Relationships are stupidJuly 23rd, 2009 by ftobia
I want to see myself as a scientist. Doing science is maybe one of the most awesome activities possible. It’s like, hey, we could keep talking in circles like idiots, or we can actually go figure things out. The scientific method is likely mankind’s greatest innovation.
But what if I want to figure things out in the very important realm of human relationships — specifically the romantic kind? Tough luck. I mean, first of all, how can you do science on relationships? There are too few data points! Even if you are Mr. Playboy and date, say, one new girl per week, it would be nearly seven months before you could use the OLS large sample assumption. And that’s no good, because then you’d just be testing something about short relationships — probably not the kind you’re interested in studying.
There is no control group: you can’t clone yourself to see how you would act under two different relationships. Besides, you’re not a static person either. Each relationship you’re in changes who you are to a great extent. Even if you determined some profound result, it would probably only be valid on a past self.
You would need to use a between-subjects design. It would be virtually impossible to organize two groups of people in relationships and keep the treatments the same. How would you control for all the possible differences in peoples’ personalities and relationship dynamics?
No, doing science on relationships is all but impossble. We’ll probably have to settle for psychology or something. (See what I did there? Thinly-guised psychology insults are the first thing a budding economist learns.)