The Advantage of High School Sweethearts
Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D. biological anthropologist, is a Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, and a Member of the Center For Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She has written six books on the evolution, biology, and psychology of human sexuality, monogamy, adultery and divorce, gender differences in the brain, the neural chemistry of romantic love and attachment, human biologically-based personality styles, why we fall in love with one person rather than another, hooking up, friends with benefits, living together and other current trends, and the future of relationships — what she calls: slow love.
Question: What is love?
Helen Fisher: Love is a lot of things to a lot of different people, but I do think that we all have inherited these three basic brain systems for mating and reproduction; the sex drive, romantic love, and deep feelings of attachment. But when you take a look around the world at world poetry, I think poetry is a very good litmus test. I think poetry is a very good indication of the emotions. And all over the world you see the same descriptions of romantic love. For example, the first thing that happens when you fall in love is a person takes on what I call “special meaning.” As George Bernard Shaw said, He said, “Love consists of overestimating the differences between one woman and another.” And indeed, we do. And then you focus on this person. That person’s car is different from any other car in the parking lot. The street they live on is different, the music they like is different. Everything about them is special and you focus on it. In fact, before I began putting people into the brain scanner, I would ask them, what do you not like about your sweetheart? And they would list what they didn’t like and then they would sweep that aside and just focus on what they did like.
Another basic characteristic of romantic love is intense energy. You can walk all night and talk til dawn, real mood swings, elation when things are going well, crashing into terrible despair when you don’t get an email, or don’t get a call, real possessiveness, it’s called “mate guarding” among animals. Most people don’t care if they’re casually sleeping with somebody. They don’t care if that person is sleeping with somebody else, but when you’re in love, you really care.
But the three main characteristics of romantic love are: intense craving for emotional union with this person. You like to sleep with them, but real emotional union with them, and intense motivation to win them, what people will do when they’re in love. And last, but no least, obsessive thinking. You can’t stop thinking about this person. Somebody is camping in your head. It’s also quite uncontrollable. Stendahl once said, “Love is like a fever. It comes and goes quite independently of the will.” And indeed it does. It just visits you. The brain system becomes triggered and you’re off to the races.
Question: Does passion diminish after a certain amount of years?
Helen Fisher: I think that most people believe that romantic love dies after a certain number of weeks, months, or years. But my colleagues and I have actually proved that wrong. The first author on our most recent brain scanning study is Bianca Casavedo. And Bianca, and the rest of us, wanted to see what happens in the brain among people who report that they are still in love, not loving, but in love with somebody after an average of 21 years of marriage. And so, in New York, we put 17 people who said they were still in love with their spouse into the brain scanner and we found exactly the same activity in this tiny little factory near the base of the brain that we found among those who had just fallen madly in love in the ventral tegmental area.
So, you can sustain romantic love long-term. But we did find one difference. When you just fallen in love, we find activity in a brain region associated with anxiety, and among those who were in love long-term, that has disappeared, and instead you now feel a sense of calm. And so what I think is going on among people who are in love long-term is they still want that man to come home for dinner and they still want to sit down and talk about the day and they still want to go on that vacation together, and they want to share their lives, they’re not thinking of divorce, they feel that sense of romance and tingling sensation. But if they don’t get a phone call at lunchtime, they don’t crumble in a corner and cry. That anxiety is replaced with calm.
Question: What are the differences in relationships that start in high school versus later in life relationships?
Helen Fisher: I haven’t studied the differences in the brain between those who met in high school and those who met later in life. But I do think that those who met in high school have some wonderful advantages. And that is that they know each other’s parents, they knew the dog that she grew up with and his younger sister, and the fact that he was a high school star and that she was wonderful at the Jitter Bug, at dancing. You know, they have all those memories that are wonderful. This is one of the reasons I think that, there’s a real trend right now of older people divorcing and then finding their first love on the Internet and falling in love with somebody who they really were in love with in high school. And they do have that advantage of this understanding of the house they grew up in, the kind of car that he drove, etc., etc.; the kinds of things that really bring continuity.
As a matter of fact, I’ve interviewed some of these people who had reconnected much later. And one of them was a couple, they were probably both in their 60’s, and I asked him whether she had changed at all. And he said, “Not at all.” And then I saw photographs of the two of them in high school standing in front of a Christmas tree and I could see them clearly now. And they were so dramatic – I mean they both gained 100 pounds, they were so dramatically different. But once you get a vision of who this person is, if you can hold on to this, you will create a happy relationship.
Recorded on January 6, 2010
People who create an early vision of a partner in their mind often hold onto it for a long time.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
See the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way, in the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Credit: NAOJ<p><em>Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.</em></p>