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But if you use the method above, the probability of picking the best of the bunch increases significantly, to 37 percent — not a sure bet, but much better than random.
This method doesn’t have a 100 percent success rate, as mathematician Hannah Fry discusses in an entertaining 2014 TED talk.
If you do, you have a 50 percent chance of selecting the best.
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.
One problem is the suitors arrive in a random order, and you don’t know how your current suitor compares to those who will arrive in the future. (If you're into math, it’s actually 1/e, which comes out to 0.368, or 36.8 percent.) Then you follow a simple rule: You pick the next person who is better than anyone you’ve ever dated before.
To apply this to real life, you’d have to know how many suitors you could potentially have or want to have — which is impossible to know for sure.
You'd also have to decide who qualifies as a potential suitor, and who is just a fling.