Did you know you can fall in love with someone simply by asking them 36 personal questions? Such a concept was first introduced in 1997 by researcher Arthur Aron and has been producing results in participants since then.
The set up is simple. A heterosexual man and woman enter a lab separately, they sit face-to-face and ask a series of increasingly more personal questions, taking turns to answer. They then hold silent eye contact with each other for four minutes. As simple and silly as may sound, there have been significant results, the most notably being two participants who were married six months after completing the experiment.
But what is so magical and romantic about this study? Does it matter what 36 questions are asked or how they are answered? According to the study’s authors, yes. The 36 questions are separated into three sets, with each set becoming more personal than the last. The concept that the study is based on is that mutual vulnerability creates closeness. As Dr. Aron explains,
“One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.”
Typically, when we meet someone new, we present ourselves at our most guarded and on our best behavior. These 36 questions, with their need for deep personal disclosure, render it impossible for someone to effectively do that, and therefore make it easier to feel vulnerable and close to someone else.
Some of the 36 questions are:
(In Set I)
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
- Would you like to be famous? In what way?
- Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
- Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
(and Set III)
Make 3 true “we” statements each. For instance, “we are both in this room feeling…”
- Complete this statement: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
Writer Mandy Len Catron tried the study herself in the beginning of 2015, fell in love, and wrote a viral article about her experience.
But does it really matter if a study causes you to fall in love? Surely falling in love is the easy part of a relationship. In August of 2015 Catron gave a TED talk entitled Falling in Love is the Easy Part to ask whether the study created real love, lasting love, and what the difference between falling in love and staying in love is.
Ultimately, she tells her audience, falling in love only lasts for as long as the choice to be in love does. The 36 question experiment was designed with the thought that love is an action word, rather than something that simply happens, and therefore will be as successful as the participants are willing to be open, vulnerable, and hard working when it comes to loving another person and allowing them to love you.
She confesses, “Arthur Aron’s study taught me that it’s possible – simple, even – to generate trust and intimacy, the feelings love needs to thrive… Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be,” and now, a year after the experiment, Catron confesses she is still in love.
For more tips on finding that lasting love, take the RELATE assessment today.
Written by: Melece, Master’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy. Reviewed by Brian Willoughby, PhD.