Biology of Attraction

Jasbina Ahluwalia asks Dr. Helen Fisher: From a biological perspective, why do you think we fall in love with one person rather than another?



Dr. Helen Fisher

Biology of Attraction: Psychological Perspective

We know from a psychological perspective that you tend to fall in love with someone:


Your childhood certainly plays a role.

I wanted to know the second half of the puzzle.


Biology of Attraction: 4 Styles of Thinking

Are we naturally, biologically drawn to some people rather than others?

This was my book, Why Him? Why Her? This was my work with I created a questionnaire that 14 million people have now taken in 40 cultures.

As it turns out, I think that we’ve evolved four very broad styles of thinking and behaving linked with the dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen systems.


Biology of Attraction: Dopamine System

There are people who are very expressive of the dopamine system.

They tend to be

  • novelty seeking
  • risk taking
  • curious
  • creative
  • spontaneous
  • energetic


Those people tend to be drawn to people like themselves.

They want someone who is going to get up off the couch at 7:00 and go to the opera, go swimming in the dark or ride their bikes to a different restaurant in town.


Biology of Attraction: High Serotonin Type

The high serotonin types are people who tend to be

  • traditional
  • conventional
  • follow the rules
  • respect authority, like rules and schedules
  • tend to be more religious and conscientious


They also go for people like themselves.

In those two cases, similarity attracts.

In the other two cases, opposites seem to attract.


Biology of Attraction: Testosterone System

People who are very expressive of the testosterone system tend to go for those who are expressive of the estrogen system and vice versa.

The high testosterone types are what I call directors. It could be women as well as men.

There are lots of women with high testosterone, but many more men.

These people tend to be

  • analytical
  • logical
  • direct
  • decisive
  • tough minded
  • skeptical

They tend to be good at things like engineering, math, computers, mechanics or music.


Biology of Attraction: High Estrogen

They go for the kind of person who is high estrogen. These are mostly women.

These people tend to be

  • imaginative
  • intuitive
  • very good people skills and verbal skills


They are


The high estrogen types go for the high testosterone types.

I go into great detail in my book on all of these. That is a thumbnail sketch of it.


Biology of Attraction: Type Combinations

Of course, there are combinations of all of these types.

For example, I score very high in dopamine and estrogen.

I tend to be the explorer type with verbal and people skills.

Sure enough, I go for men who are similar to me in the dopamine scale.

They are risk taking, novelty seeking, curious, creative and spontaneous.

But they are different from me in terms of the estrogen-testosterone scale.

I go for guys who are more narcissistic.


Biology of Attraction: No Two Alike

I’ve never met two people who are alike. I’m an identical twin and we are not exactly alike.


No two people are alike.

  • But there are patterns to nature.
  • There are patterns to personality.
  • There are patterns to mate choice.

That’s what I’m trying to understand. Once you get to understand these things, you don’t blame people so much.


Biology of Attraction: Naturally That Way

You begin to understand, “He’s just naturally that way. I’ll have to work around that or do it a little differently so that he can hear me.”

It’s been very valuable for me personally, of all of my books, to write this book about these personality styles.


Jasbina Ahluwalia

What I really appreciated about that book is that you identified that. You laid it out.

These are the patterns.


Biology of Attraction: Work With Differences

Then you said, “If you find yourself in a partnership with X, Y or Z, this is how we work with our differences.”

The whole becomes greater than the parts because we are complimentary in ways.

I love that aspect of it. You make the differences an asset.


Dr. Helen Fisher

I wanted to give an example.


Biology of Attraction: Real-Life Example

I went out with a man for many years before he died. He hated the word “relationship.”

He didn’t want to talk about anyone’s feelings.

But I knew what his feelings were. I didn’t need to go there with him.

I am a very standard woman in that I get intimacy out of talking with someone, knowing how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking.

That’s very standard for a high estrogen type, and I am that type.

One day, I said to him, “What is intimacy to you if it’s not talking?” He said, “It’s doing things with you, Helen.”

Doing things with him, from my perspective, was wonderful fun, but it didn’t necessarily generate that intimacy that is intimacy to me. But it is that to him.

I had to restructure my understanding of what he felt, how he felt it and when he felt it.

I didn’t feel that myself but it made me realize that was intimacy to him.


Tell Us:

Have you encounters the biology of attraction in one of your relationships? Do you see similarities between you and your partner? Share with us below in the comments section.


The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Dr. Helen Fisher.

Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show

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