Social psychologists have defined “romance” in a variety of ways. These include: (1) Tales of idealized romantic love between two lovers; (2) A dreamy, imaginative, cognitive state in which people imagine a perfect love relationship; (3) A feeling of passionate love. In the early 1950s social psychologists focused on romantic love, attempting to discover if couples’ attitudes toward romantic love had an impact on marital happiness and stability. A popular scale at that time was Charles Hobart’s “Romantic Love Scale” (1958). It contained such items as: “When one is in love … one lives almost solely for the other.” Later, in 1973, Zick Rubin developed a more modern scale to measure romantic love versus friendship. Rubin argued that romantic love was made up of three elements: attachment, caring, and intimacy.
By the end of the twentieth century, however, scientists’ attention had shifted to passionate love. Passionate love (sometimes called “obsessive love,” “infatuation,” “lovesickness,” “romantic love,” or “being-in-love”) is a powerful emotional state. It has been defined by Elaine Hatfield and Richard Rapson as “A state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate love is a complex functional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, action tendencies, and instrumental behaviors. Reciprocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy. Unrequited love (separation) is associated with feelings of emptiness, anxiety, and despair” (1993, p. 5). The Passionate Love Scale is designed to tap into the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral indicants of such longings, as reported by Hatfield and Susan Sprecher in 1986.
In the 1990s social psychologists, neuroscientists, and physiologists began to explore the links between romantic and passionate love, sexual desire, and sexual behavior. The first neuroscientists to study romantic and passionate love were Niels Birbaumer and his colleagues in 1993. They concluded that passionate love was “mental chaos.” In 2000 Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki studied the neural bases of passionate love using fMRI (brain imaging) techniques. They interviewed young men and women from eleven countries who claimed to be “truly, deeply, and madly” in love and who scored high on the Passionate Love Scale. They discovered that passionate love produced increased activity in the brain areas associated with euphoria and reward, and decreased levels of activity in the areas associated with distress and depression. Passionate love and sexual arousal appeared to be tightly linked. Other psychologists who have studied the links between passionate love and sexual desire (using fMRI techniques), such as those reported by Helen Fisher in 2004, have found similar results.
Scientists interested in the chemistry of passionate love, sexual desire, and mating, detailed by C. Sue Carter in 1998 and Donatella Marazziti and Domenico Canale in 2004, have found that a variety of neurochemicals shape romantic love, passionate love, sexual desire, and sexual mating. One theorist, Helen Fisher, argued in 2004 that passionate love, lust, and attachment are associated with slightly different chemical reactions—although generally coming together in a single package. According to Fisher, passionate love is associated with the natural stimulant dopamine (and perhaps norepinephrine and serotonin.) Lust is associated primarily with the hormone testosterone. Attachment (a commitment to another) is produced primarily by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.
Psychologists may differ on whether romantic and passionate love are or are not emotions and whether passionate love, sexual desire, and sexual motivation are closely related constructs (both neurobiologically and physiologically) or very different in their natures. Nonetheless, this path-breaking research has the potential to answer age-old questions as to the nature of culture, love, and human sexuality.
Passionate love is as old as humankind. (The Sumerian love fable of Inanna and Dumuzi was spun by tribal storytellers in 2,000 BCE.) People in all cultures also recognize the power of romantic love. In south Indian Tamil families, for example, a person who falls head-over-heels in love with another is said to be suffering from mayakkam —dizziness, confusion, intoxication, and delusion. The wild hopes and despairs of love are, as Margaret Trawick noted in 1990, thought to “mix you up.”
At one time, however, social commentators contended that the idealization of romantic and passionate love was a peculiarly Western institution. Thus, cultural researchers began to investigate the impact of culture on people’s definitions of love, what they desired in romantic partners, their likelihood of falling in love, the intensity of their passion, and their willingness to acquiesce in arranged marriages versus insisting on marrying for love. When social psychologists explored folk conceptions of love in a variety of cultures—including the People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Micronesia, Palau, and Turkey—they were surprised to find that men and women in all of these cultures possessed surprisingly similar views of romantic love and other “feelings of the heart” (Jankowiak 1995; Shaver, Murdaya, and Fraley 2001). Subsequent research by cultural and evolutionary psychologists discovered that there appear to be cultural universals in what men and women desire in mates (Buss 1994), and according to Hatfield and Rapson’s 1996 work, in their likelihood of being in love, in how intensely they love, and whether or not they would be willing to marry someone they did not love. One impact of globalization (and the ubiquitous MTV, Hollywood and Bollywood movies, chat rooms, and foreign travel) may be to ensure that young people are becoming increasingly similar in their definitions of love and their romantic aspirations and behavior (Hatfield and Rapson 1996; Hatfield, et al. 2007).
