Category Archives: love

Love- in All its Glorious Forms

Love for a child, is not the same as love for a friend, which is not the same as love for a partner- we all instinctively realize this fact – yet we also admit that there must be something common in our interactions with these people that enables us to label that experience as love, and that relationship as one characterized by love.

Barabara Fredrickson, in her book Love 2.0, defines love as moment to moment connection, felt by two people, as a result of shared positive emotions and positive reciprocity. Being a moment -to-moment fleeting state, Love is conceived of as an emotion  – something that is temporally restricted and energizes certain action tendencies. Love of course can also be construed as a desire to care for and be cared for  – this definition will place Love as a motive. Alternately some people may act more lovingly and compassionately in their day to day interactions and may have high trait Love.

I believe states feed on traits which feed on motives and they are all correlated so we wont be much bothered about those distinctions, when we speak about Love in the following discussion.

One way to think about the various forms of love is to look at their evolutionary origins- if multiple related evolutionary problems were solved by relying on Love, then we can suspect that there would arise slightly different forms of Love too. Some of the interpersonal evolutionary problems that our ancestors had to solve were problems of affiliation (or knowing whom to trust and whom to help) , problems of mate selection (who to reproduce with for maximum reproductive fitness) and problems of mate retention (as humans form pair bonds to care for their offspring, how to best take care of a long term relationship). The giddy feeling of Love/ connection may have arisen to solve these problems.

Consider the problem of affiliation or building coalitions. In one of the earlier posts we saw that humans have a basic need for affiliation, which is of two types- affiliation related to fear of being rejected and affiliation driven by hope of acceptance and intimacy.  The former seems to be a direct result of the fine-tuning of attachment system-  every infant is born helpless and depends on caregivers to take care of her. If such care and nurturance is provided the infant become securely attached, else she may become insecurely attached. I either case these initial attachment relationships form a template for some later adult relationships.

Attachment system is based on a need for security and results in feelings of trust when the need is fulfilled. In adults too, whenever some threat looms, a person may turn towards an attachment figure which she trusts.

This system has evolved in collaboration with the caregiving system. There would be not much use of an attachment system, wherein an infant cried for help, if there was no inborn mechanism to make the mother or the primary caregiver responsive to such cries. This nurturance system is directed towards those vulnerable and requiring help and compassion.

There is a decent article [pdf] that shows that attachment/trust system and nurturance/love system are separate.

On the other hand when it comes to mate selection and mate retention, many people, including Ellen Berscheid have made a distinction, between passionate love and companionate love. While the former feeds off sexual desire / lust , the latter is more commitment driven and long term. For getting people successfully married and reproducing, both are necessary- passionate love makes them fall in love to marry in the first place and then companionate love kicks in. Please note that though the passionate and companionate love might have evolved in the context of mate selection/ retention and paid bonding, they are most likely coopted for other functions and applicable to other relationships too.

Thus, while we have lust driven passion, we also have liking driven milder friendship and companionship.

Overall, I concur with Ellen Berscheid that we have four love subtypes- she calls them attachment love, passionate love, nurturant love and companionate love. I’ll just like to summarize:

  1. Attachment Love: Driven by need for security, feelings of trust are important. The evolutionary function is to get needed care.
  2. Passionate Love: Driven by sexual desire, feelings of lust take center-stage. The evolutionary function is to find a suitable mate and pass ones genes off by mating. Robert Sternberg may have said this as passion corner of his triangle.
  3. Nurturant Love: Driven by intimacy needs, feelings of compassion are important. The evolutionary function is to take care of newborn vulnerable offspring. Robert Sternberg may have said this as intimacy corner of his triangle.
  4. Companionate Love: Driven by need for long term commitment, feelings of liking or friendship are important here. The evolutionary function is to ensure that one remains part of a long term pair bond. Robert Sternberg may have said this as commitment corner of his triangle.

Of course, all the complexities, and beauties,  of Love cannot be reduced to just four types, but this classification is the best classification that I am aware of and which makes a lot of things more easy to comprehend.

As always do comment, whether this classification makes sense,  and also what actions will you take to deepen connections armored with this knowledge?

universal human mate preference: four dimensions or eight factors?

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In  my last post I had mentioned how Seligman and Peterson have tried to correlate their structure of human virtues/character strengths with work of other researchers like the universal dimensions of human mate preferences discovered by Buss et al.  Today I wish to discuss in detail the universal dimensions of human mate preferences discovered by Buss  et al.

