The science of measuring love

Couple Relaxing In Bed Hiding Under Duvet
Couple Relaxing In Bed Hiding Under Duvet
Image: 123rf Cathy Yeulet

It is the little things in life that makes people feel loved – and now there is scientific research to prove it.

People feel most loved by caring gestures‚ such as someone showing compassion‚ researchers revealed on Monday after surveying some 500 adults in the US.

The top four scenarios which made people feel loved were someone showing compassion when they were having a hard time‚ a child snuggling up to them‚ their pets being happy to see them and‚ in fourth place‚ "someone tells them 'I love you'."

The researchers found that feeling loved was a much broader experience than merely romantic relationships‚ and it encompassed experiences with friends‚ pets and family.

Researcher Dr Saeideh Heshmati‚ from Pennsylvania State University's College of Health and Human Development‚ said the results showed: "It is possible for people to feel loved in simple‚ everyday scenarios. It doesn't have to be over-the-top gestures."

The questionnaire started with the statement "Most people feel loved when…" and had 60 items‚ to which respondents would respond true‚ false or don’t know.

Heshmati said: "Whether we feel loved or not plays an important role in how we feel from day to day. We were curious about whether the majority of Americans could agree about what makes people feel loved on a daily basis‚ or if it was a more personal thing.

"Our results show that people do agree‚ and the top scenarios that came back weren't necessarily romantic."

Controlling behaviours‚ like somebody needing to know where they were 24/7‚ were perceived as the least loving in American culture‚ he said.

"If someone wants to know where you are at all times‚ or acts controlling‚ those actions are not loving to us. This could be a cultural difference‚ though.

"There's research showing that in more communal societies‚ these types of controlling behaviours may be seen as affection."

Certain groups were more in touch with‚ or had a better knowledge of‚ what was considered loving behaviour by most people.

"Men tended to know less about what the majority of the American culture deems loving‚" said Heshmati‚ explaining that men tend to think about love differently to women‚ based on prior research.

People in relationships and those with agreeable or neurotic personality types tended to be more in tune with the consensus.

Heshmati said people agreed more on loving actions than words‚ perhaps because there’s more authenticity than "a person just saying something."

In some cases‚ for example‚ "someone giving you positive feedback on the Internet"‚ there was an almost even split on whether this was loving or not.

Heshmati said that individuals still could‚ and did‚ express their own feelings about what made them feel loved‚ although the results (from a range of participants) shed light on what American culture in general thought about love.

"It may not be wise to go into a relationship assuming that both of you know the same things about feeling loved‚ or that all of the same things will make you feel loved.

"I think it's important to communicate these things to each other‚ which can assist in being more in tune with each other and feeling loved in the relationship‚" he said.

The study was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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