Helen Fisher on Love, Lust and Attachment

Uploaded by BinghamtonUniversity on 13.07.2009

I am sure that you will join me in looking forward to what our guest Ellen Fischer has
to say tonight. And it is my great pleasure to welcome her to Binghamton University and
to all of you to an evening that promises to be very stimulating. And again, I thank
you for coming.
Good evening, I am delighted to be here, I’m delighted that you’re here. Thank you very
much Justin Garcia and David Sloan-Wilson for inviting me. You’ve got a really intellectually,
energetic campus, I am really impressed with it.
So anyway, I want to tell you about two things tonight. I and my colleagues have put forty-nine
people who are madly in love in to a brain scanner. Seventeen who had just fallen in
love, fifteen who had just been rejected in love and seventeen who report that they are
still in love after an average of twenty-one years of marriage, so that probably why I’m
here. But I also having done that, Match.com the internet dating site, came to me, three
years ago three and a half years ago and asked me to start a new dating site for them. It
is now called Chemistry.com and five million Americans have taken my questionnaire on Chemistry.com
and two million in thirty-nine other countries have taken it. And my question was, “Why
do you fall in love with one person rather than another?” I had spent all these years
trying to figure out what happens in the brain when you fall in love and than my next question
is, “Why would somebody say we have chemistry?” and than somebody else say “We didn’t
have any chemistry,” is there something about our human chemistry that draws us to
some people other than others. So tonight I first want to talk about the brain scanning
and what love is and why it evolved and then go in to the subject that’s at the moment
dearest to my heart, why him, why her.
Around the world people love. They sing for love they, they dance for love, they compose
poems and stories about love, they retell myths and legions about love, they have love
charms, love portions, love magic, they pine for love, they live for love, they kill for
love and they die for love. Anthropologists have now found evidence of romantic love in
a hundred and seventy societies and not in one culture in the world where they’ve actually
looked, have they not found it. So far, no negative evidence.
But in fact, so many people described love differently, that I have come to believe that
we have divided love into really three distinguish different brain systems. The sex drive associated
with testosterone in both men and women, W.H. Arden called an intolerable neural itch, Pablo
Naruto called it an eternal thirst or an infinite ache, you can feel it not even for a particular
person, you can feel the sex drive when you are driving along in your car, when you read
a book, when you watch a movie, when you think of something while you are sitting in the
chair, it doesn’t necessarily focus on one particular human being.
The second of the three brain systems is romantic love that focus, the craving, the possessiveness,
I’ll talk more about it in a minute. People call it passionate love, obsessive love, being
in love, infatuation; I think they’re all combinations of the same thing. George Bernard
Shaw summed up love I think very well he said, “Love consists of overestimating the differences
between one woman and another.” And indeed, that’s what we do and I and my colleagues
have now begun to figuring out some of the brain systems that are involved, certainly
dopamine is and I think norepinephrine gives you the pounding heart, the sweaty palms,
the stammering, and low levels of serotonin, which is what I think gives you the obsessive
thinking. Of all the characteristics of romantic love, I think the most; the core of it is
that you can’t stop thinking about this person.