Prototype-based assessment of laypeople's views of love


  • This research was supported, in part, by a University of Winnipeg-Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant. I am indebted to Mark Baldwin, Keith Davis, and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

concerning this article should be sent to Beverley Fehr, Department of Psychology, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3B 2E9.


Empirical work on love has focused mainly on romantic/passionate love. Recent research suggests that other kinds of love, such as friendship love and familial love, may be more salient to laypeople (Fehr & Russell, 1991). One purpose of this research was to offer a more complete picture of how laypeople conceptualize love by exploring a broad range of types of love. The other major purpose was to develop a methodology for studying laypeople's conceptions of different kinds of love. Four studies were conducted. In Study 1, dating couples were presented with prototypes of 15 different types of love. They were asked to rate how similar the conception of love depicted in each prototype was to their own view of love. Study 2 was a replication of Study 1 with subjects who were not dating one another. In Study 3, the validity of the prototype measures was explored by asking subjects to determine the kind of love depicted in each prototype. Study 4 investigated the relation between the prototypes of love and existing love scales and therefore addressed issues of convergent and discriminant validity. These prototype-based measures showed considerable promise as valid, reliable instruments for assessing people's views of love. They revealed that laypeople regard friendship love and familial kinds of love as closest to their own view. Passionate kinds of love (e.g., passionate, infatuation, puppy love) received the lowest ratings. The measures also proved useful in elucidating the relation between laypeople's and experts' conceptions of romantic and passionate love.