When it comes to affairs of the heart, de gustibus non est disputandum covers all the bases. If you are anything like me, the suggestion that there is anything rational about the way human beings fall in love and pair off gives you a chuckle, and you will positively split a gut laughing at the idea that our marriage patterns can be explained by formulae such as this: bf i (vi) = ? + vi ? ? 1 +p1 + ?ic(vi ? ?)2 for i = 1, 2. Nevertheless, it is worth suspending your hilarity long enough to read this article. It attempts to explain why all the good men are already married.
If we imagine the search for marriage partners as an auction, some of us are more confident of our long term prospects than others. People with brains, looks, social capital, money, or any combination of any of them can afford to be selective. Men and women who are traditionally thought of as desirable partners can be thought of as strong bidders. People who are less confident of their prospects are known as weak bidders. And strong bidders win over weak bidders, right? Wrong.
In the marriage market, pardon my French, there is an enormous incentive to get it right the first time. Consequently, weak bidders will move into the market very aggressively, while strong bidders stand pat, looking for a really good deal. Those who are most confident of their prospects are most likely to prolong their search for the perfect partner. In a sense, it is like poker, where those with the strongest hands stay in the game the longest. But the Mormon marriage game is heavily weighted in favor of early deciders.
Our traditional model, where the male makes the marriage proposal and the female gives the thumbs-up or thumbs-down, places the male in the position of a weak bidder. If his proposal is rejected, his social capital is devalued, especially if word gets around, and it certainly will. Therefore, more men are weak bidders than women. For a suitor, success is defined as getting a positive response, and he would rather get an acceptance from a marginally desirable prospect than a rejection from a very desirable prospect.
This model turns one of our traditional notions about marriage on its head. We commonly speak of women as our “better halves” in marriage, and it is usually men who say that they “married up”. But game theory says that many males have married beneath themselves.
What do you think? And remember, firestorms are scheduled only for Fridays.