Rubin’s Scales of Liking and Loving

Rubin's Scales of liking and loving
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Researchers have proposed a number of different theories to understand the nature of love, and many have even attempted to devise ways to measure such feelings. It was social psychologist Zick Rubin who was one of the first researchers to develop an instrument designed to empirically measure love.

This article discusses Rubin's scales measuring liking and loving and his theories of the main components of love.

Rubin's Elements of Love

According to Rubin, romantic love is made up of three elements:

  1.  Attachment: The need to be cared for and be with the other person. Physical contact and approval are also important components of attachment.
  2.  Caring: Valuing the other person's happiness and needs as much as your own.
  3.  Intimacy: Sharing private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the other person. 

Loving is marked by these feelings of attachment, caring, and intimacy. Liking, on the other hand, is characterized by feelings of closeness, admiration, warmth, and respect.

Based on this view of romantic love, Rubin developed two questionnaires to measure these variables. Initially, Rubin identified approximately 80 questions designed to assess the attitudes a person holds about others.

The questions were sorted according to whether or not they reflected feelings of liking or loving. These two sets of questions were first administered to 198 undergraduate students and a factor analysis was then conducted. The results allowed Rubin to identify 13 questions for 'liking' and 13 questions for 'loving' that were reliable measures of these two variables.


Rubin suggested that romantic love was composed of attachment, caring, and intimacy. Based on his research, he developed an assessment designed to measure whether a relationship involved liking or loving.

Questions in Rubin's Liking and Loving Scale

The following examples are similar to some of the questions used in Rubin's Liking and Loving Scale:

Items Measuring Liking

  1. I feel that ____________ is a very stable person.
  2. I have confidence in ______________'s opinions.
  3. I think that ______________ is usually well-adjusted.
  4. __________ is one of the most likeable people I know.

Items Measuring Loving

  1. I feel strong feelings of possessiveness towards ____________.
  2. I like it when __________ confides in me.
  3. I would do almost anything for _____________.
  4. I find it easy to ignore __________'s faults.

For each item, people rate their response on a scale from 1 (not true) to 9 (definitely true). If you are interested in taking the original test designed by Rubin, it is available here.

Rubin's Research on His Theory of Love

Rubin's scales of liking and loving provided support for his theory of love. In a study to determine if the scales actually differentiated between liking and loving, Rubin asked a number of participants to fill out his questionnaires based on how they felt both about their partner and a good friend.

The results revealed that good friends scored high on the liking scale, but only significant others rated high on the scale for loving.

In his research, Rubin identified a number of characteristics that distinguished between different degrees of romantic love. For example, he found that participants who rated high on the love scale also spent a great deal more time gazing into each other's eyes as compared to those who rated only as weakly in love.

Love is not a concrete concept and is therefore difficult to measure. However, Rubin's scales of liking and loving offer a way to measure the complex feeling of love. Other researchers also introduced a variety of theories related to the concept of love.

In 1958, psychologist Harry Harlow suggested that "so far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in their mission. The little we know about love does not transcend simple observation, and the little we write about it has been written better by poets and novelists."

A Word From Verywell

Rubin's research marked an important step forward in our understanding of romantic love and paved the way for future research on this fascinating topic. Today, researchers continue to explore the nuances of love and how it affects both physical and mental well-being.

Understanding the differences between liking and loving isn't always easy. According to Rubin, liking involves feelings of respect and warmth, whereas loving entails caring, attachment, and intimacy. It is important to remember that Rubin's concept of loving does not just apply to romantic love. It can apply to love that happens in many interpersonal relationships, including those with friends and family.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is romantic love?

    While there are different conceptualizations and theories about love, including Rubin's theory suggesting that love is made up of attachment, caring, and intimacy. Another prominent theory suggests that romantic love is composed of passion and intimacy. This same theory suggests that when romantic love also includes commitment, it becomes known as consummate love, which represents the ideal type of relationship.

  • When was Rubin’s love scale invented?

    Rubin first introduced his liking and loving scale in a 1970 article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kapusta ND, Jankowski KS, Wolf V, et al. Measuring the capacity to love: Development of the CTL-InventoryFront Psychol. 2018;9:1115. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01115

  2. Rubin Z. Measurement of romantic loveJournal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1970;16(2):265-273. doi:10.1037/h0029841

  3. Harlow HF. The nature of loveAmerican Psychologist. 1958;13(12):673-685. doi:10.1037/h0047884

  4. Sternberg RJ. A triangular theory of lovePsychol Rev. 1986;93(2):119-135. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.93.2.119

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.