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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
December 9, 2016
Canadian Excellence

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Laurier researchers prove love is not always the great motivator

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Feb 8/11| For Immediate Release


Lara Kammrath, Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
630-608-3891 or


Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications & Public Affairs
Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3070 or

WATERLOO – It may be frustrating when your partner won’t help you wash the dishes every night, but it doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t love you. According to Wilfrid Laurier University researchers, how a partner behaves doesn’t necessarily indicate how much he or she loves you.

Laurier Assistant Prof. Lara Kammrath and Laurier PhD graduate and junior professor at the University of Cologne Johanna Peetz conducted three separate studies, detailed in the article “The limits of love: Predicting immediate versus sustained caring behaviors in close relationships.” They found that a positive relationship act was more likely to be done out of love only when the act could be completed immediately. Sustained or delayed relationship acts – like doing the dishes every other night – were more likely to be acts of will.

“There’s this folk notion that love should be strong enough to remind yourself to do things for your partner, but it’s not,” said Kammrath. She suggests that people should try to manage their relationship like they would manage work. “Write down things in your calendar, or do whatever you do to manage your work life – don’t trust love to remind you.”

During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, 2010, Kammrath and Peetz offered a free “candy lab” where participants could make a Valentine’s gift for their partner. Participants completed a questionnaire designed to measure how much they loved their partner and how disciplined they were. Then half the participants were told about a candy lab taking place the next day. The people whose questionnaire responses indicated they were more in love with their partner were more likely to show up for the lab. The other half of the participants were told about a candy lab taking place five days later. Love was not a determining factor in who showed up for the second lab. Rather, factors related to personal strengths such as self-discipline and conscientiousness determined who attended.

The two additional studies in the article examined sending e-cards around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and performing specific tasks and behaviours for partners over different time spans. Participants more in love were more likely to complete the required tasks over a longer period of time only if they were sent reminders of their feelings of love every day.

Although Kammrath noted that holidays and special events like birthdays are strong reminders of love, she says if you don’t receive that box of chocolates or red bouquet this Valentine’s Day, you may not have to worry too much.

“The limits of love” is currently available online and will soon be printed in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. A related article by Kammrath and Peetz, titled “Only because I love you: Why people make and why they break promises in romantic relationships,” is also available online through the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


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