A groundbreaking book about how your personality type determines who you love
Why do you fall in love with one person rather than another? In this fascinating and informative book, Helen Fisher, one of the world’s leading experts on romantic love, unlocks the hidden code of desire and attachment. Each of us, it turns out, primarily expresses one of four broad personality types—Explorer, Builder, Director, or Negotiator—and each of these types is governed by different chemical systems in the brain. Driven by this biology, we are attracted to partners who both mirror and complement our own personality type.
Until now the search for love has been blind, but Fisher pulls back the curtain and reveals how we unconsciously go about finding the right match. Drawing on her unique study of 40,000 men and women, she explores each personality type in detail and shows you how to identify your own type. Then she explains why some types match up well, whereas others are problematic. (Note to Explorers: be prepared for a wild ride when you hitch your star to a fellow Explorer!) Ultimately, Fisher’s investigation into the complex nature of romance and attachment leads to astonishing new insights into the essence of dating, love, and marriage.
Based on entirely new research—including a detailed questionnaire completed by seven million people in thirty-three countries—Why Him? Why Her? will change your understanding of why you love him (or her) and help you use nature’s chemistry to find and keep your life partner.
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Helen Fisher, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts on the nature of romantic love and attachment, is the chief scientific adviser to Chemistry.com, a division of Match.com. She is the author of four previous books, two of which—The First Sex and The Anatomy of Love—were New York Times Notable Books. A research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, she lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I am large, I contain multitudes.
Why Him? Why Her?
“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there is no more loneliness for you. But there is one life before you. Go now to your dwelling place, to eat to your days together. And may your days be very long upon this earth.”
The Apache Indians of the American Southwest probably recited this wedding poem for centuries before I heard it in La Jolla, California, in 2006. It was an early June evening, the sky still pink and blue, the sea smells wafting through the windows as I sat in a folding chair on the second story of a fancy Italian restaurant. An older gentleman was conducting a short wedding ceremony, one mixed with rituals from the Christian, Jewish and Apache traditions. And before me glowed the two celebrants, Patrick and Suzanne—one of the first couples to marry after meeting on the Internet dating site I had helped to design, Chemistry.com.
Patrick had been a journalist in New Orleans until he lost his job, his home and all of his belongings to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. West he went, taking up residence with relatives in Los Angeles in February 2006. Days after settling in, he joined Chemistry.com and received his first recommended match: Suzanne, a lawyer living in La Jolla. That first night they talked for three hours on the phone. They met the following weekend and fell passionately in love.
So on a balmy evening during an April vacation together in Paris, Patrick took her to the top of the Eiffel Tower and proposed. The dazzled young woman grinned her “yes.” So here I sat at a fancy Italian restaurant in La Jolla, surrounded by some fifty of their friends and relatives on this festive wedding eve.
I like being around people who are in love. They have a contagious energy. This force was palpable in the groom, the first to arrive for the nuptials. He burst into the room, filling it with his vivacious charm. Although we had never met, he greeted me warmly. We instantly struck up a conversation about the evolution of the English language, his experience as a journalist in some dangerous parts of Asia and some of my past work on the brain chemistry of romantic love.
Others soon arrived, and we took our places on the folding chairs facing a small bar strewn with lilies. Last came the bride. I was stunned when saw her—a tiny, perfectly formed, porcelain-like doll, with huge blue eyes and long auburn hair in soft ringlets wreathed in forget-me-nots. Like the mythological Helen, Suzanne had a face that could launch a thousand ships. And her vigor matched his. She was enraptured by her prince, gazing at him and grinning with uncontainable effervescence as she said “I do.”
Someone played a flute. The Apache poem was read. And as the bride and groom walked down the makeshift aisle between our seats, we blew bubbles at them from the little bottles left on our chairs. Then came the feast: platters of Cavatelli Marinara, Antipasto Rustico, mussels, sausages, Chicken Fra Diavolo—a host of Italian favorites appeared at every table amid the balloons, confetti and champagne as the disc jockey blasted out old tunes and we wildly danced. Patrick and Suzanne swirled among us, radiating joy.
“Love hopes all things,” the Bible says. I hoped for Patrick and Suzanne. But I also had a reason to be optimistic about their marriage. I knew some things about their personalities because both had taken my personality test, a series of questions I had devised to establish some basic things about a person’s biological temperament. Both had told me their test results. And from these data, I was confident that Patrick’s particular chemical profile would complement Suzanne’s, creating a biological and psychological cocktail that would keep them captivated with each other for years.
