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Bilinear Influence Functions and Unhappy Marriages

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Bilinear Influence Functions and Unhappy Marriages2003-04-26 23:47
by Flemming Funch

This article in The Chronicle of Higher Education talks about researchers who believe they have a mathematical model of marriage. It is not quite as crazy as it sounds. A group of researchers at Seattle's Family Research Laboratory, also known as the Love Lab, have over 24 years recorded thousands of conversations between couples, and have discovered certain patterns. So well that they have a 90% accuracy in predicting which ones will divorce. The key point they find in a successful relationship is the ability of the participants to influence each other emotionally, in both positive and negative directions. It is not how much they yell at each other, but it is how flexible they are. If they don't respond to each other's emotions, or only do it in one direction, it will probably fail. So, observers can sit and note down the emotions of the two people who are having a conversation, and can figure out how well it is going based on how well they track with each other. That's kind of cute. Anybody trained in NLP would have noticed the same things right away, and would know what to do about it. But I guess it is good for more mainstream psychology to develop a scientific basis for understanding that relationships work better if people are in rapport with each other.

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