You may not have heard of a little something called the Benjamin Franklin Effect, but rest assured, it’s a very real thing—and it may just be the secret to making your relationship stronger. Soul Pancake’s “The Science of Love” series took on this little psychological trick in their most recent video, and their experiment is quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
In a nutshell, the Ben Franklin Effect says that doing something nice for someone increases how much you like them — even more than having them do something nice for you. There are a lot of situations in which this phenomenon can be put to use; the Huffington Post, for example, published a pretty fascinating article back in January about how you can harness it to boost your career. The most obvious application, however, is probably dating — although exactly how much it affects the strength of a relationship is pretty staggering.
Here’s how it went down: The Soul Pancake folk recruited a whole bunch of couples and had each person take a 30-question test to determine how attracted they were to each other. Then they asked for one volunteer from each couple… and kicked them out of the building. Well, not really — they just had to go wait outside for a while in order to keep them in the dark about what was going on inside. The person who stayed was given a blank picket sign and asked to write a message on it to their other half expressing how they felt about them. Then they were sent outside and told to stand by the door for a minute so the person it was directed towards could read it.
But the experiment doesn’t end there. After the sign showing wrapped up, the sign-bearers were brought back inside and asked to write down five things that they liked about their partner. Then, there were given a bullhorn and told to go back outside and proclaim their lists to the sky through it. They were also told to follow up the list by asking their partner whether they would like a drink; if the answer was yes, then they went back inside, retrieved the requested beverage, and brought it out to their partner.
For the last part of the experiment, all the couples were re-tested on how they felt about each other. Guess what happened? The ones who performed all those acts of niceness were as much as five percent more attracted to their partner. Wowzers!
But the point of this whole adorable experiment isn’t that love is a competition. We’re taught from a young age that doing nice things for people is a good thing. But it’s okay — and in fact, it’s even recommended — to let other people do nice things for you, too. Relationships are built on the best kind of reciprocity; each partner takes care of the other person in equal measure. It’s the little things as well as the big things, right?