Source: the study of the social psychology researcher Arthur Aron of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University in New York, published in “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness” in “Personality and Social Psychology”.
On New Year’s Eve I was told that there was a Ted Talk about some questions that could make two strangers fall in love with each other. Therefore, out of curiosity (I was of course very skeptical but Ted Talks are reliable) I googled: questions to fall in love ted talk, and this came out: Falling in love is the easy part, by Mandy Len Catron.
It is an interesting talk, starting with:
I published this article in the New York Times Modern Love column in January of this year. To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This. And the article is about a psychological study designed to create romantic love in the laboratory, and my own experience trying the study myself one night last summer.
There are some interesting thoughts, especially:
So rather than that question [are you still together?] I would propose we ask some more difficult questions, questions like: How do you decide who deserves your love and who does not? How do you stay in love when things get difficult, and how do you know when to just cut and run? How do you live with the doubt that inevitably creeps into every relationship, or even harder, how do you live with your partner’s doubt? I don’t necessarily know the answers to these questions, but I think they’re an important start at having a more thoughtful conversation about what it means to love someone.
The 36 questions
INSTRUCTIONS (Please both read carefully before continuing)
[From the appendix of the Study]
This is a study of interpersonal closeness, and your task, which we think will be quite enjoyable, is simply to get close to your partner. We believe that the best way for you to get close to your partner is for you to share with them and for them to share with you.
Of course, when we advise you about getting close to your partner, we are giving advice regarding your behavior in this demonstration only, we are not advising you about your behavior outside of this demonstration.
In order to help you get close we’ve arranged for the two of you to engage in a kind of sharing game. You’re sharing time will be for about one hour, after which time we ask you to fill out a questionnaire concerning your experience of getting close to your partner.
You have been given three sets of slips. Each slip has a question or a task written on it. As soon as you both finish reading these instructions, you should begin with the Set I slips. One of you should read aloud the first slip and then BOTH do what it asks, starting with the person who read the slip aloud. When you are both done, go on to the second slip–one of you reading it aloud and both doing what it asks. And so forth.
As you go through the slips, one at a time, please don’t skip any slips-do each in order. If it asks you a question, share your answer with your partner. Then let him or her share their answer to the same question with you. If it is a task, do it first, then let your partner do it. Alternate who reads aloud (and thus goes first) with each new slip.
You will be informed when to move on to the next set of slips. It is not important to finish all the slips in each set within the time allotted. Take plenty of time with each slip, doing what it asks thoroughly and thoughtfully. You may begin! Turn to Set I, slip 1.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a perfect day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you choose?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell you partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “we are both in this room feeling…”
26. Complete this sentence “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them: be honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. 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?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
Ok, and now the interesting part.
The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings [PDF]
A practical methodology is presented for creating closeness in an experimental context. Whether or not an individual is in a relationship, particular pairings of individuals in the relationship, and circumstances of relationship development become manipulated variables. Over a 45-min period subject pairs carry out self-disclosure and relationship-building tasks that graduaUy escalate in intensity. Study 1 found greater postinteraction closeness with these tasks versus comparable small-talk tasks.
One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure.
We should also emphasize that the goal of our procedure was to develop a temporary feeling of closeness, not an actual ongoing relationship. This feeling we would associate with the Arons’ definition of closeness as “including other in the self’-an interconnectedness of self and other. This feeling of interconnectedness is similar to what some researchers call intimacy.
“This is a study of interpersonal Downloaded from http://psp.sagepub.com at Oxford University Libraries on April 26, 2010 366 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN closeness, and your task, which we think will be quite enjoyable, is simply to get close to your partner, with whom you’ve been matched.”
… subjects rated their relationship to their partners of less than an hour to be about as close as the average relationship in their lives and in other people’s lives.
So are we producing real closeness? Yes and no. We think that the closeness produced in these studies is experienced as similar in many important ways to felt closeness in naturally occurring relationships that develop over time. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the procedure produces loyalty, dependence, commitment, or other relationship aspects that might take longer to develop.
This article is not a call to abandon the richness of real-world experience, particularly in the area of close relationships. Rather, it is an invitation to alternate field and laboratory, correlational and experimental methods.