Divorce by the Numbers

If this story is real, it could revolutionize courtship behavior around the world. A team of psychologists and mathematicians has created a model they say will predict with 94% accuracy the likelihood of divorce between a man and a woman, after watching just a few minutes of them as they converse on something about which they disagree. Here’s a story about it from Gizmag.com.

The mathematicians call the math portion of the model “trivial.” The amazing predictive power, they say, comes from the data collected from hundreds of videotaped conversations between couples in the psychology laboratory of Dr. John Gottman. Among other factors, the model measures the ratio of positive to negative interactions. The magic number is 5 to 1. That is, if a couple routinely has less than 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction, that relationship is in trouble.

Gottman says that couples in healthy relationships have arguments and disagree, but they handle the disagreement even while affirming their relationship with each other. “When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections,” Gottman said.