• February 2011

The Love Issue

What’s love got to do with it? “When it comes to business, romance, and life in general, love is the engine that powers just about everything we do,” says our February Entrepeneur of the Month, Dr. Helen Fisher.

A world-renowned anthropologist and expert in the science of human attraction, Fisher wrote the questionnaire behind chemistry.com. Below you’ll find details about why we choose the mates, and business partners, that we do. In our Tips for Entrepreneurs column, she tells us when and why to trust our intuition.

Because February is the month of amore, we feature Rachel Machacek’s The Science of Single, a deliciously devilish account about her search for Mr. Right. Don’t miss Dr. John Maguire’s tips on heart health; the breathtaking wedding photos of Charlie Archambault; the work of personal historian Sherry Andersen, who preserves the legacy of loved ones on video; and our Truly Amazing Woman of the month, Anne Hastings, who runs Haiti’s largest micro-bank. To spark the romance, indulge in Culinaria Cooking School’s Valentine’s dinner menu, and learn to prepare a healthy elixir by our new Healthy Living columnist Jill Leslie.

From all of us at Be Inkandescent Magazine, here’s to an enchanted month! — Hope Katz Gibbs, Be Inkandescent

Illustration (of La Traviata) by Michael Gibbs, for the Virginia Opera.

Why We Love: Insights From Dr. Helen Fisher


Anthropologist and Author
Dr. Helen Fisher

By Hope Katz Gibbs

What is love? Why do we pick the people we choose to love, hire, befriend? Is there really love at first sight? How did love evolve?

To answer these eternal questions, Rutgers University professor and anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher, has traveled from the the desert outback of East Africa, to Tokyo, to Iran, and back to her home in New York City, to determine if one culture perceives love differently than another. She then used fMRI technology to look inside the brains of 50 men and women who said they were madly in love.

Her perspectives on love, sexuality, women, and gender differences have been featured in Time magazine, National Public Radio, NBC, the BBC, and CNN. She has also authored five books: “The Sex Contract,” “Anatomy of Love,” “The First Sex,” “Why We Love,” and her 2010 book, “Why Him? Why Her?” Fisher is currently working on a new title about why we choose one partner over another.

The nature and chemistry of romantic love

In her book, Why We Love, Fisher explains that everywhere in the world, people fall into romantic love. “Like the craving for food and water and the maternal instinct, passion is a fundamental human drive,” she says. “Courting and winning a particular mate is one of our most profound urges.”

Fisher took the question to another level in her next book, Why Him? Why Her?, and analyzed how people can find real love by understanding their personality type. The research for that book became the basis of the Chemistry.com questionnaire that matches people with compatible brain chemistry.

We begin our discussion with Fisher by talking about that eternal question: Why do humans love? Fisher says there are three basic mating drives that inhabit our brains:

Lust: The craving for sexual gratification emerged to motivate our ancestors to seek sexual union with almost any partner.

Romantic Love: The elation and obsession of being in love with a mate, which enabled the ancients to focus their attention on a single individual at a time, and to conserve time and energy.

Attachment: The sense of peace and security one feels toward a long-time mate motivated our ancestors to stay together long enough to rear their young.

Although Fisher admits that the magic of love cannot be underestimated, she is convinced that the species’ need to procreate is the primary motivator behind all of these mating drives.

“If you have four children, and I have no children, your genes are going to live on and mine are going to die off,” she says. “ So we all know deep down inside that our sexual behavior is going to have important consequences.”

The science of mating

But what, exactly, is going on in the brain when we experience those feelings of lust, romantic love, and attachment?

Fisher had initially hypothesized that romantic love was associated with elevated levels of dopamine and / or norepinephrine, two key neurotransmitters. After interviewing and using high-tech tools to test dozens of men and women, her theory was confirmed when the fMRI showed activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a brain region that is part of the reward system.

“Called the reptilian brain, or R-complex, it evolved long before mammals proliferated some 65 million years ago,” says Fisher, noting, “This result was what I was looking for.”

The reason, she explains, is that the nerve cells in this portion of the brain have tentacle-like axons that distribute dopamine to many brain regions, including the caudate nucleus. “This sprinkler system sends dopamine to many brain parts, it produces focused attention, as well as fierce energy, concentrated motivation to attain a reward, and feelings of elation, even mania—the core feelings of romantic love,” she says.

As a result, Fisher was able to observe chemical changes in the brain as her subjects looked at the photos of their loved ones, giving her an insider’s view of some of the chemical underpinnings of love.

Why Him? Why Her?

