Why We Love, Why We Cheat: Helen Fisher (Transcript)

And, indeed, they’re becoming a very powerful force. Even in places like India and Japan, where women are not moving rapidly into the regular job market, they’re moving into journalism. And I think that the television is like the global campfire. We sit around it and it shapes our minds.

Almost always, when I’m on TV, the producer who calls me, who negotiates what we’re going to say, is a woman. In fact, Solzhenitsyn once said, “To have a great writer is to have another government.”

Today 54% of people who are writers in America are women. It’s one of many, many characteristics that women have that they will bring into the job market. They’ve got incredible people skills, negotiating skills. They’re highly imaginative.

We now know the brain circuitry of imagination, of long-term planning. They tend to be web thinkers. Because the female parts of the brain are better connected, they tend to collect more pieces of data when they think, put them into more complex patterns, see more options and outcomes. They tend to be contextual, holistic thinkers, what I call web thinkers.

Men tend to — and these are averages — tend to get rid of what they regard as extraneous, focus on what they do, and move in a more step-by-step thinking pattern. They’re both perfectly good ways of thinking. We need both of them to get ahead.

In fact, there’s many more male geniuses in the world. And there’s also many more male idiots in the world. When the male brain works well, it works extremely well.

And what I really think that we’re doing is, we’re moving towards a collaborative society, a society in which the talents of both men and women are becoming understood and valued and employed.

But in fact, women moving into the job market is having a huge impact on sex and romance and family life. Foremost, women are starting to express their sexuality. I’m always astonished when people come to me and say, “Why is it that men are so adulterous?”

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“Why do you think more men are adulterous than women?”

“Well, men are more adulterous!”

And I say, “Who do you think these men are sleeping with?”

And — basic math! Anyway.

In the Western world, women start sooner at sex, have more partners, express less remorse for the partners that they do, marry later, have fewer children, leave bad marriages in order to get good ones.

We are seeing the rise of female sexual expression. And, indeed, once again we’re moving forward to the kind of sexual expression that we probably saw on the grasslands of Africa a million years ago, because this is the kind of sexual expression that we see in hunting and gathering societies today.

We’re also returning to an ancient form of marriage equality. They’re now saying that the 21st century is going to be the century of what they call the “symmetrical marriage,” or the “pure marriage,” or the “companionate marriage.” This is a marriage between equals, moving forward to a pattern that is highly compatible with the ancient human spirit.

We’re also seeing a rise of romantic love. 91% of American women and 86% of American men would not marry somebody who had every single quality they were looking for in a partner, if they were not in love with that person.

People around the world, in a study of 37 societies, want to be in love with the person that they marry. Indeed, arranged marriages are on their way off this braid of human life. I even think that marriages might even become more stable because of the second great world trend.

The first one being women moving into the job market, the second one being the aging world population. They’re now saying that in America, that middle age should be regarded as up to age 85. Because in that highest age category of 76 to 85, as much as 40% of people have nothing really wrong with them. So we’re seeing there’s a real extension of middle age.

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For one of my books, I looked at divorce data in 58 societies. And as it turns out, the older you get, the less likely you are to divorce. So the divorce rate right now is stable in America, and it’s actually beginning to decline. It may decline some more.

I would even say that with Viagra, estrogen replacement, hip replacements and the incredibly interesting women — women have never been as interesting as they are now. Not at any time on this planet have women been so educated, so interesting, so capable.

And so I honestly think that if there really was ever a time in human evolution when we have the opportunity to make good marriages, that time is now. However, there’s always kinds of complications in this.

These three brain systems — lust, romantic love and attachment — don’t always go together. They can go together, by the way. That’s why casual sex isn’t so casual.

With orgasm you get a spike of dopamine. Dopamine’s associated with romantic love, and you can just fall in love with somebody who you’re just having casual sex with.

With orgasm, then you get a real rush of oxytocin and vasopressin — those are associated with attachment. This is why you can feel such a sense of cosmic union with somebody after you’ve made love to them.

But these three brain systems: lust, romantic love and attachment, aren’t always connected to each other. You can feel deep attachment to a long-term partner while you feel intense romantic love for somebody else, while you feel the sex drive for people unrelated to these other partners.

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