Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection and attachment. The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure to intense interpersonal attraction. The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to intense interpersonal attraction (“I love my girlfriend”). This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.
As an abstract concept, love usually refers to a deep, ineffable feeling of tenderly caring for another person. Even this limited conception of love, however, encompasses a wealth of different feelings, from the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love to the nonsexual emotional closeness of familial and platonic love to the profound oneness or devotion of religious love. Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.
From a scientifically testable frame of reference, love is a type of interpersonal relationship where mutual assumption of good faith results in a state of emergence, i.e. constituents individually perceive the group’s social evolution as both beneficial and greater than what could be achieved by the sum of the relationship’s parts.
Biological sciences such as evolutionary psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience have begun to explore the nature and function of love. Specific chemical substances such as oxytocin are studied in the context of their roles in producing human experiences and behaviors that are associated with love.
From the perspective of evolutionary psychology the experiences and behaviors associated with love can be investigated in terms of how they have been shaped by human evolution. For example, it has been suggested that human language has been selected during evolution as a type of “mating signal” that allows potential mates to judge reproductive fitness. Miller described evolutionary psychology as a starting place for further research: “Cognitive neuroscience could try to localize courtship adaptations in the brain. Most importantly, we need much better observations concerning real-life human courtship, including the measurable aspects of courtship that influence mate choice, the reproductive (or at least sexual) consequences of individual variation in those aspects, and the social-cognitive and emotional mechanisms of falling in love.” Since Darwin’s time there have been similar speculations about the evolution of human interest in music also as a potential signaling system for attracting and judging the fitness of potential mates. It has been suggested that the human capacity to experience love has been evolved as a signal to potential mates that the partner will be a good parent and be likely to help pass genes to future generations.