Today I talk about the very latest findings on singles and dating with Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist. She has been conducting a Singles in America study annually for years to collect data on the dating world. In this episode, Dr. Fisher and I define the biggest blocks to happiness and discuss how love is most effectively found. We also talk about the rise in popularity of polyamory, how AI therapy is being used in the dating world, and the differences between couples who meet online versus couples who meet offline.

Listen in to learn why Dr. Helen likes Tinder and why she calls the young ‘the new Victorians’.

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Show Notes:

  • What is the origin of the Singles in America study
  • How did Dr. Helen Fisher get started with her research
  • What is the best way to meet your future romantic partner
  • Should you use video calls with online dating
  • What is the result of people being more interested in their mental health
  • When to define your relationship
  • What are recent dating trends in the LGBT community
  • Is courtship increasing
  • Why do people who have been married before not want to marry again
  • How is AI being used for dating

Important Links:

Helen Fisher | Podcasts | Books

 

6 month coaching and mentorship intensive with Ken Page

 

The Very Latest Findings on Singles & Dating - An Interview With Dr. Helen Fisher

 

Ken Page:

The largest study on single people and how they find love and what’s going on with their mental health and their lives has just come out. Helen Fisher, a world renowned biological anthropologist, authored this study and is here with us today to share some really exciting and fascinating and important information about what’s happening in the singles world and how love is most effectively found. So stay tuned to this episode of The Deeper Dating® Podcast.

Hello and welcome to The Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page. I’m a psychotherapist and the author of the bestselling book, Deeper Dating and your host in this podcast. And today, I’m interviewing Dr. Helen Fisher, a world-renowned anthropologist who has just completed the largest single study of singles in America. And the findings are so rich and interesting. I’m thrilled to bring her onto the show.

In this episode and every episode, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools that I know to help you find healthy, beautiful love, and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy.

And if you like what you’re learning here, you can find transcripts of every episode on deeperdatingpodcast.com. And if you join my mailing list, you get a bunch of free resources and you get to hear about the work that I’m doing, the work that I believe in, and the things that I find inspiring going on in the field today. So welcome, I’m so glad to have you here, and let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Helen Fisher.

 

The more you can know about somebody before the first date, you'll save yourself time and energy. Click To Tweet

 

So Dr. Helen Fisher is a renowned biological anthropologist, and she’s a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. She’s written six books on the evolution, biology and psychology of human sexuality, monogamy, adultery, 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 and the future of relationships, what she calls, and I love this, “slow love”.

She’s looked at marriage and divorce in over 80 societies, adultery in over 42 cultures and patterns of monogamy and desertion in birds and mammals, as well as gender differences in the brain. And today, she’s applying her understanding of brain chemistry and personality to love; how it works, how to find it, and so much more. And she is the head of this wonderful study called Singles in America, which we’re going to be talking about today.

Helen, it is so wonderful to have you on the podcast. I have followed your work for so many years, and as I said, you are one of the most preeminent researchers in the field, in the world, and this study has such important, important data. I am just thrilled to have you here with us.

 

The Very Latest Findings on Singles & Dating - An Interview With Dr. Helen Fisher

I wish somebody had shown me how to say no: I was young, I was stupid. I got myself into situations where it was easier to make love with the person than to get out.

 

Helen Fisher:

I’m delighted, and thank you very much.

Ken Page:

So I want to ask you first, just tell us about the origin of this study, how it came to be, it’s the 13 years of existence, anything you want to tell us to just give people an introduction?

Helen Fisher:

Well, certainly I study love and I’ve put over 100 people into the brain scanner, studied the brain circuitry of romantic love, et cetera, et cetera. And almost 20 years ago Match.com came to me and asked me a lot of questions. And since then I’ve been working with them. And for the last 13 years, what we’ve done is a study called “Singles in America”.

And I and my colleagues cook up about 200 questions every single year and then we farm them out. We do not pull matched members. This is a national representative sample of singles based on the U.S. census. So every single year we ask some trend questions, what are you looking for, et cetera, and also a whole pile of new questions. And so we collect data on 5,000 people every year. We’ve got data now on 65,000 people and maybe 70,000 people.

