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Data Mining Reveals First Evidence That Absence Really Does Make the Heart Grow Fonder

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Comparing relationship intensities against distance and calling frequencies.

Researchers data-mining mobile phone records found people invest more in relationships when there is a risk of the relationship weakening.

Credit: Technology Review

A project led by Aalto University's Kunal Bhattacharya to data-mine mobile phone records found people invest more in relationships where there exists a risk of the relationship weakening.

The researchers analyzed a dataset of call records from a European nation spanning a seven-month period to test the hypothesis that the strength of relationships is mirrored in the number and duration of calls between individuals.

"Friendships require constant time investment for their maintenance, and failure to match quite specific investment schedules leads inexorably to a rapid reduction in relationship quality," the researchers note.

They first quantified the frequency with which pairs of people contact each other and how the gaps between calls varied over time. The researchers focused on pairs who were geographically separated and could not meet easily, and then they measured how the length of the calls varied as the gap in time and distance increased. A definite increase was observed in the duration of calls between people when the time since the last call was greater than average. However, the effect is more pronounced when males call other males and females call other females and when younger people, especially those in their 30s, call each other.

From Technology Review
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