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When to Stop

When should you stop dating and choose a partner? How many houses should you look at before you buy? When should you stop observing a situation and act? The theory of optimal stopping offers an answer to these questions and it’s 37. No, really, it’s 37 (or 37%). Using complex statistical data, the theory helps highlight the most optimal point at which further research becomes superfluous and the success of executing a decision is at its most economical.

A popular example of the theory is used in dating. If you plan to date 100 potential partners, the theory suggests you should stop after the 37th candidate and marry the next person who exceeds the first 37. By following this rule (statistically speaking) you will end up with one of the top contenders. Another popular application of the theory is centered around practical, day-to-day actions, like choosing a parking space or hunting for an apartment. The more you search, the more informed your decision becomes. However, the more places you see, the more likely you are to pass by great options in search of greener pastures. Don’t worry - the theory of optimal stopping is here to help. If you’re looking for an apartment or even a parking space, after you’ve viewed 37% of your options - or spent 37% of your time searching - take the next option that exceeds all of the previous ones. While this theory is composed of complex mathematics, the underlying concept remains the same: Do an adequate amount of research and act. Simple.

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Image by Michal Jarmoluk


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