Love is a word that could be defined in many different ways. What do people believe love is? What are the most important attributes of love? What types of love are the best examples of love? These important questions may help us gain a better understanding of the psychology of love.
People's Conceptions of Love
Love research findings may help in understanding love. Some studies have addressed the concept of love. These studies may provide us with a greater understanding of the meaning of love. In Fehr's (1988) first study, participants were asked to list features of either love, commitment, or both. Of the participants who listed features of love, the most frequently listed feature of love in this study was caring (43.75%). The second most frequently listed feature was happiness (29.17%). The third most frequently listed feature was want to be with other (28.13%).
In her second study, Fehr (1988) had participants provide judgments of features of either love or commitment. They made these judgments with respect to how good of a feature they were of either love or commitment. Trust had the highest average (mean) rating for love. The attribute with the second highest average(mean) rating for love was caring. Honesty had the third highest average (mean) rating for love. (1)
The findings above pertained to love in general. However, there may be many types of love. In their second study, Fehr and Russell (1991) had participants make judgments of twenty types of love with respect to how good examples they were of love. The type of love with the highest average (mean) rating was maternal love. Parental love was the type of love with the second highest average (mean) rating. The type of love with the third highest average (mean) rating was friendship. (2)
The participants in the above studies were college students. It is not clear whether people who are not college students would have different conceptions of love.
These findings on people's conceptions of love provide some insight into the psychology of love. These findings suggest that caring, honesty, and trust may be viewed as some of the most important attributes of love. Moreover, parental love, especially maternal love, can be viewed as a very good example of love.
It is important to define love. What is love? These findings on people's conceptions of love also have implications concerning the definition of love. A simple definition of love is that it is a feeling reflecting significant caring.
What is unconditional love? Unconditional love can be viewed as selfless love. This unconditional love definition suggests that love involves significant caring. In Fehr's (1988) first study, 6.25 percent of the participants listed unconditional as a feature of love.
Falling in Love
Falling in love can be viewed as one type of love. It is important to gain an understanding of the process of falling in love. There are a number of interesting questions concerning the psychology of falling in love. What precedes the feeling of falling in love? What are the possible consequences of falling in love?
Aron, Dutton, Aron, and Iverson (1989) conducted three studies concerning the experience of falling in love. In the first two studies, participants provided descriptive accounts concerning falling in love. In the third study, participants provided ratings. The content analyses in the first two studies assessed the incidence of a number of variables which appeared to precede the attraction or was a perceived cause of the attraction. A significant percentage of the participants in the first two studies reported reciprocal liking (90 percent in the first study and 68 percent in the second study). Moreover, a majority of the participants in the first two studies reported desirable characteristics in the person (78 percent in the first study and 56 percent in the second study). Also, similarity was reported by some of the participants in the first two studies (18 percent in the first study and 34 percent in the second study). (3)
Aron, Paris, and Aron (1995) conducted two longitudinal studies concerning some possible consequences of falling in love. In their first study, they found that falling in love was associated with greater change and diversity of the self-concept. In their second study, they found that falling in love was found to be associated with increases in self-efficacy and self-esteem. It is possible that falling in love leads to changes in the self-concept and increases in self-efficacy and self-esteem. However, because the findings are correlational, there are other possible explanations for the findings. (4)
1. See the article for information on other findings.
2. See their article for information on other findings.
3. See their article for information concerning the findings for the third study and information concerning other findings for the first two studies.
4. See their article for information on other findings.
Aron, A., Dutton, D. G., Aron,. E. N., & Iverson, A. (1989).
Experiences of falling in love. Journal of Social and
Personal Relationships, 6, 243-257.
Aron, A., Paris, M., & Aron, E. N. (1995). Falling in love:
Prospective studies of self-concept change. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1102-1112.
Fehr, B. (1988). Prototype analysis of the concepts of love
and commitment. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 55, 557-579.
Fehr, B., & Russell, J. A. (1991). The concept of love
viewed from a prototype perspective. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 425-238.