A Critique By Safaa Nasser
In her book, Why we love? The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, anthropologist Helen Fisher employs scientific methods to investigate the phenomenon of romantic love. She examines the essence, evolution and gender differences involved in this phenomenon. The book also analyzes the psychological characteristics and stages common to the condition she calls “limerence” or infatuation. Her motive is that “a clearer understanding of this whirlwind may help people find and sustain this glorious passion.”
Why We Love presents the scientific results of studies in which psychologists and anthropologists used methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the human neurophysiology and brain activity of “limerence” or people in love. Data obtained by surveying 166 societies and collected from ancient Sumer, Arabia, and China, contain evidence of love in 88.5 % of them, which proves that the chemical mechanisms for these emotions have evolved more than 4 millions years ago, to sustain pair bonding. Fisher proposes that pairing up and remaining together reflects an ancestral hominid reproductive strategy, to rear children. Such primary human mating behaviours still exist today.
The book skilfully analyses the fundamental aspects of romantic love such as:
Focused selection – aggrandizing the beloved (crystallization) – intrusive or obsessive thinking – intense energy – yearning- changing priorities and adopting interests to please the beloved – empathy and willingness to sacrifice – ‘frustration-attraction’ or the Romeo/Juliet effect; where social and physical barriers kindle and stimulate passion.
The book’s principal findings:
- Love is a cultural universal that cuts across time, geography, and gender
- Romantic love is generated by chemical brain processes, originating in primordial areas of the brain, and evolving long ago to direct our human serial monogamy.
- Environment and heredity impact whom, when, where and how we love.
- Love is a fundamental human drive, and a psychological, instinctive need similar to hunger and thirst, occurring in all species and hardwired into our brains by millions of years of evolution for crucial reasons of survival.
In conclusion, Why We Love is provocative, insightful, and surprisingly enjoyable, despite its scientific content. By offering answers to the age-old questions of the definition, the past, and future of romantic love, I consider it a comprehensive map of the phenomenon of love.
Originally posted 2016-04-09 00:06:20.