The Perfect First Date (If You Want To Get Close Fast)

Photographed By Jens Ingvarsson.
By now, you've likely heard of the 36 questions that can make you "fall in love with anyone." While asking a stranger "When did you last sing to yourself?" is one way to get close fast, there's a more accessible method of quickly establishing intimacy: laughter. A new study, led by University College London's Alan Gray and just published in the journal Human Nature, indicates that laughter makes people more inclined to share personal details. And, you don't even have to be the one who makes the other person laugh.

Gray and his team enlisted 112 university students — 72 women and 40 men between 18 and 31 years old — and organized them into groups. Each group silently watched one of three 10-minute video clips: a stand-up routine by comedian Michael McIntyre, a golf tutorial, and a "pleasant" excerpt of a Planet Earth episode ("Jungles," in case you were wondering). Researchers evaluated participants' laughter levels and the positivity of their emotions in response to the clips. Each participant then shared a written message with another participant, in order to "get to know" that person.

As evaluated by the researchers, participants disclosed markedly more personal information in their messages after viewing the comedy routine than after viewing the golf tutorial or nature show. And, it was clear that it was specifically laughter — not just positive emotions — that encouraged intimacy. Viewers who had watched Planet Earth were in a good mood (who wouldn't be after listening to the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough?), but they weren't any more open with others than the people who had watched the golf video. 

The researchers posit that "the opioid effect of endorphins [produced by laughter] makes individuals more relaxed about what they communicate." Whatever the mechanism at play, in order to get close to a romantic prospect, you may want to consider a stand-up show or a funny movie — and apparently not a golf lesson — for your next date. 

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