Love at first…36 Questions?

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Love at first sight as in that lingering moment when a young Leonardo DiCaprio first lays eyes on Claire Danes through the aquarium in Romeo+Juliet, or the magical moment when Ryan Gosling meets Rachel McAdams at the carnival in The Notebook. You know; like the kind of love found only in fairy tales.

But, then again, in the real world even strangers can fall in love… within 36 psychological test questions.

A recent article that I read in the New York Times, titled: “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This”, outlines 36 increasingly probing questions taken from a psychological test by psychologist Arthur Aron that is claimed make anyone, even strangers, fall in love. In the article, the author outlines her own experience trying these questions with a male acquaintance…with whom she actually fell in love with.

So maybe then, the question should be: do you believe in love at first 36 questions?

However, the title of the article and most of the article in fact, is deceiving. Whereas the article focuses a lot on love and romantic relationships and the process of falling in love, the actual test created by Aron et al. is interested in whether or not closeness can be created between two strangers in an experimental setting.

A break down of the questions:

Set 1: 12 relatively general questions that requires some thought

Examples:

· What would constitute a perfect day for you?

· For what in your life are you most grateful?

· If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set 2: 12 more probing questions that require you to look within yourself and your partner

Examples:

· If a crystal ball could tell the truth about yourself, your life, the future, and anything else, what would you want to know?

· What do you value most in a friendship?

· How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Set 3: 12 very probing and very personal questions

Examples:

· Make 3 true “we” statements each. For instance: “we are both in this room feeling…”

· When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

· If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

Upon seeing the types of questions that were asked, do you think the resulting relationship actually love? Or is it just an artificially produced, shared moment of vulnerability that brings two people close together?

To me it seems more like the latter. To me, the two constructs, love and closeness, are very different. The construct of love is very complicated and is made up of many other constructs, one of which is connectedness. Thus, you can feel connected to someone, but due to other factors, you may not be in love with that person. I am glad that the author points this out at the end of the article when she mentions:

“We spent weeks in the intimate space that we created…waiting to see what it would become…Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we made the choice to be.”

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Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone R. D., & Bator R. J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Pyschology Bulletin, 23(4), 363–377. Doi: 10.1177/0146167297234003