Your Brain on Love: The Spark
February is a month filled with flower petals and quickened heartbeats, but what causes this rise in heartrate? The spark. It can’t be measured in a test tube, or drawn on a chart, or at least the scientific community didn’t think it could be measured, until Arthur Aron came along and created his famous love experiment.
In the early 1970’s, Psychologist, Arthur Aron and his wife, Elaine, designed a fool proof plan to create love in a laboratory setting. The idea was that love began with an exciting “spark” between a couple, and that the chemical reaction created during this period is what causes individuals to fall in love.
To demonstrate the truth behind this concept, Arthur and Elaine designed 36 questions, which they thought would best create an intimate environment, even between two complete strangers. Following the questions, the couple participating in the test had to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
How Questions Make a Difference
It sounds impossible to fall in love in a few minutes, but the success rate from the original experiments were so high, that one participating couple even got married afterwards. The basis for this success is founded on the principle that the questions being asked caused both individuals to become vulnerable, honest, and intimate with each other.
Questions varied from who you would want to dine with if you could choose anybody living or dead, to the greatest accomplishment of your life, and who’s death would be most disturbing for you to handle. Throughout the conversation, individuals would reveal family history, unique factoids, laugh at interesting anecdotes, and share compliments with one another. The result was love.
Following the initial invention of the intimacy study, Arthur wrote several papers, and continued his research on what it is that makes humans fall in love. His work explored the mating methods of animals, including the inviting boldness of peacock feathers. Aron didn’t stop at the basic Darwinian explanations for mate choice, but dive deeper into the connection between neural responses, increased focus, and attentiveness which corresponds with the finding and wooing of a mate.
Aron also suggested that during the romantic period when mates first meet and fall in love, there was a tendency for human partners to put more emphasis on the positive traits of a potential mate, and minimize the qualities which could be regarded as weak of annoying.
While the Arthur Aron experiment saw plenty of positive results, there was a lack of follow up to determine how long-term these results were. Still, the theory stands, that the initial question and intimate gazing portion of the test did create sensations of what we call love. This test would go on to be used by other psychologists to create love in a laboratory, and measure it in terms of brain waves and chemical production.
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