Love

Love has interested thinkers from diverse disciplines since the beginning of writing (or before). The word love can mean many things, including feelings one has about people, animals, one’s country, activities, foods, books, and much more. Scholars and researchers have tended to focus on love in the context of relationship. Love experts Reis and Aron (2008) have defined love as “a desire to enter, maintain, or expand a close, connected, and ongoing relationship with another person or other entity” (p. 80).

Early love researchers created love taxonomies. A widely known distinction between types of love, first proposed by Berscheild and Walster (1978), is between passionate love (“a state of intense longing for union with another,” p. 9) and companionate love (“the affection we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined,” p. 9). The usefulness of this categorization has been supported by research at various levels, including laypeople’s conceptions of love, behavioral studies, and biological research. Another expedient theory has been Sternberg’s (1986), which identified components of love: passion (an arousal state and longing for another person), intimacy (closeness to and emotional investment in another person), and commitment (attachment to a person and decision to be with her). In general, passion tends to be associated with passionate love, and intimacy and commitment tend to be associated with companionate love, although any of the three love features can be associated with either type of love (e.g., an individual can feel a sort of passion for a platonic friend—the passion is nonsexual and occurs primarily in a companionate relationship).

Leading figures in the history of science have explored concepts related to or processes involving love. John Bowlby and Harry Harlow, studying infant attachment, argued and provided evidence that the bond between infant and mother may set the stage for future love relationships for the child. Sigmund Freud (“the love doctor”) proposed that our childhood experiences create our love templates. For him, an individual’s first romantic relationship occurs around ages four to six, when the child develosp an attachment to the opposite-sexed parent. The attachment is sensual and includes a passionate desire to possess the parent exclusively. The particular dynamic between child and opposite-sexed parent and child and same-sexed parent (who is the child’s rival) will to some extent play out again in future romances. Charles Darwin asserted that sexual attraction is necessary for the survival of our species and thus sexual love is functional. This theorizing about the evolutionary basis of love opened up a large research area, leading to comparisons across species and studies on topics such as mate preferences and sexual mating strategies in both humans and other animals.

An evolutionary perspective on love has gained popularity. Theorists (e.g., Reis & Aron, 2008) have applied Berscheid and walster’s (1978) dichotomy within an evolutionary approach and have argued that both passionate and companionate love are helpful for survival of the species. Passionate love leads to attraction, which can be associated with individuals entering into mating relationships that are relatively long term—at least, long enough to lead to successful reproduction. Companionate love, which includes love between parents and love of parents for their children, increases the probability of survival of the child.

Recently, research on love has met with a resurgence. Reis and Aron (2008) predict that research will continue to be popular, addressgn issues such as specific biological mechanisms associated with love, how love is related to culture, and love outside of romantic relationships. Reis and Aron also point out that love is associated with some negatives, which they call the “dark side” of love, including bereavement, unrequited love, jealousy, abandonment, and violence, and that these topics also need further study.

  • Hendrick, S., & Hendrick, C. (1992). Liking, loving, and relating (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Berscheid, E., & Waslter, E.H. (1978). Interpersonal attraction (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.
  • Reis, H.T., & Aron. (2008). Love: What is it, why does it matter, and how does it operate? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 80 – 36.
  • Sternberg, R.J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119 – 135.
  • Since cognitive science Opens in new window has taken on board this commonsense view of the mind, an important question is how such a relationship to a proposition can be implemented.

    The representation theory of mind (RTM; Field, 1978; Fodor, 1978) assumes that a propositional attitude consists in holding a representation of the proposition and that this representation plays a certain functional role in the economy of mental states. This can be best illustrated with the two core concepts: belief and desire.

    These are core concepts, since knowing what someone believes (thinks) to be the case (e.g., Max thinking the chocolate is in the cupboard and thinking that going there will get the chocolate into his possession) and what that person desires (wants) (e.g., Max wanting the chocolate to be in his possession) allows us to make a behavioral prediction that Max will approach the cupboard. This kind of inference is known since Aristotle as the practical syllogism.

    Searle (1983, after Anscombe, 1957) points out that these two states are mirror images in terms of causal direction and direction of fit. The function of a belief is to be caused by reality and the believed proposition should match reality.

    For instance, the chocolate being in the cupboard should be responsible for Max’s believing that the chocolate is in the cupboard (world to mind causation) and the proposition “the chocolate is in the cupboard” should thus match the relevant state of affairs in the world (mind should fit world).

    The function of desire (want) is to cause a change in the world (mind to world causation) so that the world conforms to the desired proposition (world should fit mind)—for example, if Max wants the chocolate to be in the cupboard, then this desire should cause action leading to a change of the chocolate’s location such that it conforms to what Max desires.

    This trivial-sounding example does highlight the important distinctions.

    Three Important Distinctions

    1. First vs. Third Person

    One important distinction is between first-person and third-person attribution of mental states. A third-person attribution is an attribution to another person and a first-person attribution is one to myself.

    For instance, if Max erroneously believes that the chocolate is still in the cupboard (because he didn’t see that it was unexpectedly put into the drawer), then a third-person observer will attribute a false belief to Max. In contrast, Max himself will make a first-person attribution of knowledge to himself.

    The observer can capture this difference between her own and Max’s subjective view by the second-order attribution that Max thinks he knows where the chocolate is. This is useful to keep in mind when it comes to false memories. Since a memory can only be a recollection of something that actually occurred, a false memory is not a memory by third-person attribution, although it is by first-person attribution.

