Helen Fisher (anthropologist)

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Helen E. Fisher (born 1945) is an anthropology professor and human behavior researcher at Rutgers University and has studied romantic interpersonal attraction for over 30 years.[1][2][3] Prior to becoming a research professor at Rutgers University, she was a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Dr. Fisher is a leading expert on the biology of love and attraction.[4] She's currently the most referenced scholar in the love research community. She was hired by match.com in 2005 to help build chemistry.com which leveraged her research and experience to create both hormonal-based and personality-based matching system. She was one of the main speakers at the 2006 and 2008 TED (conference).[5] On January 30, 2009, she was featured in an ABC News 20/20[6] special, Why Him? Why Her? The Science of Seduction, where she discussed her most recent research on brain chemistry and romantic love.


[edit] Research

[edit] 2004

In her book, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, proposed that humanity has evolved three core brain systems for mating and reproduction:

  1. lust - the sex drive or libido.
  2. attraction - early stage intense romantic love.
  3. attachment - deep feelings of union with a long term partner.

Love can start off with any of these three feelings, Fisher maintains. Some people have sex with someone new and then fall in love. Some fall in love first, then have sex. Some feel a deep feeling of attachment to another, which then turns into romance and the sex drive. But the sex drive evolved to initiate mating with a range of partners; romantic love evolved to focus one's mating energy on one partner at a time; and attachment evolved to enable us to form a pairbond and rear our young together as a team.

Fisher discusses many of the feelings of intense romantic love, saying it begins as the beloved takes on "special meaning." Then you focus intensely on him or her. People can list what they don't like about a sweetheart, but they sweep these things aside and focus on what they adore. Intense energy, elation, mood swings, emotional dependence, separation anxiety, possessiveness, physical reactions including a pounding heart and shortness of breath, and craving, Fisher reports, are all central to this feeling. But most important is obsessive thinking. As Fisher says "Someone is camping in your head."

Fisher and her colleagues have put 49 men and women into a brain scanner to study the brain circuitry of romantic love: 17 who had just fallen madly in love, 15 who had just been dumped, and 17 who reported that they were still in love after an average of 21 years of marriage. One of her central ideas is that romantic love is a drive that is stronger than the sex drive. As she has said, "After all, if you casually ask someone to go to bed with you and they refuse, you don't slip into a depression, commit suicide or homicide--but around the world people suffer terribly from romantic rejection."

Fisher also maintains that taking certain antidepressants can potentially dampen feelings or romantic love and attachment (as well as the sex drive).

[edit] 2004

Both men and women use physical attractiveness as a measure of how 'good' another person is. Men often tend to value attractiveness more than women.[citation needed] In fMRI brain scans published in 2004 by Rutgers University evolutionary anthropologist Helen Fisher, in the early intense stages of falling in love, there were clear differences in male and female brains[7]. Men, on average, tended to show more activity in two regions in the brain: one was associated with the integration of visual stimuli, and the second was with penile erection. Conversely, women in these early stages exhibited increased activity in several regions of the brain associated with memory recall. Fisher speculated the evolutionary source was in the need for females to identify males whose behavior over time suggested they would help the female raise her offspring. However, in terms of behavior, some studies suggest little difference between men and women. Symmetrical men and women begin to have sexual intercourse earlier, have more sexual partners, engage in a wider variety of sexual activities and have more casual sex.

[edit] 2006

In 2006, her MRI research, which showed that the ventral tegmental area and the caudate nucleus become active when people are madly in love, was featured in the (February) National Geographic cover-page article "Love - the Chemical Reaction".

[edit] Four personality types

Fisher distinguishes between four personality types each of which she associates with a body chemical.[8] The corresponding Platonic term - as Fisher identified the types herself - and the resulting corresponding Keirsey temperament (according to the speculation of some readers, not Fisher herself) can be seen in parentheses. However, Fisher's system allows for 12 combinations, not 16 types like Keirsey, meaning that there cannot be a perfect correspondence between them:

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Fry, Rae (1999). Health Report – Biology of Love – National Radio
  2. ^ Fisher, Helen (2006). The Biology and Evolution of Romantic Love - Stony Brook Mind/Brain Lecture Series, 10th Annual Lecture, March 27.
  3. ^ The Science of Love – BBC News, Nov, 18 (2004).
  4. ^ Doctor of Love - flatrock.org
  5. ^ Video of Helen Fisher's talk on gender, sex and love at the TED Conference. Presented February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration 23:39
  6. ^ Link to ABC News 20/20 site to read overview and watch the special
  7. ^ Fisher, Helen (2004). Why We Love – the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-6913-5. 
  8. ^ Caravanos, Adelle. (2006). “Love: What’s Science Got to do with It? – Anthropologist Helen Fisher has a new theory about the chemical roots of romance.” Science & the City – Webzine of the New York Academy of Sciences. Feb. 12.

[edit] Further reading

  • Fisher, Helen (1983). The Sex Contract – the Evolution of Human Behavior. Quill. ISBN 0-688-01599-9. 
  • Fisher, Helen (1993). Anatomy of Love – a Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. Quill. ISBN 0-449-90897-6. 
  • Fisher, Helen (1999). The First Sex – the Natural Talents of Women and How They are Changing the World. Random House. ISBN 0-679-44909-4. 
  • Fisher, Helen (2004). Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-7796-0. 
  • Fisher, Helen (2009). Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type. Henry Holt USA-Canada. ISBN 0-805-08292-1. 
  • Fisher, Helen (2009). Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type. Oneworld Publications UK-Commonwealth. ISBN 978-185168-698-8. 

[edit] External links

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