And our most recent study, we did some new things. We always do some new things and some trend things. And among them are what is the impact of polyamory in long-term partnerships? What is AI? How is that being used in the dating world? More about Gen Z, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, Ken, we are deluged with data. We have so much data about Americans and also people around the world in that I studied the brain and there’s an awful lot of things we see in the American population that I can immediately see is representative of the human brain, the human population.

 

Watch the episode here:

 

Singles in America study findings:

 

Ken Page:

Well, there’s so much in this study of interest, and I just want to say one thing that, for example, I work with many, many people who are single and want to have children. And I was stunned to see that I think twice as many people who are doing online dating are open to having children or meeting someone who wants to have children than in the general population. Is that right?

Helen Fisher:

I didn’t remember that particular statistic, but one thing that I do know, because I did the study myself. I studied people who met online and met offline. And in fact, those people who meet online are more likely to be fully employed, more likely to be higher educated, and more likely to want to have a long-term solid monogamous partnership. So I’m not surprised that that data that they would also want to have more children. I mean, want to have children would be more… It works. It works. I don’t remember that particular data.

Ken Page:

Fascinating.

Helen Fisher:

Yeah. As a matter of fact, what started me in on this was had read an academic article out of the University of Chicago that said that people who met online as opposed to offline, anywhere online, were less likely to divorce. And I thought to myself, why would that be? What difference if you meet somebody in an art gallery or in the airport or at a concert or what difference would it make? So I did my own study of 5,000 people, and as it turns out, those who meet online, as I say, are higher education, more full-time employed and looking for a long-term solid partnership. So those are the kind that would be also interested in having babies.

Ken Page:

Yes. Yes. Well, of the million questions I have for you, one is, do you find a difference in terms of the population that are on dating sites like Match or OkCupid, the ones where you get to fill out a richer profile than the ones that are the quick-quick profile swipe apps?

Helen Fisher:

Yeah, I don’t study it myself, because I work with the data at Match. But the bottom line is I certainly once had a wonderful conversation with a woman who was a sociologist for Tinder, and she said that over 80% of the people on Tinder are looking for a long-term solid partnership. That in fact she felt that this idea that these quick dating sites are just hook up sites. I studied the brain and I’m not surprised that we’re interested in long-term partnership.

Actually, I like Tinder. And the reason that I like… I’ve never been on it, but I like it because you meet the person very rapidly. Apparently the average is in about six days. And there’s a great deal of data now that the longer you stay on these dating sites, the less likely you are to meet up with anybody. So actually, these aren’t dating sites, Ken. They are introducing sites, that all they do is introduce you. And sure, it’s great to know on Match there’s a long profile and you get to know more about somebody, and that’s better. It’s always better.

Ken Page:

I think so too. Yeah.

 

The longer you court and the later you marry, the more likely you are to remain together. Click To Tweet

 

Helen Fisher:

But the bottom line is even those ones that are short, okay, it’s short. You get out there, you meet the person, thank goodness. And as I say, all they do these sites is introduce you, and then you get out and you meet the person, either online, video chatting, or in person. And your ancient human brain clicks into action and you smile the way you always did, you laugh the way you always did, you assess the person the way you always did, you parade the way you always did.

So sure, it’s better to know more about somebody before that first date. It probably saves you from going out on a lot of dates you’re not interested in. So it’s a better part of the vetting process. As a matter of fact, the very best dates, the smartest way to do this is to meet through video chatting. And that has grown every single year. In 2015, I think, about 9% of people used video chatting. By 2019, ’21, about 21% of people used video chatting. And I think today about 25-27% of people use video chatting before the first date, and about 37% these days anticipate doing it. That’s smart.

Ken Page:

I think that’s wise too. Yeah.

Helen Fisher:

Because it’s a vetting process. And I mean, when you video chat, I mean, sex is off the table. You don’t have to deal with that. Money’s off the table. You don’t have to decide where you want to go and you can get to know somebody. And when we did studies at Singles in America studies, people reported that when they did the video chatting before the first date, not only were they vetting the person, but they had more serious conversations.

