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Interview with Dr. Daniel Jones

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Journalist: Timur Begaliyev

Timur Begaliyev: Welcome to SciSection! My name is Timur Begaliyev, and I am the journalist for the SciSection radio show broadcasted on CFMU 93.3 FM radio station. We are here today with Dr. Daniel Jones! He received his PhD in personality and social psychology in 2011 and is now an associate professor and researcher at the University of Nevada’s School of Business. Dr. Jones researches dark personalities and emophilia.

Timur Begaliyev: Thank you for coming on here, Dr. Jones.

Dr. Daniel Jones: Thank you for having me.

Timur Begaliyev: So what is emophilia?

Dr. Daniel Jones: Emophilia is an individual difference trait that predicts how fast, easily, and often somebody falls in love. Love is a very difficult thing to define. It has been subject of scrutiny of poets and scholars and philosophers for thousands of years. However you want to define that, high emophilia individuals describes those who have a hair trigger for falling in love. They fall in love much faster and quicker than other types of individuals.

Timur Begaliyev: And why do you think emophilics seek out love, or love more, than the general population?

Dr. Daniel Jones: According to most of the research we've done, we found that they have high approach motivation to engage in relationships, and they have a rush of pleasure that comes along with falling in love. For an individual who let's say goes out one night, meets somebody, there's a clock that starts from the time they meet the person until that relationship develops and they decide, “Oh, alright, I'm in love. I think I'm in love.” And for some people, in extreme cases that can range from overnight to 10 years or more.

So the reason why individuals who are emophilics fall in love so quickly and higher than normal rates is they have this rush, this lower threshold.

And the way I kind of describe, I actually have a book coming out on emophilia, at Oxford University Press called ‘The Science of Serial Romance.’ We all know sexual permissiveness is, or sociosexuality, as it's referred to in literature, unrestricted sociosexuality somebody who has sex, or willing to have sex very quickly upon meeting somebody. The original authors of that phenomenon described that there's a bit of a threshold, right? Some people have kind of a lower minimum threshold to meet to say, OK, I'm ready to go to bed with this person versus a much higher threshold. I argue emophilia is the same thing, except with respect to the acknowledgement or the feeling that you are in love, right?

Some people have very, very low threshold and some people have very high threshold. But the important point to emphasize is that it is a want and an approach process. Which differentiates it from related constructs like anxious attachment, which is a need construct.

And so anxious attached individuals say ‘I need you’, ‘I can't live without you’, ‘You are my world,’ and they cling to an individual for self-esteem, for self-worth, things like that.

Emophilia, while it correlates slightly with anxious attachment, is not the same in the sense that emophilia is a want process. “I want you’, ‘I'm excited’, ‘I can't get you off my mind’, and it happens much earlier in a relationship.

Timur Begaliyev: So how would our listeners know if they're emophilics and what percentage of the population are emophilics?

Dr. Daniel Jones: So emophilia is at present assessed using my EP scale, which you can find at Undertake a survey! However, I understand you'll also be providing a link, and if you take that survey we will give you feedback on your emophilia score along with ranges and norms of the population and where most people score.

Emophilia, in psychometric terms (the psychology of assessment) is pretty normally distributed. That means you will find individuals just like extraversion or agreeableness. You have a nice normal curve where 10 to 15% of the population are pretty darn high. Most of the people are somewhere in the middle and a handful are very low. And so, it's important to understand that if you're high in emophilia, it's not a psychological disorder — just like being super high in extraversion is not a psychological disorder. It can become pathological, it can interfere with your life, or lead you to make poor decisions in either direction. But it does not in and of itself constitute a pathology. It's an individual difference trait.

Timur Begaliyev: Dr. Jones and me spoke about adding a link before we recorded this episode. It should be at the very top of the description for all the major podcast platforms. If you are on radio and the link isn't there, it might be worth checking us out on Spotify, Apple Podcast, or Google Podcast.

And the next question is, what are the typical highlights, or like the best and happy moments, and frustrations that emophilics might experience?

Dr. Daniel Jones: That's a really good question. So, the typical highlight is definitely the repeated rush of falling in love.

Individuals high in emophilia are kind of self-deceptive about how long this relationship is going to last. They don't go into the relationships thinking ‘well, I know I'm probably going to be in love with this person for three weeks and it's going to end.

They really, genuinely believe that this is the one. So typically I've heard stories and I've interviewed people who have said like, ‘yeah, we've heard that before from you three times last year, you know.’ That's how an emophilic individual rolls.

You have this process by which they rush into the love and it's a powerful, genuinely exciting experience for them. And so, they have these high highs when they rush into the love. The frustrations and the struggles do come in because emophilia doesn't turn off very often once you do find a great partner. So they'll start to get a wandering eye over time, because the attraction towards interlopers and outside members of the relationship will start to become attractive as well. And so that emophilia, that rush of falling in love, they have to be very guarded about how close they get to people because that emophilic tendency will take over and then they're very prone.

