Why We Love | Helen Fisher

Summary of: Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
By: Helen Fisher


Embark on a captivating journey through the world of romantic love with Helen Fisher’s book, ‘Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love’. Through this summary, discover the universal feelings and symptoms experienced across time and cultures as a result of falling in love. Learn how neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin contribute to the feeling of love, and how lust and attachment also come into play. Understand the biological reasons behind our attraction to certain people, the differences in how men and women experience love, and the ever-evolving nature of romantic love throughout human history.

Universal Love

Love is a universal experience, and its symptoms are shared across cultures and ages, according to the author. These symptoms include the significance we give to our loved ones, our tendency to idealize them, and our perception of their flaws. Although some differences exist in how love is experienced worldwide, the author’s studies demonstrate that culture is the main factor behind these variations. For instance, being more reserved in expressing affection is typical of Japanese culture, while Americans tend to be more open. However, the core of love remains the same, regardless of culture or sexual orientation.

Love and the Brain

Love is not just about feelings, it’s a result of chemical reactions in the brain. The experiences we feel as love are due to three neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These chemicals create addiction, exhilaration, stimulation, and restlessness in people when they are in love. Although the levels of serotonin decrease when in love, it increases the obsessive thoughts about the loved one.

The Science of Love and Desire

This book explains how hormones influence our experiences of love, lust, and attachment. Lust is driven by testosterone, while feelings of attachment are linked to oxytocin and vasopressin – the “cuddle chemicals.” Although these feelings are distinct, they can interact in various ways. For example, romantic love may trigger sexual desire, or vice versa, thanks to the interconnectedness of hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the chemistry of human emotions and sheds light on why certain romantic encounters may turn into something more. So, hold on tight and let’s take a deep dive into the science behind our deepest emotions.

The Science of Attraction

We all have different preferences when it comes to our ideal partner. However, there are certain factors that make someone universally attractive. One of these factors is a person who is different from ourselves. Scientists believe that this is hard-wired into our brains, as novelty can cause increased levels of dopamine to be released. It may also be linked to our immune systems; when two people with dissimilar DNA mate, their child is less at risk of illnesses and disease. Another attraction bias is a preference for persons with symmetric bodies and faces. The more symmetrical the body, the more dopamine is released in the brain. A woman’s waist-to-hip ratio is also an attractive feature. The ideal ratio is 70%, which is the typical measurement of a Playboy centerfold. Overall, our preferences in partners may be the result of biology and evolution.

The Biology of Love: Male vs Female

Men and women experience love differently due to biological differences. Men are attracted to a partner’s appearance, specifically signs of youth and beauty, indicating good reproductive health. Women, on the other hand, prioritize partners who can provide long-term security and support, such as intelligence and financial stability. These differences stem from the evolutionary roles of men and women in reproduction and child-rearing. The activation of different brain regions during love also contributes to these variations in attraction. Understanding the differing biology of love can help us navigate relationships and appreciate the unique perspectives and needs of each gender.

The Science of Love Maps

Love maps define our attractions.

Our love map is a unique chart that our unconscious mind builds over time based on our experiences and preferences. It comprises all the things like eye color, personality type, and sexual preferences that we find most attractive in a partner. Interestingly, even identical twins with similar values and interests have their personal love maps, indicating that our maps are shaped by our individual experiences.

The love map guides us towards falling in love with a person that best fits our preferences, and this becomes clear in any random room full of strangers. Among many potential partners in the room, we naturally feel attracted to only a few who match our love map. The book explores the concept of love maps in-depth, providing a fascinating glimpse into a seemingly unconscious aspect of our love lives.

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