The proliferation of conceptualizations and measures of love has limited progress toward assessing the effects of love on a multiplicity of well-being outcomes and on the ability to assess the determinants of love across settings. We propose to employ long-standing philosophical and theological traditions on love, including non-Western traditions, to synthesize current knowledge, advance the interdisciplinary field, and develop a new set of conceptually grounded measures.
Aided by this synthesis, a lexical analysis of love across cultures, and a comprehensive review of existing survey instruments on love, our measures for the assessment of different forms of love across contexts will help initiate a formal epidemiology of love. The specific construct that will be examined related to love is the “disposition toward desiring the good of the other” where the intentionally ambiguous phrase “the good of the other” may itself be understood either as “good for the other” or as the “good constituted by the other.” We will refer to the former as “contributory love” (desiring the good of the other) and the latter as “unitive love” (desiring union with the other) (cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II.26.4).
Guided by our interdisciplinary Advisory Board, we will collect data on responses to the proposed items in a variety of settings in order to assess their psychometric properties. Our interpersonal love items will be classified according to (i) unitive and contributory, (ii) giving and receiving, and (iii) parent-child, spouse, friend, God, neighbor, stranger, and enemy. We will assess the effects of love on outcomes and the determinants of love across settings. Our measures will cover a broader array of understandings of love found in the philosophical, theological, and social science literatures than previous measures. As a result, we expect enhanced ability to predict well-being outcomes, which would help move the interdisciplinary field beyond the current impasse.