A Scientific Approach To Dating

If you think about it, relationships are just like scientific experiments: sometimes, no matter the outcomes of dates, the end results can be unpredictable.

AsianScientist (20 May, 2016) – A friend of mine was recently having relationship issues and I had to spend some time consoling and counseling her (Don’t worry, I’ve received permission to discuss this!). As she railed against fate, she moaned something about her predicament that really struck me—the need to communicate without assumptions and to not be inclined to think that something is obvious.

At this point, I tried to lighten the mood by pointing out that as a scientist, she should never have made such judgments. After all, what is obvious to one person is often not clear to another and people are rarely quickly convinced in the lab even when the evidence is there. By the same token, how many times are you going to test the hypotheses before you accept you are right or wrong? Also, you can’t go back and read other people’s minds the way you can a lab book (depending on how well the lab book is kept).

This thankfully brought a smile to her face and like a good collaborator, she threw some challenges towards my argument—are relationships then just a series of hypothesis tests?

ARE THEY EVER!!! Just think about it—dating can be considered a series of experiments with different subjects!

Relationships: the ultimate experiment

It even fits the classical written scientific report format with defined sections on the introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion. My friend was skeptical. All I could do was show her the evidence (like a good scientist), and hope she came to the same conclusions.

  1. Introduction

    Well, this section is pretty obvious as this is probably when you meet—introduction, get it?!?! Hahaha! Okay I’ll slink back into my cave now. But really, this is when you also assess the relevant history and concepts so that everyone can understand the current situation. And like a scientific report, this is when you’re supposed to engage the subject of your experiment … I mean, date. *Cough*.

    In the way that a good introduction to a paper is meant to be selective, not exhaustive, it’s the same for your date. They don’t need to know (yet) all the nitty-gritty of your history until they decide to become an expert in the field, i.e. you.

    And remember to figure out the aims and hypothesis—to find out whether this person is the one! You don’t want to get to the end and realize your study has been for naught.

  2. Materials and Methods

    This section is also quite clear. In addition to needing at least one person with whom you share a relative amount of affinity, there are plenty of methods and relevant materials that can be utilized. The use of suitable methods should have been made clear during the introduction. These include:

    • Going to the cinema
    • Having dinner/going for coffee
    • Visiting the art gallery/museum/sports events
    • Going for a picnic in the park
    • Other outdoor activities such as hiking
    • Watching TV
    • Travelling together

    Just like in the lab, there may be more than one appropriate method that can be used to investigate the subject being studied. On the flipside, don’t engage irrelevant methods, no matter how fancy and fashionable they might be.

    For example, there’s no point going to the newest cool bar if they don’t drink alcohol. Individual experiments will need to be repeated to confirm the results. Spend money judiciously and at your bank’s discretion.

  3. Results and discussion

    So… what happened? Reviewers (your family and friends) will want to know what was observed during the study. Were there patterns, agreements, and contradictions? Did the outcomes of all the dates individually and collectively meet expectations as outlined in the introduction? If so, what do they mean? Are there possible reasons for any unexpected findings and could they be explained in the context of previous knowledge?

    The reviewers may also be very critical of your interpretation of the results and want evidence for any conclusions that have been drawn. A good reviewer/friend should hopefully pick up if you’ve ignored deviations in the data or if there are any major issues in the overall study.

Dating For Scientists 101

And then of course, one should speculate on further directions or decide if the study is at an end. The theoretical and practical implications of further dates may be required to elucidate the situation. Unfortunately, it probably isn’t practical to get a colleague to repeat the date to see if your observations can be replicated by another person.

By the end of my spiel, my friend was no longer so heartbroken, and agreed that I was right (yes!). In addition, we had decided that the study should be extended by us writing a dating guide based on scientific method, since relationships are essentially the ultimate experiment.

Sometimes the results are bad, but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and re-enter the lab. Never forget that there is also an element of luck involved. And of course, sometimes the results can be really good—and when they are really good, you can get papers at the end!

This article is from a monthly column called The Sometimes Serious Scientist. Click here to see the other articles in this series.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Alice Ly is a postdoctoral researcher in Germany. She completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne, and has a BSc in Pathology (First Class Hons) and BA (Art History). She enjoys microscopy, cakes, photos of puppies, and removing warm items from the incubator.

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