Twenty years ago, the psychologist Arthur Aron conducted a straightforward experiment in his lab. He asked a man and a woman who didn’t know each other well to answer 36 questions. Then they had to look each other in the eyes in silence, for four minutes. Half a year later, the two participants in the experiment were ready to get married.
The list of questions below. The answers a person gives are supposed to make them open up and reveal their vulnerabilities, helping to bring people closer together.
1. Out of anyone in the world, who would you invite round for dinner?
2. Would you like to be famous? If yes, in which field?
3. Do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say before you make a phone call? If so, why?
4. What does your ideal day consist of?
5. When was the last time you sang to yourself, alone? When was the last time you sang for someone else?
6. If you could live to 90 and have either the mind or the body of a thirty-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, what would you choose?
7. Have you ever had a secret premonition of how you will die?
8. Name three character traits which you have in common with your partner.
9. What are you most grateful for in your life?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were brought up, what would it be?
11. Tell your partner the story of your life in as much detail as you can, in four minutes.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow with a new personal quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If reading a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, about your life, about the future, or anything else, what would you want to find out?
14. Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What’s the biggest achievement of your life?
16. What do you value most of all in a friend?
17. What is your fondest memory?
18. What is your most upsetting memory?
19. If you found out that at some point in the next year you will die suddenly, would you change anything in your life as it is at the moment? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Take it in turns to name five positive qualities your partner has.
23. How close are you to the members of your family? Do you consider your childhood to have been happier than that of a majority of other people?
24. What is your relationship with your mother like?
25. Think of three truthful statements beginning with the word ’we’ (for example, ’we are both in this room feeling…’)
26. Complete this sentence: ’I would like to share…with someone.’
27. Please tell your partner what, in your opinion, they would need to know about you if they wanted to become close friends.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them. Be as honest as you can; say what you would never say to someone you did not know well.
29. Share an unpleasant memory from your life with your partner.
30. When and for what reason did you last cry?
31. Tell your partner what you like about them already.
32. What is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were expecting to die this evening without any last chance to talk to anyone, what is it that you most regret never telling someone? Why did you never tell them it?
34. Your house containing all of your property has caught fire. After saving your family and pets you still have time to run back into the house and save one thing. What would it be? Why would you save it?
35. Which family member’s death would hurt you most of all? Why?
36. Tell your partner about a personal problem you have, and ask them how they would deal with it. Then ask your partner what they think about your choice of problem.
This list has been brought back from oblivion by The New York Times columnist Mandy Len Catron, who recently decided to repeat Dr. Aron’s experiment on herself and one of her acquaintances. The test was successful, and they fell in love with one another.