Has Dr Hannah Fry come up with a formula to help those who are unlucky in love? But when Hannah ran the calculations again, with slightly more flexible criteria, she came up with a more encouraging possible partners — and it looks as though her sums were right, for she tells us that Backus got married last year. Having increased our chances of finding a partner by keeping our criteria flexible, it is time to move on to the tricky world of online dating.
I still routinely found myself seated opposite yet another person asking if my red hair tasted like strawberries. You might think that the most beautiful people on any dating website would be the most successful at attracting potential partners. But it is not as simple as that. Using a graph to plot the attractiveness of 5, female users of the OKCupid dating site against the numbers of messages they received, Hannah found that people whose looks strongly divided opinion received more messages than those generally rated as quite good-looking.
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Which is good news for Lady Gaga, if not so great for Anthea Turner. This is the mysterious imbalance between the quantities of beautiful, intelligent thirtysomething and above single women, and the peculiar shortage of equally attractive men of a similar age. Game theory provides the explanation: when we choose our life partners, we are influenced not just by their looks and charm, but by how keen they seem on us. Very attractive women may feel confident enough to play hard to get, while their mousier sisters put in more effort and make off with the prize.
Reduced to its simplest terms, the formula says that if you are destined to date an infinite number of partners, you have the highest probability of finding The One if you reject the first 37 per cent of people you date. The problem with that is that none of us knows in advance how many potential partners we might meet. So a more pragmatic version suggests that you should estimate the length of your dating life, play the field for the first 37 per cent of your dating window and then start thinking about settling down.
The theory still has some obvious flaws, in particular the danger of meeting someone kind, good-looking and rich early in your dating life and turning them down in the hope of doing better. On the bright side, according to Hannah the 37 per cent strategy works equally well for all kinds of choices, including buying a house or hiring an employee. And it works!
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