Helen Fisher, Ph.D., speaking on "Lust, Romance and Attachment" at the New York Academy of Sciences.
by Wendy Moonan
With the title Lust, "Romance & Attachment: The Science of Love and Whom We Choose," it was not surprising 300 people recently braved sleet and gale-force winds to attend a talk organized by the New York Academy of Sciences at 7 World Trade Center.
The lecturer was Helen Fisher, PhD, a Manhattan-based biological anthropologist who is sometimes called “the love doctor” because she studies what happens in our brains when we fall in love.
Fisher is also the scientific consultant to the popular Internet dating site, Chemistry.com.
Fisher concentrates on four of the chemicals (technically, neurotransmitters) found in the brain -- dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen – and says there are identifiable personality types associated with each.
“The biological literature has linked constellations of personality traits with four specific biological systems,” she says.
“Moreover, our primary personality type steers us toward specific romantic partners.”
She gave names to the four types, each associated with a predominant chemical.
For example, she found that high levels of dopamine are found in people who are energetic, curious, creative and spontaneous. She calls them Explorers. They are the risk-takers in society.
Serotonin is linked to those who like traditional values and are loyal, trusting, conscientious and skilled at building social networks. She calls them Builders. They are the pillars of society.
Testosterone is evidenced in people who are inventive, decisive, analytical, ambitious and tough-minded. She terms them Directors. Think of Einstein. Only 16% of us are Directors.
Finally, estrogen is dominant in people who are passionate, empathetic, intuitive, nurturing and distinguished by superior verbal skills. They are Negotiators. Think of Gandhi.
Five years ago, Chemistry.com (an offshoot of the Internet dating site Match.com) asked Fisher to create a series of questions based on her research. Your answers tell you what type you are and what other "temperaments” you may enjoy.
“Chemistry.com is a dating site for people interested in long-term, durable relationships,” Fisher says. “By taking the questionnaire, you get to know some basic things about a person before you go out on a date.”
She postulates that Explorers are often happiest with other Explorers, Builders with Builders and Directors with Negotiators, though other combinations can work well.
In five years, millions have filled out the questionnaire and gone on dates with matches from Chemistry.com. (In a recent survey of 10,000, 81% of those queried after one date said they would go on another with the same person).
It turns out, there are real reasons we fall in love with one person rather than another.
“Opposites, chemically speaking, do attract,” Fisher says.
[“Why Him? Why Her?” is riveting, and I found posing the questions in the book is a great parlor game.]