Technology Meets Relationship Science Research: Part II

collage of a man climbing a chair, with an internet box, laptop, chessboard, and clock in the background

Last week, we dove into Daniel Conroy-Beam’s Couple Simulation research. In case you need a refresher: Conroy-Beam and his colleagues first brought together existing couples and created SIMS-like simulations of them. They then erased their memories (the simulations’, of course), and tested various different algorithms to see which one would be the best at making the simulations choose their existing partners again. 

So the algorithm had to mimic how real people make decisions in their love lives: But did such an algorithm exist? 

Kind of. The optimal mate-choice algorithm was able to reproduce around half of the couples. 

This model, known as the Resource Allocation Model, is informed by different theories in psychology and economics, such as the interdependence theory, parental investment theory, and the secretary problem. Before we dive into the details, it is useful to remind ourselves that this model only applies to those with the freedom to decide to enter a relationship and the freedom to end one. 

The Resource Allocation Model follows the understanding that we, as humans, have limited resources to allocate (time, attention, memory, cognitive load, etc.) to potential partners. The  question we then ask while choosing our lovers is: “Who deserves most of these limited resources?”

Deciding who to allocate these resources to is tricky, because it isn’t solely dependent on what we want from a partner. Part of this decision is assessing the perceived value of a potential partner: Are they close to our ideal mate preferences? Do they meet our needs and desires? And what would we be sacrificing if we chose to allocate our resources to this particular mate? Our answers to these questions are referred to as the relative mate value of a potential partner. 

During our quest for love, we first compare the net rewards we receive from all potential options. Then, we allocate our resources primarily to those with higher relative mate values, while still keeping our options open. 

Along the journey, we face a second important decision: Who is going to reciprocate our allocation of resources? The decision to enter a committed romantic relationship happens when we decide to allocate our resources to a mate that 1) has a high relative mate value, and 2) likes us back.

At the end of the day, we invest in a partner to the degree that we’re confident they’ll reciprocate our investment. 

Boiling love down to math is essentially what we do here at Marriage Pact, even though no one has yet to find the perfect algorithm— but after all, isn’t there magic in the mystery of it all?