Temperament and Love
We have many inborn tendencies. Indeed, scientists now believe some 50 percent of the variations in human personality are associated with genetic factors. We inherit much of the fabric of our mind.
But what is personality?
Psychologists define it as that distinct cluster of thoughts and feelings that color all of a person’s actions.
Your personality is more than just your biology, of course. Personality is composed of two fundamentally different types of traits: those of character and those of temperament.
Your character traits stem from your experiences. Your childhood games; your parents’ interests and values; how people in your community express love and hate; what relatives and friends regard as polite, dangerous or exciting; how they worship; what they sing; when they laugh; what they do to make a living and relax—these and innumerable other cultural forces combine to build your unique set of character traits.
The balance of your personality is your temperament, all of the biologically based tendencies you have inherited, traits that emerge in early childhood to produce your consistent patterns of feeling, thinking and behaving. As the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset put it, “I am, plus my circumstances.” Temperament is the “I am,” the foundation of who you are. Curiosity; creativity; novelty seeking; compassion; cautiousness; competitiveness: to some degree, you inherit these and many other aspects of your disposition.
It is this part of the human spirit I had examined in Patrick and Suzanne—their biological temperament.
No one knows precisely how many traits of temperament we human beings inherit. But studies of identical twins suggest we inherit many. Take the “giggle twins,” as they were called by staff members of the Minnesota Twin Study in the 1970s because these women would erupt with peals of laughter at the slightest jest or odd turn of phrase.
Daphne and Barbara were born to an unmarried Finnish student living in England in 1939. Barbara was adopted by an English groundskeeper who worked in a public park, while Daphne grew up in the home of a wealthy metallurgist. Yet when they first came together again at age thirty-nine as part of the Minnesota Twin Study, which focused on identical twins reared apart, both loved good pranks and both had giggled all their lives. Both regularly sat on their hands to keep from nervously gesticulating. Both had dyed their hair auburn. Both were effusively energetic. Both hated math and sports. Both avoided commercial television. Both preferred the color blue. Both were unwilling to give any political opinions. And both had met their husbands at age sixteen at a town hall dance and married in the autumn. Their IQ scores were nearly identical, too, despite Daphne’s expensive education and Barbara’s far more modest schooling.
Psychologist Thomas Bouchard, director of the Minnesota Twin Study, unearthed so many stories like this one that in the 1980s he proposed that dozens of personality traits have a degree of heritability. Among those with the strongest genetic links, he reported, were traditionalism, the willingness to capitulate to authority, aggressiveness, the drive to lead and the appetite for attention. As he wrote in 1984, “Both the twin studies and the adoption studies converge on the surprising finding that common family environmental influences play only a minor role in the determination of personality.”
In recent decades human behavior geneticists have added substantially to this list of traits linked with our DNA. More important to this book, scientists now know that groups of interacting genes influence behavior, even act together to create behavior syndromes. For example, if you have a biological appetite to seek novelty, you are also likely to be energetic, spontaneous, risk taking, curious and creative. If you are predisposed to be traditional instead, you are also likely to be loyal, cautious, respectful of authority and eager to make plans and follow schedules. We express constellations of related biological traits,1 creating what are commonly called personality types.2
In fact, after doing extensive research on the biological underpinnings of personality types, I have come to believe that each of us expresses a unique mix of four broad basic personality types. Moreover, our primary personality type steers us toward specific romantic partners. Our biological nature whispers constantly within us to influence who we love.
These thoughts and more were swimming through my mind as I blew those bubbles at Patrick and Suzanne on that enchanting wedding evening. I thought both had found their soul mate.
Who are you? Why are we naturally attracted to particular mates? My investigation of these mysteries started over the Christmas holiday in 2004.
“Why do you fall in love with one person rather than another?” This is what the executive team at Match.com wanted to know when I met with them two days after Christmas 2004 in New York City. Match.com is the world’s largest Internet dating site. And I had been invited to spend the day with them, thinking. Midmorning, they asked me this fundamental question.
“No one really knows,” I responded.
Psychologists have determined that men and women tend to fall in love with individuals from the same ethnic and socioeconomic background; with those of a similar level of intelligence, education and physical attractiveness; with individuals holding similar religious, political and social values; and with those who have a similar sense of humor. We also fall in love when the timing is right; and often with someone who lives or works nearby. Your childhood plays a huge role in your romantic choices, although no reliable patterns have ever been established. We tend to fall in love with someone who provides us with the things we need. And people often fall in love with those who are in love with them.
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