Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

2020 Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford


  • Elaine HatfieldEmail author
  • Cyrille Feybesse
  • Jeanette Purvis
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_532


Definitions of Love

If you ask people “When I say the word ‘love’, what comes to mind?” you get a portrait of love in all its variations. In a procedure, called “prototype analysis,” Fehr and Russell (1991) did just that. They found that there are as many definitions of love as there are people attempting to define the term. Most people consider “romantic and passionate love” to be a prototypic form of love, but other kinds of love were mentioned too. These include companionate love, parental love, altruistic love, love for children, love of friends, love of pets, and the like.

In all cultures, people seem to distinguish between passionate love and companionate love. Passionate love (sometimes called “obsessive love,” “infatuation,” “lovesickness,” or “being in love”) is a powerful emotional state. It is defined as “a state of intense longing for union with the other…” and may be associated with a confusion of feelings:...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bartels, A., & Zeki, S. (2000). The neural basis of romantic love. NeuroReport, 11, 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartels, A., & Zeki, S. (2004). The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love. Neuroimage, 21, 1155–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Buss, D. M. (1995). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating. New York: Basic Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fehr, B., & Russell, J. A. (1991). The concept of love viewed from a prototype perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 425–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Feybesse, C. (2015). The adventures of love in the social sciences: social, psychometric evaluations and cognitive influences of passionate love. Dissertation completed in partial fulfillment of the doctor of philosophy Université Paris Descartes. Paris, France.Google Scholar
  6. Fisher, H. E. (2004). Why we love: The nature and chemistry of romantic love. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  7. Fletcher, G. J. O., Simpson, J. A., Campbell, L., & Overall, N. C. (2015). Pair-bonding, romantic love, and evolution: The curious case of homo sapiens. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 20–36.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614561683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hatfield, E., Martel, L., & Rapson, R. L. (2007). Passionate love and sexual desire. In S. Kitayama & D. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of cultural psychology (pp. 760–779). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Hatfield, E., Pillemer, J. T., O’Brien, M. U., & Le, Y. L. (2008). The endurance of love: passionate and companionate love in newlywed and long-term marriages. Interpersona: An International Journal of Personal Relationships, 2, 35–64. http://www.interpersona.org/issues.php?section=viewfulltext&issue=3&area=14&id=int485ee26d5859b&fulltextid=14&idiom=1
  10. Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Love, sex, and intimacy: Their psychology, biology, and history. New York: HarperCollins. [ISBN: 0-06-500702-6] [You can secure a free download via: http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/HATF1.htm#Chapter1 or (if that fails): http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/BIB/HATF1.htm.)
  11. Jankowiak, W. (Ed.). (1995). Romantic passion. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Patel, N., Frum, C., & Lewis, J. W. (2010). Neuroimaging of love: fMRI meta-analsis evidence toward new perspectives in sexual medicine. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 3541–3552.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01999.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pillemer, J., Hatfield, E., & Sprecher, S. (2008). The importance of fairness and equity for the marital satisfaction of older women. Journal of Women and Aging, 20, 215–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Regan, P. C., & Berscheid, E. (1999). Lust: What we know about human sexual desire. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Cupid’s arrow: The course of love through time. Cambridge: Cambridge Press.Google Scholar
  16. Tomlinson, J., Aron, A., & Hatfield, E. (in press). Romantic love. In A. Vangelisti & D. Perlman (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of personal relationships (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Hatfield
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cyrille Feybesse
    • 2
  • Jeanette Purvis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Paris Descartes UniversityParisFrance

Section editors and affiliations

  • Monika Wróbel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of LodzLodzPoland