primary research interest is in the area of close
relationships - specifically, romantic relationships. I am
particularly interested in
attraction - desire,
passion, love, and related phenomena. I
typically approach research questions from both a social
psychological and evolutionary perspective.
A list of
my publications is
available from the Publications tab above.
Feelings of sexual desire or lust are
associated with several significant human life events,
including passionate love, relationship initiation and
maintenance, and reproduction (and, therefore, species
survival). Surprisingly, scientists still know
very little about this important aspect of human
sexuality. One primary goal of my research program
thus has been to
examine the phenomenon of sexual desire. My attempts to
understand this life experience have led me in three
different (albeit intertwined) research directions:
Research exploring the “facts” of sexual desire,
including how desire has been defined and
operationalized and its physical, mental, and
interpersonal causes and correlates.
Research exploring common understandings and beliefs
about desire, including how men and women experience and
define sexual desire, the factors they believe cause
sexual desire, and how these beliefs influence their
perceptions of sexual interactions.
Research exploring the individual and interpersonal
correlates and consequences of sexual desire.
am especially interested in the role that
hormones play in sexual attraction, and have explored how
sexual desire is
related to levels of testosterone and other sex
hormones, as well as fluctuations in desire that occur during
menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, and other
hormonally-mediated female life events. My students and
I have also examined sex differences in the experience
of desire (including frequency and level), as well as
how feelings of sexual attraction for one's partner are
related to feelings of passionate love (and a lowered
likelihood of infidelity!).
Many of my research findings are detailed
in my co-authored book Lust: What We Know About Human
Sexual Desire (1999, Sage), as well as in multiple
publications listed (and available for download) under
the Publications tab.
Love - Passionate and
Most love scholars today agree that, at a
minimum, romantic love consists of two basic varieties -
passionate love (an intense, sexual, emotionally
charged, fleeting type of love) and companionate love (a
sturdy, warm, affectionate type of love based on
closeness and intimacy). Both are important and
intimately connected with the quality of our lives.
Much of my work has
focused on passionate love. In early years, I was
most interested in discovering whether sexual desire is
an essential ingredient in the passionate, "in love"
experience. It is.
I have followed two general approaches in
my quest to answer this question: (1)
Examinations of early discourse on passionate love in a
variety of domains, including sexual pathology and
medicine, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, existential
philosophy, and religious theology, as well as
contemporary social psychological statements. (2)
Empirical investigations of the prototype of passionate
love, the perceived association between this type of
love and sexual desire, and the relation between the two
phenomena as they occur in dating and marital relationships.
Chapters summarizing theoretical and empirical work on
passionate love, as well as my own empirical
investigations, are available under the Publications
I am also very interested in companionate
love - one of the most important and most under-rated
and under-studied types of love. As with
passionate love, I have conducted empirical research and
have examined previous discourse on this important
variety of love (detailed in some of my chapters and in
my books Close Relationships [2011, Taylor &
Francis/Routledge] and The Mating Game [2008,
second edition, Sage]).
Although I have a
longstanding interest in attraction (most notably,
sexual attraction and romantic love),
truth is that I am fascinated by almost any event,
outcome, or experience that happens in romantic/sexual
So far, my students, colleagues, and I have
compared outcomes (love, satisfaction, commitment) in
arranged vs. love-based (free-choice) marriages.
We've also examined significant relationship "firsts"
(first kiss, first sex, first love), and we've looked to
see whether couples' levels of passionate and
companionate love decline over time. We've spent
quite a bit of time exploring partner preferences (what
we want in different types of relationship partner) and
the concept of sex appeal (the attributes that makes
someone particularly sexually desirable). We've
also examined young adults' motives for casual sex, and
a host of other significant interpersonal events and
As before, I invite
you to see the Publications tab for reprints of some of
Other - Health
Because I am a
statistician, I am frequently offered the opportunity to
work with other scientists on their research projects.
Sometimes these collaborations are particularly fruitful
and we end up co-authoring a paper or two. In
recent years, I have worked on several projects focusing
on health-related issues, ranging from eating disorders
(prevalence, correlates, treatment of BED, chronic
dieting, etc.) to cancer prevention (cervical and breast
cancer screening rates, etc.). See the
Publications tab for PDFs of this work.