Why We Love The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love

Helen Fisher

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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In Why We Love, Helen Fisher offers a new map of the phenomenon of love based on her innovative scientific research. Working with a team of scientists to scan the brains of people who had just fallen madly in love, Fisher and her colleagues proved at last what psychologists had only suspected: when you fall in love, specific areas of the brain "light up" with increased blood flow. Using this data, she concludes that romantic passion is, in fact, hardwired into our brains by millions of years of evolution. It is not an emotion; it is a drive as powerful as hunger.

In this fascinating look at our most fundamental urge, Fisher reveals exactly why you choose one person rather than another, and how romantic love biologically affects your sex drive and your feelings of attachment to a partner. She shows that all animals feel romantic attraction, that love at first sight comes out of nature, and that human romance evolved for reasons crucial to survival. She also discusses differences in the male and female brains, and what this means for the way we love. Last, she offers concrete suggestions on how to control this ancient passion, and she optimistically explores the future of romantic love in our modern chaotic world.

Provocative, enlightening, and persuasive, Why We Love offers radical new answers to age-old questions: What is love? Why do we fall in love? And how can we keep love alive?


Praise for Why We Love

"The most comprehensive and comprehensible account I have ever read of the brain chemistry of attachment. Read it and learn some of the most important lessons anyone can achieve: how and why we—and other living things—love."—David P. Barash, professor of psychology, University of Washington, author of The Survival Game and The Myth of Monogamy

"Through a rich combination of psychology, neuroscience, literary readings, and cross-cultural and cross-species comparisons, Fisher seeks to define and understand love right down to the molecular level of the brain chemicals that produce it. This is an original and uniquely contemporary approach to a sensation that, for millennia, has been considered purely emotional—'the pulsing rush of longing' for Homer, 'a deity stronger than I' for Dante, 'an involuntary passion' for George Washington, 'that furious storm' for Walt Whitman."—Judith Warner, The Washington Post Book World

"An inspiring and hopeful look at how we love."—Science News

"A provocative and breezy introduction [to] social neuroscience."—Christopher F. Chabris, The Wall Street Journal

"A fascinating tour of the science and art of love. Fisher takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through the human passions and how they lead to the most euphoric highs and the most anguished lows. From sage poets to brain scans, Why We Love provides the most gripping and scientifically sound book yet written about this most bafflingly complex human experience."—David M. Buss, author of The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating

"Why We Love is an amazing and wonderful book. Using original neurophysiological research, surveying the literatures of the world, investigating tribal communities, compiling psychological data and many other resources, and writing in accessible language, Dr. Fisher provides a definitive answer to the question of questions. I could not put it down. It will become a basic reference and a classic."—Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want

"If you want flashes and particular experiences of romantic love, read novels. If you want to understand this central quality of human nature to its roots, read Why We Love."—E. O. Wilson, university research professor emeritus, Harvard University, author of Consilience

"Anthropologist Fisher argues that much of our romantic behavior is hard-wired in this provocative examination of love. Her case is bolstered by behavioral research into the effects of two crucial chemicals, norepinephrine and dopamine, and by surveys she conducted across broad populations. When we fall in love, she says, our brains create dramatic surges of energy that fuel such feelings as passion, obsessiveness, joy and jealousy. Fisher devotes a fascinating and substantial chapter to the appearance of romance and love among non-human animals, and composes careful theories about early humans in love. One of her many surprising conclusions suggests that, since 'four-year birth intervals were the regular pattern of birth spacing during our long human prehistory,' our modern brains still deal with relationships in serially monogamous terms of about four years. Indeed, Fisher gathered data from around the world showing that divorce was most prevalent in the fourth year of marriage, when a couple had a single dependent child. Fisher also reports on the behaviors that lead to successful lifelong partnerships and offers, based on what she's observed, numerous tips on staying in love. And though she's certain that chemicals are at love's heart, Fisher never loses her sense of the emotion's power or poetry."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Helen Fisher

  • Helen Fisher, Ph.D., is one of this country's most prominent anthropologists. Prior to becoming a research professor at Rutgers University, she was a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Dr. Fisher has conducted extensive research on the evolution, expression, and chemistry of love. Her books The First Sex and Anatomy of Love were both New York Times Notable Books.

  • Helen Fisher
    Helen Fisher