The Formula to Falling in Love?


A lovely essay, Mandy Len Catron writes with reverie in The New York Times about how she fell in love with someone by testing out somewhat cynically and curiously Dr. Arthur Aron’s laboratory formulated prescription for falling love.

Arthur took two strangers who answered 36 questions (which can be found through Catron’s link in the last pages of Aron’s long study narrative) and then stared into each others’ eyes for four minutes. After that, they fell in love.

Arthur’s questions range from philosophical and reflective to revealing. Catron describes them as probing:

They began innocuously: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” And “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”

But they quickly became probing.

In response to the prompt, “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” he looked at me and said, “I think we’re both interested in each other.”

Now if you want to know the formula to falling out of love, then read Susanna Wolff’s amusing, snarky rebuttal in The New Yorker.

6 Replies to “The Formula to Falling in Love?”

  1. “…but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me.”

    Sounds like the point of The Gaze.

    A few passages from the article resonate. This one does …

    “Much of Dr. Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness. In particular, several studies investigate the ways we incorporate others into our sense of self. It’s easy to see how the questions encourage what they call “self-expansion.” ”

    …and this one does ….

    “We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.”

    It seems to me that the narrative we all use is our adult attempt to create the ‘interpersonal closeness’ that a 13yo does quickly because he/she is not encumbered by a lifelong accumulation of baggage. Most relationships develop over a period of time with each partner answering and asking questions of the other to “incorporate others into our sense of self.” It appears that Dr. Aron has succeeded in winnowing out the banal questions and been able to discover the sweet spot that will stimulate the partners into a love bond rather quickly. Maybe it’s a mental version of the G-Spot. The questions used in his study cut right to the chase, whereas most couples dance around versions of them for months and years before determining if the answers they have are sufficient to ‘fall in love’ It is kinda sad that adult life doesn’t present us with such circumstances more often.

    1. I agree, the questions cut deeply personal, which is rather shocking to strangers in light of our customarily long, drawn out dating rituals. Mental G-spot (autocorrect wants g-strimg) is a great image that I wouldn’t necessarily under value with application to a laboratory experiment. How often would the experiment work with randomly chosen strangers?

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