I have a paper right now with two of my excellent grad students. They are studying infidelity among emophilics, and they have a very high propensity for both sexual and emotional infidelity for that reason.

Timur Begaliyev: Have you ever had an experience with someone that you suspected that might have emophilia? What’s the story behind this new concept?

Dr. Daniel Jones: Yeah, that's a good question.

So the story behind the concept was interesting. I was really enamored with research by David Buss, some evolutionary psychologists, and on sexual and emotional infidelity, I think a lot of people got interested in that topic. It's both controversial and interesting, and so I wanted to look at past history.

So, I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith. I'm excited that Clerks 3 is coming out and all this, and so Chasing Amy, his movie was really what got me thinking about infidelity and past sexual history. Spoiler alert for Chasing Amy, some past history struggles that go on in the relationship there. And so I wanted to look at these sexual versus emotional concepts in the past. So, would you avoid a partner that's had sex with, you know, 23 people in the past year? Would you commit to them or versus fell in love with three different people in the past year, right? Or six different people in the past year?

And so I conducted a study like that and I submitted it to Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Great, great journal. And they rejected it. But the feedback was, you know, that your actual study wasn't that interesting. But in the terms I was talking about, sexual permissiveness and emotional permissiveness as talking about the targets.

And they said we're really interested in this emotional permissiveness concept, we hope you develop that more. I went to my mentor at the time, Delroy Paulhus, and he said ‘No, the reviewers are right this study was terrible. But this emotional permissiveness is really interesting, I want you to go develop a scale and pursue it.’ And the rest is, as they say, history. But the term emophilia actually wasn't coined by me. It was coined by my friend Dana Weiser at Texas Tech and Family studies. We were struggling to publish because the initial term was emotional promiscuity.

And understandably, a lot of people struggled with the term promiscuity carrying some negative connotations and baggage. She helped me develop the term emophilia. And have I had experience with somebody who is high in emophilia? Yes I have, me!

So, you know, not research, me-search! You know, I've had times in my life when I've displayed emophilia as well as, in my book, I have at least five to seven really close friends that have displayed emophilia. And it does help elucidate the construct when you're having these conversations with people and you're like “Wow, you do [have emophilia].” And very often they'll acknowledge, you know, I know I've said that before, but this is the real thing now.

So that's been a really interesting thing. And so, you know, I'm happily married now and my wife and I laugh about it!

Timur Begaliyev: Where are you right now with your emophilia research?

Dr. Daniel Jones: So that's another great question.

So right now we're working towards finishing our infidelity paper — should be submitted fairly soon. Because I've entered into a management program and a business program, I've pivoted slightly on the concept of emophilia to develop what we call ‘premature trust’. And so, we've taken the same basic concepts of OK, instead of love like, you know, ‘I think I love you after meeting you for three hours,’ it's ‘I think I trust you.’ So trust is a component of relationships and a component of these things, but we've applied it now to business settings.

We found that individuals who are high in premature trust tend to make poor decisions under certain contexts. So if you're asking a manipulative person to give an excuse, [people with premature trust] are more likely to buy that excuse. So we're applying it to that setting. We also have a ton of questions that we're interested in. Just getting it down to the mechanisms of emophilia.

Because of my appointment in a management school, emophilia has become a side interest of mine. You know, one of the things that we really need to do that we've neglected is drilling down into the mechanisms: physiology, neuropsychology, and things like that.

Anybody out there is listening to this that has access to a neuro-scanner — and knows how to use — let’s talk!

Timur Begaliyev: So I also saw that a lot of your past research is about 3 personality traits, including #1, narcissism, #2, Machiavellianism, #3, psychopathy, which are together referred to as the Dark Triad. How does your research in the dark triad traits interact with your research in emophilia? Are there any interesting findings?

Dr. Daniel Jones: Yeah, so my friend and colleague Jacqueline Lechuga at UT El Paso, and I published a paper showing that individuals high in emphilia are actually drawn to these characters in relationships.

And, you know, it's a very difficult thing because these folks are prone to abusive behavior — they're prone to manipulation, lying, infidelity, and explication. So you don't want to blame the victim or say that it's anybody's fault for getting in these relationships, and we're not.

But what we are saying is that individuals high in emophilia who feel this rush, because they rush in and they tend to ignore red flags, and so they tend to sidestep the warnings that would come with somebody who's a bit manipulative and a bit overconfident or arrogant or aggressive, right?

And so they see the rush and they ignore the red flags along the path. And so they do find themselves ending up in relationships with these types of characters.

So that's one chapter in the book that I wrote was the allure of, you know, bad boys and bad girls for emophilic individuals.

But what's interesting along those lines, is that narcissism in particular is, through work of Delroy Paulhus, Dr. Bach. my friend Aaron Buckles, and other types of individuals we know, that individuals high in narcissism are just so charming in first encounters. Narcissists rule the roost when it comes to activities like speed dating.

They're incredibly charming, and it's virtually impossible to disentangle overconfidence from confidence. Hence, when you meet somebody, and especially in the first couple of encounters, narcissistic individuals in particular can reel in somebody high in emophilia with that charm.

