Can You Really Train Your Brain To Fall In Love?

by Marlena Ahearn

It turns out, we can train ourselves to fall in love, and Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions experiment is proof. Cue the sigh of relief from the 42 percent of Millennials whose biggest fear is never finding love. So how does this experiment work?

In Aron’s experiment, heterosexual couples were paired up and had to answer 36 Questions in 45 minutes, concluding the time with four minutes of looking into each other's eyes. The questions begin as simple “getting-to-know you” banter and progresses to deeper conversations where you share a personal problem and ask for your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it, such as If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? and 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?

“Reciprocal escalating self-disclosure is kind of a long fancy term that social scientists use. Once we’ve each reveals some vulnerabilities to one another, if it all went well, you feel comfortable and you can reveal even more vulnerability.” Dr. Margaret Clark, Yale University Professor tells Bustle. The disclosures in the experiment’s line of questioning emphasize trust and allow your partner to respond supportively. “Feeling understood, feeling validated is something that people like,” says Clark.

Six months after the experiment, one of the pairs was married. The results lend themselves to the idea that we can establish intimacy quickly and train ourselves to fall in love — with the right questions, of course.

In the first episode of the second season of Love, Factually — Bustle’s video series about love, dating, and relationships — Bustle talks to Neuroscientist, Dr. Lucy Brown, and Yale Psychology Professor Dr. Margaret Clark about whether we can really train ourselves to fall in love.

Check out the video below and see how the experiment works and other ways of building intimacy in a relationship.

1. Oxytocin Makes You Feel Empathy

“One of the things you’re doing is, you’re establishing and empathic relationship with someone. This rush of oxytocin is critical to building a lasting relationship. “It’s been show in a lot of studies that oxytocin is very important for feelings of empathy,” Neuroscientist Dr. Lucy Brown tells Bustle.

2. Dopamine Helps Establish A Connection

“So, the 36 questions, at the end, has a very important activity for the couple. And that’s staring into each other’s eyes. It’s an unusual experience — a novel experience — which we know helps also the dopamine system activity,” says Brown. “And the more novel experiences you have with someone, the more likely you are to form an attachment with them, or fall in love with them.”

3. People Protect Themselves

“If someone is especially self-protective, and especially worried about being rejected, they might clam up. Or intentionally reveal the least amount of information they can about themselves,” says Clark.

4. The Experiment Isn’t Evergreen

“You can’t do it too often, because if you get used to the questions, then you don’t give a novel answer. That’s the problem. You want to do it just once with one person,” says Brown.

Check out the video to find out more about the 36 Questions and how to build intimacy in your relationship.

Images: Bustle/YouTube