In 1996, Dr Arthur Aron conducted a psychology study to see whether it was possible to increase intimacy between two strangers. Made up of 36 questions, increasing in how probing they are as they go along, the questions demanded - above all else - authenticity from both participants.
After just 45 minutes, many in the study rated their stranger "as close as the average relationship in their lives". One couple fell in love and got married six months later.
Now, Dr Aron's questions are being put to the ultimate test in The Love Experiment, a "relationship documentary" that hopes to explore authentic human interactions, in the hopes of finding romantic or platonic connections in an increasingly detached world.
As part of the 2022 Pilot Showcase, The Love Experiment pilot will be free to stream and exclusive to 10 play, premiering July 4.
Speaking to 10 play about The Love Experiment, producer Rebecca Barry and director and co-producer Sinéad McDevitt explained, "The idea was born out of the frustration with surface-level, fleeting interactions on dating apps and those reality dating shows which tend to lean into the dysfunctional/sensationalist side of humanity.
"We felt that love deserves to be elevated to its rightfully noble and beautiful place onscreen!"
Split into three sets, the questions in the experiment range from "What would constitute a 'perfect' day for you?" to "What is your most terrible memory?"
"The Love Experiment was created as an antidote to the superficial commodification of love we see in our culture," Sinéad and Rebecca explained. "The pervasive message that the key to happiness in this world involves the getting-of-things. Mortgage – tick. Car – tick. Smartphone – tick. Romantic love – tick.
"But romantic love isn’t a thing you get. Science shows it’s a skill you practise, back and forth, opening up, messing up, building connection as you go however you may stumble!"
The test became somewhat infamous after a 2015 New York Times essay, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" went viral. In that essay, the author also included that the experiment required the participants to stare into each other's eyes for anywhere between two and four minutes in total silence.
"The original experiment by Dr Aron didn't include the three-minute stare," Sinéad and Rebecca said. "This element was added later by a PhD student under Dr Aron's supervision, to test for romantic closeness. It's a wonderful, albeit risky, addition that we utilised in The Love Experiment.
"We wondered whether a 'silent stare' would make interesting television – but it does! It is so fascinating to watch the intensity, awkwardness and myriad of emotions that are revealed through the nuances of body language alone over three agonising minutes."
The team behind The Love Experiment also wanted to create a fun, kind experience for anyone connected to the project, as well as replicating Dr Aron's work as closely as possible, allowing the experience to unfold organically for those participating.
Going into the experiment, Rebecca and Sinéad admitted the team were "hopeless romantics and eternally optimistic" about its success, but also had the science to back the hypothesis that it would work once again to create closeness between two strangers, be it romantic or otherwise.
"We knew that as a baseline, people would walk away having had an incredibly transformative experience - and at the very least, a new friend.
"Most impressively, the experiment succeeds in building our muscle for authentic human connection, warts and all. The science may even show us how to love," they continued.
"It shows that when we open up, sharing our best bits, worst bits, human imperfections and hold a safe space for another human to do the same, we open the door to finding real love and belonging.
"The method is profoundly simple, free of apps and algorithms but maybe it’s the one thing we’re afraid of doing the most, stuck to our screens in this era of Insta-perfection?"
Pilot Showcase premieres Monday, July 4. Free to stream exclusively on 10 play