They said more about themselves, men as well as women. They were less interested in what you look like and more interested in what you had to say. And it’s just a very good beginning. So I think the more you can know about somebody before the first date, you’re saving yourself a lot of time and energy. But any way you do it, you got to get out there. I mean, we’re looking for life.

Ken Page:

Yes. That’s so true. That’s so true. Yeah. I mean, I think that online dating, when it’s too quick, can sculpt some bad behavior. So I think that the video chatting, even phone, the more dimensionality, the more surface area before you meet, absolutely the better it is.

Helen Fisher:

You know, anyway that you meet somebody, you’re going to go out even it’s very rapid or it’s very detailed. When you go out, your basic brain hooks into action, and you court the way you always did. So the bottom line is to get out there one way or another.

Ken Page:

Yes, yes, yes. And with skills for deeper intimacy. And that was something that fascinated me in this study was the growing interest in mental health, the growing kind of passion about that. Could you speak about that a little bit, what you found there?

Helen Fisher:

Yes. It’s not something I was prepared for. Let’s see.

Ken Page:

Oh, I could read you.

Helen Fisher:

Yeah, read me the data, because I always find it very interesting that a huge percentage of people are very concerned about, particularly the young, are very concerned about their own mental health. And what’s really interesting is they don’t want to go out with somebody who hasn’t themselves gone through some kind of therapy. They’re very focused on mental health.

Ken Page:

I love that. I know. And I really did notice that. So yeah, “a growing focus on the importance of emotional maturity and communication skills”. One thing in the study that fascinated me was that people said that they wanted better sex education. And when I first read that, I thought, what do they mean? Then you elucidated, they weren’t talking about reproductive, they weren’t talking about STIs. They were talking about knowing what you like sexually, being able to communicate sexually, gender identity, like all of the really rich, deep stuff. And I just thought that was fascinating.

Helen Fisher:

I don’t know whether the questions have ever been asked before. So it was completely original as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t my idea to ask about that. But you know what, immediately when we started working on that, I thought to myself, what did I miss? What was it that I would’ve liked to have known? I mean, as you said, we do learn about pregnancy, we do learn about sexually transmitted diseases and certainly reproduction, et cetera. But these things of how do I ask about sex? How do I say what I want? Et cetera, et cetera. And I began to think myself, I wish, now this is a little revealing, I wish somebody had shown me how to say no. I just wish-

Ken Page:

Yeah. Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you.

 

The Very Latest Findings on Singles & Dating - An Interview With Dr. Helen Fisher

This brain circuitry for romantic love, it lies way at the base of the brain right next to the factories that orchestrate thirst and hunger: thirst may keep you alive today, romantic love drives you to form a partnership and send your DNA into tomorrow.

 

Helen Fisher:

I was young, I was stupid. I got myself into situations where it was easier to make love to the person than to get out. And if I had just been told that boys accept the word no and to not get myself into the position in the first place. I mean, I’ve been doing this for 13 years, but that particular thing, you think about yourself and what you would’ve liked to have learned.

Ken Page:

So true, so true. And then the kind of growing openness to diversity of gender identity, especially in younger people, a very big shift in that. So many more people questioning or having a richer kind of look at their gender identity and the questions around that.

Helen Fisher:

They’re looking at everything, Ken. It’s incredible. The young, it’s remarkable. I mean, I was young a long time ago, and we weren’t even discussing this. As a matter of fact, back to the…… 

Ken Page:

I’m with you.

Helen Fisher:

In my day you would never have told anybody that you were going to a psychiatrist or a therapist. Never. You would never admit that. Now, they don’t want to go out with somebody unless that person has done some self-analysis. The young these days are very earnest. It’s a very earnest generation, and it’s reflected in all the words that they’ve created. I mean, ghosting and benching, and oh my God, gaslighting and you name it. But the most interesting….

Ken Page:

Yes, we have become anthropologists of the dating world, like all of us.

