Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Which means that my facebook news feed will be filled with this:
Which will be better then all the “I ♥ my boo” statuses, but it’s a thin margin. I suppose it’s not really intimate unless it’s in public.
So I thought that I would be cynically helpful and give you the economic point of view. Although, for the record, I’ve already written about this: The Economics of Online Dating.
What An Economist Would Tell You About Love
1. “Love” is a volume game.
Probability tells us that it should be quite hard to meet a match. Of course, the bell curve of life also suggests that a few of us will find that match fairly early on (all those lucky we-met-when-we-were-15 folk) – but those are the outliers.
2. Too much time is spent on sunk costs.
If the last relationship was a bad one, why dwell on it? That time is done.
If you’re 40 years old and still a virgin – then the unfortunate truth is that the last 40 years can’t be changed. But you can change the next 40, so best not let the past pre-determine the way they roll.
3. Monogamy is a function of scarcity.
Our time is limited. I’m just not sure how you manage to have more than one meaningful partnership at a time, if you have friends and work and interests.
4. Fear of Rejection is Loss Aversion.
Being loss averse means that you’re going to give greater weight to the loss than to the win. Which is irrational.
If you ask someone out and they say “no”, then you might cringe for a short while. But then you’ll go and have a consoling gin, and start looking for someone else.
But if they say “yes”, then you have weeks of excitement ahead.
Should the cringing really count that much?
5. You are generally not “surrounded by couples”.
We have a cognitive failing called “observational selection bias”, which is the effect of noticing things that you didn’t really notice before. An example: you buy a new car, and then you suddenly see that same make and model of car everywhere. In all likelihood, there were just as many before, only now you’re noticing them.
It’s the same principle.
6. “Why does no one like me?” is a representative fallacy.
You can’t just look at the one or two people that you’ve felt a connection with recently, and who haven’t returned that connection, and then just declare yourself generally un-liked.
That’s not really a sample. So it’s not really a valid conclusion.
7. The woefully loveless really are “looking in all the wrong places”.
I hate seeing that line on a dating profile. Firstly – because who really wants to date that? And secondly – because you must be. Especially if by “the wrong places” you mean “the same places”.
Once a pond is tapped out, it’s tapped out. Find a new bar, a new running group, a new friend… I’m not saying that someone won’t occasionally drag a big fish out of an old pond – but that takes us back to probability and outliers.
I’m going to leave you with a video clip from Tim Harford on dating.