12/3/07

The Dr. of Love is in the House

Looking for love in all the wrong places? You're not the only one. Finding the love of your life is about as easy as finding the best Cher impersonator at Drag night; there are so many choices but how do you know who's really the best?
Our friends over at Queerty.com sat down with the Dr. of Love herself, Dr. Helen Fisher. Not only is she known for being the leading expert on relationships, she uses her extensive background in evolutionary anthropology to merge physiological and emotional aspects of love. Having received my Bachelor's of Science in Zoology and Animal Behavior, this article really tickled my fancy so I was more than happy to report back on this intriguing article with such a knowledgeable figure.

Perhaps her most famous study, set forth in her 1992 book, Anatomy of Love, broke relationships down into three self-explanatory "stages": lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage develops at its own rate, typically playing out over many months, starting off in a compassionate stage and ending with a deep emotional attachment that leads into a companionate love.

Because of her reputation as a leading "love scientist", she was invited by the very gay-friendly dating site Chemistry.com to develop their match-making questionnaire. Dr. Fisher developed a 56 Question survey that focused on elements of attraction and compatibility unlike Chemistry.com's competitor eHarmony.com (founded by an evangelical Christian) whose match-making Questionnaire centers around mainly common interests, compatibility, family values and morals. I have to wonder how hot the sex is in those relationships. Queerty.com caught up with Dr. Fisher on the ins and outs of love (and everything in between). Here are some of my favorite highlights from her incredibly honest, informative interview:

Queerty: With regard to chemistry.com – you were brought on to help structure the way it's set up, to bring people together. Personality is pretty easy to test, but how do you inject the hormonal part into a website?

Dr. Helen Fisher: I ask questions to find out. Okay, there are these four "types" – explorer, builder, the negotiator and the director, associated respectively with dopamine, serotonin, estrogen and testosterone. You can be high on both estrogen and testosterone. It's not a positive and a negative. They don't fight each other. We have over a hundred different known transmitters and hormones that affect the brain, but the vast majority just keep us blinking, keep us breathing, etc. There are not that many that are associated with personality traits, and these are the four that are associated with personality traits. Before I read anything about personality, I read about the biology and found these four types. But you asked how I inject them on the internet – I ask both kinds of questions. The very first question is "Do you like to do things at the spur of the moment?" It's a question that's all about dopamine. Or, "Do you have more energy than most people?" Dopamine's associated with energy.

QT: There's no difference between the gay test and the straight test?
HF: Oh, god, no. In fact, I would object seriously to that, because I don't think gays are any different than straights, but the one preliminary test I did of who choose who, my gay population chose exactly the same as my straight population. No difference.

QT: What about tops and bottoms – passive and aggressive - in gay relationships? Is there any sort of chemical difference?

HF: Um, the data that I've read is that some gay men have a much greater level of estrogen.

QT: What do you think about this dyadic adjustment thing that eharmony uses to prove their method's effectiveness?

HF: First of all, they've never published an article on any of their data. The only thing that I know was a paper [from] the psychological association (linked above) and they talked about this DAS test and apparently – I can't quite remember – they took their own couples that got married and they took random couples who did not meet on eHarmony. They gave them all the DAS test and their results were that their couples were more different from each other than the randoms. More different!! [eHarmony matches] by similarity. These people fall in love in spite of the system of eHarmony, not because of it. The data showed that the couples that got together on eHarmony were more unalike than normal. I don't want to be dumping on other sites, largely because anywhere you go that you meet people is a good place to go, no question, but there's no academic proof that those points of compatibility are better for a long-term marriage. No proof. There's no proof against it and there's no proof for it. Basically, academics do not know what keeps people together long term. Anybody who tells you they do it either lying or ignorant, because what they find is that we know we tend to go out and marry and are attracted to people who are similar only in a certain amount of ways – socioeconomic background, ethnic background, religious values, same degree of good looks, same degree of intelligence and same degree of education. That's all they know. Period.


Interestingly enough, the founder of eHarmony Dr. Neil Clark Warren defends his right to deny gays on eHarmony by stating that his "research has only been developed to match couples and has been based on traits and personality patterns of successful heterosexual marriages." Ironically, Dr. Fisher's own research of who chose who in a preliminary test showed that the gay population chose exactly the same as the straight population. If you ask me, a Masters of Evolutionary Anthropology has much more credibility than a Masters of Divinity, but really who wants credibility when it comes to matters of the heart. I'll let you be the judge of that.

Read the entire interview at Queerty.com




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1 comments:

thewishfulwriter said...

well, you know...eharmony has a point...i mean, i'm really too busy trying to find a goat to have sex with to be bothered by the principles of a REAL relationship centered around love, kids and responsibility.

goats are SO much easier.

i mean...if you can catch one. damn things are FAST.

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