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Dating From the Inside Out
by Susan S. Davis

The Science of Love Experiment

With the advent of reality television, one of the more favorite topics to cover, seems to be dating and relationships. From the popular Blind Date series, all the way to Cheaters, there is no end to the types of shows that have been, and continue to be developed, for cable, as well as local and national television.

As more similar fare continues to be broadcast, from Average Joe to Flavor of Love and its spin-off, I Love New York, the dating show genre has grown exponentially, based upon the sheer popularity demonstrated, by the public.

Aside from the well-known Bachelor series and the newer Age of Love, a more scientifically-based show of late, was NBC's one-hour special, Science of Love: A Modern Dating Experiment, which attempted to discern whether science can be applied to “true love,” or if simple physical instinct and chemistry would actually prevail.


Professional football player, Adam Johnson, after completing intensive scientific personality tests, selected one woman out of fifty that had compatible profiles to his. Once the video packages and personal questioning had been completed, Adam chose one woman for a date, while simultaneously, a second scientifically matched woman was presented for his consideration. Johnson then went on dates with both women, after which he decided if science or "instinct" produced the better date match.

Internet dating sites have begun to rely upon academic researchers to develop a sort of “science of attraction.” One of the more comprehensive dating webistes,, claims to have a “scientifically proven” and patented Compatibility Matching System, based upon the answers to an exhaustive 436-question personality survey.

It is pretty well understood, that scientists - even those of the renowned variety, have never been viewed as typically romantic “types” of people. If there were anything to be learned about love from scientific theories or algebraic equations, surely, we would have been informed of that fact by now.

However, there is at least one scientist who attempts to spin tales of love around mathematical equations. Karl Iagnemma, in a collection of intriguing stories, attempts to defy all of the logic that he probably acquired while training to become a robotics professor at MIT. To navigate through the overwhelming quagmire of feelings, which romantic involvements can create, he uses math and science as poetic devices. Mathematical formulas, scribblings and other textual items, are incorporated between past and present stories of melancholy and promise, all of which create a kind of lifeline extension, for readers caught in the confusing mental state of the lovelorn.

Iagnemma’s protagonists, such as Henderson, a mathematics professor involved in what seems to be the always problematic love triangle, is put through his paces, as the writer demonstrates what can happen when too much time is devoted to unrequited love. As Iagnemma sways between centuries, he reminds us that there will be many people in one’s life that will never return love.

Throughout the stories, using metaphor and scientific reasoning, Iagnemma’s characters learn about the depths of emotion in the heart, and the limitations of the mind. Despite the presence of gloom, a passionate fire is revealed in the characters, in spite of it all.

The BBC, in an experiment called the "Love Lab," from a research center at the University of Washington in Seattle (the Relationship Research Institute), attempts to demonstrate what scientists have claimed is a model that can determine the success or failure of a marriage, based upon mathematical calculations.

To begin, after subjects fill out questionnaires to identify personality types, they are then monitored by equipment as to physical and emotional responses during discussions on issues such as money, among other controversial topics.

Suprisingly, psychologist John Gottman, along with mathematicians James Murray and Kristin Swanson, have reported predictions of 94% accuracy. Even more startling, is the fact that the predictions are based upon viewing the mere first few moments of a conversation concerning an area of marital contention.

The initial model was designed using data collected from videotaped conversations between couples, along with physiological data, such as pulse rates, which was collected and analyzed. Conversation patterns are said to reflect underlying problems a couple may have, which is the reason that the model is so predictive. Given that communication is always cited as a determining factor for successful relationships, it comes as no surprise that one of the keys to the model’s success, is deemed to be quantifying the ratio of positive to negative interactions between the couples, during conversations.

The success ratio is five to one, according to the model. Any marriage that falls below that level may experience problems. The mathematical model chart is what the researchers refer to as the “Dow-Jones Industrial Average” of marital conversation.

While it may seem implausible to determine the success or failure of a romantic union using the Relationship Institute’s tactics, four different studies have reportedly demonstrated among approximately 500 different couples, that it is, indeed possible, to predict the outcome of a potential union, with a very high degree of over 90% accuracy overall.

Whether or not science ultimately works better overall when it comes to interpersonal relationships, remains to be seen. However, as dating websites and services continue to flourish, the importance and desire for richly textured, successful romance, has never been more evident.

Susan S. Davis is a published book author and writer, currently doing research for a romantic screenplay she is writing. Her Dating From The Inside Out column is published every Tuesday.

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