Helen Fisher:

Well, you’re defining everything. They’re defining. But the most interesting one for me was DTR, define the relationship. Now, I asked in my Singles in America study a few years ago, when do you have that, define the relationship, conversation? And the average was in four months. And a lot of people will say on the third date. Now, in my days, I’m in my 70s, I wouldn’t have dreamt of asking somebody in four months. I’d be so busy still getting to know them, see if I liked them, how was I handling this and that, I wouldn’t have dreamt it. They are dedicated.

As a matter of fact, I actually call the young the new Victorians. They’re slow at sex, I mean, they’re trying people out, but they’re slow at sex. They’re very busy trying to figure out who they are. They’re trying people out. They’re getting rid of what they don’t want right off the bat and moving on to something else. I call it slow love. They’re marrying much later now. I mean, in my day, the average woman married at what, at age 21? Men married at around age 22 and 23. Now, I mean, if you’re 24 or 25 and you say you’re going to get married, your parents are going to say, “You’re too young.”

Ken Page:

It’s a little shocking. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Helen Fisher:

We’re marrying so much later, what I call this-

Ken Page:

And we’re asking questions. We’re actually asking about finances. We’re asking if people drink or not or how much they drink. These are really, really amazing things.

Helen Fisher:

And they’re asking about it right off the bat. They also want to know what you think about Roe v. Wade. They want to know what you think about the environment. They want to know what you think about trans and this and that. And they want you to know your political views.

Ken Page:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Helen Fisher:

And that’s great.

Ken Page:

It is great. It is great. That kind of passion for values, it really is. So some other things that I found fascinating, there were so many of them, but one was, and this aligns with other research, but I think is very kind of not culturally what we get taught, 41% reported falling in love with someone they didn’t initially find attractive.

Helen Fisher:

Isn’t that beautiful? That’s beautiful.

Ken Page:

It’s amazing. And that’s not what we get taught, but it’s so often true. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts about that phenomenon, that dynamic. Yeah.

Helen Fisher:

That’s important, but the bottom line is that’s a trend question. Every year for the last 13 years where it’s some questions we ask over and over and over to see what the trend is. I mean, for example, what are you looking for? And this is a trend question. And what’s interesting is over the last 13 years, I think the beginning when I first asked it, maybe 10 years ago, maybe about 22 or 23% of people said… The question is exactly, have you ever gone out with somebody who you did not initially find attractive and eventually fell madly in love with?

And 10 years ago, about 23% said yes. And then we saw it move up to about 33% and then 37%, and now it’s 49% of people will say, “Yes. I started going out with somebody. I did not find that person sexually or romantically attractive. I eventually fell in love with them.” And what’s beautiful about that is that the young are giving people a chance. They are giving people a chance.

Ken Page:

Now I have a question about that. Yeah, I love that. I love that. I was so excited to see that, and I did not know that about the trend. So it’s dramatically increased. But is that also true for boomers and millennials? Is that more true?

Helen Fisher:

Yes.

Ken Page:

It is.

Helen Fisher:

For everybody.

Ken Page:

It’s true for everybody. To hear something hopeful like that. I mean, there’s a lot of hopeful things in this study, there really are, but this to me is very hopeful.

Helen Fisher:

Well, there’s a lot hopeful, period. I mean, I could go on with an awful lot, but this big thing about slow love, marrying much later, I mean, I looked, not the Match studies, but I looked at the demographic yearbooks of the United Nations in 80 cultures.

And the longer you court and the later you marry, the more likely you are to remain together and that’s exactly what’s happening around the world. This long period of courtship and then much later marriage. The data is very solid in not just Match, but everywhere that we may be looking forward to a few decades of relative family stability, just because people are marrying so much later.

Ken Page:

Helen, that’s really amazing.

Helen Fisher:

And think that they’re trying out the polyamory. They’re trying out all kinds of things. They’re getting to know themselves. I mean, they’re not totally square. I mean, they’re having their one night stands and their friends with benefits. Yeah.

Ken Page:

Yeah, I was fascinated by that. That was actually one of the things that you said was that, I don’t know exactly where this is, but the concept being that people said that they tried polyamory and ultimately it strengthened their interest in monogamy and their capacity for monogamy. It’s fascinating.

