Photo Illustration by Emily Crooks
Photo Illustration by Emily Crooks

Look up, look around. That person you see crossing your line of sight could be your next love interest or your new best friend. It may only take 45 minutes of your time and 36 questions.

Psychologist Arthur Aron and his colleagues did experiments with students at State University of New York to test whether closeness could be created among strangers with a series of questions.

Students filled out a questionnaire to help researchers pair them according to the needs of the study. Subjects who already knew one another were not matched together.

The first study paired students by their similarities. The second study paired students who showed disagreements with one another in the questionnaire. The third study paired students according to introversion/extroversion.

Overall the students rated their relationship with their experiment partner, who was a stranger less than an hour earlier, to be as close as the average relationship with other people in their lives.

The researchers also found that many subjects maintained some relationship with their partners afterwards, an indication that the study produced some degrees of closeness. Seven weeks after the study, a follow-up questionnaire showed that in over half of the pairings, the students were still in contact with their partner.

Weber State University freshman Charlee Jeanne was skeptical that a similar experiment at WSU would bring the same results.

“I’ve noticed that for the most part people here already have their friends and so they aren’t interested bringing in someone new,” she said.

Weber State freshman and creative writing major Madi Myers says it’s possible for her to become close to anyone, regardless of the number of questions.

“I feel I become close to anyone I talk to, whether I ask 36 or one question,” she said. “I’m a people person.”

If you want to try this at home, here are the 36 questions:

Set 1

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute as a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either mind or body of a 30 year old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  9. For what in your life do you feel the most grateful?
  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
    Set 2
  13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?
  15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  16. What do you value most in a friendship?
  17. What is your most treasured memory?
  18. What is your most terrible memory?
  19. If you knew in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  20. What does friendship mean to you?
  21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic about your partner. Share a total of five items.
  23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most people’s?
  24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
    Set 3
  25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling…”
  26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
  27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  31. Tell your partner something you like about them already.
  32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret about not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to make a final dash to save any one item, what would it be? Why?
  35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might have handled it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
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