Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Why are "Love Languages" so popular, when they're completely inaccurate?

I joined an online dating site a few months ago.1 Besides being asked about my sun, moon, and rising signs (?), I was puzzled by the following question.2

My love language? I'm supposed to choose only one answer? 

Gary Chapman has been a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC for 50 years. In 1992, he published a book based on his experience of advising heterosexual couples on the best ways to have a harmonious marriage. His notion of 5 Love Languages is based on conservative Christian gender roles, although subsequent editions are less blatantly misogynistic. Nonetheless, the popularity of his ideas extends well beyond this initial demographic and has (ironically) invaded very Queer spaces.

Anyone can take the The Love Language® Quiz. I quit after the first question because it forces you to choose between a loving note/text/email for no special reason and a hug. Under any and all circumstances. 

Even my cat has more than one love language. There are three, which vary according to her needs:3

  • petting
  • play
  • food

And as humans, why must we limit ourselves to the five choices above, when the possibilities are endless? Here are some examples.4

New Love Languages
by James Folta and Kasey Borger

Deciding Where to Eat
Let your stressed-out partner know you’re for real by choosing a spot to eat. This is a love language that every single person desires, but almost no one can express. Looks like it’s frozen pizza again.

Talking About Your Commute
There is an extremely high concentration of individuals with this love language in New York and LA. Going on and on about trains, or highways, or traffic, or “I think it took me 25 minutes last time, but this time it took 35 — weird” is the only way this group can show their sweetie they care.

Explaining How You Feel About Facebook
Some people can only express their love by unpromptedly exclaiming that they’re going to delete their Facebook, and for real this time. Studies show this can be hard to discern as a love language because it is insufferable.


...and my personal favorite:

Replying to But Not Liking Tweets
This is a dark and horrific way to express affection, but we must begrudgingly acknowledge it.

Love Languages on a Likert Scale

As any decent social psychologist will tell you, The Love Language® Quiz has poor psychometric properties, meaning that the validity and reliability of the measurement instrument is very low. A remarkable number of studies have investigated the concept of love languages, and there is no empirical support for the idea, as recently reviewed by Impett, Park, and Muise (2023). A major issue is the way that Chapman frames his questions (as forced choices between two options). Instead, rating each item on continuous Likert-type scales reveals no correlation between scores on the quiz and scores on the continuous measure. These findings discount the notion that each person has a primary love language and illustrate that people value all five love languages but perhaps in different contexts, said Impett and colleagues.

So why are Love Languages so popular?
“If I had to pick one reason why I think many couples find Chapman’s book to be helpful,” says [co-author Haeyoung Gideon] Park, “it is not because they learned their own or their partner’s love language but because it gets people to identify any currently unmet needs in their relationship and opens up lines of communication to address those needs.”



1 I'm not saying which one. I'm in a demographic that absolutely no one cares about.

2 Clearly, I do not belong in my own demographic.

3 Sometimes, she enjoys more than one at the same time (e.g., petting while eating).

4 When forced to choose, my preferred love language is Sarcasm and Hyperbole, which does not make me popular with the online dating set.


Impett EA, Park HG, Muise A. (2023). Popular Psychology Through a Scientific Lens: Evaluating Love Languages From a Relationship Science Perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2023 Dec 7:09637214231217663.
- click to enlarge Table - 

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

eXTReMe Tracker