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February 26, 2017

Can a Questionnaire Make you Fall In Love?

Perhaps you have seen the claim that a series of 36 questions can make you fall in love with someone.

This idea is based on a 1997 experiment conducted by Arthur Aron and colleagues. The researchers were studying close relationships, and they wondered if it would be possible to generate feelings of closeness by getting pairs of people who did not know each other to participate in some kind of relationship-building task. Their goal was to "create a temporary feeling of closeness, not an actual ongoing relationship."

In a series of experiments, people were assigned to pairs. They were then given a set of questions to answer. The questions were designed to allow the participants to reveal themselves to each other in a way that become more intense as the questions progressed.

All the participants were given personality assessments prior to the study. To test different theories, there were three different variations of the study, in which people were paired in different ways.

The study found that this method was quite effective in getting people to feel close. Of course, there were individual variations, and some personality types or combinations were more affected than others. Despite the often strong feelings evoked by the experiment, the researchers do not claim that these questions would be enough to create a real relationship. Normally, shared experiences and the development of trust and affection over time are required for friendship or romance to progress.

The test subjects were under no obligation to stay in touch after the experiment, but some did. Many of them did develop friendships or romances afterwards, and at least one couple got married. Of course, this didn't happen to everyone who participated, but the researchers did find it very encouraging.

Despite the researchers' caution in reporting their findings, many people have jumped on this story and touted these questions as a sure-fire way to "fall in love with anyone." A few bloggers say that they and their partners used this method to start a serious relationship.

Naturally, Hubby and I had to try this. We printed out a copy of the questions and carefully went through them.

After 30 years of marriage, we certainly weren't in the same position as the study subjects, who were unknown to each other. And we weren't the same as people casually dating who decided to take their relationship to another level.

Even so, we did feel a positive effect from trying this exercise. This is in alignment with the advice of many marriage experts, who say that marriages thrive when the partners maintain an interest in all kinds of information about each other. Asking questions is one of the recommended ways to do this.

For example, The Gottman Institute uses the term Love Maps for the personal information couples collect about each other, and offers some lists of questions to use. The Lifehack website has a list of 100 questions to make Date Night more interesting.

For a truly interesting experience, the questions from the Aron study are great. It took us about two hours to answer them all; some people might do it more quickly, while others might need a little more time. It's best not to read the questions ahead of time. Spontaneity is a bonus. If you're doing this with your long-time partner, remember that the questions were originally intended to be shared by strangers. Don't assume you know what your partner will say. And above all, don't argue or debate the answers. This is about getting better acquainted.

For us, one of these questions was life-changing. I'll explain that in my next post.

Source: Arthur Aron, Edward Melinat, Elaine N. Aron, Robert Darrin Vallone, Renee J. Bator. "The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Vol. 23 No. 4, April 1997.

1 smart person said something:

  1. That's a provocative hint at the end. :-)


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