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In Figure 1, the solid black line represents the rule’s calculation for minimum acceptable range.

You can see that men are basically operating by the rule for minimum age preferences for marital relationships (blue bars) and serious dating relationships (yellow bars).

He approached the line with two other partners, but is well within the threshold in his marriage with Amal Alamuddin. The minimum rule (half-your-age-plus-seven) seems to work for men, although the maximum rule falls short, failing to reflect empirical age-related preferences.

How well does the rule capture women’s preferences?

Thus the rule for maximum ages is fairly ineffective at capturing what men actually believe is acceptable. Now let's apply the rule to actual dating behavior by examining George Clooney’s dating habits.

With some quick math, the rule provides a minimum and maximum partner age based on your actual age that, if you choose to follow it, you can use to guide your dating decisions.

The utility of this equation is that it lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years. Let's examine it: How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences?

The rule underestimates women’s reported preferences in their 20s, but the gap between reports of what is socially acceptable and the rule itself widen over time. Let’s take a look at Demi Moore, who at times has been criticized for dating men who differ substantially from her own age.

As you can see from the graph, one partner exceeded the rule’s calculated acceptable maximum age, while Ashton Kutcher’s age fell short of the socially-acceptable minimum age when they first started dating in 2003.

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