Psychology of Love

of Triangular Love Theory and The Effects on Our Brain Merry Alijoski College of New Rochelle Author Note This paper was prepared for Psychology 101, taught by Professor Hertler. Abstract This paper presents the classification of love in Robert Sternberg’s triangular love theory and how the brain falls in love within the three components of love. The research findings hold significance to people who are or have been in love and have interest in classifying their love and understanding how they love.
In this paper, research is cited to attempt and solve the biological mystery behind love and how love can be broken down into components. The brain plays a major role in loving other people and the components help define our relationships with the opposite sex. To gather information and results on this topic, I analyzed several books and articles on the psychology, evolution, and brain reactions of love. As a result of completing the above procedure, studies show how dopamine creates happy feelings. Sternberg’s triangular love theory provides components that have scores which increase and decrease over time.
The larger implication of my findings reveals how love is complex and so is the biological process of it. Keywords: love, brain, components Introduction What is love? The definition is infinite. In history, scholars have primarily studied the nature of love. For instance, in 1886, the German pioneering sexologist and physician Richard von Krafft-Ebing classified five types of love. These types were known as true love, sentimental love, platonic love, friendship, and sensual love. Albert Ellis (1954) suggested further love varieties: “Love itself . . . ncludes many different types and degrees of affection, such as conjugal love, parental love, familial love, religious love, love of humanity, love of animals, love of things, self-love, sexual love, obsessive-compulsive love, etc. ” (p. 101). Love is very complex and has been broken down into many theories such as the triangular love theory, types of love, and styles of love by Robert Sternberg. In terms of the biological aspect of love, it is extremely difficult to explain. Discoveries show how the brain processes though the body when a man or woman selects a mate.

Results suggest that the “chemistry” of attraction between people comes from chemical processes within the brain. Components of Triangular Love Theory Robert Sternberg (1986, 1998) identified three terms of three basic components that create the vertices of the love triangle, known as intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. The intimacy component refers to close, connected, and bonded feelings in loving relationships (Sternberg, 1989, p. 120). The passionate component has the motivational drive that can lead to such romantic and physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related wonders.
Many factors contribute to passion such as the need for sexual arousal, self-esteem, association with people, power over others, obedience to others, and to achieve one’s potential. The decision and commitment component consists of two aspects, one short term and one long term. In a short term relationship, the decision one loves someone. Long term relationships consist of commitment to maintain that love. In most cases, decision will encourage commitment. If the love components begin to combine, then eight subsets that represent the classification of love are created.
These eight types are extremes for reality. On occasion, someone would have an instance in which there is passion with no intimacy at all. The following represents the triangular love theory including the eight subsets. Figure 1. 1 Sternberg’s triangular theory of love represents the three components of love and they are shown in the vertices of the triangle. The different types of love formed through various combinations of the components are in the brackets of the triangle. _____________________________________________________________________________________ SOURCE: From Sternberg, R.
J. (1988). Triangulating love. In R. J. Sternberg & M. L. Barnes (Eds. ), The psychology of love (pp. 119-138). Each component of love has feelings that we experience when meeting a person who can be a potential long term mate. With the use of different chemicals, the brain regulates these feelings. To stimulate long term commitment all sections must be involved. However, this often does not happen. “While these brain circuits and emotions work with each other in a safe and fulfilling love relationship, they can and do function independently of one another.
You can be bonded with one person, infatuated with another and have sex with yet a third person” (Schaeffer, pg 27). Schaeffer’s statement connects to the three-brain system theory. The main idea of the theory is that there are three sections of the brains of humans have developed along with the brain of previous animal ancestors. Our brains are not too different from animals because the main difference is that our brain functions on three different levels. Such aspects of the human brain are reasons for diverse attraction cues and how they vary based on the person when choosing a mate. Intimacy
In detail, the intimacy component alone, which is identified as liking, occurs in certain instances. Such liking occurs when someone experiences only the intimacy component of love during the absence of the passion and decision/commitment components. The person often feels closeness, a bond, and warmth toward each other, without intense passion or long term commitment. The passion component, unlike the intimacy component, has passion without commitment and intimacy. Intimacy or liking, associates with attraction and how the sense of sight allows one to see the image of an attraction person, creating an effect on the brain. The chemical that results from physical attraction (or lust) is phenyl ethylamine or PEA. It is a naturally occurring amphetamine substance from within the brain that stimulates and increases physical and emotional energy. The initial attraction between two individuals causes one to produce more PEA which results in those dizzying feelings associated with romantic love. Another substance that is released by PEA is dopamine. This chemical increases a desire to be physically close and intimately connected. When these chemicals are being secreted in larger doses, they send signals from the brain to the other organs of the body.
