First dates are hard, and deciding on a topic of conversation that won’t lead to awkward silences can be a minefield.
Well, if you’re after seeking a “happily ever after”, researchers have discovered falling in love might be less about meeting the right person at the right time, but more about asking the right questions of anyone.
The New York Times recently explored a study headed by psychologist Arthur Aron, published in 1997, which looked at whether intimacy can be created by asking specific and personal questions.
The researchers randomly grouped their test subjects into 33 pairs. Some of those pairs were given 36 questions divided into four sets, with safer questions to begin with but ending with some very intimate queries.
The pairs began with easier questions such as ‘would you like to be famous?’ and ‘what do you value most in a friendship?’ before they moved on to harder questions including ‘how do you feel about your relationship with your mother?’ and ‘of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?’
The other pairs were assigned more ordinary (read: boring) small talk prompters for the 45-minute exercise.
After filling out a questionnaire, the subjects who asked and answered the more intimate questions reported feeling higher levels of closeness with their partners, than the subjects who simply talked about ice-cream flavours.
While the study hasn’t provided a recipe for long-term fidelity and trust, it could help set the groundwork for an intimate relationship, and there are other studies that support his idea.
A study by OkCupid found more casual questions such as ‘Do you like the taste of beer?’ were more likely to lead to a one-night stand than a long-term relationship, while questions about their taste in movies and travel were more likely to nab you a long-term partner.
The New York Times version of Aron’s experiment worked – to a degree. The author and her partner were not strangers (and she admits they may have fallen in love anyway), but says she felt the study gave them “a way into a relationship that feels deliberate”.
So if you’re struggling for first date conversation topics, perhaps a couple of Aron’s 36 questions could help you out; though perhaps it’s better to avoid starting with some of the more intense ones.
After that, it’s just a matter of keeping your relationship together – a different kettle of difficult fish altogether.
– Sydney Morning Herald