Falling in Love is as Easy as 1,2…36
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner I have a feeling all of us single ladies are wondering “who on earth will bring us chocolate and flowers?!” Well have no fear my single people, psychologist Arthur Aron has a solution to our chocolate-flower depravity! Although most of us think about love as something that happens to us and that we usually fall when we least expect it, psychologist Dr. Arthur Aron has created a study that proves otherwise. With his 36 question/stare down combo we can choose when and with whom we fall in love with instead of having love catch us off guard, which I’m guessing sounds very appealing for those who hate surprises! Attached to Aron’s study are the 36 questions used to develop mutual vulnerability to foster closeness between participants. The questions are meant to allow oneself to be vulnerable with another person which as most of us may know is exceedingly difficult, so the test seems to speed up the process. It asks questions like:
“Name three things you and your partner have in common”
“Tell your partner what you like about them; be honest by saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met”
The goal of the study’s procedure was to develop a temporary feeling of closeness defined as an interconnectedness of self and other. This feeling of interconnectedness is similar to what researchers call intimacy; a process in which each feels his or her innermost self validated, understood, and cared for by the other.
In Aron’s study, a heterosexual man and woman entered the lab through separate doors. Couples were matched so they wouldn’t disagree on attitudinal issues of importance to them. There was also a created expectation that each subject’s partner would like him or her. The couple then sat face to face and answered a series of increasingly personal questions. The couple then proceeded to stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: six months later, participants — not all- were married.
So the main question here is: was the study producing real closeness? Yes and no. It is possible that the closeness produced in the study is experienced in similar ways to felt closeness in naturally occurring relationships that develop over time. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the procedure produced loyalty, dependence, commitment, or other relationship aspects that might take longer to develop. There might also be other variables responsible for moderating this effect such as attraction and mood. As you may be aware, people who are more attracted to each other may just happen to be in a better mood which may lead to having more success with the question/staring combo. We can also call into question the validity of the study, since the study takes place in lab the process doesn’t reflect a natural setting -not that answering 36 intimate questions in an allotted time frame is natural. When couples meet each other in a bar people’s guards are usually up, as oppose to being in a lab participants may let their guards down since they’re safely in the hands of science.
Which leaves the question does this process really work or do we get ABC’s the Bachelor/Bachelorette Effect? For all none-Bachelor viewers, I’ve coined this ever-creative term to explain the Bachelor phenomena where contestants believe themselves to be falling in love and continue to fall under the illusion that all is bliss once engaged after six weeks of dating 25 men/women just to call off the engagement a few weeks later -months if they’re lucky. Similar to Aron’s design, Bachelor contestants become intimate in a short period of time. Some couples fall in love, get married and live happily ever after (as did some participants in the study) yet, the vast majority break up. In the end, do some couples just get lucky, does vulnerability and closeness actually bring couples together when forced over a short period of time or are they just under the illusion that they’re finding a soul mate? In order to answer this question we would need to know how the experiment was introduced to the participants, were they originally told about the aim of the experiment, would this create an expectancy towards the study and would this expectancy bias results by creating an illusion of love?
So the question still stands, how does falling in love work? Is falling in love really as easy as 1,2…36?
I encourage you to give Aron’s 36 questions and four-minute stare down combo a shot the next time you run into the pretty girl or handsome fellow you can’t stop thinking about! You can find the questions at the following link:
Also, if you’re looking for a little inspiration regarding the power of the 36 love inducing questions then go ahead and read Mandy Len Catron’s article about her experience with the questions and intimate stare down!
“You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love. Well, we did.”