In 1997, psychologists created a study evaluating the most elusive of subjects: how to make two strangers fall in love.
The study used a questionnaire comprised of 36 questions, each more probing and causing more vulnerability than the last. The same questions can be found through an app called “36 Questions” or via a simple Google search.
This questionnaire isn't just for individuals looking to make a romantic connection. When used with others, you might find yourself rolling with laughter–or sitting in sobering silence.
I've completed the questions with many different groups, ranging in size from three to nine participants. Because there are many questions, larger groups should either take a day and a half to complete it or just skip some questions.
The questionnaire is divided into three sets, each containing 13 questions. Each question varies from asking about a most treasured memory to explaining a current life problem and asking for the partner's advice.
One group steadily working through the questions each week is the business division student team.
I introduced freshman business major Kelsey Bailey, sophomore computing major Cameron Cizek and business division chair Dr. Barry Forbes to the study in our first team meeting. It was suggested as a way to develop bonds of trust between all the players in the team.
Cizek had only vaguely heard of the study. "I always assumed it was meant to be a one-on-one personal experience," he says. "So the concept of it in a group was pretty new, but I could see the value in it."
After completing each set of questions, the study calls for the partners to stare into each other's eyes for four minutes straight, without speaking, to create vulnerability. A New York Times article on the study explains that "...mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. Allowing oneself to be vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue."
In group experiences, it’s better to skip the last step and avoid actually falling in love. Other groups that have completed the activity cited some awkwardness with the final challenge. Ricky Amimo, a second-year physician’s assistant student, recalls, "We had to stare into each other's eyes for four minutes straight. And I was staring into Mikey Archibeque’s eyes."
Dr. Forbes initially was unsure about how appropriate the study would be in a work environment but has enjoyed the insights into each team members' thought processes and motivations. "It’s helping us increase our comfort levels with each other," he says. "Everyone is on the same level and we’re all learning more about each other’s priorities and ways of thinking."
While this process has been used successfully to find love, it's also an incredibly fun way to hang out with new acquaintances or a new team. Not only will you have conversations that take months to get to, but you do so as equals.
Next time you find yourself with a free Sabbath afternoon or a group of people you'd like to know better, take a risk with this study. It's an opportunity to learn more about each other and more about yourself. To see the 36 questions for yourself, visit
Katie Morrison is a senior studying business administration