The Perception of Love Cross-Culturally

The article The Brain in Love by Erin B. Taylor discusses love cross-culturally and explains studies of love correlated with the brain. Anthropologist Helen Fisher studied the different brain regions related to love. She conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on individuals in love or those who recently experienced a break-up. The results showed that a specific part of the brain relates to intense romantic love, calculating gains and losses, and deep attachment (Taylor): the ventral tegmental area.

Fisher’s studies relate to cultural anthropology through the study of biological anthropology. She needed to conduct biological tests, through the use of fMRI, to determine if certain parts of the brain actually correlate to feelings of love. These studies showed that the ventral tegmental area contains “cells [that] make dopamine, a natural stimulant that is released in response to rewarding experiences” (Taylor). When someone experiences love, these cells release dopamine within the brain. Since Fisher performed these brain tests on individuals from numerous cultures, the fMRI tests prove that people across cultures experience love in similar ways.


Figure 1: Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher

In addition to experiencing love in the same way, Fisher claims that people tend to fall in love with individuals in the same social class, economic status, and level of physical attraction. The enthnography Arranging a Marriage in India by Serena Nanda discussed arranged marriages between Indian men and women. One of the major concerns for parents when arranging a marriage related to matches “only within the same caste and general social class” (Nanda 92). Along with that, the boy and girl must appear similar in the level of attractiveness, or those individuals would seem like an imperfect match.

Most cultures seem to evolve around the idea of falling in love and marrying an individual within their same social, economic, and physical status. Although lacking in research, Fisher thinks that a biological drive pushes people towards others that share similar connections with them socially, economically, and physically. Thus, Fisher’s research could potentially explain the differences among cultures when finding someone to fall in love with even though people experience love in similar ways.