Love is an emotion that nearly everyone has experienced at some time in their life. One would think that with such a familiar concept, researchers would agree on what constitutes love and how to measure it. That has not been the case. Most research on love is based on a priori theoretical conceptualizations. It's quite possible that if a researcher starts out by defining love and then develops a measure to quantify that conceptualization, the results would tend to reflect this process.
Some theories of Love
Attachment styles - We develop styles of love that are based on expectancies developed from childhood experiences with caregivers: Secure; Anxious/ambivalent; and Avoidant (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Shaver, Hazan and Bradshaw,1988).
Love Acts Behaviors are classified in terms of the functions they serve in facilitating reproduction. Four love tasks: 1) to attract a mate; 2) to retain the mate; 3) to reproduce; and 4) parental investment. (Buss, 1988; Swenson, 1972).
Love Styles Primary love styles: Eros - Love at first sight, based on physical attributes and is mostly physical arousal; Storge - loving affection that develops over time, is primarily affection and commitment; Ludos - a rover and collector of loves, very pluralistic. Secondary love styles: Mania - intense preoccupation with the loved one, intensly jealous and possessive, in need of constant reassurance of partner's love. Projects desired qualities on partner. Pragma - looking for a compatible partner; Agape - Selfless, caring without self interest. Lee, 1977; Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986;
Three dimensional view The experience of love is a function of levels of intimacy, commitment and passion (Sternberg, 1988). In the Table below, for each type of love, a plus sign indicates the presense of each dimension of love, and a minus sign indicates that the dimension is not present. Descriptions of what these combinations of the various love dimensions should tend to be like can be found here.
Passionate and companionate love Passionate love is an intense state of longing for union with another. It has three components: 1) cognitive - intrusive preoccupation with the person, idealization of that person, and desire to know the person; 2) Emotional - Attraction/Sexual attraction, positive and negative feelings, longing for reciprocity, desire for union, physiological arousal; and 3) Behavioral - Actions to determine the other's feelings, studying the person, service to the person, maintaining physical closeness. Companionate love is the affection that we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply intertwined. (Hatfield; Berscheid and Walster, 1974).
This lack of a common definition of love has resulted in a hodgepodge of partially overlapping findings which are a function of the choice of measures to tap the construct based on the theoretical orientation of the researcher. Hendrick and Hendrick (1989) conducted an exploratory factor analysis of scores from various love measures in an attempt to identify the dimensions which underlie some common measures of love. They identified a five-dimensional orthogonal solution which consisted of passion, intimacy, anxious attachment, secure versus avoidant attachment, and practical/friendship love. The major problem with the Hendrick study is that the scales selected for inclusion impose structure on the concept. In order to understand what factors influence love, we must develop measures that adequately tap the construct and identify it's underlying dimensionality while limiting the effects of any a priori theoretical structure. Fehr (1988) argued that much of the confusion in trying to define love has arisen from the search for a classical definition which may not exist.
In recent years researchers have begun to adopt a prototype approach for the study of emotions using the hierarchical approach advocated by Rosch (1978). The hierarchy of emotional concepts can be classified into superordinate, basic, and subordinate levels. Shaver, Schwartz, Kirson, and O'Connor (1987) demonstrated that the most superordinate distinction of emotions in adults is between positive and negative emotions. At the next vertical level they identified six basic emotions: happiness, love, surprise, sadness, anger, and fear.
In 1988, Beverly Fehr used a different method of studying the concept of love. Rather than giving people questionnares based on someone's theory of love, Beverly Fehr asked people to describe love in their own words. She then broke these descriptions into their smallest conceptual pieces and put them in the fewest non-overlapping conceptual categories. She conducted six studies that demonstrated that love can be conceptualized using a prototype approach.
In her first set of studies, Beverly Fehr asked people to describe love. Here's what she found:
A couple of different studies have examined the dimensionality of love. Art Aron and Lori Westbay had people rate how central each of Fehr's 68 descriptor of love is to the concept of love and then performed a factor analysis to reduce the 68 descriptors down the the fewest number of dimensions possible. They found three factors that map well onto Sternberg's three dimensional theory of love.
When I was in graduate school, I conducted some research that looked at the dimensionality of people's experience of love using the types of type that Fehr identified.
Taken as a whole, the two studies indicate that data derived from free listing of descriptors of love fits the Sternberg model quite well. These convergent findings suggest that the concepts and experience of love involves three underlying dimensions which correspond to Sternberg's dimensions of passion, intimacy and commitment.