Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Being Human 2013 - Human Relationships with Helen Fisher, Ph.D.

Human Relationships from Being Human on

Human Relationships

Sexual behavior, romance, and partnerships are among the strongest human social drives. In this session we delve into the biology of sexual behavior and such topics as love addictions, serial monogamy, clandestine adultery, hookup culture, and how human partnering psychology is reflected in our animal cousins.

Session led by: Helen Fisher, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Rutgers University
Justin Garcia, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Gender Studies, The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University
Laurie Santos, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory, Yale University

Helen Fisher

Helen Fisher (author of
Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray [1994] and Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love [2004], among many other books) is an anthropologist specializing in the study of interpersonal romantic attraction. Her research into love and behavior leads her to the conclusion that the desire for love is a universal human drive, stronger than even the drive for sex. She has conducted extensive research into the evolution of sex, love, marriage, gender differences, and how your personality shapes who you love. Fisher believes that there are three main systems in the brain that deal with mating and reproduction: the sex drive, romantic love, and long-term attachment. Understanding the different qualities and goals of these three systems is crucial for navigating the ins and outs of love and relationships. It’s especially important to realize that the evolutionary background of love relationships is all about reproduction of the species, which at times may conflict with our wishes and expectations. As Fisher puts it, “I don’t think we’re an animal that was built to be happy; we are an animal that was built to reproduce.”

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia (co-author of
Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior, 2013) is an evolutionary biologist, specializing in the study of how human evolution has shaped our sexual and romantic behavior. His research focuses on the evolutionary and biocultural foundations of human behavior, particularly romantic love, intimacy, and sexuality. He is especially interested in notions of commitment and attachment in romantic and sexual relationships. Garcia has said that "the most consistent feature of human sexuality is the remarkable diversity which exists among individuals and cultures." He notes that environmental and cultural forces contextualize and shape our sexuality in unique ways; for example, his research explores the development of a new Western "hook-up culture" that is accepting of casual sex. Garcia is also a scientific advisor at the dating site

Laurie Santos

Laurie Santos researches the evolutionary background of the human brain by studying non-human primates in her Comparative Cognition Lab at Yale. In a series of fascinating experiments, Santos’ team has investigated economic decision making in capuchin monkeys. Researchers created a form of money: tokens that the monkeys could trade for food. They found that the monkeys made consistently irrational decisions, mirroring the same bad financial choices that people make. For example, the monkeys demonstrate the same loss-aversion behavior—treating losses as more important than gains— as human beings. This suggests that some of the core biases of the brain that shape human behavior were also present in our remote pre-human ancestors, and have been maintained through evolution. Santos believes that understanding the built-in biases of the human brain is crucial to encouraging rational behavior. As she puts it, “...the irony is that it might only be in recognizing our limitations that we can really actually overcome them.” She is currently researching whether primates have a precursor to theory of mind, the ability to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others. In 2012, she spoke at the Being Human conference in San Francisco.

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