The Psychology of Love

« Return to Course Catalog

This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

What is love? How is it different from companionship (friendship, family) or infatuation (a crush, lust)? Do all animals experience love, or is it unique to humans? What determines who we fall in love with? What keeps relationships together and what breaks them up? Why do people behave so irrationally in love? These are some of the most basic questions about the feeling that we call love we ask ourselves as human beings. As scientists and students, we have begun to answer some of these essential questions.

This course will cover major areas of psychology (e.g., developmental, social, biological, clinical), as well as psychological research methods, through the lens of studying intimate relationships. Specific topics to be covered will include the evolution and biology of love, stages of development of love, interpersonal processes in romantic relationships (e.g., communication, conflict), the role of sexuality in love, gender differences, and relationship endings. In exploring topics, this course will offer a sampling of major domains and topics in current psychological science, while also illuminating one of the most fundamental and mysterious of human experiences.

This course uses in-person didactic lecture, guided classroom discussion, multimedia presentations, and out-of-class assignments to foster learning in the study of human romantic relationships, while also being attentive to the breadth of psychological science and its methods. Students will be evaluated on their learning through participation in in-class discussion both as a larger class and in smaller groups, two comprehensive tests of course material, and one short written paper. In this way, students are asked to engage with course material through a variety of means, allowing for richer learning, and more comprehensive, well-rounded evaluation of their knowledge and abilities.

The primary textbook is Intimate Relationships by Benjamin Karney and Tom Bradbury, two leaders in the field of the psychology of romantic relationships. The primary text is supplemented by research articles, popular press articles, and multimedia (e.g., TED talks) the class will collaboratively, critically dissect. I have also taught this course as the instructor online and have not found any reduced enthusiasm or loss of ability to learn the material when transferring course content strictly online. When teaching this course entirely online, I have developed strategies to keep students engaged and active in an online learning environment (e.g., Skype office hours, online forum discussions, etc.).

Major topics of the course include: 1) Origins and biology of affectional bonding, 2) Attachment, attraction, and falling in love, 3) Developing and maintaining romantic ties through communication and conflict, 4) Gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation in romantic relationships, 5) Social support, stress, and health, and 6) Endings of relationships through dissolution and loss. A primary goal in the course will be to connect basic psychological concepts and domains (e.g., clinical psychology) to the specific content of a lecture (e.g., relationship conflict and communication). In this way, the course will allow students with limited prior exposure in psychology to learn basic tenants and methods of the field through a topic they find engaging and interesting, while students with prior experience in the study of psychology (e.g., an AP course) can further build their skills through in-depth learning of a content area.

As the instructor, I have a unique training background in clinical psychology, research on romantic relationships, and research and direct clinical experience in sexual orientation (particularly same-sex couples), providing me tools to cover topics in this course to addresses the real-world applicability of the content across an inclusive definition of romantic relationships.

This course will provide students exposure to some of the major topics and debates in current psychological science (e.g., nature vs nurture, the importance of diversity in science, replication of study findings, etc.) through in-depth content focus on romantic relationships. Specific objectives include:
1) Be able to articulate the basic structure, functions, and development of romantic love based on current research
2) Be able to ask critical questions about unanswered gaps in the study of relationships and love
3) Be able to identify how existing research applies to minority romantic relationships (e.g., racial/ethnic minority, low-income, same-sex, etc.).

Prerequisites: This course can be taught and adjusted to different levels of prior experience with the study of psychology. The course does require an ability to write and read scientific writing at an advanced level. This course would be best suited to students about to enter freshman year of college or who have taken equivalent level courses (e.g., AP) with success, particularly those with a writing focus. The course also emphasizes learning (e.g., multimedia, textbook, scientific and popular press articles) and evaluation (e.g., live discussion, writing, test taking) across a range of modalities to support students with different strengths.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0965
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

[email protected]

Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page Information Sessions Learn How to Apply
Back to Top