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When trying to pick the best among many options, how many samples should you try before you commit? This is known as the optimal stopping problem.
Mathematicians tell us that, to maximize the chances of the best outcome, we ought to ditch the first 37% of any options. In psychology, people tend to either "explore" or "exploit" more.
But, sadly for us, relationships are a bit messier than probability would have it.
The primary puzzle is asking how long do you spend sampling options to give the optimum chances of a successful final decision? How many frogs must you kiss to secure your chances of getting a prince?
Mathematicians have given us an answer: 37%. The basic idea is that, if you need to make a decision from 100 different options, you should sample and discard (or hold off on) the first 37. The 37% rule is a calibration period during which you identify what works and what does not. From the rejected 37%, we choose the best and keep that information in our heads moving forward.
Mathematics offers us the best answer to the “optimal stopping problem.” But there’s just one big issue with it: Humans are not rational probability-crunching machines. In fact, the opposite is usually true. We’re beautifully, infuriatingly, creatively, and messily chaotic.
In psychology and economics, there is what’s known as a “explore/exploit” tradeoff. This asks whether you should go with a guaranteed “win” (the exploit) or risk going somewhere else for an unknown outcome (explore). The degree to which someone will explore or exploit will depend on our curiosity and risk appetite.
The world of interpersonal relations is hard to put a number on. Probabilities and game theory do funny things when you input the wobbly, fuzzy variables at play in human behaviour.
But the biggest problem with the 37% rule, or the idea of “exploring,” when applied to dating is that one date(or even 10) is never enough.
When it comes to buying things or making life decisions, the 37% rule is a mathematically safe starting point. There’s a lot of wisdom to be had in sampling the field before settling down.
The biggest problem in life isn`t the problem itself, but how people act upon it.
The optimal sample rate while deciding on something.
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