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(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 next person you date is marginally better than the failures you dated in your past, and you end up marrying him.
You need some kind of formula that balances the risk of stopping too soon against the risk of stopping too late.
The logic is easier to see if you walk through smaller examples.
This method doesn’t have a 100 percent success rate, as mathematician Hannah Fry discusses in an entertaining 2014 TED talk.
You'd also have to decide who qualifies as a potential suitor, and who is just a fling.
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.
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 .
In the scenario, you’re choosing from a set number of options.