The Pattern Of Falling In Love: Helen Fisher's Theory

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  • 0:01 The Pattern of Falling In Love
  • 0:35 Imprinting and Love
  • 1:55 Lust and Attraction
  • 3:20 Attachment and Love
  • 4:08 The Complexity of It All
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Love is a complex thing, but anthropologist Helen Fisher has tried to tackle its complexities by breaking down its aspects into several important concepts this lesson explores.

The Pattern of Falling in Love

Songs, books, poems, and films have been made about this. Even an entire industry - that of romantic novels - has succeeded in making lots of money on one thing: love. If it wasn't for love and romantic novel covers, no one would know who Fabio is and why he can't believe it's not butter. Love is a very difficult thing to define, classify, and explain. Thus, I'll describe to you a theory on the pattern of falling in love put forth by anthropologist Helen Fisher.

Imprinting and Love

One part of Helen Fisher's theory is imprinting, the way past life experience and genetic predispositions trigger a person's romantic reactions. You've probably heard of baby birds hatching and imprinting on their mothers. They then focus their attention on their mothers like crazy and follow her everywhere she goes! That imprinting is genetically encoded.

We as humans may also have a genetic predisposition to imprint on a particular kind of person, be it based on their looks, mannerisms, or otherwise. Similarly, our past life experience plays a role. And no, when I say 'past life,' I don't mean the life you led during the Middle Ages before you were reborn. Rather, I mean the past experiences in your life that may have caused you to gravitate towards a certain person, sometimes unbeknownst to you. You know, maybe you have a friend that for some reason only goes out with blondes.

Well, when a man or woman is infatuated with someone for any reason, they focus their attention on that person in a manner like a baby bird to a mother goose. This behavior appears as imprinting to the other person being ogled. In love, this kind of behavior is mediated partly by a chemical, a hormone, called norepinephrine.

Lust and Attraction

Actually, chemistry between two people is truly chemical in nature. This will probably break a few people's hearts, but the idealistic theories of romanticism aside, love is truly all in the real-world chemistry. It's not just norepinephrine, of course; it's much more complex than that.

A person's sex drive or libido, lust, is driven by other biochemicals, such as estrogens and androgens. Lust is about a general desire for sexual gratification with any partner you deem appropriate. Lust is different from attraction, which is passionate or obsessive love, infatuation. Here, a person focuses their energy and attention on a mating partner they prefer in particular.

Varying levels of chemicals such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin seem to play a role in causing feelings of elation, euphoria, wanting an emotional attachment to this person, and constant thinking about the object of their desire. From a biological and reproductive standpoint, the theory goes that such emotions came to be in order to drive a person to focus their limited energetic resources on rooting out unsuitable partners, finding the most genetically superior one, and pursuing them until insemination has occurred.

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