After these findings were published, Fisher was asked by Match.com to become the scientific advisor to a new sister site, Chemistry.com. Using her fMRI research, she crafted the “Chemistry Profile,” a personality assessment and matching system, which includes dozens of questions ranging from “is your sock drawer ready for public inspection?” to “Are your friends the social crowd, intellectuals, adventurers, or activists?”

Other questions ask the test taker to identify a mate’s ideal body type, fitness regime, favorite Friday night date, and religious preferences. While the questions may seem straightforward, the answers identify which chemicals are most dominant in the brain: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and / or estrogen.

Dopamine-Driven Explorers: People with naturally high levels of dopamine tend to be risk-takers, novelty-seekers, artistic, creative, and curious. Fisher found that 26 percent of the 40,000 men and women she polled fell into this category.

Serotonin-Driven Builders: Those with a lot of serotonin tend to gravitate toward the traditional. They are calm, social, popular, loyal, conscientious, and tend to be organized and enjoy rules. Often, they are pillars of society and good in business. About 29 percent of the population polled fell into this category.

Testosterone-Driven Directors: This group is direct, and skilled at understanding rule-based systems. They tend to be highly analytical, logical, emotionally contained, bold and ambitious. They account for about 16 percent of the population.

Estrogen-Driven Negotiators: Those with high amounts of estrogen have good people skills, an active imagination, are altruistic, idealistic, and nurturing. They tend to see the “big picture,” but are not very detail-oriented. Approximately 25 percent of the people polled fit into this category.

“Although everyone has a combination of chemicals, one or two tend to dominate,” Fisher explains. “Consistently, though, dopamine-driven Explorers go for each other, as do serotonin-driven Builders. And testosterone-driven Directors and estrogen-driven Negotiators are happiest when they mate [each other].”

The reason, Fisher says, goes back to our basic drive to survive and propagate the species. “If you are good at seeing the big picture, as Negotiators are, you need someone who is analytical and detail-oriented to help you survive so you look for a Director. Similarly, if you are a traditionalist who is calm and really likes rules—as the serotonin-driven Builders are—you’ll want to mate with someone who looks at the world in the same logical, rule-based way you do.”

The future of love

Fisher’s research leads her to a few forecasts about the future of love and relationships.

“Since women started returning to the workforce a few decades ago, the balance of power between the sexes has shifted,” she notes, explaining that for centuries in hunting and gathering societies, women were on an equal footing with men, going out to gather the evening meal and being equally responsible for the survival of the family and community.

“But with the invention of farming tools that required physical strength, women were relegated to seemingly secondary chores of keeping house and having children. Arranged marriages dominated, and mating became more of an economic and sometimes political agreement between families.”

Fisher expects this shift in male-female roles to gain strength. As more women graduate from college—not to mention earn almost as many PhDs as often as men—their economic and political power will only continue to grow, and Fisher expects women to return to the place of power they held before the plow was invented.

“Men are now being pressured to please a woman—or she won’t have them back,” Fisher insists. “Going forward, men are definitely going to have to work a little harder to get and keep a mate.”

Fisher also believes that the pursuit of romantic love later in life will increase.

As more baby boomers hit 50—and realize they could live another 40-50 years—many will be looking around for someone new to “light their fire,” she forecasts. “Romantic love is deeply threaded into our human spirit. If we don’t have that in our lives, we feel like we are missing something. And we are.”

Do you think it’s important to trust your instincts? If you are nodding yes, Dr. Fisher explains why you are right — most of the time. Learn more in her Tips for Entrepreneurs.

Chemistry.com Creator Dr. Helen Fisher Tells Us When to Trust Your Gut

You’re faced with a difficult decision, and suddenly you feel the right answer in your gut.

That’s intuition, and it’s not to be ignored, insists anthropologist and human attraction expert Dr. Helen Fisher.

“While intuition may seem to arise from some mysterious inner source, it’s actually a form of unconscious reasoning,” she explains. “It’s rooted in the way our brains collect and store information. As you accumulate knowledge—whether it’s about what books your spouse likes or how to play chess—you begin to recognize patterns.”

Here’s why:

1. Your brain unconsciously organizes these patterns into blocks of information, a process the late social scientist Herbert Simon, PhD, called “chunking.”

2. Over time, your brain chunks and links more and more patterns, then stores these clusters of knowledge in your long-term memory. When you see a tiny detail of a familiar design, you instantly recognize the larger composition—and that’s what we regard as a flash of intuition.

3. This elaborate brain circuitry likely evolved so that our forebears could quickly size up a person or a situation. Our female ancestors, in particular, needed this skill: They had to tune in to their infants to enable them to survive. And this helps explain why women today have an edge when it comes to reading people.

