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Mikulincer, M. Shaver, P.R. (2008). Commentary on “Is There a Drive to Love?”. Neuropsychoanalysis, 10(2):154-165.

(2008). Neuropsychoanalysis, 10(2):154-165

Commentary on “Is There a Drive to Love?” Related Papers

Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver

A Behavioral Systems Perspective on Romantic Love

In this commentary, we consider two pivotal issues in Yoram Yovell's article, examining them through the lens of Bowlby's (1973, 1980, 1969/1982) attachment theory and our own conceptualization of the activation and functioning of what Bowlby (1969/1982) called “behavioral systems” in adulthood (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003, 2007; Shaver & Mikulincer, 2002, 2007). We begin by questioning the need for a “drive” concept in explanations of human motivation and behavior, and by explaining why we rely instead on Bowlby's (1969/1982) alternative conceptualization of human motives in terms of behavioral systems. Second, we deal with the concept of romantic love and Yovell's question (restated in our terms) about the number of behavioral systems involved in this cross-culturally universal and highly engaging emotional experience. We follow Bowlby (1969/1982) in emphasizing three behavioral systems—attachment, caregiving, and sex—and show how individual differences in the activation and dynamics of these systems result in different cognitive, emotional, and behavioral configurations of romantic love.

We leave to others the task of searching for neural correlates of the kinds of love that can be identified and delineated at the level of mind and behavior. In our opinion (and the opinion of a leading contemporary biologist: Mayr, 2007), there is no way to move unidirectionally from the neural level up to the psychological level. It would be especially difficult to do so if one began with a generic construct like “psychic energy,” for which there is not likely to be a neurological analog or correlate. The so-called theory of everything in physics, for which that field is still searching, does not even potentially contain “everything” about genetics or psychology or economics—phenomena that clearly exist at higher conceptual levels. Cross-level integration in science has to proceed largely downward, via reductionism, because phenomena at a higher level of organization cannot generally be predicted, or even imagined, based on phenomena at a lower level.

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