Cover image for Why we love : the nature and chemistry of romantic love
Why we love : the nature and chemistry of romantic love
Fisher, Helen E.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 301 pages : illustrations ; cm. cm
"What wild ecstacy": being in love -- Animal magnetism: love among the animals -- Chemistry of love: scanning the brain "in love" -- Web of love: lust, romance, and attachment -- "That first fine careless rapture": who we choose -- Why we love: the evolution of romantic love -- Lost love: rejection, despair, and rage -- Taking control of passion: making romance last -- "The madness of the Gods": the triumph of love -- Appendix.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF575.L8 F53 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A groundbreaking exploration of our most complex and mysterious emotion

Elation, mood swings, sleeplessness, and obsession - these are the tell-tale signs of someone in the throes of romantic passion. In this revealing new book, renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher explains why this experience - which cuts across time, geography, and gender - is a force as powerful as the need for food or sleep.

Why We Love begins by presenting the results of a scientific study in which Fisher scanned the brains of people who had just fallen madly in love. She proves, at last, what researchers had only suspected: when you fall in love, primordial areas of the brain "light up" with increased blood flow, creating romantic passion. Fisher uses this new research to show exactly what you experience when you fall in love, why you choose one person rather than another, and how romantic love affects your sex drive and your feelings of attachment to a partner. She argues that all animals feel romantic attraction, that love at first sight comes out of nature, and that human romance evolved for crucial reasons of survival. Lastly, she offers concrete suggestions on how to control this ancient passion, and she optimistically explores the future of romantic love in our chaotic modern world.

Provocative, enlightening, and persuasive, Why We Love offers radical new answers to the age-old question of what love is and thus provides invaluable new insights into keeping love alive.

Author Notes

Helen Fisher, PhD is a Research Professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University. She has conducted extensive research and written books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Love, the poets tell us, is as elusive as a butterfly. Such an ephemeral concept presented a nearly irresistible challenge to anthropologist Fisher, who set out to prove that love indeed could be quantified and analyzed as if it were a tangible commodity. Commanding sophisticated methodology, from MRIs to EEGs, and complex blood analyses to comprehensive psychological surveys, Fisher employed all the technological tools of the trade to determine the difference between love and lust, between the desire for romance and the demand to reproduce. Birds and bees do, in fact, do it, and men, it turns out, are not from Mars, nor women from Venus. Love, Fisher concludes, is the product of a chemical quagmire and the result of a sociological imperative as ancient as cavemen and as elemental as amoebas. Entertainingly balancing poetic plaudits with scientific sanctions, Fisher presents both the chemistry behind love's rashest behavior and the understanding necessary to weather the emotional upheavals associated with falling in love. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



From Why We Love: All of our basic drives are exceedingly difficult to control. It is impossible to sublimate or redirect thirst or hunger. It is difficult to quell the maternal instinct. And it is very tough to control one's persistent craving for a sweetheart. We need food. We need water. We need salt. We need warmth. And the lover needs the beloved. Plato had it right over two thousand years ago. The God of Love "lives in a state of need." Romantic love is a need; it is a fundamental human drive.The drive to love has produced some of humankind's most compelling operas, plays, and novels, our most touching poems and haunting melodies, the world's finest sculptures and paintings, and our most colorful festivals, myths, and legends. Love has adorned the world and brought many of us tremendous joy. But this passion is fickle. When love is scorned, it can cause excruciating sorrow. Romantic rejection, crimes of passion, and high divorce and adultery rates are prevalent in societies around the world. Romantic love is one of the most intense of all human experiences; blissful when it is requited; devastating when it is spurned. I think it is time for a serious attempt to answer Shakespeare's question: "What 'tis to love?" Excerpted from Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.