Christmas 2005 was two days away. “In New York nothing ever happens two days before Christmas,” says anthropologist and biologist Helen Fisher, 77.
But they called her from the Match group and they summoned her to an urgent meeting: "I was up to the president and they wanted to know why someone falls in love with one person and not another," she says.
"At that time I replied: I have no idea."
But Fisher began to think.
It was clear that in falling in love there is a part of status, beliefs, education.
But, he thought, there must also be something genetic.
This is how he created a test to distinguish four types of personality: explorer, director, negotiator and builder.
Each is associated with a neurotransmitter or hormone.
"It is the only one in the world based on biology and validated by two experiments in the brain," he assured by videoconference from New York to EL PAÍS.
Millions of people have done it in the world and the Match method, today owner of the dating apps Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid and Meetic, gave it a scientific veneer.
Fisher insists that a retired Princeton University geneticist told him at a recent dinner that his test "is the only one that works."
Fisher has been Match's scientific advisor ever since, although she is unaware of the apps and their algorithms.
She doesn't know how the app chooses the profiles it shows to its users.
But since 2010 she uses her data to take out an annual survey called
Singles in the USA
with responses from 5,000 people.
She's also been in the industry long enough to be called "one of the most quoted experts on love" or even "the world's most cited scientist in the biology and chemistry of love."
Although the search “Helen Fisher
gives 28 million results on Google, Fisher has “no idea” where these statements come from: “Although when journalists call to talk about love, they have many psychologists, but I am the only neuroscientist anthropologist they have”, he adds.
His experience and research is enough to give some context to the (relative) importance of apps.
He believes that they hardly change in love.
He actually has at least three basic ideas about the real reach of these apps.
One: “They are just a new way of doing something that our brains have always been doing: a million years ago we were in a pit in the desert, now on the internet.”
Two: “All these psychologists who say that apps will make dating so different are ridiculous;
I don't understand how people are so afraid of new technologies”.
And three: "They shouldn't be called dating apps but presentation apps", to play down their importance.
Still, Fisher reveals some tricks to better use them that go beyond putting up some decent photos.
1. Don't binge: meet five to nine people
“There are a lot of people who tell me: I went on 30 dates in a month and didn't find anyone,” Fisher says.
"Well, that's why you didn't find: you're drowning in dating."
Our brains aren't built to choose between five and nine options, Fisher says, because we have so much to choose from and we don't take anyone.
“And you have to meet them in person.
It is not worth just chat, emails or even a phone conversation.
The human brain is designed to look at the whole body: the background, the smile, the hesitation,” she explains.
2. Then close the app for a while
After seeing five, six, or seven people, tap to quit the app.
Look no further.
“If you really want to get to know someone, get off the site and get to know at least one of those people better, because psychological data shows that the more you know about someone, the more you like them,” says Fisher.
“You may meet people who are clearly not for you, because they are 40 years older or because they are too old or too small, or they do something that you do not find respectable.
But after you've met nine people who fit your spectrum, get out of the app, don't even stand aside and watch, get off of it,” says Fisher.
3. Do not be picky and learn to say yes
You already have a reasonable handful of people you might want to see more of.
Now it's even more difficult: you have to learn to say yes.
“People today are too picky.
Think of reasons to say yes instead of no.
We are not ashes for free.
There's a biological reason, says Fisher: “There's a huge region of the brain that I've studied that's linked to what we call
the negativity bias
We remember the negative and for millions of years that was adaptive.
If you forgot who your enemies were, you could die."
But now you have to give more opportunities or, at least, have a little more broad sleeve: “You enter these apps and you have little information about other profiles.
And you'll say 'oh, he likes cats', 'he likes dogs' or 'he likes golf and I like tennis', 'he goes to his grandmother's house every Sunday night and I don't want to'.
And then you say no,” Fisher explains.
Not that you should always say yes, of course.
