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The “Love Lab”

In 1986, Dr. John Gottman joined the University of Washington Department of Psychology and started the Family Research Laboratory. The Laboratory was the site for numerous studies on marriage, gay and lesbian couples, transition to parenthood, domestic violence, parenting and child development.

The Family Research Laboratory received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health throughout its operation. The physiology laboratory, often referred to as the “Love Lab,” was where couples were screened, interviewed, and observed. The Lab used video, heart rate monitors, and measures of pulse amplitude, jitteriness and skin conductivity. This information was coded using the Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF) and techniques of math modeling to assess relationships and predict their trajectories. The Lab amassed a video data bank of hundreds of couples interacting at different time points in their relationship.

The Love Lab is no longer in operation, but the data obtained there remains a vital part of the work of The Gottman Institute.

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