Global study of love: how culture and environmental factors influence
Love is an almost universal phenomenon with a biological background. It is therefore certain that love occurs worldwide. But to what extent do culture and environmental factors influence the extent to which people express and experience love? To find out, a group of 91 researchers conducted a large-scale study of romantic relationships in 45 countries and territories.
Love: Sternberg's Triangular Theory
The researchers (Sorokowski et al., 2023) administered the STLS questionnaire to 9474 people from 45 countries. This is Sternberg's Triangular Love Scale whic is based on Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love. This theory of love states that love consists of three components:
- Intimacy: Refers to feelings of closeness and belonging;
- Passion: Refers to the intensity of romantic attraction;
- Commitment: Refers to the decision to maintain a relationship.
According to Sternberg, these three components can be combined in different ways into different kinds of love: perfect love, characterized by the presence of all three components; companionable love, characterized by intimacy and devotion but without passion; amorous love, characterized by passion but without intimacy and commitment; and empty love, characterized by devotion but lacking intimacy and passion.
Cultural and environmental factors
The researchers correlated the scores on the love questionnaire with three types of cultural and environmental factors:
- Degree of Modernization: The researchers defined this as: “an ongoing process through reforms, education and innovation, which today means a transition to an industrial and urbanized society” and they measured modernization using the Human Development Index, the World Modernization Index, the Gender Inequality Index.
- Collectivism vs. Individualism: Collectivism emphasizes group and group interests over individuals. Previous studies suggest that collectivism may influence mate choice, arranged marriages, and understanding of romantic love. In collectivist countries, love is often seen as a “disruptive element” that can undermine family ties, while in individualistic countries it is seen as a basis for marriage.
- Mean Annual Temperatures: Previous studies have shown that temperature affects social closeness, preferred distance, touch, and emotional expressiveness.
In summary, the results were as follows:
- Modernization: Average love levels (especially intimacy) were higher in countries with higher levels of modernization. However, at the very highest levels of modernization, the average levels of love dropped slightly again.
- Collectivism: A positive correlation was found between the level of collectivism in a country and the level of intimacy and belonging experienced by its citizens. This is interesting since in more individualistic cultures romantic love is often considered important in relationships, while in more collectivistic cultures arranged marriages are more common. However, the correlation is no longer significant when controlling for participants' age. The study also found no correlation between passion level and collectivism. Future studies could examine the relationship between individual levels of collectivism and love experiences.
- Temperature: This study found a positive correlation between the average temperature in a country and love experiences, especially passion. However, when controlling for other factors, participants from countries with higher temperatures reported lower levels of intimacy and commitment. The results of previous studies have led to conflicting conclusions, and future research into the role of climate and temperature on human feelings and behavior should be conducted.