You’ve probably heard of the 36 questions that lead to love recently made popular by a New York Times columnist and featured in many places since then. And you might have scrolled through some of the questions; you probably scoffed a little (as if this could really work); and then you undoubtedly moved on to the next item in your news feed. Am I right?

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So why am I bringing this up? There is plenty of research that shows these 36 questions create closeness through vulnerability, and have led total strangers to feel intimate, and even in love. But how do using these questions compare with the more traditional or common methods that use our gut instincts? – like when we swipe right on Tinder or walk up to someone in a bar?


The experiment

brisbane north couples therapyBehavioural Scientist Kristen Berman and a team decided to test the strength of the 36 questions versus general mingling in a function. They had 70 people schmoozing for 30 minutes whilst they waited for the 36 questions experiment to begin.

When they announced the start of the experiment and paired off participants for the 36 questions there was a lot of mixed emotions as people had already evaluated other participants whilst mingling and had an eye on their ideal match. However, after the 45-minute question session, participants reported:

  • they trusted their 36 questions partner enough to take their partner’s ‘event recommendation’ almost as much as one of their own family members’;
  • Both partners in the experiment reported compassion for each other;
  • Most interestingly the attractiveness rating couples had endorsed had no impact on the closeness they felt and the bond they formed after answering the 36 questions.

So, if we consider the strength we give to our first impressions when meeting someone (i.e. taking the fake phone call to get out of a date with someone that hasn’t given a great first impression), this study suggests it could be worthwhile to give first dates a chance. Ditch the small talk about the weather and go for some intimate conversation.

Want some more good news? These questions are not just for single people! If you’re intrigued with the 36 questions there are some compelling results on couples in long-term committed relationships, using the questions to strengthen or rekindle their feelings of intimacy and passionate love. Another great reason to be talking about these questions!


How do you do it?

Typically taking about an hour for couples to work through, each set of 12 questions requires slightly more personal and thought-provoking answers which allow you to feel closer to your partner (when they are answering) and allow you to open up to your partner (when you are the one answering).brisbane north couples therapy

This gradual and mutual vulnerability and reciprocal self-disclosure nurtures feelings of intimacy and closeness with one another.

It’s not easy going, particularly if you’re not used to being self-reflective, or opening up towards your partner in this way. However, the questions are designed to help you open up bit by bit. Take a look at the questions here.

Now to the next part of the experiment – staring into your partner’s eyes for 4 minutes. Hey, why not just give it a go and see what happens.

More about Kristen and the experiment:


Original source: Arthur Aron. (1997). The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings. Retrieved from: