Monday, February 27, 2006

Matchmaker Matchmaker Make Me A Match

One of my side-interests, as anyone close to me can attest, is the study of - well - couples.

I'm just interested. What do we (as couples) fight about? What do we agree on? How do we (if we) cooperate in making decisions? How do we meet? How do we stay together? How often do we have sex? How do we divide our household labor? How do we divide market labor? How do we make decisions about money and, really, everything else?

This just fascinates me.

The most recent installment into this bank of mine is the article "The New Science of Love" in this month's The Atlantic. This is a great story about the online matching services and how they compete with each other to get ever more accurate matching algorithms for the love-seekers.

Chemistry.com went so far as to employ an anthropoligist, Dr. Helen Fisher, from Rutgers University to help with their algorithm.

It is Fisher's belief that chemistry between two lucky people is a constellation of factors that boil down to different hormones. Sex drive is linked with testosterone in both men and women. Romantic love is associated with elevated activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine and probably also norepinepherine. Attachment is associated with the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. (Warning: Seminal fluid has all of those chemicals in it, so Fisher warns : don't have sex if you don't want to fall in love).

For the online matching system, Fisher translated her work with nerotransmitters and hormones into discrete personality types:

Dopamine, "the Explorer" = motivation, curiosity, anxiety and optimism.
Serotonin, "the Builder" = modulation of one's degree of calm, stability, popularity and religiosity.
Testosterone, "the Director" = rationality, analyticalness, exacting, independence, logical, rank-oriented, competitive, irreverent and narcissistic.
Estrogen, "the Negotiator" = being imaginitive, creative, insightful, humane, sympathetic, agreeable, flexible, and verbal.

Under Fisher's guidance, Chemistry.com is developing a database that I'd love to get my hands on. They require a 146 item compatibility questionnaire that correlates users' responses with evidence on their levels of various chemicals that they believe are associated with these particular personality types.

One question, for instance, offers drawings of a hand, then asks:

Which one of the following images most closely resembles your left hand?
Index finger slightly longer than ring finger
Index finger about the same length as ring finger
Index finger slightly shorter than ring finger
Index finger significantly shorter than ring finger

The relevance of this question might baffle the average online dater accustomed to responding to platitudes like, 'How would you describe your perfect first date?' But Fisher explains that elevated fetal testosterone determines the ratio of the second and fourth finger in a particular way as it simultaneously builds the male and female brain. So you can actually look at someone's hadn and get a fair idea of the extent to which they are likely to be a Director type (ring finger longer than the index finger) or a Negotiator type (index finger longer or the same size).

Another question:

How often do you vividly imagine extreme life situations, such as being stranded on a desert island or winning the lottery?
Almost never
Sometimes
Most of the time
All the time

Someone who answers 'All the time' is a definite Negotiator. . . High estrogen activitiy is associated with extreme imagination.

I love the biological/social mix of it all.

Recently, I read a summary of research on the kids of gay/lesbian parents that confirmed my suspicions of the FYO. They show that the only measurable difference among kids of homosexual parents as opposed to heterosexual parents is that some of the girls tend to be hyper-feminine. This, in addition to my observance that the FYO could literally be in make-believe-land 24-7 makes me think that she is status quo.

1 comment:

The Lost Camel said...

I have six daughters. Two married, one soon to be married and three hormonal teens who by their own admissions, “think about sex all the time”. It would be sooooo much easier, if when the younger three are ready to find a life partner, I could just sit them down to a 146 question test, get some blood work done, measure their fingers and let a computer match them up with someone. Do you think they would go for it?