Dear Rob: Couch Experiment

pic courtesy of Master of the Art of LivingDear Rob,

I wanted to let you know about this idea my friend told me about.  It’s called the “couch experiment” and thought it would be useful in your posts.

To see if the guy or girl you like likes you too, find them sitting on a couch at a party…sit down next to them a little closer than normal.  If she moves away immediately, no dice.  If not, hooray!

What do you think?

Very interesting that you used the term “couch experiment.”  It has certainly placed me in a very scientific mood.  That’s a good thing, because when it comes to attraction, you will need lots of accuracy. Therefore it doesn’t hurt to add scientific rigor to your analysis.
Whether you know it or not, your couch experiment is in the realm of statistical hypothesis testing.  You have a specific test (does she like me), and based on your results (she does or doesn’t freak out when I get close), you derive a conclusion (yes or no).  However, in any test like the one you propose, you have to check for the probability of false positives and false negatives.  Unfortunately, I believe your test is full of these statistical errors.
For example, maybe she moves away from you because she’s uncomfortable with you being so close, even though she likes you.  That’s a false negative.  On the other hand, maybe she’s distracted and hasn’t paid any attention to your moves.  Therefore, you think she likes you, but she has no opinion of you at all.  That’s a false positive.
So what you need is a test that is more accurate, less error-prone, and more precise in gauging various levels of attraction.  I have found one that is particularly useful.  I call it the “GO UP TO HER AND TALK TO HER” test.  Yes, it may be old-fashioned, but a conversation is still the best method for creating and evaluating attraction.  If your results are inconclusive, you can keep repeating this test for more accurate data.  Please be aware, however, that if you repeat this experiment too much, she may start to get annoyed — even if she liked you at the beginning.  To avoid this dilemma, you will eventually have to escalate and perform the “GO UP TO HER AND ASK HER OUT” test.  This is clearly the best hypothesis test of all.
Unfortunately, there are no experiments or tests that avoids the risk of rejection.  The sooner you embrace the risk, the better your results.
Written by our fearless, yet mysterious, relationship advice columnist.  
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