The Match factor
Match.com has linked up with Dr Helen Fisher, a world renowned biological anthropologist and expert in the science of human attraction, to develop a new service called Matchinsights.
Matchinsights features a unique personality assessment and matching system based on four personality traits: the explorer, the builder, the director and the negotiator.
So how do you find out which category you fit into? By taking the simple 'matchinsights' test.
My curiosity got the better of me so with mouse in mitt I went through the questions and it was a fascinating experience. The results? Well, I’m a negotiator. My husband, it would seem, is an explorer. Does that bode well? I can only hope.
The love test was devised by measuring contextual, holistic thinking, otherwise known as 'web thinking'. It's a trait that's connected mainly connected with oestrogen levels in the body. People with higher levels of oestrogen (usually women, but sometimes men too) tend to see more options, have broader perspectives and ways of solving the problem. It turns out that the more testosterone you have, the more narrow, thorough and focussed your thinking becomes. Hence women are typically good at multi-tasking, while men are (possibly) better at parking the car.
‘The whole test is based on my understanding of the brain's architecture, hormones, neurotransmitters and genetics,’ says Dr Fisher, who wants to discover why we fall in love with one person rather than another.
‘Psychologists do know that we tend to fall for someone from the same socio-economic background, same level of intelligence, looks, education and religious values,’ she says. 'But you can walk into a room where everyone is from the same background and seems to have the right matches, but you don’t fall in love with all of them.
‘So I thought, maybe there is another component that psychologists are missing, which is the biological. Maybe that would explain why you would pick one boy and I would pick another’.
Helen studied the characteristics associated with dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
(Dopamine, for the record, is associated with risk-taking, novelty-seeking, curiosity, creativity, irreverence, spontaneity, impulsivity, sensitivity and adaptability, while serotonin is associated with calm, social, and networking behaviour.)
'People with high levels of serotonin are literal, detail-orientated, loyal, conscientious, persistent, traditional, conventional, managerial,' says Helen. 'People with these traits tend to be the pillars of society – they keep everything running.’
Helen devised a questionnaire to find out whether her instinct was right. It is currently running in 39 countries around the world and seven million people have already taken part in the test. ‘As an anthropologist, it was like an angel dropping from heaven to do this,’ says Helen. ‘We could be the Gallop poll for love’.
The test is so scientifically accurate that it is being used to form the basis for academic articles. Helen’s next book, Why Him, Why Her? reveals her first study of all the data and will be published in January.
'Throughout time philosophers such as Aristotle and Carl Jung have grouped humans into four distinct groups, but what I have is the advantage of is modern science,’ says Helen.
Her study will help people to know what types of people they will work best with – and what to expect from their partners if they fall into one of the four categories. 'It’s like if you put people in the wrong job. They can do it, but it’s tiring – and I think that can happen in the wrong relationship too. Not being yourself can be exhausting.'
There are ten couple combinations in Helen’s study. 'They all have great pluses and great minuses – and some are more natural than others,’ she says. 'And while many of us may automatically be drawn to more specific types, there are more factors at play.'
Two builders are really drawn to each other, because they are both traditional, loyal, interested in the family, conscientious, calm and they value traditions. They are very good at raising babies. But they also have the ‘right’ way of doing things – and for them that’s the only one way of doing things, which makes them very rigid.
'Negotiators are authentic, 'real' people, who want to know about each other’s feelings, they want a soulmate and a real, intimate level.
'Explorers, on the other hand, tend to look out and not in. Their version of intimacy is adventurous and fun. It’s not that they don’t have intimacy, just that they have a different way of expressing it.'
In any relationship, it’s important to know someone’s traits, because then you can understand them and also know how to pick your battles. Different combinations are going to have different problems. For example, two explorers will never bicker over how best to mop the floor, like two builders might.
After taking the test, we asked Dr Fisher for her expertise on love-matters and some of life's age-old questions. Here she reveals all...
Is it possible to fall in love at first site?
Yes. I’ve studied the brain circuitry of romantic love and we’ve found that the brain system for love is the same as that designed for wanting, for focus, for motivation and for energy. This brain system can be triggered instantly. Like the fear system – it can be instantly activated at any time because it’s a chemical reaction involving the dopamine system. It’s one of the most powerful brain systems in the world.
The dopamine system triggers the three brain systems involved with mating, reproduction and sex drive. Firstly there is romantic love, which is the elation, the focus and the craving. Then there is the deep attachment, which brings a sense of calm and security with a long term partner. And of course there is the sex drive. It is possible to sustain all three brain systems – but you have to pick the right person. That’s where it all starts.
To keep romantic love alive – do novel things together because any kind of novelty drives up dopamine in the brain. Novelty stimulates romantic love – that’s why people go on holiday.
To stimulate the sex drive, have more sex. Any kind of sexual activity drives up testosterone in the brain and makes you want more. It’s the same as with exercise – it stimulates the brain so that you crave the good feeling.
To stimulate deep attachment we need any kind of hugging, massage or touching, such as holding hands. This drives up oxytocin in the brain - and with orgasm there’s a real flood of this. In fact, oxytocin can actually stimulate romantic love because it drives up levels of dopamine.
Do men and women experience love differently?
In terms of the obsessive thinking about another person and the craving for them, there seems to be no difference. Men fall in love faster than women, because they are so visual.
But there are a few differences in brain responses. For example, there is more activity in the male brain associated with the integration of visual stimuli. So what is new?! Women spend their lives trying to look good and men spend much more time on visual pornography than women do.
Among women, we found more activity in three brain regions associated with memory recall. A woman can’t look at a man and know if he’s going to be a good husband or father. Instead she has to remember what he did last Christmas, last summer, what he promised he would do in the spring. We spend our lives on the telephone recounting what he did and didn’t do. And it’s not just yackety-yak, we are building a memory trail.
Members of the four different groups will experience romantic love in different ways, because different types of people look for different things, but both men and women have the same brain circuitry for romantic love.
Are women more emotionally expressive?
Not necessarily. People who have high levels of oestrogen are – so that’s mostly women but also some men. Bill Clinton for example has very high levels of oestrogen. He cries, he says I feel your pain, he’s very wordy, he’s got a synthesising, web-thinking mind. He’s very much a man, but he is a high oestrogen type, like all negotiators.
How can you tell if someone is in love with you?
When you’re in love, you want nothing more than to be with that person and to be connected with them. You want to be together and you smile too much, laugh too much, lose weight because you find it hard to eat or sleep, talk too much and can become possessive as you crave the person and focus on them.
If someone in a relationship only wants to see their partner once a week, only calls once a week and turns up late, they are not in love.
How in control are we of this in love feeling?
Love is like a fever and it comes and goes independently of the will. I think you can control your actions, but not your feelings. It’s a drive, like hunger. You never forget the one that got away, but the pain disappears, it does wear off.
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