And while some of us who are lower and moderate in emophilia won't fall in love right away, and then maybe the snow will melt enough for us to see ‘Oh, I'm not sure I want to be in a relationship with this person.’

Whereas the emophilic has already convinced themselves, that has already decided they're in love and the wheels are turning. And so when you're in love, obviously you put some blinders on and you don't notice other things.

We believe that's the process of why they're drawn to dark personalities.

Timur Begaliyev: Is there anything that an emophilic can do to prevent themselves from falling into these toxic relationships?

Dr. Daniel Jones: Absolutely.

Listen to your friends. Listen to your loved ones.

Listen to people who care about you when they have concerns, they're not jealous necessarily de facto they are concerned for you.

One of the things that I encourage people to do is keep a journal or diary and track over time. Force yourself to take 30 days, 60 days before committing to any relationship of any kind and, you know, give yourself longer periods of time before you force your hand in the matter before, any kind of major life decision like moving in or having a child or anything like that. Delroy Paulhus demonstrated in 1998, that narcissistic charm wears off after about three months, right?

So if you can force your attention towards those red flags and acknowledge them rather than dismiss them, listen to your loved ones and follow your journal, your guide, your diary. You can push towards this red flag.

And the other thing is boring people initially on dates, maybe I'm guilty of that, get a bad rap. But people as you get close to them get more interesting over time very often.

And so if somebody doesn't have that super exciting, let's go bungee jumping on our first date type of thing and you got another person that's got red flags but is super exciting.

I take it, you know, be patient with the boring person and worry about the red flag person. And if you're going to try to choose between, avoid the red flags altogether and give a boring person a second chance. And yeah, you know, I, my former self, would have been grateful for that.

The other thing I'd say with avoiding toxic people is, you know, believe your eyes. There's a great quote out there that says ‘when somebody shows you their true self, believe them the first time.’

Timur Begaliyev: So a large part of our listeners are university students. What advice do you have for students to love in a healthy way?

Dr. Daniel Jones: I would say be patient with yourself. Make sure that you take your time in making major life decisions. You feel how you feel and that's OK, you know, but take your time in making major life decisions because there may be some people listening right now that are at the cusp of moving in or having a baby or getting married or engaged.

And if there are red flags, maybe you stepped over because of the excitement. Humans are remarkable creatures cognitively in our ability to sidestep, reorganize and cognitively rearrange facts in our brain to suit what we really want out of life. Motivated minds can distort facts very easily. I'd say, if you're thinking about making a major life decision and some of the things I've said today have resonated with you, talk to a counselor, talk to therapist, talk to a trusted friend.

I mean, I personally, see a therapist. I think most people, if not all people, should be seeing a therapist at least once or twice a year for mental health checkups.

Talk to somebody you trust and get an objective view. I'm not negating the feelings you feel. You feel how you feel, and emophilics will always feel these rushes faster than normal — that is nothing that ever is going to change. It’s the decisions, the behaviours, and the choices you make that are going to make or break the major things in your life.

Like with my wife, you know, I mean as an emophilic I am prone to having feelings for individuals so I have to draw that line much faster than somebody who's low in emophilia. I'm constantly aware and mindful of my cognitive processes and, you know, actions and behaviors that could lead to a slippery slope.

And I'm very actively cognitively and cognizant of that potential slippery slope. Do understand that you feel how you feel, and that's great, but do understand that nothing can destroy a life faster than major life decisions with the wrong partner.

Timur Begaliyev: So is there anywhere that students can look to find out more about you and your research? You mentioned that you have a book coming out?

Dr. Daniel Jones: So we have a book coming out, ‘The Science of Serial Romance’ by Oxford University Press. Were in the final revision stages now, so it might be another six months to a year, but individuals can always feel free to e-mail me. My e-mail is available at my website at, and the link will also take you to my website.

You can find me at University Nevada Reno's management page. I'm happy to field any questions or emails that individuals have about this. So yeah, please, any questions, I'm happy to help!

Timur Begaliyev: Thank you!

And for the final question, if you wanted someone to take away three key points from this episode, what would they be?

Dr. Daniel Jones: Well, the first one, and the most important one, is you feel what you feel, but it's your decisions that are going to ultimately impact your life.

The second one would be that this is an individual difference trait. This is not something that is a pathology. Being low and being high yield tradeoffs in and of themselves, right? So somebody who's too low in emophilia may fall in love once — or never. And if that love doesn't work out, then they may be alone. And you know, and being alone is better than being with the wrong person. But that could be a very lonely place if they happen to have a little lower of a threshold for these [romantic] emotions. And being too high, obviously can be a trade off as well.

And then the third thing, I'd say emophilia is a very exciting line of research that is unique from other relationship constructs. I'd really like to see more research out there on emophilia because it's really uncharted waters. A lot of exciting research that's yet to be done on the topic.

Timur Begaliyev: Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Dr. Jones.

That's it for this week of SciSection!

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