Buss et al looked at data , using an 18 item preference ratings archival database, of about ten thousand people, from various cultures across the globe, and used the analysis strategy outlined by Bond to take care of different sample size from different cultures. they then applied the Principal component analysis to the refined data so obtained to determine the underlying structure of the mate preferences.

Their PCA analysis led to discovery of four dimensions all of which could be quantified as bipolar dimensions with one pole representing a different construct and another representing a sort-of-but-not-really opposed construct. For eg.,the first factor included loadings from ‘‘good financial prospects’’ (-0.65), ‘‘favorable social status or ratings’’ (-0.62), and ‘‘ambition and industriousness’’ (-0.41), each of which loaded negatively. The component also included ‘‘mutual attraction—love’’ (0.49), which loaded positively. They thus labeled this component ‘‘Love vs. Status/Resources.’

Similarly the 3 other components were labeled “Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health”; “Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children”; and “Sociability vs. Similar Religion”.

To my naive mind all of these bipolar dimensions seem to be separate constructs in themselves and I cannot fathom why dependable/stable should be taken as opposed to good looks/health. to me they seem sort of independent constructs. I would rather view the findings as eight separate poles than 4 bipolar dimensions with each dimension conflating two constructs/factors.

The paper immediately drew to my mind this paper, by Haslam et al, that while finding the underlying structure of positive characteristics, found three consistent bipolar dimensions using multi dimensional scaling. However, when the same data was subjected to cluster analysis, 6 factors were or clusters were apparent , each cluster being the pole of a single bipolar dimension. These 6 factors were “self-control,” “love,” “wisdom,” “drive,” “vivacity,” and “collaboration” which to my mind seems to map onto the virtues of self-restraint/temperance strengths, interpersonal or humanity strengths, intellectual or wisdom strengths, courage or emotional strengths , activity or vitality strengths and justice or civic strengths. Of course I think their MDS missed a fourth dimension which would have led to 8 clusters , the 2 remaining being religious and transcendence strengths.

Returning back to our current paper on universal mate preferences, I would like to break up the 4 dimensions into 8 factors and present them in a staged developmental order. It would be worthwhile to note that the two opposed dimensions are usually two adjacent stages following each other and may indeed reflect some conflict in mind of people as to which stage of mate preference to prefer based on their evolved natures . Here goes:

  1. first stage: Physical/biological : good looks/health
  2. second stage: will, restraint and control: dependable/stable.
  3. third stage: dominance/hierarchy, friends and foes: status/ resources.
  4. fourth stage: interpersonal: Love
  5. fifth stage: cognitive: education/ intelligence
  6. sixth stage: intimacy: desire for home/children.
  7. seventh stage: communicative/ generative:  sociability
  8. eights stage: integrity, ingroup/outgroup: similar vs dissimilar religion.

Of course this is not the first time I have tried to put Buss’s findings in a 8 stage model; earlier I had tried to put his views on personality in a  eight fold structure- whereby the last three stages of reproduction/evolution may be now characterized as biological, linguistic and cultural evolution. Anyway getting back to universal mate preferences, I can see that eight fold structure is found in the mate preferences too depending on which stage of preferences you have evolved/developed.

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SHACKELFORD, T., SCHMITT, D., & BUSS, D. (2005). Universal dimensions of human mate preferences Personality and Individual Differences, 39 (2), 447-458 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.01.023
Haslam, N., Bain, P., & Neal, D. (2004). The Implicit Structure of Positive Characteristics Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30 (4), 529-541 DOI: 10.1177/0146167203261893

The Sculptor and the Sandman: A novel as much about psychosis as about the human condition

Last night I somehow got inspired, brushed my manuscript that was written about 6 yrs earlier, and in a span of just 4-5 hrs was able to create a sell able paperback book out of it, all thanks to new publishing tools like the Of course, the manuscript, had been read/ re-read, revised and edited by me, all these years, so I’m sure the quality of the product would be great.

Some of you may be aware that I write prose and poetry and have a poetry focussed blog called The Fools Quest. Perhaps, the right place to promote my novel, The Sculptor and the Sandman, would be that blog, instead of the mouse trap; but then again, that novel is as much a piece of fiction, as it is a psychological treatise- my view of what psychosis is, how it manifests and what some of the triggers may be. The tale is grounded in my undersantding of the psychotic condition and I am sure that my readers with exclusive interest in the psychologcial aspects would still find reading that novel worthwhile. Of course, I know that many of your are multi-dimensional, and value arts, as much as science, and reading the novel would be an artistic pleasure in itself- even when not being bogged down by the psychological aspects and the truth or falsity of my depiction of the psychotic condition – the novel can be enjoyed in its own right . Reading it may also help you connect with me on a different level- exposing aspects of myself that were never apparent while reading the mouse trap.