But it is a better rule, for Fisher, than other more filmy ones: “Most people look at love at first sight or if we have chemistry.
Keep seeing someone who is charming and funny.”
Fisher gives examples from his own life.
He got married last year.
You have to keep in mind that Fisher is someone who says things like this when he flirts: “I study love.
When you start to fall in love, you contribute to the brain's attachment circuitry.
Are you willing to take that risk?"
In 2015, his suitor at the time said yes.
As is obvious, the lovers took their test and fit: they are explorers.
But then there are things that make him more nervous.
“We were going to dinner in the Bronx.
I wanted to cross a flower bed and he told me that I couldn't step on the grass.
And I: 'There's no grass, there hasn't been any grass in 25 years, it's just dirt.'
And he: 'Let's not step on the grass,'” recalls Fisher.
From this anecdote, Fisher draws a whole theory: “In the US we are macerated in psychology.
It is all the fault of our childhood, you are a victim, when in reality 50% of the variations are genetic.
He didn't want to walk on the grass because he wanted to follow the rules.
I am not so.
But you have to learn.
He is who he is, and when you realize that, then you don't blame anyone and you take advantage of it.
From the way he is, it is also likely that he will be faithful to me.
It's a very fruitful way to get along,” he says.
4. Don't worry too much;
That's how it is today and flirting has changed
40% of first dates today come from the Internet, say Fisher's figures.
The bad press for apps is almost over, thanks in part to the work of scientists like her.
“At first the internet was for losers.
And then we went to the feeling that well, it's fine, it's just not for me.
And now in the US we have evolved to good, I am going to try it too”, says Fisher, who adds: “If it is normal even in universities”.
The brain and love have not changed.
But flirting is: a
on an Instagram
, a quick WhatsApp message, an emoji that is perfect, a song shared on Spotify.
Before it was similar, but different: "I recently read a Dickens novel, and they sent little notes daily, there must have been non-stop messengers in London in 1800."
In addition to the everyday way of flirting, Fisher also believes that there is something deeper and less technological that has changed in our time: “What is really new is that women have entered the labor market.
The growth of the family with two salaries causes differences when flirting, but that does not change the love itself ”.
The growth in video dating may have something to do with these changes.
"This is how candidates are evaluated and then they have fewer first dates and it's more comfortable," says Fisher.
“During the video date, sex is out of reach, they don't have to face what a dinner costs.
It turns out that people in those video chats say that they have more meaningful conversations, more transparency, more honesty, more revelations.
They are more interested in financial stability than appearance, ”she adds.
5. People are looking for less sex than you think
But what about everyone looking for sex?
Fisher is certain that the youngest (“of reproductive age”) have less sex than in other times.
But he doesn't have a conclusive answer on whether the apps allow other generations to have more sex.
“Though I think so,” she says.
Regarding sex, Fisher has given a lot of thought to the concept of “friend with benefits”, which is used by the youngest: “It is a very descriptive term, [the young people] are very analytical.
34% of singles have had sex with someone before their first serious date.
Older people will think it's crazy, but I think it's a sex interview."
It's another alleged way to get to know someone better.
Those "interviews" perhaps mean they have fewer one-night stands, which is something Fisher also has fun facts about.
“Men are three times more likely to have an
hoping it will turn into a relationship.
Nobody believes me.
I have said for 40 years that men fall in love more often, faster, sooner.
They want to introduce the other person to friends and family sooner.
They want to move out before the women,” she explains.
6. People who meet on apps get divorced less
In his annual studies, Fisher wanted to verify something he had seen in a scientific article from the University of Chicago: people who meet online divorce less than couples formed in real life.
What difference could there be between the internet and a bar, an airport or a church?
“As we have 60,000 people who have responded, it was very easy to analyze a sample and compare the couples who went online with those who did not, and it turned out that those originating from the apps were much more likely to have a job, a higher education and to look for a long-term commitment”, he says.
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