In our tech-driven, interconnected world, we’ve developed new ways and rules to court each other, but the fundamental principles of love have stayed the same, says anthropologist Helen Fisher. Our faster connections, she suggests, are actually leading to slower, more intimate relationships. At 12:20, couples therapist and relationship expert Esther Perel steps in to discuss the future with Helen.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher takes on a tricky topic – love – and explains its evolution, its biochemical foundations and its social importance. She closes with a warning about the potential disaster inherent in antidepressant abuse.
Helen’s TED talk on what happens when we fall in love.
Why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped.
Helen Fisher, PhD, biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, discusses how to date during a quarantine, the advantages and disadvantages of “virtual dating,” and more with SWINY co-chair David Levine.
Written by: Sheena Holt Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro Updated: April 15, 2023
Sometimes, it feels like all news is bad news. Murder rates are increasing. The economy is approaching a recession or facing staggering inflation. The housing market is about to collapse, but no one can afford a home. Climate change will bring on the apocalypse in 100, 50, or maybe eight years.
The front-page headlines aren’t necessarily wrong; in some cases, they’ve proven right. But they aren’t the whole story. Terrifying headlines make you want to click on them. They scare you into reading the article from start to finish.
But there is good news out there. It’s just harder to find.
Dr. Helen Fisher, Biological Anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute, wasn’t sure what she would find when she supervised the design and interpretation of Match.com’s Singles in America study.
“Every year, my colleagues and I create about 200 questions for singles,” said Dr. Fisher, the author and creator of The Anatomy of Love, and Chief Scientific Advisor to Match.com. “About 5,000 people answer the questions each time. We do not poll the Match members; we use a nationally representative sample of singles based on the US Census.”
But over the 12 years since the inception of the Singles in America study, Dr. Fisher has seen many changes in the way Americans date. Many of them are for the better…
Fed up with “dehumanizing” relationships with men, some Gen Z women are taking sex off the table.
The idea of a nonreligious “celibacy era” or “celibacy journey” is gaining steam on social media.
Though some women say it’s empowering and “healing,” experts say there may be downsides.
“When women say, ‘I don’t want anything to do with men,’ they’re giving up an opportunity,” agreed the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, who’s studied sex and dating for decades and is the chief science advisor for Match.com. “They’ve got very little to lose, and if they handle it properly, a great deal to win. I mean, they could win life’s greatest prize, which is an amazing partner.”
Almost 20 years ago, Helen Fisher helped revolutionize dating. She has no regrets.
By Kaitlin Tiffany
The Atlantic, December 11, 2022
The anthropologist and famed love expert Helen Fisher seemed ready to dash into oncoming traffic. We were on a sidewalk in Manhattan, opposite the American Museum of Natural History, and nowhere near a safe place to cross the street. She wanted me to stare down the yellow cabs and charge off the curb, though she knew I wouldn’t do it: I’d recently taken the personality questionnaire she wrote 17 years ago for a dating website, which produced the insight that I am a cautious, conventional rule follower. She, however, is an “explorer”—she has visited 111 countries, including North Korea—but also, being high in estrogen, a “negotiator” who will use the crosswalk for my benefit.
“I am horribly empathetic,” she told me. “I cry at parades. I look into baby carriages and worry about their future with love.” (Really high in estrogen.) This is how Fisher, the 77-year-old chief scientific adviser for Match.com and one of the best-known, most-often-quoted experts on romance and “mate choice,” understands life: Personality is a cocktail of hormones; love comes from the buzz of mixing them just right. The human sex drive hasn’t changed for millions of years, she argues, nor has the human capacity for long-term attachment. If, as a cautious, conventional technology journalist, I’m preoccupied with the question of how we live now, Fisher has spent her career exploring the story of how we’ve lived (and loved) always.
Interview with Dr. Helen Fisher
Eds. Paul R Peluso and Taylor J. Irvine
Eds: On the topic of infidelity, what is the question that interests you the most?
Helen Fisher: The single most interesting piece of data that I’ve ever found came out of an academic paper in 1985.1 The scientists reported that 56% of men and 34% of women in their study were unfaithful to their partner, yet they were in long-term happy partnerships. That’s a revealing data point. Apparently, people sleep around—even when they are in really happy relationships. It made me wonder whether humanity has evolved a predisposition to philander for Darwinian evolutionary reasons.
Psychologists have dozens of theories about why people cheat. Boredom; poor communication; relationship dissatisfaction; opportunity; to solve a sex problem or have more sex; to feel more appreciated; for adventure; due to issues in their childhood; or feelings of entitlement (as when one partner makes more money, is better looking, or has a better education or background), or just because they want to get caught and terminate their relationship: there are hundreds of reasons that people say they are unfaithful.
“… adultery is so prevalent everywhere in the world.”
But this doesn’t explain why happily partnered people cheat and why adultery is so prevalent everywhere in the world—from those in hunter-gathering cultures to those who farm, herd, or live in postindustrial societies. Psychologists offer all kinds of cultural and psychological reasons for philandering. They’re all good. But could there be an underlying biological component as well? That’s what interests me.
Helen E. Fisher, Justin R. Garcia
The Oxford Handbook of Human Mating
https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780197536438.013.14 Pages 777–795
Published: 26 January 2023
Charles Darwin identified two basic forms of sexual selection: intrasexual selection, in which members of the same sex of a species evolved biobehavioral mechanisms to compete with one another to win mating opportunities with the opposite sex—male–male competition and female–female competition —and intersexual selection in which members of each sex of a species evolved biobehavioral mechanisms to attract members of the opposite sex for the purpose of mating—mate choice. Miller proposed that two aspects of mate choice have evolved in tandem: (1) traits of the display producer that evolved to attract mating partners and (2) traits of the display chooser that evolved to discriminate between specic courtship displays and prefer those of specic display producers. Fisher has proposed that a third mechanism evolved in tandem with hominin mate choice: the brain system for romantic love. Regardless of whom the display chooser chooses, this corresponding neural mechanism provides the focus, motivation, optimism, and energy to pursue this preferred mating partner. This chapter first reviews current data on this mechanism of mate choice, romantic love. Then, using a sample of 39,913 single adult Americans, the chapter discusses four broad temperament dimensions that play a role in mate choice today; and using a sample of 28,128 single Americans, it discusses three biologically based patterns of mate choice associated with these four neural systems. Last, using a national representative sample of 55,000 single adult Americans, the chapter discusses contemporary patterns of mate choice that most likely evolved during hominin evolution.
What is it that pulls one person toward another, and connects them? What does love and attraction do to our brain, and vice versa? Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher has been studying questions of love and relationships for over 40 years. Through detailed data collection, research questionnaires and even brain scans, she has collected massive amounts of information on the topic, and identified four main styles of thinking that guide a person’s behavior and lovelife. Fisher is the chief scientist for Match.com, and a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. In this 2017 interview from the Aspen Ideas Festival archives, Atlantic writer Olga Khazan talks to Fisher about why love takes so many different forms and trajectories, and looks so different for all of us. They cover attraction, romantic love, slow love, divorce, adultery and what keeps love alive.
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher explains the science behind love, sex and cheating. She is a Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and Chief Science Advisor to the Internet dating site Match.com. She has conducted extensive research and written six books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality style shapes who you are and who you love. She is currently using her knowledge of brain chemistry to discuss the neuroscience of team building, business leadership and innovation.
Paulina Torres, a 20-year-old influencer, used her popular YouTube channel to document 6 months of heartache after a breakup. An expert on love and the brain explains why so many tuned in and why it all hurts so darn much.