What is Love? Michael Hoerger


What is Love? Michael Hoerger
Michael Hoerger
What is Love?
“Work and love, that’s all there is” – Freud
Finding love is a key developmental event
in early adulthood
Psychologists and the public use the word
“love,” so it must have some meaning
Today’s lecture is intended to challenge
your preconceptions and help you to
establish a working definition of love
Only 5% of species, those where both
parents needed for child’s survival
Pair-bonding: having an emotional
attachment to another
Oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine release
during sex; feels addicting
Good feelings associated with partner
(classical conditioning)
Tells you “Gee sex with this person feels
great” rather than just “Geez sex feels great”
Montane vole
Prairie vole
No pair-bond
Sternberg’s Triangular Theory
Love is multifaceted, with up to 3 central
1. Passion: intense longing for another
2. Intimacy: feeling connected, enjoying
one’s company and support
3. Commitment: obligations and
responsibilities to one another
Peck’s Criticisms of “Love”
Falling in love (passion) ≠ love
Excitement related to new, attractive person
“We fall in love when we are consciously or
unconsciously sexually motivated”
The honeymoon always ends
Dependency ≠ love
“I need him” or “I’d die without her”
“What you describe is parasitism, not love”
Love is based on choice, not necessity
Love ≠ a feeling
Love is an action, characterized by treating
someone well
Having strong feelings that someone is
important or needed doesn’t mean you love
Myth of Romantic love
Story that two people are “meant to be,” that
it is predetermined “in the stars”
If it doesn’t end up working out, people say it
wasn’t “true love” after all (hindsight bias)
Realistically, there are many suitable partners
Love is…
An action, not a feeling
 Attention
 A risk of rejection
 Independence, not dependence
 Commitment
 Self-disciplined
…hard work
Happy Couples
Partner’s know each other’s hopes, quirks,
likes, dislikes
Secret Weapon: ritualized “repair
attempts” to prevent increased negativity
Shared, deep sense of meaning
5 : 1 ratio
Unhappy Couples
Arguments characterized by…
 Harsh setup: negative and accusatory
 4 types of negative interactions:
criticism, contempt, defensiveness,
 Flooding  Stonewalling
 Failed repair attempts
 Bad memories
Love Quotes
“I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for
the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s
spiritual growth”
- M. Scott Peck
“Love is the subtlest force in the world”
- Mahatma Gandhi
“By accident of fortune a man may rule the world
for a time, but by virtue of love he may rule the
world forever”
- Lao-tzu
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an
enemy into a friend”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s a curious thought, but it is only when you see
people looking ridiculous, that you realize just how
much you love them”
- Agatha Christie
“One of the oldest human needs is having
someone to wonder where you are when you don’t
come home at night”
- Margaret Mead
“Love is a condition in which the happiness of
another person is essential to your own”
- Robert Heinlein
“Whoso loves… Believes the impossible”
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Love doesn’t have to feel dizzying”
- Michael Levine
“Love is something like the clouds that were in the
sky before the sun came out. You cannot touch
the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and
know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth
are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch
love either; but you feel the sweetness that it
pours into everything”
- Annie Sullivan
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no
common denominator, but among those whom I
love, I can: all of them make me laugh”
- W. H. Auden
“Sympathy constitutes friendship; but in love there
is a sort of antipathy, or opposing passion. Each
strives to be the other, and both together make up
one whole”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“True love comes quietly, without banners or
flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears
- Erich Segal
“Love talked about can be easily turned aside, but
love demonstrated is irresistible”
- W. Stanley Mooneyham
Michael Hoerger
To cite this lecture:
Hoerger, M. (2007, March 28). What is
Love? Presented at a PSY 220 lecture at
Central Michigan University.

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