So listen to your gut feelings instead of brushing them aside.

“Your intuition may not always steer you right, but it can be a useful first step in decision-making,” adds Fisher, who offers insight into when to trust your intuition — and when to let your head take the lead.

Use your intuition when:

• You are doing something you’re experienced in. “Intuition is really learned expertise in disguise,” she explains. “So if you’ve played tennis your whole life, go with your instinct on the court instead of thinking through each stroke.”

• You are considering getting a second opinion. Fisher refers to Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist at UCLA and author of “Second Sight,” who says: “Listening to your body’s signals can help prevent bigger health problems. If your doctor dismisses a nagging symptom as “nothing serious” but you’re still convinced there’s something wrong—go with your hunch.”

• You are shopping for a home. “Don’t just endlessly analyze the financials; listen to your gut,” Fisher notes. “Studies have found that purchasers are more satisfied with a big-budget item when the decision is made incorporating unconscious thought rather than by conscious deliberation alone.”

Let your head decide when:

• You are sniffing out a lie. Fisher points to David Myers, PhD, author of “Intuition: Its Powers and Perils,” who says: “There are no easily detectable signs that indicate lying, so even if you’re adept at reading people, you can’t infer dishonesty based on the other person’s gestures or behavior.”

• You are hiring someone for a job. If there’s a contest between your positive gut feeling and what work samples and recommendations tell you, forget your gut. Myers adds: “Your intuition may be based on something superficial—like whether the candidate reminds you of a close friend—that has nothing to do with performance.”

About Helen Fisher

Helen Fisher, PhD, is a biological anthropologist, research professor, and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She is also the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site, Chemistry.com, a division of Match.com. She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain, and how your personality type shapes who you are and whom you love.

For more information about the author and her books, visit: www.helenfisher.com.

View Dr. Fisher’s presentation at the World Future Society’s 2007 Conference, where she discussed the topic: Drugs or Love?

The photo (at top) is of Dr. Fisher presenting at the 2008 TED conference in Long Beach, CA.

Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

– Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookies

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

– Thomas Edison

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…”

– John Lennon

Why am I whispering when I have something to say?”

– Eve Ensler

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. 
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”

– Mary Jean Irion

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

– Albert Einstein

We are perfectionists. We are hungry to work all the time. We are entertained by every aspect of business and we never want to stop working.”

– Suzy Welch

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

They who give have all things. They who withhold have nothing.”

– Hindu Proverb

Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”

– Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.

Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

– Albert Einstein

I’m not afraid of storms,
for I’m learning to sail my ship.”

– Louisa May Alcott

Don’t follow, lead. Don’t copy, create. Don’t start, finish. Don’t sit still, move. Don’t fit in, stand out. Don’t sit quietly, speak up. (Not all the time, sure, but more often.)”

– Seth Godin

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”


There is little success where there is little laughter.”

– Andrew Carnegie

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

– Dalai Lama

It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.”

– J. Kristnhamurti, The First and Last Freedom

Inspiration and genius — one and the same.”

– Victor Hugo

Treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business — with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach.”

– Ted Leonsis

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

– Carl Rogers

Part of your destiny is to live in the zone of maximum satisfaction.”

– Martha Beck

The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.”

– August Rush

Entrepreneurs willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”

– Victor Kiam

The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Chuck E. Cheese's

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!”

– Madam C.J. Walker

A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.”

– Albert Schweitzer

Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.”

– The Dalai Lama

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

– William Shakespeare

A lot of people have ideas, but few decide to do something about them now. Not next week. But today.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Atari

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”

– E.B. White

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow.”

– Langston Hughes

The gem cannot be polished without friction; nor man perfected without trials.”

– Chinese proverb

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

– Seneca

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

– Bob Dylan

If people like you they’ll listen to you; if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

– Zig Ziglar

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

– Charles Darwin

No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”

– Martha Beck, from "Leaving the Saints"

You must learn to be still in the midst of activity 
and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”

– Indira Ghandi

Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”

– Arthur Rubinstein

An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.“

– Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

– Bruce Lee

If it isn’t good, let it die. If it doesn’t die, make it good.”

– Ajahn Chah

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which obstacles vanish.”

– John Quincy Adams

The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature.”

– Muhammad Yunus

History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”

– John F. Kennedy

When I was younger I thought success was being a star, driving nice cars, having groupies. But today I think the most important thing is to live your life with integrity.

– Ellen DeGeneres

The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.”

– Tony Robbins

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