If you wonder why you or someone is attracted to the “wrong” person, it may be because you are high on the physical response to these substances, which overwhelm your ability to use your head and exercise “good judgment and common sense” (True Love and Chemistry). Attraction is extremely powerful and it can be the source of a long lasting relationship. Research shows that signals that come from the body can have an effect of a person’s feelings of attraction for another. Psychologists Donald G. Dutton and Arthur P. Aron created three experiments which show a relationship between strong levels of anxiety and attraction.
Male passersby’s were communicated either on a fear-arousing suspension bridge or a non-fear arousing bridge by a beautiful female evaluator who asked them to fill out questionnaires. Aside from the control group, there were results proving that more anxiety was produced during the experimental bridge. In other words, attraction caused anxiety. Passion The passion component alone, classified as infatuated, is commonly phrased as being “love at first sight”. In this particular component, love is changed into obsession by treating the partner as an idealized object rather than as him or himself.
There is a cure for infatuation and one must get to know the object of one’s infatuation very well. An alternative solution is to become convinced that one has absolutely no hope of attaining the object of one’s infatuation. Infatuations major problem is that it tends to be obsessive. People experiencing infatuation tend to steadily focus on the love, which causes one to waste time, energy, and motivation from other significant things in one’s life. On Robert’s triangle, infatuated love relationships form in an asymmetrical figure.
In research (Sternberg & Barnes 1985) reveals that the higher the degree of asymmetry, the increasing chance that a relationship is prone to distress. The passion component, or infatuation stage, is correlated with being intoxicated. These feelings originate from chemical of dopamine. PEA is a substance that discharges dopamine and when we fall in love our brain directs signals for additional dopamine. People are in a happy state of mind due to dopamine’s effects on us. These feelings are common when we have “butterflies” or we are “weak in the knees” during the time we are around the person we love.
A study created in 2002 by an anthropologist named Helen Fisher, revealed these feelings due to the distribution of dopamine. Fisher gathered 40 young participants who were madly in love. Half were loved in return, while the other half was experiencing love rejection. Each participant was placed in a MRI with a picture of their beloved and one of an acquaintance. They all stared at the photo of their sweetheart for 30 seconds, then after a distraction, they would look at the acquaintance photo for another 30 seconds. Everyone was switching back and forth for approximately 12 minutes.
This study discovered that the photos of the participant’s sweetheart’s created the distribution of dopamine into various sections of the brain including the posterior dorsal caudate and its tail, which are the main parts of the brains system for reward and motivation. In cases where dopamine levels are high the feeling of falling in love is rapid and powerful, causing an obsession to occur with the person who gives them that feeling. The increasing levels of dopamine explain why people long for the feeling that loved one give them. Decision/commitment
One of the most meaningless components has to be the decision/commitment component alone, known as empty love. The empty love forms as a result from someone simply making a decision to love one another without intimacy or passion being present. Usually this type of love is found in motionless relationships and marriages that have lost the attraction and emotional support for one another. Lazarus (1985) identifies that when marriage is solely based on commitment, the other missing components are very difficult to restore in the marriage.
Empty love is known for being one-sided in the triangle. After Sternberg explained the components in an individual manner, he began combining the components and created different forms of love. Commitment is connected to how the human brain correlates with reproduction. We are biologically made to reproduce and carry on genes. “As far as your genes are concerned, your principal job while you’re alive is to conceive offspring, bring them to adulthood and then obligingly die so you don’t consume resources better spent on the young. Anything that encourages you to reed now and breed plenty gets that job done” (The Science of Romance). These drives are contributed to the process of selecting a partner with the help of biological cues. Today’s society refers this process to “romance” and a feeling of “love”. Our society has changed the drives for commitment with others. There is an excess amount of time devoted to the process of love instead of reproducing children. Commitment is a significant factor for having healthier babies but the societies today are focusing on how and why people have decided to commit to one spouse. Kinds of Love
Romantic love is formed through the combination of intimacy and passion. People who experience romantic love have a physical attraction and emotions for one another. For example, a summer love can demonstrate romantic love, but there is not a real chance for it to last beyond the summer. Such lovers feel an intense passion for one another and feel that they can bare their souls to one another as well. A counter argument is given by Hartfield and Walster (1981) by stating that romantic love does not differ from infatuation. Many possibilities may occur in such a love.
