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Origins of love: A science question for Valentine’s Day: How is it that love and intimacy come to be? Ten years ago, Dr. Arthur Aron, an eminent researcher in social psychology at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, designed an experiment to answer these questions. It may sound unromantic, but it has great implications for understanding how people fall in love.

Experiment: The Aron team’s method was simple. They put together pairs of students from a college psychology course, either mixed-sex pairs or same-sex pairs of two women. (More women were signed up for the course; a small side experiment suggested that pairs of men behave pretty much the same way.) Half were given a set of small-talk scripts to follow for 45 minutes (chitchat about one’s favorite holiday, preference in watches, etc.). The other pairs were given 45-minute scripts that led them toward increasingly intense self-disclosure. They were pushed to reveal whether they rehearse phone calls before making them, say, or to describe the qualities or abilities they would most like to have, or to share their best and worst memories. They were also asked what they liked about the person they were paired with and what qualities they thought they shared with him or her. The pairs were then tested in several ways to determine the closeness they felt.Results: The pairs prompted toward self-disclosure felt closer to each other than the small-talk pairs. It made little difference whether the pairs were pre-matched for similar attitudes or had been led to expect that they would like each other. It also made little difference if the participants were told in advance that the goal of the exercise was to generate intimacy.

Conclusion: Maybe Aron’s research provides a recipe for the perfect Valentine’s Day date: Reveal something of yourself. One of his lab pairings even ended in a wedding!

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~ by searching4alpha on February 19, 2007.

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