“They have good chemistry.”

This statement frequently echoes through people’s minds whenever they meet couples that they think “click”. But, how true is this saying exactly? Can science really explain the compatibility of a relationship? Can scientists really predict whether a relationship will last?

A Foretelling Discovery

In 1976, a couple of psychologists named John Gottman and Robert Levenson embarked on a journey to understand emotions. They used a video-recall method and psycho-physiological measures to provide a rating on the way couples feel whenever they face conflict. They wanted to know the extent of “physiological linkage” between these couples.

They clipped sensors and electrodes on the ears and fingers of couples to measure their heart rate, determine how much they sweat and monitor their skin temperature. They even placed a jiggle-o-meter under their chairs to identify their movements. The researchers then left them alone with cameras recording their conversations for 15 minutes.

The Subtle, but Meaningful Hints

To determine the compatibility of the couples, they were asked to talk about a topic that always led to an argument. After each recording, Gottman watches the tapes and uses Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF) to analyze it. The system has twenty different classifications for every emotion that each couple might express.

Gottman interprets every second of the discussion and then assigns a SPAFF code. He factors in the data from the sensors and electrodes before combining everything into a complicated equation. With the help of the measurements, he is able to predict with 95 percent accuracy if a couple will still be together after fifteen years. Their study reveals that subtle signs expressed by each couple during conflicts reveal more about their relationship than they could ever imagine.


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