Original Paper

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 444-450

Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers

  • Henk van SteenbergenAffiliated withLeiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden UniversityLeiden University Institute of Psychology, Leiden University Email author 
  • , Sandra J. E. LangeslagAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Maryland
  • , Guido P. H. BandAffiliated withLeiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden UniversityLeiden University Institute of Psychology, Leiden University
  • , Bernhard HommelAffiliated withLeiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden UniversityLeiden University Institute of Psychology, Leiden University

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Abstract

Passionate love is associated with intense changes in emotion and attention which are thought to play an important role in the early stages of romantic relationship formation. Although passionate love usually involves enhanced, near-obsessive attention to the beloved, anecdotal evidence suggest that the lover’s concentration for daily tasks like study and work may actually be impaired, suggesting reduced cognitive control. Affect might also contribute to changes in cognitive control. We examined the link between passionate love and cognitive control in a sample of students who had recently become involved in a romantic relationship. Intensity of passionate love as measured by the Passionate Love Scale was shown to correlate with decreased individual efficiency in cognitive control as measured in Stroop and flanker task performance. There was no evidence that affective changes mediate this effect. This study provides the first empirical evidence that passionate love in the early stages of romantic relationship is characterized by impaired cognitive control.

Keywords

Passionate love Cognitive control Flanker task Stroop task Passionate Love Scale (PLS)