The feeling when you think about or interact with a person that you really like. You have the urge to be close and spend time with that person.

Some readers of this typology may have wondered: “Why is love not included? Surely that is one of the most important positive emotions.”

You can experience different types of love, such as parental love (e.g., when seeing your child coming back from a week-long school trip), being in love (e.g., when spending time with your lover), long-term romantic love (e.g., when you come home from work to your partner who is happily awaiting you), and platonic love (e.g., when talking with a good friend), to name just a few. ‘Passionate’ love typically characterizes the earliest stages of a romantic relationship, and ‘companionate’ love characterizes longer-term affectional bonds. Most scholars believe that love is more than a single emotion1, and that different types of love consist of different positive (e.g., affection, tenderness, lust, and gratitude), as well as negative emotions (e.g., jealousy and insecurity). Affection is the central emotional building block of all types of love. It is the warm feeling you have for someone that makes you want to be close to them and spend time with them.

To experience affection toward another person, we need to find them appealing. We may admire certain qualities they possess (e.g., wit or kindness), we may be attracted to them, and/or we may be compelled by our physiology to feel affection toward them (e.g., affection between parent and child). The reciprocity of this emotion can amplify its intensity: we typically feel more affection toward people who are affectionate to us. Intuitively, we may consider reciprocity necessary for this emotion, but it is possible for people to also feel unanswered affection.

Affection has been linked to the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin which motivates prosocial and reproductive behavior2. Humans are social beings, we need others to survive and thrive: family members for nurture and care, sexual partners for procreation, and friends for emotional support and well-being. Affection is the central emotion that motivates us to establish and foster these relationships. When you feel affection for somebody, you see them in a very positive light (‘love is blind’). You want to form and continue a social relationship with them3. And in romantic love, the lovers’ own well-being is tied to that of the beloved4.

Movie clips


Typical expressions

“Come here, give me a hug.”
“I love you.”

Sources and further reading