Like any intense emotion, passionate love does tend to erode with time. Jane Traupmann and Elaine Hatfield in 1981, for example, interviewed a random sample of dating couples, newlyweds, and older women (who had been married an average of thirty-three years) in Madison, Wisconsin. (The longest marriage was fifty-nine years.) The authors assumed that passionate love would decline precipitously with time; they expected companionate love to last far longer. They were wrong. Over time, passionate love did plummet. Couples began loving their partners intensely. Both steady daters and newlyweds expressed “a great deal of passionate love” for their mates. After many years of marriage, however, women reported that they and their husbands now felt only “some” passionate love for one another. And what of the fate of companionate love? The authors found that over time, both passionate and companionate love tended to decline at approximately the same rate. This finding was especially surprising since the authors were only interviewing couples whose marriages had survived for ten, twenty, or fifty years. Couples whose relationships were the most dismal may well have divorced and thus been lost from the sample.
SEE ALSO Similarity/Attraction Theory
Bartels, Andreas, and Semir Zeki. November 27, 2000. The Neural Basis of Romantic Love. Neuroreport 11: 3829–3834.
Birbaumer, Niels, Werner Lutzenberger, Thomas Elbert, et al. 1993. Imagery and Brain Processes. In The Structure of Emotion: Psychophysiological, Cognitive, and Clinical Aspects, eds. Niels Birbaumer and Arne Öhman, 132–134. Seattle, WA: Hogrefe and Huber.
Buss, David M. 1994. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating. New York: Basic Books.
Carter, C. Sue. 1998. Neuroendocrine Perspectives on Social Attachment and Love. Psychoneuroendrocrinology 23: 779–818.
Hatfield, Elaine, and Richard L. Rapson. 1993. Love, Sex, and Intimacy: Their Psychology, Biology, and History. New York: HarperCollins.
Hatfield, Elaine, and Richard L. Rapson. 1996. Love and Sex: Cross-cultural Perspectives. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Hatfield, Elaine, Richard L. Rapson, and Lise D. Martel. 2007. Passionate Love. In Handbook of Cultural Psychology, eds. Shinobu Kitayama and Dov Cohen. New York: Guilford Press.
Hatfield, Elaine, and Susan Sprecher. 1986. Measuring Passionate Love in Intimate Relations. Journal of Adolescence 9: 383–410.
Hobart, Charles W. 1958. The Incidence of Romanticism during Courtship. Social Forces 36: 362–367.
Jankowiak, William R., and Edward F. Fischer. 1992. A Cross-cultural Perspective on Romantic Love. Ethology 31: 149–155.
Marazziti, Donatella, and Domenico Canale. 2004. Hormonal Changes When Falling in Love. Psychoneuroendrocrinology 29 (7): 931–936.
Rubin, Zick. 1970. Measurement of Romantic Love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 16: 265–273.
Shaver, Phillip R., Upekkha Murdaya, and R. Chris Fraley. 2001. Structure of the Indonesian Emotion Lexicon. Asian Journal of Social Psychology 4: 201–224.
Traupmann, Jane, and Elaine Hatfield. 1981. Love and Its Effect on Mental and Physical Health. In Aging: Stability and Change in the Family, eds. R. Fogel, E. Hatfield, S. Kiesler, and E. Shanas, 253–274. New York: Academic Press.
Trawick, Margaret. 1990. Notes on Love in a Tamil Family. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Richard L. Rapson
ro·mance / rōˈmans; ˈrōˌmans/ • n. 1. a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love: in search of romance. ∎ love, esp. when sentimental or idealized: he asked her for a date and romance blossomed. ∎ an exciting, enjoyable love affair, esp. one that is not serious or long-lasting: a summer romance. ∎ a book or movie dealing with love in a sentimental or idealized way: light historical romances. ∎ a genre of fiction dealing with love in such a way: wartime passion from the master of romance. 2. a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life: the beauty and romance of the night. ∎ wild exaggeration; picturesque falsehood: she slammed the claims as “pure romance, complete fiction.” ∎ a work of fiction dealing with events remote from real life. 3. a medieval tale dealing with a hero of chivalry, of the kind common in the Romance languages: the Arthurian romances. ∎ the literary genre of such works. 4. Mus. a short informal piece. • v. [tr.] 1. court; woo: the wealthy estate owner romanced her. ∎ inf. seek the attention or patronage of (someone), esp. by use of flattery: he is being romanced by the big boys in New York. ∎ [intr.] engage in a love affair: we start romancing. 2. another term for romanticize: to a certain degree I am romancing the past.
So vb. (XIV), XVII. — OF. romancier, romancer (-ER2) (XIV),XVII. — OF. romancëor, -cier.