Romantic Love (Limerence): A Workshop on Emotion

I’ve begun to offer a pair of workshops on emotion that focus primarily on romantic love, technically known as “limerence”. The first workshop is designed primarily to enhance participants’ understanding of their emotions, whereas the second is focused on “relating to” their emotions. This post is about the first workshop.

Why Understand Limerence (Romantic Love)?

So what does limerence have to do with cognitive productivity? As I argued at length in Cognitive Productivity, to learn effectively we must not merely develop dry, cognitive mechanisms and representations (the substrate of memory, skills, etc.). Otherwise, we will at most develop an “inert” storehouse of knowledge, as Alfred Whitehead put it. We must rather change ourselves affectively: develop inclinations, feelings, desires and tendencies to apply what we’ve learned. To this end, it helps to understand emotions.

Furthemore, emotions generally, and limerence in particular, can directly promote productivity and creativity. (Beethoven’s may have been fueled by his unrequited love. There are countless similar examples. Compare the reference to The Mating Mind below.) Emotions can also, of course, destroy our ability to focus.

Limerence is one of the most fruitful emotions to study. Almost everyone has experienced it at least once, and can remember it vividly. It is rich and multifaceted. It has pleasant and unpleasant features. Sooner or later it intrinsically blends with grief and heartache with respect to the “limerent object” (the woman or man one loves), who may reject our advances, leave us for someone else, have an affair, or die before us. Limerence can lead to irrational behavior and miserable consequences (e.g., affairs and their sequelae).

Limerence also has a very interesting time course. Whereas many emotions are quite brief, limerence will often last for weeks, even months and sometimes years. It clearly illustrates the important dispositional aspects of affective states. (A disposition is a latent state that is not necessarily manifest. Examples: a brittle object might shatter; a limerent person is disposed to assess the behavior of others in certain ways [too complicated to characterize here]. In either case the dispositions may never be realized.)

It’s easy to live in one’s brain, forgetting that we are biological organisms here because of evolutionary mechanisms. Limerence is at the heart of human evolution. Every single one of our ancestors has one thing in common: they found and/or were found by a mate, and either got her pregnant or became pregnant from him. In his stunning book, The Mating Mind, Geoffrey Miller made a strong case that sexual selection may account for the greatest genetic part of our cognitive capabilities. (More on the latter in future blog posts of mine. See also a comment in the latest revision of Cognitive Productivity.)

Key Ideas

Here are some of the key ideas of this workshop. They will not be presented in this exact order.

General Considerations Regarding Affect and Emotion

  • I will introduce the concept of affect, which I will define in information processing terms. Affect is the superordinate , heterarchical category of emotions, moods, attitudes and motivators.
  • I will present Thayer’s two dimensional theory of moods ( energy and activation.) This I will augment with the concept of valence and relate this to the notion of “core affect”.
  • I will briefly warn about the terminological pitfalls of emotion literature.
  • We’ll discuss the mass concept of value (not to be confused with the countable concept of value). We’ll see how different classes of emotion can be divided in terms of the type of value they involve. (Compare Ortony, Clore & Collins, 1988).
  • I will present what I take to be the core features of emotion, and discuss its ancillary features.
  • I will draw particular attention to the concepts of motivator (related to concerns) and perturbance. It’s very difficulty to understand emotions without these concepts.
  • In passing, I will distinguish between feelings and emotions. People often equate the terms, which causes much confusion. (Similarly, Physics is necessary to distinguish the concepts of weight and mass; surprisingly many people don’t understand this distinction either.) Also, many people (including some mental health professionals) wrongly believe that emotion necessarily entails feelings.

Time permitting, we will talk about the architecture of the human human, including the “H-CogAff” architecture. (Part 2 of Cognitive Productivity.)


Limerence is a handy term coined by Dorothy Tennov, which I’ll define in the workshop. “Romantic love” is not a technical concept. The expression is too loaded by culture. Amongst other things, it allows one to refer in a gender neutral fashion to one’s “limerent object” instead of “him or her”.

  • We’ll discuss the core features of “being in love”.
  • We will discuss the phases of romantic love.
  • We’ll talk about the general determinants of emotional intensity and ask how they relate to limerence.

Participants will come to understand the features of limerence in relation to features of most other emotions and of affect.

Other Components of the Workshop

Participants will get to practice using these concepts to analyze their own romantic emotions. No one will be obligated to share. Some of the work will be paper and pencil, or on a computing device.

Participants will be given a handout. If they choose, I will email them a PDF with more information, including an annotated bibliography.

Learning Objectives

Workshops are best designed as “opportunities for future learning”. That is a brilliant concept presented in:

Schwartz, D. L., Bransford, J. D., & Sears, D. (2005). Efficiency and innovation in transfer multidisciplinary perspective. In J. Mestre (Ed.), Transfer of learning: Research and Perspectives (pp. 1–51). Greenwich, CT.

This workshop in particular sets the stage for the participant to develop a deeper understanding of concepts that he or she can use to understand his affective life and the experience of others.

This workshop will prepare the participant for a second workshop on regulating emotions.


While this is not an academic presentation, in keeping with the mission of CogZest (and of CogSci Apps, the workshop draws from a large body of research literature. This includes publications of Michel Aubé, Gerald Clore, Helen Fisher, Nico Frijda, Andrew Ortony, James Russell, Gilbert Ryle, Aaron Sloman, Gilbert Ryle, Dorothy Tennov, and Robert Thayer, , many of which are cited in the bibliography of Cognitive Productivity.

My next book, which will be published in 3 to 6 months, will have several chapters on emotions. Afterwards, an AI emotions researcher and I intend to co-author a book on emotions for knowledge workers. I’ll make a formal announcement about that one next year.

Here are some of my publications that are pertinent to this workshop:

Beaudoin, L. P. (2015, July). Specification for a productive practice app to assess and improve psychological treatments for romantic grief and other tertiary emotions. Poster presented at ISRE 2015. Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved from

Beaudoin, L. P. (2015), Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective. BC: CogZest.

Beaudoin, L. P. (1994). Goal processing in autonomous agents. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Birmingham, Birmingham UK. Retrieved from (

Beaudoin, L. P., & Sloman, A. (1993). A study of motive processing and attention. In A. Sloman, D. Hogg, G. Humphreys, D. Partridge, & A. Ramsay (Eds.), (pp. 229–238). Prospects for Artificial Intelligence (Proceedings of AISB–93, Birmingham, England), Amsterdam, Netherlands: IOS Press.

Wright, I., Sloman, A., & Beaudoin, L. P. (1996). Towards a design-based analysis of emotional episodes. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 3(2), 101–126. doi:10.1353/ppp.1996.0022

Related blog posts of mine on emotion.

Published by

Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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