Let’s Learn about Love

BY: Ashley Thompson, Ph.D.

Being that Valentine’s Day (the holiday of love) is quickly approaching, let’s talk a little but about your thoughts on love and what science has to say. Below are several questions and answers about love. Let’s see how your responses line up with the experts.

When did you first fall in love?

According to research by Montgomery and Sorell (1998), by 7th grade 94% of boys and 72% of girls say they have been in love. However, because love is tough to define, perhaps it’s better to ask about “specific feelings” we have for others. That is exactly what Dr. Elaine Hatfield (1988) did in a study comprised of children (aged 4 to 18). She discovered that children of nearly ages responded “yes” to the item: “Do you ever keep thinking about [boyfriend/girlfriend] when you wanted to stop and couldn’t?”.

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Do you believe in love at first sight?

In a Gallup poll conducted in 2000, just over half of American adults (52%) said that they believed in “love at first sight.” That said, people appear to become more cynical with age. Only 43% of adults over age 50 reported believing in “love at first sight” as compared to 60% of adults between 18 and 29 years of age.

Do you believe in soulmates?

Despite only half of Americans believing in “love at first sight,” the belief in a soulmate appears to be more widespread. Results from the same Gallup poll revealed that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe in a “one true love.” However, research conducted by Lee and Schwarz (2014) suggests that belief in a soulmate can be detrimental to one’s relationship. In particular, they found that people who believe in soulmates tend to overreact to relational conflict and report lower relationship satisfaction in comparison to those who don’t endorse these beliefs.

So, how did your responses stack up? Are you a true romantic or are you skeptical? Either way, as we navigate our way through Valentine’s Day , remember there is no right or wrong way to love. If someone appreciates your love, you are loving the right way.

Hatfield, E., Schmitz, E., Cornelius, J., & Rapson, R. L. (1988). Passionate love: How early does it begin?. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality1, 35-51.

Lee, S. W., & Schwarz, N. (2014). Framing love: When it hurts to think we were made for each other. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology54, 61-67.

Montgomery, M. J., & Sorell, G. T. (1998). Love and dating experience in early and middle adolescence: Grade and gender comparisons. Journal of adolescence21, 677-689.