 

New and old trends in dating:

 

Helen Fisher:

Yes. And that’s a big thing from this year. And in fact, 31% when we asked, have you ever had a consensual, non-monogamous relationship? In other words, it’s transparent, nobody’s lying, nobody’s sneaking around, not actually quote-unquote adultery. And 31% said yes, they had done that.

And then we found just exactly what you just said, this positive impact, 38% of these people who’d had this consensual non-monogamy said that they now know what they want better and what they don’t want better. 29%, that’s almost a third, said that they were now more emotionally mature. They were more open sexually.

And 76% said all of their past experiences, either consensual or just regular ones, has helped them define who they are today and what they want in the future. It’s so interesting to me. This is one of the primary things I like to talk about, the fact that because people keep on thinking, “Oh, we’re going to hell in a hand basket. Everybody’s trying everything out. They’re going to be doing this forever.” No, no, no. That’s not the way the brain works.

I’ve studied pair bonding for the last 40 or probably 50 years. This basic brain circuitry for romantic love and attachment have been around for over 4 million years. And even this new trend of trying things out in polyamory is not damaging those brain structures. They might be trying things out. Good, that’s fine. I mean, I’m not in the good-bad business, but the bottom line is it doesn’t seem to be harming this basic human instinct to eventually form a solid long-term partnership.

Ken Page:

Wonderful, wonderful. Can you say something about what you noticed in terms of anything, any trends in the LGBTQ community? Any thoughts or reflections on that?

Helen Fisher:

Yeah, it’s all the same.

Ken Page:

Is it really?

Helen Fisher:

Yes. You know what? I have been trying to get the press to listen to me for 13 years, because we ask your sexual orientation right before we ask you the 200 questions. And every year we compare different sexual orientations with every single question. We don’t find any difference. I mean……

Ken Page:

Fascinating. Fascinating.

Helen Fisher:

And the press doesn’t want to say that. They want to make people all different.

Ken Page:

I love that. I love that.

Helen Fisher:

I mean, don’t forget this brain circuitry for romantic love it lies way at the base of the brain right next to the factories that orchestrate thirst and hunger. Thirst will keep you alive today, romantic love drives you to form a partnership and send your DNA into tomorrow. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, straight, or anything in the middle, whether you come from China, Nigeria, Chile, or Canada, these are basic brain systems. And when we ask the gay community, “Well, how many times do you go out? How many times do you do this?” It’s almost always the same. Now, there is data that they are somewhat more lenient about polyamory, and that’s been a long time….

Ken Page:

Or even embracing, but yeah……

Helen Fisher:

But in terms of being basic human beings, I mean, for example, these are brain systems like anger or fear. You can be scared no matter what age you are. You can be scared no matter what color you are. You can be scared no matter what your sexual orientation is. And I study the human brain, we are so alike.

Ken Page:

Amazing. Amazing.

 

Every year we compare different sexual orientations with every single question and we don't find any difference. Click To Tweet

 

Helen Fisher:

I mean, no question about it. They’re focused on a different person. I mean, the heterosexual is going to want a heterosexual partner and somebody who’s trans is going to be attracted to a different person, but the basic brain structures are the same. They fall in love the same way. They get jealous the same way. They go out the same way. They want the same amount of sex… We’re so similar.

Ken Page:

That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I have so many questions about so much of this, but one question around this is, has the percentage of LGBTQ population increased in your studies? Is the percentage, has it increased?

Helen Fisher:

I haven’t looked at that. I’m sure that the data is there, and when we talk again, I can tell you, but it didn’t stand out to me as increased. I mean, one thing is I think we’re seeing many more definitions of it. I think trans is different from bi is different from queer is different from… So I do think that people are defining, they’re more defining things, but they’re defining everything, everything as I said, from the benching and the… They’re defining everything, which is fine.

And one of the things that we asked actually this year was, is all of this defining things hampering or helping you? And a good percentage of them say it doesn’t make any difference. Others are saying, particularly the young are basically saying, “Yes, I like this concept of being triggered, et cetera, et cetera.” The terms, they like them. I think a lot of older people are going to say, “Enough’s enough. Let’s just get back to having dinner together.”

