Subjective determinants of attraction: Self-perceived causes of the rise and decline of liking, love, and being in love


  • Helmutt Lamm, Ulrich Wiesmann, and Karsten Keller are at the Institut für Psychologie, Universität zu Köln.

  • We thank Patricia Noller and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful suggestions.

should be addressed to Helmut Lamm, Institut für Psychologie, Erziehungswissenschaftliche Fakultät, Universität, D-50931 Köln, Germany; E-mail:


Eighty-one female students at a German university were asked to indicate in writing (a) how they would come to like, love, and be in love with someone, and (b) how in their case liking, loving, and being in love with someone would come to an end. The responses were analyzed using a comprehensive list of 117 determinants developed for this study, which were grouped into four causal categories–P (person), O (other), P×O (relational), and E (environmental) conditions. Regarding the rise of attraction, the most frequent determinant for liking and for being in love was the existence of positive attributes of O (69% and 63%); for love, it was the existence of positive feelings from O (29%). Regarding the decline of attraction, the most frequent determinant for liking was negative behavior on O's part (42%); for love, abuse of one's trust by O (25%); and for being in love, disillusionment with regard to O (44%). Further analyses (including ANOVAs) involved the mean frequencies for the four causal categories. Concerning the rise of attraction sentiments, P causes were predominant for love and O causes were predominant for liking and for being in love; P×O causes were particularly infrequent for being in love. Concerning the decline of attraction sentiments, only for liking was one causal category predominant (O causes). E causes were hardly mentioned for both the rise and the decline focus. The findings are discussed in the context of both the more traditional research on “objective” determinants of attraction and, in particular, of recent research on the subjective (common-sense or implicit) understanding of liking, love, and being in love.