As always I would love feedback, reviews etc and would sincerely request that you give the novel a try. The paperback edition is priced at $10.80 and a downloadable version is priced at $2.50; I am sure it would prove value for money and you will end up buying further copies for your friends and recommending it to others. It is at present just available at , but soon will be available at all other major stores like

You can read an excerpt from the novel at the site and here is the blurb from the back cover:

The sculptor and the sandman is a fable set in the India of the twenty first century. A tale of passion, obsession, madness and rebellion, the story revolves around how the protagonists move in and out of madness, competing as well as caring for each other, and how their life becomes inextricably twined with that of the narrator, a coconut water vendor.

A tale in which episodes of frank psychosis seem more understandable and reasonable than the unbearable normality of everyday life, the tale is a grim reminder of how misunderstandings and malice work together to weave the different strands of our life together and how silver linings are present in the darkest of clouds hovering over the horizon.

Seen from another perspective, the tale documents different approaches to find meaning and value in this modern world, a world devoid of absolutes. One approach may seem more absurd and futile than the other, but perhaps it is not so much about the ‘right’ value system or frame of meaning, as it is about the need for ‘a’ value system or a frame of meaning- to each his own cross.

Please, Please, Please do read the novel (for that you’l need to buy it!), share it with others( if you indeed like it) , recommend/review it on your blogs and do send me comments, either using this page, the lulu reviews page etc or by directly sending your comments to me at, even if the comments are not positive or encouraging. Any feedback is much better than no feedback. Depending on the feedback, I have the sequel to the sculptor and sandman already in draft stage but I need some reassurance as to whether the efforts are worthwhile and whether  there is a need and appreciation for this type of writing.

Love, actually

There is a fasinating article in The Independent summarizing much of Dr Helen Fisher’s work related to Love and its neural basis as well as many other aspects of Love. As per Dr. fisher Love comprises of three systems: Lust, Romance and Attachment.

Lust is a craving for sexual gratification, which you can feel for a whole range of people.

Those caught up in romantic love focus all their attention on the object of their affection. Not only do they crave them, but they are highly motivated to win them, they obsessively think about them and become extremely sexually possessive.During this state the brain is driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter central to the reward system.

The third brain system is attachment – that sense of calm and security you can feel for a long-term partner. It is associated with the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin, which are probably responsible for the sense of peacefulness and unity felt after having sex. Holding hands also drives up oxytocin levels, as does looking deeply into your loved one’s eyes, massage, and simply sitting next to them.

As I am prone to using analogical thinking to extremes, this seems to me like the 3 memory systems that have recently been discovered- one for novelty detection, the other for familiarity detection and the third for recollection. Lust to me mirrors the novelty drive: craving for new partners or new and unusual sexual experiences with the same partner. Romantic love is all about feeling a special bond with one (or more) person and being in special resonance with them to the exclusion of everything else. It leads to much more lasting recollections that do behaviors triggered by Lust or Attachment. The Attachment love is actually the long-term commitment and trust triggered by being vulnerable to a familiar person and involves the generational of feelings of familiarity/trust etc amongst long-term couples.

While the evolutionary rationale for Lust -having sex with as many new individuals as possible- is clear in that it distally takes care of the need to procreate and spread one’s genes around; and the evolutionary rationale for Attachment is also clear – the long-term pair bonding ensures that the need of children’s would be taken care of and both parents would do the parental investment- the evolutionary rationale for Romantic love is not that clear. If one looks at the costs associated with this, then the mystery appears to be more depended. Dr fishes offers a very plausible explanation- that romantic love is to ensure we are monogamous and our mating choice is restricted in the crucial young ages to one person.

Scientists have discovered that certain parts of the brain become deactivated when we’re in love, including areas linked with negative emotions, planning, critical social assessment, the evaluation of trustworthiness and fear.

Biological studies have found that this phase of reduced cognitive function, during which faults are ignored, can last from one to two and a half years. This temporary state of delusion has a vital human function. If we immediately saw all our partner’s faults, we would be less likely to form a stable relationship in which to produce children.

And it is just as well that it is short-lived: romantic love is has an enormous metabolic cost. “I think romantic love evolved to enable people to focus their mating energy onto just one person at a time, thereby conserving mating time and energy,” says Dr Fisher. “It’s not conducive to real life to live in this state for 20 years because you’re distracted by it, you can’t think of other things, you forget what you are doing, you probably don’t eat properly, you certainly don’t sleep well and you go through highs and lows.”

To me the dopamine connection of romantic love seems very intriguing and hard to swallow!!