Would you be attracted to someone trying to kill you?


Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

In particular, people are more likely to to be attracted to someone they meet during unusual or “boundary-breaking” experiences, such as those involving power, mystery, isolation, or strong emotions.


In the high-emotion condition, one of the scenes was that the subject played a captured soldier being tortured for information by the female subject. She would “torture” him by dripping “acid” (actually water) on him from an eye dropper until he would reveal his military secrets. I more or less directed, encouraging the subject to cry out whenever he felt the “acid” on his forehead, to try to feel as if it were actually excruciatingly painful, and to imagine that if it continued it would shortly burn through to his brain, killing him.

At the time, simulations were still a fairly new idea and I thought it would be hard to create emotion through role-playing. I was wrong! The subjects’ hands shook, they perspired, and when asked later, they all said yes, they felt very strong fear…


Those in the high-fear condition did show, for example, significantly more desire to kiss my confederate (one of the key questions) and wrote more romantic and sexual content into their stories. Looking at the details of these results, I found that the situation had generated, quite specifically, romantic attraction. Men in the high and low-emotion situations showed no difference in their answers to the questions “How much would you like to have your partner in this experiment as a work partner?” and “How much would you like to have your partner in this experiment as a platonic friend?”

The same principle is explored further in these posts:

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