Seattle - A mathematician says he can predict with almost total accuracy which newly married couples will enjoy a happy union using two lines of algebra.
Professor James Murray says the two formulae he devised have a 94 percent success rate when it comes to forecasting whether a couple will stay together, the Daily Telegraph said on Friday.
The formulae were calculated during a 10-year study of 700 couples in the United States conducted by Murray, a mathematics professor at the University of Washington, Seattle.
The experiment, conducted with the help of a psychologist, involved observing the couples during a 15-minute conversation when they were newly married, Murray said.
A couple's ability to communicate on subjects such as sex, child-rearing or money/traveling was measured using a scale that gave positive points for good signals, such as smiles and affectionate gestures, and negative points for bad signals, such as rolling of the eyes, mocking and coldness. Jokes, coquettish and affectionate gestures, smiles and tender intonations are positive signals, while sarcasm, ironical gestures etc are negative signals.
"When happily married couples talk about important things, they may be contradicting one another, but, in the same time, they will be laughing and teasing each other, the signs of their affection will be easily seen thus, since the partners have established emotional links"
"But a lot of people don't know how to connect or how to build a sense of humor, and this means a lot of fighting that couples engage in is a failure to make emotional connections. We wouldn't have known this without the mathematical model. "It gives us a way to describe a relationship and the forces that are impelling people that we never had before The math is so visual and graphical that it allows us to visualize what happens when two people talk to each other."
For example, the model permits them to see what happens if a behavior changes, say a husband allowing himself to be influenced by his wife, and how that increases the number of positive interactions. Ultimately, this will allow therapists to do micro experiments with couples to strengthen their relationships, he believes.
"We used an accepted psychological scoring system to award them points, such as minus three for scorn and plus two for humour," Murray, the author of Mathematics For Marriage, told the newspaper.
The points were then converted into algebraic terms enabling the study's authors to make divorce projections. The results were fed into two equations - one for the husband and one for the wife.
The couples were checked every two years and the model predicted which marriages failed with almost complete accuracy.
"The mathematics we came up with is trivial, but the model is astonishingly accurate."