The Mating Game by Dr. Pamela Regan
Story Research

‘Love Has Been the Motif of My Life’

Mary Jane Horton

Cal State LA professor and author of The Mating Game Dr. Pamela Christine Regan talks about the “messy conglomeration” of human relationships.

The Mating Game by Dr. Pamela Regan

Dr. Regan's wish for her students and readers of the new edition of her book? "For everyone to have love and be loved, to experience the good in any kind of love." Photos courtesy of Dr. Pamela Regan


Pamela Christine Regan thinks about love a lot. As a professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, she researches, teaches, and writes about attraction and love.

The latest fruit of that thinking is the upcoming publication of the third edition of her book, The Mating Game: A Primer on Love, Sex, and Marriage.

The introductory textbook on "human mating relationships" is a comprehensive review of both theory and empirical research on the fundamental human experiences of attraction and courtship, choosing a mate, marriage, love and sex. Or, as Dr. Regan puts it: "I touch on attractiveness, love, desire, jealousy, satisfaction—all the things we seek, and find, in our relationships."

We sat down with Regan to talk about her research and what she's learned along the way.

Q: What made you interested in studying love and relationships?

Dr. Pamela Christine Regan: As an undergraduate I was a literature major and I loved Romantic 18th- and 19th-century fiction and poetry. I thought about going to grad school for literature, but I come from a family of scientists, so I started thinking that maybe I could study romance scientifically.

I went to graduate school in psychology and I had some great mentors who helped me realize that I can study the interpersonal processes in an analytical manner. It has been the motif of my life. I am so lucky that I figured out what I love and have been able to study it and make a career out of it.

Q: In which academic field is romance studied?

PCR: The study of attraction is under the umbrella of social psychology. But there wasn't really [a field of romance] when I started.

In the mid- to late '90s, there were no textbooks like mine. [The first edition of The Mating Game was published in 2003.] Back then, we hadn't gotten to the place where we studied love and the ephemeral things that go with it.

As psychologists, we were coming out of the behavioral movement and we didn't have common language about love and romance. In the mid '80s, scholars started talking about the science of close relationships. A cognitive revolution happened and scholars also started realizing that people's beliefs enter into their actions.

Around the same time, an international organization devoted to the study of attraction and relationships was born—the International Association of Relationship Research.

Q: How do you study love, romance and attraction scientifically?

PCR: There are still some people who think this study isn't pertinent. Psychology is considered a 'soft' science, but you can study aspects of attraction and romantic love. If I know scientfically what creates a rainbow, though, it doesn't make it any more beautiful.

Human behavior is messy and it is great to be able to study that messy conglomeration. We may not be able to find out definitely why people fall in love, but we can look at attitudes and beliefs about love.

Q: What has changed in the new edition of your book?

PCR: I added some new research. One area is e-courtship and how people find and maintain relationships online. I talk about the push in science to find the biological underpinnings of love. And, unfortunately, I have added more about intimate partner violence as well as stalking.

I have made a concerted effort to be inclusive [about LGBT issues], but most of the research on love is in heterosexual people. Not surprisingly, though, the things that are difficult and the things that are rewarding are the same in any kind of romantic relationship.

I have tried to be culturally inclusive as well and have information on arranged marriages and polygamy.

Q: You're an expert on love and relationships. What would you like someone reading this to know?

PCR: Love is fundamentally significant to the quality of life. And there is no one right way to fall in love or to be in love.

I don't love the idea that you have to have someone to be happy; love comes in a variety of shapes and colors. There is friendship-based love, which is very important; romantic love; sexual love; love for kids; and love for pets.

It is my hope that everyone, regardless of their status, can see the many ways their lives have been touched by love. Every single person has been loved—it may not be the Hollywood kind of love—but everyone has tasted love and they should remember that.

My wish is for everyone to have love and be loved, to experience the good in any kind of love."