Love is an important concept in psychology. 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.