a mathematical model and then represented in a graph. The chances of success or failure in a marriage were shown in the graph with a point were the lines of wife and husband meet, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Talking about the mathematical model the professor said: "It is not so much of an equation, it is trying to assess and quantify how a couple interact by giving them a scoring system. We take those figures and plot them on to a graph. If either the husband or the wife is consistently negative then they are going to get a divorce."

He says that married couple can be separated into 5 groups: two groups that are stable, two that are not and one group that is somewhere in between. "Depending on the group, some couples might as well get divorced right away," the professor said.

Here's the explanation of each group:

1. Validating Couple

Couples in this group are peaceful, intimate, who always back each other up and share a friendly relationship. Each member of this couple chooses a shared experience instead of individualism.

2. Avoiders

Couples from this group try to avoid any conflicts. Partners respond positively to each other. "The most stable relationships are those which take a more old-fashioned view and see marriage as mainly about companionship," says Prof Murray.

3. Volatile Couple

Both members of this couple share romantic feelings, but sometimes are involved in heated quarrels. These couples represent a fusion of stable and unstable, but they are more likely to have an unstable relationship rather than a stable one.

4. Hostile Couple

In this group the couple doesn't have any communication - one doesn't want to talk about an issue and the other feels ok about it.

5. Hostile-detached Couple

This category includes couples in which one desperately wants to argue and the other is simply doesn't show any interest in the problem.

Prof Murray mentioned that the original prognosis of which couple would get divorced in his study was 100 percent correct. However, he mentioned: "What reduced the accuracy of our predictions was those couples who we thought would stay married and unhappy actually ended up getting divorced."

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