We tend to want to see it like magic, some type of trick or power that we can't quite understand. To a certain degree love IS magical. To this day, scientists are far from fully understanding the inner workings of the human brain, so it's not too surprising then that love has somewhat of an unknown facet to it, kind of like the dark side of the moon.
However, there is some science to falling in love.
— London Real (@LondonRealTV) March 3, 2015
In the video she talks about a study that was done by Dr Arthur Aron in 1997: “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness.”. The study's aim was to find out if love can be induced, if you can make two people fall in love.
What did it conclude?
Yes we can.
We do not “fall” in love. We create it. Love doesn't happen to us. We set the stage, create the right conditions for it to take place.
The question really is: How do we create it? How do you make him/her fall in love with you?
Let's find out.
The 1997 study had two parts to it. The first one consisted in 36 questions that both participants were to ask each other. These 36 questions started off being innocuous, such as: “Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?” But the more you progressed down the list, the more personal, the more intimate they became.
Example: Question 21: “What roles do love and affection play in your life?”
Basically, through a series of comfort-like questions it was assumed the participants would start to feel some intimacy developing between each other.
The results? Let's see what Mandy Ken Catron, someone who tried the experiment and talks about it in a New York Times article had to say about it:
“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.”
It seems strange at first glance, but when you take a second to think about it, it makes sense. You won't get to know someone on a deep level by talking about last week's episode of The Biggest Loser, but that question can relax you, put you at easy and facilitate more personal questions that tap into fears, dreams and insecurities. As Catron explains, answering such questions keeps us from giving the same narrative we usually give to strangers. We all have canned responses we give people we meet. If we can go beyond reciting that chorus we'll see that conversations can lead to places we least expected.
The second part of the Aron study had the two people look into each other's eyes for four minutes. The power of eye contact was put to the test here. As you already know, the study was conclusive. Here is what Mandy Ken Catron had to say about gazing into the other test subject's eyes.
“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.”
We've all hear that eyes are the window to the soul. We all look into others' eyes for clues, to understand someone's state of mind. What the study suggests is that eye contact creates an intimate bond between two people.
A site I'm subscribed to, The Art of Manliness, explains it better than I. Here is what the an author of the site says in one of his posts:
“When I am performing a task or feeling an emotion, and you are observing me do so, the same neurons that are being lit up in my brain by actually having the experience, are the ones that light up in your brain just from watching me. This is made possible by the presence of “mirror neurons” in our craniums. And the activation of these mirror neurons is especially sensitive to facial expressions, and, you guessed it, eye contact. Have you ever been hit hard with an emotion after looking into the eyes of someone who was experiencing it? Eye contact creates moments where you are able to really feel what someone else is feeling. It links together your emotional states and creates empathy and an intimate bond.
So I guess eyes ARE the window to the soul.
In addition to the two elements that the study brings forward, I believe one more cannot be ignored.
One cannot talk about romance without bringing up dates. They are where most relationships (if not all) begin. The internet is full of articles on greta date ideas, as everybody sees the importance of doing an activity with that special someone.
However, so much emphasis is put on the activity and the location instead of the interaction that takes place during the date. Sure, the date can be romantic, but if the focus is on anything other than the person you're with, what extra value does that activity bring?
Back when I was younger I remember being in Orlando for Spring break. Me and my buddy went to the beach at around 10 AM. It wasn't too long before we noticed two truly stunning girls not too far away from us. We approached them, they were receptive. We then spent the remainder of the day laughing, teasing each other and just hanging out, getting to know each other. Towards dinner time, we told them we were heading back to the hotel, but that we were going out in the evening and they were invited. We exchanged numbers.
They came over to the hotel, we pre-drank and then we all went took to downtown Orlando nightlife.
I'm not going to tell you how the night ended, but I will tell you this: even though we had only known them for a few hours, it felt like we had known them for a couple of years.
A few years ago, I came across a book that scientifically explained to me what had happened I wish I could remember the title. When we have a good time, whether it be at the beach or a concert, we tend to project those feelings onto whoever it was we were with at that time. Furthermore, going from one venue to the next in a relatively short period of time has magical properties. Call it an Attraction Wormhole. Time is bent. Our brain sees 3-4 venues as 3-4 different dates.
All in all, what I'm saying is that date night should go beyond just going to the movies and then calling it a night. If it is a relationship you seek, hop from one venue to the next. Do something that will elicit some kind of emotion. Make it playful, make it intimate, make it meaningful.
Now before running off thinking you've cracked the code, consider this. The premise of the study was that the two participants have a few commonalities. I haven't read the study in its entirety, but I think it's safe to assume both participants must have some minimal amount of sexual attraction for one another. Furthermore, they need to be somewhat cooperative; willing to open their minds to what they're about to experience. These criteria must be met.
Biology matters as well. Let's not forget that either.
Regardless, I find this pretty revelatory. I wonder if these same principles can be used to rekindle love as well. If your marriage is suffering, can improving the quality of your dates (yes, married people should still date) help? Can the content and nature of your dialogue help? Can a warm and sympathetic look from tie to time help as well?
I'm not going to answer that, but what I will say is this: why not try it out?