The best way to find love may be the simplest: make the choice to do it.
Social psychologist Arthur Aron about two decades ago demonstrated that you could lead two strangers to fall in love through a scripted interaction centered around asking each other personal questions. Writing in the New York Times this week, Vancouver writing teacher Mandy Len Catron offers further proof of the thesis by recounting her own experience following Aron’s recipe.
I explained the study to my university acquaintance. A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.
Aron, who runs the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University in New York, devised 36 questions and prompts that become increasingly more intimate: When did you last sing to yourself? Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
In 1997, Aron and his colleagues published a study of their findings on creating closeness. They wrote:
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.
As Wired’s David Rowan discovered in 2011, the experiment is successful at creating a connection between entrepreneurs and executives, as well as forging bonds between people of different races or groups like police and members of the community.
While there are myriad factors that go into the viability of a romantic relationship, Aron’s exercise reveals that at love’s core, trust and intimacy can be created.
Catron is a believer; she and her partner that night fell in love.