Romantic lovers can realize that they may or may not have many things in common. In some cases, a friendship can easily change into a romantic love, due to the admiration for one another and the passion that draws them together. Companionable love results from the combination of intimacy and decision/commitment components of love. Companionate love is identified as a long-term committed friendship. The passion goes away although the intimacy remains. Most people are happy with this type of love. However, some people find it difficult living without some kind of romance going on.
As a solution, people might have affairs to feed their hunger for such romance. Fatuous love requires the combination of passion and the decision/commitment components of love. Hollywood courtships experience fatuous love most of time. Once the passion wears out, commitment is left. However, commitment requires a lot of time and energy to develop. People involved in fatuous love think that marriage is heaven and a solution to all their worries and concerns. They are not aware of what is required to maintain a marriage. These people sacrifice a lot for passion and lack intimacy.
The combination of intimacy, passion, and commitment forms consummate love. All components being present in consummate love allow people to strive for this type of love, especially those in romantic relationships. Having this love can be extremely difficult, but maintaining this love is far more challenging. We do not seek consummate love because we have the tendency to reserve it for those that have much more meaning for us. The following chart shows Sternberg’s typology of the love relationships. ————————————————- Table 1. Sternberg’s Typology of Love Relationships Love Component ___________________________ Kind of Love Relationship Intimacy Passion Decision/Commitment Nonlove Low Low Low Liking High Low Low Infatuation Low High Low Empty love Low Low High Romantic love High High Low Companionate love High Low High Fatuous love Low High High Consummate love High High High ______________________________________________________________________________ NOTE: According to Sternberg (e. . , 1986), the three basic components of love—intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment—combine to produce eight different types of love relationship. For example, infatuation-based relationships are characterized by relatively high levels of passion but relatively low levels of intimacy and commitment. Evidence for Sternberg’s Triangular Love Theory Sternberg designed a questionnaire, the Sternberg Triangular Love SCALE (STLS), in order to measure the components of love in his theory. Few studies were done on the scale alone (e. g. Sternberg, 191987, 1997; Whitley, 1993). The scale has proven to have good measures of the components, particularly of passion and commitment. Scores were stable for up to two months for the same relationship. Sternberg made assumptions that over time the scores will change. In one study, there were 204 adult participants between the ages 18 to 68; 65 percent were married (Acker & Davis, 1992). On average, the relationships were going for 9. 5 years. As Sternberg predicted, the scores of commitment raised within relationships that shifted from dating to marriage.
Robert’s prediction of intimacy decreasing over time was also proven in the study. However, two different measures of intimacy increased over time. A different study assessed German adults for their relationship between the three components, sexual activity, and satisfaction (Grau & Kimpf, 1993). In the theory, it is predicted that the measurement of passion should be strongly correlated to sexual activity, but the results prove that intimacy is closely related to sexual behavior and sexual satisfaction. Conclusions and Future Study
The preceding information matters because love is hard to define and varies for others, which makes Sternberg’s theory an informative model of all types of relationships. An addition to all the components, information on how the brain works while falling in love, allows people to understand the biological process of love. Love can be classified in many forms and the brain helps select our mates based on the innate genetics of needing to reproduce. Arguments in the paper fit together and prove the thesis statement, such as dopamine creating happy feelings when in love and gene’s principle job is to reproduce.
Further steps that need to be taken in the area of the papers research, is researching the purpose of love. There can be a study done on participants and how they view of the purpose of love. Objective information should come from science and religion. Then the subjective and objective findings can be compared and contrasted to form a conclusion. | ReferencesFisher, H. , Aron, A. , & Brown, L. (2005). Dr Helen Fisher – Biological Anthropologist – Home Page. Retrieved from http://www. helenfisher. com/downloads/articles/13JourCompNeur. pdfFisher, H. E. (1992).
Anatomy of love: The natural history of monogamy, adultery, and divorce. New York: Norton. Franzoi, S. L. (2009). Social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Regan (2002, October 30). General Theories of Love. SAGE – the natural home for authors, editors and societies. SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets: Welcome to Sage. Retrieved from http://www. sagepub. com/upm-data/3222_ReganChapter1_Final. pdfSchaeffer, B. (2009). Is it love or is it addiction? The book that changed the way we think about romance and intimacy. Center City, Minn: Hazelden. Sternberg, R. J. , & Barnes, M. L. (1988). The Psychology of love. New Haven: Yale University Press. The Science of Romance: Why We Love – TIME. (2009, November 6). Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME. com. Retrieved from http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1704672,00. htmlTrue Love and Chemistry: Exploring Myth and Reality. (2009, November 6). Retrieved from http://www. enotalone. com/article/2946. html| |

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