    1. Sense and Reference

    A related second point has to do with Frege’s (1892/1960) distinction between sense and reference. Since mental states involve representations, they connect us to objects and events in the real (or a possible) world.

    Famously, Oedipus knew and married Iocaste (referent: a particular person), but he did not know or marry her as his mother but as an unrelated queen (sense: how Iocaste was presented to Oedipus’ mind).

    Thus, in third-person parlance we can say that Oedipus married his mother if we use the expression “his mother” to pick out (refer to) the individual whom he married without implying that he knew Iocaste under that description. In first-person description of the event Oedipus would not have used the descriptor “my mother.”

    These distinctions are useful to keep in mind when discussing infants’ ability to remember particular events: Whenever a memory trace of a unique event can be demonstrated then one can conclude (in first-person parlance) as a particular event—that is, that the infant makes cognitive distinctions that represent that event as a particular event.

    1. Having vs. Representing a Mental State

    The third important distinction is that between being in a mental state (or having an attitude) and representing that mental state.

    For understanding or knowing that a person is in a mental state, or to reflect on one’s own mental states, one has to be able to represent that state. In order to be able to represent a state, one needs a concept of that state—that is, a rich enough theory of mind.

    The study of how children acquire the requisite theory of mind is therefore essential for our understanding of how children come to understand memory. Furthermore, since some memorial states are reflective or self-referential, children need a theory of mind for being in such states or having such memories.

    Why We Need a Theory of Mind for Memory

    We probably do not need a theory of mind for implicit (nondeclarative Opens in new window) memory, but for explicit (declarative Opens in new window) memory we do, since “explicit memory is revealed when performance on a task requires conscious recollection of previous experiences.” (Schacter, 1987).

    To be conscious of a fact one requires to be also aware of the state with which one beholds that fact. The higher-order-thought theories of consciousness make this their core claim (Armstrong, 1980; Rosenthal, 1986).

    For instance, if one sees a state of affairs X (e.g., that the chocolate is in the cupboard), then this seeing is a first-order mental state (attitude).

    To be conscious of this state of affairs means, according to theory, that one entertains a second-order thought about the seeing—that is, the second-order thought represents the first-order seeing.

    A weaker version does not require that one has to entertain the second-order thought, but only that one has to have the potential for having the second-order thought (Carruthers, 1996). That some such condition must be true can be seen from the following consideration:

    “Could it ever be that I can genuinely claim that I am consciously aware of the chocolate being in the cupboard, but claim ignorance of the first-order mental state by which I behold this state of affairs—that is, by claiming that I have no clue as to whether I see, or just think of, or want the chocolate being in the cupboard?”

    The important point of these conceptual analyses is that to be conscious of some fact requires some minimal concept of knowledge or of some perceptual state like seeing.

    Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence when children understand a minimal state of this sort. There is some evidence of understanding (mother’s) emotional reactions and seeing (direction of gaze) in the first year of life (see Perner, 1991, chap. 6; Baldwin & Moses, 1996; Gopnik & Meltzoff, 1997, for summaries and discussion of problems of interpretation).

    There is also some recent evidence that between 8 and 12 months children might be inferring people’s intentions to grasp an object from where that person looks (Spelke, Philips, & Woodward, 1995) and even between 5 to 9 months from how a person touches an object (seemingly intentional or accidentally).

    And by 18 months (where children’s understanding of mental phenomena seems to flourish in general) children imitate people’s intended actions even when they observe a failed attempt (Meltzoff, 1955a) and they understand differences in preferences (e.g., that someone else can prefer cauliflower over biscuits, Repacholi & Gopnik, 1997).

    Evidence that children distinguish their knowledge from ignorance is available at a relatively late age. Povinelli, Perilloux, and Bierschwale (1993) asked children to look for a sticker under one of three cups.

    Children were first trained to look under the cup at which the experimenter had pointed. After some training even the youngest were able to do this.

    When asked to look without the experimenter pointing, an interesting developmental difference emerged. Children older than 2 years and 4 months acted without hesitation when they knew which the cup the sticker was under, but hesitated noticeably when—in the absence of the experimenter’s poining—they had to guess where it was.

    Interestingly this is also the age at which children start using the phrase “I don’t know” (Shatz, Wellman, & Silber, 1983). In contrast, children younger than that showed no comparable difference in reaction time. This may indicate that young 2-year-olds do not yet reflect on what they do and do not know.

    So, theory of mind research is not yet able to give a guideline for when infants might develop explicit, conscious memories. Memory development may help out on this point.

    Meltzoff (1985, 1995b) demonstrated that 14-month-old infants can reenact a past event (e.g., they imitate the experimenter leaning forward to touch a panel with forehead so that panel lights up) after several months. Recently this has been demonstrated in 11-month-olds with a delay of 3 months.

    Since this is achieved from a brief observational period and does not require prolonged learning, and since patients with amnesia cannot do this (McDonough, Mandler, KcKee, & Squire, 1995), it is tempting to conclude that such enactment demonstrates explicit, conscious memory.

    One should, though, keep in mind that delayed imitation that is based on a single event (third-person view) is not to be equated with a memory (knowledge) of that event as a single, past event (first-person view).

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      Adapted from: The Oxford Handbook of Memory. Authored by ENDEL TULVING (ED.), Fergus I. M. Craik