The nature of love has been explored by a number of theorists. Social psychologist Zick Rubin was one of the first researchers to develop and instrument designed to empirically measure love. According to Rubin, romantic love is made up of three elements:
- Attachment: The need to be cared for and be with the other person. Physical contact and approval are also important components of attachment.
- Caring: Valuing the other persons happiness and needs as much as your own.
- Intimacy: Sharing private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the other person.
Based upon this view of romantic love, Rubin developed two questionnaires to measure these variables. Initially, Rubin identified approximately 80 questions designed to assess the attitudes a person holds about others. The questions were sorted according to whether or not they reflected feelings of liking or loving. These two sets of questions were first administered to 198 undergraduate students and a factor analysis was then conducted. The results allowed Rubin to identify 13 questions for 'liking' and 13 questions for 'loving' that were reliable measures of these two variables.
The following examples are similar to some of the questions used in Rubin's Liking and Loving Scale:
Items Measuring Liking
- I feel that _____________ is a very stable person.
- I have confidence in ______________'s opinions.
- I think that ______________ is usually well-adjusted.
- __________ is one of the most likeable people I know.
Items Measuring Loving
- I feel strong feelings of possessiveness towards ____________.
- I like it when __________ confides in me.
- I would do almost anything for _____________.
- I find it easy to ignore __________'s faults.
Rubin's scales of liking and loving provided support for his theory of love. In a study to determine if the scales actually differentiated between liking and loving, Rubin asked a number of participants to fill out his questionnaires based upon how they felt both about their partner and a good friend. The results revealed that good friends scored high on the liking scale, but only significant others rated high on the scales for loving.
In his research, Rubin identified a number of characteristics that distinguished between different degrees of romantic love. For example, he found that participants who rated high on the love scale also spent a great deal more time gazing into each others eyes as compared to those who rated only as weakly in love.
Love is not a concrete concept and is therefore difficult to measure. However, Rubin's scales of liking and loving offer a way to measure the complex feeling of love. In 1958, psychologist Harry Harlow suggested that "so far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in their mission. The little we know about love does not transcend simple observation, and the little we write about it has been written better by poets and novelists." Rubin's researched marked an important step forward in our understand of romantic love and paved the way for future research on this fascinating topic.
Harlow, H. F. (1958). The nature of love. American Psychologist, 13, 673-685.
Rubin, Zick. 1970. Measurement of romantic love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 265-273.