Passionate Love

Passionate Love Passionate love is an intense, sometimes fast to develop, emotional, heart-thumping state of absorption in another person. From thrilling highs to agonizing lows, it is the bittersweet stuff of romance paperbacks, popular music, poems, and soap operas. What is passionate love, and where does it come from? According to Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Walster Hatfield (1974), the key to understanding passionate love is to recognize that it is an emotion that can be analyzed like any other emotion. Drawing on Schachter’s (1964) two-factor theory of emotion described in Chapter 3, they theorized that passionate love is fueled by two ingredients: (1) a heightened state of physiological arousal and (2) the belief that this arousal was triggered by the beloved person.

Sometimes, the arousal–love connection is obvious, as when a person feels a surge of sexual desire at the sight of a romantic partner. At other times, how- ever, the symptoms of arousal—such as a pounding heart, sweaty palms, and weak knees—can be hard to interpret. When you’re in the company of an attrac- tive person, these symptoms may be attributed or “misattributed” to passionate love. Dolf Zillmann (1984) calls the process excitation transfer. According to Zillmann, arousal triggered by one stimulus can be transferred or added to the arousal from a second stimulus. The combined arousal is then perceived as hav- ing been caused only by the second stimulus.

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