Dating down looks

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You want to date enough people to get a sense of your options, but you don't want to leave the choice too long and risk missing your ideal match.You need some kind of formula that balances the risk of stopping too soon against the risk of stopping too late.You'd also have to decide who qualifies as a potential suitor, and who is just a fling.The answers to these questions aren't clear, so you just have to estimate.And as you continue to date other people, no one will ever measure up to your first love, and you’ll end up rejecting everyone, and end up alone with your cats.(Of course, some people may find cats preferable to boyfriends or girlfriends anyway.) Another, probably more realistic, option is that you start your life with a string of really terrible boyfriends or girlfriends that give you super low expectations about the potential suitors out there, as in the illustration below.The logic is easier to see if you walk through smaller examples.

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But as the number of suitors gets larger, you start to see how following the rule above really helps your chances.The diagram below compares your success rate for selecting randomly among three suitors.Each suitor is in their own box and is ranked by their quality (1st is best, 3rd is worst).But it turns out that there is a pretty simple mathematical rule that tells you how long you ought to search, and when you should stop searching and settle down.The math problem is known by a lot of names – “the secretary problem,” “the fussy suitor problem,” “the sultan’s dowry problem” and “the optimal stopping problem.” Its answer is attributed to a handful of mathematicians but was popularized in 1960, when math enthusiast Martin Gardner wrote about it in .

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