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This edition: Episode #107: "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Last Tango in Paris" & "Fatal Attraction"

Episode Details

Original tape date: April 20, 2015.

First aired: August 21, 2015.

In Episode #107 of Science Goes to the Movies, co-hosts Faith Salie and Dr. Heather Berlin are joined by Helen Fisher, a Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute and Chief Scientific Advisor for Match.com, to discuss sex and its effect on perception in three different movies: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fatal Attraction, and Last Tango in Paris.

Fifty Shades of Grey leads to a conversation about the unique pattern of brain activation during sexual activity, and the question of whether this differs for men and women. The neurochemical response to sexual stimulus is examined, as is the way impulse control is reduced for both genders. The differing romantic habits and practices of men and woman are also detailed—specifically the way in which one gender tends to move toward commitment faster than the other (it’s not the one you think). They also consider the neurological similarities between an addict and a person who is in love. The evolutionary basis for bondage, dominance, submission and masochism, and how preferences are formed, ends the analysis of this film.

Fatal Attraction (1987) sparks a dialogue about how love and sex can lead to obsession and madness. Fisher enumerates the changes in the brain brought about by romantic love, how certain parts of the brain cease to function, and why the end of love is more likely to lead to violence than the end of a drug addiction.

Last Tango in Paris provides a window onto the ways in which our culture has changed since 1972, when the explicit sexuality of the film caused a major stir. The sexuality in Fifty Shades of Grey, by contrast, has remained by and large uncontroversial. Finally, Fisher shares an insight from her research about the universality of what she calls “love addiction.”

Written and Produced by Lisa Beth Kovetz.

Science Goes to the Movies is made possible by generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Guest List

Dr. Helen Fisher, PhD Senior Research Fellow, Kinsey Institute

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