Happy Relationships – Part 2 – Maximising vs Satisficing

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this mini series, check it out first. It’ll give you a background on some of the ideas presented in this article…Have you ever thought about which traits are most important in a potential partner? Maybe you have even written them down? Does your list include things like eye colour, height, humour, intelligence, status etc? What about things like emotional temperament? In any case, you’re ahead of yourself. Before you can decide who you’re going to choose, you must first decide how you’re going to choose.

According to Herbert Simon (researcher in the 1940’s) there are two main styles of decision making. Incredibly, the style you use to make the decision can determine your satisfaction with the outcome as much as the outcome itself. Here’s how it works:

Maximizing – is all about finding the most optimal outcome. You look at every possible option and slowly narrow them down based on direct comparison. You methodically get rid of the least suitable, until eventually you end up with the final 2 candidates to choose from. This process is very logical. However, it does encounter a significant problem. You always end up with two very similar final candidates and the process itself highlights just how similar they are. This leaves you highly prone to buyers remorse (described in Part 1).

Satisficing – is all about finding the most suitable outcome. It involves an individual setting a criteria of suitability and then going through the options, one by one, until they find a suitable candidate. Once a suitable candidate has been found, the satisficer accepts it as the solution and stops looking. While they are less likely to find the most optimal solution they are often happier with the final outcome. Since they don’t use direct comparisons, they don’t end up with a number of similar alternatives in their mind and thus are less prone to buyers remorse.

This is often how Western dating works, well, sort of. Most people have some sort of criteria in their heads (even if it’s on a subconscious level) and most people only date one person at a time. They will date someone long enough to decide if they are a suitable partner and then either marry, or move on to the next candidate.

The problem is that many people end up searching for the most optimal solution using an approach designed for finding suitable solutions. They set unrealistic criteria which are often not predictive of a happy relationship.
So, what criteria are predictive of a happy relationship? Check out Part 3 of this mini series where we look at the research on relationship compatibility.

No comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *