Is love a single entity or are there different kinds? Psychologists have yet to agree on an answer. In a seminal paper, Berscheid (2010) proposed that four kinds of love are basic and fundamental: passionate, companionate, compassionate, and attachment. She acknowledged that these kinds of love are likely to co-occur in romantic relationships, but argued that they can, and should be, distinguished. The purpose of this research is to validate Berscheid’s model. One obstacle is that the absence of standard scales for companionate and attachment love. In pilot studies, I have found that measures of these kinds of love are very highly correlated with each other and with outcome variables (e.g.,social support). This calls into question the validity of the model, inadequacies in measurement, or perhaps both. In Part I of this research program, I will analyze large existing data sets (and gather new data) with the goals of establishing valid, reliable scales for each kind of love and testing the validity of Berscheid's taxonomy. In Part II, I will conduct priming experiments to test whether bringing to mind one kind of love results in higher scores on measures of that kind of love (but not the others). I also will test whether priming each kind of love predicts higher scores on the outcomes that should be unique to that kind of love, as specified in Berscheid’s model (e.g., caregiving for compassionate love). To increase the robustness of the Part II findings, in Part III, experiences of each kind of love will be created in the lab with couples as participants. The dependent variables will be the same as in Part II. The expected contributions are methodological and conceptual: relationship science would benefit from psychometrically-sound scales to measure these kinds of love. Conceptually, agreement on a taxonomy would allow the field to move forward and address important questions such as the factors that lead to the development and decline of loving relationships.
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