If you’re a little burned out by dating, it can be tempting to want to fast track your way to love. But can you really train your brain to fall in love? This is the question Bustle put to the test.
36 questions designed to create intimacy.
So what was the test, exactly? Psychologist Arthur Aron gave a series of 36 questions designed to create interpersonal closeness to heterosexual couples who hadn’t met before and asked them to ask each the questions of each other in a lab for 45 minutes. You may have read the viral Modern Love column about this same series of questions.
The questions get more intimate toward the end. For the final part of the experiment, they have to look into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes.
As for whether the test worked, one of the couples who did the test got married six months later. So, it’s possible!
We’re more likely to connect when we mutually share something personal.
The experiment was reliant on what psychologists call ‘reciprocal escalating self-disclosure’. The simple meaning of this is that we’re more likely to create a deeper connection when there is mutual sharing of something personal.
That escalates over time, and once we reveal those vulnerabilities and get more comfortable doing so, we feel safe to open up about more. It also makes your partner feel special and more inclined to offer support.
In relationships and when building a connection with someone new, feeling understood is something we really like!
Hormones are at play, too.
There are also biochemical reactions happening when you open up to a partner. Firstly, you get a rush of oxytocin, otherwise known as ‘the love hormone’. This is released when you start to establish an empathetic relationship with someone. This isn’t unique to romantic relationships either. It’s the case with all human bonds.
Another chemical that plays a role in the process of falling in love is dopamine. This is the body’s way of feeling ‘reward’ and helps us identify what feels good. It’s where the staring into each other’s eyes at the end of the experiment came in. Dopamine can be released during this because there’s a deep, unspoken connection that can take place. You form a special attachment.
So, although the question experiment can seem a little random, it was really designed to try and speed up what can happen naturally over time in relationships.
So can you really train your brain to fall in love? This test shows that it may be possible. Once you’ve done it, though, the 36 questions shouldn’t be repeated, as the experiment is a lot less likely to be effective. They were designed for couples to use once so that the answers were honest and unexpected.