Stephen Baker

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Modeling the cheating husband

November 26, 2008Tribes

I swear I was working (on this Thanksgiving eve) when I came across this Cosmopolitan article on how to spot the cheating husband. It caught my attention because the instruction form a primitive version of a predictive mathematical model. In a sense, this model of a (potentially) cheating husband resembles the models Fair Isaac builds of people likely to default on mortgages.

The Private Life of San Juan (1934)

And, suffice to say, both models, Fair Isaac's and Cosmos, can be wrong.

While Fair Isaac studies how many credit cards we have and how we juggle financial obligations, Somos focuses on different variables:

  • Was he spoiled as a kid?
  • Do his parents tend to baby him and help him out of financial jams?
  • Has he ever bragged about cheating on an exam or paying someone to write a paper for him in college?
  • Does he work mostly with women?
  • Is he always logging in late hours, whether it be at the office, at dinner with clients or on business trips?
  • Does he make a lot of money?
  • Can he talk his way out of anything (parking tickets, rolling into work late)?
  • Does he make an effort to charm everyone -- your coworkers, your older sister, a saleswoman?
  • When you go to parties, does he insist on making the rounds?
  • Does he usually hang out with a crew of mostly single guys?
  • Do his friends encourage him to join them in just-for-men activities?
  • Do his pals have problems staying in relationships?

  • If the Numerati were to delve into this type of data, of course, they'd have to come up with a weighting for each variable. They'd build the model from a population including known cheaters, and then test it on others. Somehow I doubt Cosmo goes to such lengths.

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