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The “Love Lab”: Is Your Marriage Going to Last? An analysis of Blink by Malcom Gladwell

The “Love Lab”: Is Your Marriage Going to Last? An analysis of Blink by Malcom Gladwell

We received and gladly post from the Woodland Hills store:

Recently I had the chance to read a book of one of my favorite authors: Malcolm Gladwell: Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He methodically lays out his theory that snap judgment or – as he calls it – adaptive unconscious, can actually lead to better decision making, and that in today’s technological world, too much information can lead to paralysis and to a person’s inability to make decisions.

He describes a lot of studies and examples, some of them remarkable. Because of the work we do, the example of the “Love Lab” stuck in my mind: years ago a psychologist named John Gottman conducted a series of tests on a large sample of married couples. He had them enter a room, sit on a couple of chairs, and hook them up to sensors to detect stress, movements, sweat levels, skin temperature, etc.

Writes Gladwell: “Two video cameras, one aimed at each person recorded everything they said and did for fifteen minutes.

How much do you think can be learned about a marriage by watching that fifteen-minute videotape? Can we tell if their relationship is healthy or unhealthy? I suspect that most of us would say that a fifteen-minute tape doesn’t tell us much. It’s much too short. Marriages are buffeted by important things, like money and sex and children and jobs and in-laws, in constantly changing combinations.

Sometimes couples are very happy together. Some days they fight. Sometimes they feel as though they could almost kill each other, but then they go on vacation and come back sounding like newlyweds. In order to “know” a couple, we feel as though we have to observe them over many weeks and months and see them in every state-happy, tired, angry, irritated, delighted, having a nervous breakdown , and so on. To make an accurate prediction about something as serious as the future of a marriage-indeed, to make a prediction of any sort-it seems that we would have to gather a lot of information and in as many different contexts as possible.

But John Gottman has proven that we don’t have to do that at all. Since the 1980s, Gottman has brought more than three thousands married couples into that small room in his “love lab” near the University of Washington campus. Each couple has been videotaped, and the results have been analyzed according to a coding system that has twenty separate categories corresponding to every conceivable emotion that a married couple might express during a conversation. Disgust, for example, is 1, contempt is 2, anger is 7, defensiveness is 10, whining is 13, neutral is 14, and so on. Gottman has taught his staff how to read every emotional nuance in people’s facial expressions and how to interpret seemingly ambiguous bits of dialogue. When they watch a marriage videotape, they assign a code to every second of the couple’s interaction, so that a fifteen-minute conflict discussion ends up being translated into a row of eighteen hundred numbers-nine hundred for the husband and nine hundred for the wife. Then the data from electrodes and sensors is factored in, so that the coders know, for example, when the husband’s or the wife’s heart was pounding or when his or her temperature was rising or when either of them was jiggling in his or her seat, and all of that information is fed into a complex equation.

On the basis of those calculations, Gottman has proven something remarkable. If he analyzed an hour of a husband and wife talking, he can predict with 95 percent accuracy whether that couple will still be married fifteen years later. If he watched that couple for fifteen minutes, his success rate is around 90 percent”.

What’s amazing about this experiment is that divorce can be predicted, with an accuracy that is higher than the one of meteorologists. Maybe we should start offering it as a service:

Love Lab $399 only at participating Document People locations…

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