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January 11, 2015

Falling in love could take just 94 minutes

While love's mysteries are generally considered too elusive for science to have hope of predicting, the field of psychology has nonetheless conducted numerous studies to understand how and why it takes hold of us. 

One such study, led by Dr. Arthur Aron more than 20 years ago, suggests that engaging in a few exercises with a counterpart could conceivably lead a person to fall in love with anyone, and quickly. 

Writing for the New York Times, Mandy Len Catron shares her experience testing out the ideas of Dr. Aron, who developed a series of 36 questions intended to encourage interpersonal closeness in a 90-minute timeframe. Catron writes:

The questions reminded me of the infamous boiling frog experiment in which the frog doesn’t feel the water getting hotter until it’s too late. With us, because the level of vulnerability increased gradually, I didn’t notice we had entered intimate territory until we were already there, a process that can typically take weeks or months.

Catron's partner in the experiment was a university acquaintance of hers who joined her for drinks at a bar. As the questions became more probing and the pair exceeded the 90-minute mark, they decided to move on to the final phase: staring into each other's eyes for four minutes straight. Catron continues:

I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected.

Dr. Aron's study appears to reveal how love can be a more pliable condition than many in search of it have become resigned to accepting. While Catron acknowledges that the experiment requires willingness from both sides to participate openly and eagerly in the Q&A, she also notes that its value lies in fostering the kind of face-to-face communication that frequently gets lost in the introverted buzz  of modern life. 

For all of the luck and chemistry factored into our beliefs about what causes people to love one another, Catron and her partner emerged from this study concluding that love is, more than anything, a concerted choice. 

Read the story here.