THE SOROKIN MULTIDIMENSIONAL
INVENTORY OF LOVE EXPERIENCE (SMILE)
The Sorokin Multidimensional Inventory of Love Experience (SMILE), developed by Dr. Jeff Levin, is a six-factor, 24-item scale assessing the affirmation of various domains of love according to the writings of the late Harvard sociologist Dr. Pitirim Sorokin. The SMILE contains four items apiece for each of six subscales named, according to Sorokin’s terminology, religious love, ethical love, ontological love, biological love, psychological love, and social love. Sorokin referred to these as “aspects” of love. In conceptual and psychometric terms, these would be better thought of as dimensions or domains. Sorokin defined these constructs as follows:
Religious love refers to experiencing the love of God or the Absolute.
Ethical love refers to identification of love with values such as goodness, truth, and beauty.
Ontological love refers to the instrumentality of love or loving to unify, harmonize, elevate, enrich, and empower.
Biological love refers to love expressed sexually and romantically and through passion.
Psychological love refers to love experienced emotionally through giving or receiving empathy, sympathy, kindness, and benevolence.
Social love refers to love as manifested in meaningful interactions or relationship with others, as driven by sharing, helping, and altruism.
(A seventh domain of love, termed “physical love,” was also included in Sorokin’s original typology, but was excluded from the SMILE after preliminary psychometric analyses.)
Throughout his writing in the 1950s, Sorokin traced the manifestation of these expressions of love throughout history, across cultures and societies, in literature and the creative arts, and in the lives and work of religious teachers, saints, avatars, mystics, social reformers, and common citizens.
Orthogonal to these seven domains of love, Sorokin also described what he termed the five “dimensions” (more like characteristics) of love: intensity, extensity, duration, purity, and adequacy. By his descriptions, these are akin to something like vectors—bidirectional continua along which love expressed in each of the six domains might be further rated or described. One way to distinguish between these two axes would be to think of the six domains of love as nouns and the five characteristics of love as adjectives. Sorokin defined this set of constructs as follows:
The intensity of love ranges between the “zero point” and “infinite love” (with hate , according to Sorokin, constituting its own separate intensity vector).
The extensity of love ranges from love of oneself to love of all humankind and all sentient beings.
The duration of love ranges from the shortest possible instant to lasting throughout the entire life of an individual or collectivity.
The purity of love ranges from “love for love’s sake” (i.e., love motivated by love alone) to “soiled love” (love as but a means to an end), a dichotomy similar in respects to the familiar sociological distinction between expressivity and instrumentality.
The adequacy of love ranges from identity to discrepancy between the subjective goal(s) of love actions and their objective consequence(s).
II. SMILE ITEMS
The SMILE is a validated short-form version of a longer inventory that originally totaled 72 items. This original pool of items was developed by Dr. Levin through a careful reading of Sorokin’s written descriptions of what he meant by love. Through pretesting, these were reduced to 67 items, several of which were reworked. Items were written to coincide, as closely as possible, with the exact words and phrases used in Sorokin’s descriptions of the six domains of love. Specifically, after tracking through Sorokin’s writings on each respective domain (e.g., religious love, psychological love), his words and ideas were then translated into brief statements to be affirmed by respondents (e.g., “God loves me,” “Feeling loved takes away all my fear”). Within each domain, an effort was made to draft at least one item to cover each of Sorokin’s five characteristics of love (i.e., intensity, extensity, duration, purity, and adequacy).
For the six domains, each item consists of a brief statement, in the form of a self -rating, coded on a five-point Likert index (1 = “strongly disagree,” 2 = “disagree,” 3 = “undecided or no opinion,” 4 = “agree,” 5 = “strongly agree”). Through pretesting, this metric was found to be easily interpretable by respondents and elicited rapid responses and a reasonable distribution of scores. After a psychometric validation study using a strategy of confirmatory factor analysis (in LISREL), the original instrument was reduced to a more usable short form of 24 items. The SMILE contains the following items:
I feel loved by God (or a higher power). (I)
God loves all living beings. (E)
God’s love is eternal. (D)
God’s love never fails. (A)
Love is always beautiful. (I)
Love always makes things better. (A)
Acting out of love is always the best path to follow. (P)
Real love lasts forever. (D)
When I feel loved, I feel complete peace of mind. (I)
Experiencing love helps me feel at one with the universe. (E)
When I’m kind, good things usually happen to me in return. (A)
Love for love’s sake brings the greatest happiness. (P)
The purpose of my life is to maximize my pleasure. (P)
The more people who you have loved romantically the better. (E)
It is important for me to always be in a romantic relationship. (D)
Passionate romance is the greatest love of all. (A)
Feeling loved is my greatest source of happiness. (I)
Feeling loved takes away all my fear. (A)
As long as I can remember, I have always been loved. (D)
Without having others to love, life wouldn’t be worth living. (E)
I have always been a devoted friend. (D)
Even strangers deserve our full respect. (E)
For a friend in need, I would sacrifice almost anything. (I)
The best kind of love is given freely. (P)
Information about the SMILE, including the psychometric details of its development and validation, can be found in articles published by Dr. Levin in the peer-reviewed literature. Articles by Dr. Levin about the study of love or about the SMILE or its uses include:
- Jeff Levin. (2000). “A Prolegomenon to an Epidemiology of Love: Theory, Measurement, and Health Outcomes.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 19:117-136.
