Can 36 specific questions really make complete strangers fall in love with each other?
That was the rather outlandish claim made by a group of psychologists back in 1997 – and now, 18 years later, two brave singletons have decided to put the theory to the test.
Complete strangers Cam and Emily engage in what the study called a “sharing game,” first conceived by the State University of New York, in which the two of them work through the questions, taking turns to answer each one. The key to creating closeness, according to the study, is “sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure” – in other words, revealing a lot about yourself, gradually, over a period of time. The idea is that the strangers slowly build up to a deep level of intimacy in a condensed replication of what happens in a naturally-developing relationship. They then round off the experiment by staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
The three sets of twelve questions (which we list below) are designed to make you reveal a lot of very personal things, starting with the more trivial and slowly build up to more serious topics.
Two participants in the original study went on to marry and in January, New York Times journalist Mandy Len Catron tried out the experiment with success on a university friend, and now the group over at ASAP Science, wanted to put this theory to the test on two tinder-savvy millennials.
The starting questions are fairly mundane, such as: “would you like to be famous?” or “when did you last sing to yourself?” – but the questions quickly get a lot more serious: the two strangers are made to ask each other “what is your most terrible memory?”, and both find themselves recounting difficult and personal information to one another.
They soon started to learn what they had in common and connect with each other – both would save their favourite stuffed animals -Buster and Fluffy – in a house fire before anything else.
The experiment worked well enough, as you’ll see by watching the video below and the pair have reportedly been out on a number of dates since the video was filmed:
And if you’re still doubting the authenticity of the project, the best thing to do is try it out for yourself:
The 36 questions that will supposedly “make people fall in love”:
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 telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are 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 want?
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 your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any 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 dreamed 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 very 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.
Don’t forget the 4 minute eye contact at the end, which is a crucial step.