First of all, to all the followers of this blog, I sincerely apologise for being off the blogosphere so long. A great deal of work on my academic in-tray has really kept me off my laptop. I am settling in albeit just for a few months in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I must say I love it. It's a beautiful city and Malaysia is a wonderful country. However, for guys please don't bring your girlfriends cause they will end up shopping your wallet dry.

Speaking of girlfriends and boyfriends, I will give my opinion on this matter through this post. I know most readers are used to research intensive economic pieces that discuss big issues, but I guess one has to explore his tools to find different subject matter. Sometimes economics or economic concepts can be used to analyse different factors other than just economic growth. Dating is one of these other areas or branches where human interaction which is often incentivised can be analysed through economics.

As someone who has burnt his fingers on a few occasions while dating, it is also of personal importance that I do this. Too bad most of the times theory remains just that; theory. Practice is the hard part. Well enough of pontificating about this.

Relationships are weird things, a lot of the time people do things that you would normally not expect them to do. Typical cases like those where the proud, headstrong girl dates someone who abuses her, where the casanova who nobody thought could be tamed ends up being literally owned by the most unassuming girl or even where there is a perfect match and suddenly things go haywire and you're left wondering; what's the point of this all?

I would like to think of these anomalies or the whole beastly creature of relationships using three concepts which tie in perfectly, well at least in my head. They are, assymetric information,  regression to the mean (mean reversion) and probabilities yes, good old probability. An introduction to each would be the polite thing  to do wouldn't it?

Information asymmetry simply occurs when one person knows more than the other, it is often the building blocks of a good profit in business as the seller knows more about the product especially its pricing and thus can make some good money off the buyer. Regression to the mean just means that things always tend around their average. A cynical example, which I often apply to my self and a certain friend of mine who knows her self is working out. When one goes to the gym, they either gain weight or lose it. However, often is the case that when someone stops working out they go back to their normal look (weight), this is nature's example of regression to the mean. Your body weight will tend around what your genetics, eating habits and other factors dictate it to be. Therefore when you gym, gym regularly and make it a lifestyle rather than just working out for 3 months and waiting another 4 before you get back to the gym. Advice! oh how we often fail to follow good advice, even when it comes from yourself. The last concept of probabilities is more mathematical than economic, but it has a wide range of applications in economics. The sheer depth and inclusiveness of this concept is central if anyone wants to live life without making many mistakes.

The type of probability pertinent to this post is the relative frequency probability. Let's say that Kenya has been growing at 5% per year for 30 of the last fourty years, then given the same policies, you would predict that the economy has a 75% chance of posting a 5% growth rate next year. Your using the relative frequency (amount of times it has happened) to predict the chances that it will happen again.

So what's the point of all this when it comes to dating. It's simple, most people are constrained by the fact that asymmetric information coupled with a lack of understanding of the natural concepts of regressing to the mean and relative frequency probability, lead to bad choices when choosing who to couple with. An example can be given, let's imagine that I find a girl called Ayn, she is the most beautiful girl ever and I am smitten from the get go. At first, I  know nothing about her, all I know is that she's pretty. From the beginning there is a strong degree of asymmetric information. The point is to try and reduce the degree of asymmetry, usually by going on a few dates, talking for long on the phone, meeting her friends and all these other social conventions. Even after all this the asymmetry is still strong. I still don't know about her as much as she does and will never do, but with time the degree of asymmetry will fall.

The problem comes in here, as humans we tend to ignore the other two factors after reducing the asymmetry to bearable levels. When the internet started becoming a strong factor in our lives in the 90's people were overcome by a new era type of thinking, we thought our economies would grow forever and our growth rates would be double digits. However, this hasn't happened because raw human intelligence hasn't increased. When you meet a girl/guy who has irritating habits, say Ayn really likes to smoke and drink and I am really not a fan of smokers and drinkers. However, Ayn really likes me and she wants to make a good impression by quiting. The little ego in me, as hyper rational as I may be, will take this as true and ignore the fact that her habits have a huge chance of regressing to the mean. In my egotism, I ignore simple reality and think that I am an agent of change. Most people make this stupid mistake by living on hope rather than reason. Eventually regressing to her mean she will start smoking again. She may genuinely quit but often that's a long shot.

The second mistake is to underestimate the effect of probability. Let's say that of all the workers in silicon valley, 70% of them are software engineers, if someone describes to you that person A, who hails from Silicon Valley is a right brained person i.e. very creative, likes listening to music and attending art galleries, most people will guess person A to be an artist. However, to stand a higher chance of making the right guess, you should guess person A to be an I.T guy because 70% of Silicon Valley residents are software engineers. Now how does this apply to relationships, rappers usually talk of "turning a (insert farm object) into a housewife", relative frequency probability if applied to Ayn will show that she has cheated on all her past boyfriends and slept with quite a number of people. Added to this she has also dumped all her boyfriends just after valentines day. You should guess that she will also cheat on you and dump you after valentines day. Just saying. Again "new era" thinking clouds our judgement and is often the case when "virtuous" and headstrong women end up dating cruel and abusive boyfriends. In the woman's head, she thinks that she will usher in a new era and bring and end to his abusive ways. Hubris if ever an example was needed.

Therefore we should avoid making typical dating mistakes by thinking probabilistically as well as understanding that stuff always reverts to its mean. However, there's always the chance of making the right but most unlikely guess. After all they say it's better to have loved and been hurt than not to have laughed at all. Well, it's up to you. I'd rather stick to trying to make sense of it all and cover my bases by sticking to the above concepts. What do you think?

Images thanks to and "for the love of food"