Ken Page:

Speaking of having dinner together, has courtship time increased or decreased or do we not know over these years?

Helen Fisher:

Courtship time has dramatically increased.

Ken Page:

Amazing. Wow.

Helen Fisher:

In my day you married at age 20, 21, 22.

Ken Page:

Oh, I mean like length of courtship before commitment.

Helen Fisher:

Oh, before marriage?

Ken Page:

Yeah.

Helen Fisher:

Oh, yeah.

Ken Page:

Yeah. Or commitment. Yeah.

Helen Fisher:

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Ken Page:

It has.

Helen Fisher:

I mean, this long period of pre-commitment, as I mentioned this slow love, people want to know, okay, are we committed to each other? But the discussion of whether we’re going to marry is way down. I mean, as I said in my day, people married at age 21, 22. Now they’re married at age 29, 30. So this huge long period of courtship, people don’t want to get into something they can’t get out of and they’re very earnest about making the kind of partnership that they want.

And when I ask them, every year, we ask the question, what are you really looking for in a partner? And you can check one of, I don’t know, about 25 boxes, every single year the same things basically come up.

First thing everybody wants is somebody who respects them, somebody who they can trust and confide in. Now this is this Black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, straight, and everything in the middle, rural, suburban, urban, every part of the country, every age 18 to 71, everybody. Somebody that respects them, somebody who they can trust and confide in, somebody who makes them laugh.

That’s smart. Drives up the dopamine system in the brain, makes you feel good. Somebody gives them enough time, spends enough time with them, somebody you finds physically attractive, although that is reducing. And what they really are looking for, which is added, which is new, actually this is new since the pandemic, they really want somebody who’s emotionally mature.

They’re really looking for that. And who’s a good communicator. Those two have gone way up the scale in what you’re looking for since the pandemic. This pandemic, as awful it was, has made people grow up. I call it post-traumatic growth.

 

The Very Latest Findings on Singles & Dating - An Interview With Dr. Helen Fisher

If you’ve got a partner when you’re older, you got somebody to help you if you’re sick, help protect and provide, help you make you laugh, bring happiness to the entire group: it’s adaptive to have people of all ages fall in love and form a partnership long after their reproductive views are over.

 

Ken Page:

As a gay man who was around during the time of AIDS, I watched the gay male community grow up in the presence of this crisis and become a community. So I really do understand that. And of course, I went through COVID too. So yeah, I’m just looking at my notes here. Oh, yeah. One thing that I thought was really interesting was that people who were previously married, the percent of people who were previously married who want to marry again, was pretty low. It was kind of surprisingly low. That was interesting to me, like I don’t want to marry again.

Helen Fisher:

Well, the older you get, the less likely you are to marry. I mean, when you give it from a Darwinian perspective, it’s the young that need to pass their DNA on into tomorrow. And so I’m actually very interested in Gen Z and millennials, because the attitudes that they have, gay, straight, whatever, are the attitudes that will carry on to the next generations. But the older you get, I mean, the more likely you are to have had children, to have property, to be settled in to particular habits, et cetera, and the less inclined you are to want to marry again.

Ken Page:

Yeah. So I noticed that. But I think with young people…

Helen Fisher:

Yeah, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to have a partnership. I mean, I know people in their 70s and 80s who are just dying to meet somebody for good Darwinian reasons. I mean, people who are in a long-term, happy partnership live five to 10 years longer. We were built to love not only to have babies and send our DNA into tomorrow, but to relax and create the kind of happy partnership on which our body can thrive.

Ken Page:

Yes. Yes. A colleague of yours, Eli Finkel said that he felt that it was the single greatest determinant of quality of life is the quality of your spousal relationship.

Helen Fisher:

That’s true. Absolutely true.

Ken Page:

Yeah. Pretty amazing. Pretty amazing.

Helen Fisher:

I mean, I’m an anthropologist going back to life on the grasslands of Africa a million years ago. You’re traveling along and a little hunting and gathering group of about 25 individuals. And I mean, if you’ve got a partner when you’re older, you got somebody to help you. If you’re sick, help protect and provide, help you make you laugh, bring happiness to the entire group. It’s adaptive to have people of all ages fall in love and form a partnership long after their reproductive views are over.

