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A study that included 36 questions which can allegedly be used to fall in love with a stranger made the news rounds a while back, but the actual science isn’t that simple—and falling in love was never the point of the questions.

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[INTRO ♪].

Here are some questions for you:. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you invite to dinner?

Would you like to be famous? What are you most grateful for? And that's just the beginning.

Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Yeah? Well, why haven't you done it yet?

Or what about: if you were to die today, without the chance to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not saying? And why haven't you said it yet? Okay, that got a little intense.

But it was supposed to. These are just a few of the 36 questions that have earned the reputation of being able to make people fall in love—thanks to a viral New York Times article. Which is bonkers, right?

But the psychology paper they came from, which was published in 1997, is legit. And it's helped us learn a lot about how telling other people about ourselves can deepen relationships of all kinds. The original paper consisted of three fairly similar experiments, where undergrads in a psychology class were paired with a classmate they didn't know well.

Many pairs included one man and one woman, but quite a few pairs had two women—just because of who was taking the classes. They were given 45 minutes and 3 sets of questions to talk about, which got progressively more personal. And at the end, they were given tests to evaluate how much they liked each other and whether they would want to work together again.

Pretty straightforward, right? And overall, the researchers analyzed 190 pairs of students and a few variables. For instance, they wanted to know what would happen when students were paired with someone they shared values with, or with someone they'd been told they'd probably like.

Most of these things didn't have much of an effect. But the researchers did find that increasingly personal questions led to stronger feelings of liking and closeness than small talk prompts—like the last time you went to the zoo. And yes, they did follow up with the pairs afterwards and some of them did stay close.

One pair even got married and invited the whole research team. But that wasn't the point. The study wasn't about romantic love.

It was about any kind of temporary intimacy, which the researchers described as incorporating someone else into your sense of self. In fact, happily-ever-after was so not the point that the researchers said they always carefully debriefed their subjects. They emphasized that this was an unusual way to form a relationship, and that the students shouldn't feel any obligation to their partners.

The actual point of this study was pretty simple: studying relationships is hard. Sure, you can study people who are already besties. And psychologists definitely do that, but it's not easy to standardize pre-existing relationships—and doing so could affect the results.

How close are they, and how long have they been close? What brought them together? It's hard to base an objective study and draw conclusions from something so fuzzy.

To try and get around this problem, some researchers have used speed dating to test their hypotheses. It's a good idea, but because speed dating is so brief, it's mostly appropriate for studying initial romantic attraction than other types of closeness. So in the 1990s, these researchers developed their own procedure to try and study temporary intimacy in the lab.

They wanted it to be easy to replicate and not too time-consuming. And it seems to work! Their procedure been used a lot since then, mostly to study a process called self-disclosure, which is basically telling or showing people things about yourself.

Even before this 1997 study, there was a lot of research about self-disclosure out there, suggesting that it's important to starting and building a close relationship with friends, family, or a romantic partner. But the studies that have used this method to induce closeness in the lab have learned a whole bunch of stuff. For example, we think that taking turns self-disclosing can build intimacy more effectively than one-sided sharing.

And it's the experience of someone sharing stuff with you that makes you feel closer to them, not the act of sharing yourself. One study found that social anxiety makes telling someone about yourself less effective at building closeness. While another found that moving in sync with someone else—for instance, going through two versions of an assignment to check them against each other—can make it more effective.

Today, a lot of the research in this field is looking into self-disclosure on the Internet. And psychologists think that it also makes people feel close. Studying this can be kind of tricky, though, because we change how much we share about ourselves on different platforms.

So overall, researchers agree that self-disclosure does create intimacy and build relationships. But it's important to remember that there's a time and a place for those sorts of deep conversations. Like, you can't just start shouting things about yourself at people.

There's actually research showing that the receptiveness and responsiveness of whoever's listening to your self-disclosures is really important. A 2004 study of 98 couples found that it really mattered when someone felt like their self-disclosures were being heard by their partners. Specifically, it increased how much the bond was strengthened when their partner shared stuff.

And another study found that wanting to be close to someone was enough to create anticipatory feelings of closeness—even before the self-disclosures started. So yes, people who answer those 36 questions can fall in love, but you shouldn't count on them to do the trick. Really, this procedure is just a cool tool to help scientists better understand these weird, messy, beautiful things we call relationships.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych, where we really value our relationships with everyone who watches and supports our videos—especially our Patreon patrons. We couldn't do this without you! If you want to join our community and help us out, you can go to [OUTRO ♪].