Existing research and writing on the topic of love is explored in order to encourage study of the epidemiology of love. Theoretical work in the psychology of love is reviewed, followed by a profile of measurement instruments developed to assess love. Next, existing empirical findings linking love-related constructs to health and healing are summarized. Finally, an outline is provided of pertinent questions in the epidemiology of love. The possibility is raised that love may not be just a host factor, similar to other psychosocial constructs, but also an agent of salutogenesis.
- Jeff Levin. (2001). “God, Love, and Health: Findings from a Clinical Study.” Review of Religious Research 42:277-293.
This study identifies a significant health effect of a loving relationship with God. Based on work by Sorokin, an eight-item scale was developed and validated to assess what he termed “religious love”: the feeling of loving and being loved by God. Using a sample of 205 family practice outpatients, hierarchical OLS regression was used to investigate the effect of this construct on a standard self-rating of health. Several sets of factors were hypothesized to mediate the relationship between religious love and self-rated health: religious involvement, social resources, psychological resources, objective health status, and sociodemographic factors. These effects were controlled for in six successive models. In the end, despite controlling for the effects of 15 variables and scales that accounted for nearly 40% of the variance in self-rated health, the statistically significant association between religious love and self-rated health at baseline (beta = .33, p < .001) remained strong, significant, and only marginally affected (beta = .24, p < .05). These findings provide evidence that loving and being loved by God exerts a positive influence on perceptions of health.
- Jeff Levin. (2002). “Is Depressed Affect a Function of One’s Relationship with God?: Findings from a Study of Primary Care Patients.” International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 32:379-393.
OBJECTIVE: This study examines the association between a self-reported loving relationship with God and the presence of depressed affect. Building on prior clinical and epidemiologic research on religious factors in mental health, it seeks to extend consideration to internal religious resources.
METHOD: Data are from 205 primary care outpatients who completed a self-administered survey inquiring about their relationship with God, their mental and physical health, and various religious and psychosocial issues. The principal dependent construct is the depressed affect subscale of the General Well-Being Scale. The principal independent construct is a validated eight-item self-report measure of loving and being loved by God based on a theoretical taxonomy developed by Sorokin.
RESULTS: Hierarchical ordinary least squares regression was used to investigate the association between this construct, which Sorokin termed “religious love,” and the measure of depressed affect. After controlling for sets of hypothesized mediating factors (including multi-item measures of religious involvement, social resources, psychological resources, and physical health status) in five successive models, including several key sociodemographic variables, the statistically significant inverse association between these two constructs in the baseline model (beta = -.29, p < .01) remained strong and statistically significant (beta = -.21, p < .05).
CONCLUSIONS: These findings raise the possibility that a loving relationship with God may exert a protective effect on psychological distress. One’s relationship with God thus may represent an important personal resource for mitigating the emotional consequences of poor health and other deleterious life circumstances, as well as a marker for successful religious coping.
- Jeff Levin and Berton H. Kaplan. (2010). “The Sorokin Multidimensional Inventory of Love Experience (SMILE): Development, Validation, and Religious Determinants.” Review of Religious Research 51:380-401.
This paper describes the development and validation of the Sorokin Multidimensional Inventory of Love Experience (SMILE), a 24-item scale based on the writing of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. The SMILE contains six subscales of four items each, corresponding to what Sorokin termed the religious, ethical, ontological, biological, psychological, and social domains of love. Through confirmatory factor analysis, all factor loadings were found to be strong and statistically significant. A model specifying intercorrelations among all subscales exhibited good overall fit, although biological love was only weakly related to the other factors. Finally, through hierarchical OLS regression, religious measures were found to be significant determinants of scores on five of six subscales. This confirms Sorokin’s hypothesis that affirming the experience of love is in part a function of religiousness. The SMILE promises to broaden the scope of social research on love and to promote investigation of this neglected psychosocial construct.