 

Takeaways from modern online dating:

 

Ken Page:

I love that. Yes. So true. So true. So before I talk about AI, I just want to ask you, well, a few questions. One is, what do you see from your very global perspective, what do you see as some of the biggest blocks to intimacy happiness happening today? What do you see as the biggest blocks?

Helen Fisher:

Well, we’re all so earnest that we overlook what’s right in front of us. We’re awful picky.

Ken Page:

Say more.

Helen Fisher:

And the internet is enabling us to be even more picky. I mean, more people meet on the internet than they do through a friend, about 40% of… When we asked at Match and these Singles of America study, where did you meet your last first date? And every year we ask it, and last time I remember it was about 40% met on the internet and only about 25% met through a friend and far fewer met at a church or school or at work, et cetera, et cetera.

So it seems to be the primary way to meet people these days. The problem, and it’s a great way to meet, but it’s so new that people don’t… They misuse it and they do two things. Number one, they binge. The brain and you know this very well, we can’t cope. The brain is not built to cope with more than about five to nine options. Then it gets overloaded as you know the term, the paradox of choice or cognitive overload.

And so you choose nobody. And when you’re on the internet and you see 1000 possibilities, the brain is saying, “I got to get the best. I got to get the best.” And you don’t stop and look at what’s around.

So the bottom line is, if you’re using the internet after you’ve met, and I mean met nine people either through video chatting or all in the ballpark, five to nine people, stop. Get off the internet and get to know at least one of these people more. So number one, don’t binge.

And number two, think of reasons to say yes instead of no. There’s a huge brain region linked with what’s called negativity bias. We remember the negative. So if you and I, Ken and Helen, were walking along on the grasslands a million years ago, we liked each other, we were great friends, but we forgot who hated us. We could die.

So the brain is built to remember the negative. And when you get on the internet you know so little about somebody that you overweight what you see there. And you’ll say to yourself, “Oh, I don’t know. He likes cats. And I like dogs’, that’ll never work. Oh, wow. She wears brown shoes. I don’t think so. I can’t bring her home.” So the bottom line is, I mean, I think these are some of the biggest issues in courtship of just…..

Ken Page:

Deeply agree. yeah.

Helen Fisher:

… get on the internet, don’t binge and think of reasons to say yes. Outside of that, I think we’ve been so overprotective of our young that they are scared. I mean, a big trend these days is not letting your children go out and discover how to get to school by themselves. Or we’ve created a lot of fear in our young, and people learn by their mistakes.

And I once was at a wonderful conversation with Jonathan Haidt, who’s talking about this and Lenore Skenazy, and they asked us to raise our hands whether when as a child we were allowed to go out and play sort of by ourselves, unsponsored or unmonitored. And I was at age six and seven wandering around by myself and my twin sister. And so I had my hand up at age six or seven. And then the young people who were in the room who were in high school today weren’t allowed out to play by themselves in areas where no grownups were watching until around age 12.

We’re so scared for our children, and I can relate to that. But the whole helicopter parents issue, and I understand why they do it, they don’t have 12 children anymore, they got one and they got to keep that one alive. And there’s monsters out there. But the bottom line is, I do think that on the larger level of not letting children grow up a little more naturally… In hunting and gathering societies they let children play with all kinds of things and it’s one-time learning. Kid learns – cut by a knife, they don’t do it again.

Now, the one thing in hunting and gathering societies they do do is they hang up their poison for their poison arrows, way above where children could reach. Now that makes sense. I don’t think you want to send a child into a war zone. But the bottom line is enabling them to go out and learn more of who they are, I think is sort of a new trend that I’m hoping people will reverse.

Ken Page:

That’s a really interesting thing. My dear friend, Hara Marano, the editor of Psychology Today, wrote a whole book about this called, A Nation of Wimps.

Helen Fisher:

Oh, interesting.

