Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tiffany Berry

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jeanne Nakamura

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kendall Cotton Bronk

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kelly Campbell

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2020 Monica N Montijo


Basic Psychological Needs, Love, Passion, Peak Experience, Psychological Complexity, Self Determination

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Psychology


Love, passion and peak experiences are connected to flourishing as generally positive, energizing and intense experiences that make life worth living. Although they share theoretical overlaps as potent sources of integration and growth (Mouton & Montijo, 2017), love, passion, and peak experience have rarely been examined together or across cultures. The purpose of this study was to (a) explore how, if at all, subjective accounts of love, passion, and peak experience increase organization of the self through integration and differentiation by satisfying basic psychological needs (Deci & Ryan, 2000) and helping to develop psychological complexity (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde, 1998), and (b) understand how the emic experiences of love, passion, and peak experience are similar and different within individuals and across culture and context. This is an online survey study, which combines Quantitative Content Analysis, statistical analysis, and qualitative thematic analysis to explore love, passion, and peak experience in a cross-cultural, demographically diverse sample. The value of such a study is threefold. First, there is a need in psychology to balance quantitative investigations with qualitative approaches, which put the human back into the science (Hefferon et al., 2017; Rich, 2017). Second, the study tests the findings from in-context qualitative interviews of 150 people across six continents (Mouton & Montijo, 2017), and thirdly, there is a need to move beyond unidimensional constructs towards meta-constructs and theories that attempt to describe complex, contextual, and interrelated aspects of development (Tolan & Deutsch, 2015), integrate disciplinary approaches, and portray a universal human architecture (Dweck, 2017). The broad pattern of results provides preliminary evidence to support the notion that experiences of love, passion, and peak experience satisfy basic psychological needs, enable optimal developmental outcomes, and facilitate the integration and differentiation of the individual to and from their environment through social relationships and experiences of learning and growing. In addition, there was evidence that the satisfaction of autonomy when engaging in love, passion, and as a result of a peak experience was greater than the satisfaction of autonomy in life generally, suggesting an underlying common factor across the three. Thus, from a positive developmental perspective, love, passion, and peak experiences share a potential for enabling enhanced organization of the self throughout adulthood. Results were similar across continents, cultures, and regions providing evidence for the universality of basic psychological need satisfaction in life generally as well as in love, passion, and peak experiences. There were minor differences between the three, which provide theoretical refinement.