Love is a virtuous “many splendored thing” with enormous relevance to the scientific study of human behavior. The everyday experience of love, love in the moment, is an important signal about the person and situation, a driver of behavior, and a potentially transformative personal and relational moment. Yet, though much research has examined love as a dispositional or enduring bond, love as a momentary experience has been woefully neglected. To accelerate research on love in the moment, we will create, validate, and demonstrate the utility of a multi-faceted, theory-unifying measure of love in the moment.
In collaboration with an interdisciplinary network, we aim to develop measures of love between romantic partners and friends that capture a unifying core experience of love in the moment across situations, while also accounting for multi-faceted heterogeneity in the experience of love. The centerpiece of the project is to refine and validate the measure within ecologically valid experiences. As such, we will capitalize on the methods of affective and relationship science to sample moments from a range of real experiences, such as dyadic conversations in the laboratory and daily sampling of potential love moments. Finally, to demonstrate the utility of the measure for rigorously addressing Big Questions, we will conduct multi-study tests of the role of interpersonal power in catalyzing a virtuous cycle of love and assess whether love in the moment fuels more enduring forms of the virtue of love.
This work will provide a foundation for translating a sophisticated measurement approach into other relational contexts (e.g., love of God, co-workers, siblings). Our novel and methodologically rigorous approach, bolstered by interdisciplinary collaboration, will open the door for advances in understanding amplifiers of love and help move researchers toward a valid assessment lingua franca about love across scientific disciplines and relationship contexts.