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Love and Emotion: How Love Happens

A look at the types of love in relationships between partners, parents and family members, and how gender can affect the like or love we feel for best friends and partners.

Love and Emotion: How Love Happens

How did Rubin's scale 'measure' the difference between 'liking' and 'loving'?

Of all the ideas and concepts we come across in life, perhaps one of the most difficult to describe in any reliable wording is that of 'love'.


The Ancient Greeks classified love into the types we feel between sexual lovers, friends and divinity, but first we must distinguish between a liking for someone (for example, a work colleague) and its progression into the love we feel for a partner, or family members.

Love vs Liking: Rubin's Scales

The line between like and loving isn't easy to draw. In 1970, Zick Rubin developed two scales to measure people's emotions for each other; the Love Scale and Liking Scale, which aimed to measure people's feelings towards another.

He produced a questionnaire with 70 parts that aimed to measure a person's love or liking, and after 200 undergraduates completed the test, he narrowed the items down to just 13 in order to distinguish between liking and loving.

Rubin concluded that items on the liking scale should primarily be based on a person's attitudes, and their similarities (in views and personality) with another person, including the respect they had for their abilities.

The factors involved in determining 'love' on Rubin's Love Scale include the dependence people have on each other in every day lives, how much they want to help or assist somebody, and the sense of 'belonging' that people felt in relation to each other.

So did the 'scales' Rubin developed work? His questionnaire is based on statistical analysis of undergraduates.

This raises two issues: firstly, what understanding and experience do the young people have of love, and secondly, will the mathematical techniques that Rubin used suffice in explaining love?

Psychologists later pointed out that the factors Rubin suggested do not distinguish properly between the two emotions.

However, some support comes from Sternberg and Grajek whose 1984 study found high correlations between 72% correlations of lovers' scores on the love and liking scales.

This score was slightly lower for best friends, but around the same (81% for paternal relationships) for parents.

How Men and Women Love Differently

Rubin's research lead to interesting splits in how different genders love partners. He found that men tend to love partners in a sexual, passionate way whereas women 'like' (as opposed to feeling passionately) men more than they 'liked' their partners.

Women also seek the intimacy and trust of a marital-type partnership outside of the relationship of lovers.

Sternberg and Grajek's study suggested, however that men tend to feel stronger for their partner than any other person (for example, best friend or family members), in contrast to women who show a tendency to 'liking' their best female friend more than their boyfriend or husband.

Research also provides substantial evidence that different people love to different degrees, and so a more emotional person will tend to feel stronger for all those they love.

However, while someone's love for a family member can be a good indicator of the strength of their feelings towards other relatives, it tends not to be linked to the type or degree of love for a partner.

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