You hear the complaint all the time. Boys that mope about not being able to ‘get the girl.’ Girls whining about ‘liking a jerk.’ People never seem to be able to reciprocate feelings for each other at the same time. As a human being, we’re inclined to try to explain the motivations of other people. But as a scientist, what do you do when you don’t understand a natural phenomenon?
To approach this problem, one needs simply to consider an ancient approach of data analysis. The scientific method is an evidence based practice used to validate or invalidate various theories: and they don’t have to be related to hard science!
1) Observe the phenomenon at hand.
I would take bets about a concerning percentage of the university student demographics “researching” someone they’re interested in….on Facebook. Now, you don’t NEED to sit next to them in your class or ‘accidentally’ run into them on campus after they mentioned they would be going to that club meeting anymore. The Internet just gives so much more space for observation: and for mistakes when you realize that your subject will now be very much aware of your observation after you accidentally like that picture on Instagram from 71 weeks ago. What you DON’T think about is that you’re actually making preliminary observations to move onto the next step in the scientific method, which is...
2) Generate a hypothesis.
He loves me, he loves me not…are the feels reciprocal? Is this the Chase Matthews to your Zoey Brooks? If there were only one lifeboat for the two of you….Would she let go? Will they ever give up, let you down, tell a lie and hurt you?
Through your observations previously, you can generate a hypothesis to help you answer these questions. Hopefully, at this step, you have already applied the scientific method to analyze people you’ve been attracted to in the past and can identify your type. Is his quirky habit weird or adorable? Is her clumsiness cute or annoying? You should have also interacted with them beyond the Internet to have a frame of reference for how they treat other people.
Based on your personal situation, you might be interested in anything between finding a buddy to watch Netflix & chill with to finding your future husband. Naturally, the requirements for either of these would be vastly different. In generating a hypothesis, you must consider both the behaviour of the specimen and the expectations for the role at hand. The intricate interplay of these two elements can be used to generate a hypothesis about the reciprocity of the feelings at hand.
3) Design & perform an experiment to test the hypothesis.
If bae is really bae, they will likely behave in a certain way under specific conditions. It is very likely that you have googled how to successfully engage in this courtship behaviour, going under a common name of flirting. Does he enjoy your attention, or laugh a lot when you’re around? Is she treating you differently? Does she get a little flustered if you compliment her? These subtle behavioural measures can be used to identify whether or not they’re on the same page as you about being bae. Of course, you need to compare it with a control group--you need to see the subject’s behaviour in other contexts and with other people. If she blushes wildly whenever anyone speaks with her, she might just be really shy. If he told every girl in the room that their dress makes their eyes look as blue as the galaxy....You might not want to pursue that one. Not even because he doesn’t like you (although that is also true), but because he’s probably more than a little bizarre.
4) Analyze the data at hand for further study.
Based on your experiments, you’ll haveto go home to think things over. Reflect back on all your previous interactions with the person, and their interactions with other people. Are the feelings reciprocal? Does it support your hypothesis?
In this case with natural data, it may be appropriate to perform a statistical analysis, but there’s no such thing as SPSS for feelings. You’ll have to consider what a significant difference between what typical friendly behaviour and their behaviour with you looks like given the data that you have gathered about that person. And sometimes people are wrong. And get rekt. Just like in a regular scientific experiment, you must consider the margin of error as well as the statistical significance of your data based on the sample size. If your one interaction was the time he asked you what day it is and you said October 3rd, it might not be appropriate to draw conclusions in either directions just yet.
5.) Conclusion, Publication & Poster Presentation
Based on your data analysis, draw a conclusion about the feels and proceed to act accordingly. Scientific publication usually refers to making data formally available to the general public (usually without open access, for ridiculous amounts of money) and in order to do so in this context, you might act on the feels and consider asking the person in question out on a date.
The poster presentation is showcasing your efforts to the general public: whether that means going FB official, fangirling on the phone with your friends as you overanalyze all of your interactions and data all over again or just telling grandma she can stop asking you when you plan on being less single because she wants grandkids.
Now whoever said science wasn’t relevant in your everyday life?
Written By: Osmond Jian & Diana Varyvoda