How to Define Love

Love is an ineffable emotion that evokes strong feelings of affection, commitment, and respect. It’s what starry-eyed lovers whisper as they gaze at a sunset, what 8-year-olds shout to their mothers as they race toward the bus that will whisk them away to school, and what teenagers tell each other in the heat of a moment. It’s what parents feel for their children and what friends feel for each other, and it’s often a central part of religious and spiritual beliefs.

Despite its complexity, love is one of the most difficult emotions to consistently define. While some scholars have proposed definitions that distinguish love from other emotions, such as attachment and lust, these are not widely accepted by scientists and philosophers. Instead, psychologists have focused on the biological and psychological mechanisms that underlie love.

For example, researchers have found that people in love show heightened activity in parts of the brain associated with reward and motivation. They also tend to show less activity in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain crucial to judging and reasoning. Moreover, they experience a reduced sense of anxiety and a heightened sense of euphoria.

But the most important factor is how you behave when you’re in love. For instance, you may forgive someone for their shortcomings or act selflessly to make their lives easier. You might also want to give yourself and other people a chance, and avoid being jealous or possessive.