Ken Page:

Yeah, yeah, it was so much about exactly that. But you know what, it makes me think about is as a parent how frightening it was for me to see my kids make bad choices in relationships and really wanting to get in there and do something about it. But then what was so amazing was how they learned from those relationships and made better choices. It was harrowing for me to witness, but it’s true. It’s true. Yeah.

Helen Fisher:

Exactly. My twin sister who had a child, she said, “Helen, you’ll never sleep well again once you have a child.” But they got to go. They got to go. They got to learn. And I think we’re a little overprotective.

Ken Page:

Yeah, I think that’s really true. I know we only have a few minutes left. There’s so much more, and I hope I get to have you on again, because I’d love to pick your brain about a million things, not just this study.

Helen Fisher:

Well, I’d like to hear more about your book, Deeper Dating. That really interests me.

Ken Page:

Oh, thank you so much.

Helen Fisher:

I’d like to add some things to that. I mean, I don’t know if I can add, but maybe I can add a little bit of biology to why you’re right.

Ken Page:

Oh, I’d love that. I’d love that. And yeah, that would be great. So in this little bit of time left, I just want to say something about AI, because I think that your research about AI was really interesting. The thing that hit me the most was that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use AI to help you in your online dating. And the results are powerful. You are more likely to meet people, you’re more likely to meet quality people and more likely to make connections-

Helen Fisher:

Faster.

Ken Page:

… faster using AI prompts. Could you say something about that?

Helen Fisher:

Yeah, it’s the first time we’ve asked this. I think we’re the first to ask the impact of AI in dating. So many people are so terrified of AI and people were using AI in dating, it’s very positive. So in our 5,000 people this year, in this year’s Single in America study, 14% of online daters had used it. 6% of all daters had used it. And my friends at Match said, “Well, that’s not very many.” And I said, “That’s a great beginning. At least people are trying it.” And what we’ve discovered is that 43% of people use it to write a profile, 37% use it to help them write the first message. 27%, as you say, helps them get better matches. And once again, 26% get more matches and 32% to help them meet people faster.

Ken Page:

What’s the AI wisdom here that we need to learn from? What’s AI doing better apart from generally doing things better in some ways, what’s the wisdom here? What’s AI guiding people toward?

Helen Fisher:

It’s just helping people in the very beginning of the courtship process. I mean, bottom line is-

Ken Page:

To do what?

Helen Fisher:

To meet the right person faster. I mean, to help you get ideas on how to present yourself. I mean, your mother lives in Minnesota, you live in Florida, your girlfriends lived… I mean, sure, you can get an awful lot of advice from other people. It’s just the newest way to do the same old thing and it’s giving results, and that’s what’s so beautiful.

Ken Page:

It is. It’s fascinating. And the younger people are doing it more, the older people are not so much so. Us older folks, let’s do that a little bit more. I want to respect your hard stop, which is in just a couple minutes. I want to ask you, what’s one piece from this, lots of wisdom, lots of insight, lots of research. What’s one thing you want to say to single folks looking for love?

Helen Fisher:

Cupid’s waiting for you. You got to get out there and do it. It does take work. I know you’re going to be picky. You’re trying to find life’s greatest prize, but the bottom line is we’re built to love. Let it happen.

Ken Page:

Beautiful. Beautiful. And how can people find out about you and follow you and stay in touch with you and learn from you?

Helen Fisher:

Well, I guess I’ve written six books on it. They could go to my website, helenfisher.com, and they could take my questionnaire probably just about anywhere on the internet. It’s called the Fisher Temperament Inventory. And I don’t know, take a look at my books, take a look at my podcast, not my ones like this. I’ve done five Ted talks, three on the main stage, so I think people can find me on the internet.

Ken Page:

You’re very easy to find, yes. Helen, this was such a treat. It was great to have you here. I’m sure people have lots more questions and I will bring you back and just thanks for all the work you’re doing studying something so important.

Helen Fisher:

Thank you. It’s very important and I can’t wait to get your book and take a real look at all that too, because I like to learn too. All right, goodnight, Ken. Thanks, too. Ciao.

Ken Page:

Thanks so much, Helen. Bye.

 

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