MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: What is love (the emotion)?

Date: Tue Jun 10 05:24:41 2003
Posted By: Jocelyn Wishart, Lecturer, Education,
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 1051736652.Gb

You have posed an unanswerable question. Psychologists from different 
schools of thought all describe love in different ways.

 The work you describe combines the neurobiological approach 
(hormones are chemicals that direct our behavior) with the behaviourist 
approach ( we repeat actions that are rewarding).  However, this approach 
is often criticised by humanists as reducing people to animals.

The humanists themselves believe that the need to belong and be 
accepted by others is a basic survival need. (Look up Abraham Maslow's 
hierarchy of needs in any introductory psychology book). This means we 
will do everything we can to conform to others' expectations of us to be 
liked even loved by them.

The sociobiological approach explains the purpose of love - to ensure that 
our genes are reproduced and their carriers (our children) are reared in 
safety so that they live long enough for themselves in turn to reproduce. 
(Look up Richard Dawkins in any introductory psychology book or read 
"The Selfish Gene".)

Psychologists who write books about liking and loving such as Z Rubin 
and Michael Argyle are social psychologists who study interpersonal 
attraction by observing and interviewing people.  People gain all sorts of 
social rewards from being in a relationship and are willing to pay in 
time/money in order to be with someone. This theory predicts that we will 
end up loving someone similar to ourselves as the items we have to 
invest in a relationship (level of attractiveness, ability, wealth) will need to 
be the same otherwise one of the partners will resent being 'out of 

I have found a sample book chapter on the web that explains these last 

However most of what you want is covered in text books aimed at school 
students studying exam courses in Psychology. Popular ones in the UK 
are  Gross - Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour or 
Psychology: an Introduction  by Nicky Hayes and Sue Orrell. Maybe your 
librarian can find you the equivalent.

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