Rubin’s Scales of Liking and Loving

In my intrepid internet wandering, dear galleons, I happened across an article that mentioned a social psychologist by the name of Zick Rubin. His primary field of study was love, an area much maligned, both by other psychologists and the public at large.

Something I find myself ardently admiring him for is his staunch defense of tax-funded (from the National Science Foundation) work in the area of love. Beset by harsh criticism from Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire, who claimed the Harvard love studies “a futile and wasteful attempt to explain the impossible,” Rubin retorted by stating Proxmire was “taking advantage of the fact that it is easy to trivialize and sensationalize such matters as these.”

Love is not some mystical force that defies explanation. Love is an emotion, a strategic release of certain chemicals in the brain at just the right time, a reaction that gives us our feelings of affection, trust, protection, adoration, desire. It is part of the human condition, something that bears as much scientific scrutiny as memory or congestive heart failure. Science, hard and soft alike, strives for knowledge. And we should not place boundaries on the pursuit of said knowledge simply because the area in question has been so thoroughly romanticized by artists and poets.

Anyway, Rubin’s research seemed to focus on two main areas. One was the study of eye contact. Basically, the more a couple in his study reported to love each other, the more eye contact they made. This information seems like common sense at this point, seeing as it comes at us from even the most mundane and ridiculous sources as Cosmo’s constantly recycled list of ways to make your man want you.

The more interesting facet of this research is that science actually doesn’t have a definitive answer as to why eye contact is linked to love- there is much speculation and some predominant theories (my personal favorite being that narcissism fuels love- we are affected most when someone takes enough of an interest to look at us), but no real answer.

However, it was the second part of Rubin’s research that really piqued my interest. First, Rubin differentiated between liking and loving, giving three elements that defined each, a differentiation that has been adopted by many other social psychologists. According to Rubin, liking is conceptualized as feelings of warmth, closeness, and admiration of another. Loving, on the other hand, is made up of caring, attachment, and intimacy.

Upon doing that, Rubin created scales by which to measure liking and loving by contrasting them with one another. Initially, he had a questionnaire of 80 questions designed to assess the attitudes a person holds about others, with the questions sorted in regards to whether they reflected liking or loving. From here, he narrowed it down to 13 questions for each- 13 questions he considered the most reliable measures of these two variables.

Curious as to what these questions are, dear galleons? I know I was. Have no fear- I will share them with you. Note that each question should be answered on a 9-point Likert scale, with 1 being “Not True” and 9 being “Definitely True.” The more points accrued on a scale, the stronger you like or love them.

Liking Scale

1. When I am with [friend], we are almost always in the same mood.
2. I think that [friend] is unusually well adjusted.
3. I would highly recommend [friend] for a responsible job.
4. In my opinion, [friend] is an exceptionally mature person.
5. I have great confidence in [friend]’s good judgment.
6. Most people would react very favorably to [friend] after a brief acquaintance.
7. I think that [friend] and I are quite similar to each other.
8. I would vote for [friend] in a class or group election.
9. I think that [friend] is one of those people who quickly wins respect.
10. I feel that [friend] is an extremely intelligent person.
11. [Friend] is one of the most likeable people I know.
12. [Friend] is the sort of person whom I myself would like to be.
13. It seems to me that it is very easy for [friend] to gain admiration.

Loving Scale

1. If [loved one] were feeling badly, my first duty would be to cheer him/her up.
2. I feel that I can confide in [loved one] about virtually everything.
3. I find it easy to ignore [loved one]’s faults.
4. I would do almost anything for [loved one].
5. I feel very possessive toward [loved one].
6. If I could never be with [loved one], I would feel miserable.
7. If I were lonely, my first thought would be to seek [loved one] out.
8. One of my primary concerns is [loved one]’s welfare.
9. I would forgive [loved one] for practically anything.
10. I feel responsible for [loved one]’s well being.
11. When I am with [loved one], I spend a good deal of time just looking at him/her.
12. I would greatly enjoy being confided in by [loved one].
13. It would be hard for me to get along without [loved one].

Doubtful that these actually differentiate between liking and loving? Test it out- fill them both out, once for a loved one (mate, partner, limerent object, crush, etc.) and once for a good friend. While your friend will score high on the liking scale, they shouldn’t score high on the loving scale.

…Unless you have some hitherto unaddressed feelings for them, I suppose.

Maybe this is the point where you are asking yourself a very important question:

Why do I give a shit?

The answer is that, while I find this all mildly interesting, I’m mostly drawn to the idea of someone measuring love. And this is for a silly, silly reason.

Once upon a time (5 years ago), I had this image in my head of a woman going into a scientist’s lab and having her remaining capacity for love measured. The end result of that was a rather crappy poem, but I’ve always had a fondness for the initial image and the idea that love was something that could be reduced to figures, to a percentage, to something tangible.

Which is why Rubin’s scales held my interest today- not because they are particularly revolutionary, not because they are mind-blowing… just because they made me remember that old idea and smile.


And now, to wrap this up:


It seems that, while men love women, they don’t particularly like them. According to a Harvard study, while the two sexes love each other equally, women like men a hell of a lot more than men like women.

Really, can you blame them?

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